Many observers say the neutral zone trap ruins the game and denies star players the chance to show their skills. But there are ways to get around that stifling defensive system. To beat the trap a team needs a defenseman who has great skating ability, tremendous puck-possession skills, good vision for passing and the confidence to beat defenders one-on-one. Here are my top five defensemen at beating the trap: 1) Nicklas Lid-strom, Red Wings; 2) Brian Leetch, Rangers; 3) Scott Niedermayer, Devils; 4) Sergei Zubov, Stars; and 5) Sandis Ozoiinsh, Avalanche. Three of these players—Leetch, Niedermayer and Zubov—began their NHL careers in the old Patrick Division, where trapping and clutch-and-grab were the prevalent style of play. Lidstrom and Ozolinsh learned the game in Europe, another hotbed of trapping.
Canucks coach Mike Keenan has been given full control of personnel decisions in Vancouver. (He shared it with senior vice president Steve Tambellini after general manager Pat Quinn was fired in November.) Keenan will try to build a team that is big, quick and willing to play hard on a nightly basis. Considering the club's disappointing record (12-29-8 at week's end), many players in the dressing room are wondering just how long it will be before they are traded.
The future doesn't look rosy for 1996 Vezina Trophy winner Jim Carey, who toils for the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Providence. A right shoulder injury has jeopardized his season, though even before that setback Boston officials were criticizing his poor conditioning. Byron Dafoe has played well as the Bruins' No. 1 netminder, but the scary part for Boston is that it still owes Carey more than $4 million for the remaining two years on his guaranteed contract. A brighter development is the play of 19-year-old rookie forward Sergei Samsonov, who was drafted eighth overall last year. He's mature and physically strong and has tremendous support because his family has moved from Moscow to Boston. Look for him to have a big second half of the season.
Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.