Friday, December 31, 2004


Last Roundup of 2004: Life is Cruel

I really really really really really really really hate Sweden right about now!

It’s not enough that Swedish teams are stealing talent away from Slovakia with their more valuable Swedish Crowns and promises of free Ikea furniture...No! They have to send the Slovaks to the relegation round, as well.

Thanks for a 3-0 shutout, Sweden sends Slovakia into 4th place. Finland, Sweden, and Slovakia all finished 2-2. Slovakia actually had a better overall goal differential than Finland, but thanks to the way the IIHF scheduled the tiebreaking rules, the Slovaks are screwed over once again.

In an rare scenario, Sweden, which was on the brink of going to the relegation round entering the game, ended up finishing in second place. On the other end of the spectrum, Slovakia, despite a strong showing in the preliminary round, was the unlucky team in a three-way tie that sent them to the relegation round.

NOTE: In case of a three-team tie (Sweden, Finland and Slovakia all finished on four points in their group) the standing is decided by head-to-head games between the teams involved. The games taken into account are: Finland-Slovakia 0-2, Finland-Sweden 5-4 and Sweden-Slovakia 3-0. All teams have two points in the head-to-head standings and the goal differential from those three games decides: 1. Sweden 7-5 (+2), 2. Finland 5-6 (-1) and Slovakia 2-3 (-1).
Finland ranks ahead of Slovakia due to more goals scored.
I said, before the tournament, that Slovakia had one of its best teams ever and, despite this, they could easily finish in 7th place. Now, 7th is the best they can hope for, even though the Slovaks really played quite well in this tournament. I’d love to see Canada play Sweden once more in this tournament and win by a 21-0 score.

…and…I will never ever buy Ikea furniture again >:(.

Do pice skurvene Svedsko!

Speaking of Canada, our boys continued their world domination over the junior realms with an 8-1 massacre of the Finns. After Flyers’ prospect Stefan Ruzicka had a hat-trick yesterday, it was Jeff Carter’s turn to the get himself one. The 3rd man of the Crosby-Bergeron Line, Corey Perry, had himself a 2-goal night.

Canada (4-0) earned the right to bypass Saturday's quarterfinals and go to Sunday's semifinals against Finland or the Czech Republic. The squad dominated the teams in its pool, outscoring its opposition by a whopping 32-5 margin.
Let’s not forget that Canada also blasted the competition in the exhibition round by an 11-0 score. It’s almost as if this is an NHL vs. AHL tournament with Canada as your Stanley Cup favourites.

Now, I know the Pool that Canada is in is much easier than the other group (Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Germany vs. Russia, USA, Czechia, Belarus, Switzerland), but the kind of domination that Canada has put forth over traditionally good countries is just astonishing. I keep waiting for reality to kick in.

Of course, dark clouds do loom over the horizon for Canada: Cam Barker, an important Power Play and defensive cog, is out for the rest of the tournament with ‘mono’.

Cam, Cam, Cam…stay away from the puck bunnies!!!

His injury comes after Jeremy Colliton sprained his knee. Thus, Canada is down to 6 defensemen and 12 forwards for the rest of the tournament. One more injury, especially on the back end, and Canada will be in big trouble.

Meanwhile, the hometown USA team lost AGAIN! This time, they lost to a team that doesn’t usually suck, the Czech Republic, by a 3-1 score. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Marek Schwarz providing the goaltending heroics:

Vladislav Koutsky stopped 39 shots to lead the Czech Republic to a 3-1 win over the Americans on Thursday in Pool A action. Koutsky said the heavy workload kept him sharp in the contest.

"I think it helped out a bit," Koutsky said through an interpreter. "You know when a goalie faces a lot of shots it helps him stay in the zone."
Now, Koutsky was briefly an emergency backup for HCO Trinec, thanks to a loan from Pardubice. If he likes heavy workloads, he certainly got to see them up close as Trinec routinely gives up 40 shots a night.
Koutsky was not really a big prospect for 2005 heading into the season, but this kind of performance can vault you 100 points up some scouts’ rankings.

Rostislav Olesz had 2 more goals, as his line continues to carry the Czechs. Lukas Kaspar, whose line really should be doing more, had the other goal. Olesz now has 5 goals and 3 assists in 4 games. Although he may not challenge for the assists title like I predicited, he could surely net the overall scoring title. Olesz was last years tournament star, and he’s really vaulted himself up another notch this year. It’s amazing how little hype Olesz gets, especially considering the fact he played regularly in the Extraliga as a 16-year old and has always been one of the best in his peer group. Getting drafted by a hockey outcast like the Florida Panthers certainly doesn’t help.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go punch a wall and drink myself to sleep. Have a happy New Year, and let’s hope 2005 doesn’t suck as much as 2004.

Stastne Novy Rok 2005!

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Another GRRRRRREAT Day at the WJC's!

YOW! I feel good!

Santa didn’t give me the Ice Girls or Slovakia over Canada victory that I asked for, but yesterday was a pretty good consolation prize. Out of the 4 games at the WJC yesterday, all 4 of the ‘good’ teams won! Let’s break it down like MC Hammer.

Belarus 5 – USA 3
That is not a typo, folks! Belarus is making a habit out of major upsets at major tournaments. This isn’t quite the bomb-from-center-ice upset of the Swedes at the Olympic Games, but it’s close! The hometown USA team played awful defense in their game against Switzerland, and did even worse against the Belarussians – A team with 3-4 ‘good’ prospects and a whole lot of filler.

What’s the problem for the US squad? Why are they stinking up the home joint?

Over on the Hockeyrodent’s message boards, ‘Atlantaran’ had these comments:

They have no stay at home defensive defensemen. They lack a defensive line that can check the opposition. In short this team looks more like what the Rangers tried to do over the past several years. Their coverage in their own end is down right pitiful. No one clears the crease they all look like a cross between Tom Poti and Rod Seiling! The gap between the defensemen and the on coming offensive players is wider than the gap between Michael Strahan's front teeth! They give up more prime shooting space to the opposition without even contesting the play. They back up faster than the former Iraqi Information Director ever did.

If the US is not controlling the game with their forwards and playing the majority of the game in the other team's end, they are in big trouble.

Slovakia 5 – Germany 0

The Germans are definitely the punching bags of this tournament. Jaro Halak only had to make 11 saves for the shutout, Stefan Ruzicka (the Flyers have an underrated sniper prospect in this guy) had the natural hat-trick in the 1st period (3 shots, 3 goals!) and Andrej Meszaros added 2 goals in the 3rd period. Tomas Bulik had 3 assists in the game, and he gets my nod for best surprise performance of the WJC in the non-Canadian category. (4 points in 3 games now for Bulik)

Some bad news to report as 2005 uber-prospect Marek Zagrapan missed his second straight game. Coach Dusan Gregor refuses to elaborate on what type of injury Zagrapan has, but did say he expects Marek back in the lineup by at least the playoff round.

Czechia 5 – Switzerland 2
The line of Kvapil-Olesz-Vrana continues to carry the offensive load for the Czech team as they accounted for 3 of the 5 Czech goals. Olesz had 1 goal and 2 assists, and 2006 uber-prospect Michael Frolik, whom I have talked about before and will mention many times, had another goal! He isn’t getting any Sidney Crosby-type hype, but he almost should be.

Finland 5 – Sweden 4

If you read my entry from yesterday, than you know why I am a little pissed off at Sweden right now. I was so happy to come home and see this story:

In sensational and unprecedented comeback, Finland stunned Sweden with four unanswered goals in third period to earn a dramatic 5-4 win on Wednesday afternoon in Thief River Falls.

