There's already an article about him!
Coach praises rookie Vlasic
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER — San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson got in the last word while discussing rookie Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Wilson calls Vlasic his most reliable defenceman early this National Hockey League season.
"I like our guy better than [Luc] Bourdon," Wilson said last week in reference to the struggling rookie on the Vancouver Canucks' defence.
Wilson has good reason to crow. Vlasic averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time a game in his first five NHL contests, often playing when the Sharks were short-handed and even when they were down two men.
Vlasic, 19, thought he'd return to major junior to play again for the Quebec Remparts, the 2005 Memorial Cup champions. Instead, Vlasic takes a regular NHL shift, second on his team in ice time only to veterans Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren on defence.
Meantime, the high-profile Bourdon has played only twice for the Canucks and struggled each time, while averaging 7 minutes 36 seconds a game.
Vlasic has played more than heralded rookie Matt Carle on the San Jose defence, with Carle averaging 18:22, much of his time on power plays. Carle won the 2006 Hobey Baker Award, which honours the top player in U.S. college hockey.
"We knew how good he was because he was excellent last year at training camp," Wilson said of Vlasic. "He's just continued to improve.
"He was one of the best defencemen in the Memorial Cup. Anyone that watched that understood how good he could be. [Quebec coach] Patrick Roy played him 30 to 35 minutes a game and that's an endorsement from a Hall of Fame goaltender with an appreciation for great defencemen."
There are nearly 20 rookie defencemen in the NHL this season. Some were first-round draft picks with high expectations, especially Bourdon. While he hasn't met expectations, Wilson cautions that coaches shouldn't overreact when young defencemen make mistakes.
The San Jose coach notes that when a veteran has a turnover or two it's considered an off night and usually forgotten. When a rookie errs just once, the cry goes up for him to be returned to junior.
"I like our guy's poise and defensive ability, his skating," Wilson said of Vlasic, whose father, Edward, once played for the McGill University Redmen. "We've played him in pretty much every situation, against the other team's best players."
Vlasic tried out for the Canadian junior team last summer, but was released by coach Brent Sutter, who chose Bourdon, Kristopher Letang, Cam Barker, Kris Russell, Ryan Parent, Marc Staal and spare Sasha Pokulok for his blueline.
Sutter shouldn't be second-guessed because Canada repeated as gold medalists at the world championship, while Vlasic continued to hone his game with Roy and the Remparts.
In the Memorial Cup, Vlasic outshone Bourdon, who played with the host Moncton Wildcats, defeated by Quebec in the championship game.
"I'm playing a lot of minutes and my confidence is high," Vlasic said about his NHL exposure so far. "With the new NHL rules, there's a lot less hooking and holding, so smaller guys can play. I can handle myself out there."
The kicker for the Sharks is that the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Vlasic is the player they selected in 2005 with the second-round pick (35th overall) acquired from Calgary in the trade that sent goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to the Flames.
Vlasic credits his father for teaching him the nuances of the defensive position as a youngster in Montreal.
The Sharks can still send Vlasic back to junior, but that appears unlikely as he's playing ahead of veteran Rob Davison, with Doug Murray already assigned to the minors while Vlasic skates in the NHL.
"I want to keep doing well so [Wilson] has no choice but to keep me up here," Vlasic said.
Meantime, Bourdon sits and waits for another chance, while his world junior defensive partner, Letang, takes a regular shift with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Luc is working really hard in practice," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "His confidence is coming."
Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks are getting mileage from rookie defenceman Lasse Kukkonen, a 2003 draft pick who has taken a regular shift. Barker has not played for Chicago because of an ankle injury.
I actually really like the fact that we're playing him this much to see if he can handle being in the NHL for the rest of the season. It's kinda' like when you overclock a CPU, you want to leave it running at 100% usage overnight to see if it will crash, or whether it's stable. Marc-Edouard seems stable so far!
