Monday, January 31, 2005
EuroUpdate: Approaching Doomsday
NHL? What NHL?
January 31st seemed to be the logical 'drop date' for the CBA Negotiations, so the European teams and many of the players treated it as such. Despite the fact that there is a slight chance that the NHL could have a 'season', many of the richer teams are loading up with NHLers anyway. There is lots of news to report on.
After the storm...
1. Radek Bonk - After leaving Trinec for North America and the birth of his baby (Oliver Jaroslav), Bonk is returning to Czechia. This time, however, he's going to play with Martin Erat and the big boys in Zlin (Rather than crappy Trinec). Good choice!
Oliver Bonk? ...
2. Martin Havlat - Where else would you expect a punk like Havlat to end up but with $parta Prague?? GAH! I hope he tears an ACL or something >:(
3. Martin Cibak - Leaves PLZEN and return to Slovakia to join Jiri Bicek in Kosice. Cibak, apparently, had fought with his head coach of Plzen (his name escapes me) and had been a healthy scratch a few weeks ago (Unheard of for an NHLer in Czechia). Let's just say that both sides are happy to be rid of each other.
4. Rostislav Klesla - Scored 2 goals in his 'farewell' game for Vsetin yesterday. He's off to play in Finland with HPK. Vsetin has managed to 'sell off' every good veteran except Roamin' Roman Cechmanek.
5. Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik have both left their Swedish teams before the Jan 31st deadline as was 'agreed'. It was expected that both would return to Trencin, but that isn't guaranteed. Gaborik has a broken finger and will miss at least 2 weeks of action.
Maybe the Marian's finally realized what a horrible, horrible, horrible place Sweden really is. Finland is a much better place to spend your tourist dollars ;)
6. Trencin, meanwhile, was busy on other fronts as they acquired Branislav Mezei from Trinec. Mezei spurned his hometown club of Nitra to play with Pavol Demitra (good move!)
7. Non-Slavs - Marcus Ragnarsson (an icky Swede) has decided on club Swedish Almtuna IS. Marty Reasoner has decided on the Red Bulls of Salzburg.
Tuna and Red Bull - sounds like something I'd have for lunch.
8. Jiri Slegr - My pal Daniel passes along some details from yesterday's Litvinov/Karlovy Vary match, which got very rough near the end.
"Slegr wanted to fight. He attack Tomas Harant. I was quite surprised that Harant defeated Slegr, improved his "face-lift" and got him on ice. Slegr with mouse on eye wasn't able to take part of interview with journalists while Harant explained the situation. :-D"
...and here is the photo evidence...
9. ZLATA HELMA - This week's best players of the week are up for voting and viewing
(right-click and 'Save As')
1. Ales Hemsky makes his 3rd appearance of the season for his stickhandling moves. This time, he goes through the Vitkovice defense, only to be stopped by Marek Pinc.
2. Dagmar Cechmanek's Husband stops ex-Kings team-mate Zigmund Palffy in close.
3. Jiri Slegr, before his got his ass handed to him, scores on a nice 'accident' pass from Ivo Prorok.
4. Jaroslav Spacek roofs a shot over Dagmar Cechmanek's Husband.
5. Jaroslav Balastik - The campaign continues!! Watch as Jaro sets up Martin Jenacek on this combination play. He's got NHL written all over him :)
6. Jan Plodek and Patrick Rozsival, two guys you've never heard of, combine for this cheeky little play.
To finish off, here are the stats from yesterday's game. Is this the final EuroUpdate I'll have to do? Probably not, but it would be a nice bonus to report on NHL stuff more.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Nils Ekman: Bloomin' Late
Another note on the SEL, Sharks forward Nils Ekman [16G,23A,39GP] is tied for 3rd overall in scoring with Henrik Zetterberg and Peter Forsberg.
It seems like an innocent enough comment to make, but Nils Ekman really was the biggest 'out-of-nowhere' player of 2003-04 outside of Mikka Kiprusoff. Come into the season, Ekman, at age 27, had only 71 NHL games under his belt (with 24 points and a -23 rating) and had been out of the NHL since 2001.
If you had the (mis)fortune of drafting Nils Ekman in your pool/league last year (and I bet he went undrafted in most of them), you were rewarded with the following line: 82GP 22G-33A-55PTS +30 34PIM. Somehow, Ekman found some magical chemistry playing alongside Alex Korolyuk (another former castaway) and Alyn McCauley (another surprise with 47 points).
Looking back at the prediction guides, when he was still NY Rangers property, McKeens predicted 11GP 1-2-3 and Forecaster didn't even have an entry for the guy. After a productive season in the AHL (30-36-66 in 57GP), he was seemingly buried in a Rangers system that didn't give chances to players making under $2mil a year.
After an extremely disappointing playoff performance last spring, where Ekman had only 3 assists (no goals!) and a -2 rating in 16 games, I figured Ekman had all the makings of a one-year-fluke. (see Jan Hlavac, 2000-01 for the best example). After seeing that Ekman is doing so well in Sweden, I'm having a hard time pegging the guy's real NHL potential, looking ahead.
Bad Signs/Good Signs? Ice Time is always a good indicator of how valuable a player is to a coach, and also predicting future point value of a player (Players who play more, especially on the Power Play, have more chances to score, obviously)
Looking at Nils Ekman, he managed to finish as the Sharks 2nd best scorer despite the fact that he finished behind the following forwards in ATOI (Ekman's average was 14:54 a game)- Patrick Marleau, Vincent Damphousse, Alyn McCauley, Curtis Brown, Jonathan Cheechoo, Wayne Primeau, Marco Sturm and Alexander Korolyuk. So Ekman was 9th in ATOI and finished 2nd in scoring. With only 1:19 of Power Play time per game (6th among qualifying SJ forwards), Ekman was certainly very efficient with his production.
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? You might think that his ability to produce 55 points with such limited ice time would make him a hidden scoring star. If he could produce that well with 14:54 a game, maybe he could produce a point-per-game pace if his ATOI was 18-19minutes.
On the other hand, he could simply be the beneficiary of that magical 'chemistry' that Jan Hlavac-Petr Nedved-Radek Dvorak had together during the 2000-01 season. Linemates McCauley (ATOI 16:50 and 26 y.o.) and Korolyuk (14:55 and 27 y.o.) also had career years at the exact same time as Ekman.
It is very possible that all 3 simply made 'the leap' at the very same time and really showed the potential they had all along. It's also possible that their level of production wouldn't be sustainable in 'normal' circumstances, or if the unit was split up.
From a pool standpoint, I would be tempted to 'Sell High' on Ekman right now. Even with his Swedish league exploits, I can't really expect a 28 y.o. player who gets 3rd line ice time to continue to produce at such an excellent level (In today's NHL, 55 points ranked Ekman 48th in the NHL overall, deeming him a 1st line player).
Besides the fact that Ekman doesn't get much Power Play time at all (It's hard to produce good offensive numbers if you don't play the PP much), Ekman's early-career pedigree doesn't scream 'Scoring Star'.
Ekman was drafted in the 5th round by Calgary in 1994 (107th overall), but played a modestly good career in Finland before finally coming over to North America for the long haul in 1999-00 as a member of the Lightning organization. Ekman wasn't a scoring sensation back home, and certainly didn't appear more than a 3rd liner at best.
At the age of 23, Ekman had a pretty solid debut on our side of the pond. His 32 points in 37 games somehow earned him the IHL Rookie of the Year Award (wow, how easy was that?) while he had a 28-game sting with the Lightning (4 points and -8). In 2000-01, Ekman split the season between Detroit of the IHL (36 points in 33 games) and the NHL (20 points and -15 in 43 games).
He was then 25 and the Lightning just didn't see any room for him in their plans. While Ekman had done well in the NHL, and had a little nasty streak in him, his lack of size and his atrocious defensive play weren't cutting the mustard in the eyes of the Lightning. Thus, the Lightning traded Ekman to the Rangers for Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor.
Ekman spent the next two seasons in Sweden (31 points in 38 games) and Hartford (66 points in 57 games). Ekman was 26-27 y.o. during this time, and was putting up nice minor-league totals as he was hitting his prime. Combine this with last season's totals in the NHL, and you can easily wonder if perhaps Ekman is really more talented and capable than I'd give him credit for.
I don't mean to bash Ekman, as he's worked hard to get to this stage of his career...it's just that I'd peg him for Vladimir Orszagh-like totals of around 35-40 points rather than the 45 points that the Sports Forecaster predicts.
...It's amazing how one flippin' sentence can send me rambling and frantically clicking websites for about half-an-hour...
Friday, January 28, 2005
SSDD: Same (Stuff), Different Day
If you don't want to waste your time and want to keep up to date on the latest CBA news, I'd suggest the following quality links:
1. James "The Professional" Mirtle, who opines on the thought of a players' vote
2. This TSN.ca article, which details the apparent details of the latest proposal and what the PA doesn't like about it...and the 'Triple Cap' System.
3. The Hockey Rodent, who is always entertaining and never short on CBA opinions.
4. HockeyRumours Blog, if you love the gossipy-type 'Insider' stuff. It's intriguing, if not somewhat questionable at times.
