Friday, June 22, 2012

Let the games begin!

Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Jordan Staal, Bobby Ryan, James van Riemsdyk, Evander Kane.

Every year, it seems NHL draft weekend is associated with trades, at least in the minds of hockey’s chattering class. And this year certainly does not lack for big names in the rumor mill, as that short list above suggests.

Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a trade on the eve of the draft that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus and Jakub Voracek to Philadelphia, along with a couple of draft picks (one of which was Sean Couturier, who had a fine rookie season for the Flyers).

But otherwise, most of the names exchanged at draft time – Troy Brouwer, Brent Burns, Devin Setoguchi – lacked a certain marquee value. Not that there wasn’t a lot of commentary in advance about the possibility of a lot of movement accompanying the draft.

It just seems as though there are more big names being named this time around, and named often (Nash being foremost among them). We don’t think that the Capitals will be acquiring any of the names listed above, but moving big names might end up churning up a lot of activity among second and third tier players as teams re-engineer their rosters, re-calibrate their payrolls, and seek that elusive key to unlock the vault in which a championship can be found.

With 11 picks, the Caps will not lack the means to participate in this movement.

And then there was one...

Nine seasons. 689 regular season games. 114 playoff games. Countless words, billions of pixels, millions of column inches.

Taken together, they can be rolled up into the simple question, “when?”

When would LeBron James, the greatest, most complete basketball talent of his generation, make good on his promise and win a championship?

He finally realized his dream last night -- in his 115th career playoff game -- leaving behind the possibility that he might play an entire career without an NBA championship and thus carry with him the title, “best ever never to win a ring.”

Even from the fan’s chair, it seems the hardest thing there is to do in sport, to win a championship. The athletes at the top of their respective professional sports in North America – James, Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Albert Pujols, Kobe Bryant – all have their rings. Even in the NHL, Sidney Crosby has his ring.

And that leaves one.

And the question…”when?”