Wednesday, February 28, 2007
What is it with the Canucks playing poorly against lower echelon teams? The Canucks continued sucktitude against the St. Louis Blues is just boggling, to say the least.
Last night's 3-1 loss was another fine example of the Canucks apparently not taking a lesser opponent seriously. Where was the fire, brimstone, and enthusiasm?
Brent Sopel - Had a pretty shaky debut defensively. He seemed to be a step behind his check and I hope it was just a bit of nerves in a new situation.
Smoke and Mirrors - He was alright. He worked hard and seemed to show some decent amount of skill. I think him and Markus Naslund could do more damage together if they weren't stuck with Jan Useless all game. :(
Alex Burrows - I think he needs to be scratched. He's an offensive zero and hasn't been nearly as disciplined as he should. I like his work ethic, but this shouldn't make him bulletproof from the press box. The Canucks need some goals, and Burrows is a negative offensive producer.
I am sometimes guilty of not keeping close enough tabs on the (l)Eastern Conference, so I was a bit taken aback to see the New York Rangers a whole 7 points out of the playoffs. I didn't figure they were doing so poorly.
Then again, check out their top 6 d-men sans Aaron Ward...
Michal Rozsival, Karel Rachunek, Fedor Tyutin, Marek Malik, Thomas Pock, and Daniel Girardi.
Now, I've seen a few tidbits that Ward was dealt because of apparently in-fighting with Herr Jagr.
From The Hockey Rodent:
The most popular question today is whether Aaron Ward was exiled from MSG by edict of Jaromir Jagr and just who is it who's running this team?This wouldn't be the first time, nor the last, that a teammate has ended up having problems with Jaromir and his attitude.
I admit to having an unbalanced perspective on this given that my sole source lives on the other side of the Atlantic Puddle. But word in Prague is that Jagr accepted the context of things said on the bench during the heat of a competitive moment against Tampa and JJ did not hold any grudge against Ward. Jaromir claims to respect players who are as intense about winning as he wishes them to be.
The bitterness appeared to be more harbored by Ward over issues with the team captain. Whether those objections Ward has were justified or not... JJ was disappointed with how Ward handled subsequent exchanges with the press over what went on February 9. If either antagonist was pushing for a trade, it may well have been the defenseman wanting out of what he perceived to be an uncomfortable situation in the Gotham locker room.
Reaction from Oilers fans re: Ryan Smyth
I don’t exactly feel sorry for Oilers fans (and who would?), but I know exactly how they feel. Canucks fans had the exact same feeling when Mike Keenan traded Trevor Linden to the Islanders years ago. Sure, the Canucks got the better end of that bargain, but the trade still hurt a whole lot. Few players have ever had the connection to a city like Linden did with the Canucks.
On the other hand, Ryan Smyth is demanding more money than he is really worth, and his agent is Don Meehan, who is basically the Scott Boras of hockey agents. Given Smyth's age and playing style, he's not the guy to give a huge long-term deal to. Remember John "Chocolate" LeClair?
Covered in Oil:
today's deal is clearly a case of throwing the 30-goal scoring golden baby out with the bath water. I wouldn't call Lowe cheap (how else can you explain the loyalty contracts to Staios or Pisani?) but we're talking a difference of a million dollars: a couple of Toby Petersons, really.
This is Ryan Smyth. The man, who, for the record [tears of pure oil welling up in my eye], I've always felt was a much more important player to the Oilers than Mark Messier.
He was our last shot at a real Stevie Y type: a true blue Oiler with a special failure of imagination to think of playing anywhere else. At one time, I thought things like institutional memory were important, that we weren't just cheering for laundry, the idea that teams could have distinct identities that could span decades.
But alas, the salary cap era has only made players even more expendable. I'm under no illusion that hockey isn't a business, but it's an increasingly cap-fixated, mercenary one, which totally sucks, especially today.
If I close my eyes, I can see Ryan Smyth's ferrety face; his slinky, durable body slipping past a check on the boards; and of course, that small pile of blood and teeth left on the ice during the 2006 playoffs.
Battle of Alberta:
In that sense, it's extremely unlikely that the organization will be haunted by this move. However, if you sense my nodding approval, you are incorrect, as this is precisely my criticism of Lowe. I actually laughed out loud this afternoon when I heard Flames radio guy Rob Kerr say that this took cojones by Kevin Lowe. No. This is the common thread through virtually every move (or, not trivially, non-move) that Kevin Lowe makes.
I honestly don’t know what to say right now but I’ll try and spit out a few things. Eight months removed from nearly winning their sixth stanley cup the Edmonton Oilers traded the face of their franchise for yet another first round pick, that makes three first rounder’s in total in the less then stellar ‘07 crop, a kid who impresses no one in Robert Nilsson and a 19 year old kid pivot in Ryan O’Marra.Ramen to that!
There were more than just a few reasons why most people thought Lowe would never deal Smyth. Reasons like optics first and foremost given just how bad things looked in Edm this past summer when Chris Pronger was dealt. But there was an excuse there given that Pronger demanded a trade. Granted the return seems worse by the game and Lowe would’ve been better off making Pronger take a seat but at least he had an excuse for that horrible deal.
No excuses this time. Lowe f**ked up. Large
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Deadline Day: More Musings
A few more Deadline Day musings...
To St. Louis: Brad Boyes
To Boston: Dennis Wideman
So, the Blues gave up on a young, offensively talented blue-liner quite quickly. Still, I like Boyes and he's the safer bet to perform well in the future. Wideman's future is 'wide open', as he could become the next Peter Ratchuk or a Jason Woolley-lite.
To NYI: Ryan Smyth
To Edmonton: Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra, 1st round pick
Few things surprise me in the hockey world, but Ryan Smyth being traded today is one of them. I never figured "Captain Canada" would be dealt, but I guess the Oilers see the writing on the wall and the price they extracted from the Islanders was too good to pass up. Does this burn the bridge between Smyth and the Oilers?
To Anaheim: Brad May
To Colorado: Michael Wall
What is with Brian Burke's obsession with Brad May? The guy can't score, defend, or even fight well any longer. If this was 10 years ago, it might make sense, but May hasn't been a useful contributor in many years. Sure, the price paid was small, but methinks Burke has an unhealthy like for the guy.
To Boston: Aaron Ward
To NYR: Paul Mara
Wow, Aaron Ward didn't last long. What a steal for the Ruins, though, as they dump a soft lump of lard in Mara and get something useful.
Why did the Rangers want Mara, anyway? Do they miss the softness they used to have in Tom Poti and Sandis Ozolinsh??
Mara has a career -104 in 483 games, which really does help tell the story about his 'defensive' skill.
To Detroit: Kyle Calder
To Chicago: Jason Williams
To Philly: Lasse Kukkonen, 3rd round pick
Wow, that Handzus trade really turned out great for the Flyers *chuckle*. Now, am I missing something here?
Sure, Williams' production has slowed down to just 26 points this year, but why Kyle Calder? D00d's been a complete bust with Philly (21 points and a -31) and has been a lumbering oaf of complacency all season long. A bit of a headscratcher.
Todd Bertuzzi to the Wings. Get Your Hate On!
I'm not going to bother commenting on every single deal, as there are other sites to view that sort of thing and I don't take the day off of work to watch the Deadline Day madness.
Still, how can I pass on the opportunity to comment on the fact that Todd Bertuzzi, aka Grumpy Bear, is now heading to Detroit to play for the Red Wings.
I didn't think it was possible to hate that team any more than I do, but here we are, and the lazy prick with attitude problems has left Florida after playing only 7 uninspired games with the Panthers.
Oh, how delicious this is...
TSN is reporting
Todd Bertuzzi's stay in the Sunshine State could be short-lived, as the Florida Panthers have agreed on a package to trade the veteran power forward to the Detroit Red Wings.How will the Wings react to having this guy on the roster? Remember how Bertuzzi pasted Chris Chelios to the boards a few years back during the Cloutier-choke playoff series?
In return, Detroit gets a conditional draft pick and a prospect.
Bertuzzi, 31, is in the final season of a four-year, $27.8 million contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Unless the Canucks have to face the Wings, in which Bertuzzi might actually give a damn, I wouldn't be all that scared of this club. The Wings haven't been getting great goaltending from Hasek (yet) and Bertuzzi, even if he does come back, is hardly worth ph33ring any longer.
