Ahh, what a relief that hockey season is back upon us, we're talking about forward lines, and the summer of hell in Ottawa is over. Instead of dissecting last night's scrub loss to the Panthers, we're going to feature our third installment of of 'Five Minute Major' series of interviews. Today's exclusive is with TSN's James Duthie, Ottawa native and host of NHL on TSN.
If you're looking for our previous installments, they're here:
John Buccigross interview is here
James Cybulski interview is here
But this is all about Duthie! James Duthie is an Ottawa native and a graduate of Carleton University. He has received three nominations for Gemini Awards as 'Best Host or Interviewer in a Sports Program or Sportscast', as well as a nomination for hosting the six-hour 'Canada's Game - Hockey Lives Here' feature. In addition to being the current host and instigator on NHL on TSN, he continues to write a piece for the Ottawa Citizen called 'the Good, the Bad, and the Duthie'.
Another Sens Blog was able to capture lightning in a bottle, also known as a one-on-one with JD before the hockey season gets fully underway and he spends his nights with the panelists on TSN. Here's the interview in full. Enjoy. And a big shout out to Duthie, who insists that this is now his homepage!
Another Sens Blog: James, thanks for chatting with us. Let's jump right in with the current affairs: Michalek and Cheechoo for Heatley. We know who the best player in the deal was, but can you argue that Ottawa still made out well in this trade, either with the 'addition through subtraction' cliche or by getting some scoring depth?
James Duthie: You can never "win" a trade like this, when you deal your top scorer, and one of the best in the league--but they did better than I thought they would--considering Murray didn't just have a gun to his head--he had an Uzi. Getting Michalek in the deal was big--and Cheechoo may not get 50 ever again, but he shouldn't get 12 again either.
ASB: So the return was decent given the circumstances and gives us more depth. Is this forward corps now balanced enough to pose a different threat than the past years of being a one line team?
JD: Yes, definitely more balance so it is a different threat. And as a unit, I think they are better. Don't forget Kelly and Fisher can't possibly have that poor offensive years again. But that top line has still taken a hit, and when a game is on the line...and on PP, he'll still be missed.
ASB: I appreciate you not using "his" name. Let's talk blueline. Bryan Murray hasn't gotten his elite defenceman, either as a top flight puck mover or a #1 physical presence. Is this blueline close to what it was three years ago in the Finals?
JD: No--I don't think its close. I think Karlsson will be really good someday...but not yet. This group is decent...but not near the group in 07 that was among the league's best--at least for that year.
ASB: And now the most important position for us. We all realize that we're only as good as our goalie. Is Pascal Leclaire the real-deal with a great attitude or is he a younger, injury-prone Gerber that isn't worth his salary? How critical is his success to this team?
JD: He's had a rough couple of years, but I don't think "injury-prone" is fair...yet. I'd take Leclaire over Gerber any day. If he's healthy, it's the best goalie they've had since...umm...uhh...errr....ever? Okay Tugnutt on that first playoff run was pretty good...and Lalime was good in the regular season. Besides them...I got nuthin'. Leclaire has to steal about 7 games for them to make the playoffs.
ASB: Scary since we've rarely had goalies 'steal' games for us. Hasek was capable of it, but...adductor...ahhhh! What about the coach? Cory Clouston - coach of the year candidate or gone by the deadline? Is this guy the coach of the future for us or did he just get lucky last spring?
JD: I liked what I saw, but who knows. The three previous coaches they've had over the past year and a half are all good hockey men, and they all failed miserably with (essentially) this group. At some point you say coaching isn't the problem here. If he gets fired by the deadline...I can't see how its Murray doing the firing. No GM gets to change coaches that many times without getting fired himself. (Except maybe my buddy Milbury during his Long Island days!). I think Clouston will do well and be around a while (which in Ottawa means beyond one year).
