Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Your Daily Smack of Truth
Hockey superstar Mark Messier formally retired on January 11th at Madison Square Gardens in the longest retirement ceremony in NHL history. The former captain of the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers made no mention of his tenure as captain of the Vancouver Canucks, where he single-handedly led the team out of the playoffs for three straight seasons. However, there's still a chance he may get to the Canucks as the ceremony still isn't quite over.So true, so true.
The Carolina Hurricanes showed how to honour their former captain, Ron Francis, with grace and class.
Mark Messier...still an ass.
01/31 Random Ramblings
Folks, this is a lesson to you. If you ever to decide to film yourself doing ANYTHING, make sure you won't regret it 20 years later when your children or others watch it.
Video Link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6053863688509045791&q=calgary
You can see a young Brett Hull (Yeah, he was once a Flamer), Gary Suter, and Joel Otto trying their best not to look totally embarrassed by the whole ordeal. Tim Hunter must have been laughed at by all the other goons in the league (until he punched them around), and he looks like he's been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. The wided-eyed look of totally discomfort is hilarious.
It looks like Neil Sheehy is the lead syncher, and he's really into it! Every team needs a dork.
You can barely Al MacInnis, as he is almost hidden completely as he 'plays' a trombone. He's probably thankful for that.
Eurohockey.net has named Dukla Trencin goaltender Miroslav Hala as December's Player of the Month. This is the first time that anyone I nominated actually won the damn thing.
The Slovakian netminder had an unbelievable month in which he nearly broke the official pro-league scoreless streak record. He kept his opponents from scoring for 322 minutes in a row before HC Kosice's Jan Lipiansky finally managed to break the deadlock. The world record is held by Brian Boucher who kept a scoreless streak going for just over 330 minutes back in the 2003-04 season when he was tending the net for the Atlanta Thrashers.
Oh, and a pricelss quote from a great profile:
"I have been a goalie all my life. I never wanted anything else." In a country where offense comes first this is begging for an explanation. Hala remembers it well, "When I was a little boy, I always liked the smell of goalie equipment."In Slovakia, they are too poor for Crack/Cocaine. Beer and hockey equipment is a hell of a drug!
Ed Jovanovski will not play for Team Canada in Turin as he's having surgery to his abdomen.
The big question: Now, who will be the one to make a untimely giveaways in the neutral zone?
Monday, January 30, 2006
St. Louis Blues: Get them at clearance prices!
I expected GM Larry Pleau to make some deals after the Olympics, but today we suddenly get two quick deals as the Blues move forward and begin their salary dumps.
I am glad Pleau got this done earlier in respect to not paying salary to players that can't help the Blues get to 29th place. As good as Weight and Sillinger are, the Blues still suck with them in the lineup. Why weight to dump Weight?
1. Mike Sillinger is dealt to the Nashville Predators for prospect Timothy Shish-kabob (Timofei Shishkanov, in Russian).
Enter the NHL.com news bit with the understatement of the year:
"The deal could be a sign that the Blues are giving up on this season. St. Louis has reached the playoffs every season since 1980 but the Blues have an NHL-worst 30 points more than halfway through the season."
Sillinger had 41 points in 48 games and was leading the Blues in goals. Sillinger has generally been a decently productive guy on weak teams (Anaheim, Florida, Tampa Bay, St. Louis), is very good on faceoffs. The problem I have with Sillinger is that his defence is a lot weaker than the MSM would have you believe. As an offensive-minded forward (when weaker teams have him play this role), he's often more of a liability than a benefit as he doesn't score enough to offset his weaknesses. As a member of a stronger team, he'll be slotted into a 3rd line role, but he's not likely to be as great defensively as Nashville fans would hope.
This is purely a subjective view, but I've seen Sillinger as a Canuck and watched him flounder in his few playoff opportunities (just 33 games and 13 points), mainly because he's not good enough defensively to be a real benefit and he's not good enough offensively to play on the first two lines of a really good team. He's a true NHL 'tweener', which is probably a good reason why he's been around to 11 different NHL teams and will probably be in the league for a good while longer.
That said, he's versatile and came at a very cheap price for Nashville. Shish-kabob is a 2nd round pick of Nashville's from 2001, and he's not particularly good. He's got just 29 points in 46 AHL games this season and doesn't project to be any better than a fringey 2nd line player at best. The Blues already have enough marginal prospects as it is, so why didn't Pleau get someone more useful?
2. Doug Weight. The Carolina Hurricanes are serious about contending, and this is obviously a great move for them, albeit expensive. The Hurricanes have a legitimate shot to come out of the East, so I can see why they would pull out the stops. You don't often get these type of opportunities, especially given Carolina's history. I'm sure the Acid Queen is dancing to Moskau right about now.
The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired Doug Weight and 27-year-old Finnish forward Erkki Rajamaki from the St. Louis Blues.The picks are the thing, bubba. Boulerice and Zigomanis are basically the same useless flotsam that takes up 1/2 of the Blues roster already.
In exchange, Carolina gave to the Blues three draft picks and three players. The package includes:
- Carolina's first-round pick in 2006.
- Toronto's fourth-round pick in 2006, previously acquired by the Hurricanes.
- Chicago's fourth-round pick in 2007, previously acquired by the Hurricanes.
- Tough guy forward Jesse Boulerice, a 27-year-old eighth-year pro
- Forward Mike Zigomanis, a 25-year-old fifth-year pro
- Magnus Kahnberg, 25, an unsigned Carolina draftee from Sweden who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1
Anyway, here is the Blues Team Report for January, before the two deals were made. From a fantasy standpoint, you are in big trouble if you have any Blues players on your team from this point forward.
As another month of losses came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, the vultures have started to circle as opposing GM's look to pick the rare bits of meat off of the St. Louis Blues roster in order to boost their own fortunes.
If only the St. Louis Blues could play the Vancouver Canucks every night, they might make the playoffs. The Blues went 2-8-3 thus far in January, with both wins coming over the Vancouver Canucks. This record included a 9 game winless streak (0-7-2) and the Blues were outscored 31-46 through the month.
While the Blues maintain their last-place position in the NHL, they have managed to stay in the news for various reasons.
On December 30th, the Blues ended 2005 by picking up Vladimir Orszagh on re-entry waivers. Orszagh had been playing with Lulea in the Swedish Elite League as he recovered from a serious knee injury sustained last season. The Phoenix Coyotes had come to a contract agreement with Orszagh, but the Blues prevented that move and picked up Orszagh to add to their own roster. The move came with some controversy, as the IIHF contested that the move was illegal due to the newly signed agreement with the NHL. Lulea and Orszagh contested that they had their own agreement which allowed Orszagh to return to the NHL at any time. In the end, Orszagh won his end of the argument and he ended up back in the NHL.
On January 15th, defenseman Eric Brewer was placed on the Injured Reserve, targetted to have season-ending surgery to his separated shoulder.
January 27th, forward Jeff Hoggan was sidelined 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone.
January 28th, forward Simon Gamache, who was claimed from the Nashville Predators, was re-claimed by those same Predators after the Blues had waived him.
In addition, there have been many trade rumours circling the team as we head towards the trading deadline. The Philadelphia Flyers are the highest-profile team linked to center Doug Weight, who has had most of his lofty contract already paid for this season. Other useful players, such as Mike Sillinger and Vladimir Orszagh, are also of interest to playoff-bound clubs. With little to fight for other than last place, the Blues would love to trim some salary and continue to stockpile assets for the future.
During January, the Blues slipped from 25th to 28th in goals for with 2.57 goals per game while they rose from 30th and dead last to 28th with 3.74 goals against per game.
LIGHTIN’ THE LAMP
Doug Weight continued to impress with his offensive leadership, even in the absence of Keith Tkachuk. After 16 points in 14 games during December, Weight talled 4 goals and 9 assists in 13 games during January.
Mike Sillinger, playing mainly as a right winger for the Blues, also matched Weight with a second straight hot month. Sillinger had 11 points in 13 December games, and then improved with 10 goals and 6 assists in 13 games during January. Sillinger had a 7-game goal scoring streak, the longest of his career. Sillinger has sacrificed defense (-17) for his offensive boost as the Blues had few other options on the second line.
On defence, rookie Dennis Wideman continues to be productive offensively, adding 7 points in 13 games (6 on the PP) in January after 8 points in 14 games in December. His -9 during January, however, would offset his great fantasy hockey gains somewhat. As Wideman has been given more defensive responsbility, he has struggled more and more with increased ice time against better opposing players.
