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Bruce Dowbiggin

Can’t Catch This: The Avs Take The Pace Higher And Higher


8 minute read

After watching this year’s turbo-charged NHL playoffs perhaps it’s time to amend the old cliché to now say “lack of speed kills”. If there’s one takeaway from the Colorado Avalanche’s Top Gun performance en route to a Stanley Cup it’s that you can’t win in today’s NHL without blazing speed.

Led by their superstar burner Nathan MacKinnon and freewheeling defenceman Cale Maker the Avs have blitzed opponents. The Avs quickly shellacked Nashville 4-0, averaging over 5 goals a game. St. Louis proved a tougher nut to crack, pushing Colorado to 6 games, including two OTs before succumbing. The dazed Edmonton Oilers— with generational star Connor McDavid— fell in four, surrendering over 5 goals per game to the Avs’ whirlwind.

And now two-time defending champions Tampa Bay are holding onto the ropes after getting swept in Games 1 & 2, the second a humiliating 7-0 thrashing of the Lightning and their star goalie Andrei Vasilevsky. The Bolts had been 9-2 in the second game of a series dating back to 2020, but it did them no good.

How are they doing it? Blitzing, unrelenting speed and pressure from McKinnon, Makar, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rahntenen, Arturi Lekhonen, Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin  and Devon Toews. So confident are the Avs that they’ve been able to hide their very average goaltending duo of Darcy Kuemper and backup Pavel Francouz. Their puck possession in Gm. 2 was daunting, keeping the Lightning to just 16 SOG.

Also impressive is the Avs’ use of the 180-foot game to escape their own zone carrying speed into the opponent’s end. This stretch passing is a revelation seen more and more— Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto employed it this season— but Colorado’s use— keyed by MacKinnon— has been devastating to opponents.

We postulated in February that goaltending might sink the Oilers and Maple Leafs And while Mike Smith tried his damndest to torpedo the Oilers it was Edmonton’s inability to keep up with Colorado’s blitz that doomed them. Toronto’s Jack Campbell held on gamely against the Lightning, but Toronto’s offensive firepower was blunted by Tampa’s grit and experience.

It is clearly a new day in the NHL when grizzled coaches like Darryl Sutter, a longtime proponent of clutch-and-grab, concede to speed. The Flames thrived on breakout passing and using the 180-foot game. Unfortunately Sutter couldn’t replicate the regular-season firepower of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk against McDavid’s brilliance.

So if track-meet hockey is the future what does it say for the Canadian NHL franchises who went a 29th season without a Stanley Cup? Are any of them prepared to unleash the whirlwind next fall? You can probably eliminate Montreal , Ottawa and Winnipeg from the equation. Their time is a ways off.

Toronto: The Leafs were the biggest failure of the season, failing to win their conference or division despite a star-studded lineup. As such they drew Tampa in Rd.1 and it was Peggy Lee time. “Is that all there is?” The Leafs have elite players, but they also have a fanatical fan base that wants to win yesterday.

But the Avs should serve as an example of the patience you need. McKinnon was drafted in 2013, Makar in 2017. Other parts— including coach Jared Bednar— came slowly. There were painstaking losses in early rounds of the playoffs. But now, nine years after MacKinnon, they seem ready.

Yes, moves need to be made in Toronto. The question is can coach Sheldon Keefe assemble the elements, convince his team he’s got the plan and use his weapons to blitz slew-footed opponents?

Edmonton: No doubt the Oilers have impressive parts. MacDavid was transcendent against L.A. and Calgary. Zak Hyman bolstered the second line scoring. But with elite sniper Leon Draisaitl hobbled the Oil were boat raced by the Avs. With their top-heavy payroll and wobbly goaltending, can they find speed in the bottom two lines to break through? Can young coach Jay Woodcroft get a system that emphasized the speed we saw on occasion against Calgary?

Calgary: As mentioned, the Flames looked to be disciples of dashing hockey till the Oilers exposed their second and third lines, and Jacob Markstrom fell apart in nets. Worse for the Flames is the free-agent status of their marquee star Johnny Gaudreau, who has yet to announce if he’s gong to stay or go home to the U.S. Northeast.

Gaudreau’s high-speed dexterity pushed players like Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm to great years. It’s hard to see them spreading the rink without the dynamic Gaudreau engineering the offence. The Flames are also not a young team after adding veterans down the stretch who failed to move the needle. They could push for a Cup with Gaudreau or start to re-tool without him.

Vancouver: The Canucks missed the playoffs and it’s hard to see this roster finding a MacKinnon or McDavid gear next year with no premium draft picks available. Quinn Hughes looks poised to be as Makar-style D man in the future, but the forward group is a hot mess beyond Elias Petterson and Bo Horvat. It’s a long way from 2011 fior Vancouver fans and this won’t help the recovery much either.

So for Canadians looking at a likely candidate for a Cup in the near future, put your money on the Leafs and hate yourself for doing so.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster ( The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Inherit The Wins: Hockey Has Its Privileges

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It might not have exactly been Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon, but Florida Panthers glitter boy Matthew Tkachuk sitting in with the TNT NBA panel of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith might have been close that magnitude of collision between cultures.

