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The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

October 18, 2022

Speaker 1:
Are you ready? Let's go!
From AMI Central.
Now circling in The Neutral Zone.
Here's a pitch on the way.
36 yards for the win.
This-
Here comes the big chance, the shot. Is-Is this the tiger?The Neutral Zone.
Score! Home run! Good! This is as good as it gets. Now here's your host, two-time Paralympian, Brock Richardson.

Brock Richardson:
What's going on? It's time for another edition of The Neutral Zone, and I have to tell you, I'm about to find out how big of a baby I really am, because I got a question from my co-host that's going to, hopefully, make all of you laugh, just ever so slightly. But first, let's bring them in.
Let's start with Claire Buchanan. Claire, how are you?

Claire Buchanan:
I'm doing fantastic, Brock. How are you?

Brock Richardson:
I'm doing well. I'm doing well. Also, Josh Watson is joining us. Josh, how are you?

Josh Watson:
I'm doing all right, Brock. It's a nasty day outside, but thankfully we're all inside and we get to talk about some exciting weekend in sports, including how my Dolphins probably can't keep a quarterback healthy. But maybe we'll save that for another day.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. The poor Dolphins.

Josh Watson:
I know.

Brock Richardson:
The poor Dolphins.

Josh Watson:
I know.

Brock Richardson:
Hey, but your quarterback will come back.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, next week apparently.

Brock Richardson:
Next week, which-

Josh Watson:
We'll get to that in headlines.

Brock Richardson:
For what that's worth-

Josh Watson:
Yes.

Brock Richardson:
[inaudible 00:01:27] is ever.

Josh Watson:
The shell known as Tua.

Brock Richardson:
I'll save you on the comments for just a few more minutes.

Josh Watson:
Sounds good.

Brock Richardson:
So here's my question. I went to the doctor's late last week and he said to me, "You're over 24, right?" I said, "Yes, Doc, by about six years. Thanks for noticing." And he said, "Okay." So he goes, "Fine. Fair." He said, "But this means that you need to get a tetanus shot." Okay. I thought that was for, say, if you play with rusty nails, or do things, or step on them, or whatever.

Josh Watson:
Get attacked by certain animals. Yeah, mm-hmm.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, exactly. So he gives me the shot, I said, "Is this the shot that hurts?" And he said, "Tell me in about 30 seconds if this is the shot that hurts." So it didn't, but I want to know, from either of you, one, starting with Josh Watson, have you ever received a tetanus shot?

Josh Watson:
Tetanus, no. Many other things, yes, including COVID and flu shots every year. And I did go through a number of years of kidney testing, which is lots of fun because it involves multiple needles over multiple hours. But no, tetanus I have not.

Brock Richardson:
Okay. Claire, have you?

Claire Buchanan:
Specifically tetanus, no. I have given blood a few times. Yeah, we get flu shots and all this stuff, and I mean I do have over a dozen tattoos as well, so I don't think I have too much of a fear of a needle, but aside from a needle, I have been bit by a poisonous snake before, and I don't think there's anything that you can do to prevent a snake bite. But yeah, I've never gotten a tetanus shot before.

Brock Richardson:
So that, literally, just puts the rest of my story to shame, because what I'm about to finish this with is to tell you that, yeah, the tetanus shot didn't hurt going in, but, man, days after, it has been the biggest amount of pain I have ever ... And I've got all kinds of vaccines, everything. Everything you can think of, but tetanus shot I'm just like, "Ow," like this is not cool. I can't sleep on my right side because it's just sore. It sucks. But this tetanus shot is just killing me, with just pain. And people who are helping me do my care, they're not meaning to touch the arm, but when they touch it's like, "Aah, don't touch it. Don't do it. Don't. Please don't do it."

Claire Buchanan:
Something similar happens-

Josh Watson:
This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, that's the exact feeling after a tattoo. You don't want anyone brushing up against you, touching you, nothing.

Brock Richardson:
Oh, it's just, it's horrible. It's awful. I don't know, but being bit by a venomous snake versus a tetanus shot, I think you have me on that one.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah. Yeah, I lost my hearing for almost 24 hours. So because I was bitten on my foot-

Josh Watson:
Ow.

Claire Buchanan:
... in a place that I have zero sensation on because of my disability, I didn't notice it until too late, almost. Well, not too, too late, because it was a poisonous snake, but I'm still here-

Josh Watson:
I was going to say.

Claire Buchanan:
... but I have a good [inaudible 00:05:19] size chunk of a part of my foot that the spider got away with. So still have all five toes, but yeah, a cool scar.

