Friday, June 29, 2012


The Peter Principle Alive and Well in the NHL

(To the 4 people who might read this: Yes, I decided to do a blog post. I'm not 'unretired' so much as I just had a need to write *something*. It's rusty, and not particularly intelligent, but at least I've gotten it out of my system)

If you haven’t heard the term before, the Peter Principle is a belief that in an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that organization's members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability.

If you believe *snicker* that NHL front office jobs are placed based on merit, then this principle makes a lot of sense.

I realize running a large hockey organization is a lot more involved than the Sim Leagues I used to be in. That said, the recent behavior of 3 particular NHL GM’s just proves that random internet bloggers, or Michelle Bachmann, could do a far better job running a hockey team than some of the idiots that get hired. 

The GMs in question? Charles Wang’s puppet (Garth Snow), Scott Howson, and Jay Feaster.

Wang Dang Doodle

It’s old news now, but the Isles did, in fact, offer their entire 2012 draft to the Dinner Jackets for the chance to pick 2nd overall. (Source: CBC)

The Isles had the 4th pick, so they basically wanted to gut their future farm system to move up two whole spots! Woo!

Now, if this was the chance to pick a Sidney Crosby, this would make some damn sense. Hell, ending up with a Chris Pronger in exchange for a bunch of role players and never-made-its would also make sense.

Ryan Murray? He hardly looks like a build-a-franchise-around me defenseman that you’d trade your farm for. He *might* pan out that way, but I *might* also have Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis offer to reenact their love scene from The Black Swan in my living room. 

Chances are long, I suspect.
(any excuse to post this picture...)

Besides the obvious fact that gutting your entire future to move up from #4 to #2 is folly, especially for a club in constant need of prospects and assets, the optics of this deal are even more of a killer for the Isles.

Think about it? Haven’t Snow/Wang been doing a pretty solid job the last couple of years? They locked up Tavares, Moulson, and Nielsen, and were keeping on a steady path to respectability.

This move, unfortunately, clearly reminds the rest of the league, especially free agents, that the Isles are run by a couple of batshit-crazy loons. 

“Oh yeah, this is the team that gave Rick DiPietro 15 years to play 30 games! I really wanna sign there!

(Isles GM Garth Snow, pictured)

Howson Misses His Chance

Scott Howson, only the second GM in the illustrious history of the Columbus Dinner Jackets, has done a great job of ruining running the club as well as Doug MacLean did before him. Not many GM’s would trade a mint for the worst regular defenseman in the NHL (Jack Johnson) and still be employed. 

Howson had a golden opportunity to stack his club for many years to come, and chose to play it safe, as it were. Keeping the #2 pick was definitely ‘safe’, since being involved with such an insane trade would only look ‘weird’, for lack of a better term.

How can a team as piss-poor as the Jackets turn down this many picks? With that many picks, and that many lottery tickets, you are sure to hit a few gems and get some decent players. Moving down to #4 was hardly that much of a difference in this draft, and the BJs would have basically doubled their chance to produce some decent players in a few seasons.

Howson, alas, a fellow who would have trouble graduating from the University of Phoenix, showed just how in over his head he really is.

Feast(er) Your Eyes on Duh

While the mess in Calgary is not all Jay Feaster’s fault, the son of the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Susan Boyle is doing his best to ensure the Flames will wallow just out of the playoffs for the foreseeable future. Sure, Canucks fans are elated, but it’s sad to see, nonetheless.

Susan Boyle
 "Poop's coming out!"

That’s right, the team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons has a higher payroll than the Vancouver Canucks! This even takes into account the subtraction of Olli Jokinen, one of their better offensive forwards (Hard to believe, but he was fairly good last season), who is going on the UFA market. 

What great moves has Feaster made?

1. Signing Dennis Wideman to a 5-year deal giving him $5.25/mil per season! Not content with one offensive-minded marshmallow (Jay Bouwmeester, who left his scoring touch in Florida), the Flames vastly overpaid for a guy who is easier to beat than Rihanna.

Sure, some other team would have likely overpaid for flashy offensive stats, but that doesn’t mean the Flames should have. Oh, and let’s not forget the no-trade clause given for the full term of the contract. Way to handcuff the club, Jay!

2. Re-signing Lee Stempniak for a 2-year deal giving him $2.5/mil per season.

As any Blues or Coyotes fan can tell you, Lee is great for a scoring burst for about 2-3 weeks a year, and then goes back into hibernation for the rest of the winter. Lee doesn’t add much value other than his goal-scoring touch, and the Flames vastly overpaid for an empty player.

3. Re-signing Cory Sarich for a 2-year deal giving him $2/mil per season.

Even in his Tampa days, Sarich wasn’t worth $2mil/season, and now that he’s old enough to remember how to work a VCR, he’s an expensive pylon.

The Flames already appear to have 5-6 other defensemen on one-way contracts, so the Flames have basically given a good salary to a 3rd-line pylon and will have to cut a contract somewhere else. Who the hell else would have given Sarich $2mil? Ugh.

If you count Wideman vs. Jokinen for wash (being generous), the Flames have basically spent a hefty fortune for a team that has a very slim shot at the playoffs.

You know Jay Feaster reminds me of? The idiot who actually pays for porn on the Internet.

…and I’m spent…

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Good-bye Pavol, Good-bye Hockey

I’ve been getting plenty of messages this morning regarding the Lokomotiv Jaroslavl tragedy, so I figured I might as well open up this blog one last time and give myself an outlet for my rambling. I’ve completely lost the ability to write well about hockey, so excuse this mess.


So, I’m on vacation in the sweltering heat of Vernon, BC, and sleep in for the first time in ages. 8 am!!! Holy crap... I almost never sleep past 7am!! *yawn* *stretch*

I waddle down the steps and eagerly anticipate some coffee while admiring the view of Lake Okanagan out of the window. My wife comes up to me and says, “I have some bad news for you.”

At this point, I figured it would be something minor, relating to Magic: The Gathering (my big hobby nowadays) or some winery we planned to visit. Instead, she gives me the laptop and I see a big picture of Pavol Demitra and “Former NHL Players Perish in Plane Crash.”