Finland's comeback, which spanned just over 12 minutes, started when they took advantage of a high-sticking and game misconduct penalty on Sweden's Nicklas Grossman in the opening moments of the third period. At the time of the penalty, Sweden led, 4-1.
Sweden is now 1-2 and will need some miracles to avoid playing in the relegation zone. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of talent-stealing meatball eaters ;)

The IIHF has a good preview of the final games of the preliminary round. Canada is sitting pretty and Slovakia is positioned well for the next round.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


The Great Canadian Roundup

It wasn’t quite a double-digit massacre, but Canada had absolute no trouble steamrolling over Germany by a 9-0 score at the World Under-20 Junior Championships.

The Germans tried to stop Canada with their version of ‘anti-hockey’ - a 1-4 or 0-5 counterattack/trap - but the Krauts didn’t have any success. The frustrated Germans took 3 desperation and undisciplined penalties in the first period. Canada took advantage and used two straight PP goals to make it 4-0 after the 1st period (including a Bergeron-Crosby cross-crease play that made me scream out loud) and never looked back.

Crosby now has 6 goals and 1 assist in 3 games while Bergeron leads the tournament with 8 points (3+5). I don’t think my Olesz prediction is going to pan out, so it’s good that I didn’t put money on it.

I’m trying to think of something good to say about the German squad, but I can’t really think of anything. The German junior squad was in the B-Pool last year, and perhaps they should have stayed there. For all of the decent prospects that come out of Germany, they are still miles behind the other countries when it comes to the quantity of skilled prospect. Perhaps if the German Elite league didn’t allow so many foreigners on their teams, then the hometown German players could develop in a stronger environment.

Somehow the Germans ‘managed’ 17 shots on backup Rejean Beauchemin. I think the scorekeeper was quite generous, since I swear I only saw the Germans get about 5-6 shots on goal.

My thoughts, exactly! HockeyNation Blog had this to say about Team Canada thus far:

Not meaning to be cocky, which is a decidedly un-Canadian outlook on life, but this group of Sutter cowhands are making the game look oh so easy. Beside the magic of Crosby and Bergeron (and if you’re the NHL you had best get busy making sure you have a place for Sidney to play next year!) this is a team that has bought into the much vaunted Sutter work ethic. Every period, every shift seems to provide a complete effort. Even the few mistakes that have been made have been quickly corrected; they already have meshed into a complete unit that can provide scoring from line number one down to the grinders’ line. The back end has held up its own and the goaltending has been quite fine thank you very much. While the competition thus far hasn’t been of an intense nature, you sense that this Junior team may be one of our better assembled units of recent history

Now, my own random thoughts...

1. Dion Phaneuf – He had his first three assists of the tournament in last night’s game. I was quite impressed with his passing ability. Dion was making good breakout passes and playmaking passes. If he possesses this quality in most every game, then he’s even better than I thought. I know one of Chris Pronger’s most underrated qualities is the fact that he’s an elite passer. The most important offensive skill a defenseman can have is great passing ability. To me, this is 10 times more important than having a big slapshot (just see Shawn Heins, for example)

2. Chris Bourque – I haven’t yet had a chance to see him play, but all reviews I’ve heard and read have been positive thus far. Until he plays in the AHL/smaller rink environment, I’ll still hold a sceptical eye. Jiri Hudler, he is not.

3. Clarke MacArthur – In every WJC, Canada always seems to be a lowly-regarded junior player that comes out of almost nowhere and has a great tournament. These are the guys that are drafted much lower than the Dion Phaneuf’s of the world, or just wasn’t anywhere on the radar prior to the tournament. Clarke was drafted in the 3rd round by Buffalo in the 2003 entry draft. Until this tournament, I had never heard of the guy. Only the most die-hard Sabres fan or Medicine Tigers fan would know who he is. Mike Cammalleri (2nd round by Los Angeles) and Ian White (6th round by the Leafs) pop into mind as players that used the WJC to burst onto the scene and increase their profile.

MacArthur made the score 3-0 with one of the most skilled deflections I have ever seen. Phaneuf’s shot/pass wasn’t even close to being on net, but MacArthur deflected the puck out of mid-air while he was skating fast towards the net. I could try that move 100 times and maybe make it once. Sabres fans must be quite pleased to see MacArthur showing so well at this tournament.

In Canada’s group, Finland, Sweden, and Slovakia are all tied at 1-1. One of these teams won’t make it to the playoff round...I hope it’s Sweden!


Extraleague Update Machine:

Whoever produced the Slovak Extraliga schedule is obviously on crack. Games are scheduled on random days. Instead of the very strict round-by-round home/away schedule we are used to, the Powers That Be decided just to pick a few random games and schedule them intermittently over the past 2-3 weeks. I’ll just focus on the Czech games until the Slovaks straighten themselves out.

Miro Satan – The devil has finally got bored of the newlywed life and has agreed to play for evil Slovan Bratislava if evil Gary Bettman cancels the NHL season. (Edit: Miro Satan is playing in today's game, and my initial report wasn't quite correct. Miro will play with Slovan until January 15th. He will then decide, after the BoG meeting, whether to continue with Slovan or not.)

Screw-Off, Sweden – It seems the Swedes take might delight at pilfering talent from Slovakia, as they are unable to produce their own. Mora IK, especially, has openly expressed interest in bringing Lubomir Visnovsky to Sweden, and Miro Satan (too late, suckers!).

Here are the stats from the last round of Czech League games. Palffy has sure sucked a big one since he return from Skalica. He must have fallen prey to one of the Gypsy (Roma) curses that the crestfallen Skalican fans paid for.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Rollin' Along at the World Junior Championships

Was it supposed to be this easy for Canada?

Canada 8 - Sweden 1 -> Imagine the school bullies/jocks stealing a textbook from a nerdy kid and then passing it amongst themselves while the nerd tries in vain to get it back. That, my friends, is exactly what Canada did to poor Sweden.

Oh, it was 1-1 after the first period. Canada outshot Sweden 16-4 and there was a bit of doubt creeping in my mind.

"Please don't let it be one of those games where Canada somehow manages to lose despite playing great hockey."

After a 4-0 2nd period, the game really wasn't in any doubt. Through 2 exhibition and 2 regular games, Canada has outscored the opposition by a 26-4 margin. Is there really a large divide between the Big 4 (Canada, Russia, USA, Czechia) and everyone else? The action we have seen thus far would indicate that.

Sidney "Nextzky" Crosby made some waves with 2 more goals, and some waffling about whether or not he'd play in the NHL with replacement players.

"If there is an NHL with replacement players, I think for me to be involved and to say that I would play in the league is not true," Crosby told TSN. "If the NHL is the real NHL with the best players in the world, for sure I want to play in it but at the same time, if it's a league of replacement players, it's not the real NHL. And with all the things going on right now with players and owners, it's not right and I don't think I'd be playing in a league like that."
Listen, I'm as much as a free speech buff as Larry Flynt, but can't we have a ban on CBA questions during the WJC? These kids really don't need to put up or think about labour wars. Not only that, but why hasn't Crosby's agent told him not to comment on anything to do with the CBA? Just say "I don't want to comment on that". Simple. Boring. Effective. Stay out of trouble, kid!

A couple of notes about Canada:
1. Jeff Glass back in net? Usually the 2nd game (against an easier team) is the chance for the backup to get a start. Glass wasn't bad in this game, but he still makes me nervous.

2. Canada will run into problems later in the tournament if it keeps giving up Power Plays like it has been. Canada has given Sweden and Slovakia quite a bit of time on the 5-on-3, and they have been fortunate/good that it hasn't hurt them. The better teams like Russia will make Canada pay for a lack of discipline. I can imagine coach Sutter is throwing a few f-bombs to the kids right now about this very subject.

Canada vs. Germany today. If the Canadian squad doesn't get too complacent, this could be a double-digit whopper.

Slovakia 2 - Finland 0 -> I feel much much MUCH better now that Slovakia racked up their first win of the tournament. Jaro Halak only had to make 19 saves for the shutout while Andrej Meszaros scored an empty-netter to put himself on the board. I'm glad the Slovaks were able to play a much tighter defensive game after Canada ripped them apart like a Hulkamania T-shirt.