Tkachuk has become the NHL poster boy in the U.S. by leading the sad-sack Panthers to the Final. In his casual Elbo Room T-shirt he was the epitome of the Fort Lauderdale hip cross-over star as he met the panel. While Barkley has become a hockey-fan-of-the-moment, Shaq professed total, wilful ignorance of the sport beyond its fighting. Smith was not much more puck savvy.

The highlight of the chat was Sir Charles suggesting he’d like to play hockey just once because he could only get a two-minute penalty for slugging Shaq. The two men did a little faux-theatre for the cameras to promote TNT’s coverage of the NHL Final.

The other nugget from the chat was the revelation that Tkachuk went to high school in St. Louis with Celtics star Jason Tatum, whose team was about to force Game 7 against the local Heat. Talk about a sports hothouse. Host Ernie Smith also showed pictures of Tkachuk with his legendary father Keith and his brother Brady of the Senators, marvelling at the genes involved in a 527-goal scorer siring two NHLers..

It’s both a wonder— and a concern— for the NHL, as we wrote in August of 2021. Because the brothers Tkachuk are part of a trend away from random selection and more to expensive grooming of elite athletes in the sport. Is equal outcome a lost cause?

“The NHL faces a question of opportunity at the moment. But this is not a racial or gender issue. The question facing a league renowned for its blue-collar roots is ‘has hockey become a rich person’s sport, a league where being an insider has extra clout?’ 

Are today’s superstars a product of more than talent? Are they also the products of an expensive, exclusive grooming process that leaves the Gordie Howe farm boy archetype in the dust? 

One hint of the benefits of having access to resources and people within the hockey industry is the annual spate of sons of former NHLers now being drafted each summer. In the recent draft, there was a plethora of progeny selected, many at the very top of the draft. No other league has such a high percentage of sons being selected. 

There have always been a few NHL father/ son duos. Gordie Howe’s boys and Bobby and Brett Hull spring to mind. But they were not as pervasive in the league as they are today. Witness the just-passed (2021) Draft that saw a host of familiar family names getting new surnames. 

Cole Sillinger (Mike), Tyler Boucher (Brian), Josh Doan (Shane), Redmond Savage (Brian), Ryan St. Louis (Martin); Shane Lachance (Scott); Nick Malik, Marek), Justin Robidas, (Stephane), Jackson Blake (Jason) and Chase Stillman (Cory) were among the sons of famous fathers drafted. Others were signed as free agents. 

It was no fluke. A glance around the NHL shows many sons of former stars getting steady work. Matthew and Brady Tkachuk (Keith), Kasperi Kapanen (Sami), Brandon Sutter (Brent), William and Alex Nylander (Michael), Sam Reinhart (Paul), Max Domi (Tie), Samuel Poulin (Patrick), Tag Bertuzzi (Todd), Ryan Johnson (Craig), Tyson Barrie (Len), Landon Ferraro (Ray), Marcus and Nick Foligno (Mike), Nolan Foote (Cal), Ryan MacInnis (Al)  Brendan Lemieux (Claude),  Ryan Donato (Ted),  Daniel Audette (Donald) and Dominic Turgeon, (Pierre) are just a sampling of the direct relationship between father and sons..

The hockey pipeline is full of young men whose fathers could give them a hockey education but who also knew many of right people to tap into. The sophisticated training and arduous diet regimes are getting more like Tom Brady and less like Gump Worsley. And they’re expensive— even in Howe’s home nation of Canada which honours its roots.

This discipline and access is reflected in the United States where the boom in hockey participation is resulting not in farm boys and rink rats but in privileged sons and daughters of highly paid NHL stars getting an inside track on make the league or the Olympics. 

NHL veterans in both the U.S., Europe and Canada know the inner workings of agents, independent training academies and skill trainers to help their sons past some of the highest hurdles in development. If they handled their millions properly they also have the funds to open doors for young stars.”

Author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of taking 10,000 hours to translate talent into the finished product of a genius. It takes money to allow a young person that time, money that only a select number of families can provide.  If you are a child in a single-income home or in a remote part of the country away from facilities, equipping and training a young prospect quickly gets out of the reach of parents of modest means.

Perhaps the most telling development story was that of Montreal goalie Carey Price, whose father bought a $13,000 four-seat Piper Cherokee plane to fly young Carey back and forth 320 kilometres to hockey practices all winter in northern B.C.

Where the NHL was predominantly players from blue-collar backgrounds till the Euros arrived in the 1970s, today it is often constituted of young  men from families of means and education. Often, like Tkachuk, they’re in training academies with future stars in other sports. The idea of the farming

In that way, through no fault of Walter Gretzky, the super coach, hockey has become a sport for families of means or friends with means. He taught parents that the proper training and equipment was imperative. And that doesn’t mean simply the rink in your backyard. With a new pair of skates costs $500, a stick costs $125  or a set of goalie equipment runs into a few thousand dollars you are losing a segment of the population to financial costs. And so Walter’s legacy of training development is forever tied to a big price tag.

To say nothing of the progeny of NHL stars like Keith Tkachuk helping give their kids a hand-up in making it to the league and its vast piggy bank.  