Also on the back-end, rookie Kevin Dallman has been a nice addition to the Blues after a rather moribund performance (1 points in 21 games) for the Boston Bruins. With increased Power Play time, Dallman has 6 points in his last 10 games with the Blues and has formed an effective 1-2 punch with Wideman.
Scott Young did not benefit from the fine play of Doug Weight, struggling with only 6 points in 13 games. Usually a Power Play gunner, his position was taken over by the hot Mike Sillinger. Young had only 3 PPP in January, after 9 in December.
Defenseman Bryce Salvador actually managed to improve defensively and was only -4 in 10 January games. Offensively, he continued to be a non-factor with just 1 lone assist during the month and only 4 shots on goal. Bryce also had only 2 PIM, which helped his defensive acumen, but gives him absolutely no fantasy value whatsoever.
Eric Weinrich, the rock on the blue line for most of the season, found his Power Play time taken away from him (for good reason), and he didn't manage a single point in 12 games this month. Eric had only 7 shots on goal for the month, but did impress with just a -1 rating and rock-solid defense. There have been rumours that playoff-bound clubs may try and pilfer him away.
Many fans have called for Barret Jackman to get an increased share of Power Play ice time, but 2 points in 13 games won't cut it. Jackman is now the best Blues defensive defenseman, but he has little offensive value and has not managed to generate much with his passing or shooting.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
The comedy of errors between the pipes this season seemed to get a little less humourous in January as Curtis Sanford managed to take the #1 job and do a pretty good job with it.
After a rather hot December (1.84 GAA and 91.9SV% in 4 games), Sanford had the bulk of the workload in January and finished with a 2-6-3 record, a 2.90GAA and 90.70%. Given the amount of chances Sanford faces on a nightly basis, and the goaltender statistics around the league, Sanford has actually given the Blues great goaltending since he was given Patrick Lalime's #1 job. Unfortunately, Sanford just can't get any wins behind this club, thus hindering his fantasy value.
Backup Jason Bacashihua was put on the Injured Reserve on January 22nd due to a faulty left shoulder. His January was not one to remember with a 0-2-0 4.04GAA 86.3SV% performance. Jason continues to show his great athleticism, but also his lack of fundamentals.
Chris Beckford-Tseu, the Blues ECHL starting goalie, was called up again in January as "Cash" went on the IR. Chris has yet to see a single minute of NHL game action, however. With a 4.76GAA in the AHL, it's kind of obvious why the Blues don't want to put him in the nets unless forced to at gunpoint
As for Patrick Lalime, he has settled down after a rocky start to his AHL demotion. He has a 6-6-1 record with a 2.86GAA and 90.3SV% in 14 games for the Peoria Rivermen. With the great play of Curtis Sanford, don't expect the Blues to try and recall Lalime any day soon.
ATTACKING THE ZONE – FORWARDS
GM Larry Pleau lucked out when AHL phenom Simon Gamache was waived by the Nashville Predators. Pleau grabbed Gamache late in November and allowed Pleau to trade Eric Boguniecki for some defensive help. Gamache saw some time on the RW with center Doug Weight and didn’t look out of place with 6 points in 11 games. Unfortunately, Gamache soon got shut out in the cold by coach Mike Kitchen for some unknown reason, and he only played 4 more games for the Blues before being reclaimed by the Predators. With the Blues struggling to score goals, it was obvious to no one as to why Kitchen scratched Gamache from the lineup night after night.
The end of 2005 saw Larry Pleau find another waiver wire gem in Vladimir Orszagh, but Vlado has not given the Blues an offensive boost of any sort. While Vladimir works hard, battles in the corners, and plays well defensively, he has only 1 point in 7 for the Blues and is more suited for a 3rd line role.
The story continues to play the great play of Mike Sillinger, who has played some center as of late between Scott Young and Dallas Drake. Sillinger seems to be at his best on the right side with center Petr Cajanek.
As for Petr Cajanek, after an ice-cold December (2 points in 8 games), Cajanek had 7 points during January. Cajanek also managed to break a 2-month long goal scoring drought as he piled up 3 goals. Cajanek has been slotted often with Vladimir Orszagh on either the 3rd line or 2nd line, depdending on the mood of Mike Kitchen.
The top line continues to see Doug Weight with Scott Young and whichever random winger Mike Kitchen picked out of a hat (usually Dean McAmmond), while the 3rd and 4th lines are a mis-mash of flotsam such as Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, Jeff Hoggan (now on the IR), and Jay McClement (now re-demoted)
PRESSURING THE PUCK – DEFENSEMEN
The re-injury of Eric Brewer put a rather large hole in the Blues defense, but the group came together and actually improved somewhat during the month.
The pairing of rock Barret Jackman and the offensive rookie Dennis Wideman continued to be an effective combination
The second pairing sees the steady Eric Weinrich paired with the offensive-minded rookie Kevin Dallman. Weinrich has been very effective this season and his offensive sacrifice (0 points in 12 games) was offset by his continued solid defensive play. Dallman, another one of these older rookies, has played with good spirit since the Blues have given him plenty of ice time to work with.
The third pairing sees the oft-maligned and struggling Bryce Salvador playing with either Christian Backman (in and out of the lineup with various ailments), and the ineffective Steve Poapst.
To be fair to Bryce and Steve, they played much better in January. Salvador "improved" to -4 during January and Steve followed suit just -1 in 7 games.
Matt Walker, the team’s 7th defenseman, was placed on Injured Reserve on January 5th with a strained knee.
THE BLUE LINE – SPECIAL TEAMS
The Blues Power Play improved drastically during January, rising from 26th to 21st with a 16.0% success rate. The play of defensemen Dennis Wideman (6 PPP) and Kevin Dallman (4 PPP) on the points was a big boost to the fortunes of the Blues PP unit. With Dallman now a useful option, Scott Young and Doug Weight don't have to play on the point nearly as much as they used to.
Up front, Mike Sillinger, surprisingly, shares the lead on the Blues with 24 PPP, tied with the usual suspect, Doug Weight. Both players had good months with the man-advantage, scoring 10 and 7 PPP respecitvely.
The Penalty Killing unit stayed the course for the third straight month and remains in 22nd spot overall with a success rate of 80.5%. Up front, Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, Mike Sillinger, and Petr Cajanek generally take the bulk of the PK duties.
On the back end, Bryce Salvador continues to lead the Blues on PK ice time despite his struggles. With 5:14 in PK ATOI, the coaching staff still seems to count on his crease-clearing ability due to his strength. His partner in crimes against defence, Steve Poapst, has rung up 3:54 of PK ATOI and has done a rather poor job of it. Thankfully, he's been given less and less ice time as the Blues coaching staff realizes that he's not very good.
Barret Jackman (3:37) and Eric Weinrich (3:39) comprise the 2nd PK defence unit.
The Blues are 8th best at drawing Power Plays, with 325 of them overall this season. With an improving Power Play performance in January, the Blues used this to their advantage..As for the lack of discipline, the Blues have regressed slightly as they dropped from 7th to 10th overall in Power Plays against.
The one area that the Blues did really poorly in was even-strength play. The Blues fell from 29th to 30th as they dropped from a collective -38 to a collective -51, 8 worse than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The schedule will see the Blues finish January with a derby against the Calgary Flames on the 30th, before a rather quiet pre-Olympic stretch of 6 games in February. Apart from a game against Chicago on Feb 2, and perhaps another victory against the Canucks on the 8th, the Blues play a bevy of challenging teams (Detroit, Dallas, Calgary, Edmonton) before they can rest during the Olympics.
As you would expect, the Blues have very few Olympians going to Turin. Only Doug Weight (Team USA) and Petr Cajanek (Czech Republic) will represent the Blues in this prestigious tournament.
Once the tournament is over, the pilfering of the Blues can begin as the trade deadline comes and goes.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
NHL COLORADO AT VANCOUVER
NOTE: THE GAME IS BEING DELAYED IN THE THIRD PERIOD
BECAUSE A FAN THREW A PUMPKIN ON THE ICE.
No, I'm not making this up.
Well, the game recap spcifies a promotional give-away doll (seeing that it's Colorado, it's probably of the blow-up variety).
Colorado Avalanche fans, all ass and no class.
EDIT: Folks, this is why you shouldn't post when extremely hung over. I thought this recap was of last night's game, not a game years ago.
Riesling Wine is a hell of a drug.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Evgeni Malkin Interview
One thing I love about European interviews is that they tend to be more direct and will ask the 'harder' questions. Reporters and writers in the NHL world tend to write big, but ask small. Of course, European reporters tend to also try and provote players into saying something controversial, since players tend to be more vocal and opinionated in Europe than in North America.