To my surprise, there were actual quotes from him in the article. I thought he was too young to talk. But there's actually a whole radio interview with him! He totally dissed the Montreal Expos with no hesitation, hence I have fallen in love.
Sharks all aboard the 'Cheechoo Train'
Updated 10/18/2006 4:19 AM ET
By A.J. Perez, USA TODAY
SAN JOSE — At best, San Jose Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo could tune in two television stations from his childhood home of Moose Factory, Ontario, 625 miles north of Toronto. The often-fuzzy images were the only access to the NHL via CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
Cheechoo's view of Game 7 of last season's Stanley Cup Finals between the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes was equally fuzzy. His team, the one he dreamed about playing for as a child, had been knocked out in the second round. So he was at a Sharks fan event, stealing glances at the Cup finale via the cellphone of San Jose coach Ron Wilson. "We gave fans our full attention and only watched when the questions didn't concern us," Cheechoo says.
Cheechoo, 26, coming off a franchise-record 56-goal season, could be at the center — make that right wing — of the Sharks' drive to make the next Cup Finals. Loaded with the NHL's top goal-scorer (Cheechoo) and MVP (center Joe Thornton), the Sharks aim to become the first California team to win the Cup.
And to think Cheechoo only had to commit one serious no-no as a member of Moose Cree First Nation — the tribe inhabiting the small island of Moose Factory — to get to this point: He ignored his elders. At least one, anyway. His grandmother's reaction to him being drafted by San Jose in the second round in 1998 was, "Maybe he should just forget about it, come home," says his dad, Mervin.
Most in Moose Factory (population: 2,800), whose community and financial support boosted Cheechoo's chances to become the first from the tribe drafted into the NHL, hoped their native son would be chosen by the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was only an eight-hour trip in the winter, slightly longer when the ice thaws. The Montreal Canadiens would have sufficed, too.
But San Jose? "To hear 'San Jose, California,' was a shock," Cheechoo's father says. "Not many of us knew where it really was. We thought it was a world away."
Cheechoo saw it coming. When he had penned a "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" assignment for school when he was 12, he saw himself playing with the Sharks.
"It was 1992, and they were a new team," Cheechoo says. "I had a Sharks jacket, and my favorite junior player was (Sharks forward) Pat Falloon. It was just something that kids do."
Backing of community vital
By the time he wrote that essay, Cheechoo was well into his development as a hockey player; that started when he was 2. The oldest of three children, he spent the winters skating on a small sheet of ice laid down by his father. When it thawed, Cheechoo practiced his shot on dry land.
"People started seeing potential, and people started to take an interest in him," his father says. "Those in the community, like the Moose Factory Minor Hockey Association and Moose Cree First Nation, as well as others, got behind him. They wanted to support him."
About $10,000 was raised so he could attend hockey camps, including one run by late NHL coach Roger Neilson near Toronto. The camps were as much about honing Cheechoo's skills as catching scouts' eyes.
"It was much tougher when I was younger," the 6-1, 200-pounder says of living up to hometown expectations. "I was trying to make it. I wanted to show them that they didn't make a mistake by getting behind me."
Wilson says: "He's the perfect role model. His personality, his humility makes it that much better. He's not a guy who forgets his roots. He knows exactly where he came from."
The first payoff came when Cheechoo went to play junior hockey in Timmins, Ontario, about 200 miles south of Moose Factory. That's when Cheechoo faced his most daunting obstacle: homesickness.
"We talked almost daily at the beginning," his father says. "There were times when he said he wanted to come home. I said, 'Well, sure, come home.' But after talking some more, he said he wanted to play hockey. It was very tough."
Bouts of homesickness aside, Cheechoo was soon developing a reputation as a goal scorer. He joined the Belleville Bulls (100 miles east of Toronto) for the 1997-98 season, finishing second in scoring among Ontario Hockey League rookies.
"He was one of the guys who didn't miss when he was around the net," says Sharks left wing Mark Bell, who played against Cheechoo for four years in juniors. "He just knows how to finish. He loves to shoot, and obviously that hasn't changed."