Josh Watson:
That must have been some kind of snake.

Claire Buchanan:
It was a brown recluse spider.

Josh Watson:
Oh, a spider, okay. Ooh, [inaudible 00:05:40].

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah. Yeah, those are very common in Alabama and Florida.

Josh Watson:
I had a feeling Alabama had something to do with this.

Claire Buchanan:
Must have snuck in my shoe ... Yeah. Yeah.

Josh Watson:
Like, "Where else do you find venomous creatures? Hm."

Claire Buchanan:
Not in Toronto.

Josh Watson:
That's why I like it.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, exactly.

Brock Richardson:
I'm going to Florida next summer, and if I'm whining about a tetanus shot, dear Lord, help me.

Josh Watson:
Keep your feet off the grass.

Brock Richardson:
What might happen. But yeah, I also, for some reason, I heard you say snake.

Claire Buchanan:
I might have mis-said that, yeah. It was definitely a spider.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, it happens.

Brock Richardson:
It was something that caused you great grief-

Josh Watson:
Yes, yes.

Brock Richardson:
... is basically what we need to know. Anyway, now that we've gotten this show way off the rails, and a good way to start, let's get into our headlines, as we often do at this time of the program.

Speaker 1:
Neutral Zone headlines.

Claire Buchanan:
A Melbourne-based immigration lawyer says Novak Djokovic will likely be successful if he applies for a visa to enter Australia for the season-opening tennis major next year, despite the high-profile deportation he had in January. It could be as simple as writing to the Australian Border Force explaining his exceptional circumstances and asking for any ban on re-entry to be waived. The 21-time Grand Slam singles champion wasn't allowed to defend his Australian Open title this year after a 10-day legal saga over his COVID-19 vaccination status that [inaudible 00:07:27] with his visa being revoked on the eve of the tournament.

Brock Richardson:
The wheelchair rugby Canadian team finished up their world championships in fifth place. Congratulations to everyone involved, and the support staff included.
I don't know if this was the exact result that the team was looking for. I think with their veteran presence on their team, I think they were expecting for some bigger results on the podium, but being that you're in the middle of a quadrennial and you finish fifth, this will put you in a good position moving forward into the back half of the quad before the Paralympic Games in Paris, France.

Josh Watson:
Miami Dolphins quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, has returned to practice just two weeks after he suffered what can only be described as a significant concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals. His second in a week. The team says he is just on very light duties at this time, however, since the writing of this, I believe we've actually found out that he is actually now cleared to play, starting next week, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I don't know how I feel about this. I want players to be able to have a quality of life after they play football and, just, every time I think about Tua, I keep seeing those hands, and I just can't help but think "It's too soon. It's too fast," and, "What is going to happen to him when he, inevitably, gets another one?" Because he will.

Brock Richardson:
Those are your headlines for this week. Let's check on our Twitter poll questions.
Going back to last week, Hockey Canada's board members have stepped down. If nothing else happened, would you be satisfied?
You guys spoke loud and clear. 53% of you said no, 27% of you said they need a name change, and 20% said yes.
This week's question is one that we're going to preview the NHL season. Which of the following Canadian teams has the best chance to win the Stanley Cup? You're looking at Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, or other? You can cast your votes at our Twitter handles coming at you right now.

Speaker 1:
Welcome back to the Neutral Zone, AMI broadcast booth-
Play ball.... and we are set to get this ball game underway.
The first pitch brought to you by Brock Richardson's Twitter account @neutralzonebr. First pitch, strike. Hey, gang, why not strike up a Twitter chat with Claire Buchanan from The Neutral Zone? Find her @NeutralZoneCB.
Now there's a swing and a chopper out to second base right at Claire. She picks up the ball, throws it over to first base-
Out.... for a routine out. And fans, there is nothing routine about connecting with Cam and Josh from The Neutral Zone @NeutralZoneCamJ and @JWatson200. Now that's a winning combination.
And this Oregon interlude is brought to you by AMI-audio on Twitter. Get in touch with The Neutral Zone, type in @AMIaudio.

Brock Richardson:
We are pleased to be joined by Amanda Provan, who comes to us from Sudbury, Ontario. She is joining us to talk about the upcoming international tournament that's going to be featuring a series between Canada and the United States in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Amanda, welcome to the program. Thanks for being along with us today.

Amanda Provan:
Thanks for having me.

Josh Watson:
Can we start by talking a little bit about how you became involved in blind hockey?