Until then, I will preach the gospel I know best...
onto the EUROUPDATE! (Cue awesome German Disco Intro Muzak)
1. Marcel Hanzal - To finalize this story, my pal Daniel notes that Hanzal has been suspended until April 7th (Basically a total 3 months) for his pot smoking habit. If Trencin somehow makes the finals (unlikely at this rate), Hanzal could be available for Game 3 (If the schedule holds). Although it was the 'minimum' suspension under current regulations, it really did hurt him and his team as he missed the European Champions Cup and most/all of the playoffs. Kids, wait until the offseason to smoke it up, OK?
2. Radovan Somik - The peeps in Trencin must hate Sweden as much as I do right now! First it was Branko Radivojevic spurning Dukla for Lulea...and now Somik has said "Dakujem, ale nedakujem!" (Thanks, but no thanks...) and will head to Malmo in...SWEDEN!! I have a small urge to trash my Ikea furniture right now, but it really does look too nice.
...and here are the stats from today's games. Both Poprad and Slovan won by large scores, but Miro Satan and Peter Bondra managed not to do much of anything. Weird...
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Things to do in Vancouver when you're bored...
1. The NHL/NHLPA talks – Although the PA claims that there has been no progress, only a fool would believe that statement when both sides are scheduled for another round of talks. I would opine that the PA (many members of) will cave to the NHLs demands and will be playing in an NHL with some sort of cap/stiff luxury tax. I would figure the PA would hold out until the summer, but that is just my opinion.
I really don't know what they are discussing, how close they are to a deal, or what they had for lunch. I’m a "Hockey Outsider", so I’m not going to speculate on the details contained within the current offers and negotiations. I don’t tend to trust a large part of the mainstream media, since they often have their own agenda and take both sides' propaganda at face value.
If you want an "Insiders" take on the proceedings, check out HockeyRumours Blog. ‘Eklund’ has been posted some interesting rumours and other ‘inside’ information on his site. Unlike the usual rhetoric/Kool-aid we get from the Al Strachan's and Larry Brooks’ of the world (who are fed rhetoric and eat it up in order to keep their insider status), this stuff is a little more ‘realistic’ in tone and not subject to too many flights of journalistic fancy.
Is there reason to be optimistic?
I am jumping on a flight, but I just got word about the new proposal coming from the NHL. How serious is it? My source says, "This will absolutely be over by Saturday. Posturing is over. These talks are the final talks. We will know where we are in the next few days. I am convinced this new proposal is a result of what both sides have been working on. There is immense pressure coming from the big teams. The players are going to have a hard time turning down this offer. Word is they already know what it basically is and are holding a vote on their website as we speak. I would be stunned if the season was cancelled. It won't go past the week-end. Not a chance"
2. If you can decipher basic Cyrillic and want to watch some good video clips, AK Bars KAZAN (Russian Super League) has a great video website where you can watch clips of various goals/plays.
My favourite has to be this Ilya Kovalchuk gem where he goes end-to-end and then motions to the crowd to ‘Hush’!
This is a quick and easy way to get your hockey fix when there is no NHL on TV. Plus, it gives you a different perspective on what hockey looks like in Russia (Of course, you don’t have to watch the boring defensive play contained within the rest of the game).
3. Branko Bucks Trencin – Poor Dukla Trencin has been jilted at the altar by Branko Radivojevic, who has committed to Lulea HF (Sweden? What a shocker...) for the rest of the season if the NHL season doesn’t happen. Poor Pavol Demitra would be pulling out his hair if he had any...his team keeps losing, his team captain gets busted for smoking up, and nobody wants to come and play with him.
4. How do the Japanese picture the NHL? Well, ‘Yun-Ta’ presents Hockey Portraited...basically some very ‘interesting’ pictures of NHL players.
Take a look at PAVOL DEMITORA!!
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
EuroUpdate: Bonked on the head...
1. Radek Bonk – A few have noticed that Radek Bonk hasn’t played a game for Trinec in some time. There was no official announcement of his absence on the official Trinec website. Was he injured? Did he bail on his team?
Thus, I went to ‘Sebesta’ for some unofficial information and came up with this:
Radek Bonk is healthy - he is in America becauseWell, whatever he names his baby, it will still have the last name of BONK and be subject to years of playground taunting.
his woman is pregnant and will have baby in a short time
2. Modry feeling blue – According to ‘Sebesta’, Liberec’s Jaroslav Modry sustained some nerve/muscle damage in one of his hands and will be out at least 6 weeks. At this point of the season, 6 weeks could mean the ENTIRE rest of the season and playoffs.
3. Ronald Petrovicky – The dude who played himself out of Zilina landed with Swedish team Brynas (Sweden, what a surprise). Petrovicky had a decent debut with an assist in a 4-2 victory over Mora IK (The stacked team with Gaborik, Hossa(s), Nagy, and Pavlikovsky.
4. Jan Caloun – I wonder if any Sharks fans remember this guy?
Back in 94-96, Caloun was brilliant in his brief NHL stints with the Sharks as he piled up 8 goals and 3 assists in 13 games for them. When Caloun was stuffed back in the AHL, I had always held that Caloun was absolute screwed by the Sharks and that the Sharks made a big mistake.
Feeling held back by the Sharks, Caloun went to Finland and became a big star there. Jan would get his second NHL chance with the Minnesota Wild in 2000-01, only to blow it with bad defensive play and a lack of production (just 3 assists in 11 games). I could see why the Sharks thought Caloun wouldn’t fit right in the NHL. For all of his talent, Caloun was just too ‘European’ to succeed in the NHL (See Vladimir Vujtek and Martin Prochazka for more details).
Why do I bring up Caloun? Only because he absolutely blasted Jihlava last night in an 8-5 win – Caloun had 5 goals and 2 assists in this one game!! Lucky Jiri Slegr had the fortune of playing on his unit and finished with a +7 rating in the game.
Caloun now has 16 goals and 7 assists in 14 games for Litvinov in his triumphant return to Czechia after years of starring in Finland. Just compare these totals to another Sharks farmhand who has struggled to make the NHL: Miroslav Zalesak. So far, Miroslav has just 6 goals and 2 assists in 20 games for Litvinov (2 of those goals came in his debut game). I hope Miro doesn’t become another Jan Caloun.
5. Dominik Hasek – The Flakey One is at it again...check out the Hockey Rodent for a translated interview with The Dominator. Dom seems to think that the NHLPA is very united...
We are as solidified as never before. We have been informed well about this situation and we were prepared for it. We are in daily touch (phones, Internet etc.). We get info and our people get opinions from us players. It's the arrogance of the League which got us so unified.
Maybe if Dom would stop counting his mountains of money and designing overpriced golf clothing, he would realize that many of his fellow guild members aren’t quite so happy with their union. As much as Dom can retire to a life of luxury in Pardubice, the Juraj Kolnik’s of the world simply can’t afford to miss much more NHL hockey.
Now, the stats from yesterday’s games...
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
This, That, and the Other Things.
I wonder if any real progress has been made (ie. Each side is negotiating and giving in some more) or it’s just "We want/don’t want a salary cap". Wake me up when we get something substantial.
In the meantime, I’ll just borrow a page from James Mirtle (an actual hockey writer with a blog) and comment on a few hodgepodge stories and links floating around in Hockeyland. (...and the capital is NOT Detroit, thankyouverymuch)
1.Tim Thomas, an American, has been named European player of the month by Eurohockey.net.
Thomas handed himself and his team an early Christmas present in December. He came up big for Jokerit Helsinki. He won all 6 games in which he was dressed and allowed just 7 goals in this span. Furthermore, Thomas posted 2 shutouts and improved his save percentage to 95,8%
Thomas has been absolutely awesome in his European career, but hasn’t had a great opportunity to make it in the NHL. You’d have to think that one NHL team would be bright enough to give Thomas an opportunity as a cheap backup. Players like Christobal Huet (in LA) have proven that you can get quality performances at cheap prices without overpaying for ‘experience’ and such.
2. "Catch ya on the B Side" – Marcel Hanzal’s B-sample results came in, and it’s conclusive: D00D’s a Pothead!
You can read the details in this English-language report. I don’t think Hanzal will be suspended more than the rest of this season…if that. I expect Robert Svehla and the powerful Trencin management to have his punishment as light as possible.
3. "Ya, really, I’m Andreas and I’m Swedish" – Peter Worrell was caught drinking and driving (again) while driving his pal's SUV. Instead of fessing up like any upstanding human being, Peter tried to get away with pretending that he was Andreas Lilja. Hmm?? I can understand that most hockey players are quite anonymous in Florida...but isn’t Lilja stretching it a bit? Maybe Peter should have said he was Donald Brashear.
Hmm, I wonder why that didn’t work??
4. International Scouting Services (ISS) posted some of their thoughts on the CHL Top Prospects game. If you didn’t believe me about Devereaux Heshmatpour:
Heshmatpour has great size and strength but being beaten cleanly in the 150’ sprint by a goaltender and then barely beating other goaltenders in the lap times increased the concerns over his foot speed.Translation: His skating reeeeeeealy sucks!