Russia 4 - Czechia 1 - Despite all of the hype Alex Ovechkin has received coming into the 2005 draft, he hasn't really been blowing away the world at the WJC's. While Crosby is a year younger and does have superior linemates, Ovechkin was supposed to be the greatest thing since X-ray goggles. What's going on?

USA 6 - Switzerland 4 - The USA managed to escape this high-scoring affair with the denizans of the Neutral Zone.
For all of the good hub-bub surrounding Robbie Schremp making Team USA, it really sucks to see him buried on the 4th line, drinking Gatorade and warming the bench.


Meanwhile, back in Czechia...

1. HCO Trinec is in 2nd-to-last place without any real hope of a playoff spot, but they haven't stopped trying! Trinec has managed to get Tomas Kloucek from Slavia and they replaced coach Pavel Marek (gave him a demotion/promotion, actually) with Slovak L'ubomir Pokovic (an assistant with the national team). Of course, Trinec lost 4-1 to Liberec (and 3-1 to Hame Zlin today) some things never change :(

2. Milan Kraft - In 2000/01, I was helium-high on Milan Kraft. He ripped apart the AHL with 44 points in 40 regular season games and 19 points in 14 playoff games as the Wiles-Barre/Scranton Penguins went on to the Calder Cup Finals. It looked like Kraft was poised to take the place of Lemieux and Lang as they moved on. In fact, I wanted Kraft so much for my fantasy team that I basically traded a high first round draft pick (which was Stanislav Chistov) and Tomas Surovy to get my hands on him.

3 lukewarm NHL season later, and Kraft has pretty much eroded all of the confidence I had in him. After spending most of the season with his hometown Plzen squad, they loaned him out to Karlovy Vary due to poor play. Kraft sits on just 14 points in 32 games, and, somehow, he managed to go pointless (and -1) in an 8-1 win over his old Plzen club!! How does that happen??

Aren't you glad I don't run your hockey team? :)

To finish off, here are the stats from the last round of games...

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Boxing Day Bombs: WJC Day 1 Thoughts

Canada 7 - Slovakia 3 - Despite my predicition, I had a feeling that something like this would happen.

I hate you, Santa!

Oh, the Slovaks did get some good news before the game started. It seems Andrej Meszaros' nose is not broken after all. In fact, Andrej didn't even appear to have a scratch, so he must possess some incredible healing powers. Of course, the good news ended there...

It all went downhill after just 3 minutes when Tomas Bulik took a checking-from-behind penalty (kind of a cheap call) and was given 2+10. Sidney "Nextzky" Crosby (2 goals, 1 assist) and Patrice Bergergon (2 goals, 2 assists) decided to put on a Christmas Day masterpiece for the crowd and it was 4-0 before the game was even half done.

Canada got a little complacment when the score was 5-1, and Slovakia managed to take the score to 5-3. With 4 minutes left in the game, Slovakia had a 2-man advantage, and couldn't take advantage. Instead of setting up in the usual formation, the Slovakian kids got a little too anxious and just started firing shots at any opportunity. The Canadians cleared the easy rebounds and then Clarke MacArthur completed a spectacular combination play to make it 6-3. MacArthur liked that goal so much that he wanted another and boosted the score to 7-3 with a Penalty Shot goal.

Even though the score was close in the 3rd period, the 7-3 final score really is a reflection of how the Canadians dominated the Slovaks for most of the game.

Thoughts on various prospects...

Sidney Crosby/Patrice Bergeron/Corey Perry - Like a cat playing with a dead mouse, Canada's top line had its way with the Slovakia defense. Bergeron looks like he belongs in the NHL (Oh, wait...) and he has some wicked-mad chemistry with Crosby. Perry is the 'hanger-on' guy, but he's good enough to hang with the Big 2. I had a feeling Crosby/Bergeron could have even piled up more points with a few more fortunate bounces, but they kind of took it easy on the poor Slovaks when the score was out of reach.

Shea Weber - He's been a big part of the defensive juggernaught known as the Kelowna Rockets for the past couple of years, and I am making a special effort to watch his play these days. Despite the fact he is 6'3" and skates quite well, you may not notice Weber all that much when he is on the ice. Weber quietly does a great job defensively (playing the angles and taking out his check) and doesn't really rush the puck all that much.
You can't go around him, you can't go through him, and you can't go under him...maybe you can jump over him?
At the very least, Weber looks like a very good bet to be a positive-impact 20-point-a-season defensive defenseman in the NHL down the road.

Jeff (not David) Glass - It's Roman Turek's love child, I'm telling you! Glass is the type of goalie I could never be comfortable with on my team. I can live with a flopper like Hasek, but not a clumsy oaf like Glass (He's got Devan Dubnyk-like quickness). Glass looks like he's never quite sure of where the puck is at times, and he doesn't seem to have the agility that you want in your backstopper. Rejean Beauchemin will probably get the nod in the 2nd game, so maybe he can steal the #1 job from Glass.

Jaroslav Halak - It's not entirely his fault the Slovaks lost, but Halak did his part by letting some weak goals squeak by him. If Halak can't bring his 'A' game, then it's time for coach Gregor to try Marek Novotny or (preferably) Michal Valent.

Branislav Fabry - This was a typical game for Fabry, who has struggled with Bratislava and Zilina of the Slovak Extraleague. Fabry, who has all of the natural skill one could hope for, just simply doesn't know how to finish and produce some actual offense. The scouts obviously love his size and skating ability, but when he's deep in the offensive zone, he really doesn't have more ability down there than Kelly Chase did in his prime.

Stanislav Lascek (1 goal and 4 shots) - IF you didn't believe my previous (and numerous) rants about Lascek, did tonight's game convince you? Lascek was given Team MVP for the Slovaks, and pretty impressive in the offensive zone. His skating isn't that bad, people! Can you believe all 30 NHL teams passed him over in the 2004 draft?

Marek Zagrapan - The 2005 draftee managed to put himself on the scoreboard, but seemed a little overmatched physically along the boards. Still, Zagrapan showed pretty well in a tournament where he is one of the younger players.

Marek Hascek - I know his dad, Otto, was a great player with Dukla Trencin back when I was wearing diapers, but Marek doesn't have one-tenth of his father's hockey talent. Please send Marek back to Slovakia on the first flight out of Grand Forks. Thank you.

Boris Valabik - You have size, please don't be afraid to use it!

Slovakia-Finland and Canada-Sweden are scheduled for Monday.


Meanwhile, Czechia beat up on the B-Grade Belarussians by a 7-2 score. As expected, Rostislav Olesz and Petr Vrana made some Disney magic together (Michal Kvapil played the role of 'hanger-on'). I was most happy to see 2006 draftee Michael Frolik score his first WJC goal. If you get a chance, you most definitely need to watch this kid play.


As a last note, here is an interesting little bunch of facts that has dug up about this year's WJC tournament.

One little factoid that kind of blew me away:

All the Canadian players but one (Patrice Bergeron) are playing in the CHL.

It didn't register with me earlier, but Team Canada doesn't have a single player from the NCAA on their roster. Given the success of some former NCAA playes for Team Canada, it's really surprising that not a single player from the NCAA was chosen. Daniel Bertram was the obvious star candidate, but he's still 17 and will have to wait a year to join Gilbert Brule on Team Canada.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Christmas Musings

Well, Santa Claus didn't leave me a Pardubice Ice Girl like I asked for :(. I'm starting to believe the guy doesn't really exist...

maybe he'll leave me a Slovak victory over Canada in today's WJC opener?

Probably not, the cheap bastard!

Anyway...both Canada and Slovakia are having roster issues heading into today's premier match.

The poor Slovaks may be without their #1 dman, Andrej Meszaros, after his nose was broken in the exhibition game versus Belarus. According to Slovak coaches, the Belarussians were quite liberal with their stickwork and now the Slovaks may have their medal hopes dashed :(

As for Canada, they have 2 roster spots still open, as neither Brent Seabrook nor Jeremy Colliton have been officially named to the team as of yet. Seabrook missed the exhbition games with an injury and it was believed that he is now well enough to play. Poor Kyle Quincey was a very late cut to make room for Seabrook. Maybe he'll be back if Seabrook isn't ready as originally thought.