Amanda Provan:
So it's kind of a bit of a fluke actually. My mom happened upon a Facebook post in 2017, and I had been playing sighted hockey for quite a while by then, and I was really excited that there was an adaptation of the sport for people with visual impairment. So we packed our bags and headed to Toronto to check out this tournament. I participated in one of the triad events and got to handle the puck a bit, and ended up playing in the last couple games of the development division of that tournament.

Claire Buchanan:
Your hockey journey started with you playing with individuals who were fully sighted. Can you give us a little bit of a backstory of what that was like before you found the sport of blind hockey?

Amanda Provan:
I had to learn the game a little bit differently than most players. As opposed to following the puck, I had to follow the players and kind of guess as to what was going to happen next, and adapt in any given situation. For me, I spent a lot of time screening the goalie, because that was something I could do, and it was helpful, and I didn't mind the goalie slashing me and whatnot. I just wanted to help my team out.

Josh Watson:
You made some history this year with the National Blind Hockey Team. You've been named the first woman to make the roster for the team. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like when you found that out?

Amanda Provan:
Not only was I the first woman to make the roster, I was also the first invited to their selection camp, so that was pretty big for me in general. That was one of my goals, to get to the selection camp and to see if I could compete and play with the national team players.

Claire Buchanan:
During the process of, not only hearing about, being chosen to be at selection camp, was there a moment, either during that process or during the selection camp, that you had this kind of a-ha moment of, "I could really crack this squad?"

Amanda Provan:
I don't know if there was an a-ha moment. I just tried to go out there and give it everything I had, and knowing, when I came off the ice, I left everything out there and I couldn't have possibly done anything more for my myself to make that team.

Josh Watson:
Now, making this kind of history, do you find that it's putting any extra weight on your shoulders?

Amanda Provan:
A little bit. I also just want to pave the way for other young female blind hockey players who aspire to do the same thing. So I'm just trying to set a good example and do everything I can.

Brock Richardson:
We're joined by Amanda Provan, who is from Sudbury, Ontario, and you're listening to The Neutral Zone here on AMI. We're talking all things blind hockey and the Canadian national team.I'm alongside Claire Buchanan and Josh Watson and, of course, I'm your host, Brock Richardson.

Claire Buchanan:
Now, coming up you have a pretty big series against the US. Myself, I know what that feels like, going into a series against one of your biggest rivals. Do you have any specific goals for yourself outside of doing well as a team?

Amanda Provan:
I think just going into this tournament is, it's the biggest hockey games of my life. So I just want to go out there and play my game, and hopefully be able to make a difference and help my team win.

Josh Watson:
Now what advice might you have for other women who might not think that they could crack a national team roster like you have?

Amanda Provan:
Honestly, just keep working at it. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and the more you put into it, the more you're going to get out of it.

Brock Richardson:
I love that. Obviously, there are levels of nerves going into this event, how are you channelling your nerves pre the event, and then during the event? Can you kind of give a little bit of insight to the audience as to how you, yourself, are channelling those?

Amanda Provan:
Personally, I'm more nervous about the travel. I'm not a big fan of packing up and going places, I always feel like I'm forgetting something important. But I'm sure I'm going to be nervous come closer to game time, but as soon as I step on the ice, I typically feel better.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, because it's kind of the, you know? You're in a familiar place, and playing the game is obviously a familiar spot to be in. Outside of playing against your rivals, what are you most looking forward to, of something maybe off the ice, that you could chat a little bit about?

Amanda Provan:
I think, first of all, I'm just excited to get my jersey, to put that on. It's been a dream of mine to represent Canada, so to be able to put that on will be something great. Off the ice, I just want to be closer with my teammates and start to bond with everybody, and just work towards being a good teammate and player on and off the ice.

Claire Buchanan:
You talk about paving the way, and is there someone that you had, or still have right now even, making this team, was there someone that inspired you to go out and try for this team, as a woman that has never gone into selection camp for this team? Was there someone that really pushed you to try to make this goal of yours of making this team?

Amanda Provan:
I think just seeing other elite female hockey players gives me motivation and shows me that the possibility's there, but I'm my biggest critic, so I pushed myself a lot and done a lot of training to get where I am.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. I'm just curious to know, from when you started blind hockey to now, what do you think is the biggest level of growth for yourself, personally?

Amanda Provan:
I think playing sighted hockey I didn't do a lot of carrying the puck, and I did a lot of screening the goalie, which isn't an option in blind hockey, so I had to completely reinvent my game and learn how to carry the puck, or where to position myself.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, for sure. Well best of luck at the event coming up this weekend, I believe it is? We're going to be rooting you on and hoping that you come back with a gold medal, as anyone would want to be at this point of playing the national team in the US. Thank you so much for joining us today, we loved having you on. Best of luck.

