Last weekend, Mike Keenan showed one major difference between coaching an NHL team in the snowy confines of Canada and coaching a team in the American south.
After Calgary laid an egg and losing 6-1 in San Jose last Thursday, Kennan cancelled plans to spend time in the sun and herded his troops back home. Officially, he said he was worried about players fighting the flu and wanted to get everyone back home to get healthy.
Yah right. He had all the cards in his hand (fun in the sun) and he played them to get ready for Colorado Tuesday.
Tough for coaches in the Sunbelt to pull that move. 'Shape up or you won't be able to spend an extra few days in Edmonton in November!'
Kennan's Flames showed the message got through loud and clear. Calgary fired 51 shots at Peter Budaj in the Colorado net on the way to a 4-1 win. The Flames were outdone though by the Tampa Bay Lightning, who hammered 52 pucks at Tomas Vokoun and the Florida Panthers the same night.
Not that outshooting the opponent always works. Again on the same night, Columbus outshot Edmonton 39-19 and lost 7-2. The Jackets held a shot advantage of 29 to 8 through two periods but trailed 3-1.
It may not have the 'cache' of the last few years but this year's battle for the Calder Trophy is shaping up to be quite a race. Chicago's Kris Versteeg, Columbus' Derick Brassard, and the Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski seem to be ready to go head-to-head-to head in the battle for top honors.
Unlike last year's contest, all three players have wet their skates in the AHL.
Brassard was the fourth-leading rookie scorer in the AHL a year ago playing with Syracuse.
Versteeg, who saw time with Rockford, last year, is playing on a line with last year's Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane and runner-up Jonathan Toews. Ironically, Versteeg is the eldest member of the line. Coming into the season, Kane was 19, Toews 20 and Versteeg 22. He's one that got away from the Boston Bruins. Versteeg became a Hawk in a deal that saw Brandon Bochenski head to Beantown.
Grabovski would likely still be a Hab if not for suffering a high ankle sprain last December while playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs. It was a longer term injury and by the time he healed completely, he was out of the mix for last year's Cinderella team in the Eastern Conference.
Hold off on any plans for a pity party for Blackhawks fans because their team is on a 6-game road trip with the circus in Chicago for two weeks. Consider that 18 NHL teams will hit the road for trips of six or more games this year. The Hawks will also get to go home for a few days after playing the third game of the trip in Toronto on Saturday.
Of course, you can only hope by the time the team gets back into their lockers at the United Center, it's only hockey equipment they smell.