What. The. Fuck?

It took a few seconds to sink in, but my brain started to absorb the story as I read it and, like just about everyone else, I was stunned. It wasn’t just Pavol, but the whole damn team! Ugh… I remember a few non-Russians (a few years ago, during the lockout) joking about unsafe he felt some of the Russian league air travel was, including Jiri Slegr…and, well, here is a fine example.

Anyway, I see a whole bunch of emails and Facebook messages sending me links and condolences, and I am flattered that people would think of me. I guess my reputation as Demitra’s #1 North American fan still sticks :). It’s too bad I lost so many videos and sound clips I had on my old hard drive that fried worse than KFC.

For those who are asking, I am doing OK. I never knew Pavol, personally, nor ever had a chance to meet or talk with him. I have no personal connection to him, so it is not like I am any more devastated than most people. Sure, he connected with me as a hockey player, and he was a damn cool guy, but I don’t honestly feel like a member of my close family passed away.

Really, this is just a sad day, and really a sad summer, for hockey all around. A lot of families and friends are really going to be hurt by this, and I do know that quite a few Czechs and Slovaks looked up to the players on Jaroslavl. Demitra, in particular, gained a bit of hero worship over the past few years in Slovakia. A tiny country like Slovakia doesn’t have the wealth of people known and respected in other parts of the world like Canada does. (No, nobody respects Nickelback…please, don’t send them back here).


My ‘connection’ with Demitra started back when he played for the Sens. Here was a very talented guy, with a very cool name, that was never really given a shot. His AHL totals were outstanding. I knew he played for the Czechoslovakia team, but this was at a point in my life where I had little knowledge of my father’s side of the family or my Central-Eastern European heritage. I wouldn’t really connect with Slovak hockey for another year or two.

I remember, when I was about 19-20, seeing Demitra’s name suddenly pop up in a box score for the St. Louis Blues. When did the Blues trade for Demitra?? I popped online and saw he was dealt for some guy like Christer Olsson. Great! I was already a Blues fan, and was happy to see him get a chance. One of Mike Keenan’s scouts told him about the guy, so Keenan dealt for Demitra and actually put the guy into the lineup. Demo finally got his shot.

The next season, Demitra would become a full-time player and even killed penalties for the Blues with Craig Conroy. Pavol ended up with 52 points in 61 games while the Senators got a defenseman who played a handful of forgettable games for them. A rare good deal for Iron Mike!

Demitra never did get a Stanley Cup with the Blues, but he ultimately had a great career as an under-the-rader point producer. He won a Lady Byng award, even putting up big totals after being saddled with line-mates like Michel Picard and the crappy version of Stephane Richer.

A few other Demitra memories

- One of my favourite T-shirts, which I still wear to this day, is a Slovak Pak shirt an old message board pal sent me. This is from when Lubos Bartecko and Michal Handzus paired with Demitra to form an All-Slovak line. This was also from when I weighed over 300 pounds, so the shirt is like a big tent on me now.

- When I attended the NHL Draft in Vancouver with some friends (Alanah from Canucks and Beyond and JJ from Canucks Hockey Blog were also there and I met them afterwards) in 2006. It was all going fine when this happened.

The rest of the crowd: “Whoooooooooooooa!”

- Demitra signing with the Canucks. This was just as I retired from hockey blogging, which is quite strange given that it ought to have kept me going. I was damn happy, as you can imagine.

- Sarah’s parents got me a Demitra sweater for a Christmas gift. This was well before I married her, so I must have impressed them somehow for them to spend a good chunk of change on me ;)

- Speaking of swag, one of my favorite clothing items is a fancy Team Slovakia hat I wear when it is sunny. My wife surprised me with this for my birthday, and said she had spent a considerable amount of effort to get it. Together with my Team Slovakia scarf and sweater, I have a nice ensemble I can wear to any hockey game.

- Unfortunately, many Canucks fans and most of the media saw fit to crap on Demitra during his entire tenure here. Nevermind that he was a mid-range free agent that produced fairly well, or that he was obviously not going to be as good as he was 10 years ago, he was never good enough to be here. Slavic players have always been crapped on here.

Exhibit A: Sean Zandberg. He was the most vocal blogger who would crap on Demitra every change he got. Rather than get into pissing matches, I just decided to stop bothering with those types of Canucks fans.

- Demitra never did seem to get along well with Alain Vigneault during his second, and last season with the club, Vigneault wondered why Demitra played so well for Slovakia, but not for him… some players and coaches just don’t mesh well.

- Demitra’s play at the Olympics. I did get a chance to see Demitra and Slovakia play against Latvija, and I was rather pleased with the surprisingly(!) positive reaction Demitra got as a member of Team Slovakia. For some strange reason, a lot of people here were cheering for the Slovaks and Demitra for a brief 2-week period. Demitra led all Olympic goal scorers, as you damn well know.

- Demitra and the Slovaks choking against the Finns to lose the bronze. It was a pure choke, and a game the Slovaks should have held on to. The Slovaks will likely never get another chance to have such success since their hockey program has been in the dumps for many years and most of the best players were produced in the ‘golden age’.

- Demitra’s playoff scoring record last season with Yaroslavl. Although Lokomotiv didn’t win the playoffs, Demitra's scoring streak and chemistry with Josef Vasicek was something 'magical'.


One last, final, rant… I’ve decided to disconnect myself from the Canucks and most hockey fandom. Given today’s tragedy, my favourite Czech (TRINEC!) team winning the league championships, and the Canucks total choke, it is no longer worth my time to spend so much time following hockey.

Oh, I’ll still follow the sport, watch some games, and keep tabs on the general things going on, but I’ll have little attachment to almost all of it.

Part of being a fan of a team is the ultimate payoff one hopes to get some time in their life. Why cheer for a bad club for so many years? It’s because of the possibility, even a remote one, that they might win a championship. Hell, we’ve seen the Lightning and Ducks win a Stanley Cup, the Canucks ought to be able to get one.

Sadly, that day will never come. Vancouver’s hockey club just reeks of failure, and I can’t see them ever getting any closer than they’ve gotten this past spring. 40 years of nothing but heartbreak and close calls. Some history.