We'll wait and see what the Panthers get back. Maybe they can actually recover a little something from the Luongo debacle.
So, prospect Shawn Matthias (who?) and some conditional picks is what the Panthers get. We'll have to wait and see what the final price is, but I wish Jiri Hudler was included. Poor guy will never get a fair shake in Detroit.
Guerin Goes to the Sharks
So, the Blues finally found a taker for Bill Guerin in the San Jose Sharks and have added another 1st round pick (albeit a low one in a weak draft) to their stockpile.
Guerin has been decent for the Blues this year with 28 goals (team leading), 19 assists, and a +6 in 61 games. He obviously showed a much better performance with the Blues than he did with the Stars, and the Blues end up getting some nice assets for essentially a free agent rental.
Looks like another good deal for the Blues.
So, the throw-ins were forward Ville Nieminen and forward prospect Jay Barriball.
Nieminen is a guy I can live without, as he's not all that great defensively and often very undisciplined (only 14PIM this year, strangely enough, but -7 in 30 games with just 2 points).
Barriball is a 7th round pick of the Sharks and is a tiny little package at like 4'2" and 85 pounds. I wouldn't expect much from him.
Still, a 1st round pick for a rental is a good haul and the Blues continue a pretty steady rebuild. If anything, the Blues are doing a good job of drafting and acquiring prospect assets to build with.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Canucks Getting Busy as Trade Deadline Nears
The Vancouver Canucks have made a nice trio of moves today to improve their playoff aspirations.
1. They waived Marc Chouinard, the lanky and sluggish offensive-challenged center who was sucky on faceoffs, despite that being his best asset. Marc was one of the most anonymous Canucks of all time and won't really be missed. He was a decent PK specialist, but still a disappointment overall.
2. The Canucks sent a 2nd round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft to the Chickenhawks for Brian "Smoke and Mirrors" Smolinski.
3. The Canucks sent a 2nd round pick in the 2007 or 2008 Entry Draft and a 4th round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft for ex-Canuck Brent Sopel.
Smoke and Mirrors was a player I derided for many years (hence the nickname) for his rather lazy work ethic and non-chalant attitude on the ice. I must admit, however, that he's still proven to be a decent 2-way player who adds some good experience and can play decently in any situation.
YEAR TEAM GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2005-2006 OTT 81 17 31 48 8 46
2006-2007 CHI 62 14 23 37 10 29
Sopel? He was an adventure when he was here the first time, and he has some of the best hockey hair of all time. I remember when he bulked up 30 pounds over one summer *cough*steroids*cough*, and came back skating slower than Wade Belak after drinking 30 gallons of water.
Still, he was never better then he was with the Canucks, and may be able to find a comfort zone here. We don't really need his right-handed blast, but he offers a decent 2-way d-man that is miles better than Rory Fitzpatrick and more reliable than Lukas Don't Krajicek. I always felt Sopel was far too maligned during his tenure here, as people focused too much on his giveaways and not enough on his good aspects. Basically, he's a lot like Bieksa without quite as much fiestiness.
YEAR TEAM GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2005-2006 LOS 11 0 1 1 -4 6
NYI 57 2 25 27 -9 64
2006-2007 LOS 44 4 19 23 2 14
Overall, the Canucks improve offensively, defensively, and deal away only draft picks. This was all made possible as Ryan Kesler was put in the long-term DL, negating his massive salary from the Canucks' cap. Given the insane market these past few days, the Canucks come out pretty well compared to the Thrashees.
Two thumbs up!
Sabres Fans Are 'Fine' With Helping Lindy Ruff
Are Sabres fans nuts? Yeah, we've always known that...
They are taking fanaticism to a whole new level...
The Sabres stood up for their teammate when a vicious hit on Chris Drury sparked a wild donnybrook in Thursday's rip-roaring tilt between Buffalo and the Ottawa Senators.
Now some fans are sticking up for coach Lindy Ruff and their beloved hockey club.
A Town of Tonawanda man says he wants to collect money from businesses and the team's supporters to pay off the $10,000 fine slapped on Ruff by the National Hockey League.
"The fan base is behind the team. It was a cheap hit. It shouldn't have been a fine," said Patrick Ruffino, who will hold a fundraiser in an Elmwood Avenue pizzeria next week.
This may be the latest sign of how Sabres-crazy this town has gone, but it's not Ruffino's first sports fundraising campaign. In 1993, he successfully lobbied the Bills to keep "Shout" as the team's anthem after hefty royalty fees threatened its fate.
The Sabres released a statement late Sunday saying fans should not send in money because the team will pay Ruff's fine. But a team official said the club is glad Ruffino and others are so fired up about the Sabres.
"I think it's just another example of how loyal our fans are and how much this team has captured the hearts and minds of this community," spokesman Michael Gilbert told The Buffalo News.
Thursday night's melee grabbed the attention of local fans and the national sports media.
It started when Ottawa winger Chris Neil blindsided Drury after the Sabre forward already had shot the puck.
Drury flipped through the air, losing his helmet and hitting his head hard on the ice.
One teammate immediately went after Neil. Ruff then sent his toughest players onto the ice with the instructions to, he later admitted, "Go out and run 'em."
All 12 players on the ice - including both goalies - got involved in the scrap, while both coaches swore at each other from the teams' benches.
Ruffino watched the game and said Ruff acted appropriately under the circumstances.
The league saw it differently.
"The actions of his players - call it what you want, call it bullying - they just did the wrong thing," Colin Campbell, the league's disciplinarian, said.
On BfloBlog.com, a local sports-oriented blog, several writers bluntly criticized the Ruff fine.
"Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the NHL pulls a bone-head stunt like this. Wow," Howie Mansfield wrote in a comment on the site.
Ruffino decided to set up the Lindy Ruff Fine Committee - with Ruffino as chairman - and is asking fans to donate money to cover the penalty.
"It's not an issue of the $10,000," said the Erie County Health Department employee. "It's the principle of it."
1. Given how much Lindy Ruff makes in comparison to the average Buffalonian, why would any one of the fans feel the need to donate to Ruff's 'cause'?
2. Good on the Sabres management for paying the fine for Ruff. Ruff was doing what he thought was 'right' to protect his players and stick up for them. It's obvious that the Sabres players have a lot of respect for Ruff and the management is proving their support for their coach by paying the fine for him. How would you like it if your boss stuck out your neck for you and then had it chopped off by the CEO?
3. Chris Drury wouldn't have lost his helmet in the first place if the frickin CHIN STRAP WAS ACTUALLY FASTENED TIGHTLY LIKE IT SHOULD BE!! When are these idiot players going to learn that a helmet is useless if your chin strap is hanging down to your shinpads?
4. "Shout"? Who in the hell really wants that as a team anthem?
5. Colin Campbell, as an ex-player, must have been churning inside when he said that quote. He knows better, and is probably right under the thumb of Bettman and his lawyer cronies to dole out a fine despite his personal wishes.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Atlanta: The Tradingest City in the U.S.
Gosh, the things you miss with a hangover. I woke up to find the Thrashers have now dealt a handful of picks and Glen Metropolit for Keith Tkachuk.
Disappointing for the legions who shelled out for a Metropolit jersey, but other than that, it's a lot better than last night's deal. I'm not a big fan of Tkachuk's personality, but he can score, he can play some center, and what else was really out there? He's never had much playoff success, true, but ... oh, hell, I'll stop this before I depress myself.
Waddell's obviously hell-bent on making a splash. And keeping his job. Figure this is it now -- I don't think there's any cap space left.
The Flyers made up for a very puzzling move by totally larcening the Thrashees out of Braydon Coburn. Why did the Flyers trade for Zhitnik in the first place? Well, perhaps they were ahead of the game and saw they could flip Zhitnik into something better at the deadline. We may see the lower ESCHElon teams like the Flyers use a bit of cap space, trade for vets early in the season, and flip them later for a good return.
It's just amazing how the market for rentals has skyrocketed like real estate prices in Vancouver.
Now? The Blues seem to be the best at milking the system. They got a 1st rounder for Doug Weight last year (and then signed him back), and got another 1st+benefits out of Keith Tkachuk. I wonder how much the two-headed Pleau/Davidson monster can get for Bill Guerin.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Thrashers Make Move
Just got Alexei Zhitnik from the Flyers for Braydon Coburn. Quite a price to pay -- geez, it really is a seller's market this year.