How upsetting was it for you to lose the final game against Canada again?
E. Malkin: It is always tough to lose the final game. We had enough scoring chances that we didn’t convert to turn the game around. Couple of times we just didn’t get lucky. Though, generally speaking, the team performed pretty good at the tournament. As we were planning to end up in the final, so we did. But in these kind of games like the final against Canada many things depend on luck. Though, I have to admit that the opponents were strong that night.
Have you had a chance to analyze this loss on your way home?
E. Malkin: We underestimated Canadians a little bit, and were not well prepared for the final. I don’t know why, but we didn’t even watch any tapes of the opponent’s games. The final game is special and needs extra attention and seriousness.
Therefore, the coaching stuff is guilty in this loss to Canadian team?
E. Malkin: You misunderstood me. Players that were on the ice are guilty as well, including me. Now, looking back at that game, I see the mistakes that we made, but oh well, what’s the reason to wave the fists after the fight….
What can you say about your personal performance in the final game?
E. Malkin: I didn’t show everything that I can. Throughout entire tournament Canadians played well against leaders of the opposing teams. They just didn’t allow me to breathe, “choked” me right when I was receiving the puck. I didn’t even have enough time to receive the puck, and look around. Canadians didn’t have stars in their lineup, such as Sidney Crosby who they had last year, but everyone knew exactly what to do on the ice.
People still don’t know why the referee didn’t count the goal when the score was 0:2. Could this goal have affected the game?
E. Malkin: For sure this goal would have given us confidence, and the opponent would have gotten nervous. As the captain I came to the referee, and he explained that none of the cameras caught the moment when the puck crossed the line. We couldn’t prove anything; even Lemtyugov didn’t see if the puck crossing the line.
But you can’t blame the referee for this loss: two goals were scored as the results of bad mistakes…
E. Malkin: Yes, that’s true. There was my fault in the first goal, when I didn’t finish my defensive play. Radulov made a mistake on the second goal…
After the final whistle you cried…
E. Malkin: Yes (smiling). I wanted to get the gold, but it turned out to be some kind of mystery, as last year…
How would you grade your performance at this tournament?
E. Malkin: I think all of the games, except the final, I played at my usual level. But the last touch ended up being blurry.
Do you think you succeeded in the captain’s role?
E. Malkin: I don’t know, you better ask others. In a locker room I tried to cheer up my partners, and tried to lead the team on the ice.
Did anyone from Pittsburgh talk to you during the tournament in British Columbia?
E. Malkin: Only my agent called me and told me that Mario Lemieux is watching me on TV, and very satisfied with my performance. Also, Sidney Crosby called me wishing best of luck.
Aren’t you afraid that the loss in the final game would affect you psychologically in your performance in your club and the Olympic team?
E. Malkin: Don’t worry, everything is OK. Hopefully, my appearance on the team will not worsen team’s performance (smiling). And then, we are going to pay back to Canadians in Turin. I will live with these thoughts for this month.
Speaking of the Olympics, Eurohockey.net has an Olympic News Tracker which you can use to keep apprised of the goings-on for Turin.
Oh, there is also a Team Canada preview which I wrote.
Friday, January 27, 2006
The Anaheim Ducks: Now Might-Free!
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim announced today that the National Hockey League club intends to officially change its name to the Anaheim Ducks at the start of the 2006-2007 season. The organization is also evaluating possible changes to its logo, identity and uniforms. “The process is still very much underway, and we do not expect to be ready to make any further announcements until the end of the season,” said Henry Samueli, who along with his wife Susan purchased the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim last year from the Walt Disney Company.
When is the last time we got such a minor name change? There was the Dallas Stars, but they also changed cities when they changed from the North Stars.
How about some other slight name changes?
The Chicago Blackhawks to the Chickenhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs to the grammatically correct Maple Leaves.
The Pittsburgh Penguins to the Houston Oilers ;)
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Erik Johnson, Defense
Height: 6-4, Weight: 222, Current Team: USNTDP (USA)
Jonathan Toews, Forward
Height: 6-1, Weight: 195, Current Team: University of North Dakota
Phil Kessel, Center
Height: 6-0, Weight: 189, Current Team: University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Jordan Staal, Center
Height: 6-4, Weight: 209, Current Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Peter Mueller, Center
Height: 6-2, Weight: 200, Current Team: Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Michael Frolik, Right Wing
Height: 6-1, Weight: 187, Current Team: Kladno (CZE)
Nicklas Backstrom, Center
Height: 6-0, Weight: 183, Current Team: Brynas (SWE)
James Sheppard, Left Wing
Height: 6-2, Weight: 201, Current Team: Cape Breton (QMJHL)
John DeGray, Defense
Height: 6-4, Weight: 202, Current Team: Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Bryan Little, Center
Height: 5-10, Weight: 194, Current Team: Barrie Colts (OHL)
Bob Sanguinetti, Defense
Height: 6-2, Weight: 182, Current Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Kyle Okposo, Right Wing
Height: 6-0, Weight: 195, Current Team: Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
Alexander Vasyunov, Left Wing
Height: 6-0, Weight: 187, Current Team: Yaroslavl (RUS)
Derick Brassard, Center
Height: 6-0, Weight: 174, Current Team: Drummondville Voltiguers (QMJHL)
Nigel Williams, Defense
Height: 6-4, Weight: 226, Current Team: USNTDP (USA)
From their 'Falling' list
Let’s be clear in that Kessel’s WJC tournament wasn't as bad as many have suggested. The fact is he continues to display a number of attributes that make him a legitimate candidate to become a superstar in the NHL. He displayed a few tendencies that have given us cause for some concern, however. His unwillingness to venture into tough traffic and the fact that he tried to generate everything with speed when that avenue was obviously shut down were bothersome. Also, Kessel seemed confused at times, which raised some eyebrows. He still has a bundle of skill and his skating may be the best in the draft. But, whereas we once thought he was a surefire superstar, now a few doubts have obviously crept in.My main lean ground beef with Kessel was that he'd try and stickhandle his way through an entire team, rather than use his teammates. Kessel is going to be a good sniper in the NHL, but he'll make himself easy to defend if he doesn't use his teammates more. I figure that once he gets to the higher levels, he'll realize that he can't simply walk through an entire team. Imagine if he tries to pull stunts while playing for a coach like Brent Sutter? He may smarten up quickly. I'm surprised ISS would knock him all the way down to #1, however. I still think Kessel is the most talented of the bunch.
Joensuu was the kind of player in this tournament that showed flashes of brilliance but always left you wanting more. We love his size, strength and skating but we have to question his desire and his offensive skills. We aren't sure that he has potential as a second-line winger, and there are a few other guys in the draft that can fill that role that we like more.I noticed Joensuu, mainly because he was the one Finnish player not working very hard while his mates were much more determined. Joensuu obviously has the size, but he was basically cruising like Todd Bertuzzi on one of his 'off' days, and Jesse doesn't have the same great puck control.
ISS didn't mention Michael Frolik on their falling list, but his play at the WJC was just as bad as Joensuu's. I know coach Radim Rulik was terrible and the players hated his guts (and his head, shoulders, feet, etc), but Frolik was just invisble offensively. His play with Kladno this year seems to be OK, but not mind-blowing. Has he peaked early? hmm...
BTW, never draft a player named Jesse. They ALWAYS are teh sux0rz.
On the RISING list...
Backstrom has had a tough start throughout the 1st half of 2005-06, but his play in the WJC tournament was impressive and very spirited. He played at times like a much older player and displayed the type of characteristics that warrant top 10 consideration. Backstrom went hard into traffic, shot the puck like a pro and was a force in the offensive end. His defensive play was sound but most impressive was his passionate play, which rubbed off on his teammates helping make them a better team.Yes, his play was so impressive that I actually named him (a Swede!?!) to my WJC Media All-Star team. He needs to carry his tournament play back with him and show that this wasn't just a 'one-time' fluke.
You can read the rest of ISS's January Report here.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Mario Lemieux Moves On and Retires for Good
So, this is the end for Mario Lemieux, who retired due to heart problems.
It certainly is an anti-climatic ending to a great career, but almost fitting given the
numerous injuries and ailments he’s overcome over his adult life.
I know a faulty heart isn’t anything to mess with, but I am surprised that Lemieux did not come back for one more farewell game. With him giving up his executive position with the Penguins, he seems to be divesting himself from the club awfully quick.