Amanda Provan:
Thanks so much for having me.

Brock Richardson:
That was Amanda Provan, who is part of the national team who's going to be taking on Team USA in Fort Wayne, Indiana coming up very, very soon. If you want to get ahold of us, you can do so by getting our voicemail. Here's how.

Speaker 1:
Welcome back to the Neutral Zone AMI broadcast booth-Play ball.... and we are set to get this ball game underway. The first pitch brought to you by Brock Richardson's Twitter account @neutralzonebr. First pitch, strike. Hey, gang, why not strike up a Twitter chat with Claire Buchanan for The Neutral Zone? Find her @NeutralZoneCB.Now there's a swing and a chopper out to second base right at Claire. She picks up the ball, throws it over to first base-Out.... for a routine out. And fans, there is nothing routine about connecting with Cam and Josh from The Neutral Zone @NeutralZoneCamJ and @JWatson200. Now that's a winning combination. This Oregon interlude is brought to you by AMI-audio on Twitter. Get in touch with The Neutral Zone, type in @AMIaudio.

Brock Richardson:
We always get the pleasure of having athletes join us to discuss their feelings on big events coming up, monumental moments in their career. For Amanda, that is true again, being the first woman to crack roster, and then, as she pointed out in that interview, she was also the first woman to be invited to a camp.
Claire, I know that you were kind of one of the pioneers in building the women's Para ice hockey program. I just wondered if you could shed a little bit more light on the pressure that can be associated with that, because, and this is no disrespect to Amanda at all, but when we asked her about, "Do you feel any pressure?" She kind of said, "Oh, a little bit," but I know that there's more to it as an athlete than just a little bit. So could you shed a little bit of light on what that's like?

Claire Buchanan:
Yes, of course. The backstory is, I came back from the States playing wheelchair basketball, and you touched on, or call me a pioneer of the sport. This group of ladies, this team was already four, maybe five, years in of trying to create a national team, so I do want to pay homage to the people that have been there since the beginning. And Peggy Assinck, and the Metzgers, that were the original head coaches of the team that brought on Tara and Derek and kind of pushed it into this kind of high-performance era of the team.
But yeah, I mean every single day we are pushing for the women's game to get it where we want to be in. It is a lot of pressure because not only are you having to advocate for the sport, and to speak up and say, "Hey, we're here," and you also have to train as an athlete. So it's a lot mentally, it's a lot physically.
But when you get to camps, and when you go to the first World Cup for women's Para hockey, and it's those moments that really make it worth it, and seeing your teammates throughout the year. I am not young by any means in hockey years and I still am dedicated to the next eight years of seeing where we can put this game, hopefully, at the Paralympics in 2030.

Brock Richardson:
The beautiful thing about the relationship of everybody on The Neutral Zone is that I can sort of feel comfortable in calling Claire a pioneer without her wanting to punch through the screen and say, "I can't believe you just called me a pioneer." But I can just say, it'll make for an interesting post-show meeting when we finish up-

Claire Buchanan:
Yes.

Brock Richardson:
... with the podcast, because she'll say, "I can't believe that you did this to me."

Claire Buchanan:
Well, I had to give homage. The Metzgers are definitely one of the groundbreakers for this sport there. We now have an award at our AGM in their name. Yeah, I definitely could not let that go by without actually giving homage and respect to the people that have, literally, been there since day one.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. No, that's totally fair. I just knew you were around the beginning, I wasn't sure if you were the beginning, but I knew you'd been involved for quite some time. So, pretty cool.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, it was actually Corin Metzger that, I was playing in a wheelchair basketball tournament with her, just coming back from the States, and she was like, "Hey, there's a women's team. I'm pretty sure I remember you playing hockey at some point, so you should try up for this team." It's been there ever since.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, totally. I thought we would spend some additional time, the hockey season is kind of in its infant stage of the season, all teams have got going and we've seen some Canadian team action. Let's do this as an overall before we break down as many of the Canadian teams as we can.
Where do you guys see the shape of Canadian hockey, as we sit here, with the seven Canadian teams? Is Canada in good shape, Josh?

Josh Watson:
I think it's in better shape than it was maybe towards the this time last year. We've definitely seen Ottawa make some strides towards being a stronger team. Vancouver seems to have taken a bit of a step, they've brought in some upgraded players in certain areas. I mean your Toronto, your Calgary, your Edmonton, they're still strong, like they were.
Even Montreal has definitely made some strides in the right direction. They've, of course, kept Juraj Slafkovský, their number one pick from the draft, along with some other young players, which they seem committed to developing. So I do think Canada is in good shape.
Now, where will that lead us? Only time will tell. I mean that's the nature of things. These teams can look strong on paper, but you don't win games on paper, you play games, and it's only through going through the season and seeing where everybody's competition level, and will to win, is at that's going to determine who comes out on top.