Why should I continue to put any heart into following a club that will never win it all? Part of being a sports fan is the payoff and ecstacy of winning it all, but all I’ve encountered is frustration. I can’t cheer for a club when there will never be a reward for doing so.

Throughout the playoffs, I was in a foul mood for one reason or another. Even after a win, I had a sinking feeling the Canucks would choke it all away. The playoffs weren’t at all pleasurable, and I’d be better off just not getting invested and walking around all grumpy and surly. I know my wife didn’t enjoy being around me when I cursed every fucking minute and was a Negative Nelly at the best of times.

So, with that, I’m a full fair-weather fan. If the Canucks get to the finals, I’ll cheer them on…I just won’t expect much and won’t invest myself at all in what goes on.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 19, 2008


"I Had the Last Waltz With You"

by Jes

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those ... moments will be lost in time, like rain.

Time to die"
- Roy Batty, Bladerunner.

Back in May of 2004, I got the notion to start this blog, and called it Hockey Rants because I love hockey and ranting. Simple concept, really.

I had often visited many baseball blogs (which there were/are plenty), and was tired of all the childishness of places like HFboards. I wanted a place where I could rant how I wanted, when I wanted, and on topics I wanted, without my voice being lost in the wilderness.

I didn't come into blogging with many expectations, other than having a home for some friends and family reading my blathering, and maybe getting a decent audience who appreciated thoughtful blog posts over playground arguments. I also found the whole process to be a lot of fun, and got to experience a little bit of the hockey writer's life.


4 years later, I feel the fun has disappeared for me. Perhaps the combination of writing for AOL and my own site just overloaded my positronic circuits, but blog posting now feels more of a chore and an obligation than anything else. I haven't truly enjoyed blogging very much for the past few months, and I don't see that changing in the near future.

You may have noticed I've hinted at burnout the past 1-2 months, and, like an old scented candle, I'm mostly now a mush of wax.

I look back at some of my older posts, and I realize that my content is not nearly as good as it used to be. The posts on this site used to be either funnier, contain more detailed analysis, and/or a lot of Czech/Slovak content, the latter of which I'm the most proud to have brought to the blogosphere.

Like Trevor Linden, I just don't have "it" any longer. I'm tired, worn down, and my abilities have been eroded over time. I know I'm capable of writing some good material, but it would take a lot of time and effort that I'm just not able to handle. When I think about the memorable posts I've written, most of it has not been writing over the past 6-8 months.

That is why I've decided to retire from regular hockey blogging and close the Hockey Rants chapter of my life, as well as stop writing for AOL FanHouse.

What does the future hold? Well, I like to rant and I like to write. I might change this site into an all-around Rants site (a mix of hockey, politics, pop culture, etc), or I might hook up with another blog and do some guest entries. Anyone who has any ideas is welcome to contact me. For the next while, though, I'm just taking an online vacation.


Hockey blogs have come a long way since I started. Back when I first posted here, there were maybe 10-12 hockey blogs TOTAL. There were many baseball blogs, but almost nothing revolving around our great sport. There was Hockey Pundits, Off Wing Opinion, Sharkspage, Hockey Update, and Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic. The blogroll was smaller than Steve Kariya.

Right after a lockout, there was a sudden explosion on the number of hockey blogs out there. People flocked back to the game, and also to the new type of technology and reach that blogging offered. No longer was I able to visit every hockey blog within my lunch hour.

Not only has the quantity increase substantially, but the quality as well. I used to pride myself on being near the top of the heap, but there are many other sites that just offer much more on the way of quality content than my little old site. Yes, I do feel like I've been left behind like John McCain's ex-wife.

I'm not jealous or spiteful, but rather thankful of how much great stuff is out there. No longer are we subjected to purely reading what bones the MSM throws at us, or are we limited to a few publications and websites. There is just so much out there for everyone, and, in the end, its all of us hockey fans that win.

Do I consider myself a pioneer? Yes, but just a small one. I have helped a few people start their sites out (those who asked), and I know a few people were like "I saw your site and felt I could do that, too!" I know I'm one of the true veterans out there, and am rather proud of some of the baby bloglings that grown up to be strong young sites.


As I mentioned, I didn't have a lot of expectations from starting this site. Fortunately, and most surprisingly, this site brought me a lot of opportunities and allowed me to meet many people: bloggers, fans, writers, and even an ex-girlfriend. :/

In Academy Awards fashion, minus the crappy, overrated movies *cough*No Country for Old Men*cough*, I’d like to thank and give a shout out to various people who I've met over the past 4+ years. I still intend to maintain contact with many of you, as I certainly won't stop being a hockey fan any week soon. Don't be offended if I forgot you, it just means you aren't important :) (kidding...)

In no particular order ...

  • Eric "Mac Daddy" McErlain, who scored me the gig with FanHouse and provided a lot of advice when I started out.

  • Michael "The Hockey Fanatic" Fedor, my fellow Team Slovakia member and one of the longest-serving hockey bloggers.

  • My Czech loving co-bloggers Dan (Czechmate) and Greg, who helped add another point-of-view and some extra content to Hockey Rants.

  • My girlfriend, Aurian, for obvious reasons ;)

  • PJ from Sharkspage for driving me around San Francisco for an afternoon.

  • Snoopyjode, who took over The Sidney Crosby Show, which I started as a social experiment, and made it into a real success.

  • Pavol Demitra, Jiri Slegr, Trevor Linden, Jan Bulis v2.1, and Tomas Plekanec for their continued awesomeness.

  • My FanHouse comrades: Wyshynski, Luongo, Lady Killer Mirtle, Ciskie, Schultzy, JD Press, Saler, Earl Sleek, Lackey, Starkey.

  • Stormbringer10, whom I haven't seen in years, for designing my site's banner.

  • The Acid Queen, who has helped me with female POV stuff and made me laugh with stories about her evil cats.

  • Alanah from Canucks and Beyond, who once took me out for dinner and helped me with some personal stuff ;), but hasn't spoken to me for ages :(

  • My sources from Czechia, Slovakia, and other parts of Europe, who wish to remain anonymous.