In the meantime, the focus, as is has been most of the year, will shift even more to the rookies and young stars in the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, and many others are already stars in their own right and have given us many memorable highlight reel plays.
“I realize that the new NHL is really for the young guys. I think we have a lot of young guys in the league who are dominating,” Lemieux said. “We have a few in Pittsburgh, too. These young guys are the future of the NHL and look forward to next several years watching these guys play.”Now, where does this leave Sidney Crosby? I heard some rumours that he would be given the Captain’s “C”, which would be an awful idea and not likely to happen. Crosby has been living with Mario this year, but now has to be ‘the man’ now that both Zigmund Palffy and Lemieux are retired. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it may be very likely that nobody gets the “C” this season.
"Being young coming in here, obviously he was in a similar situation coming in, he’s faces a lot of adversity and been able to rise through it. I think that just being around him and learning through his experiences have helped me,” said Crosby, who lives with the Lemieux family. “It’s tough to see him leave. He had such a great impact on the game. He really has a passion for the game. It’s never easy to go and I am 18 years old, but that’s something I can still feel for that and realize that you play hockey for so long and then, all of a sudden, one day you have to stop. It’s something that can’t be easy at all."
“It’s really tough. You never like to see anyone have to step away from a game they love,” he continued. “I am glad I got a chance to know him so well. He really is a great person and has a real passion for the game. He’s put so much into it. At least he’s going away on his own terms.”
In addition, Crosby, already an alternate captain, seems a natural fit to assume Lemieux’s role as the Penguins’ leader on and off the ice.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to do the job that he did, but if I can even come close to that, I think it will be all right,” Crosby said. “He was an amazing player and an amazing person. When I came in here, it’s tough to know what to expect living with someone I grew up watching and idolizing, but he’s helped me so much. Hopefully, I will continue on from now.”
On that note, it is also time for be to take a break of sorts. I am feeling a bit of blogger’s burnout as you can tell in the recent days. Posting will be light for me for about a week or two, until I get my mojo back or something stirs within me. In the meantime, I’ll have a few update posts and I invite you to visit some of the other excellent blogs on the blogroll to the left.
PS: How can the Canucks lose to both the Blues and the Dinner Jackets? Bleecccccccch!
Monday, January 23, 2006
Bloody Chicklits and Root Canals
For hockey players, however, having dental surgery of some sort of almost as routine as lacing up their skates. If you want to make the big bucks as a pro hockey player, don't expect to keep your original teeth.
What's funny is that the players don't seem to mind so much. If I lost a teeth, I'd probably freak out about it. When Dany Heatley loses his front teeth, he grins like he couldn't be happier. (D00d is pretty f'ugly, but he's got a unique look)
The San Jose Mercury News has a very interesting look at this subject in an article by Marc Emmons.
But the Sharks say if you play hockey, you're just as familiar with shots of novocaine as slap shots. The gap-toothed smile -- from Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke years ago to current star Dany Heatley -- is part of hockey's lore, and its stereotype.Umm, EWWW EWWW EWWW!
Former Shark Mike Ricci even managed to make his toothless appearance very cool. In 1997, a Denver columnist described a bar encounter where a woman was hitting on the hockey player.
"Ricci dropped his false teeth into her glass of beer, grinned like a jack-o'-lantern and said, 'What do you think of me now?'" the columnist wrote.
In an informal survey conducted by the Sharks' public relations staff last week found that of the 22 players on the active roster, 13 have lost teeth playing hockey. Of the nine who haven't, two are goalies who wear masks.This is just another reason why I'd wear a full visor or full cage any time I'd step out on the ice.
Even yet, why not mouth guards? You don't see many players wearing them, and the ones that do use them like chew toys (Hello, Mr. Lecavalier).
It's hard enough to persuade them to wear mouth guards. (And Cheechoo's case shows they are no guarantee of protecting teeth.) Some complain they are uncomfortable and impair breathing.I'd recommend reading the entire article. It's a nice look at the price you have to pay for play hockey.
"Should I wear one?" McLaren asked. "Yes. But I just choose not to, and I know the consequences."
Photo of the Day: Return of the Kings
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Photo of the Day: Ed Belfour
"Hmm...I see why Martin Brodeur is such a big fans of yours!"
NHL: Goalies on Goalies
Anyway, The Hockey News asked 65 NHL netminders: "Who's the best goalie in the NHL this season?" (Story Link)
Surprisingly, my 'favourite', Martin Brodeur, didn't garner a single vote! I guess his peers don't venerate nearly as much as the Mainstream Mediots and General Mismanagers. ;)
Dominik Hasek -- 17 players (27.9 percent)Yep, Dominik Hasek and Miikka Kiprusoff are head and shoulders above the rest. I am bit surprised at the lack of respect for Roberto Luongo, but his numbers are suffering behind the Panthers 'defense'.
Miikka Kiprusoff -- 16 (26.2 percent)
Marty Turco -- six (9.8 percent)
Tomas Vokoun -- five (8.2 percent)
Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist -- four
Manny Fernandez, Martin Gerber -- two
Ed Belfour -- one
Some of the choice answers...
"Tomas Vokoun. He's so good, but people don't give him the recognition he deserves." -- Martin Biron - (True That!)
"I guess I'd say [Dominik] Hasek." -- Anonymous
"Probably Dominik Hasek." -- Anonymous
(Hmm, two anonymous goalies from the Avalanche both like Hasek. Hmm, I can't possibly tell who these two goalies are. *rolleyes*)
"Miikka Kiprusoff. He's the reason Calgary is ahead of us in the standings.'' -- Jussi Markkanen - (So true, so true. It must hurt to admit that.)
I can't name one. There's lots of good goalies. The guy who wins it all [Stanley Cup] is the best." -- Cristobal Huet - (You know the guy who stands at the order counter for 20 minutes trying to decide what Wendy's Super Value Menu item he wants? That's Huet)
"Ed Belfour. I like the experience factor." -- Martin Brodeur (Experience doesn't stop pucks, Marty. I guess he'd be perfect to run Team Canada with his talent evaluation skills)
Declined to answer -- Curtis Joseph (What a wuss!)
Ha megérint majd a világ,
el ne tévedj vadvirág!
Mert ha messze mennél,
félnél egyre jobban félnél,
hogy nem gondolnak rád.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Bryan Berard Tests Positive for Steroids
Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Bryan Berard tested positive for a banned substance as part of drug testing for the Olympics.Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Sources say Berard, who was invited to the U.S. summer Olympic evaluation camp and therefore eligible for Olympic testing, tested positive for the substance nandrolone, an anabolic steroid which is on the IOC banned substance list.
A positive test means that Berard is ineligible for any international competition for the next two years. The test will not impact on the Olympics in February as Berard was not selected to the U.S. team.
The positive Olympic test will have no impact on his current standing or status within the National Hockey League.
1. Berard is dumb for using steroids and getting caught. He knew he would be tested, yet he took the chance.
2. Dumb for the NHL and the CBA. Why should Berard get off scot-free simply because he was caught before a certain date? Is that fair to the other players in the league?
3. Dumb if the Columbus Blue Jackets fail to do anything. Even a slap on the wrist to send a message a positive PR message to the fans.
Before the witch-hunt begins, it is plausible that he was taking a tainted supplement.
It should be noted that the IOC was able to find Nandrolone in over 14% of muscle-building supplements it tested - all claiming to be "natural", "safe" or "steroid free".The supplement industry is barely regulated in the USA, as the lobbyist have done a great job in ensuring that their supplements aren't given the same stringent regulations as normal medicine or food products.
Now, Bryan Berard is not the type of player you'd associate with steroids. He's not particularly strong nor is he all that physical.
Why would he be taking steroids??
Well, let's go back to my in-depth look at steroids from back in March.
To the uneducated layman, steroids are taken by big muscleheads for the pure purpose of gaining bulk. One might think popping a few pills or injecting some liquid into one’s ass would just turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger.If Berard was taking steroids in the off-season to aid with recovery and bulk up a little before getting off them to start the season, it might explain why Bob MacKenzie just stated Berard tested negative in a later test.
That simply is not true.
The 4 main benefits from steroid use:
To increase muscle size and strength.
To speed recovery time.
To increase energy levels during workouts.
To increase the oxidation rise of fat.
Items 2 and 3 on the list above would be of great importance to hockey players.
Over the course of a season, an NHL player has to slog through 82 games, countless practices, and a handful of meaningless exhibition games before they even get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs marathon.
I'm sure we'll be hearing more. Mr. Berard, it isn't always good to be first.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Zigmund Palffy: The End of a Great Career.