Injury put career in jeopardy
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was director of pro development when San Jose drafted Cheechoo in the second round (29th overall) in 1998, well ahead of where many had him pegged.
"We've known for quite a while what he had," says Doug Wilson, who signed Cheechoo to a five-year, $15 million contract extension last season.
It wasn't the smoothest road up from the Sharks' minor league affiliates, first Kentucky, in 2000-01, then Cleveland the next season. A serious concussion cut short that second season, forcing Cheechoo to miss nearly half the season and a trip to the American Hockey League All-Star Game for a second year in a row.
His father immediately thought the worst. "I've had friends who have had concussions and never full recovered," says Cheechoo's father, who flew immediately to Cleveland to be with his son. "They took good care of him down there. He felt better in a few weeks, but it took some time before he was back on the ice."
Cheechoo eventually shrugged it off and progressed to his NHL debut Oct. 10, 2002. The league soon saw Cheechoo's out-of-nowhere, score-at-any-cost style, familiar to Moose Factory residents.
"Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal all have huge (native) crowds," Sharks assistant coach Rob Zettler says. "They are all there for him."
Comparisons made to Brett Hull
Cheechoo scored nine goals with seven assists in 66 games his first NHL season, followed by 28 goals and 19 assists in 2003-04 before the lockout.
Then what fans affectionately call the "Cheechoo Train" got churning, thanks in large part to the addition of playmaking center Thornton. Forty-nine of Cheechoo's goals came after Thornton's arrival in a Nov. 30, 2005, trade.
No native player had scored at least 50 goals since Reggie Leach did it for the second time with the Philadelphia Flyers, in 1979-80.
Cheechoo's knack for finding the net and his overall game have drawn comparisons to recently retired Brett Hull, who scored 741 goals during his 19-season NHL career. Cheechoo finished Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Dallas with one assist, giving him four assists and three goals through six games this season.
"I don't think Cheechoo has quite the shot Brett Hull had," Ron Wilson says. "But in this new (offensive) game, you don't need a Brett Hull shot, you need a Brett Hull release. Cheech has that. He finds the holes in the defense and has Joe Thornton to find him. Cheech also does some things that Brett never got credit for, like passing and playing good defense."
Cheechoo's immediate family moved five years ago to Sudbury, Ontario, "only" 250 miles northwest of Toronto. He brought the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as top goal scorer there last summer, not quite making the trip up to Moose Factory.
Cheechoo seems willing to wait until he can carry the ultimate prize with him. The Stanley Cup would serve as a big "thank you" to the hockey-crazed island.
"I think more than a few people would come out for that," Cheechoo says.
A lot of this is a repeat of the Disney story of his life we already know, but I liked the comparison to Brett Hull, cos' he seems to be just able to teleport the puck into the net. I also like the idea of Cheech and Mark Bell playing against each other in Junior. :)
I am sick again. This time we're not in a crunch so I think I'm just going to stay at home and rest instead of going to work and prolonging my sickness. Chip is sick again too. I blame him.
I finished watching the last episodes of Blade and Night Stalker, both of which were canceled after a season. In the case of Night Stalker, less than a season; only 10 episodes were made, and only 6 aired on ABC. It makes me sad, because both were quality productions with appealing visuals. Blade made the whole daywalker kills vampires story more interesting by playing up the idea of vampire clans in competition with each other, as well as the "ashers", humans who killed vampires to collect their ash which they made into drugs that give users temporary vampiric abilities. Night Stalker created that H.P. Lovecraft atmosphere of the world being an oasis in a universe of chaos and dark. I'm sadder about that one because it sounds like the show's creator had pretty strong ideas about developing the story.
As for the new TV shows, I'm in love with Heroes. Justice, Vanished and Jericho are my guilty pleasures. I'm enjoying Men In Trees a lot more than I thought I would. I wonder if it's just going to be perpetually summer there. :P