5. Continuing with prospect talk, Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodlief has released his latest USA Today column. Red Line still has Gilbert Brule as the #2 prospect, which is where he should be :).
Monday, January 24, 2005
CHL Top Prospects Game Musings: Part II
Devereaux Heshmatpour, D – CSS Rank 49th in North America
Devereaux has been on the prospect radar for years simply due to the fact he has always towered above the competition with his massive frame and punishing hits (6’6” 238, but I believe he has shed some weight off of that mark). As other kids have gone through their growth spurts, Devereaux’s advantage isn’t quite as pronounced as it was earlier in his life. There were even rumours that Heshmatpour’s parents lied about his age, and Heshmatpour was really older than ‘officially’ documented. Like most conspiracy theories, you can’t buy a piece of bubble gum with its value.
It has been apparent to most observers that Heshmatpour’s hype has been solely tied to his size and not much else. He wasn’t even added to the game until injuries opened up a spot for him.
At first glance, Heshmatpour looks eerily similar to an early-career Oleg Kvasha. Devereaux doesn’t look like he weighs more than 200 and his skating style of very similar. To put it mildly, Heshmatpour skates like a 10 year-old girl. He looks somewhat delicate on his skates…he generates very little power with his strides, he has a very high center of gravity, and he looks awfully clumsy at the same time. While Kvasha could cover a lot of ground with his awkward strides, Heshmatpour cannot do the same.
Playing defense, Heshmatpour delivered some big hits early. He simply tossed aside a couple of the Team Davidson players deep in the defensive zone. His positioning was OK as long as stayed at home in the basement…and that’s it for the positives.
Along with the worst skating ability I’ve seen from a ‘Top Prospect’ (He took a bad holding penalty in the first when an opposing forward blew by him), Heshmatpour has no offensive upside to speak of. In 98 OHL games, Heshmatpour has 2 goals and 13 assists…no doubt he got most of those by accident.
Devereaux has been quite a curiosity in his career to date, but I can’t honestly say I’d want to use any kind of draft pick on this kid. If he cannot improve his atrocious skating, his pro aspirations will begin and end in the United Hockey League.
Carey Price, G – CSS Rank #1 for North American Goalies
Price is your standard generic hybrid goalie of the new low-scoring era: He covers a lot of net (6’2.5”), plays a mix of butterfly and standup, and doesn’t really have any hitches or identifying qualities (such as Schwarz’ liberal use of the splits or Cechmanek’s flopping). Price did quite well in this game, but I noticed one really bad habit – Price was always holding his stick about an inch off of the ice. I had the same bad habit when I played road/floor hockey (also because they never had a stick tall enough for a 6’5” goalie).
One of the most important rules for any goalie is to keep the stick on the ice. I wonder how many goalies Price allows through the ‘5-hole’ and along the ice.
Marek Zagrapan, C/RW (CSS Rank 27th in NA) and
Radek Smolenak RW (CSS Rank 42nd in NA)
I am pairing these two together for a few reasons.
First, Don Cherry saw it fit to give them about 8 minutes of ice time in the game. I know he wanted to get Brule as much ice time as possible, but that’s no excuse for shafting his ‘Europeans’ like this.
Second, these two displayed instant chemistry and looked like they had been playing together for years. They both finished with 1 goal, 1 assist, and a +3 rating.
Third, both are highly skilled European players who have been productive in the CHL, yet have been shafted by scouts and the media.
Late in the first period, Smolenak made a beautiful rush into the offensive zone. When he went for the wraparound, he found an open Zagrapan for the best highlight-reel goal of the night.
Zagrapan was absolutely robbed of a goal in the 2nd period (the save of the night), but did return the favour with an assist on Smolenak’s 3rd period goal.
There is no doubt that these two were the best non-Brule players of the night. I really wish Cherry would have given them more of a chance to display their skills, since they were working hard and generating plenty of chances.
Gilbert Brule, C/W (CSS Rank 6th in NA)
For whatever reason, Brule has been downgraded in CSS, ISS, and McKeen’s rankings. For reasons unknown to me, Brule has lost his official #2 status amongst these scouts…so this Crosby-free game was the perfect chance for him to shine and get some hype back.
I don’t really need to go into great detail about Brule because he is simply Jeremy Roenick without the motormouth. Brule has the same competitive spirit, strong lower body, and wicked one-timer. Brule is only 5’11”, but he routinely knocks bigger players flat on their asses (Remember when Roenick took out Zdeno Chara? Now that was amazing). Brule took out the opposing captain, Bobby Ryan, with a monster hit that forced Ryan to miss the rest of the game. On every shift, Brule was playing hard and getting good scoring chances.
Why the recent scouting downgrade? I’ve heard...
1. He’s not disciplined enough (bad penalties and high PIM total)
2. His defense is still rather poor, especially for a center.
3. He’s too selfish – He shoots too often and doesn’t pass well enough
I will agree with #1 somewhat and #3 just a little. Brule is fiery and does get himself into trouble at times when he’s too aggressive. Brule also does shoot a LOT, but I often see him trying to set up teammates as well. Brule is the trigger-man on his line and he has a great shot…that’s why he’s been used as point-man on the Power Play at times by the Giants.
As for his defense…it’s not poor and it’s not good. Brule does ‘enough’ but could do more.
Despite these warts, I can’t believe an NHL GM would downgrade Brule for being too competitive or for his less-than-great defense. Defense can be worked on (if Daigle can be worked on, than almost anyone can be), and we know competitiveness is something you’d rather have too much of, rather than too little of.
Would you rather draft a talented and lazy kid like Brendl or a talented and fiery guy like Brule? I'd like to hear some comments on why Brule has been ranked lower than he was previously...
Devon Setoguchi, RW (CSS Rank 12th in NA)
Devon had a goal for Team Davidson and really stuck out for the fact he was one of the few players on the team to really make you sit up and take notice. Devon was throwing his body around (he’s 6’0" and 185, so only average) and playing with some Brule-like fire at times. I didn’t really scout Devon closely, but he was hard not to notice on a rather moribund Team Davidson.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Radim Vrbata is Rad at the Stars Game.
This was a true All-Star type game if there ever was one as there were no penalties called nor was there any attempt to play defense by any of the players.
02:47 Vrbata (Mikeska, Fischer)
08:48 T. Kaberle (M. Procházka, Straka)
11:21 Uram (Irgl), 11:50 Irgl (Pucher)
15:05 Kubina (Fischer, Mikeska)
21:00 Vrbata (Kubina)
28:23 Šlégr (M. Procházka, Výborný)
39:02 Pucher (Pilar, Hlavacka)
41:27 Vrbata (Fischer)
48:49 Uram (Pucher)
53:00 Hlavacka (Irgl)
53:37 Straka (Výborný, T. Kaberle)
56:08 Nedorost (Mikeska)
05:32 Višňovský (Hujsa)
09:46 Šatan (Hujsa, Višnovský)
23:28 Bicek (Kroták, Kmiť)
24:44 Beran (Čierny)
50:02 Bača (Bicek, Kroták)
59:25 Kledrowetz (Fabus)
Jiri Fischer, Peter Pucher, Michal Mikeska, and Zbynek Irgl also had 3-point nights for the Czech side while Lubomir Visnovsky and Jiri Bicek were the only Slovak Leaguers to get more than a single point.
The unofficial MVPs (since the Czechs didn't award official ones) were Radim Vrbata and Michal Fikrt - The poor Slovak starting goalie who let in 7 goals...but earned universal praise from the media and the Czech Leaguers for his valiant effort.
Radim Vrbata had quite an interesting night - Before the game, he was stuck in a snowstorm for more than 6 hours...and then he only had time to eat a single banana for lunch and before game time. The lack of carbs and protein seemed to help his game as he stole the spotlight from more superior players such Miro Satan and Pavel Kubina.
I will finish the CHL Top Prospects game stuff tomorrow (I promise!). In the meantime, some other Euronews.
1. Jason Marshall has been confirmed as the newest acquisition for HC Plzen of the Czech Extraleague. Marshall will be the only non-Slavic member of the Extraliga (Brad Ference of the Flames is with Ceske Budejovice in the 1st Division). Jason Marshall doesn't seem like the type of defenseman who will really excel in the finesse-oriented Czech league...Still, Plzen has generally had a weak defence and Marshall should improve their chances.
2. Jiri Hudler has played his final game with Vsetin (beating Trinec to a pulp) and will head back to Grand Rapids. His ankle has healed and he must feel that his father is in good enough condition that he can return to North America. Jiri Hudler finished his little 'vacation' with 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games (with -1 and 10 PIM).
3. ZLATA HELMA! This week's action clips are up for viewing and voting
(Right Click and 'Save As')
1. Jaroslav Kudrna really makes Slovak Dominik Granak look like a pylon (and he's wearing red) with this rush.
2. Martin Prusek has really starting to settle into his role as #1 goalie of Znojmo after a horrible start to the season. With him and Hasek both in Ottawa when the NHL starts up again...how will you tell them apart?