The English-language news item, from The Star.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Ziggy Palffy will retire because of a lingering shoulder injury, a Slovak paper reported Wednesday.It's a sudden end to a very successful career for one of the best ever players Slovakia has ever produced. This doesn't hurt the Slovak's Olympic chances, since Palffy had already retired from International competition this past summer.
"I have agreed on all matters related to my retirement with the Pittsburgh management," Palffy told the Sport daily. "There is no point in suffering any longer."
Palffy was never one of my favourite players (more on that in a bit), but he has been fun to watch over the years and it's too bad that the NHL faces a premature loss of one of its best players.
The Slovak Hockey website has a good look back at Palffy's career with the headline "Žigmund Pálffy - Hockeyist with the Talent of God". That headline is deadly accurate, as Palffy has the most natural talent I have seen in a Slovak player, and one wonders how much more damage he could have done in the NHL had he not been so lazy in his off-ice endeavors.
Back when he was 18 (1990-91), Palffy broke into the Slovak league with AC Nitra and scored 34 goals and 16 assists in 50 games. Paired with centerman and good friend Jozef Stumpel, Palffy quickly shot to stardom. Palffy was one of the few Slovaks chosen to the Czechoslovakian junior team and proceeded to score 13 points in 7 games with a very loaded squad. Amazingly, Palffy had to wait until the 2nd round (26th overall) to get drafted by the New York Islanders.
After his sensation breakout year, Palffy was 'drafted' by Dukla Trencin, the army team that took away a lot of great talent from other places, and he continued to tear up the league for 2 more seasons with 74 and 79 points in 45 and 43 games, respectively. On a team loaded with talent (Pavol Demitra, Miroslav Satan, Lubomir Sekeras, Robert Svehla, Peter Bartos, and a few other players who would star in the Czech and Slovak leagues), Palffy stood above the rest thanks to his 'god-given' talents. Palffy spent much of his time in Trencin paired with Branislav Janos (a Czech league star for many years) and ex-NHLer Robert Petrovicky.
After his first year in Trencin, Palffy was so good that he was named to the Czechoslovakian squad at the 1991 Canada Cup. Palffy would leave for North America in 1993 and spent 1.5 seasons tearing up the IHL with Denver and Sale Lake City. After a rather invisible debut with the Isles in 1993-94 (5 games and 0 points), Palffy played part of 1994-95 (33 games and 17 points), and then he would stick for good the following year and the rest is history.
Palffy is a very divisive figure for many Slovak hockey fans. One cannot deny the fact that Palffy has always played for Team Slovakia and played very well. When the Slovaks first gained independence, Palffy joined the Slovaks in Lillehammer, Norway, and racked up 10 points in 8 games for the underdog squad. For Slovakia, Palffy played 50 big senior matches (World Champs, World Cup, and Olympics) and compiled 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points. Palffy was a big part of both WC medals the Slovaks have won (Gold and Bronze) and he's always given unquestioned commitment when called upon.
On the other hand, Palffy incites a lot of jealousy for his attitude and lifestyle. Palffy isn't the brightest light bulb on the tree, either, and is probably one of the most 'blonde' hockey players this side of "Special Ed" Jovanovski.
Born into a long line of Hungarian nobility (of which he knows little about, not surprisingly), Palffy has that natural skill that is so rare among the human population. Given his 'luck' in life, Palffy is quite a slacker and his off-season conditioning is about as strenuous as that of Robert Svehla's (beer and golf). Palffy is known among the local Skalica residents to be extremely cocky and haughty, acting like a 'spoiled prince'. It doesn't help that tensions between Hungary and Slovakia (dating back to the Austrian-Hungarian empire) still run high and anyone with Hungarian noble heritage might be derided by natural Slovaks (This is more subconscious than anything). It wouldn't be uncommon to see a few beer bottles thrown at Ziggy when he returned home for the summer.
On top of this, there is his relationship to Slovak fitness champion Zora Czoborova, who is also similarly disliked by many people in Slovakia. I don't read the Slovak gossip papers all that much, but there are suggestions that Zora was using Zigmund for his celebrity to help promote his fitness clubs.
Anyway, if this is the end for Palffy, it will be a sad way to end his great career. Palffy has only ever had the chance to play in 24 NHL playoff games, but will finish with 713 points in 684 regular season games.
Return of the Vlad!
Too bad for Vlado that he's stuck playing with the worst team in the NHL. It's definitely not the scenario he envisioned while training so hard to come back from a shredded knee. In 2 games, Vlado has suffered through 2 losses, has yet to get a point, and is -1 with 3 shots on goal.
Still, he does look great in BLUE.
Despite the fact that the Blues are in 30th place by a wide margin, I was impressed with their hustle and determination in last night's 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Debbils. The Blues don't have much to play for, other than personal pride, and they only lose the game due to a mismatch in skill. While the Blues could hustle and forecheck well, their defence corps were running around like headless chickens for much of the night. Such is the life of a crappy-ass team.
Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat takes a look at the Return of the Vlad.
"I met my new teammates shortly before the game and I had been traveling the whole day before," said Orszagh, who has 50 goals and 110 points in 274 NHL games with Nashville and the New York Islanders. "I felt kind of rusty and had stiff legs, but I got that out of my system and now there's not more excuses."*sigh*, if only Vlado and Pavol could be together on the Blues, that would kick some serious ass.
Orszagh is a good friend of former Blues winger and fellow Slovak Pavol Demitra.
"We see each other during the summer all the time, we're good friends," Orszagh said. "He had some really, really nice things to say about St. Louis and the fans. He really liked it here."
I expect Vladimir will be traded by the Blues once the trade deadline approaches. If Vladimir returns to his healthy self (he certainly looked fine last night), playoff-bound teams will definitely want a cheap and versatile forward who can help them in their quest for the cup. I'm not about to go switching my DEMITRA lettering for ORSZAGH letting on my Blues sweater any time soon.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The European Misadventures of Theoren Fleury
It's hard not to admire his on-ice tenacity and spirit. The 5'6" 180' ball of energy racked up 1088 points in 1084 NHL regular season games and 79 points in 77 playoff games. He was drafted in the 8th round, and hardly anyone ever gave him a chance when he was a kid.
Even while being the smallest player in the league for most his career, Fleury battled hard and refused to play the role of the 'little' player. Fleury went into the trenches, knocked guys on their asses, and made life more miserable for opposing teams than a post-game bag skate. Fleury was strong in body and in mind and proved all of the naysayers wrong. I know I certainly enjoyed watching him play because he seemed to be working harder and enjoying the game more than anyone else on the ice.
Even with all of his success on the ice, Fleury has been defeated time and again by the demons off of the ice. His battle with the bottle is well known, his ability to control his temper derailed him later in his career and aliented him from his teammates, and he may have been one of Graham James' unlucky victims (To this date, it's never been confirmed).
Normally, I could feel sorry for a guy like Fleury, but he's never shown the ability or the desire to fix his problems and lead a more stable life. With all of the success, all of the money, and all of the resources at his disposal, there is no reason why he should have to life live as miserably as he does. There are many others out there who faces great problems in life, and would kill for the resources that Fleury has at his disposal. Fleury has been given many chances to right himself (like Wayne Gretzky including him on the Salt Lake City Olympic squad), yet he continues to live an unhappy life.
Fleury's latest attempt to resurrect and continue his career lead him to the United Kingdom, where he's been playing for the Belfast Giants. He seems to be racking up a lot of penalties (131 PIM in 22 games) and getting into a lot of trouble.
As many of you have probably read via TSN (January 10th),
Fleury, playing for the Belfast Giants, was in the penalty box in the second period when fans began yelling at him. Fleury then reportedly tried to get at some of the spectators, earning a game misconduct from referee Mike Hicks.Thanks to a link posted by an anonymous commenter, I got to see some pictures and get a bit more of the story behind this incident.
Just to pass on-and these were comments heard by me from down in front of Blocks 1 and 2 (i.e the opposite side to the benches)-minus swearing-should the mods wish to delete them then fair enough, but given the amount of requests from both sides to hear what was said, I thought I´d put a few.
All were shouted when Theo was nearby and play had been stopped, the first before he`d even touched the puck or the heckling had begun on the other side.
"Get back into rehab, you useless smack-head"
"The only line you like to be on is up your nose"
"Does anyone fancy a pint? He does..." (shouted at full volume as Theo settled in for a face-off)
"Stop sniffing, Theo...and don´t get upset, either"
"What are you on THIS time, Theo?"