More on Slovakia - They lost their exhibition match against the Czechs by a 4-2 score. Meszaros did not play, but Boris Valabik stepped up huge (pardon the bad pun) in his absence and showed some offensive acumen that he is not known for. Still, IMO, the most important non-Meszaros defenseman for the Slovaks will be his former Trencin running mate, Andrej Sekera. Sekera will also be counted on to play about 25 minutes a night and play in all key situations. Meszaros is getting all of the attention, but Sekera is quite a prize in his own right.

My pal Dano made a good point on some of the roster selections for Team Slovakia. As Slovakia is still a poor country, it is not uncommon for lesser players with rich/well-connected parents to get spots in various tournmanents that they couldn't make on their own merits.

Two players who didn't succeed in the Q are nominated from Trencin - Hascak (son of former excellent player) and Liska (son of minister).
Both don't play on their senior teams. Vlado Kutny dones't score too much. Some guys think that Stevo Blaho from OHL, who is a very good defensive forward, would be a better selection.
On an *ouch* note, poor Vlado Dravecky had to have his appendix removed right upon his arrival to the USA. Perhaps he stopped in at Taco Bell and tried the 99cent menu? (and they didn't warn him?). Jaroslav Markovic of Tri-City (WHL) is his replacement.

Last note on the goalies: As expected, Jaroslav Halak will be the #1. Surprisingly, Novotny will be #2 and Michal Valent (my favourite) will be #3. As long as Halak plays as well as he can, this shouldn't be an issue for the Slovaks.

Today's Prediction: Slovakia 3 - Canada 2

What is it with Maple Leafs players and whining?

Cue Bryan McCabe, who obviously left his pacifier in Sweden, gives his thoughts on the NHL's Board of Governers meeting set for January 14th:

Do they really need a meeting?" McCabe told the Toronto Sun hours after the news. "I mean, Gary's been poised to throw away (this) season for the past five years. I think he's known this was going to happen for a long time now.

Well, Bryan, the NHL doesn't really *WANT* to cancel the season, don't you think? (I don't think he thinks) It's obvious that the NHL has given the NHLPA this deadline and timeframe to come to the table with another offer. The NHL believes that the NHLPA will cave in to the demand for 'cost certainty' so that they entire season isn't lost. The NHL seems steadfast, so it seems up to the players to 'give in'.

Honestly, I believe the players can afford to sit out this entire season. Almost half the season is gone, anyway, and many of the players have already been playing in Europe and been earning some money through contracts and the NHL lockout fund. When it comes to *next* season, however, we'll start to see some action.


A little bit of Slovak action before Christmas...

Last place Dubnica beat Trencin (in Trencin!) by a 5-3 score...this is akin to the ECHL Augusta Lynx beating the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times really is that monumental of an upset...Hell has frozen over, pigs are flying, and all that...

Pavol Demitra (1 assist and -2) and Trencin only gave up 17 shots against, and still found a way to lose! This is only Dubnica's 3rd win in 35 games this year...perhaps this was simply a Christmas present to the poor bastards? See, Demitra is so generous. You'd never see Steve Yzerman do this.

The Stacked Zvolen squad beat up on Skalica by a 3-1 count.
Richard Zednik too the night off, Michal Handzus had a goal and finished +1 while Vlado Orszagh was held pointless and finished +1.

The final game saw a sparse crowd of 1,000 watch Zilina beat the hometown Kosice squad by a 2-0 score. Ronald Petrovicky and Jiri Bicek (-1) were both held pointless.

Veselé a Stastné Vánoce. (Have a happy and merry Christmas!)


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


WJC: Team Czech Republic Preview

The Czechs announced their final roster for the 2004/05 WJC and what instantly jumped out at me are some of the names left off of the roster. After looking over the roster, I’m a bit nervous about my 4th place prediction for Czechia...

First, here are the lucky ones who made it...

Marek Schwarz (Vancouver, WHL), Jakub Cech (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), Vladislav Koutský (Pardubice).
Martin “It’s not a” Tuma (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), Lukas Bolf (Barrie, OHL), Martin Lojek (Brampton, OHL), Roman Polák (Kootenay, WHL), Michal Gulasi (Lethbridge, WHL), Ladislav Smíd (Liberec), Ondrej Smach (Znojmo).
Rostislav Olesz (Sparta Praha), Jakub Petruzalek, Lukás Kaspar (Ottawa, OHL), Petr Vrána (Halifax, QMJHL), Zbynek Hrdel (Rimouski, QMJHL), David Krejcí (Gatineau, QMJHL), Marek Kvapil (Saginaw, OHL), Bedrich Kohler (Vítkovice), Michael Frolík, Milan Hluchý (Kladno), Michal Polák (Plzen), Roman Cervenka, Michal Borovanský (Slavia Praha).

Coach Alois Hadamczik (former coach of Trinec) has showed that he was not afraid to cut talented players that he didn’t believe would fit in with the ‘team’ concept. Hadamczik felt that certain talented players were either too lazy, whiny, or just not committed to the ‘team’ hockey that the past Czech champs were known for.

Thus, talented soon-to-be-bust Vojtech Polak (Stars 2nd rounder), Zdenek Bahensky (Rangers 3rd rounder and CHL Import Draft 1st overall), Jakub Sindel (Hawks 2nd rounder), and vertically-challenged Lukas Pulpan (ex-Giant who went undrafted) were left off of the team. Prospective 2005 1st rounder Jakub Kindl was also among the last cuts of the team.
For all of the talk about the CHL/European division in past years, it was interesting to see Hadamczik take 13 CHLers in all.

Names to Watch:

Marek Schwarz, G – I’ve talked at length about the current Giants netminder, and he’ll be the most important player for the Czechs this time out. Schwarz has incredible agility, flexibility, and quickness...and he’s also got rather suspect fundamentals. He has worked with goalie coach Bill Ranford to address these problems, but then Marek ran into injuries and fatigue after coach Don Hay started him just about every single game. Schwarz is like an early version of Curtis Joseph. If he falters, then the large drop-off to backup Jakub Cech (a Turek-like barge) and 3rd stringer Vladislav Koutsky is going to be felt.

Rostislav Olesz, C – Before running into Dion Phaneuf’s famous Scott Stevens-like hit, Olesz was tearing up last year’s WJC tournament. Olesz, amazingly, has not been buried under the star-power depth of Sparta Prague’s forward corps. Olesz is my early predicition to lead the tournament in assists (just because Crosby is such an easy and boring pick).

Ladislav Smid, D – I often get questions about Smid, especially considering he plays in relative obscurity in Liberec. Smid doesn’t put up a lot of offence in the Extraliga, but he has shown the ability to rack up numbers against his own peers. Smid will play big minutes in every game situation, and his calm demeanor should pay dividends for a rather unimpressive looking defence corps.

Petr Vrana, W – The Devils 2nd rounder had a monster year in 2002-03 with Halifax and then slipped to the 2nd round due mainly to the fact he’s not quite 6 feet tall. Since his draft day, Vrana has struggled with to maintain a point-a-game place and he’s played like a 2nd rounder. Vrana needs to have a big tournament and reclaim some of the luster he’s lost since his draft year.

Lukas Kaspar/Jakub Petruzalek – They play together for the Ottawa 67s and they’ll play together for the Czech team, too. In such a short-term tournament, playing with a friend and long-time playing partner can give you an incredible edge other most of the other teams who lack such partnerships. Kaspar/Petruzalek will need to give the Czechs some secondary production if they are to succeed.