Good lord, Don Waddell looks absolutely awful -- beet-red face, downcast, the same demeanor one usually associates with a funeral. He pretty bluntly stated that more moves are coming. He said he wouldn't consider anyone on the roster safe.
After another crappy game tonight, they sure needed something. I like Zhitnik. But for pete's sake, I hope a center is still coming.
Editing this a bit later -- this is really starting to seem like a bad move. Zhitnik's got, what, 25 points? They just gave up perhaps their biggest bargaining chip, and didn't address their biggest need. Ugh.
Petr the Great
I didn't realize Hockey Rants was starting a global trend way back when, with unabashed Petr Tenkrat fandom.
But a commenter pointed out that over at HFBoards -- they've now got the Official Petr Tenkrat Appreciation Thread. I thought I was a big fan of the guy, but I didn't know half of that stuff.
How did Petr celebrate? By going right out and, uh, twisting his ankle. He'll miss tonight's Bruins-Panthers game. Fame is a cruel mistress.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Raleigh Prepares for Tarantula Invasion
It looks like Anson "Tarantula Head" Carter is on the move again...no real surprise, as the Dinner Jackets were eliminated from the playoffs before the season even began.
The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired the veteran winger from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a fifth round draft pick in 2008.And since Sillinger has that expensive 3-year contract, it's likely Carter could catch up to him in the near future.
Carter has 10 goals and 17 assists in 53 games with the Blue Jackets this season. In 663 career games with the Blue Jackets, Canucks, Kings, Capitals, Rangers, Oilers and Bruins, Carter has totals of 201 goals and 219 assists.
This is the seventh time Carter has been traded, second only behind Mike Sillinger (traded 10 times) among active NHL players.
Is this good for the Canes? Well, a 5th round pick is really cheap and there is little risk involved other than giving Carter TOO much ice time and not getting production.
I just don't see how the already powerful-at-forward Canes really need a guy like Carter, but it might just be enough to ensure they make the playoffs at all.
When Beating a Ref is a Good Thing
Being beaten up during a hockey game may have been the best thing to happen to Saskatchewan referee Dale Neudorf.
If a player hadn't cross-checked him in the face with a hockey stick on Sunday and sent him to hospital, doctors may never have discovered the large tumour in his brain.
Doctors spotted the growth while taking an X-ray and a CT scan of Neudorf's brain to make sure he wasn't seriously injured in the on-ice attack near the northern community of Meadow Lake.
The concussion has left Neudorf with no memory of the assault at a recreational tournament on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, a reserve about 350 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.So, was Todd Bertuzzi doing Steve Moore a favour by assaulting him from behind? 0_o
The assault occurred during a game between Waterhen and Pelican Lake First Nations teams in a tournament that didn't allow contact.
According to a Pelican Lake player, who wishes to remain unnamed, Waterhen player Nolan Crighton, 21, was involved in several physical altercations and showed signs of inebriation throughout the game before Neudorf ejected him. Crighton responded with profanities and then used his hockey stick to cross-check Neudorf in the face with a force that drove his head into the boards, according to the player. Nolan is said to have then jumped on the unconscious referee and crosschecked him about four more times until other players pulled him away.
"I don't know if there's any part of me that's mad. People have to live with the consequences of the decisions they make," said Neudorf, who had refereed the player in minor hockey for almost a decade. "Holding a grudge doesn't do anyone any good."
Nolan's father Alan Crighton said his son is a known scrapper, but going after a referee is out of his character.
Crighton remains at-large despite an RCMP arrest warrant that includes charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
It's nice to see this story has a happy ending of sorts, but perhaps there should be steps in place to stop players from playing DRUNK.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
NHL Defeats Common Sense Once Again
Perhaps we should call it 'uncommon sense', since most people don't seem to possess common sense.
Yes, the NHL, once again, did the WRONG thing and rejected a 3-point system for games.
As it stands right now, not every NHL game is equal. Some games give 2 points to a clear-cut winner, while others give out 3 points (2 to the OT/SO winner and the other to the loser).
It seems like a simple problem to fix...
3 points for a regulation win
2 points for a OT/SO win
1 point for a OT loss
Voila!! Every game is worth 3 points.
Yet, the NHL GMs spout of their usual brand of krap:
"Because it's a terrible idea," Anaheim general manager Brian Burke said Wednesday as three days of GM meetings wrapped up. "That's why it didn't have any support."Terrible idea??? This is coming from the guy who wants Power Plays to be just a minute long in OT?? C'mon Burkie, you ought to be smarter than this!
Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, says the game needs a breather from the constant change.
"It's time to establish continuity, you can't keep making changes," he said. "Let' s not confuse the fans."
Said Burke: "We made some radical changes when we came back from the work stoppage. The game is faster, the game is better, and the game is more entertaining. If something ain't broke, there's no reason to try and fix it."
"I think we've had too much change of late," said New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. "It's a good game, let's enjoy it."
Oh, I see. The NHL has been going spastic with major changes (That nobody asked for) for years, and suddenly now Jean-Luc Picard says "The line must be drawn HERE!"
What a crock!
If you have something that is 'broken', you damn well fix it!!
The trapezoids?? What the hell was that for? THAT was a useless change.
Fixing the current system of standings madness is something that needs to be done, lest the NHL wants to look like the biggest joke in North Amerikan sports. YEah, the fans are just going to be SO confused. How could they ever figure out a new set of standings... trust me, fans can remember exactly how many beers they had at a Ducks/Kings back in 2003, and they can certainly learn a new set of standings (which are less confusing than the dreck they use now).
It's just amazing how the NHL has ever succeeded given the headless chickens running the operation.
Edit: Hockey Analysis presents a very simple, but thought-provoking analysis of the current point scheme vs. the old point scheme vs. the 3-point scheme.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Hockey Can Help Britney
Britney Spears is quickly catching up to Michael Jackson in terms of singers who publicly destroy themselves before our very eyes.
The crotch-flashing singer hit rock bottom this week as she went into a salon and shaved her own head. If you haven't been following this story, welcome back from the cave.
The saddest part? Nobody seems to want to help her.
Her bodyguards? They just sit there and hold her hand while she gets another bad tattoo or two.
Her family? Too busy cashing her royalties cheques.
The paparazzi? They just keep pushing and pushing and lap this crap up like a thirsty dog.
K-Fed? He's too busy promoting his highly successful debut rap album.
Fortunately, the great sport of Hockey is here to rescue the day for Britney Spears.
An American Hockey League team is offering pop star Britney Spears a break from the party scene and paparazzi madness in Hollywood - an all-expenses paid trip to snowy Syracuse.I'm thinking most fans would flee for the exits if Britney was to screech some new material..
And fans of the Syracuse Crunch are also getting a Britney offer: women who shave their head will get into Saturday's game against the visiting Manitoba Moose for free. Howard Dolgon, owner and president of the Crunch, said Tuesday he would be happy to fly Spears in, cover her hotel and meals and give her the best seats in the house at Crunch games.
The team said the invitation is an effort to "provide tranquillity" for the pop star's "turbulent lifestyle."
"In addition to being 3,000 miles away from Hollywood, Syracuse is light years away from that pretentious environment," Dolgon said in a statement.
"There won't be paparazzi within 100 miles."
The team has yet to hear back from Spears. If she does accept, each member of the team's front office staff will shave their heads.
Dolgon said he hopes Britney's behaviour will continue to be unpredictable - and that she'll actually take the team up on its offer.
"Hopefully we'll get her on the ice, teach her how to skate maybe, and maybe she'll have a post-game practice with the team," he said in an interview.
"If she'd like to belt out a few songs to get warmed up or try some new material out on our fans, I'm sure they'd be more than happy to listen to her."
Are women actually crazy enough to shave their heads in order to get free tickets to an AHL game? No, not unless they are leukemia victims.
Still, this is good and free publicity for the Crunch. If only Britney would take them up on that offer...
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Petr the Obscure
So, yeah, contemplating my teams as they stand makes me want to drink a whole lot and then curl up in the fetal position and cry (granted, not much different than what I do on a normal day-to-day basis, hockey notwithstanding).
With 2007 looking so grim, please allow me to look backwards for solace – to the early 1990s, and perhaps the most obscure player that ranks among my all-time favorites.