  • My part-time contributors ... guys who sent me in links to articles, news items, and other gossip: Southern Correspondent Wayne, Faux, 2 Man Advantage, the d00ds from Edinburgh, Big Dan, and so forth.

  • The fellows from, Misha/Schlegel, who gave me lots of good stuff before and during the lockout.

  • BBC Radio Five, for granting me my first ever radio interview. Man, was I ever nervous :/

  • Of course, those who read and comment on my side on a (semi)regular basis. A blog is nothing without eyeballs. Bloggers love comments more than anything else.

  • The MSM (Mainstream Mediots) for providing lots of fodder.

  • Tom Benjamin, another grumpy old-school blogger and the guy who actually made me look like a nice guy by sheer comparison.

  • Anyone else I've forgotten. I've met so many people and fell out of touch with so many people over the years.

    So, good-bye (for now) to all of you. I shall not disappear totally into the night, but I will step back and just allow myself to be a fan and observer, and probably comment on a few blogs which I've been neglecting to read lately due to my busy schedule.

    It's been an Al MacInnis blast!

    Regards, Jes Gőlbez
  • Labels:

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008


    Wednesday Wanderings: NHL in Europe, Economics

    by Jes

    Once upon a time, I wrote a pretty length post on why I believe the NHL would never work, on a full-time basis, in Europe. Playing an exhibition game or two is one thing, but a full season? It ain't gonna work.

    This post is a response to news that the NHL is looking at expanding into Europe ... again ...

    Since I can't find my original post, I'll just have to rehash some of my old arguments. Most of my European hockey knowledge comes from the leagues I follow (Czech and Slovak), so I may not be totally right when it comes to places like Finland and Sweden.

    1. Ticket Prices
    The average ticket price for a European club hockey game translates to about 10-25$ US. Most teams charge very little for their tickets, knowing full well that a. the people simply don't have that much money to spend and b. knowing fans won't spend that much for a hockey game.

    European clubs make their money almost primarily through sponsorship. You see it on their uniforms, their arenas, and even their team names, which are often sponsored. The NHL's model of ticket-heavy revenue is the complete opposite of what happens in Europe.

    Let's face it, most hockey fans in Russia, Czechia, and Slovakia do not have that much disposable income. I know people in Germany and Sweden could afford $60 tickets, but would they really fork out that much for 30-40 games a season? I doubt it. Once the novelty wears off, you'd likely see a lot of empty seats. I can't see 15,000 people in either city wanting to invest that much on the NHL.

    Yes, I realize some European teams get over 10,000 per game, but the ticket prices, like I said, are quite low compared to the NHL.

    The fact is that many of the rich KHL owners we hear about are oil robber barons or diamond mine owners, and spend money on their hockey teams as an expensive hobby. There aren't an endless supply of these oil barons, nor are many of them likely to want to spend NHL-level prices for their own pleasure. Yes, there are oil barons owning soccer clubs, but you know they make a lot of money from tickets and merchandise.

    2. Travel
    In the future, I see travel becoming even more of an issue than it is now. Fuel prices will not go down any day soon, and environmental concerns will only cause sports leagues to look into curtailing travel somewhat.

    In my view, fuel prices will cause the NHL to start playing even more intra-conference games, and try to eliminate some of the cross-country road trips that suck up so much gas.

    Traveling to Europe? Yeah, that would count as a long road trip, and it's certainly quite pricey if you do it constantly.

    3. Rivalries
    Having an NHL team negates one of the reasons Europeans go to hockey games: The rivalries. Slavia and Sparta's "derbies" just could not be replicated by a bunch of foreigners playing some team from Toronto or Helsinki. Inter-city and regional rivalries would just not exist in the European NHL.

    4. Gary Bettman
    D00d screws up everything he touches.

    Yes, I am a pessimist. Given how the NHL's short-term thinking has caused them so many problems, and given how many American franchises are far from strong, I think expanding into Europe is something the league just will not succeed at. Let the Europeans have their league and focus on making the NHL stronger, rather than even more watered-down than it is.


    More stuff to mention

  • NHL owners have to realize that the current American economic crises is not good for the league. Obviously, people are going to have less disposable income to spend on hockey games, and/or will be afraid to spend big for fears of even more crap happening

    If you are an UFA-to-be, you might want to think about re-signing rather than try the open market. Just a thought.

    On a side rant, this whole "crisis" is thanks to your lovely US government. For far too long, the US Government has let corporations run the country, including a highly-unregulated bank and finance industry. This, together with people's horrible spending habits, means that there is a lot of "artificial" money in the market that can never be repaid, and you have China owning a monster chunk of US Currency.

    Not to sound too much like a smart ass, but I always figured the US was set for a major collapse. No country can take on that much government and personal debt without the whole thing busting up eventually. Until people stop spending money they don't have, and until banks stop lending money they don't really have, the economy is not going to get better. I'm thankful that Canada had a bit more restraint, and isn't spending billions on a bogus war to inflate the pockets of a well-off minority (Do you really think Bush wants to drive down the price of oil? Ha!). That said, when the US economy tanks, it'll hit our country hard.

    (If you know basic economics and finance, than you know that a bank can take $1 of deposits and turn that into $7-10 of loans, hence creating a level of "artificial" money)

  • Over at his Legends of Hockey Blog, author Joe Pelletier goes into Boogie Nights mode and gives us his Top 10 Hockey Moustaches of all time.

    Personally, I would have put Harold Snepsts much higher, and would have had Dave Babych on my list. Lanny as #1 is hard to dispute, though.
  • Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008


    Czeching Out - Who Is The Best Remaining Bohemian?

    by Czechmate
    The end of last season also spelled the end of an era. Maybe some would disagree, but those people would likely lack facts to back them up, or at least would be considered as being cut from the Don Cherry cloth (which would likely look like a couch from the 1970's if such a cloth actually existed in a physical manifestation) of anti-European tendencies.

    What I'm talking about is the turning of the page on the Czech Republic's proudest era of NHL prominence; in other words, the retirement of Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek (again).

    These two players embodied the best of the best from our little nation of 10 million people.