Now, I know it's not easy to have this kind of crap thrown at you night after night, but Theo is a professional hockey player and should know better to ignore it and not respond. Playing professional sports requires you to shut out crap like this and never, EVER, get into it with the crowd.
Why did Theoren go to a country where they speak English and have smaller crowds? It's much easier to hear these kinds of comments playing in the UK than in the NHL, where the noise gets drowned out easily.
Better yet, why doesn't Theoren go to a country like the Czech Republic or Japan? He can play professional hockey and not get heckled nearly as badly. I'm sure Theoren doesn't know the Czech terms for 'boozehound', so he could just play and ignore any Czech insults.
And to the 'hecklers', grow the hell up! I can understand cracking a few jokes here and there, but it's obvious that you meant only to hurt Theoren with your comments. Theoren doesn't need your BS when he's trying to get away from his past problems.
Photo of the Day
Monday, January 16, 2006
Another look at the POOR Goalies
That analysis was done very early in the season, and now it's time to revisit some of those goaltenders we looked at before. As the sample size increases, the results tend to reflect the goaltender's true ability more and more. As the "New NHL" also has seen a bit of slippage in the offence, goaltender statistics, as a whole, have been getting better and stingier as the season has progressed.
I wish I could get a figure pinned down for the average Save Percentage. For now, I estimate the average SV% is around 90.3% (.903 as they put it).
Not surprisingly, we saw a regression to the mean and most goaltenders saw an improvement (positive change) in their save percentages.
1. Jose Theodore - As I stated in my last analysis, Folks, this is why the W-L record is such a poor indicator of goaltending ability. Oh, we know Jose is a good goalie normally, but he's got a 5-2 record, faces very few shots per game, yet he is near the bottom in Save Percentage. The Habs are winning, and it's not because of Jose.
Now, is it more and more obvious that Jose's big 2001-02 year was an aberration and he is not an elite goaltender. Is he good? He is, but he's not great and he's been rather below-average the first half of this year.
2. Martin Brodeur has brought his numbers back to around league-average, just in time to be given the #1 position for Team Canada in Turin. I feel a lot more safe now that Brodeur isn't as craptacular as he was earlier in the year, although he still looks shaky to me.
3. While Miikka Kiprusoff isn't setting the league on fire, he has brought his numbers up and he's proven that last year was no fluke. He's the real deal, although he has yet to express a single emotion. (The Chuck Norris of goaltenders?)
4. Olaf Kolzig hasn't murdered any of his defensemen yet. In fact, the Capitals have cut their shots against per game by 4 since the last update. Kolzig still faces a boatload of shots, but he faces less than Roberto Luongo's 35 per game.
5. Nikolai Khabibulin - Nothing's changed. He still sucks and he's grossly overpaid.
6. Mathieu Garon - He made a huge leap after some early season struggles and is now among the league's better netminders.
7. Patrick Lalime and Jocelyn Thibault - Both are out of the NHL at the moment (for different reasons) and both actually managed to do worse as the season progressed.
8. How can the Oilers still be in the playoffs ahead of the Minnesota Wild despite having the worst goaltending this side of Armenia? Jussi Markkanen had a decent start and then got worse, and now Ty Conklin is back and he just continues to suck. Meanwhile, Manny Fernandez has stats that make other goalies jealous, yet the Mild are looking up at the Oilers. Hmm...
9. Rick DiPietro and John Grahame - I didn't include them in my last analysis, but I did include them this time to show how goaltending is helping to kill their respective clubs. In the case of the Islanders, they give up over 30 shots a game and get poor goaltending for a real double whammy. The Bolts just get bad goaltending from John Grahame, who might end up being the default #1 goalie for Team USA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
The stat that really pops up is that John Grahame has 7 empty net goals against. They don't count in his GAA, but it shows that Tampa Bay is really losing a lot of the close games that they were winning last year.
10. Andrew Raycroft - Like the rest of the Bruins, it's just been down down down to the pits of Stankville.
I'd love some input and analysis from my peeps. Any excuses why your goalie is sucking?
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Photo of the Day: Peter Forsberg, Groupie.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Bill Wirtz <3 Sidney Crosby
In their own CITY!
In the United States of America!
Like OMG d00d!
What could have possibly melted Dollar Bill Wirtz's ice-cold heart?
Why, Sidney Crosby, of course!!!
Perhaps rookie phenom Sidney Crosby's most impressive accomplishment will come in his 43rd NHL game Friday when his Pittsburgh Penguins face the Blackhawks at the United Center.I'm not sure what else Crosby could say, other than "How cheap is this guy? Is this the only home game people in Chi-Town can see on TV?"
Because of the hype that accompanied Crosby's arrival in the NHL, the game will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet.
"I don't know what to say about that," Crosby said sheepishly after Thursday's practice at the United Center. "It's good if there is a little bit of excitement. I've been in similar situations before where there is probably a little more build-up than usual."
Chicago, one of the Original 6 franchises, ranks 23rd in attendance with an average of 14,684. That's actually quite amazing, giving the crappiness of the franchise in recent years.
Still, I just don't get Wirtz' aversion to keeping his team's games off of TV when they play at home. His logic: People will stop coming to games and start watching at home.
Except, that's not how it works in the real world. Chicago has a huge population and lots of money, yet the Hawks can't even draw 15k per game! The AHL Wolves get better support many nights. That shouldn't happen!
If the team isn't on TV, then people don't get exposed to the team and people just stop caring. If there are no home games on TV, then people's minds are on something else that is on the tube, and the Hawks gets less exposure overall. Young kinds are growing up and watching da Bulls and da Bears and the White Sox and the Cubs on TV. That makes an impression. The Hawks? They rarely appear on TV and the press barely bothers to cover them. With such a loathsome owner, who would want to support this club?
Perhaps if the Hawks drafted Sidney Crosby, they would show a lot more home games.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Digging Through the Trash Like a Motavian
The Columbus Blue Jackets have told underage forward Gilbert Brule he's tentatively scheduled to be re-assigned to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, but that won't happen officially until early next week.OHPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!
Brule is returning from a fractured leg, but has not yet been medically cleared to play.
The Vancouver Giants have towered over much of the WHL this season and are 2nd in their division with a 29-10-4 record and are currently ranked #9 in the CHL.
With Gilbert Brule, they ought to be uber-p0werful!
Canadian kids playing hockey in America's Bible Belt?
The Tyee brings us a story of a young kid who shunned CHL and Canadian university hockey to play in the deep south.
Why would any kid from Canada want to play in Alabama? Free Education. Canadian universities just don't give out many scholarships to hockey-playing kids. Only kids who have played CHL hockey (especially WHL) get any free tuition.
You would be hard-pressed, however, to find two more disparate cultures in North America than those of Vancouver and the Alabama city amidst cotton fields.
"We're in what you call the Bible belt down here, the people down here are very nice, you get a lot of southern hospitality, but it is the Bible belt," Ross said. "But the weather is warmer."
"My first year, the first few weeks, it was interesting coming from Vancouver, where it's so multicultural, it's quite a big change, but everyone down here is really, really nice," Narduzzi said.
Be sure to check out the NHL Blog Carnival #17 at Red and Black Hockey. It's the Rod Brind'Amour Edition (which must be French for Ugly'Love)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The Big Blue Propaganda Machine
The best example is the St. Louis Blues official website. You wouldn't know the Blues were the clowns of the NHL by the fluff the official team 'writers' post on that site. It's story after story of pure head-in-the-sand crap.
Let's look at George Csolak's blow-job of defenseman Steve Poapst: "STEADY ON THE BLUE LINE"
If one had to categorize Poapst’s role with the Blues, it would be as a stabilizer. He uses the word frequently in discussions about expectations. What he brings to the club is experience, something that has been sorely lacking since the retirement of Al MacInnis and the trading of fellow standout Chris Pronger to Edmonton.(I won't quote anything else as not to expose you to the rancid sight of pep-club journalism)
Experience? Experience being turned around by a turnstile? Experience playing for one bad team after another?
I know the job of the Blues web site is to help promote the team and all, but the fans aren't served well when they have these crappy PR jobs stuffed in their face. The fans in St. Louis weren't born yesterday, and are far too smart to see right through this.
How about the truth?
Fact: The Penguins, the team that can't stop a goal to save their lives, didn't think Poapst was good enough to keep around. WOWZORZZZ, I totally want this guy!
Fact: After 11 games with the Blues, Poapst has 0 points and is -8 with 12 penalty minutes. Steady? Yeah, he steadily sucks!
