On Target Again
After three aimless seasons, Oiler Alex Selivanov is on a scoring streak
The career of Oilers right wing Alex Selivanov has produced little but unpleasant memories since he had a fabulous 31-goal second season with the Lightning in 1995-96. As Tampa Bay fell on hard times the next two seasons, the 6'1", 208-pound Selivanov also faltered, earning a reputation as a soft player and scoring a total of 31 goals. At times he was benched for his poor performance, and at others, observers said, he was in the lineup only because he was married to Carrie Esposito, the daughter of the Lightning's then general manager, Phil Esposito. Teammates, in fact, derisively nicknamed him Son-in-law-of.
When Selivanov was traded to the Oilers last January, three months after Esposito had been fired, his fortunes hardly improved. He arrived in poor game shape and never hit it off with coach Ron Low, who scratched Selivanov nine times in Edmonton's final 38 games. Then last summer came the crudest blow: Oilers general manager Glen Sather left him unprotected in the expansion draft—and he went unclaimed.
So after Edmonton lost 5-2 to the Maple Leafs in Toronto last Saturday night, it was odd to see Selivanov standing in the visitors' dressing room discussing his phenomenal scoring pace—17 goals in 22 games—which, through Sunday, had him second in the NHL behind Jaromir Jagr and his 19 goals. "I'm getting a chance," says Selivanov, 28, who has an outstanding wrist shot and is dangerous and elusive around the net. "I've got good coaches, and I've got good linemates."
Selivanov has clearly benefited from skating alongside premier playmaker Doug Weight on Edmonton's No. 1 line and playing under rookie coach Kevin Lowe, who has given him ample ice time, Selivanov, who's in the final year of a contract that pays him $1.7 million this season, knows he must continue playing at a high level to surpass his performance in 1995-96, a season capped by his overtime goal that beat the Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and gave the Lightning a short-lived 2-1 series lead. "That was the best memory," he says. "I want to have more memories like that."
The Ugly European
The widespread perception in North America that European hockey is untainted by gratuitous violence was dealt a blow at the Four Nations Tournament in Helsinki last month. In a match on Nov. 13 right wing Manias Weinhandl of Sweden got tangled with forward Michal Travnicek of the Czech Republic in center ice. When they disengaged, Travnicek swung his stick at Weinhandl, striking him in the left eye with the blade of the stick. Weinhandl fell to the ice, where he lay for several minutes screaming and bleeding profusely. "I didn't see it coming at all," says Weinhandl, who suffered a fractured orbital bone, among other injuries.
Travnicek says that he "didn't [injure] Weinhandl on purpose." Weinhandl says, "He may not have tried to hit my eye, but he aimed at my head."
Last Friday, Weinhandl could see people's fingers when they were held six feet away, but, he said, "they're very, very blurry." His doctors still hadn't determined the severity of his injuries and were going to wait two more weeks before saying if Weinhandl, 19, who was a third-round pick of the Islanders last June, would need surgery or when he might resume his career. Travnicek, 19, a ninth-round draft pick of the Leafs in 1998, was suspended for the last game of the tournament, and the Czech hockey federation put him on a 13-month probation that calls for his suspension if he gets a major stick penalty in any international game during that period, subject to an International Ice Hockey Federation ruling.
The incident, which has been aired repeatedly on Swedish TV, has caused a stir in that country in part because the 6-foot, 180-pound Weinhandl is among Sweden's best players. He plays on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin—the twins whom the Canucks selected second and third, respectively, in last June's draft—for MoDo in the Swedish Elite League. Weinhandl had 10 goals in 19 games and was regarded as the league's top rookie.