Sunday, May 04, 2003

Sorry to post the whole article but this was posted on an e-mail list with no link. Anyways, I'm sorry but this guy's so full of crap, his eyes are brown. He's so worried that European players might overshadow Canadian players that he can't see a great player when there's one skating in front of his face. Stop trying to be Don Cherry and admit that some European players might actually be half-decent, Mr Cox.
Zetterberg's talented, but is he a rookie? May. 2, 2003. 07:48 AM Damien Cox HOCKEY COLUMNIST Toronto Sun --It will no doubt come as a surprise to Sweden's top hockey league that in the NHL's eyes, it isn't considered to be of major professional quality. In fact, in the NHL's eyes, no other league other than itself is. That's why, barring an upset, Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg seems destined to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie-of-the-year. Yet Zetterberg, really, shouldn't even be eligible. He's a heckuva player, to be sure, and at 22, a major part of the Red Wings' future. In his first NHL season, Zetterberg potted 22 goals, solid numbers for a rookie. That he played on a most helpful forward unit with future hall of famer Brett Hull and slick pivot Pavel Datsyuk for much of the year certainly made his debut campaign somewhat easier. But to suggest Zetterberg is a rookie in the same way as his fellow Calder finalists, St. Louis defenceman Barret Jackman and Columbus forward Rick Nash, is a bit of a stretch. By the time he was 17, Zetterberg was playing in the second division of the Swedish league with the Timra Red Eagles. In 2000,Timra moved up to the Elite division with Zetterberg as a fixture, and that season he registered 46 points in 47 games to cop - you guessed it - rookie-of-the-year honours in his homeland. Then he played another full season, 48 games in all, and also skated for the Tre Kronor in the Salt Lake City Olympics. If you just count his elite league games, he played 95 pro matches before coming to North America. Add in his second division games, and Zetterberg had 188 regular season and playoff games plus four Olympic contests under his belt before he played a shift in the NHL. Now let's look at the Calder regulations. To be eligible, for starters, you have to 25 years of age or younger as of Sept. 15 of your first NHL season. That's the Sergei Makarov rule, and Zetterberg's obviously okay there. Also, however, to be eligible a player "cannot have played more than 25 games in a single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league." According the NHL, however, the Swedish Elite league isn't a "major professional league," although you can make $500,000 (U.S.) or more playing there. Ditto for all the European leagues, which might be news to longtime NHLer Jiri Slegr, who is making $975,000 playing in the Russian league this season. None of the North American leagues, the AHL, ECHL or any of the others, are considered to be at that level. So really, given that the NHL views itself as the only major professional league in the world, the Calder is really for players 25 and under, regardless of their previous experience. "(Zetterberg) is an NHL rookie," said Detroit GM Ken Holland yesterday. "Is he a professional rookie? I don't know. But I would say to you that the Swedish league is about the same level as the AHL, and if a player played two full years in the AHL and then came to the NHL, I wouldn't say he couldn't be rookie of the year." Still, pitting a relatively seasoned player like Zetterberg against Jackman, who played one year in the AHL before becoming a regular, and the 18-year-old Nash, who jumped in directly from junior, seems a little unfair. It was the same for Florida's Kristian Huselius last year when he finished third in Calder voting. What's interesting is that if you asked GMs which of the three would be the biggest NHL star, the vast majority would say Nash. "When you talk about the best young players, and you talk about Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk, the next guy is Nash," said Columbus GM Doug MacLean. This much seems true. Every year there is great debate over whether the Hart Trophy should go to the MVP or the best NHL player. Maybe it's also time to have another look at exactly what should constitute an NHL rookie.


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