Buyer Beware: Old Guys = Major Risk
Take, for instance, the case of Dave Andreychuk who was recently waived by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
TSN's Bob MacKenzie brings to light how Andreychuk's contract is going to hurt Tampa Bay, no matter if Dave plays for them or not.
One of the clauses in the new CBA that kind of flew under the radar for many was the one dealing with the signing of these veteran players. Without getting too complicated on you, the bottom line, as far as the salary cap is concerned, is that any team that signs a player 35 or older to a multi-year contract is going to use up valuable cap room to the end of the contract no matter what happens to the player. Even if he retires. Or is abducted by aliens. Really, it doesn't matter.Unbelievable! Doesn't it sound silly that the Bolts will have to 'pay' Andreychuk in cap space if he retires? Andreychuk will be sitting at home and Tampa Bay won't be paying him a dime, yet the Bolts will basically be 'paying' Andreychuk as $662,500 will essentially be 'lost'.
Take Andreychuk, for example. The Tampa Bay Lightning have decided he no longer fits into their plans. Andreychuk's salary this season is $800,000, but because he has a second year at a salary of $525,000, his cap figure for this season, or the average of the two, is $662,500. If he clears waivers Wednesday, and he will, he will be assigned to the minors so the remaining $330,000 owing him this year will be taken off the Bolts' cap figure for this season. That's because players in the minors don't count against the cap.
But, because of this previously unheralded CBA clause, Tampa will have Andreychuk's average salary of $662,500 count against next year's cap even though he's quite likely to retire at the end of the season.
I see how this clause could protect NHL teams from making bad signings. In the 'Old NHL', it wasn't uncommon for some teams to overpay very old players and sign them to deals which forced them to pay for a player who was either extremely poor, or just eat their contract and release them. The perfect example was the Florida Panthers and Kirk Muller. Ugh...bad times, bad times.
This clause was also designed to prevent teams from loading up on players and using the 'spreading' affect to their advantage.
Say I signed Kirk Muller to a 2-year deal (If I ever did, I'd expect you to commit me to the finest mental institution in Canada). The first year pays him $1,000,000 and the second pays him $350,000. The average would be counted in the cap for year 1 @ $675,000, Kirk would be paid $1,000,000 (enticing him to sign for my club), and then when he retires before the second season, we'd be off the hook for the second $675,000 against our cap and Kirk can retire with bags of cash in his hands. Great, but the NHL closed that loophole and saw that players who are 35 and over might pull a fast one like this.
What shocks me is how New Jersey Devils GM Fat Lou Lamoriello got totally PWNED!!!!!11111 by this new clause in the CBA. We all know that Lou is one of the NHL's inside-circle boys, and he had intimate knowledge of the CBA throughout the negotiating process. If there was on GM that was expected to take advantage of the new CBA, Lou was at the top of the list.
It could be worse, though. It could be the New Jersey Devils, which no matter what happens with Mogilny and Malakhov -- aside from a trade, that is - are going to eat up $7.1 million in cap room next year for two players who quite likely will be retired. Mogilny's salary of $3.5 million and Malakhov's $3.6 million are going to put the Devils behind the salary cap eight ball next year, even if they're not actually paying them.Is anyone going to trade for Mogilny and Malakhov at this point of their careers? Probably not. How did Lou not foresee that he'd be stuck with this huge dead weight that would soak up a lot of cap space? It's one thing to think Mogilny and Malakhov would be effective players for your team, but it's another to sign such players in a manner to kill your team's chances for next season.
Photo of the Day: Tuukka Rask
Hmm, it looks like someone wants to join a winning team.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Sadly, our beloved losers from Armenia did poorly once again. In their 4 games, they were outscored 146-6 and continued to be a shining example of how not to play hockey.
50-0 loss to Iceland.
21-2 loss to Bulgaria.
47-1 loss to Lithuania, and a
28-3 loss to Turkey!!
3 goals!! Let's have a round of applause!! *golf clap*
Presuming the team stats are accurate,
Still, you have to admire the Armenians for having some balls. Would you incur the expense to fly all the way to another country just to get your ass seriously kicked in front of 800+ people? Tournament after tournament, the Armenians show up and play the role of Washington Generals to everyone else's Globetrotters.
It's a so-so effort, but it's been awhile since I've posted any Leafs-bashing material. The Vancouver City Blog Association will close down my site if I don't post something anti-Toronto at least once a month. It's a fact!
- That annoying Canadian Tire guy is a Leafs fan for sure. You don't want to be like him, do you?
- That transplanted Leafs fan named Tony whose business card says he "rakes leafs" for a living. Arguably, two reasons why he rakes leaves for a living.
- Darcy Tucker. Little [insert rhyme here].
- Tim Horton's doughnuts. Full of holes, just like the Leafs' defence.
- Those annoying Leafs fans who never miss a game. In particular, Bob Cole, Harry Neale and Don Cherry.
- Darryl Sittler's perm + Mats Sundin's smile + Tie Domi's head circumference = Good game, Mr. Hasselhoff...
- The last time we saw the Leafs at the Roxy, they were drinking American beer. Worse than that, they looked buzzed.
- That guy on the team who's had, like, 88 concussions. What was his name again? No, seriously, he wants to know.
- Their mascot is a polar bear named "Carlton." Total loser.
- "Leafs" blow. Call Tony.
- Their best player isn't even Canadian. He's Swedish. Okay, never mind...
- The only difference between the Maple Leafs and a cigarette machine is ... you can get Players in a cigarette machine.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Sidney Crosby's Secret Wedding
Saturday, January 07, 2006
The Andrew Hutchison Bet
Case in point, a stupid little 'bet' I made before the season started about Andrew Hutchison of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Yep, defenseman Andrew Hutchison of the Carolina Hurricanes leads all [preseason] scorers with 1 goal and 7 assists for 8 points. I bet a hot dog with cheese that he won't even get 8 points in the regular season.
Well, as Red and Black Hockey has been monitoring, Hutchison now has 2 goals and 6 assists on the season, giving him *sigh* 8 points.
As I am a man of my word, I owe a few people a 'Cheese Dog': The Acid Queen, Mr. Red and Black Hockey himself, James Mirtle, and my pal Duc.
Here is a reasonable facsimile of what my cheese dog would look like, especially if I add in some chili.
Mmmmm... doesn't that just look tempting? *cough*
WJC Musings: Team Canada
Before and throughout the tournament, the hyperbole was thick like Slick Rick. Listening to the Canadian media, Team Canada had a very young team with no experience and hardly any talent and would get slaughtered by either the Americans or the Russians. The only reason Team Canada won gold medal is because Coach Brent Sutter bent the will of the universe to do his bidding.
Does Canada have the depth of super-talented-players like the USA? No.
Does Canada have a single player as good as Evgeni Malkin? No.
Does Canda have plenty of very talented players? Yes. Cam Barker, Eric Staal, Luc Bourdon, Jonathan Toews, Benoit Pouliot, and Justin Pogge are names you are going to hear for a long time.
Does Canada have a truckload of quality depth? Yes.
So, why did the Canadian media insist on playing the 'underdog' for Team Canada? Well, to sell their 'stories', why else? Yes, Canada didn't have the absolute monsterstein that they had last year (nor will anyone likely have that again), but the Canucks were still one of the 3 teams most likely to win gold.
Look at Team Canada's roster from top to bottom and compare them with every other country. Our depth slays just about everyone else, and matches up just fine with the Americans. Our 7th defenseman, Sasha Pokulok, the big first-rounder who played 3 shifts all tournament, would have been a Top-3 defenseman on most other teams.
I was comfortable with Canada's chances before the tournament and throughout the tournament. You add a deep roster of speedy skaters, talented defensemen, hard workers and add in a quality coach, then you have a team with a great shot to win it all. Beating down Canada and then proclaiming their gold medal win such an amazing and surprising victory was a great media ploy, since most sheep took the bait and had their proverbial wool sheared.
As for the play of individual players...
Luc Bourdon, D - (6GP 1-5-6 +5) More and more and more, I'm liking this guy and I am very happy the Canucks picked him. I don't know how the IIHF Directorate picked Staal over Bourdon for their award, because Bourdon did EVERYTHING well. This guy was laying some monster Scott Stevens-like hits, providing great offense, and playing solid defense. He's really rounding into the complete package. The only downside? He needs to work on his PP QBing skills.
Cam Barker, D - (6GP 2-4-6 +6 3PPG) The elder statesman of the team, Barker's all-around game was excellent and he really lead by example on the ice. He was the trigger man for Canada on the PP, but I don't know if he'll ever be expected to do that in the NHL.