3. Peter "Production Dwarf" Leska sets up Martin Janacek with a quick cross-ice pass. With passing like this, it's no wonder line-mate Jaroslav Balastik has such a nice goal total ;)
4. Jiri Hudler shakes Trinec's Richard Kral like a bad habit and scores during his 'farewell' game.
5. Two of the biggest drinkers in the Extraleague, Roman Kadera and Ladislav Lubina, stay sober enough to combine on a net combination play. I wonder how beers these wily vets pounded back after the game to celebrate (Or drown out the fact they play for the very worst team in the league).
6. Radim Vrbata hits a homerun against $parta Prague.
Friday, January 21, 2005
EuroUpdate: Forsberg is Fractured Again
Eurohockey.net reports that Humpty could be lost for the rest of the season after injuring himself in Marcus Naslund’s homecoming. I’m sure the Avalanche officials are thrilled to hear that news.
Peter Forsberg was injured again. He will be unavailable for at least 6 weeks. Modo’s team doctor Kim Thorsen fears a fractured navicular bone, in which case Forsberg will be out of play for the remainder of the season.Currently, Forsberg is 2nd in league scoring to Kristian Huselius (wow...) with 13 goals and 26 assists in 33 games.
More and more, Forsberg is turning into a modern-day Cam Neely. Constant major injuries are derailing a fine career, and could keep Forsberg out of the Hall of Fame.
Does Forsberg have a good Hall of Fame Case? Without getting into the ‘Gartner Test’, it will be tough for Forsberg to make the HoF if he never plays another NHL game.
Regular Season: 580GP 216-525-741PTS 544PIM
Playoffs: 133GP 57-97-154PTS 131PIM
Awards: Calder Trophy (95), Art Ross Trophy (03), Hart Trophy (03), +/- Award (03), and 2 Stanley Cups.
In a low-scoring era, Forsberg has been one of the elite players when he has been healthy. There are few players that I would choose for my team in the playoffs, even if I hate the guy for being a whiny dive artist.
I could say the same for Cam Neely, but he wasn’t the dominant 2-way player that Forsberg was/is known to be. Forsberg still has almost an assist-per-game ratio, so it’s hard to ignore the fact that he was an incredible force during his peak. If he played some more and got to 800 points, I’d consider him a lock.
Speaking of injuries, it looks like Litvinov’s Robert Reichel could miss the rest of the season if he gets an operation done on his left hand. As it stands right now, a loaded Litvinov team has been the league’s biggest disappointment. How can a team with Martin Rucinsky, Robert Reichel, Miro Zalesak, Jiri Slegr, and Martin Skoula be out of the playoffs as it stands today? You can pretty much kiss their playoff hopes good-bye if Reichel is out for the remainder of the season, since Litvinov’s offence has not been able to make up for a very weak defensive effort.
Of course, I don’t think Leafs fans would be surprised that a team led by Robert Reichel would miss the playoffs :)
Are you excited about the Slovak vs. Czech Extraleague ‘Stars Game’? Probably not...but neither are Martin Rucinsky, Pavol Demitra, Vladimir Orszagh, Michal Handzus, and Richard Zednik. All five of these guys are skipping the Stars Game, which makes me wonder if they know something about the NHL labour negotiations that we don’t...
Meanwhile, the Extraleagues played yesterday due to the scheduling bump for the Stars Game. Peter Bondra brought the fans back in Poprad last night, as they played in front of around (edit: not 3,500) 5,500 fans. For a team that usually can’t crack 2,000 spectators a night, this just shows that the NHL players can still be a draw. Bondra’s Poprad beat Satan’s Slovan by a 3-0 score.
...and here are the stats from yesterday’s games.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
CHL Top Prospects Game Musings: Part I
Don Cherry did his best to showcase Captain Brule for the fans and the scouts, as he gave Gilbert at least 20-25 minutes of ice time. Brule certainly took the bait and potted 3 goals and assist, along with many big hits, to thrust himself back into the "#2 Behind Sidney Crosby" spotlight. His team-mates certainly did their part, as they worked hard to get Brule the 3rd goal into an empty net. You can read more on Brule’s performance here
This was certainly no typical ‘exhibition’ type game as there was lot of hitting during the game, plus an usually high attention to defensive play (Both teams barely cracked 30 shots apiece). Brule knocked the opposing captain, Bobby Ryan, out of the game in the first period with a thundering bodycheck. Although there were no fights (or even scrums) during the game, there was lots of physical contact nonetheless.
Sights, Sounds, and Observations from the CHL Top Prospects Game:
- 1. While walking around the concourse, I saw a large group of agents (all in grey power suits) was standing around talking, laughing, and having a gay-old-time. I bet they were comparing fish stories about how much commission their clients will pull for them.
- 2. Islanders GM Mad Mike Milbury walked right in front of me…while blowing his nose. Thanks for the germs, Mikey!
- 3. Best Sign of the Night: CROSBY FEARS BRULE! – The young kid with the sign was walking around the concourse and holding up the sign like a crazy street preacher (THE END IS NIGH!), which totally made the experience. You had to be there.
Worst Sign of the Night: Don for Premier - *YAWN*
- 4. Speaking of concourses, there is a reason why new stadiums have 2 or 3 of them…1 is simply not enough for 16,000 people. Even cooped-up chickens have more room to move than people in the Pacific Coliseum concourse during the 1st intermission.
- 5. They gave out Frisbees to the crowd during the 2nd intermission. As you can imagine, they all ended up back on the ice during the 3rd period. Didn’t they foresee this? DON’T GIVE OUT THROWABLE OBJECTS BEFORE OR DURING THE GAME!!
It was a nice touch when the players came out to help clean up the mess.
- 6. After the game, we see John Davidson handing Don Cherry a big wad of cash after the game (settling their side bet). Cherry then goes and gives a bill to one of the kids on his team (not Brule). According to the post-game show, Cherry gave Dan Ryder $50 since he was benched in favour of Brule in the dying minutes of the game (Operation: Get Brule a Hat-Trick).
- 7. Please retire the ‘Thunder-Stix’. They handed those stupid things out and they are incredibly annoying. Half of them ended up on the ice, anyway…
- 8. Whoever was controlling the video/replay board should be fired. Instead of showing instant replays of the actual plays, we were treated to random crowd shots of people eating popcorn or talking on their cell phones. It was quite frustrating not being able to take a second look at some of the big hits and nice goals.
Now, for some of my own awards:
MOST SURPRISINGLY GOOD PERFORMANCE: Radek Smolenak, Team Cherry
Smolenak was a last-minute replacement and had some instant chemistry with Marek Zagrapan. Both players finished with 1 goal, 1assist, and +3 in the game…all of this despite the fact that coach Don Cherry gave them only about 8-9 minutes of ice time the entire game
Side Rant: Don, if you don’t want Europeans on your team, don’t pick them! It’s obvious his anti-European bias kicked in once again as he gave these two kids the absolute crankshaft. Marek Zagrapan is a Top 10 prospect, and he played about as much as a 4th-line goon.
MOST UNINSPIRING PERFORMANCE: Wacey Rabbit, Team Davidson
The short dude with the ‘Cwazy’ name won the Fastest Skater event of the Skills Competition, but he certainly didn’t use that famed speed during the game. I had to check the game program in the 3rd period to even make sure he was out there…he was absolutely invisible. Looking at the boxscore, Wacey finished -6!!! He did nothing to abolish any fears that he is a junior-only star.
WORST PERFORMANCE: Jean-Philippe Levasseur, Team Cherry
Team Cherry’s goalie for the 2nd half of the game, Levasseur was just plain bad in every respect. Along with 3 exceptionally weak goals, JP showed horrible reflexes, rebound control, positioning, and reactions. The square Garth Snow-like shoulder pads certainly didn’t look good on him, either. If I based my scouting on one game, I wouldn’t take this guy...even in the 9th round.
Tomorrow, I’ll have some more observations and scouting notes on particular players I was watching.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
EuroUpdate: Bondra Pops Up in Poprad
With the NHL/NHLPA doing some last minute negotiating, and with only a dozen games left in the Czech Extraleague, European teams are trying to gear up for the stretch run with players are unsure of what the future holds (or dumping good players if they can get a return).
"Should I stay or should I go?"
Bob Goodenow has given his guild members the OK to find jobs in Europe, but some players remain optimistic that a last-minute deal can be reached. Thus, there are still many players and teams on the edge.
With special thanks to my Slovak correspondent, Daniel, here are some of the latest newsbytes, rumours, and other stories from Central Europe.
1. "The name’s Bondra, Peter Bondra" – "Bonzai" made his return to Poprad for the first time since Sidney Crosby was wearing Pampers. He scored the game-winning goal and added another assist in his debut versus Skalica. Bondra plans to play about 6 games with Poprad and then return to Washington to watch his son take part in a youth hockey tournament. Bondra has been public about his optimism regarding the CBA talks, which has me thinking that he’s been taking a few hits from Marcel Hanzal’s stash.
2. Branko Radivojevic and Radovan Somik – Vsetin is clearly out of the playoffs and Slovan Bratislava’s GM (Krajci) has expressed interest in bringing these players to Bratislava.
