Connor Bedard
Connor Bedard with Team Canada

Following Connor Bedard’s unreal performance at the World Junior Championships and a phenomenal junior season almost in the books, prospective general managers must be licking their chops.  Connor does seem like a generational player. He made the elite teenagers at the tournament look ordinary – and he is only 17 years of age. Some teams seem to have been “tanking” for this possibility. Tanking may be an ugly word, but it does happen. Call it what you want.

For the winner of these sweepstakes, Congratulations. 

Now, keep him safe.

Need to Protect Connor Bedard

The lottery winning team now has the task of implementing a short-term and long-term plan with the eventual goal of developing a Stanley Cup Winner.

At the same time, you have to keep your star player healthy as he is the big piece of the puzzle.

One needs to consider that Connor Bedard is phenomenal, but he may not be invincible. He has yet to play at the NHL level with mature men.  Connor Bedard is approximately 5’10” and 185 lbs, which may be a bit of a stretch.  The average NHL players stands approximately 6’1″ and weighs about 200 lbs.

We certainly do not want anyone taking cheap shots at this young lad. He needs time to mature and grow facial hair. We would want to limit the intimidating behaviour and physical contact.  We will want to make opposing players think twice about even ‘chirping’ Connor. 

We are certainly not in the Gretzky era, where fighting, hitting and intimidation were a large focus of the game.  But even Wayne Gretzky had Dave Semenko and his 6’3” and 215 lb frame and meanness to protect him.  That allowed ‘The Great One’ room to ply his trade. Otherwise, what would Gretzky’s career have looked like? Certainly, more challenging. 

One goon / cheap shot away from possible harm.

The current era of hockey is not as brutal overall, but it can still be a dangerous league to ply your trade.  In watching Auston Matthews take many heavy crosschecks in the playoffs recently against Montreal, that speaks to the physicality that still exists in the league, especially in the playoffs.  This cannot happen to Connor – not if I am the GM.

Let’s Have Fun

Let’s pretend we are the General Manager of Connor Bedard.  What would you do? 

I would do my best to keep him safe. He needs to feel safe to thrive.  So, while I am drafting players and waiting for their development and maturity, which will take several years, my early version of this team is going to resemble a team similar to the one featured in the movie  ‘Slap Shot’ starring the Hanson brothers.  

My first two lines will be skill, with the exception being the player patrolling on Connor’s line – he will be big and tough with a reputation of having no fear.  His only skill set, if it is a skill set, is to intervene quickly and with resolve. Anything else will be a bonus.  

A current player that I would target is Milan Lucic.  He is in the later years of his career, but still has fuel in the tank. He is intimidating and has skill. Milan lists as 6’3″ and 240 lbs. He is respected in the league for his character, skill and brawn.

I would shake down the league for big tough forwards to complete my bottom six roles through Free Agency and Trade.

Wayne Simmonds would also get a call. “How about another season Wayne”?

I need to keep Connor safe all over the ice. So, on Defense I will want one rugged defensive partner on each pairing.

As far as goaltending is concerned, I will find the best goalie available, as he will be busy.

Next Step – Send A Message

We need to stop the bullies from their acts of intimidation and violence. The best way to counter this behaviour is to be very aggressive. Let’s send a message.

So, during the warmups just before the Anthem, have six rugged players line up on the centre red line, facing the other team.  Do not skate around.  Simply stand there and stare for a couple of minutes. In fact, remain on the ice for the Anthem as well.  Let them take a good look.  Make sure to smile so the missing teeth will be noticed. Should do the trick.

Can you imagine – I will throw out some names from the past for fun – Dave Semenko, John Kordic, Bob Probert, Donald Brashear, Derek Boogaard and Tie Domi. Yes, cause for pause.

Now, this is an exaggeration. A GM will not do this. I do like the current game. Fast and quick.

Yet, players like Connor Bedard only come around so often (if I am right). Cheap shots still exist. He needs to feel safe so hockey fans can enjoy his exploits for years to come

Dave Semenko. Love this guy. Tough with skill.