Claire Buchanan:
I like that, Josh, "The will to win." I think that is one thing that I, personally, hope to see. A difference in our Toronto Maple Leafs is they say they want to win, but I don't think they're playing like it. I think, overall, the Canadian teams, we have a chance to really make a good run, not just with one team, but multiple teams, to hopefully bring the Cup back to Canada.
But yeah, we got to stay healthy, for one. We already have a goalie down in Toronto, and luckily John Tavares is back as well, but yeah, we got to stay healthy and out of the penalty box.

Brock Richardson:
Yep, that would help. I'll comment on the state of hockey in Canada. I think we're looking better, I think, as per our Twitter poll this week, and I'm the one that writes it every week. I personally believe that we're looking at a three-team race for the Stanley Cup. I would argue that it's even two-team race. I think you're looking at Edmonton, Toronto, and Calgary as being your biggest potential to win the Stanley Cup.
I think, at this point, we'll take some time to dissect all of the Canadian teams as much as we can. I want to start in Edmonton, and I'm going to read you my note verbatim. "Stability in net is good. God love Mike Smith, but Jack Campbell is certainly an upgrade." I think that's true, I think Mike Smith kind of was the glue that sort of held them together last year. We saw some really great things, but he's beyond his mid-30s and I just don't think that, with this young core like we've seen, I don't think he was the guy to get them to the promised land. So they've made a good adjustment in goal.
Curious, Claire, what you think of the Edmonton Oilers, as a whole?

Claire Buchanan:
I was one of those people that was really disappointed to see Jack Campbell go. I loved him here in Toronto, and yes, he wasn't as consistent as we had hoped when he was here, but I think he's definitely on his way. So I think the Oilers are in a position to take advantage of him, hopefully, hitting his prime and consistency at a good time.
I'm also glad that Kane came back as well. He had one of the highest points in the playoffs specifically, so you know that Edmonton is probably going to get to the playoffs and be one of those teams that are fighting for first place in their division as well.
But it's the playoffs where it counts, and so I think that, with the addition of Jack Campbell and of Evander Kane coming back, I think it really balances out their defensive strategy, because defence wins championships here. Yes, we have goal scores, but are people going to block shots? Are people going to stand on their head in front of the net when it really matters?

Josh Watson:
Yeah, Edmonton is I think one of the perennial favourites in the West, just given the fact that you've got Kane, you've got McDavid, you've got Draisaitl. I do think goal was one of their bigger weaknesses, unfortunately, and in spite of the first couple of games, I think Jack Campbell is the answer there for them because he doesn't have to necessarily be great, he just has to be good, and I think they will make use of what he is best at.
Whereas, I think, here in Toronto Jack found himself oftentimes having to bail out people who didn't skate as hard as they needed to, or didn't block as many shots as they needed to. So it will be very, very interesting to see what happens there because, I mean, you're getting closer and closer to McDavid and Draisaitl possibly being free agents and you don't want to risk losing them having not really had a deep run in the playoffs.

Brock Richardson:
Right. I think the thing that I will say about Edmonton, and you're going to hear this as a relative constant theme as we go through these Canadian teams, is there's no doubt they're going to make the playoffs, it's what they do once they get there. That's going to be the real question that remains.
As Josh pointed it out, that window is becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and smaller as time goes on, and people are going to look at free agency if this team cannot take the next step as we've all thought, "Oh, Edmonton's up there, they're going to be there," and then they just can't push through the door. They got to the conference final last year, they could not push through the door to get there. They were so close, but, again, it's not the trial league in the NHL, it's the get-it-done league.
I just think that that's a theme here with Edmonton. Yes, the talent is there, there is absolutely zero doubt in that. It's just pushing through the door and saying, "We're here, we're going to do this." I think in some markets you look at a conference final and you say, "Well, that's probably good." I don't know that I agree with that. I think that the goal better be, for all Canadian teams, to win the Stanley Cup. If it's not, we're having a whole different conversation.
So I think it's fair to say, at times, when you have a young team, look, they got it done, it's all good. But now we're getting older with this team, and there are pieces being added and we just need to see them step further through the door. I want to move towards Calgary, sticking out West.
Claire, curious your thoughts on that team?