Michael Frolik, RW – If you pay particular attention to upcoming draftees, then Frolik is the guy for you. What makes Frolik special is that he is not even draft eligible until 2006! Playing in the WJC at such a young age is often reserved for the most talented players like Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby, and Jason Spezza. Frolik spent some time on Kladno’s pro roster earlier this year, enjoying the company of Jaromir Jagr.

Here is Robert Neuhauser’s scouting report on the talented youngster.

"Michael Frolik is currently one of the fastest progressing young players in Czech hockey. Frolik accomplished a rare feat in reaching the senior Extraleague just three seasons after skating with the 13 and 14-year-olds at the 9th grade level. Frolik needed just one season to get accustomed to the midget and junior levels and even showed that he wouldn’t benefit from a longer stay at those levels. Besides performing regularly for the Czech Under-18 and Under-20 teams, Frolik joined the Kladno seniors for the summer camp. He succeeded in earning a playing spot alongside former fringe NHL players Pavel Patera and Martin Prochazka, both seasoned senior Extraleague veterans who should teach the youngster big lessons in how to make use of all his natural talent to his advantage on the elite Czech level.

Frolik is a solid skater with deceptive quickness. He possesses strong agility and a smooth stride to go along with good balance and lower-body strength. Frolik impresses with his above-average puckhandling skills and hand-eye coordination. Frolik can bring the defensemen out of position with his nifty stick moves and plenty of finesse skills, which enables him to maneuver effectively even in traffic. He boasts an excellent hockey sense and an ability to find the open man. Frolik is a very strong playmaker who possesses a rare
sixth sense for finding a passing lane unseen by others. He shows a good array of shots, but prefers passing to shooting. Frolik unleashes a quick wrist shot with solid accuracy, but could upgrade on the accuracy of the slap shot. He isn't very big, but is solidly built and willing to dig for pucks along the boards. He doesn't play an overly aggressive style, but isn't a liability in traffic. The top Czech 2006 eligible prospect is blossoming into a real blue-chipper and is the only Czech midget-eligible player to skate in the senior Extraleague player right now."

Overall, the Czechs have some incredible star power, and then some questionable depth. Coach Hadamczik is counting on the ‘role’ players to work hard and hold the fort while the stars shine in front of them. I wouldn’t bet money on the Czechs winning their first medal since 2001 (after 2 straight Golds), but they may put up a pretty good fight compared to their squads the past 3 years.


Slovakia: The Exodus Continues

Is Slovakia the farm system for the rest of the world? Sometimes, I feel that is the case...

Both Ladislav Nagy (Mora IK) and Marian Gaborik (Djurgardens) have recently left Slovakia for the blonde riches of Sweden. With their departures, the Slovak Extraleague is now down to 8 NHLers. If Zednik, Orszagh, and Handzus stay with Zvolen, then they should pretty much have their way with the rest of the league. The problem is that Zvolen has too many ‘stars’ and not enough ice time to divvy out.

The Slovak Extraleague fit in one last round of games before the Christmas holidays. Here are the (rather unimpressive) stats for your NHL stars from yesterday’s action:

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


You are Finnished, Junior! - WJC Predictions and Musings.

Only in Canada would you find 15,000+ spectators showing up (good show, Winnipeg) to a Finland/Canada exhibition game for the World Junior Championships. Only in Canada would the biggest sports channel broadcast such an exhibition game. Not that I’m complaining, but it goes to show you how big hockey in Canada really is.

Last night, the home town crowd was treated to a 6-0 Canadian victory over the boring Finns. Team Canada took this opportunity to wear those god-awful mustard coloured tributes to the Nashville Predators 1920 Winnipeg Falcons. I hope this is the last time this particular squad has to offend my eyeballs with those damn things.

Other thoughts from last night’s broadcast:

1. Team Canada looks like it has been playing together for months! The Canadians were playing systematic hockey that only a Sutter or a Lemaire could love. It wasn’t pretty to watch, except when the Canadians scored a few nice goals. Given that over half the players are from the WHL (14 of ‘em!), and that WHL teams play pretty tight hockey, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so shocked at the level of cohesion.

2. Canada’s #1 goalie, David Glass, looks like a ton of bricks with pads on....reminded me of Roman Turek or Steve Shields.

3. Bob McKenzie made a good point about the divide that has cropped over the past few years within the Czech team. The CHL players and European-based players have clashed with different styles and personalities. The Europeans play a finesse-based game and the CHL players are now used to a straight-forward type of game. This type of hockey was also reflected in their attitudes off the ice. To help remedy this problem, the Czechs took their training camp to Grand Forks, rather than train half the squad back in Europe and have a fractured team meet up somewhere later in North America. The Slovaks, who get no respect, also did the same thing with their training camp.

4. Enough with the damn Crosby hype! Pierre McGuire felt compelled to compare young Sidney Crosby to Peter Forsberg. That’s all fine and dandy, but the level of scout’s drool and TV hype surrounding Crosby these days has me rather sick of the kid already. I have nothing against Crosby, who has been rather modest to a fault, but do we really need 30-minute TV specials about a kid not yet drafted?

Predictions are for fools, gamblers or bored bloggers. Thus, here are my wise predictions for the 2004-05 WJC. If you decide to bet any money based on this information, then I feel sorry for you.

1. Canada – Gee, what a shocker! With a deep defence, talents such as Patrice Bergeron (already an NHL regular) and Sidney Crosby (hype alert!), and more depth than a Steven King novel, Canada is an obvious favourite to win it all. There is concern that the goaltending lacks a #1 star power like a Marc-Andre Fleury...but as any Canadian fan can tell you, a star goaltender doesn’t always equal a Gold medal. As long as Glass doesn’t break under the pressure, Canada should win it all.
2. Russia – The Russians have the two most talented non-Crosby prospects in Ovechkin and Malkin, and the usual assortment of tall players who skate well. The Russians are always a complete mystery to me and most people, so I don’t know much about half of this team. From what I do know about the team, I’d consider them to be a contender for a medal.
3. USA – Last year, the US beat the Canadians with their most talented and experienced lineup ever. There is a drop-off this year, but the hometown crowd still has the potential to pull off big things. I’m glad to see Robbie Schremp was added to the team despite his ‘problems’ with the Team USA brass (They just didn’t like him). I wonder if Chris Bourque is really worth his draft position. We’ll see if he’s more than just his father’s surname.
4. Czechia – The Czechs have one ELITE player in goal (Schwarz), on defense (Smid), and up front (Olesz). The problem for the Czechs is that the rest of the roster doesn’t look too appetizing. I’m picking them 4th mainly on the fact that Schwarz can steal games for the Czechs, and Olesz could end up leading the tournament in points and/or assists.
5. Finland – If last night’s game was any judge of a team (and exhibition games aren’t the best for that), then Finland is about as potent as distilled water. I hear a lot of hype about Lauri Tukonen, so he is the young speedster to watch. Petteri Nokelainen is also one you should keep an eye out on.
6. Sweden – Sweden has been a country in deep stagnation for many years. Their economy isn’t growing, and they can’t produce many skilled hockey players. Teaching young kids to play the trap is not a great way to produce skilled hockey players, and it shows. Luckily for Sweden, this appears to be their strongest lineup in a few years. Keep an eye out for Nicklas Bergfors, a 2005-eligible player and could go in the first round.
7. Slovakia – I know, I know...what the hell do I have them doing all the way down in 7th? Well...given past results, I just want to temper my expectations.
I’ve already talked at length about my thoughts on the team, and I’ll have more to say later. Suffice it to say, the Slovak have one of their strongest teams in years, especially on defence. Why, then, do I pick them 7th?
a. Everyone is stronger! Well, not everyone...but Sweden, Canada, Russia, USA all have strong teams this year.
b. As my friend Daniel pointed out to me the other day...” don’t forget that
Slovakia plays in very strong group. I remember when Slovakia
sent one of their strongest teams to the Championships in 2000 (Radivojevic, Cibak, Kolnik, Zalesak, Surovy, Gaborik, Marc.Hossa, Kukumberg, Mezei, Stana, etc.) and they had big problems to save their position in Pool A.”
Slovakia’s first game is against better way to jump right into the deep end of the Shark tank.
8. Germany – Umm...
9. Switzerland – Err...
10. Belarus - ...Thanks for coming...