Pavol Demitra, co-owner and interim captain of Dukla Trencin, has expressed interest in bringing Branko to Trencin to help replace the departures of Hossa and Gaborik. Apparently, Pavol is pretty pissed with his teammates’ effort at the recent European Champions Cup and wants to fix his team before they get slaughtered in the Slovak Extraliga playoffs.
3. It has been a nightmare season for Trinec, so now they are starting the task of dumping/trading some of their good chips in to other teams who want them. We’ve already seen Michal Rozsival transferred to Pardubice, and Branislav Mezei will probably be next. Ex-Ducks farmhand Peter Podhradsky will also be in some demand.
4. Martin Brodeur – Not really Central Europe-related, but he did express his interest to play for Canada at the World Championships should there be no NHL season. As the Devils are regularly in good playoff runs, Brodeur hasn’t had the chance to help his country at one of these unheralded tournaments.
5. Miro Satan – As stated before, his tenure with Slovan was really only to extend until January 15th. As it stands now, he’ll wait until the end of January to make a decision (barring an NHL miracle) and he did play with Slovan last night.
6. Speaking of Pothead Marcel Hanzal, it is likely that any further punishment he’ll receive will be quite minor or ‘symbolic’ since Marijuana isn’t really a performance enhancing drug. Hanzal has already missed the ECC, so he’s been punished enough for smoking up. It also helps that Robert Svehla and Pavol Demitra have some clout within the Slovak Hockey Federation. (His ‘B’ sample results will be released later this week, but I doubt that will really make a difference)
7. Ronald Petrovicky – It’s somewhat amusing that NHL players go over to Europe and expect a picnic. Some Canadian players, like Marc Savard, found this out the hard way, but the homeboy Ronald Petrovicky apparently didn’t remember how things were back in Slovakia. As reported by an anonymous Slovakian reader and also by my Slovak correspondent, Zilina released Petrovicky due to poor play and poor work ethic.
Petrovicky never really played in the Slovak Extraleague as a youngster as he went directly to the CHL to develop. Look for Slovan or Trencin to jump on Petro if he remains available.
One interesting side-note: Zilina is one of the few sports teams with a female GM: Ms. Anna Tomkowa.
Here are the usual stats from yesterday’s games:
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Sidney Crosby Bails out of CHL Top Prospects Game
Uber-prospect Sidney "Nextzky" Crosby pulled out of the CHL Top Prospects game to be held tomorrow night, SLAM! reports. The ‘Next One’ claims to be injured and fatigued from the WJC.
He's been carrying a pretty bad injury since the world juniors," his agent Pat Brisson said Monday from Los Angeles. "He said 'I can't play in this game and do all the skills and all that."
Brisson wouldn't specify the nature of the injury, but when asked if it was a lower back injury, he said: "Put it this way, you're not too far.
Imagine buying tickets for a Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis match, only to have Mike Tyson bow out due to food poisoning. I may be overstating things, but many people bought tickets to this event simply to see Sidney Crosby. Crosby was the main focus of the advertising campaign and subsequent hype for this event.
As you can imagine, Giants co-owner Ron Toigo is pretty miffed about this. He even goes so far as to invoke the name and power of Gretzky himself.
"For the guy who wants to be the next Wayne Gretzky ... the history of Wayne Gretzky is that he would be here with one leg if that's what it took because it's good for the game," Toigo, the game's promoter, said in an interview.Is Crosby becoming the next Eric Lindros? Will he demand to be drafted by only selected teams? Is he simply getting bad advice from his greedy agent?
Toigo said he offered Crosby - who he described as an outstanding individual - and his family first-class tickets to Vancouver, special accommodation not available to other players and expenses-paid relaxation time in nearby Victoria.
I find it sad that Ron Toigo even needed to offer such extras and incentives that the other prospects aren’t getting.
Places like HFBoards.com are aflush with conspiracy theories, speculation, and other ‘rumours’. If you are into that kind of Kool-Aid, here are a few beauties for you:
- 1. Crosby is already going to be drafted #1 no matter what, and he was afraid that he would have a bad game/skills competition and look bad compared to the other prospects.
- 2. Crosby did not want to play in the same game that Don Cherry was coaching, after Cherry referred to Crosby as a ‘Hot Dog’ last year.
- 3. Crosby was afraid that Gilbert Brule would catch him with his head down and...*POW*
- 4. Crosby just didn’t want to bother flying all the way across the country for an exhibition game when he knows he’s already ‘The Man’
- 5. Ron Toigo and the Giants/CHL/etc did not meet Crosby’s asking price (Extra $$$)
Crosby has already proven himself to be a world-class player against older players at the World Junior Championships, so he really doesn’t have anything to prove. It’s really the fans and scouts who will lose in this situation.
The fact is, I would have bought tickets to see the game if I knew Crosby wouldn’t be there. I know many others might not have, and they feel ripped off. Too bad for them that any time you buy tickets to a hockey game, you are not guaranteed to see your favourite player in the game. I’ll still be watching Brule, Marek Zagrapan, and the bevy of other fine prospects in the game. Perhaps Brule can steal the show and put himself back as the real #2 in the minds of some publications (ISS, McKeens, etc)
Monday, January 17, 2005
Omsk weasels away the European Champions Cup
No, this isn’t an ad for Viagra...it’s actually true!
Jaromir Jagr scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 thrilling overtime victory over Oulu Karpat (The Weasels), which gives Avangard Omsk the first ever European Champions Cup title.
The winning goal came 14:38 into the 4-on-4 sudden-death overtime period when tournament MVP Maxim Sushinsky fed Jaromir Jagr with a neat cross pass which the Czech one-timed past Niklas Bäckström.
Of course, it was the least Jagr could do after taking 2 really dumb penalties in the 2nd period.
Maxim “Tuna Roll” Sushinsky (Sushinski/Susinskij, etc...) was the big star of the tournament with 4 goals and 3 assists in 3 games. Jagr only had 4 points and didn’t even make the media All-Star team.
The media All Star team:
Goalie: Norm Maracle, Avangard
Defence: Oleg Tverdovsky, Avangard.
Defence: Josef Boumedienne, Kärpät
Forward: Maxim Sushinsky, Avangard
Forward: Jussi Jokinen, Kärpät
Forward: Andrei Kovalenko, Avangard.
Most Valuable Player: Maxim Sushinsky
Here is a photo taking at the game, courtesy of ‘Itar’.
What comes next??
Well, with NHLPA mob boss Bob Goodenow giving the order to his minions to find whatever work they can, the European leagues will really get busy loading up for the stretch run. If my memory serves me correctly, all transfers and rosters must be set by the end of January.
Rumours and other tidbits (I’ll try and get more in to depth when I have time):
Peter Bondra – Finally committing to Poprad? (Slovak Extraleague)
Robert Lang – Spurning the Czech Extraleague?
Branko Radivojevic – Leaving Vsetin (Czechia) to join Trencin (Slovakia) for the playoffs?
Marcel Hanzal – He should know the results of his ‘B’ sample by the end of the week.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
EuroUpdate: The Brendl is Back in Town
It might be hard to believe, but they love the guy!!
Reports Timpe79 (excuse the broken English, he's still learning):
Fans in there waits he like the rise of the sun for our poor power play etc... He plays earlier 9 match in here and he did 4+4 points, great result he´s plus/minus is +2 those games. He plays his first game tomorrowI just wonder why Brendl went to Thurgau in the first place...
The IIHF Super Six/European Champions Cup is well under way and the Czech (Zlin) and Slovak (Trencin) entries are both out of it :(
On Trencin's side, it was no surprise that they were swiftly cast aside by the teams from better leagues. Avangard Omsk smoked them 6-1 on Day 1 and HV71 (DAMN SWEDES!!) beat them 4-1 on Day 2. New (and THC-free) captain Pavol Demitra is not 'hoppy'.
As for Zlin, they barely edged a hearty Frankfurt squad by a 4-3 score on Day 1, and then they fell to Oulu Karpat (Weasels) 4-1 on Day 2. Thus, Frankfurt will play Oulu for the right to battle Omsk in the final. Omsk demolished HV71 9-0 in front of the partisan Russian crowd. You can imagine how happy this made me feel! :)
Jaromir Jagr? He managed just 1 assist in the game. Maxim Sushinsky (of Minnesota Wild fame) had 3 goals and 2 assists while Andrei "Tanked" Kovalenko had 1 goal and 3 assists. Looking over Omsk's roster, the yhave quite a collection of NHLers and ex-NHLers:
Norm Maracle, Oleg Tverdovsky, Sergei Gusev, Jaroslav Bednar, Andrei Kovalenko, Alexander Perezhogin, and Maxim Sushinski. It's hard to compete with that kind of firepower.
The Extraleague schedule is extremely light due to the Super Six/ECC tournament. There were no games in Slovakia and just 2 in Czechia. Here are the stats:
Friday, January 14, 2005
Gearing up for the CHL Top Prospects Game
John Davidson (replacing Bobby Orr, unfortunately) and Don Cherry have picked their rosters from amongst the top group of CHL prospects for this exciting annual event. As the game is taking place here in Vancouver, I get to have a first-chance look at many of these top prospects that I have only been able to watch on TV (especially Crosby and Zagrapan). Of course, I will take (bad) photos and have some scouting reports on selected prospects.