Claire Buchanan:
Other than the Leafs, on paper, I think, personally, Calgary is one of those teams that is going to get it done. They have the grittiest coach in the league, coach of the year last year, in fact. And the additions of Kadri, I think they have turned into one of the teams that is literally going to grind it out and work their butts off. I don't see you watching a game where Calgary is playing anybody, at any time during the season, and they're not going full force. I think they're going to be one of those teams that they just don't quit, and I love a team like that.

Josh Watson:
They are definitely fun to watch. I think as the off-season unfolded last year you had a lot of people in Calgary who were really nervous about what was happening there. Are we looking at another rebuild? Because we've got Johnny Gaudreau leaving, we've got ... I almost called him Keith Tkachuk. That would be his dad. We had Matthew Tkachuk wanting out of town when he saw that Gaudreau wasn't coming back. So you had a real sense there, for a few days, where fans in Calgary were really panicking, like, "What kind of a team have we got here? What is Treliving doing with this team? What's going to happen?" I think he did pretty darn good. He managed to get-

Claire Buchanan:
I think he won the off-season.

Josh Watson:
Well, folks in Ottawa might have something to say about that, but they brought in MacKenzie Weegar, they brought in Jonathan Huberdeau, they brought in Nazem Kadri, as we talked about. They scare me. Of all the other Canadian teams, Edmonton scares me for other reasons, but you can shut down McDavid and Draisaitl if you have to. Calgary, there's just so many weapons there, that I could see them maybe pushing past, if Edmonton doesn't get its ducks in a row. So Calgary really has me nervous.

Brock Richardson:
I'll tell you what makes me nervous of Calgary, and it makes me nervous in a good way, because this person should make you nervous, and it's their head coach. Darryl Sutter is not going to deal with garbage. He is not going to put up with half-bleep-shifts, fill in the bleep if you wish. He's not going to deal with that. He's going to look at the player and say, "You want to shift like that? There's a spot at the end of the bench that has your name on it, and let me pad it so you can sit there and be comfortable-

Josh Watson:
"For a long time." Yeah.

Brock Richardson:
And he's not going to be afraid of doing this. Josh, you and I were talking off air about coaches having not as much pull and say over athletes who make way more money than their coaches. The truth of the matter is, Sutter is a guy that they're not going to let an athlete push him out the door. They're going to look and say, "Either you play for this guy, or you don't." It's that simple.
To piggyback on this, and I'm curious both of your thoughts on this, starting with Claire, but am I the only one that's worried about Nazem Kadri being in Calgary? Because he sort of plays on the edge, and sometimes over the edge. He's been in a level of scarce, and he's been suspensions and all that kind of stuff.
I'm curious, Claire, what do you think?

Claire Buchanan:
I think he is set up with the right coach to balance that out. I think that even though he does play on the edge, like you said, that he's reached a point in his career, he's now won a Stanley Cup, and he was just with a team that is all about fundamentals and not getting ahead of yourself, and kind of taking your mindset out of being too much on your heels. So yeah, I think Colorado put him in the right mindset of shaping him into a player where he understands when to take it kind of back a little bit, and when to turn it on.
I think he's going to be one of these players that continue to be a big force in the playoffs. And yes, with Toronto in the playoffs, he found himself in situations where he kind of was going a little too hard and found himself into some suspension troubles. But yeah, I think he's matched up with the right characters around him, and that he was around the right characters last year that is going to put him in shape to be one of those players where people are going to start trusting him in situations like that without second guessing him anymore.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, I agree. I think that what you saw with Kadri in Colorado was a guy who figured it out. I think he was maybe asked to do some things and play a style of game that wasn't really his game. I think maybe he was asked, here, to be a little more of a frontline player, as opposed to more of a supporting cast member, so to speak. So in that regard, it will be interesting to see what happens in Calgary, because he is more of a prominent player there.
But he doesn't have to go and do some of the mixing it up in the corner, and things like that, because that's what you've got a guy Lucic for. So he doesn't have to play that role. Whereas here, I think he found himself kind of trying to stick up for his teammates a little more than maybe he was prepared for. In Colorado, I think you saw a guy who just said, "Okay, this is my role, this is what I'm here to do and I'm going to do it," and he got a Stanley Cup out of it. So congratulations on that.
I think if he can bring that same level of, "This is my role. This is my game," I think he'll be fine. I really do. I think we are going to see a different Nazem Kadri, I really do.