    Sure, we outdrink the world in beer consumption, and not by a small margin, either! But our accomplishments don't end there. For such a small nation, who has been at the center of a constantly changing geo-political landscape that is Europe, we have done remarkably well in the world of professional hockey and soccer as well. Where hockey is concerned, Jagr and Hasek have been at the forefront of our success.
    Jagr is a sure-fire first ballot hall of famer, as is Hasek. The stats, individual accomplishments, international medals and Stanley Cups make it impossible to believe otherwise. However, both also have struggled in media and hockey fan appreciability because of their manic dispositions and perceived reputations as prima donnas. In fact, I've read as many articles, blog posts and subsequent comments that praise and thank the two for their respective accomplishments as I have read that suggest the author believes it is a good thing for the NHL that these two are now departed. It's really an odd juxtaposition, but one that I believe I understand.
    Anyway, with these two now in the history books, I wanted to take a look at who remains from my homeland, and of those, who is the best man standing. There is nothing really scientific about my analysis, but it does merit noting that of the list of players that follow, some are rated based on accomplishments in the past, while others are assessed on their potential for future accomplishments. The players are listed in no particular order. You decide which is our best player remaining...


    1 - Milan Hejduk: Hejduk has been the trigger man for Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche for 701 games, tallying 285 goals, 313 assists for 598 points. He has a career rating of +156, and has been fairly durable throughout his career. Hejduk is not the best skater out there, but has profound scoring instincts and a wicked wrist shot that can catch goalies totally unaware. He has experienced a bit of an up-and-down career in terms of production, but it seems that goes hand-in-hand with how the Avs fare overall. Last season, he tallied 29 goals and 25 assists in 77 games. Surely, he is one of the elder statesmen of our NHL representation, and will likely continue to decline as the years roll by.

    2 - Patrik Elias: Maybe it's because he plays in New Jersey's uber-tight defensive system and team concept, but Elias never seems to get any credit for his statistical accomplishments. In 745 career games, he has managed a very respectable 264 goals, 364 assists and 628 points. Combine that with his +162 rating over that time, and he looks like a pretty damn good two-way forward! Elias goes about his business quietly, and does his job very well. His stats would likely be even better if he played on an offensively-oriented team, but seldom does one hear him complain. He is a fixture on our international team, and was once even captain of the Devils until supplanted by coach Sutter, who seems like a less than ideal coach for European players. This guy is a winner. However, he isn't a showy winner, so he usually flies under the radar. I recall once drafting him in the 7th round of a pool with 12 people in it.

    3 - Petr Sykora: He's 31 years old, and has played 845 NHL games. His stats totals are pretty decent, although not outstanding. Over his career, primarily spent with the Devils, he has managed to score 275 goals and 353 assists for a respectable total of 628 points. Expect that total to rise significantly as long as he's playing with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Sykora is a goal-scorer with a very strong shot and sound offensive positioning. He isn't a particularly strong skater, but he does know where he needs to be on the ice in order to maximize his scoring chances. He is also under-appreciated for his defensive knack and quiet leadership.

    4 - Ales Hemsky: Hemsky is young, but has become known as one of the premier set-up men in the league. He is Edmonton's star forward right now, although with their strong core of youth up front, he'll surely fade into the background soon enough. Hemsky has amassed 70 goals and 195 assists for 265 points in his 349 game career, but is also a combined -23 in that time. I believe his defensive game isn't really up to par, but a lot of that is due to Edmonton's north-south style of play. Armed with better linemates for his early career, his totals could be much higher, although that is based more on speculation than any given facts. I believe Hemsky will continue to improve, and will eventually top 90 points in a season, especially now that Edmonton's youth is starting to get front-line billing.

    5 - Martin Havlat: Yes, I know, his injury issues are a huge deterrent from any fantasy hockey selection, but realistically, Havlat is a superior talent. After a slow and steady development in the Ottawa Senators' system, Havlat has compiled an impressive stats sheet, which includes 140 goals and 179 assists for 319 points in 379 games. In recent years, he has been near a point-per-game, but again, his insistence on playing a reckless game (grit, as it is called in Canada) has seen him very limited in terms of games played, thus limiting his effectiveness and production. I expect a full season from Mach-9 this year, and I expect a very strong statistical showing, especially if he plays with Toews or Kane for any stretch of time.

    Honourable mentions: Martin Erat (NAS), Robert Lang (MTL), Vaclav Prospal (TB) EDIT - TOMAS PLEKANEC (MTL) *** HEHEHE*** EDIT 2 - MILAN MICHALEK (SJ)


    1 - Tomas Kaberle: Kaberle may have refused to waive his no-trade clause last season at the deadline, and he'll likely be remembered as the guy who cost the Leafs Jeff Carter plus a first rounder, but his career has been very solid to this point. As a defenceman, he has been the bright-spot on the Leafs' roster for a few seasons now, with all due respect to Bryan McCabe. His playmaking ability is superb, as is shown by his 402 points in 681 games (333 of them assists). He has also managed to chisel out a +51 career rating on a Leafs' team that doesn't really understand the concept of defensive hockey. Kaberle might be traded this season, as he seems less reluctant to waive his NTC now that the Leafs are in rebuild mode, and if he moves to a contender, his totals could be in the range of 70 points in a season.

    2 - Roman Hamrlik: Some first overall picks end up being a bust (see Alexandre Daigle), but while some would question Hamrlik's selection at that ranking, it bears noting that the second pick overall that season was Alexei Yashin. At this stage, clearly Hamrlik was the better choice, even if he isn't considered a top-pairing defenceman in many circles. "Hammer" has put up a very respectable 531 points, including 136 goals, in his 1,076 games, which is largely due to his durability and great hockey instincts. His best season saw him score 65 points, with 16 goals, back in 1995-96, but that year he had a -24 rating. This is telling, because his last minus season was in 2000-01 with the Isles, where he posted a -20. Why is it telling? Well, because since then, he's been a plus player, including a career-best +22 with the Flames in 2006-07, meaning he has worked on improving his overall game. He used to be a powerplay quarterback type of defenceman, but now he's capable of lining up against the league's best.

