At one time or another, every North American pro sports league has been called a "copycat league." I've certainly heard the NHL called that enough times. And there's usually some truth to it. After all, there's only one team that gets to carry the Stanley Cup. Everybody else is left to try to emulate the formula of the previous winner.
On Thursday, in a small way, I felt Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis was looking to take a page out of the Bruins' title blueprint by inviting veterans Owen Nolan and Todd Fedoruk to the club's training camp. Gillis probably noticed the impact an old graybeard like Mark Recchi and hard-nosed fourth-liner like Shawn Thornton had on the champion Bruins.
Gillis certainly didn't have a been-there, done-that, North American-born vet like Recchi in his room to settle the Sedin twins as the pressure mounted, or a straight-ahead, no-nonsense, smash-you-into-next-week guy at the end of the bench like Thornton during the Final.
The Boston duo proved to be very helpful role players in the championship run. In fact, Recchi and Thornton particularly were important to the Bruins' resilience after falling behind 0-2 to the Canucks.
Obviously, Gillis is taking no risk by inviting the 39-year-old Nolan or the 32-year-old Fedoruk, neither of whom skated in the NHL last season. If they can't cut it in camp, they'll be gone.
In Boston, Recchi and Thornton were impactful for three reasons: They both skated well enough to fill their respective roles, they had previously won Stanley Cups and they fit nicely in the Bruins' dressing room. While neither Nolan nor Fedoruk can show off a Stanley Cup ring, Gillis likely figures their desire to get one might be worth something for his team.
At this point, Gillis is grasping for those final few pieces that can get his team the 16th playoff win that eluded them in June. Maybe Nolan and/or Fedoruk can make the most of their audition. If they don't, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gillis continue to search for his version of Recchi and Thornton. He's had a first-hand look at what two players like that can mean to a team.
Here are a couple of other icy thoughts for a hot August day …
• There's nothing new to report concerning the ongoing contract talks between the Kings and star defenseman Drew Doughty. The two sides continue to go back and forth on dollars and the term of a new deal.
• If the Canucks were to get off to a rocky start, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gillis sack head coach Alain Vigneault and replace him with Craig MacTavish, who recently became the new bench boss for the club's AHL affiliate in Chicago. Gillis and MacTavish have known each other for a while now. They were teammates in Boston during the early 1980s.
• Not surprisingly, the Hawks inked versatile scorer Patrick Sharp to a new long-term deal. The former University of Vermont star's new five-year contract -- which doesn't kick in until the 2012-13 season -- carries a cap hit of $5.9 million. Looking down the road, the Hawks could have some interesting cap issues to contend with prior to the 2013-14 season. For that season, according to CapGeek.com, they already have $52,863,462 committed to just 12 players. I guess they're hoping the cap continues to go up.