I was living down in southern Arizona in the early 1990s, which had few options for satisfying a hockey jones -- the University of Arizona Icecats, and up Interstate 10 a couple hours, the Phoenix Roadrunners of the International Hockey League. For one season, among those Roadrunners and their shiny jerseys, was a big defenseman with an unpronouncable name. In those inexplicable ways one chooses favorites (this was long before my fandom started skewing toward Czechs -- a glimpse of the future, I guess), I adopted Petr Prajsler as my favorite Roadrunner.
By that point, he'd had two years of solid AHL experience (with the New Haven Nighthawks) and one partial year with the Kings, and not really knowing how these things worked, I was pretty sure that his time in Phoenix was limited, and he'd be on to greater things soon. Well, I was half right -- his time in Phoenix was limited because he would be in the Bruins' organization the next season.
Still, though, on an IHL level he seemed like a great player. Scored a lot, and was pretty physical (in the era of the wild-and-wooly IHL -- a quick check shows that Prajsler's 140 penalty minutes that season ranked sixth on the team, well below Rick Hayward's 369).
Prajsler was one of the last Czech defectors -- a top-level player with HC Pardubice, he was drafted by the Kings in 1985, then he and his wife used a Yugoslavia vacation in 1987 to sneak to Austria, where they then contacted the Kings and came over.
With all that, it's a pity that his story didn't end better. His biggest NHL season proved to be 34 games with the Kings in 1989-90, and after spending the 1991-92 season in the Bruins organization (where he had a pretty good year with the Maine Mariners), it was back to his hometown team, Hradec Kralove. In the late 1990s he was a coach with Czech club HC Chotebor, and since then he's pretty much vanished. (Well, not literally -- he still lives in Hradec Kralove -- but he doesn't seem to be involved in hockey.)
He left behind two stories. One was a fight with Kelly Buchberger -- after taking some harassment from the Oiler, he punched Bucky in the face, dropping him (perhaps a sign that Buchberger wasn't too popular outside Edmonton -- if you read the accounts of this fight, most are pretty gleeful, even though Prajsler didn't bother taking off the gloves). The other, the words of a former NHL scout, relayed to me years later when I revealed my Prajsler fandom: "When asked what was the strangest thing he'd ever seen on the ice, the scout thought for a moment, then replied 'Petr Prajsler.'" I've been a bit bitter about that story for years.
And one more story, showing how Petr had wormed his way into my subconscious: years later, while drunk, I shelled out a whole bunch of money to buy his game-worn jersey off the internet. It still resides in a place of honor today. Na zdraví, Petr, wherever you are!
NHL: Is the 'New' Standard Starting to Erode?
It happens most every season without fail: The refs crack down hard on obstruction early in the season, and then let up later in the season, claiming the 'players are adjusting'.
Last season, such adjustment was not so pronounced, but now the media and some fans are starting to wonder if we're slowly, and surely, crawling back to the 'dark ages' of hooking, holding, and water skiing.
From John MacKinnon, The Edmonton Journal:
Wasn't the crackdown on obstruction supposed to let the speed and skill flow freely in the New NHL? As a byproduct, it cut fighting almost in half last season. This year, turning the tough guy loose is re-emerging as the way to provide some space for the skill players, just like the good old days.While Sidney Crosby does get a lot of attention, he also brings a lot on himself by the style he plays. I can't say he gets an undue amount of 'love' from the likes of Derian Hatcher.
Much has been made of the liberties taken with the league-leading scorer, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. But, curiously, Penguins GM Ray Shero is not among the posse who want to change the instigator rule.
At least one head coach, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, sounded alarm bells during the all-star break about what he perceives as the rising level of unpenalized obstruction fouls. Rather than echo his concern, other coaches have voiced the view that so-called "soft penalties" be overlooked, or at least called less rigorously. Tilting back in the direction of the old-fashioned situation ethics of the past, in other words.
This is not something I've watched closely over the past few months, but I have noticed that a few 'borderline' incidents are not being called as penalties, while they likely would have been last season.
Are we crawling back to the dark ages? I'd like some of your thoughts and maybe somebody has some numbers to suggest, one way or another, what the standard of obstruction really is. I hate chinsy penalties, but I'd also hate to see a return to the good times for the sloths like Derian Hatcher and Brendan Witt.
Instigating Real Change in the NHL?
The instigator penalty has always been a complete fallacy. If you allow fighting (and the NHL basically does), why would you unduly punish the initiating party for starting it?
As it stands right now, not only does a player get booted from the game, but they earn a 2-game suspension if they get 3 instigators.
Well, this issue has been a bone of contention for many folks out there, from the Rock 'Em Sock'Em Don Cherry, to the fighting-is-ebil Mike Bossy.
It was nice to hear the NHL GMs were discussing the issue, instead of bickering over revenue sharing or ways to avoid going to the nightclubs with Gary Bettman.
Currently the rules stipulate that a player who picks up three instigator penalties warrants a two-game suspension. Some GMs believe that makes it too difficult for tough guys to protect their star teammates.So, the GM's weren't actually talking about SCRAPPING the stupid game-misconduct and suspension part entirely *sigh*... solving an issue half way is such a cop-out
"That's an agenda item that I requested," Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke said after the first day wrapped up at a posh resort hotel. "I think we need to raise the number of instigator penalties a player can take before getting suspended. I do not favour the elimination of the penalty but I think we've got to get to five or six (instigator penalties) before a player gets suspended so they can do their jobs and protect their teammates."
Through Feb. 15. there were 47 instigator penalties handed out this season, up from 39 through the same number of games last season.
Ben Eager of the Philadelphia Flyers is the only player to have earned the two-game suspension so far this season for earning three instigators, but the issue with some GMs is that some players get two instigators and are hesitant to drop the gloves.
"So the question is, when a guy is at two instigator penalties, does it affect him to say, `I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to protect my guy. I'm not going to protect my goalie because I'm going to be suspended.' That was really the debate today," said Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean.
Of course, there are the idiot GM's out there that suck the teat of Bettman's milk
"I do think there's enough time in the game to play tough and deliver that message appropriately," echoed Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson. "I do think it would be hard to go backwards in terms of vigilance against it."
...said the GM who has never played an NHL game.
So, in the end, don't expect anything good to be done in that regard.
One interesting idea was put forth by Brian Burke: the idea of going to one-minute penalties in overtime...
"I don't know how far that one's going to get," said Burke. "The logic of it, obviously, if you take a tripping penalty in the first period it's 10 per cent of the period and it's a 5-on-4 power play."It's easy to see Burke's logic, but I feel a penalty should be a full penalty no matter what time of the game it is. It's bad enough that refs tend to let up late in the games and OT anyway, so why make a penalty less of a penalty just because it's OT? You SHOULD punish teams for taking dumb penalties at such a point of the game.
"That same foul in overtime is 40 per cent of the period and it's a 4-on-3 power play which has a dramatically higher conversion rate. So to me it makes sense. But I'm not sure my logic will carry the day here."
Monday, February 19, 2007
NyQuil Dreams and DayQuil Delusions
Damn this cold!! If only I had taken $3,000 worth of ColdFX, I might be OK...the ramblings of a stuffed up blogger.
Vincent Lecavalier! Here's a name that doesn't get a lot of attention these days.
For the longest time, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards were the superior players down in TBay and Prince Vince wasn't living up to his potential.
This season? Vincent is first in goals with 39, second in points with 80, and even has 3 short-handed goals to his credit. HE's also cut down on the stupid penalties, and has just 38 minutes to his name this year. Between him. St. Louis, and Brad Richards, the Lightning have an amazing trio of scorers that stay out of the box. If only they had the defence and goaltending to go along with that...
Looking at the standings, Greg's Avalanche are 'just' 9 points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand. That's 4 wins and an OT loss. Seems doable, right?
Well, looking at James Mirtle's "Push for 95", we see the Avs need a 17-5-1 run to get to the magical 95 mark, while the Canucks need just 11-11-1 and the Wild need a 13-9-0 mark.
The Canucks and Wild...getting those records seems very easy to do for them. Can you imagine the Avalanche suddenly getting hot and going 17-5-1, especially with their goaltending issues? Can you imagine the Oilers getting the 17-6 record they need with their defensive problems?
Yeah, these teams are pretty much done. How do you feel, as a fan of such a team...do you give up now? Keep going until the math gods say you are eliminated? Cheer against the Avs and hope they get a better draft position?
Lidstrom, Souray, Gonchar, Niedermayer, Kaberle, Visnovsky, Boyle, Pronger, Whitney, McCabe.