    3 - Marek Zidlicky: Okay, so this guy doesn't make many lists... However, in his relatively short career (307 games), the powerplay specialist has racked up an impressive 175 points. It's better than a point every second game, which is fairly good for a defenceman. Some will point to his career -5 rating, but considering Nashville didn't really gain respectability until a couple of seasons ago, that really isn't bad for an offensive defenceman. His move to Minnesota this past offseason should see his rating improve, as Nashville isn't quite the defensively stifling team that the Wild are.

    4 - Michal Rozsival: I'm always baffled when people say he's over-paid and over-rated. In today's market, $5M for a guy who will score 10+ goals and 25+ points from the blueline while not being a defensive liability is pretty much fair market value (see Jeff Finger for definition of "overpaid"). Rosie has become a very reliable player for the Rangers, and has become an all-purpose defenceman in the NHL. He isn't overly physical, but no Czech players really are. I look to his career +48 rating and his steady production, and find that he's a capable first-pairing defender that any team could use, aside from the Wings and Ducks...

    Honourable mentions: Ladislav Smid (EDM), Jaroslav Modry (PHI), Pavel Kubina (TOR), Jaroslav Spacek (BUF), Filip Kuba (OTT), Rostislav Klesla (CMB) EDIT - ZBYNEK MICHALEK


    1 - Tomas Vokoun: Maybe the best kept secret in the NHL, Tomas Vokoun first earned respectability in Nashville, where he honed his skills and developed into an elite level goalie. Vokoun is a no-nonsense player who doesn't really have bad games. Like any goalie, he lets in bad goals here and there, but he very seldom stinks up the house on any given night. His career GAA of 2.54 and Save Percentage of .914 are extremely solid numbers, and one can only imagine how good those stats could be if he hadn't played his early career on a fairly weak Nashville team. Sadly, as far as top-flight goalies go, Vokoun is the only one from the Czech Republic in the NHL right now.

    Honourable mention: nobody!

    What/Who's coming up:

    1 - Martin Hanzal: The Phoenix Coyotes have a keeper here. Hanzal scored 35 points in 71 games last season, his first in the NHL, but the speedy winger was used more in a supporting role than a fore-front one. Hanzal projects to be a 25 goal scorer, and could hit as high as 75 points in the next few seasons.

    2 - David Krejci: Boston saw what this guy can do last season, where he notched 6 goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 56 games last year. However, he'll be in a more prominent position this season, and will likely come close to doubling that output. He has good wheels, a nose for the net, and soft hands. Potential could be as high as 70 points.

    3 - Rostislav Olesz: His slow production is largely attributable to playing in Florida. However, Olesz's strength is as an offensive contributor, despite what the stats sheet reads at the moment. With Olli Jokinen gone, the door is wide open for Rusty to step up and show what he is capable of. I see him at around 55 points this season, which would be a massive upgrade on the 30 points that currently stand as his career best.

    4 - Michael Frolik: Another Panther, but this time a prospect. Frolik was once considered the Czech Republic's answer to Sidney Crosby. I think that was a stretch, but this kid has superlative talent. Frolik is projected to become a first line forward with exceptional playmaking skills and a strong shot by, which I don't believe is a stretch by any means. I expect him to make a strong case for himself at camp this month, and likely find himself in Panthers' colours at the start of the season.

    5 - Jakub Kindl: The Wings know how to draft and develop players, and I think they found themselves a real gem in Kindl, who they drafted at 19th overall in 2005. Kindl's combination of size (although at 6'3" he needs to fill out his 183lb frame), skating ability and vision will make him a strong top-pairing defenceman down the road. His adjustment to minor-pro (AHL) last season was smooth, and all he needs is a vacancy in the Wings' lineup to make a strong push for a roster spot. Watch for him to knock on the NHL door in case of injury this season to any Wings' regular.

    6 - Ondrej Pavelec: Have to include a goaltender on the list of up-and-comers, and it looks like Pavelec is the guy (Marek Schwarz was considered our top goaltending prospect, but he has been very slow in developing and could prove to be a bust). Pavelec came in to the NHL last year in relief of Atlanta's annual injury issue - Kari Lehtonen. "Pav" only played in 7 games for the Thrashers, and considering the team's complete lack of defensive acumen, posted a respectable 3-3 record. There was talk earlier in the offseason that Atlanta might consider moving Lehtonen to get a defenceman, leaving Pav to be the team's starter, just to give you an idea of the potential this young goalie has (he's 21). I am not sure if he'll ever live up to that kind of expectation, but suffice it to say, he's a blue-chip prospect to at least be a regular backup, if not starter in the NHL.

    Anyway, I'm sure I missed a few players, like Jakub Voracek, Jiri Tlusty (for you Leafers out there) and many others, but there's only so many hours in a day. Feel free to post your opinions, or point out any other players deserving to be on this list.

    Until next time,

    Na Zdravi!

    Labels: , , ,

    Monday, September 15, 2008


    Monday Musings: Hockey Burnout

    by Jes

    As you might have noticed, the volume of posts on this site has slowed in the past month. Besides the lack of good hockey news, I'm still feeling under the cloud of Blogger Burnout. Even if there is a good story to be had, I just don't have the spark.

    Remember the story of young Steven Legein? He's the Columbus Dinner Jackets prospect that quit the game simply because he grew tired of it. All of the practices, training camps, video sessions ... it just wasn't worth it for the young prospect.

    This type of burnout seems to be happening more these days among our nation's youth, and most of it can be traced to those parents that push their children so hard in a usually-futile attempt to land a lucrative spot in the NHL.

    From The Province:

    But the seeds of hockey burnout are now being planted long before a player reaches the junior level, and [Canadian Hockey Head Bob] Nicholson agrees it is becoming a problem.

    "It's a big concern of ours that players aren't playing soccer, baseball, lacrosse like they used to (in the summer)," he said. "We're in board meetings now looking at ways to try to make sure that they're not playing competitive hockey 12 months of the year."

    Part of the problem is overzealous hockey parents with dreams of their son becoming the next Sidney Crosby. They're the ones forking out the cash for the summer hockey programs, which aren't cheap.

