One of the, ah, "blessings" from the NHL going all Mr. Self Destruct with its lockout is that a bubble Isles roster candidate like Ryan Strome can go to the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia and address some unfinished business.
"We're missing Christmas at home. We're missing a month of our seasons. ... And the only reason we're doing it is to win that gold medal."
>>Strome in the Calgary Sun
The team is headed overseas to prepare (and time-zone adjust) for the tournament, which is taking one of its rare turns beyond Canada (or beyond an easy drive of the Canadian border) this year.
If this were a typical year, we'd be having a Josh Bailey Conversation (see also: Niederreiter, Nino) with much sturm und drang about whether Strome should be on the New York Islanders roster and/or released for the "championship experience" of chasing gold with Team Canada.
Instead, there was never an Islanders camp for Strome to compete in, and -- better yet -- now that the NHL cut off its nose and its ear through Dec. 30, there's very little chance of the team recalling him mid-tournament.
In short Strome, having torn up the OHL with the Niagara IceDogs this season, has the chance to atone for a disappointing bronze-medal finish and loss to Russia in last year's tournament:
"I didn’t play a very good game," Strome recalled. "I remember going home after the game and talking to my dad. I think that was the low point in my career, and one of my worst games. I think I just looked back at that and thought, ‘I want to get better each day.’ I was working hard in practice, but I had to push myself to an extra level. When I did that, the results started coming and I just haven’t slowed down since then."
>>Strome in the Globe and Mail
Along with fellow lockout-protected Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Strome will be a key offensive weapon on a loaded Canadian team. In Ufa, Russia, they'll be 13 time zones(!) away from where they held camp in Calgary, but the usual media and fan pressure will be there, especially with the NHL lockout removing a huge chunk of hockey from the schedule.
Somehow, you can't imagine Strome having it any other way. For Islanders fans, there are very few things to tolerate about the lockout, but this tournament -- with 2012 picks Griffin Reinhart and Ville Pokka also involved -- should be one of them.
Meanwhile, More on Reinhart
Read about what Canada expects from Reinhart in this Edmonton Journal piece, including:
"It’s a wonderful feeling to have as a coach, that when Griffin Reinhart is out on the ice ... you know he’s going to be safe, he’s going to be steady, efficient,” Spott said. “And I think the word ‘efficient’ is the one that most describes him. He just slows the game down, he keeps it simple.
“He’s never in bad defensive posture and he just understands the game at an elite level. A lot of that is bloodlines, but obviously, he’s had great coaching in Edmonton.”