Monday, December 20, 2004


Christmas Snooze

With the approaching widely-celebrated Celebration of Consumerism, hockey news is slow and I don't have too much gnawing at my head.

Still, here is a hodgepodge of news and notes to speak about.

1. Slovakia emerged victorious in the LOTO CUP, thanks to a 4-2 win over Team Canada. Pavol Demitra had 2 goals, the Slovaks went 3-0, and it will be a happy holidays in Slovakia.

Tournament Awards:
Best Goalie: Jan Lasak (Slovensko),
Best D-man: Jamie Heward (Kanada),
Best Forward: Michal Handzus (Slovensko).
Most Productive Player: PAVOL DEMITRA (Slovensko) (4 points in 2 games)

2. Over in Russia, the ROSNO (Formerly Baltika) Cup was won by the hometown Russkis for the first time in 4 years. As usual, Sweden finished in last place. It's been a long 9-year drought at the upcoming WJC's for Sweden, a country that just can't seem to produce many skilled players anymore.

Tournament Awards:
Best Goalie: Fredrik Norrena, Finland
Best D-man: Tomas Kaberle, Czech Republic
Best Forward: Pavel Datsyuk, Russia

3. Lots of notable transfers taking place as players and teams alike set up for a total NHL lockout. If the NHL season is indeed cancelled, then players are bolting for situations more favourable to them financially or developmentally.

i. Tomas Vokoun from Znojmo to HIFK Helsinki. Poor Znojmo will be down to just 1 crappy NHL player (Radim Bicanek)

ii. Jose Theodore to Djurgardens IF - A good move for Jose to get way out of Canada after some of his relatives were charged in relation with gang-related crimes

iii. Mike Comrie from Farjestads BK to Phoenix - According to, Comrie is going back to Phoenix to 'work on his house'. With the way Comrie has been traded the past year, maybe he should be renting instead of buying.

iv. Bruins prospect goaltender Peter Hamerlik has left the Providence Bruins of the AHL and returned to Kosice in Slovakia. I hope this isn't the end of his NHL aspirations, although I don't hold out much hope for him.

v. Tomas Kurka, the 2nd tier Hurricanes prospect, has left Litvinov for Providence of the AHL. Kurka was buried behind the star players in Litvinov. Kurka also realized that he needs to prove himself more in the AHL if he wants to stick with the big club in NASCAR country.

vi. Another Slovak is leaving Slovakia :( - Ladislav Nagy has left Kosice and will join the Hossa boys with MORA IK in Sweden. This leaves Jiri Bicek as the only NHLer in Kosice.


Hopefully, the NHL and NHLPA will engage in one more round of talks before the season is cancelled entirely. In the meantime, hockey fans in Canada will focus on the upcoming World Junior Championships. I'll be sure to comment more on this tournament as news comes out and the rosters are finalized for Czechia and Slovakia.

What is interesting is that non-Canadian countries such as the USA and Slovakia are confirmed to be showing WJC games. In the past, Canada was pretty much the only country to broadcast any games from this tournament. The WJC's generate some of the highest ratings for TSN during the year, yet every other country in the world couldn't almost care less about these games. I'm happy that prospect fans in other countries will be able to enjoy this tournament on TV.

Friday, December 17, 2004


'Twas the Week Before Christmas

Today, in the spirit of Christmas (aka 'Celebration of Consumerism'), we have a guest entry/Christmas poem from Mr. Childhood Trauma.

Before we get into that, I just want to point out that my pal Michael has put together a list of Christmas gift ideas for the hockey fan in your life.

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

'Twas the week before Christmas, when out on the ice
Not a player was skating, not even Steven Rice;
Their pads were all hung in the locker room air,
In hopes that St. Buttman soon would show care;

The fans were restless all bored on their couches,
While masticating on slugs from 'big league chew' pouches;
And mamma in her uniform, and I with my cards,
Had just watched Goodenow...hoisted by his own petards,

When out in the media there arose such a clatter,
I surfed to to see what was the matter.
Away to the 'puter I flew in a blink,
Flipped on the monitor and clicked on the link.

Adware suggested I buy me some pills
Designed, they say, to give my wife extra thrills,
When, what should my scanning eyes fall home?
But a article on the lockout written by Rome,

With a lot of punctuation, and wit not so quick,
Jim called all the players a rather large @#$@.
More rapid and angry his words they came,
And he ranted, and shouted, and called them more names;

"Now, Moron! now, Idiot! now, Greedy and Evil!
Oh, Jerkwad! oh selfish! oh, overpaid boll weevil!
Off to your top of the line Porsche! Drive into the night!
Without all yours skill, owners would be alright!"

Ah the owners, if ours had any a clue,
seems to me he would have had known what to do,
Not Weight and KT for 16 million point two
With the a bag of used pucks, and Roman Turek too.

And then with no insight, and each extra loss.
He'd fire us a player or perhaps the on ice boss.
As I washed my hands and was wearing a frown,
the owner decided gave up since he wasn't NBA bound.

He was dressed all in money, from his wife's family,
and he was only smart to wed her family tree;
A bundle of stock options was doweried,
And he certainly made more than all our salaries.

His eyes -- how they dimmed! his smile how sweet!
His wife held his wallet, his daughter could cheat!
His payroll he dried up like a week old turd,
Until our signings became a theatre absurd;

But 'twas Buttman who held the season at bay,
And the smoke he blew went on and on for days;
He had a broad face and a bald little head,
That glistened, when he told the union 'drop dead!'

He was chubby and plump, and from the NBA,
in charge of making hockey problems go away;
A dullness of his eye and a rattling head,
Soon gave me to know I had everything to dread;

the two sides spoke not a word nor did they work,
they emptied all rinks; treated fans like a jerk,
And using a finger most of us hold dear,
they gave us a signal whose meaning was clear;

the fans were apathetic almost to a man,
the few not in stupor do all that we can.
more fighting in hockey, that message we sent
"but grown up you guys this is NOT what we meant!"

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Ice Wars: The Players Strike Back!

Now that the NHL has rejected the NHLPA's offer like a beautiful girl rejects my advances, the bourgeoisie have begun to throw in their two hundred dollars into the fray.

Tie Domi, long one of hockey’s biggest hypocrites and whiners, feels personally insulted that the NHL didn’t take the bait.

"The players are really insulted, especially the star players like (Sergei) Fedorov, (Martin) Brodeur and (Mats) Sundin," the Toronto Maple Leafs winger said Wednesday. "These are the guys who are supposed to sell the game.

"It's a real slap in the face for these guys especially. They're really upset about it. They may not say that on camera, but they're really insulted, just like everybody else."

Well, Tie, we feel quite insulted when a rich overpaid baby such as yourself decides to whine about not being able to afford a new Porsche Spider. I feel quite insulted that you can make $2million a year with fairly minimal hockey skills (as far as NHLers go).

And, for the record, if the players are supposed to sell the game (and they really aren’t), then they are doing a lousy lousy job, and ought to take a pay cut.

On the other side, Patrick Roy feels that the weaker teams need a salary cap:

"The owners had every reason to turn down the players' offer," Patrick Roy told Le Journal de Montreal. "The Players' Association's proposal's only goal was to win popular favour."

"The ten teams with the weakest revenues must not forget about the salary cap. Adoption of a cap means survival for the teams in trouble."

It’s funny to hear these comments from a guy who spent a large part of his career in a free spending organization. Would Patty feel the same way if he was still playing? It’s easy to say these things once you have collected your millions. Why should Roy care about the players after him?

In Russia, there is labour unrest of another sort as the players of Molot Perm have apparently gone on strike for a week. From this and report, it appears that the players haven’t been paid for 3 months.