There is just one lone Slovak (Zagrapan) and one lone Czech (Kindl) playing this year due to a very weak European crop in the CHL these days.
Hometown hero Gilbert Brule will be playing for Cherry’s team, so the fans will ultimately be behind "Grapes" in this game.
It might be just ‘one’ game, but just ask Dion Phaneuf (“The Hit”) how much it can propel your draft status come July. With a bevy of scouts and NHL executives in attendance, this game offers them the chance to watch the best prospects compete against their true peers.
Personally, I would never put that much stock into a lone game. A season is a marathon, and one game shouldn’t erase the long-term trend of a particular player. Still, it would be hard not to get a little hyped on a particular player if he dazzled the crowd with big hits or big goals.
As an aside note: International Scouting Services (ISS) has released its latest Top 10 rankings. 8 out of the top 10 players on this list will be playing in this game! Jakub Kindl, who was previously in the Top 10, has dropped in recent months after a shaky CHL debut:
“Kindl’s adaptation to the North American game has been slower then expected. Although the overall skill set is good, ISS is starting to have trouble keeping him in its Top 10. His inconsistency is a concern and we are bothered by the fact that he picks his spots in terms of physical play. When he decides to turn it up, he is definitely a force, but these instances are becoming more sporadic. His dismissal from the Czech National Junior Team also raises some questions. Although we feel he will become a good NHL defenseman, his consistency will have to improve. Kindl has all of the tools that leave scouts excited.”This game will be a great warmup for the 2006 WJC to be held here in Vancouver. So, here are the rosters for the game (barring last minute injuries)
TEAM WHITE (DAVIDSON)
Sidney Crosby, Rimouski Oceanic
Kenndal McArdle, Moose Jaw Warriors
Devin Setoguchi, Saskatoon Blades
Ryan O'Marra, Erie Otters
James Neal, Plymouth Whalers
Michael Blunden, Erie Otters
Wacey Rabbit, Saskatoon Blades
Blair Jones, Moose Jaw Warriors
Viatcheslav Trukhno, PEI Rocket
Patrick Davis, Kitchener Rangers
Evan Brophey, Belleville Bulls
Mathieu Aubin, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Luc Bourdon, Val d'Or Foreurs
Jakub Kindl, Kitchener Rangers
Marc Staal, Sudbury Wolves
Raymond Macias, Kamloops Blazers
Scott Jackson, Seattle Thunderbirds
Jean-Philippe Paquet, Shawinigan Cataractes
Alexandre Vincent, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Daren Machesney, Brampton Battalion
TEAM BLACK (CHERRY)
Gilbert Brule, Vancouver Giants
Benoit Pouliot, Sudbury Wolves
Bobby Ryan, Owen Sound Attack
Chris Durand, Seattle Thunderbirds
Alex Bourret, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Dan Collins, Plymouth Whalers
Dan Ryder, Peterborough Petes
Nicholas Drazenovic, Prince George Cougars
Guillaume Latendresse, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Chris Lawrence, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Marek Zagrapan, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Cody Bass, Mississauga IceDogs
Ryan Parent, Guelph Storm
Matt Lashoff, Kitchener Rangers
Brendan Mikkelson, Portland Winter Hawks
Oskars Bartulis, Moncton Wildcats
Dustin Kohn, Calgary Hitmen
Michael Sauer, Portland Winter Hawks
Carey Price, Tri-City Americans
Jean-Philippe Levasseur, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Couldn’t these guys – who make millions of dollars – play through a few sniffles, sneezes, and watery eyes?
After my recent bout with a nasty case of the flu, I can understand why some players would choose not to play with the flu. I had a hard enough time doing my (easy) accounting job and my gym workouts thanks to weakened muscles, stuffed sinuses, watery eyes, and mild dizziness. I can’t imagine doing any activity that required a high level of physical exertion in the state I was in.
So, while fighting with this damned virus, I stopped to think: What would
The answer: SUDAFED!
As Michael Farber wrote in a 1998 pre-Nagano piece, Sudafed is hockey’s dirty little secret:
The exact number of players who use Sudafed, a nonprescription drug that contains the stimulant pseudoephedrine, in an effort to boost their performance on the ice, is unclear. Two NHL trainers estimate that before a game 20% of the league's players routinely take over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine, not to combat the sniffles, as the manufacturers intended, but to feel a little buzz.So I could feel a buzz and relieve some of my flu symptoms? Cool!
... Sudafed remains the most popular choice for players who want a pick-me-up....
Of course, being the smart guy that I am, I decided to do a little more research.
Thus, I came upon this wacky story about Andrei Trefilov during his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres:
Dominik Hasek recalled one of the times that Andrei played for Buffalo in his autobiography. Andrei had taken 12 tablets of "Sudafed" before a game. It's most widely used if you have a cold, but It's also classified as a performance enhancing drug. It is perfectly legal in the NHL but banned over in leagues around Europe and in the Olympics. Taking one or two might be ok, but Andrei took 12 just before a game against Tampa Bay.
" Three minutes before the end of the game a couple of my teammates approached me on the bench and told me to get ready", Hasek wrote.
" Dominik, get ready, it looks like you're going in, 'Trefi' overdosed." Andrei had called one of the defensemen over and asked him: "How much is left of the game ?". What do you mean, how much ?", the surprised defenseman asked." Up there you have a giant clock, look for yourself". Well, I don't see that clock very well", Andrei replied.
Andrei managed to finish the game, but I would think twice about taking more than the recommended dosage.
Which is exactly what I did – 2 tablets, every 4 hours. Maximum 8 tablets a day.
What a gyp! Not only did I not get any kind of ‘buzz’, but I’m not all that sure that the Sudafed helped my flu symptoms. Maybe I should have taken the whole package ala Trefilov!
Really, I get more buzz from a Starbucks Latte than the Sudafed I popped. The next time I play hockey or any sort, I’ll just knock back a double espresso or a Red Bull.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Hey now, you're an All-Star!
While the NHL has cancelled its (always boring) All-Star festivities, the Czech and Slovak Extraleagues have now been naming the rosters for the “Utkani Hviezd” (Stars Game) to take place on January 22rd.
For the past 2 seasons, the Slovak and Czech Extraleagues have played each other in this annual event, rather than just within their own leagues. The series is split 1-1, with the game being held in Vitkovice this year. The fans vote for the first 2 lines, and then the coaches pick the remaining players. It’s kind of strange seeing Slovaks playing against the Slovak Extraleague and vice-versa.
Slovak Extraleague Roster (# of votes for winners):
1st unit: Michal Fikrt (2016 hlasů) - Dusan Milo (1939/oba Nitra), Lubomír Visnovský (1885/Slovan Bratislava) - Lubomír Kolník (1737/Nitra), Pavol Demitra (1916/Trencín), Martin Bartek (670/Slovan).
2nd unit: Karol Krizan (Zvolen) - Jirí Hes (Trencín), Daniel Babka - Michal Handzus (oba Zvolen), Richard Kapus, Miroslav Satan (oba Slovan Bratislava).
3rd unit: Juraj Kledrowetz (Kosice), Jergus Baca (Liptovský Mikuláš) - Miroslav Zálesák (Skalica), Arne Kroták, Jirí Bicek (oba Kosice).
4th unit: Ladislav Cierny (Zvolen), Radoslav Suchý (Poprad) - Richard Zedník (Zvolen), Roman Kontsek (Zilina), Vladimír Országh (Zvolen).
Marian Gaborik was actually voted to the starting lineup, but his nomination was given to Martin Bartek since Gaborik is in Sweden listening to ABBA cover bands.
Czech Extraleague Roster:
1st unit: Marek Pinc (Vitkovice) - Tomas Kaberle (Kladno), Jiri Slegr (Litvinov), Milan Hejduk (Pardubice), Martin Rucinsky (Litvinov), Jaroslav Balastik (Zlin)
2nd unit: Igor Murin (Zlin) – Martin Hamrlik (Zlin), Frantisek Kaberle (Kladno), David Vyborny (Sparta), Petr Leska (Zlin), Martin Straka (Plzen)
3rd unit: Jaroslav Spacek (Slavia), Jiri Fischer (Liberec), Radim Vrbata (Liberec), Petr Cajanek (Zlin), Jan Bulis (Pardubice)
4th unit: Karel Pilar (Sparta), Pavel Kubina (Vitkovice), Michal Mikeska (Pardubice), Peter Pucher (Znojmo), Martin Prochazka (Kladno)
Just check out the # of NHLers on these rosters. If the NHL somehow starts up a season soon, the rosters would pretty much have to be redone from scratch. I also wonder how Miroslav Zalesak will react to playing with the Slovak Extraleague team, since he's been with Litvinov in Czechia for the past couple of months...
BrendlWatch – European Tour 2004-05
It seems that Pavel Brendl didn’t last more than 5 games with Thurgau of the Swiss 1st division! Since the team isn’t going to make the playoffs, it appears that Brendl was kicked out because he wasn’t worth the boxes of donuts he was being paid. According to hokej.cz, Brendl will likely be heading back to Finland.