Yeah, that's RYAN Whitney, who is 9th in defensemen scoring with 43 points in 58 games. While Malkin, Recchi, Gonchar, and Crosby get most of the attention, Ryan Whitney has quietly put up a great season and has made awesome strides both offensively and defensively.
Sure, Lidstrom has a higher +38 (Which is amazing given who he plays against every night), but would you ever expect a Tom Preissing to be second? There always seems to be one defenseman that just had a gaudy +/- out of the blue.
Speaking of such defensemen, Marek Malik is at it again with a +21.
His past 4 seasons? +23, +35, +28, +21. I am guessing that is the highest 4-year total in the NHL.
Simon Gagne: 31 GOALS, 18 ASSISTS
Jordan Staal: 24 GOALS, 6 ASSISTS
On the flip side, Henrik Sedin definitely gets the Care Bear Helper Award with 8 goals and 48 assists. Ales Hemsky (shooooooot!) is a distant 2nd with 9 goals and 37 assists.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Hope Dies Last
Figures -- soon as I say "that's it -- Avalanche are done -- wait 'til next year," the team starts showing signs of life. Peter Budaj shuts out the
So natch, mere days after writing them off, I'm starting to feel those faint stirrings of hope again. Tapeleg wrote a bit about his inability to root for the team to fail, which I totally understand. But in the end, should they somehow creep in to the playoffs (and they're now almost even with Edmonton for the number nine spot), I don't see them being able to pull off a surprising run in the manner of last year's Oilers.
I'd rather see Colorado blow things up a bit, write off this season, and start moving forward, rather than hovering around the 7-8 spots for a few years, always trading for a couple vets at the deadline then accomplishing nothing in the playoffs. It won't be easy to dump players, sure -- especially Theodore and his ridiculous contract -- but it's time to let the playoff streak die a natural death, and take a cue from the 2003-04 Rangers.
That said: I'll be watching the Avalanche tonight, rooting for another blow to the Flames. There's a disconnect between knowing something is good for me and actually wanting it to happen.
Hockey Rants' Anonymous Commenter Hall of Fame
Despite my l33t ninja skills, I couldn't escape the tag by Robert over at Eyes on the Prize, who asked to see the best of the worst anonymous commenters on this blog.
Well, my memory is shot from years of NyQuil abuse, and I've deleted a few 'choice' comments, so I'm going to have to go to my favourite thread over at The Sidney Crosby Show: The Infamous GQ Thread.
Here's your "winner"...
sidney's bringing sexy back, i want to bight your lips, i want to pour chocolate all over your body and slowly lick it off, will you marry me? well if you don't want to marry me can you atleast screw me once. if you're ready for some fun, look for me behind the leafs bench when you visit toronto. j'aime tadore. YOUR BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!Hmm, who is the Leafs backup goalie these days, anyway?
Some good runner-uppers..
Ok.. Hockey is not about looks but about talent... and Crosby has TONS of Talent... and only in his Sophmore year of hockey!!!Yes, sir!! It is our duty, after all..
But if he decides to take off his shirt, it's our duty to look at him...... he's not so hard pn the ice!
basically I just want to say... I want him on me hahahaha! Wasn't expecting a rockin bod like that but damn it doesn't hurt my feelings any that he does. This boy haunts my dreams. Yum yum ;p Also I'd like to point out that he is an amazing player! People don't give him enough credit because he's just a kid but he's gotta start somewhere!Haunts your dreams? 0_o
He is not all about looks, but he is very nice to look at I must admit, he appeals to guys as well as girls:-)
According to my IP tracker, this one was posted in Washington, DC. So, I'm guessing it's either JP of Japers Rink, Alexander Ovechkin, or Ted Leonsis.
To spread the joy, I'll tag The Acid Queen (Welcome back!) and my co-blogger, Greg.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Forsberg a Pred
Them's the reports, at least... more to come...
The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Peter Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a first round pick and a third round pick, sources tell The Canadian Press.
update update: I planned to do all sorts of amazing analysis, but, well, I'm at work. And it's hairy. I'm sure Jes will drop some serious science later -- in the meantime, James Mirtle does a nice job of breaking it down.
(Here comes Jes on the backcheck)
Talk about selling the mansion to rent a cottage!! The Preds are obviously going all-in on a straight flush like the Carolina Hurricanes did last year.
With some serious offensive firepower up front, and great goaltending, the Predators are one scary looking team at the moment. They are already 2nd overall in goal scoring and sport the best goal differential in the league (+55)
Here's how their team looks now..
LW C RW
Kariya Forsberg Sullivan
Erat Arnott Dumont
Hartnell Legwand Radulov
Nichol Fiddler Smithson/Tootoo
If this move doesn't generate some ticket sales and excitement in Nashville, just give it up and move the frickin' team!
Let's not also forget that the Flyers get a great return on a guy they signed as a free agent and were likely to lose... that's a lot for 'nothing'.
On another note, it seems Sportsnet didn't do much of a job of fading out The Fraud's face...
Nice beret, buddy! I guess Klessel's 'cover' is finally blown on national TV.
A look-see at the NHL's Goaltenders
Martin Brodeur - (55GP 35-15-5, 2.07GAA, 92.7%)
I've been oft-critical of Martin Brodeur, the goaltender with the golden horseshoe up his arse. While he has always piled up the big win totals and made the most out of great situations, he's rarely ever been among the true top 3 in the league in any one season. He's got a nice Vezina replica on his trophy shelf, but it wasn't really deserved.
This season? He's actually got an amazing case for the Vezina, and has truly never played better. He's second in the league with a 92.7SV%, first in shutouts with 10(!), first in wins (35), and first in GAA with 2.07.
He's faced 27.89 shots per 60 minutes, which is a much higher rate than what's he has been used to in past years, and has kept the Devils on a successful path despite many roster deletions over the past couple of seasons.
I'll give him his props, he definitely is Vezina-worthy this season.
Roberto Luongo - (54GP 32-18-3, 2.34GAA, 92.1SV%)
At the start of the season, Luongo was really struggling and was definitely not the "Luongod" we expected. Fortunately, the fans here were willing to cut him some slack (very rare for any goaltender) and supported Luongo through his adjustment period. I guess the fans (as I did) figured Luongo would find himself eventually, and he certainly did.
I don't often pump goalies for the MVP, but Luongo has a great case based on the "Most valuable to his team" argument. No goalie has faced more shots on goal this year (1553, 29.60 per 60 minutes), and no goalie has had quite the profound effect on his team, not even Brodeur. Want to know where the Canucks would be with Dan Cloutier back in net? Sniffing the Blue Jackets' asses like a dog.
Sometimes, the best laid plans go to waste, and a backup goalie ends up supplanting the "#1" and doing a much better job.
Ray Emery: 41GP 24-13-2, 2.40GAA, 92.3SV%
Martin Gerber: 21GP 9-9-1, 2.92GAA, 90.4SV%
...and this isn't the first time Gerber has been usurped. You'd think Ottawa would have looked at Gerber's real numbers from last year before shelling out millions....
Peter Budaj: 35GP 17-13-3, 2.67GAA, 90.9SV%
Jose Theodore: 27GP 10-12-1, 3.30GAA, 89.2SV%
As a Canucks fan, I'm quite happy that the Colorado Avalanche were dumb enough to dress the shell-shocked Theodore so often to justify his large salary. If the Avs played Budaj more than they have, they'd likely be in a playoff spot.
The best true tandem? That would be the Nashville Predators. When Tomas Vokoun went down with a long-term injury earlier this season, there was much panic in the land that produces really bad "country" music.
Instead, Chris Mason came in and did an ever better job than Vokoun. Given Mason's numbers from last season, it's not a huge surprise...
Chris Mason: 33GP, 21-9-2, 2.35GAA, 92.7SV%
Tomas Vokoun: 27GP, 18-7-1, 2.38GAA, 92.1SV%
Who has the easiest goaltending job in the NHL? That would be Dominik "Smoker's Teeth" Hasek, who faces a measly 22.53 shots per 60 minutes. He has the very shiny wins (30), GAA (2.08), and gets a load of positive press. What the press doesn't seem to notice is his league-average 90.8SV%.
Still, the Wings are doing the smart thing by keeping Hasek from getting fatigued and tearing up his groin during the season. All the Wings need is for Hasek to 'be there' when the playoffs start.