Brock Richardson:
I think, too, the other level of this is he's matured. I know he's not young, but he's he's not old either. He's kind of still in the middle ground of where he's at, and I do see a mature person. I've watched the vast majority of all of Calgary's games at this point, and I just see difference in him.
I think part of it is everything that you guys have said, about supporting casts, about just different role, all those things, but I also think it's a level of his maturity is there that wasn't there before. Funny thing is, a Stanley Cup can really change you. A championship, in any sport, can really change you because it's like, "If I do this then I can get to where I want to be." Which I don't know if he's seen that in Toronto when he was here. He certainly saw it in Colorado, and I think he's going to see it again in Calgary.
Let's move on to Vancouver, and I got to be honest, Vancouver is kind of a team, for me, that's a bubble team. Do I think they're going to be a for sure lock in the playoffs? No, I don't. I think they've struggled with some injury to start the season, which seems to kind of be sorted out, particularly with Brock Boeser, but they're kind of the team that I would look and say, if everything can go well, this team can be a dark horse. I do see defense as sort of being the weak spot here, but curious what you guys think.
Let's start with Josh on this one.

Josh Watson:
At the beginning of the season I thought that Vancouver was sneaky good. I felt like, with additions like Ilya Mikheyev, that maybe they were starting to put some things together. I still believe that, but it certainly does not seem to be going their way right now. I think, over the course of the year, you're going to see Bruce Boudreau really put his stamp on the team and really get them playing in a way that is going to produce winning hockey.
Are they good enough yet? I don't think so, personally. I think there are other teams who are ahead of them in that curve, and I know we'll probably try to get to them later, but I put Winnipeg in the same boat. I think they're good. I don't think they're good enough. So we'll see what they can do. They certainly have a great goaltender in Thatcher Demko.

Brock Richardson:
At times.

Josh Watson:
At times. At times, but I mean, I'm a goalie, I can tell you, there are days you play out of your mind good, and there are times when you just want to bore a hole in the ice and hide. It just all depends on the day. So I think you're going to see more good days from him than bad days, and it will depend on how much his defence helps him out.
You can be a really good goalie if the team in front of you does everything soundly, but if you've got a team that runs around the ice and doesn't play their positions, and all the rest of it, then you can look like the worst goalie on the planet. So it just all depends on what the team in front of him does. If they can get their act together in front of him, I think Thatcher Demko will be fine.

Claire Buchanan:
I think, like we previously touched on with Colorado, and other teams who have been very successful, and it comes down to fundamentals. And Vancouver, like you said, I think if teams like Edmonton and Toronto and Calgary didn't do so well in, one, the off-season, or just have formed into really packed and stacked teams, Vancouver would look better than they do right now, just because of comparison.
I think they have the opportunity to get better and kind of put some more pieces together before the trade deadline, and into next off season as well. Vancouver could be one of those teams that does well and has a successful season, in terms of what their goals are, as a organization, but they're not going to be one of these teams that makes a long run for the playoffs or anything.
It doesn't take one year to create a great team, and it's going to take some pieces and some time for Vancouver to get to that next level of being competitive with teams like Toronto and Edmonton. And that all relies on, again, what happens with free agency with these other teams as well. So they could very much be one of these teams where, in the next couple years, they're competitive to be one of the top teams.

Brock Richardson:
Agreed. Let's move towards Winnipeg. I'll kick this one off, and this is what you guys can use as a starting board. Let's talk about Rick Bowness deciding, as a new coach, he was going to take away Blake Wheeler's captaincy. I do personally wonder what that does to a team. This has been something that I've toyed with for a little bit of time. Having caught a lot of Winnipeg's games, to this point. Yeah, this is sort of one of the biggest question marks.
For me, I think defense is a question mark. They've got Brenden, Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, and Dylan Samberg. Lots of Dylans on that team, but beyond that, I don't see a lot of depth on defense. If one of those names goes down over the course of the season for a long time, you're in some trouble.
The other note that I have is that Connor Hellebuyck is always a question mark. Can he play really well? Yes. But if one of those three Dylans go down, this is going to be an issue for Winnipeg.
Josh, start with you on Winnipeg. Your thoughts?

Josh Watson:
Honestly, Winnipeg, I don't have a lot of thoughts on, just because I really don't see them having made a lot of changes that are going to benefit them. Ultimately, I think we've talked about it on the show in the past, I think it's a bad idea to strip a guy of his captaincy and then expect him to play for you. I just think that is a recipe for a malcontent in the room, personally.
They didn't really upgrade anything that I saw. As you said, the defense is what it is. If anybody goes down, then I think the whole house of cards comes down too. I just really don't see Winnipeg being a factor.