As for brat-packer Martin Havlat, it appears that Dynamo Moscow claims that Havlat’s contract was until APRIL, and not until January. Moscow is also whining that Havlat took side-trips to see his mistress in Prague, which led to some groin problems...which I won’t get into further detail about :). If Dynamo’s claims of contract length are true, Havlat could be basically screwed without a team for the rest of the season.
My investigations have revealed video evidence of why Martin Havlat really left Moscow (turn your sound up): http://www.snabbstart.com/flash_visa.asp?download=342
Also, be sure to check out the Hockey Rodent, who has more of the scoop on Beavis and Butthead than I do.
It also appears that Ronald Petrovicky has left Zilina. He appears to be waiting to see if the NHL cancels the season or not. I don’t know why he chose to leave the team now, and not later, but perhaps he just wants a break.
Stats from yesterday’s games:
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Reefer Madness in Slovakia!
(He kinda looks 'high' in this picture, don't ya think?)
With the team preparing for the upcoming European Champions Cup, it looks like Dukla could be without their captain for the tournament. Has Dukla’s championship hopes gone up in smoke?
Well, Hanzal will continue to practice with the team until the ‘B’ sample is analyzed. If the results turn out negative (no THC), then he could possibly be reinstated. Until the ‘B’ sample is analyzed, the Slovak Federation and his team will wait to punish Hanzal.
This has me wondering...why test for THC at all?
Sure, marijuana is illegal in most places in the world, but why would you want to test for THC as a performance enhancing drug?
This isn’t a forum to debate the (il)legality of 'special' brownies, but I do know that smoking marijuana brings about dizziness, fatigue, hunger, nausea, and the ability to laugh at any of Eddie Murphy’s post-48 Hours movies. The last thing I would want to do, or could do, after smoking a joint is to play hockey.
If I want to pep myself before a big game and give myself a boost, smoking a blunt fattie would rank far down the list of consumables.
(For the record, I did *not* inhale...really!)
If I were on one of the opposing teams, I’d be quite happy that one of Trencin’s better players is doped out. It would certainly make my life a lot easier.
For the moment, I will now give Martin Hanzal the nickname of “Tvrd’ák”, or ‘Pot Hat’. The big dope deserves that much. It’s too bad that AK Bars Kazan is not in this tournament. I’m sure Sergei Zinovjev would have loved to share a bong with Hanzal.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Extraleague Update Machine: 01-10-2005
Over in the homeland...
1. Martin Prusek, after being benched game after game for Vitkovice, was loaned to the Znojmo Eagles to replace the departed Tomas Vokoun. In his first game with Znojmo (on Saturday vs. Pardubice), he let in quick goals and was yanked early in the second period...but he did fare better yesterday.
2. Jiri Hudler returned from his ankle injury/surgery, but didn't score in a Vsetin loss.
3. HKm Zvolen beat Dynamo Moscow 2-1 and their 3-0 record gave them the Continental Cup victory. Michal Handzus had both goals for Zvolen, which means the Slovaks have won this rather strange tournament twice in a row.
"The representatives of the Slovak league refuse to be the weak sisters of the top Euro hockey leagues. HKm Zvolen won the 2005 Continental Cup title on Sunday following a 2-1 victory over Dynamo Moscow in a confrontation of current leaders from the Slovak and Russian league. The victory comes exactly one year after Slovan Bratislava from the same league won the 2004 Continental Cup when they defeated Russia's Severstal Cherepovets in the process. When experts are asked to rate the best European hockey leagues, they often start with the Russian, followed by the Swedish, Finnish and the Slovak league is usually mentioned somewhere together with the Swiss and German, way behind. Following Slovan's and Zvolen's victories this could probably be reconsidered."An interesting point my friend Daniel makes:
Payroll of Dynamo Moscow: Between $30-$35 million
Payroll of HKm Zvolen: around $2 million
Sure it was one game, but it's great to beat a team with over 10x your payroll :). Still, one game doesn't mean the Slovak Extraliga is in the same category as the top leagues like Russia, Czechia, Finland, etc...
4. Zlata Helma! This week's Golden Helmet clips are on the web for voting.
The best of the bunch...
1. Jan Hlavac goes coast-to-coast for a nice goal
2. Jan Lasak gives the greatest post-save embelishment I have even seen. William Shatner would be proud.
Stats from yesterday's round of games...
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Extraleague Update Machine: 01-08-05
So, here is today's Extraleague Update Machine.
1. Martin Havlat is done with Dynamo Moscow - Just before Dynamo was to play in the Continental Cup tournament, Havlat left Dynamo and will now take a 2-week vacation before deciding on his next team (he's basically waiting to see what happens with the labour negotiations). There is some speculation that he will join Znojmo again, but that is just speculation and nothing more.
(Edit: According to 'joolzie', Havlat's contract with Dynamo was only until January, and it simply lapsed. He'll train in Czechia and consider his non-NHL options.)
2. HKm Zvolen (Handzus, Zednik, Orszagh) played Milano (Italy) and won 6-1 in their first Continental Cup tournament game. This is basically some very strange 4-team tournament that they play every year. Dynamo Moscow beat Alba Volan (Hungary) 8-1 in the other match: Maxim Afinogenov had 3 points and Pavel Datsyuk (Daciuk) had 2 points in the win.
...and no, I do not know what type of injury Richard Zednik has. It pisses me off to no end that Zvolen is the one pro hockey team on the planet without an official (Or unofficial) webpage.
3. Jaroslav Svoboda was 'purchased' by Trinec from the 1st division team of Olomouc. I don't know why a non-playoff bound team would want a rather ordinary 1st division player...even if he is a part-time NHLer. He's been added to the update file along with JAROSLAV BALASTIK, who you should damn well know by now.
Note to Bill Daly: Shut up, Shut up, SHUT UP!
The world's most annoying second-in-command decided to open up his mouth, again, and insult the collective intelligence of hockey fans from Vancouver to Vaduz.
Let's chop this to pieces, Gőlbez style -
"Let's be clear on where the responsibility lies for where we find ourselves today: it lies exclusively at the feet of union leadership who, despite numerous and repeated approaches by the league over many years, utterly ignored - and, in some cases, knowingly exacerbated - the financial distress the league was experiencing,"Exclusively at the fault of the union, Bill? You sound like an ambulance-chasing lawyer...was that your past job?
Unless the NHLPA has gypsy powers of mind-control, how can you blame the NHLPA exclusively for the 'mess' we are in today? Did the NHLPA force the Bruins to pay Martin Lapointe $5mil/season? Is it Bobby Holik's fault that the Rangers decided to pay him $8mil to ply his trade? Is it the NHLPA's fault that the NHL teams can't hire skilled 'business' managers that know how to run a 'business'??
Of course the players took advantage of the stupid owners and overmatched GMs!! When you have to negotiate your own individual contract, you will take whatever the hell you can get. You wouldn't be any different, Bill.
"Then, as if to suggest it is the league who must agree to negotiate only on its terms, the union proceeds to hold the game and its fans hostage over its complete and absolute refusal to negotiate any system that is premised on a negotiated - not arbitrary, but negotiated - and rational relationship between player costs and league-wide revenues.Actually, the "Cost Certainty or Bust" negotiating tactic of the NHL's is just the same as the NHLPA's "No Cost Certainty" stance. Both sides are perfectly entrenched, so this is the pot calling the kettle black (or whatever the hell that saying is).
...and need I remind you, Billy, that it is the NHL that is 'holding hostages' here. The NHL is the one that has cancelled games and decided not to proceed with any actual hockey playing in NHL areans. The NHLPA was fully prepared to go ahead, so they didn't stop anything.
...and please explain to the fans why the NHLPA should ever negotiate a system based on a 'rational' relationship between player costs and revenues when it is obvious that (most of) the NHL teams do not truthfully report such numbers
"I can only hope that the players understand and appreciate the union's chosen strategy in this process: ignore the economic problems, delay in offering meaningful relief, and refuse to negotiate over an economic system that will ensure that the problems will not be repeated."Well, the last NHLPA offer sure seemed to indicate that the players realize that there are some financial problems in the NHL. I can't rememeber too many labour negotiations where the workers offer almost a QUARTER of their entire salary as a rollback...and let's not forget the other concessions the NHLPA offered. We know their offer would still allow for some inflation, but not at the current rate.
"Everyone who is even the least bit knowledgeable about our CBA and how it operates saw right through the proposal almost immediately for exactly what it was: a union offer designed to 'buy' continued salary inflation at unsustainable levels, and the maintenance of an economic system that necessarily fosters financial and competitive disparities among clubs."!!!! If the NHL clubs were so damn knowledgable about their own damn CBA, we wouldn't be in this damn mess, WOULD WE?
Look, I understand what the union was trying to do with their offer, just like I understand what the NHL was trying to do with their counter-offer. The fact remains that the NHL clubs obviously never understood their current CBA - I just wish the NHL would come flat out and say "Most teams are run by a bunch of idiots would couldn't manage a Tim Horton's franchise". Truth by told, I'd have a lot more respect for the NHL if they just purely admitted their idiocy rather than hide behind the "NHLPA is mean and made me cry" tactic.