Sometimes, a good offence isn't enough...
Q: What do the Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, and Tampa Bay Lightning all have in common?
A: Great goal scoring and crappy goaltending! All 3 teams have littered the scoring leaderboards with offensive firepower (Whitney, St. Louis, Lecavalier, Hossa, Kovalchuk, etc...), and are struggling to achieve a great deal of success.
The Hurricanes rank 8th in goals for and 22nd in goals against.
The Lightning rank 10th in goals for 20th in goals against
The Thrashees rank 11th in goals for and 25th in goals against.
Somehow, the Tampa Bay Lightning thought that bringing in a guy who could barely handle the #1 duties for the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the solution to their goaltending problems. Huh??!?! Well, he didn't work out so well, so they got some generic Swedish guy to take over...
Marc Denis: 30GP 11-13-2, 3.15GAA, 88.0SV% (2nd worst)
Johan Holmqvist: 33GP 21-11-10, 2.64GAA, 90.1SV% (Winning despite a poor SV%)
The Carolina Hurricanes were smart to let the Sens overpay for Martin Gerber, but fooled into thinking Cam Ward could handle the #1 duties.
While his cup ring will earn Ward a LOT of leeway, it was always hard for me to ignore his really bad regular season numbers last year. He got hot at the right time, and it was hard to project if he could hold his playoff performance into the regular season.
Cam Ward: 46GP 24-14-6, 2.88GAA, 89.9SV%
The Thrashees? Well, Kari Lehtonen's final fantasy is giving out just-below-average goaltending with a statline of 51GP 25-17-8, 2.88GAA, 90.8SV%.
Unlike Hasek, who can sleep through half of his games, Kari faces a whopping 31.51 shots per game! Kari isn't carrying the team, but you can't blame him for the Thrashers inattention to defence.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Nashville: Not Working Out
Despite this, they rank 23rd overall in attendance with an average of 14,727 per game, below such markets as Atlanta, Anaheim, and even Florida.
While the Preds have a good base of hardcore supporters, they don't really have much else. The corporate support just isn't there, and there way too many other entertainment options in that city. Your average Nashville country boy is likely to spend their nights drinking away their sorrows at a country bar, rather than fork over $100 to see Martin Erat pass the puck to Paul Kariya.
With that, Preds owner Craig Leopold is back on the corporate welfare bandwagon, threatening to move the club if the taxpayer's don't give him a free gift.
From Al Strachan's FoxSports column...
Craig Leipold often has his hand out, to both Nashville taxpayers and the NHL.Oblivion being Winnipeg, Manitoba.
You can take a boat. You can take a plane. You can take a powder. You can take Dr. Seuss' famous zike-bike or crunk-car. It doesn't matter. Just go. We're sick of you.
This is a franchise that has done nothing but whine since it came into the National Hockey League. Its continued presence doesn't warrant the aggravation.
It has been given every opportunity to succeed, but like the stereotypical spoiled brat, it continues to blame others for its failures — and then stick out its hand.
The latest assault upon our sensibilities came last week with the announcement that if attendance doesn't skyrocket by 25% for the rest of the season, owner Craig Leipold will be in a position to demand a further $2 million from beleaguered Nashville taxpayers and lay the groundwork to move elsewhere.
To this, we say: Please do move elsewhere. Like into oblivion, for instance.
For starters, the Predators were given an 18,500-seat arena. Yes, given. Outright. The arena in question was built in 1996 at a cost of $145 million.How can the politicians of Nashville justify subsidizing this club? In a place like Vancouver, where the team provides a lot of free entertainment and prestige to the city, it would make sense. In Nashville? What's the benefit to Joe and Jane Taxpayer?
By contrast, around the same time, the Montreal Canadiens were building an arena to which the taxpayers contributed not a penny. In fact, the churlish Montreal city council, even though private enterprise was regenerating a part of town that was threatening to go to seed, billed the Canadiens for lost parking-meter revenues caused by the construction.
But back to Nashville. A free arena wasn't enough for Leipold. No, he had to have luxury boxes. So his free arena was remodelled to provide them — at a further cost to taxpayers of $14 million.
But the team would need a place to practice because the arena occasionally would be used by other events — to the benefit of Predators owners, of course.
So the Nashville taxpayers provided a practice arena as well. And just to make sure Leipold didn't have a cash-flow problem, the city even kicked in 25% of the team's $80 million expansion-franchise fee.
But those heartless money-grubbers down at City Hall then made life really difficult for the Predators. It seems the team has to pay rent on the building. All of $50,000 a year.
Octopus over at The Face Off Circle points out just how weak Nashville's market really is, and how even the NHL is giving this team welfare cheques.
I have to admit, I find it truly galling that successful teams like Detroit have to subsidize teams like Nashville, which is leading us in the standings. That's seriously f'd up, from any rational business-standpoint.Would Grand Rapids really make a good NHL market? I wouldn't say so, but it goes to show just how weak the Nashville market really is. If the NHL wanted a weak corporate city to house an NHL team, Quebec City or Winnipeg would have been 1,000 times better.
If Leipold can't make it in Nashville, where he has made more enemies than friends during his tenure, he should be forced to sell the club. If the club moves, he shouldn't be a part of it anymore, because his crappy personality and "Brother, can you spare a dime?" mentality will follow him wherever he goes.
Grand Rapids sells 7,000 season tickets, and averages 10,000 per game, while the Preds have a season ticket base of 8,600 and sell about 14,700 per game. That's more than the Griffs, but you can't really compare a middling AHL team to a top-notch, Cup-contender. I think the Preds would do better in GR, than they're doing in Nashville, especially if they had a decent businessman running the show.
Population-wise, Nashville is about 1.2 million (few natural hockey fans), Metro Grand Rapids 1.1 million (lots of hockey fans). Metro Detroit is 5.5 mil, Metro Milwaukee is about 1.6 million, larger than Nashville, and is a place where hockey is actually played, hosting the farm team for the Preds. The Generals should switch towns with the Preds.
Sorry, but Nashville ought to go if they can't support their own club without serious handouts all the time.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Video of the Day: NHL All-Star Promo Video
Check out this funny ad, with more proof that Alexander Ovechkin is a jealous punk!
There Have Been Better Weeks
So both my teams went into the deep swoon this week -- the only victory either has managed in recent memory came when the Avalanche and Thrashers actually met, so the laws of time and space demanded someone come away with the win. If there's a silver lining to the past week of bad hockey, it's that any dreams Colorado may have had of accomplishing much have been exposed as fantasy, and they can now concentrate their energies on trading Pierre Turgeon and Brad May for players that are actually useful.
The Thrashers, meanwhile, made a deal that ... doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. No, Vitaly Vishnevski didn't turn out to be the Great Russian Hope I'd expected. Yes, the Thrashers need a center. But they don't really need another third-line center -- all their centers are third-line centers -- and while Eric Belanger is, I'm sure, a fine player, he's also another third-line center. Having four third-line centers doesn't somehow equal a first-line center. Don Waddell indicates he wants to use Belanger as a top-line guy, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution rather optimistically calls him a "potential scorer," but it's hard to get really excited about a 29-year-old whose career high is 37 points.
The other theory is that the deal is just setting up something else -- that the deal is freeing up salary cap money. Belanger's salary is a quarter million less than VV's, but I'm no expert on the salary cap and the whole bit about payments already made this season just makes my head hurt, so I can't figure out how much it really helps. In any case, I certainly hope there's more to come -- it's a bit early to be preparing for disappointment.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Ronald Petrovicky vs. Kris Newbury: BRUTALITY!
A similar nasty experience occurred (minus an actual death) in last night's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
A record regular-season crowd of 19,620 crowded the Air Canada Centre to see Sidney Crosby perform his magic, but he was hardly the star of the show.
Maple Leafs center Kris Newbury was taken off the ice on a stretcher late in the third period after a fight with Pittsburgh's Ronald Petrovicky. The Toronto forward took several punches to the head before falling to the ice. He stayed motionless for several minutes before taken being off.
The two dropped gloves 33 seconds after Pittsburgh tied it at 5, and the game was delayed for about 6 minutes.
"He's alert and he was on the ice when he left," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. "He's conscious and talking. We'll test him out tonight and tomorrow."
Maurice said it reminds him how violent the game can be.