Claire Buchanan:
I agree. I don't see Winnipeg kind of having any effect on other teams. Like you said, Brock, they are struggling defensively. It's hard to keep athletes healthy for an entire season, especially at a level like this.
I do want to touch on the captaincy. I've been on a couple teams that we've had the conversation around captains, and assistant captains. In some situations it does create kind of a divide, and kind of this hierarchy. At the end of the day, a captain and their alternate captains are there to litigate conversations with the refs during game play. And yes, they are usually one of the ones that are a leader in the dressing room, and off the ice, and stuff like this, but other than the on ice referee conversations, a captain doesn't have a whole lot of direct responsibilities.
It's a team sport, for one, and I've been in locker rooms in situations where we've actually all agreed upon that having captains, and letters on your sweater, isn't good for that group specifically. So it'd be really interesting to see how those conversations kind of came about. If it's an effort thing and he's getting his letter stripped away because he's just not showing up as a leader, then make space for someone who wants to and give them the opportunity to step up and say, "You know what? Actually, I got some ideas of how we can get better and closer as a team."
Yeah, I'd be really interested to see why that happened. Who knows? This just gives the opportunity for the locker room to open it up and give weight for, maybe, a bigger chunk of a internal core that's going to be closer together and better supporting each other.

Brock Richardson:
Agreed. Josh, I'm curious for your ... Actually, no, let's start with Claire on this one. Claire, I'm curious your thoughts on Ottawa, with what you see there?

Claire Buchanan:
I'm excited to watch Ottawa season this year. I think, I mean obviously, people in Ottawa love their team just like we do in Toronto, and across the country. I think they have a great opportunity to get back into the playoffs, and be a playoff team.
Do they get out of the first round into the second round? Possibly and probably not, but I think that they very much have a chance to be one of those teams that people need to actually look out for and have some respect for, because they made some big moves to put some more light and respect onto the hockey scene in Ottawa.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, absolutely. I think Ottawa is going to surprise some people this year, I really do, but I do still question their goaltending, especially now that their goaltender has gone down for a number of weeks with an injury. Unfortunately, his name does escape me at the moment, but I think that is going to be the first hurdle that they have to overcome.

Brock Richardson:
Anton Forsberg, that's what you're looking for.

Josh Watson:
Okay-

Brock Richardson:
I think.

Josh Watson:
I thought it was somebody else-

Claire Buchanan:
Forsberg, yeah.

Josh Watson:
... but I don't remember, so that's okay. They have somebody who's out five or six weeks with a problem. But anyway, I think goaltending is the one area where maybe they do have a weakness, so we will see.
In terms of bringing in Giroux, and bringing in some of these other players that they've brought in to bolster, and signing some of their young people long-term. You've got Stützle, you've got Tkachuk, you've got Batherson, there's a dangerous lineup there. So I will be curious to see if they take the next step.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. Let's touch on Montreal. Josh, go first on this one.

Josh Watson:
Montreal, I think, has the ability to go one of two ways. I think they can either surprise a lot of people and really make a run, or they may be, possibly, as bad as they were last year. I think it just all depends.
You're going to have, what looks to be, a full year of Jake Allen, and his backup, because you're without Carey Price, and you've brought in these young kids like Slafkovský and a few others. So it's going to be very interesting, and we all know a number of Montreal Canadien fans here in the area, and on our networks, so it'll be very, very interesting to see what Montreal can do this year.

Claire Buchanan:
Montreal definitely didn't get worse, that's for sure. There's definitely a young team, and they've brought in some pieces that they're just going to put time into right now, and get some reps and some games under their belt, and get stronger and faster playing against these other good teams. Now they have these young players coming into this team that have the opportunity to play against Connor McDavid and play against Auston Matthews, and try to score on Jack Campbell.
So yeah, they're just going to get better from here, and if they continue to bring in pieces like they do now, it's not going to take very long for them to get back into the same situation that they were recently, going into the playoffs and making a run for a Cup coming back to Canada.

Brock Richardson:
I think the right decision overall was to give Nick Suzuki the captaincy. I think he's young, I think he's got a lot to learn as captain, and as player, on this team.
Montreal is kind of a mecca of ... The media can really eat you up for lunch in Montreal, and so he does have to learn how to manage that in Montreal. But yes, they do have really great talent in Cole Caufield, and be interesting to see what happens with Jake Allen. I agree they've extended him all as well, but nonetheless, Canada is in good shape for hockey, overall, I believe, and it will be fun to watch.
That is the end of our show for this week. I'd like to thank Josh Watson, Claire Buchanan. I'd also like to thank our technical producer, Marco [inaudible 00:54:20].
Tune in next week because you just never know what happens when you enter The Neutral Zone. Have a great week, and we'll talk to you next week. Be safe. Be well.