Friday, December 05, 2008

Fronts: Stewart headed to NHL (and about that Avery guy?)

A nice note for any Kingston Frontenacs fans, who could surely use one: Chris Stewart has been called up to the NHL by the Colorado Avalanche and will make his NHL debut tonight vs. the Dallas Stars.

(Any other former Frontenacs forwards going to playing in that Colorado-Dallas game? Oh right. Six games for Sean Avery -- two for insulting women, two for planning his stunt and two for his choice in fashion eyewear.)

Two seasons ago, there was much hullabuloo about the Frontenacs having six NHL draft choices in their lineup. Stewart, who was a first-round choice and the Fronts' captain back when they would actually have one player wear it on a permanent basis, is the first of that group to make the NHL. Stewart -- it was for the best there was never any movement started to call him Chris Crumple, although that is what the big man occasionally did to opponents, he crumpled them -- has been playing in the AHL with Lake Erie.

The other NHL prospects from that Fronts teams have had mixed results after escaping from Kingston Penitentiary moving on from the Springer Frontenacs. Bobby Bolt is in the ECHL. Bobby Hughes' career has been stalled by injuries. Cory Emmerton, who was the best of the lot, is in his first full AHL season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, meaning he's blocked by a ridiculously deep Detroit Red Wings roster.

Bobby Nyholm's hockeyDB page doesn't even list stats for this season. Defenceman Ben Shutron is playing an overage season with the Kitchener Rangers, where he's the captain, but as a one-time fourth-round choice in the NHL, you would expect him to be playing pro. Matt Auffrey, who was picked up at the trade deadline that season, was playing for the Augusta Lynx ECHL team when it folded this week.

In other words, they are all in about the same place as Wes O'Neill -- Stewart's teammate in Lake Erie for a few games this fall -- who refused to report to Kingston when he was drafted No. 2 overall by them in 2002. As Save Our Kingston Frontenacs noted this week, starting with O'Neill in 2002 through Josh Brittain, five straight Kingston first-round picks have finished their junior career somewhere other than with the Fronts.

Could we call it the Curse of the St. Lawrence, in homage to the river and the GM-for-life who should have been sent up it many moons ago?

Point being, Chris Stewart is going to The Show, yay!

Meantime, the Frontenacs play Peterborough tonight, 7:30 at the Kingston Memorial Centre, without three of the forwards who have scored 39 of their (paltry) season total of 78 goals. May they win, and win big.

The super-awesome Mister DB at Fronts Talk put together a tribute to the newest ex-Frontenacs, Brittain and Peter Stevens. Check out the expression on the linesman's face at about the 3:50 mark -- Pete Stevens is such a great young man, that even game officials were happy for him when he sniped a goal. And the Frontenacs traded him!

(Plans are to see the Frontenacs this weekend in Ottawa, but unfortunately, work commitments prevent going tonight when they play the Barrie Colts with Brittain and Stevens in the lineup ... which will mean going Sunday when they play the ... Kingston Frontenacs? Yeesh.)

Now for the 90-degree turn

Everyone is Averyed out, and it is pretty sly to bury it in a post about a last-place major junior hockey team, but what the hell.

Sun Media's Steve Simmons had a pretty good take on why the NHL overreacted, pointing out the league is sensitive about hockey's reputation for being a bastion of white male privilege. That seems to be the elephant in the room in Jason Whitlock's column, although it's worth a read. As an American who didn't grow up with hockey on an almost chromosonal level, Whitlock says he "just can't fathom the Sean Avery controversy," although one could say that hockey people feel like the sport's culture of exceptionalism -- expressed in all the rhetoric that hockey players are unlike other pro athletes -- is threatened by this dunderhead.
"My real problem is with my peers in the media. I think we're too quick to go for the death penalty when it comes to verbal screw-ups. We can never see the gray areas and just want hard and fast rules.

"Avery might be just as dumb as Rocker, but Avery is not John Rocker ... yet. Avery isn't even Fuzzy Zoeller, who mean-spiritedly tried to diminish Tiger Woods' first Masters title with a fried-chicken joke.

"For now, Avery is a garden-variety simpleton."
Far be it to get on the high-horse after being guiltier than anyone than contributing to the echo chamber. It's crazy, though, that the country is splitting in half (62% majority, uh, OK), the economy's in the crapper, and Sean Avery commands so much attention. When Darryl Sutter , of whom it can be reasonably assumed has never sat in a journalism class, lectures the media on how to do their jobs and he's right, we'll, we're all going to hell.

(Terrorist fist jab to Kukla's Korner for the link.)

Avery is dumb, but Bettman overreacted (Jason Whitlock, FOX Sports)
Hockey's worst side (Steve Simmons, Sun Media, Dec. 4)
Media just as guilty as Avery, says Sutter; Reporters blamed for enabling Stars' pest (Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Herald, Dec. 4)

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