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Should Poilievre Go Around The Legacy Media With His Message?

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It’s amazing that we have an entire industry dedicated to making sure voters don’t know what the government is up to. It’s called Legacy Media.”— Scott Adams

Is Pierre Poilievre’s lesson from the 2023 Alberta election campaign that he simply go around the Media Party when he finally faces off against Justin Trudeau and/or the Liberals? To pass on their debates and town halls, sticking to his own carefully scripted events? The Alberta vote says maybe.

Despite 18 months of intense, bitter strafing from the chattering class, premier Danielle Smith emerged with a majority government on Monday. With 52.4 percent of the vote, she has an eleven-seat buffer in which to operate. (Although in Alberta politics that’s still a narrow gangplank.)

Certainly it would be hard to get worse press than Smith got from the provincial and national media. Like Hansel and Gretel, the arbiters of #samethink laid a trail for the voters to follow. Using every flip and flop in Smith’s tumultuous political journey they sought to create a narrative path. As happened when they conflated the Trucker Convoy into Three Weeks That Shook The World, the Media Party expected dutiful adherence to the taste makers with pleas like this.

“Dr. Lynora Saxinger MD FRCPC Infectious Diseases @AntibioticDoc May 27 I’m in a social media group with 1000s of AB doctors discussing exit plans if there’s a Smith UCP win…”

Of course, none of them are going anywhere, because, contrary to media, every province in Canada (and many U.S. states) are afflicted the same way. Even when Smith staved off NDP lifer Notley in the televised debate the believers stayed fixed on this trail. One of their most beloved notions is that every group disparity can be explained by some form of bigotry. So Smith’s backers had to be far-right, gun-toting, God-obsessed goobers that you wouldn’t want at your Scotch nosing.

Bolstered by some polls that showed a dead heat, those ridings that want tunas with good taste, not tunas that taste good, knocked off Calgary-based UPC cabinet members and others without tattoos and nose rings.

Yet, with everything going for them— a photogenic NDP leader in Notley an unpredictable  UPC leader, the Covid hangover— the media couldn’t get their woman over the finish line. The (spare me) “donut ridings”, smaller communities and the farming country checked out months before when the NDP started hinting at a 38 percent rise in corporate taxes (“still lowest run the nation”) and adopting Justin Trudeau’s Transition Program for gas and oil.

They weren’t buying the absurd notion of the NDP and its unionized pals as the voice of the common person the in the province. They passed on people who believe men can have babies, who believe government controls the weather, who believe politicians create jobs? All this passed without comment from media slappies. Not so for the people who don’t spend 18 hours a day on Twitter and Tik Tok.

You wouldn’t have seen this demographic by watching CBC, CTV, Global and the predictable media snobs. Earnestly trying to play the results down the middle (sure) on Monday they served up disaffected UPC ex-cabinet whingers, “unbiased” professors wearing NDP buttons and reporters 10 minutes out of J School to craft the narrative.

Sample a) Hapless @CBCNews talking head announced a UPC candidate winning his riding by over 5,000 votes. “Clearly a big win by NDP there,” she bubbled. (Some habits die hard at the Corp). Sample b): After the vote CBC’s The National seemed to boast that Notley had finished a close second while Smith had finished second from the bottom.

The over/under on the word “unions” being mentioned by “independent” panelists in a sentence with NDP was about 1. And the under cashed. Odd, seeing as how so many producing the broadcasts and writing for legacy papers are union members.  The best news for @Alberta_UCP was lifer socialist Notley vowing to defend the rights of Alberta’s unions for another four  years. Andrea Horvath, here she comes!

So how should Poilievre handle the lurking beast that awaits his campaign with open notebooks and closed minds? Put a different way, what would he and the Conservatives have to lose by doing what Governor Glenn Youngkin did in the state of Virginia when he upset the Democratic machine in 2021?

Faced with the overwhelming Democratic financial pump next door in DC and the Trump Noise Machine on his other flank, Youngkin decided it was better to use social media to find his voters and craft his message. Wielding a family-based conservative message on education he knew he’d be wasting his time doing the dog-and-pony farce of legacy media with its union shills and their gotcha’ questions.

So the Virginia state GOP avoided the Media Party as much as possible, submitting only to limited exposure. “Experts” predicted doom by going the social-media route. Youngkin was accused of banning books. But on election night the multi millionaire scored a massive win over “those who must be obeyed”. The triumph carried from the governor’s chair down to the school-board level. (Youngkin is now being mentioned as a GOP presidential candidate.)

Poilievre îs going to change zero minds in sit-downs with the Toronto Star editorial board. Worse, they’ll contort his message, further convincing the Wine Moms of Toronto that PP is a Trump disciple (the ultimate Family Compact sneer). CBC and CTV panels will furrow their brows about right-wing extremism. The Toronto media community will dig up fundamentalist Christians— as if they’re more extreme than full-term abortion supporters.

It’s a loser’s game to always play in then other team’s end of the field. Maybe Poilievre and his comms team can come up with something that changes the game. Like going directly to the electorate with their message. And leaving the bought-and-paid-for national media outside the door.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent. 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via


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