Don’t cry for me, Sweden.
Already a big underdog to Canada in the Olympic men’s hockey final, the sudden disqualification of Nicklas Backstrom less than two hours before faceoff left Sweden without a center with Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin already on the shelf with injuries.
Backstrom’s offense: too many micrograms of an illegal (by IOC standards) medication for the sniffles, yet still considered a doping violation.
The biggest sneeze, however, comes from Long Island, where New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, a supporter of the Olympic movement, may soon be switching sides after losing team captain John Tavares for the season with a knee injury. He suffered a shredded MCL and torn meniscus in Sochi.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman often complains how injuries to the league’s star players is another reason (besides money) why “his” players should not interrupt the schedule for two-plus weeks to play for Mother Russia (or whatever country).
Wang, watching from his Oyster Bay mansion, may now be joining the party line after Tavares ran his knee through the food processor, leaving the future of the 23-year-old Isles captain in jeopardy.
The mishap some nine time zones away means the look of the Islanders may become vastly different than the one expected when the franchise moves to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015. Thomas Vanek is expected to find a new address before the March 5 trading deadline.
Already 12 points out of a playoff position and with six teams to leapfrog as the final 22-game stretch begins on Thursday, talk is already mounting for a roster revamp, starting with Vanek.
As noted by many European publications last week, Vanek and his teammates from Austria were partying – heard joking about Tavares, who was hit by Latvia’s Arturs Kulda (Winnipeg Jets).
Vanek returned to the States, denying the allegation to New York media, but photos don’t lie (thank you, Internet). NYI general manager Garth Snow has no choice but to send Vanek to a contender and alter the direction of the Isles’ rebuild.
Besides, Vanek, 30, has already turned down a 7-year, $50 million offer from Snow, looking to test free agency come July (on the 1st, which is Canada Day).
Throw in other injured goal-scorers Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, and prospects for a playoff run won’t be happening anytime soon.
The injury bug was more than just Tavares. Zetterberg suffered a herniated disc and is hoping to be back for the playoffs following surgery; Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin is out for a month with a hand injury,
And across the river, the Rangers will play without leading scorer Mats Zuccarello for 3-4 weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand.
It just adds fuel to the fire that hockey will run its own preseason World Series of Hockey in the future rather than participate in the Winter Olympics, just like how baseball opted out of the Summer Games for the World Baseball Classic.
As Deep Throat said, in the 1976 movie classic “All The President’s Men,” “Follow the money.”
Contact Nick at [email protected].