ASB: Great pot shot at Milbury! Tell us about AK27. Will the real Alex Kovalev please stand up? Will we love him or hate him by Christmas?
JD: You will love him by Halloween. Hate him by Remembrance Day. Love him by American Thanksgiving. Hate him by Christmas. Love him by New Year's...you get my drift. He won't change...he never has in his career. He'll be great some nights and invisible others. Guaranteed.
ASB: Same question was asked of C-Balls - why does Toronto hate Alfie? Jealousy or pure hatred?
JD: I refuse to answer questions C-Balls has been asked. It belittles me. Just kidding C-balls. I guess it all goes back to that "guarantee" of winning the Cup...which he did in an interview with me...and if you had been there...it was hardly a brash bold cocky prediction...he was just trying to show a little confidence. Then there was that mock throw of stick into crowd thing a few years back...which was actually funny... so basically all the reasons are lame. Alfie remains one of my favourite players in the league--works his butt off every night--I think they probably hate him because they wished they had more players like him. So jealousy mostly--although I think that has died down a lot.
ASB: I knew it! Refreshing to hear that Alfie is also well-liked in media circles. Future mayor of Ottawam. Okay, let's hit the third period: Playoffs - make your prediction. Where are we in late April...late May...?
JD: I think they might make it...but dogfight for 7th or 8th...and probably an early exit...unless Leclaire walks on water.
ASB: Who wears more on-air makeup: Mike Milbury or Pierre McGuire?
JD: Neither wears much--i probably wear more than both---a whole lotta ugly to cover up--but Pierre has a lot of head to powder.
ASB: You were just awarded an NHL expansion franchise (Balsillie is furious that you won out over him). Who is your GM, who is your head coach, and what is the one player in this league that you'd love to build your team around?
JD: If I couldn't lure Ken Holland away from Detroit, then I'd try to steal David Poile from Nashville. How the Preds compete year after year with budget and ownership issues is unreal. If all employed GM's are off the list, Stevie Y is my guy. I think he'd bring good people in under him. My coach is Laviolette (I know, sounds like bias since I've worked with him...but I just like the guy and his philosophy, and there aren't unemployed guys out there who have won rings in the last five years).
My players are obvious: Sid or Ovie, I'll take either...but since those are boring answers, I'll say Mike Richards....because I think he's going to be the best leader in hockey for the next decade. Can I have Toews too? Didn't think so.
ASB: Awesome. I'm curious myself if Stevie Y will ever work his way into the Sens organization just because waiting on Holland in Detroit would be like waiting on Gehrig to give up first base. And one personal one for you - you've been at this for a long time and probably been at some amazing sporting events. That being said, you've still gotta be a fan of sports just like the rest of us. What are some of your best memories in broadcasting?
JD: Number one would have to meeting Cybulski for the first time.
The first Stanley Cup final game in Ottawa in 07 was cool, just because it was where I grew up, and started my career, so there was a Disney Circle of Life thing going on. And last year's World Junior gold medal game there was equally goose-bumping. Outside of hockey,
I covered all four golf majors the year of the lockout--that was amazing. Seeing Augusta had always been a dream, and watching Jack Nicklaus walk up the 18th fairway at St. Andrews for the last time, with old Scottish guys weeping all around me was unforgettable. And I was in Oakland for that Vince Carter slam dunk contest where he just went OFFFF!. Most electric atmosphere I've ever been a part of. (And doing this blog for you has to be in the top five).
ASB: Sweet, top five! And it is also cool to hear that you still have that passion and pride for Ottawa sports. One last time, thanks again for joining us. Classic stuff, especially the kind words for Alfie, the shout out to Cybulski, and the reminder that Milbury had some wild times on Long Island.
My sincere thanks to James for spending some time with us. I don't think he really needs our plug, but don't forget to check out his work in the Citizen and on NHL on TSN.
Let us know what you think. Is the defence that bad? Is our offence that good? Leclaire potentially our best goalie?