"It doesn't matter how tough you are or how many punches you've taken if you get hit in the right spot you're going down," Maurice said. "It's a pretty serious business when they drop those gloves."
Thanks to the magic of YouTube, here's the video clip of the fight.
Ronald Petrovicky has always been a fiesty guy and willing combatant, but never one to associate with knockout power. I'm kind of surprised he could pull something like this off.
Kris Newbury? I don't know much about him, but his minor-league stats and size suggest he's a very similar player to Petro. A good middle-weight tilt that ended badly for one guy. Let's hope Newbury's young NHL isn't cut short. D00d's played only 15 NHL games so far.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Stuck in Traffic
As a rule, I'm not too big on minor league theme nights -- they just sort of encourage really ugly jerseys, and are best ignored.
But an upcoming ECHL promo intrigued me -- the Gwinnett Gladiators (located just outside Atlanta) are hosting a "Tribute to Atlanta Traffic" on February 24th.
Now, indulge me in a bit of blatant localism here: there's nothing tribute-worthy about Atlanta traffic. It's awful. I know everyone says that about their city, but combine bad roads, poor infrastructure, inadequate public transportation, and drivers that think NASCAR is a tutorial, and you've got quite a mess.
So I e-mailed the Gladiators asking what's up, and I must admit, I got quite a laugh out of the response:
For a city with "Lane Closed Ahead" as its official motto, it's pretty appropriate. The jerseys are auctioned off afterwards to benefit the Gladiators Foundation for Kids, so hey, all for a good cause. It doesn't look like I'll be able to make the Feb. 24 game, alas, as it sounds like fun.
As an added incentive, the web site also says that night's game is the "Girls Gone Gladiators" event. Unfortunately, my initial idea of what that might be turned out to be wrong.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Karlis Skrastins: Iron Man
Heavy boots of lead
Fills his victims full of dread
Running as fast as they can
Iron man lives again!
The NHL has a new, true Iron Man in Latvian Karlis Skrastins. Karlis, an evil Colorado Avalancher (boooooo!), is about to break the record for most consecutive games played by a defenseman with 487, formerly held by Timmay! Horton, the man who brought us many tasty donuts.
Given the rough-and-tough, shot-blocking style Karlis plays, you'd never figure a guy like him would be the one to break this record. Wouldn't you expect a Tomas Kaberle type to break the mark?
Anyway, I'm happy for Karlis achieving this mark, as he has never received nearly enough appreciation for his great defensive work as a Predator or as an Avalancher.
Karlis Skrastins, on the verge of breaking Tim Horton's NHL record for durability by a defenseman, has never shied away from pucks or pain.The fact that Skrastins has this streak is amazing enough, but the fact that he was, at one time, an NHL long shot makes this streak all the more impressive.
"Pain is part of our job," he said.
Skrastins is set to break Horton's nearly 40-year-old record Thursday night against Atlanta when he plays in his 487th consecutive regular season game.
"It's one of those things that I can be proud about," Skrastins said. "I'm not a big goal scorer or I'm not getting a lot of points, but, you know, the record ... it's going to be in my memories for all of my life. It means really a lot to me."
There's no secret to the streak, he said.
"Maybe just hard work and a lot of effort. I'm just getting ready and try to keep my focus on every game, every shift and I'm not counting the games, just getting ready for one game at a time and just keep going and keep going," Skrastins said.
Karlis was pretty much an afterthought after being drafted in the 9th round, 230th overall by the Predators in 1998. He was 23 at the time, and has a couple of decent seasons in the Finnish league. Karlis came over, played in the AHL for a season, and then won a full-time job with the Preds in 1999. Since then, obviously, he's never looked back.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
More Free Marketing Advice for the NHL
The NHL is always in need of good marketing ideas, and Hockey Rants is always willing to give out unsolicited advice.
Question: What's one of the most thriving industries in the US of A?
Answer: Celebrity Gossip!
Millions of dollars and far too many inches of column space are dedicated to the coffee drinking habits of the Olsen Twins, Justin Timberlake's dating habits, and Lindsay Lohan's 'rehab'.
So, why doesn't the NHL jump on this bandwagon and try to catch some of the benefits?
Remember how much ink was spilled when Jose Theodore spent one night in the Paris Hilton? How about Elisha Cuthbert and Sean Avery? Candice Cameron and Valeri Bure? Carole Alt and Alexei Yashin? Janet Jones and Whine Gretzky? Tie Domi and Belinda Stronach? Cher and Ronald "Donkey Schlong" DuGuay?
Well, Pink Seats, a local 'hockey column' from the Vancouver Province, is on board with the idea of hooking up NHL stars with celebrity starlets. It might seem silly to you, but it would be a brilliant marketing opportunity.
Perhaps the marketing department should forget about tight-fitting uniforms and new rules and invest in a matchmaker to hook up a high-profile celebrity from the entertainment world with one of its good-looking, talented young players.
In other words, if hockey ever wants to reach the popularity levels of the NFL, NBA or MLB, maybe the league should borrow an idea from Major League Soccer and get its own Posh and Becks.
It seems ridiculous, but maybe the MLS is on to something – tabloid celebrities are a surefire way to gain widespread attention these days. When Yahoo released its most popular Internet search terms for 2006, the top 10 didn't include any athletes, events or even political leaders.
Nope, Britney Spears led the pack with other celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton.
Pamela Anderson would make a promising match for Sidney Crosby. If the Penguins scoring sensation truly is following in Gretzky's footsteps, then he is destined to fall in love with a former Playboy model, just like No. 99.
The biggest problem is, obviously, logistics. There just aren't a lot of hotties floating around Pittsburgh for Sidney Crosby to hook up with, or in Washington DC for Alex Ovechkin to frolick in the daisies with.
In Sidney's case, the one notable Pittsburgh hottie is Christina Aguilera. Unfortunately, she's married to a dorky record producer, so she's off the market. Pamela Anderson? She’s been used more than a ball washer at a public golf course.
Besides, Sidney needs a 'good' girl, such as Canadian actress Kristin Kreuk, who must surely be a hockey fan. If she's not available, perhaps a goodie-two-shoes like Lacey Chabert? Then again, she looks like she could be Sidney's sister...
As for Ovechkin, we know he's outgoing and a bit freaky lookin, just the perfect type to hook up with a supermodel. Adriana Lima, perhaps?
Now, my matchmaking skills are obviously quite poor, and I don't hang around with too many supermodels, so the NHL needs to employ some real cupids to get their young stars hooked up with hot, young Hollywood blood. Get Martin Havlat shaggin Michelle Trachtenberg, and watch the free press flow in from the NHL.
A great idea? You betcha, and free.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Canucks/Hawks Post-Game Thoughts
Who's your daddy, eh?
I had the good fortune of scoring a free ticket to tonight's Hawks/Canucks tilt at GM Place as my boss took me to see the game, just because I am the awesomest.
The game marked the triumphant return of Patrick Lalime to the NHL, and La Lemon pitched a rather easy 34-save shutout as the Canucks made more mental mistakes than a drunken fratboy taking his Chemistry 101 final.
Since I got free tickets, I won't complain about the 'quality' of the game. For those who did actually pay for tickets, the game could best be described in a word rhyming with 'pulpit'
Both teams were playing the back end of back-to-back games, and were more conservative than Stephen Harper's cabinet. There was little passion, hitting, or real buzz in the building.
Now, going to the game with your boss means that there are a different set of standards to be followed. You can't act nearly the same way you can around your buddies or your significant other. I have a good relationship with my boss, but still...
Other thoughts from the game...
Now, I know standing in line for overpriced food is as much fun as listening to Earl Sleek rave about his Jazzercise class, but how lazy do you have to be to need to have your popcorn and beer delivered to your seat? Waiting in line for 5 minutes isn't gonna kill ya! I hope they mark up that crap 400%.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Quick Hockey Jokes
Sean Avery and Mark Messier decide to go ice-fishing together. They drive out to a nice patch of ice and bring all their ice fishing tools. They find a good spot and begin to cut into the ice. Suddenly, a voice rings out of nowhere:
"There are no fish under the ice..."
Startled, the two look around and see nobody. They pick up their stuff and move to another part of the ice. The voice rings out again:
"There are NO fish under the ice..."
They move again and start cutting again. The voice announces:
"There are NO FISH under the ice!"
Avery looks up and says, "Is that you God?" And the voice replies:
"No, this is the announcer for GM Place. Now get the hell off of the ice!"