    "I think a lot of it comes right from the parents," Nicholson agreed. "It almost seems like it's worse now with the 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds. The message doesn't seem to be getting down to the parents right now."
    It's not that the kids don't like playing hockey, it's that they don't like playing it ALL THE TIME, and they don't like the constant work involved. Most kids don't like practices, and most kids certainly don't want to feel pushed into training year round. It just saps the fun out of the game entirely, doesn't it?

    Think of how many kids play at the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. It's a very small percentage of the total population of hockey players in that age group. Now, think of how many of those kids will ever make the NHL. It's a very small percentage.

    The fact is that if your kid can't possibly be one of the elite players during the course of a regular season, those few extra months are not going to make him the next superstar. That extra training might help the very best young players, but it's not going to help the mass majority become THAT much better.

    Again, we must look over to Europe to see how they do things right.

    In the summer, even the pro teams never set a foot out on to the ice. In Europe, the players play soccer and tennis ... they go mountain biking, they go jogging, they have fun doing other stuff that isn't even related to hockey.

    The result? The players are happier because they get a break from the game, and the players are better trained.

    Better trained?

    Yes. Soccer and tennis, especially, develop athletic traits that aren't always worked on so well in hockey. Both sports are great for developing agility and stamina, allowing players to develop quickness on a different surface. Biking is obviously great for developing stamina and vitality, something short-burst hockey training doesn't always do.

    Having a kid play hockey 12 months a year will leave them rather 1-dimensional in terms of their athletic training, not to mention bored to tears. It's hard for any mind to develop creativity and creatively when it is constantly focusing on one type of task.

    Edit: OK, I totally mis-read the Cherry quote. Woops. What do you make of this, anyway? sheesh
    Last March, on the Grapeline radio show, host Brian Williams asked Don Cherry what he thought about hockey parents whose kids missed games during spring break to go on a family vacation.

    "What do I think of them?" Cherry roared. "You want to know what I think of them? I think they're selfish rats that can't be counted on. The parents that take the kids out of the team and go on vacation are rats that can't be counted on. Can I say it any clearer?

    "That's not only my opinion," Cherry added, "but real hockey people think they're selfish rats who can't be counted on."

    Labels: , , ,

    Friday, September 12, 2008


    NHL vs. KHL: Don't Expect the IIHF To Help "Us"

    by Jes

    This whole NHL vs. KHL Cold War has been rumbling all summer long, and it's not going to go away any day soon.

    It was thought that the IIHF might not allow Radulov to play in Int'l events, in order to keep peace with the NHL and in their good books heading into the Olympics.

    From recent comments by IIHF head Rene Fasel, that doesn't appear to be the case.

    "When Aleksander Radulov returned from the NHL to Russia, he did not need an international transfer card because the NHL is not a member of the IIHF. Consequently, as there is not transfer agreement between the NHL and IIHF, we cannot prohibit him from playing for Salavat."

    "There is no doubt that Radulov violated his contract", but the current situation needs a political compromise. "The parties need to get to the table and develop common rules" and the KHL and NHL should find a compromise "that satisfies both Nashville and Salavat as well as Radulov.

    In fact, the Russian side is doing a lot of efforts to cooperate. They have prepared a legal text of the memorandum on the mutual respect of contract and to show their goodwill, they have shown willingness to forget about five of the disputed players.

    The NHL, on the other hand, is just using the Radulov case as an excuse not to negotiate and reach an agreement. And Bill Daly is accusing me for lacking courage?

    Prohibiting Radulov for playing will not solve the problems. The problems can only be solved at the negotiating table".
    You know, Fasel is quite right in that the IIHF really doesn't have to or have the legal right to do anything to the KHL or NHL in these matters. The leagues don't have any sort of connection of agreement, so it's carte blanche to steal players back and forth.

    Remember when Malkin broke his contract with a Russian club to play with the Penguins? We were all applauding him for that, weren't we?

    So, why shouldn't Russian clubs be able to pull the same stunt? It's a different league on a different "K"ontinent, right? These are two competing businesses, after all.

    I believe Fasel when he says that Daly and the NHL are simply using Radulov as an excuse not to negotiate. It has always been clear that the flow of players from Europe is a 1-way street and the NHL only pays anything to European clubs because they are strongarmed into doing so.

    It is best that the IIHF not take sides in this issue, and simply try and broker a deal between the two sides and get a transfer agreement in place.

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008


    Revisiting Rod Brind'Amour's Physical Advantage

    by Jes

    Any hockey fan knows that Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour is a fitness fanatic. While he's a smart 2-way centerman with good on-ice vision, his strength has always been that he's stronger and possess more stamina than just about any NHLer to ever lace on a pair of skates.

    While we know most NHLers are quite fit, Brind'Amour's elite level of fitness does contribute to the other more "mental" aspects of the game. Most players make mistakes when they are tired, and can't chase down errant pucks when they are sucking wind. Brind'Amour and others of his type make fewer mistakes and can make more plays simply because they have more gas in the tank.

    If you already didn't feel enough like a coach potato, the Globe and Mail has another article showing you how Brind'Amour works about 1,000 times harder than you, and how other players adopted similar trends to keep up with ... well, each other.

    The captain of the Carolina Hurricanes is one of the fittest players in the NHL because he refuses to stop exercising. He turned 38 over the summer and still has three years left on a contract he fully intends to play out.

    Brind'Amour typifies the character needed to be a veteran in today's NHL. In the past, some believed that longevity was best achieved by taking extensive time off over the summer to let the body heal before essentially starting anew during training camp.

    That strategy simply wouldn't work now.

    “It's definitely a year-round job,” Brind'Amour said during a recent interview. “I think the guys that approach it that way are the ones that last the longest.

    “Especially with the amount of money guys make now, if you don't treat it year-round you're foolish.”

    Chris Chelios is nearing 50, and he's still known for his insane workout schedule. There is obviously some benefit in keeping the engines running year-round.

    What is amazing is that these guys can work insanely hard year-round and their bodies just don't break down. You'd think Brind'Amour's body would just say 'ENOUGH!' and shut down from the physical onslaught.