Steve Downie, W - (6GP 2-4-6 +6) The Flyers 1st-rounder is now drawing comparisons to his GM, Bobby Clarke. Oy! Downie certainly was an excellent worker and the media is now trumpeting him as the epitome of what Team Canada was all about. I loved the fact that he could take a beating and keep on going like nothing had happened. He kept his emotions under control for the most part. I don't see Bobby Clarke, though, because Clarke was an excellent playmaker and Downie doesn't appear to be that gifted offensively nor does he have Bobby's vision. I see Downie as more of a Keith Jones-type, which is still pretty good.
Justin Pogge, G - How happy must Leafers be that they have both Pogge and Tuukka Rask in their grasp? Damn... Well, Pogge was excellent and I couldn't find any holes in his game. His reflexes, rebound control, angles, size...all great! Looking at some scouting reports, his big drawback in the past was his temper (ala Cloutier), but I didn't see anything of the sort in this tournament. You could tell he had a calming, yet inspiring, influence on his team. Pogge made the saves without much trouble and the team didn't ever have to worry about their goaltender letting in a softy (unlike the Russians).
Daniel Bertram, W - (6 0-0-0 even 22PIM) When Daniel Bertram snubbed the WHL Vancouver Giants for the NCAA, he cited the fact that he was 'undersized' and it seemed he was worried that he wouldn't do so well in the physical WHL. Strangely, Bertram was one of the more physical and aggressive players on Team Canada. Bertram was laying some really big hits and working hard along the boards. Huh? Daniel Bertram? This wasn't the kid I was expected.
I also didn't expect him to go through the tournament pointless. It was like he was possessed by somebody else for 2 weeks. He didn't look very good in the offensive zone when he had the puck, but at least he showed that he can handle physical play just fine.
Guillaume Latendresse, W - (6GP 0-0-0 even 0PIM, 2 SOG) Remember the hullabaloo in the pre-season when French-Canadian Habs fans desperately wanted Guillaume on the roster? Well, his disappointing performance in this tournament suggests he needs to do some work. Guillaume is probably the only player that played himself out of a bigger role on the team and he did little or nothing when I saw him on the ice. His role with the team grew smaller as the tournament went along.
Marc Staal, D (6GP 0-1-1 +3) Although he had only one point, he was the best defensive defenseman for Team Canada. The guy is sizeable, strong, and very hard to beat one-on-one. Staal is one of those defensemen that does it more with positioning than bluster. He's not going to be an MVP candidate like his older brother, but he could certainly turn out to be a very plus-impact defensive defenseman. His biggest drawback was a lack of bulk, but his peers certainly didn't have any success getting by him.
Kyle Chipchura, C - (6GP 4-1-5 +5) I was a bit surprised that he was given the C over Barker, but he was more 'typical' of Canada's effort with his aggressive and in-your-face nature. Kyle worked hard and tied for the team lead in goals. What kind of NHL career could we expect? He's not exactly small like Matt Cooke or Darcy Tucker, but he plays a lot like them (minus the mouth). He can play in every situation and fit in nicely. He'll make a nice 'role player' for the Habs to compliment their stable of offensive-minded star prospects.
As you would expect, most players on the team were good or excellent, with only a few disappointments. Jonathan Toews led the team in exhbition scoring, but had a reduced role in the actual tournament and finished with a modest 2 assists in the 6 games. Certainly, neither Toews or Michael Frolik is going to threaten Phil Kessel as the #1 pick in the 2006 draft based on this tournament.
Friday, January 06, 2006
WJC: More 'mediot' musings
When he did do the interview (shown live on the center-ice scoreboard), Quinn got a HUGE pop! Patt got a standing ovation that was louder than I've heard from a crowd in Vancouver for some time. Obviously, Canucks fans still have the love for Pat Quinn, even if he's with Toronto (Vancouverites love to jeer anything Toronto-related).
Oh, those poor Armenians!
Playing the likes of Ireland, Luxembourg, South Africa, and Mexico (talk about hockey powerhouses), Armenia managed to lose all 4 of their games by a combined score of 142-5!
Goaltender Arman Lalayan was in net for every single minute and finished with a 35.50GAA and a 54.92 Save Percentage. Backup Mher Hovhanisyan was probably quite happy to sit on the bench and not be embarrassed in front of the Mexican spectators.
How bad must these guys be if they were seriously outplayed by every other Division III country?
Is the future any brighter for Armenia?
Apparently not, as Japers Rink notes:
Finally, in a 2006 IIHF World U20 Championship Div III match Iceland defeated Armenia 50-0, thanks in part to a 20-goal third period, outshooting the Armenians 133-10. Harutyun Baluyan played the whole game in net for Armenia, making 83 saves (that's works out to a .624 save percentage). Iceland, which scored seven shorthanded goals, was led by Gauti Thormodsson (7G, 9A) and Emil Alengard (9G, 6A, 33 SOG, including 24 in the first period).
The goat of the game? Either Armenian forward Aram Simonyam (who finished the game a woeful -35) or Iceland's Kari Valsson, the only Icelandic skater to not register a point. Ouch.
You can check out the carnage here. That was only Armenia's first game of the tournament. I wonder how many other records they can rack up.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
WJC: It's a Wrap! Canada > Russia, again!
I'm back from the Canada/Russia game and it was a lot better than I expected.
In case you live in a cave or some country other than Canada, the good guys beat the evil ex-Communists 5-0 in a well-played battle. I was impressed by how the Russians were eager and able to play the physical game. Unfortunately for them, they got worn out after awhile and got away from their skill-based attack which got them to the final game in the first place.
Full game recap posted here.
Sure, the third period was anti-climatic, but the first two periods were great and the result was great, for me and the rest of Canada ;)
Oh, and the Finns beat the Americans 4-2 for the bronze medal. As Howard Dean would say, "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAH!!"
If I didn't have this damn fever/flu, this day would be perfect.
The award winners can be found here.
As a member of the media, I got to vote on the media all-star team.
Here was the team that was ultimately chosen by the media...
Goaltender: Tuukka Rask, Finland
Defenceman: Luc Bourdon, Canada
Defenceman: Jack Johnson, USA
Forward: Evgeni Malkin, Russia
Forward: Steve Downie, Canada
Forward: Lauri Tukonen, Finland
Most Valuable Player: Evgeni Malkin, Russia
and here was the choices I made...
Goaltender: Justin Pogge, Canada
Defenceman: Luc Bourdon, Canada
Defenceman: Teemu Laakso, Finland
Forward: Evgeni Malkin, Russia
Forward: Nicklas Backstrom, Sweden
Forward: Stanislav Lascek, Slovakia
Most Valuable Player: Tuukka Rask, Finland
Clearly, the media is biased against Czechs and Slovaks, right? :)
After the game, us mediots were also given special editions of The Province newspaper with "GOLD GLORY" on the cover.
Covering the tournament as a member of the press for Eurohockey.net was a great experience. I'll be posting more of my thoughts about players, nuances, and so on over the next couple of days.
Now, off to drown myself in flu medication.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
WJC: Once again, it's Russia vs. Canada *yawn*
Canada totally dominated Finland in their game (4:0). If Tuukka Rask wasn't up to the task, it could have been 8 or 9 to 0.
Full game recap here.
As for the Americans/Russians, I had to be the only one cheering for the US to win. It's too bad they got pasted 5-1. (Game recap here).
Now, a few points...
Team USA didn't choke, they simply got outplayed by a far superior technical effort by the Russkis. The Americans matched Russia shot-for-shot, but the American players insisted on trying to do things themselves.
The biggest culprit? Phil Kessel. Yes, he may have a boatload of assists in this tournament (5 of those were against Norway, though), but I lost count of the number of times Phil tried to go 1-on-3 through opposing defensemen, only to have the puck stripped. The Americans had the talent, but hockey is a team game and the Russians and Canadians have been far better teams. Oh, and where the hell was Robbie Schremp all tournament? At least Kessel was burying some points, but Schremp pulled a Houdini on us.
(Of course, this doesn't stop many Russians from being jealous of Canada, heh)
Unfortunately, I picked up a really nasty virus of sorts yesterday during the game. I was having seizure-like shakes and I won't be able to attend the Slovakia/Switzerland match like I had hoped. My body picked a great time to suck a nut.
Now that I think about it, perhaps I caught this virus from the evil Swedish reporter I was sitting close to. Damn those Swedes!!!!
GM PLACE - The 'Experience'
Looking for a good hockey fight? Check out this clip of Dennis Bonvie vs. Ryan Vandenbussche in a marathon scrap.