Oh, and just to get the NHLPA in here...here is Ted Saskin (media shill for Goodenow)
After the NHL's failure to explore our proposal of Dec. 9, the players made it crystal clear that we are not working on a new one and the onus remains on the NHL to come back with a proposal that could be the basis for an agreementC'mon, Teddy, I find it hard to believe that the players made their 'best' offer on December 9th. Nobody makes their best offer before the last minute. The NHLPA are good negotiators, and I'm sure they have another trick up their proverbial sleeves.
Well, I hate to take sides so blatently...but, if you say stupid things, and treat this particular hockey fan like an idiot, you deserve to have your crap thrown back in your face.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Looking Back & Looking Ahead
1. The IIHF released its' award winners from the World Junior Championships:
Best Goaltender: Marek Schwarz, CZE
Best Defenseman: Dion Phaneuf, CAN
Best Forward: Alexander Ovechkin, RUS
MVP: Patrice Bergeron, CAN
Media All-Star Team:
Goaltender: Marek Schwarz, CZE
Defenseman: Ryan Suter, USA
Defenseman: Dion Phaneuf, CAN
Forward: Jeff Carter, CAN
Forward: Patrice Bergeron, CAN
Forward: Alexander Ovechkin, RUS
You know it's a tough crowd when Rostislav Olesz (7 goals, 3 assists, +8 in 7 games) gets left out in the cold.
2. the IIHF has some interesting wrap-up notes, including one about the attendance:
Attendance at the 2005 tournament was 195,771, which fell short of the record set by Halifax in 2003 at 242,173, and it would have probably been a lot lower if not for travelling Canadians.It was great to see that the Canadians were essentially playing 'home' games every night as the travelling fans came down in busloads to offer loud and proud support. I wonder what the crowd split would have been for a USA/Canada game...
Oh, and we should also mention the great television ratings here in Canada:
Tuesday's 6-1 Canadian victory over Russia was watched by a per-minute average audience of 3.2 million viewers, the second highest rating in the channel's 20-year history. The all-time world junior tournament high of 3.4 million came during the final in 2003 in Halifax.3. Looking ahead to next year's tournament, the IIHF has released the groups/Pools...
The tournament did set a record for overall viewing on TSN, with Canada's six games averaging 1.6 million viewers. The 2003 tourney had 1.5 million.
2006 IIHF World U20 Championship Tentative Preliminary Round Groups
Vancouver, Kelowna & Kamloops 26 Dec 2005 - 5 Jan 2006.
2. United States
2. Czech Republic
Looking at this setup, I have the sinking feeling that the Czech and Slovak prelim round games will all be played in Kamloops and Kelowna...so I'll be 'stuck' with Canada, USA, and Finland ;(
4. Will Brent Sutter be back as Team Canada's coach? As much as we'd love him to be back, I doubt he'll want the job again. From this tsn.ca article,
"It's a great experience but it's a lot of work. There's a big commitment that you have to make towards it.It's a good thing that he didn't make a rash decision in the heat of the moment. It would have been easy to say 'yes' after winning the gold in such spectacular fashion. If Sutter doesn't come back, I hope Team Canada continues to 'handpick' their coaches if they see a quality candidate. Sutter ran the team how HE wanted to run the team, and we were rewarded with great results.
"It's a long time being away from your own team. It's a six month process and as far as being the head coach you really have to be committed to it. I just need some time to sit back. All I know is there's some great coaches in this country that can do it."
5. As powerful as Team Canada was this year, next year's team will be inexperienced and rather 'frosh' compared to this group. Only Cam Barker and Sidney Crosby will be eligible to return in 2006, and both of them may very well be in the NHL (if there is a season). We could be looking at an entirely new team, which could make the difference between a medal finish and a non-medal finish.
Contrast this to the young Finnish squad who will have nine returnees next year, especially 2006-eligible Jesse Joensuu. The Russians will have TEN returnees, although I doubt Evgeni Malkin and Robocop Ovechkin will be available.
6. What's next in Europe? The European Champions Cup (formerly the Super Six, which was a much better name). The league champions from Slovakia (Trencin), Czechia (Zlin), Germany (Frankfurt), Sweden (HV71), Finland (Oulu), and Russia (Omsk) will compete for money and bragging rights.
Trencin's chances are pretty much in the tank after management somehow allowed Gaborik and Hossa to go to Sweden and not return for the tournament. Trencin has too many mediocre Slovak-leaguers to compete well against these other teams. I'll pick Zlin to win since they are a stacked team with great defense, great teamwork, and great goaltending.
7. Meanwhile, in North America, we're just waiting for the NHL or NHLPA to blink and make a move before the NHL Board of Governor meetings. The NHLPA claims it will not make another offer, and is willing to lose a season.
This gives us another opportunity to slug Gary Bettman, who was ranked as the 5th worst business manager by BusinessWeek Magazine.
Of course, things could change if Bettman gets what he wants:
If the league holds out and wins a salary cap -- or even settles for a hefty rollback -- Bettman could end up looking like a shrewd crisis manager. But it was a crisis that should never have happened..Bettman is anything but shrewd, no matter what happens. There has rarely been a case of a public figure being so obviously overmatched by their job. It's just too bad it had to be the NHL, and not the boring NBA.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
CANADA R00lZ, D00D!!! RUSSIA IS TEH SUCK!!
Canada punished Russia for their sins against the USA with a 6-1 pounding tonight! It wasn’t really close, as Canada dominated Russia from the opening whistle. The barrage started just 51 seconds in as Ryan Getzlaf blasted a shot by the flustered Russian goalie, Anton Khudobin, and Canada broke the game open with a 4-goal 2nd period. There were no goals in the 3rd period, as Canada cruised to the easy victory.
It was expected that the Russkis would give Canada it’s toughest competition, but the Canadians outshot the Russians 32-19 and dominated play from start to finish.
Thoughts on the game:
- 1. It all starts with DEFENCE! Coaches can show kids this game as a prime example of how to use great defensive play to create offence and win games. The Canadians were bottling up the Russians perfectly, frustrating the Vodka Boys into making desperate 1-on-3 rushes, which were easily broken up. Canada only gave up 7 goals in 6 games this tournament, and tonight was textbook trap-and-counterattack hockey.
- 2. Ovechkin, a victim of Karma! The Canadians were on Ovechkin’s ass ALL night long, verbally and physically. The abuse took its toll in the 2nd period, when Ovechkin left the ice clutching his shoulder. Ovechkin did not play in the 3rd period, eliminating any little hopes the Russians had of a 5-goal comeback. I hope Ovechkin learned his lesson. To our American friends: You are welcome!
- 3. Best quote of the night from TSN’s Pierre McGuire, talking about the Russian Diving Squad: "These guys go down faster than free beer at a frat party!"
Now, It has to be asked...is this the best Canadian junior team ever? I can’t recall Canada ever steamrolling through EVERY SINGLE TEAM the way Canada has dominated the entire tournament this year. Pierre McGuire gives an absolute yes, and I’ll have to agree with him. The 1996 team had a 25-7 goals for/goals against...but this year's squad finished with a 41-7 goals for/goals against.
Looking at the tournament scores…
7-3 over Slovakia
8-1 over Sweden
9-0 over Germany
8-1 over Finland
3-1 over Czechia
6-1 over Russia
Only the Czechs gave Canada some nervous moments, but Canada outshot them by almost a 4-to-1 margin. Apart from a late-game lapse against Slovakia, and a rough 3rd period against Czechia, Canada pretty much had it’s way with the competition. It’s kind of strange to see that the (7th place) Slovaks were the only team to score more than 1 goal against the Canucks.
Final note: Patrice Bergeron was named Tournament MVP while Dion Phaneuf and Jeff Carter were named to the tournament All-Star team. Carter and Phaneuf become the first Canadians to win this honour in back-to-back seasons.
Congratulations to the Canadians for victory in the 2005 World Junior Championships, their first in 8 years. Let’s hope the victory parade continues when Vancouver hosts the 2006 WJC’s.
…and…Congrats to the Czechs for their bronze medal victory of the host USA squad. The Czechs beat the Americans, 3-2, in an overtime thriller.
The disappointing and ineffective duo of Lukas Kaspar and Jakub Petruzalek was basically demoted to the 4th line for this game. Michael Frolik, the 2006 draft-eligible wizard, and his linemates were promoted and given more ice time in this game. Frolik responded with a goal and assist in regulation time. Amazingly, Rostislav Olesz was held pointless. Thankfully, his linemate Petr Vrana buried the golden nugget in overtime to give the Czechs are well-deserved bronze.
I’m sure to have one more post of comments on the tournament tomorrow or the day after. As I watch Canadian players sing the national anthem (*sniff*, it’s so beautiful), here are the real results versus my predictions:
Wow, pretty damn good. I flipped the result of the Bronze Medal game and had a little difference with Germany and Switzerland…Not that it means anything, but since I usually suck at predictions, I’ll gloat when I can :)