    I think one attribute that isn't talked about enough is that some human bodies are just blessed with superior physical construction to others, like Lance Armstrong and his huge heart, or Michael Phelps and his myriad of physical features that help him swim faster (Double-jointed chest, for one).

    I know that my body produces a high amount of urea (blood/muscle waste, in simple terms) that makes it hard for my body to recover from physical activity. When I used to work 4-6 times a week, my body simply refused to put on muscle, and I would sometimes ache for days after a workout. Simply put, I could never keep up this type of schedule and expect to be in top physical condition in the long run.

    So, compare and contrast that to a guy like Rod Brind'Amour. Obviously, his body has a well-above average ability to recover from workouts and to keep up a high level of physical activity without feeling fatigued, run down, and susceptible to injuries. Compare and contrast that to NHLers who you might consider brittle?

    Brind'Amour (and Chelios) should get full credit for his work ethic, but nature obviously gave him a boost that some other humans just can't match, even if they wanted to. Perhaps there is something in their blood that can be measured, and teams looking at potential draftees might want to be on the lookout for in blood measuring or gene testing becomes the norm.

    Labels: ,

    Monday, September 08, 2008


    Bulgarian Women Are Easy to Score On!

    by Jes

    Bulgaria is not known for being a hockey power, so the fact that their women's team got blown away by Slovakia is no surprise.

    What is a surprise is just how badly they’ve been thrashed at an 2010 Olympic qualifying tournament over in Latvija.

    When my Slovakian friend sent this to my email, I thought it was a joke. Apparently not.

    Výsledky - sobota:
    Slovensko - Bulharsko 82:0 (31:0, 24:0, 27:0)
    6., 10., 12., 17., 21., 27., 30., 38., 39. a 52. Čulíková,
    5., 5., 14., 22., 31., 34., 39., 42. a 42. Veličková,
    6., 10., 21., 30., 34., 42., 57. a 58. Vargová,
    7., 7., 14., 14., 35., 45., 48. a 52. Celarová,
    16., 20., 26., 32., 51., 57., 59. a 60. Herichová,
    2., 5., 36., 37., 40., 45., 53. a 56. Gapová,
    6., 6., 24., 33. 54. a 54. Moravčíková,
    1., 4., 25., 29., 45. a 48. Karafiátová,
    9., 19., 43., 56. a 60. Kapustová,
    8., 10., 39., 53. a 59. Sroková,
    3., 17., 44. a 51. Danková,
    6., 13. a 25. Džurňáková,
    11. Konečná,
    8. Brémová

    That's right, Slovakia won 82-0. All but 2 of the Slovak women dressed for the game had at least a goal.

    The Bulgarians also lost 30-1 to Croatia and 41-0 to Italy, hardly hockey powerhouses in their own right.

    Every country has the right to try to qualify for the Olympics, but why did the Bulgarian federation even bother? Not only did they not have a chance in hell, but their women get completely humiliated.

    I wonder why the Bulgarians even bothered coming out for the final two periods. I mean, do they really expect a comeback after being down 31-0 after the first period? I guess these women have balls, or absolutely don't give a rat's ass how bad they do.

    Note to IIHF: Have some entry standards. IT makes the sport look like a joke when you have games like this. Just imagine if it was the USA or Canada instead of Slovakia? Triple digits, easily.

    Labels: , , ,

    Sunday, September 07, 2008


    Weekend Wonderings: Teddy's Angry

    by Jes

    Caps owner Ted Leonsis has never been one owner who is afraid to speak his mind, and he's one of the rare sports owners who talks publicly at all. Most owners are content to sit in their country clubs sipping expensive wine and laughing at how many people they laid off this week.

    Ted? He's ANGRY!!! and he takes a nice shot as some idiot in the MSM.

    From time to time, you have heard me rail against media pundits for their lack of criticality; original thinking; creativity; and basic non-understanding of what they are writing about.

    Well here is another rant. This time against Ross McKeon and his blog post mentioning contraction of six NHL teams including the Washington Capitals.

    First, the throw away notion of shuttering six major league teams is just mean-spirited. Those six teams employ thousands and thousands of people and support tens of thousands of families. I guess Ross wants us to lay off all those people in the toughest economy ever. And those teams generate dollars for their cities in taxes and they generate dollars to hundreds and hundreds of small businesses as vendor/ suppliers. All of that would go away and the benefit and glow of a major sports team franchise would leave those cities marked as second rate for a long, long time.
    For the most part, I agree with him. However, invoking the lost jobs argument, especially from a rich multi-millionare, comes across as disgenuine. People lose jobs all the time, and they can gain jobs just the same. It's not like jobs disappear into a black hole. Besides, most people who work at sporting events are part-timers: the concession peeps, the ushers/hosts, ticket takers, etc...

    Southern Correspondant Wayne chips in: While I doubt Leonsis' claim about "thousands and thousands" losing jobs, I do see his point: a few of the new arenas are hockey only (Phoenix, Miami, Nashville, Tampa), and don't have an NBA team to fall back on (I would make the joke that Atlanta doesn't have an NBA team, either, but I'm keeping my mouth shut for now, as they were the ONLY Atlanta team to make the playoffs in a year), with millions of $ to pay in municipal bonds...


    Over at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader of Slam-Dunk clips, columnist Terry Frei opines that attendance will decrease greatly if NHL teams continue to charge higher ticket prices.

    Will they? Perhaps in some American markets. The Canadian economy is still in fairly good shape and the dollar is fine.

    The NHL has always had a risky model based on low TV ratings and high ticket prices. The NHL knows it can get away with charging its hard core of fans high ticket prices because they are willing to pay. The NHL also gets a lion's share of its revenues from ticket prices, and not ancillary sources like TV and merchandise.

    One could say the NHL has always been teetering on the ledge when it comes to its revenue strategy, and eventually the league will come to a point where the teams will be charging too much for fans to justify the expense.

    Still, it's up to each individual team to set their ticket prices, and some of the Atlanta's of the league may very well have a much lower ticket range than the Minnesota's. It may be that the Minnesota's and such subsidize the Atlanta's even more than they do now. That's the price of revenue sharing.


    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?