A Hockey Joke That Only A Canadian Would Appreciate ...
Two boys are playing hockey on a pond in the park in Toronto when one is attacked by a rabid Pit Bull.
Thinking quickly, the other boy takes his stick, wedges it down the dog's collar and twists, breaking the dog's neck.
A reporter who was strolling by sees the incident and rushes over to interview the boy.
"Young Leafs Fan Saves Friend From Vicious Animal," he starts writing in his notebook.
"But I'm not a Leafs fan," the little hero replied.
"Sorry, since we are in Toronto, I just assumed you were," said the reporter and starts again.
"Little Jays Fan Rescues Friend From Horrific Attack" he continued writing in his notebook.
"I'm not a Jays fan either," the boy said
"I assumed everyone in Toronto was either a Leafs or Jays fan. What team do you root for?" the reporter asked.
"I'm a Montreal Canadiens fan." the child said.
The reporter starts a new sheet in his notebook and writes,"Little French Bastard from Montreal Kills Beloved Family Pet."
.... of course, if you are a French Canadian you might not appreciate it so much!!!
Someone Do Something
Note: this was written as I sat in a bar, waiting for the Super Bowl to begin. So there's a few beers involved. It was also written before the Sean Avery trade, but that earthshattering development aside, the basic message still works for me. Anyway:
This is the time of year when I'm scanning the wire reports, when every blip on the hockey transactions creates a mild rush of excitement. And so, I implore the general managers of the National Hockey League -- do something interesting. Anything.
Sorry, Kyle Wanvig-for-Andy Delmore isn't cutting it. We're hearing so much about possible trades, but the most interesting development of 2007 has been a 35-year-old second-line center for a still-young underachiever and a few draft picks (and now, with safe hindsight, good job, Rangers -- transforming two top-ten picks in one year into Jamie Lundmark and Pavel Brendl. It's a reverse alchemist's dream, the ultimate example of turning gold into crap).
Both my teams need some help (and both, to best illustrate this, have been sipping deeply from the oasis of suck lately). Of course, the only real rumor surrounding either team involves Peter Forsberg. And it's still disorienting to have the Avalanche rumored to be trading for Forsberg, as if they just mislaid him for a bit.
Of course, the Avalanche and Thrashers are just two of the 48 teams rumored in the hunt for Forsberg. The saga may end with Philadelphia trading him to the Flyers. I'll be pleased if he ends up (and healthy) with the Avs or Thrashers, nonplussed if he ends up with the Canadiens or Predators, mildly amused if he ends up with the Blues or Jackets, mildly annoyed if he ends up with the Sabres or Canucks.
And if he ends up with the Red Wings? I'll root for his ankle bone to split off during practice. I can't think of a less-pleasing image than Foppa in Twizzler Red.
Bad Uni Alert: The Grizzlies of Groningen
You can always count on our Euro friends for delicious food, catchy pop tunes, soccer riots, softcore porn under the guise of 'art', and bad sports uniforms.
From the fine nation of The Netherlands, we have the Grizzlies of Groningen. You'd expect something ferocious, right?
Instead, we get some d00d's tie-dyed acid trip.
Those Milwaukee Admirals only had to put up with the Hawaiian shirts for one day. The Grizzlies? They wear these every single game!!! Poor bastards! And what's with the cityscape?
(Thanks for Joeri @ Eurohockey.net for the offensive pictures)
Monday, February 05, 2007
Super Snore Summary
For those of you who live in a cave, or don't follow the No Fun League, the Indianapolis Colts defeated Da Bears 29-17, with Peyton Manning getting the Game's MVP and Tony Dungy becoming the first black coach to win a Super Bowl.
"Deal or No Deal" is a show that seems to be exciting at first, but would get boring after about 3-4 times, much like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
They've signed up a few NHL players and personalities who do a few journal entries (faux blog style) for the site, including Martin Havlat, Marty Turco, Marian Hossa, Jeremy Roenick, and Derek Boogaard.
Jeremy Roenick? Give him a platform and you'd expect fireworks...
Well, you do get a picture of him in a scene of the TV Show "Ghost Whisperer"
This Friday, I’ll be making a television appearance that won’t require you to search for me all over your digital cable. If you’ve been following hockey closely this year, you’ve seen many great acting appearances as some players dive to try and draw penalties from the referees. But this is a different kind of acting. I’ll be playing the role of a baseball coach in an episode of the Ghost Whisperer on CBS. A good friend of mine is one of the producers of the show and he got me the role. I don’t have many lines. Nevertheless, acting is grueling. The 30-second scene took about eight hours to shoot.A thinly veiled shot at the NHL's American TV rights. Nice. Perhaps if JR wasn't such a primadonna, his scene wouldn't have taken 8 hours.
Martin "The Brat" Havlat? You'd expect some cheekiness from him as well, but...
Greetings from Chicago. I just came from the movies. I went to see Blood Diamond. It's a really serious movie, based on a true story, but I loved it. If you have the chance you should go see it.Well, Marty Havlat likes it, so it must be good...geez.. *rolleyes* That's as juicy as he gets...
Unfortunately, these two guys have only updated sporadically, with their most recent updates coming about two months after their previous entries.
Moving on, new addition Marty Turco seems to be extremely active on the site with two entries in his first two days on the site.
Kirk McLean is the goaltender I look to when I took the position seriously. I was always impressed with how he held his composure, and the team fed off his calmness. He was very underrated, the way he led the Canucks to within a win of the Stanley Cup against the Rangers in 1994.Captain Kirk? Wow...that's the first time I've heard another goalie acknowledge MacLean as a goaltending 'icon'. Score two points for "Turk"
Hmm, I want some real dirt, dammit..Ahh, here we go: Brian McGrattan...
As predicted, I squared off against Wade Belak last night. Right off the face off in the second period, he asked if I wanted to go. You don’t even have to ask me, I’m always ready to go. I got a hold of him early, because I didn’t want him to lock me out. I like to go toe-to-toe. I don’t like those fights where you feel like you’re wearing a seatbelt, I want to throw punches. After they broke it up and I went to the box, I showed him how he was covering up like a turtle. I get fired up when I’m about to fight, and I don’t like it when guys cover up. We’ve got the Leafs one more time and the Bruins on Saturday, so that’s probably two more fights this week. I don’t mind. I’d fight every game if I could. I’m ready for the next one.
Overall, the FHM's idea is a good one, and shows promise with the addition of a couple of new players.
The execution? that needs work. Some players don't update their sites very often, and some of the entries are just as generic as the intermission interviews. Guys like Jeremy Roenick and Brian McGrattan give good examples of what we want to see. This format should allow the players to give us a bit of their true selves and some of the inside 'dish' we want to hear.
Oh, and make sure to see Blood Diamond...Martin Havlat said it's good.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Thanks to my work schedule, I get to actually attend a Thrashers game about once every two months or so, and unfortunately the latest was tonight's snorefest loss to the New York Islanders, who I'm always sort of amazed to find still active. I know one real-life Islanders fan, and he still lists his favorite player as "John Tonelli," and I'm pretty sure they haven't been to the playoffs since Tonelli was active. Which didn't prevent them from winning tonight.
There were somewhere around 16 people in the stands -- I know that makes everyone shriek "hockey's failing in America! Move the Thrashers to Banff!" or whatever, but seriously -- it was 35 degrees and rainy today, both conditions that make Atlantans drive even worse than normal, so the mere task of getting to the game was about as hazardous as a weekday jaunt through downtown Baghdad. Anyone who actually went deserves some sort of Congressional Medal of Honor, and I happily include myself in that.
Anyone who sat through that game deserves two medals, unfortunately. The Islanders may amuse us all with their existence, but good God they're a boring team to watch. And any night the Thrashers' most notable player is Jim Slater, you'll probably want your money back (except my tickets were free).
Added note: the Thrashers have a "send your text message and we'll run it on the jumbotron" feature, but my semi-drunken "Bring back Kloucek" message never made it. Yeah, man, censorship is alive and well down south.
AHL: Results from Milwaukee's Hawaiian Experiment
(Un)fortunately, I couldn't find any of the beer belly contest pictures, but I did find a few of the Hawaiian jerseys.
Yeah, it's bad...
Introducing...the Fairy King!
What did he do to be punished so harshly?
Not the worst thing to happen to Rinne that night...
Kind of hard to look tough in that uni...