Now forgive me for my rough translation (which is why I don’t do more of them), but it appears that the players will be on strike from December 15th to 22nd and will not practice or take part in a match against Nizhnekamsk. The players apparently haven’t been paid in the last 3 months, and they want the Russian Hockey Federation to step in on their behalf.

This reminds me of the former Czech Extraleague (and now struggling 1st division) club Havirov Panthers. The management and owners were notorious for their ‘money problems’, which really meant squirreling away sponsorship dollars for their own uses. The players complained publicly about missing paycheques, and eventually were just sold to the highest bidding competing club. Havirov had some good talent, but they didn’t use the money to keep the players around. Now they barely draw 600 fans to their 1st Division games, after drawing over 2,000+ a game in the Extraleague. According to defenseman Miroslav Javin, who knows plays with the Slovak club Poprad, many of the players, to this day, have still never received some of the pay that they were supposed to.

If the NHLPA member ever think that Europe is a great bastion of money, just be wary that guaranteed contracts and job security mean very little in European hockey.

Other than that, there is very little news from Europe as the leagues are in another break while the countries compete in little International tournaments. The Slovaks beat some Canadian rejects 4-2 in the Loto Cup, with Marian Hossa scoring a hat-trick. also named Marian Hossa ‘Player of the Month’ for November. Between Dukla Trencin and Mora IK, Hossa averaged a goal-a-game pace and has helped lift Mora IK into a playoff spot in their first season in the top league.

Back in Canada, Team Canada has started to make its cuts to the roster for the World Junior Championships team. Devan Dubnyk, the clumsy oaf of a goalie whom I’ve panned over the past year, was among one of those cut (and I’m thankful). Coach Sutter has elected to cut all of the players at once, which is the way it really should be. The long drawn out process probably just creates more problems and nervousness than it is worth. It’s a good idea to take who you want and work with them for a longer period.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Bettman to Players: Please Sir, May we have some more?

(Warning: Long rant alert)

There was some good news that came from Tuesday’s talks between the NHL and the PA Guild: At least they talked!

The two sides talked for about 3 ½ hours, trading counter-proposals and ultimately rejecting each of them.

Well, that’s it...

After the talks broke off, neither side scheduled any further negotiations. Furthermore, we were treated to more and more of the same old rhetoric we’ve been spoonfed for the past few years:

Bettman: "We've got a problem and we've got to fix it. And at some point the players and the union are going to have to decide that they're going to be part of the solution," he told an earlier news conference. "That's what it's going to take to get us playing."

Goodenow: "In short, the league took what they liked from our proposal, made major changes and slapped a salary cap on top of it," Goodenow told a news conference. "Put simply, our proposal provides the basis for a negotiated agreement. The NHL's does not."

Like the NHL has done throughout the process, they have outlined everything on their propoganda website. You can find the basic comparison between the PA and NHL proposals here, and you can find the detailed analysis here.

Before I chop through the black forest of rhetoric, I need to buy a pretty thick Ginsu knife and a Hattori Hanzo(!) sword.

(chop, chop)

As much as the PA’s proposal was a PR-friendly move (“Oh my god, 24%!?), the NHL’s move has been obviously devised to pit the Juraj Kolink’s against the Mats Sundin’s.

Or, as Eric at Off Wing put it: "If the players are (trying) to divide the owners between the haves and have nots with their proposal, it should be clear that the owners are attempting the same strategy with the players."

Just as the 24% rollback was a smokescreen to protect a majority of the current inflationary aspects of the old CBA, the NHL’s proposal attempts to appeal to the ‘little guys’ that make up a large part of the members.


1. The NHL has proposed that the 24% rollback (which they liked very much, thank you) be more ‘equitable’. Why should a $300,000/year guy have to give up the same percentage as a player making $8,000,000? The $8mil guy can easily ‘afford’ to lose a greater percentage of their salary than the little guy.

According to the NHL’s numbers, 349 of the 796 players affected (43.8%) makes less than US$800,000 per season. A total of 540 of the 796 players (67.8%) make less than $1.5million a season. With the PA’s obvious goal of protecting the top salaries, a majority of the lower-income players would be taking a great chunk of their salaries despite the fact that the minority of the membership could ‘bear’ a larger cut.

The NHL’s proposal would have the 43.8% of the NHLPA exempt from the rollback. Would this appeal to the ‘little guy’? Hell yeah!

2. Minimum Salary Increase – While the PA proposed increasing the minimum salary from $185,000 to $250,000, the NHL proposed that the minimum salary be pushed to $300,000. This is a great PR move for the NHL, knowing that it will be a very minimal cost to push the minimum salaries up by a mere $50,000. $50,000 is a LOT of money to a low-end player, and a lot of money to us mere mortals.

3. Guaranteed Contracts – The NHLPA has been ‘mis-educating’ its members by linking a salary cap with non-guaranteed contracts, much like the NFL has. The problem with this statement is that the NHL has never seemingly ever been against guaranteed contracts (despite the fact that they are shamefully conducive to decreased motivation in the employees). The NHL reiterated its point that it will protect the little guys by saying “Hey, if we get a salary cap, your contracts will still be guaranteed”. Really, the NHL teams would love to get some of the high-level mistakes (Martin Lapointe) off of their books, and the scrubs don’t really hurt all that badly. Still, to a guy on the bubble, having guaranteed employment is the biggest NHLPA benefit.

Looking over the remaining proposals (and fancy Excel tables) provided by the NHL, my simple conclusion is thus: The NHL took the NHLPA’s offer, took what it liked, provided very little in the way of concessions, and remained insistent on the salary cap issue. (The NHL calls it a ‘Salary Range’, but that’s like calling a Janitor a ‘Sanitation Engineer’).

Basically, the NHLPA gave concessions and room to negotiate, and the NHL didn’t return the favour. Despite all appearances, it seems the NHL is really hung up on and determined to get its version of ‘cost certainty’. It would be easy to assume that the NHLPA would be more galvanized now that the NHL has shown that it really won’t back down or negotiate from its current position. The problem with that assumption is that the NHL really did tailor its counterproposal to ensure that a large portion of the PA membership won’t feel so chummy-chum with the other union members.

As an aside…if the individual clubs (owners, GMs, executives) were as smart as the NHL has been at its PR campaign and recent negotiating tactics, perhaps they wouldn’t be in such dire financial straits to begin with.


Looking at the NHL’s offer part-by-part:

1. Salary Rollback – As explained above, the NHL would have the rollback put onto the shoulders of the higher-paid members. It’s funny how the NHL decided it loved the rollback so much, that it decided to keep it! If the NHL expects a salary cap, how could it stand (sit?) with a straight face and not tell the PA that it can reduce its rollback? The NHL’s version would only reduce the rollback by $2million. (From $511mil to $509mil)

2. Entry Level Contracts – The NHL wants to eliminate bonuses completely and give an additional mandatory year. Not only would this help deflate salaries, it would allow teams to keep young players under cheaper contracts for an extra year. Personally, I’d love to entry-level contracts to have bonuses eliminated, and for players to be ‘slotted’ by draft position. I just can’t see that the NHLPA should accept an additional ‘mandatory’ year if they give up the right to bonuses.

3. Salary Arbitration – The PA proposed that NHL clubs could have some limited options to take players to arbitration, but the NHL doesn’t want ANY arbitration.
For once, I am in total and utter agreement with the NHL on this issue. I don’t like the fact that an outside party (often very uneducated in hockey matters) can decide a player’s salary when the player simply chooses to. Under a new CBA, I’d like to see all contracts (except maybe the slotted entry-level ones) be negotiated by the player/agent and the team. The arbitration process has been clearly one-sided and many of the past awards have been ridiculous. It’s obvious why the PA wants this kept in and why the NHL wants to abolish it.

4. ECONOMIC SYSTEM – This is the big one, folks! Forget the other issues, no CBA will ever be signed off on until this issue is dealt with. While the NHLPA proposed a rather toothless salary cap, it was a good start. The NHL, on the other hand, kept its instance for a ‘Salary Range’. In their proposal, the NHL would limit clubs to payroll ranges between 51% and 57% of revenues.

Hmm…so that means teams like Nashville, with payrolls less than $20mil, would actually have to increase their payroll to somewhere in the low $30mil range. Meanwhile, the Leafs would have to cut payroll. Can you imagine being a Leafs fan and watching the Leafs be forced to cut Mogilny, Belfour, Nolan, etc. while continuing to pay sky-high ticket prices? I’m sure the Ontario Teachers would party for 10 nights straight.

The simple fact is, the NHL’s revenue numbers are as transparent as mud, and the players can never trust the NHL clubs to fully report their revenues. Why should the players accept Bettman’s dream salaries-to-revenues link when the NHL clubs can manipulate the numbers as they please? That’s like hiring a plumber and telling him to bill you whatever he thinks is fair. Right.

This quote from the NHL also irked me quite a bit
“No Payroll Tax -- requires guesswork, continues payroll disparities, and is inflationary”

Guesswork? Isn’t that called ‘budgeting’? I know Kevin Lowe and Bobby Clarke never took a course in basic accounting, but couldn’t these clubs hire one half-competent employee (I am an accountant and available, for the right price). If you have a set luxury tax, you can damn well bet that there will be a lot more budgeting and payroll planning than in the past. Only a few teams ever want to pay the price to compete (It’s worth it for the Wings to pay a high price to compete during their competitive window, but its not worth it for the rebuilding Coyotes to do the same). It’s amazing how the NHL basically tells the world ‘We are run by a bunch of idiots, and we need a system that can protect us from the evil agents, and ourselves’. How many large corporations can you think of that openly admit their faults to such a degree?

5. UFA Age – The NHL proposes that the age be reduced to 30. The NHLPA made no mention of this, probably knowing that this would reduce some of the high-end salaries. While the players would enjoy a lot more freedom in their destinations, the market would be flooded a bit more and the price for many players would probably get adjusted downward somewhat.

There are other aspects to the deal, but I believe I’ve ranted enough for now. The NHLPA, to its credit, really did concede somewhat, and the NHL threw it right back in their faces with no more than a ‘Thanks! We’ll take this, and we still want more!’.

This is quickly turning into a one-sided negotiation, and the NHL, in my opinion, has not really ‘negotiated’ in good faith. I understand what the NHL is trying to do, but most negotiations require that you give something back to the other party. Until the NHL starts doing more of that, I’m growing more and more pessimistic with each passing day.

PS: Canadian Prime Minister Paul "Mr. Irrelevant" Martin has offered to help settle the current labour negotiations. I’m sure both sides got a good laugh out of that.
"Thanks, but no thanks."


WorldStars invade Plzen

While the NHLPA and NHL prepare to meet today (and hopefully avoid a total season loss), life was happier in the land of beer and Ice Girls.

Yesterday, in the beer town of Plzen (Pilsen, to you Anglos), home of the world-famous Pilsner Urquell Beer, the ‘WorldStars’ beat up on HC Plzen by an 8-3 score in front of just under 8,000 rambunctious and tipsy spectators.

Dominik Hasek started the game for the WorldStars, giving the Czech fans one of the rare first-hand looks at their Nagano hero (That is, when he’s not playing the role of roller hockey goon). Hasek and the World stars were joined a couple of other Czech Leaguers: Petr Nedved of $parta Prague, Tomas Vokoun of Znojmo, and Pavel Kubina of Vitkovice (Per Misha, Kubina did not play due to an injury suffered at the hands of Michal Mikeska of Pardubice). Plzen was ‘bolstered’ by the addition of Karlovy Vary’s Roman Malek.

The game started well for Plzen, as Michal Duras scored just 3 minutes into the game on a very shaky Dominik Hasek. Plzen was actually leading 3-1 when the WorldStars replaced Hasek with Tomas Vokoun. From there, Vokoun shut the door and the skill of the WorldStars was just too much for Plzen as they piled on 7 straight goals on backup Rudolf Pejchar(3) and the outsider, Roman Malek(4).

Mats Sundin finished with 1 goal and 3 assists while Martin Straka lead Plzen with 2 assists. It was an enjoyable game of shinny for the fans (only 1 penalty called the entire game), and there were no bananas tossed onto the ice.

Your game recap:

Lasselsberger Plzen - Worldstars 3:8 (1:0, 2:4, 0:4)
Goals and Assists: 4. Důras (Martin Straka), 28. Moravec (Martin Straka, Cibák), 31. Kracík (Cartelli, Důras) – 25. Sundin (Daigle, Domi), 32. Murray (Amonte), 39. Amonte (Murray, O'Donnell), 39. Amonte (Murray, Warrener), 46. Jackman (Sundin, Domi), 47. Daigle (Sundin), 52. Nedvěd (Sýkora, Carter) , 60. Domi (Sundin).
Penalties: 0:1. Attendance: 7693.

Duba (21. Pejchar, 41. Málek)– Výtisk, Spacek, Jindrich, Výborný, Cartelli, Trnka – Moravec, Martin Straka, Cibák – Mrázek, Michal Straka, Důras – Paroulek, Kudrna, Matějovský – Adamský, Kracík – J. Straka. COACHES: Miroslav Prerost, Jirí Kucera.

Worldstars: Hasek (31. Vokoun) – J.M. Liles, Norström, O'Donnell, Jackman, Blake, Regehr, Warrener – Carter, P. Nedved, Petr Sýkora – Domi, Sundin, Daigle – Briere, Murray, Amonte. COACHES: Marc Bergevin, Marty McSorley.

Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun also provides a mini recap of the event. Unfortunately, as is typical with an Anglo-Canadian writer covering a region he knows little about, Jones makes some glaring factual errors. If you are going to write about Slovakia and Czechia, try to get your facts straight before you make sweeping generalizations.

(Explaining why the event was moved from Bratislava to Plzen) Attendance is down in Slovakia. Not only do fans support the players who lost jobs, fans complain about games which are less pleasing to watch when the NHLers are on the ice. Slovakian fans prefer the eye-candy pretty pass plays to hitting and checking.

1. Anti-NHL backlash? You mean to tell me that the whopping total of 10 NHLers now in Slovakia has created an anti-NHL backlash? There is an average of 1 NHLer per Slovak Extraleague team, and they are only ‘taking’ jobs away from 4th liners and junior players for whom demotion is not such a bad thing. In Czechia, there is an average of about 3.93 (55 for 14 teams) NHLers per Extraleague team. All of the NHLers playing are ‘hometown’ guys...there are no Canadian, Finnish, Swedish, or American foreigners in the Extraleagues.

2. The real reason for decreased attendance is a problem that has been growing for a few years now. If Terry Jones had bothered to ask any knowledgable Slovakian hockey fan, they would tell you that the quality of the league has been eroded by a mass player exodus to every other league around Europe and North America. Slovakia has lost many talented players to the NHL, AHL, CHL, Finland, Germany, Czechia, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Holland, France, etc... you get the point? With it’s poor economy, many talented Slovakian players have left for other countries. Combine this with a 10 team league containing 2 very very very very poor teams (Skalica and Dubnica) and you get some very jaded hockey fans who get tired of seeing so much of their talent playing elsewhere.
"Martin Straka and Martin Cibak are the only NHLers in Pilsen"
Pavel Trnka and Jaroslav Spacek say ‘Hi’.

...Let’s end on a brighter note! Here are some pictures from the exhibition game, courtesy of Jaromir Pech and

Monday, December 13, 2004


Black Monday: Calm Before the Storm

So much doom and gloom on the horizon. Not even Mr. Rogers could make the days bright.


Will childish wonders never cease?

1. reports that in what was supposed to be a fun exhibition game between the ‘Worldstars’ (locked out NHLPA players) and a rabble of Russian All-Stars, on-ice officials had to retrieve bananas and banana peels when Anson Carter was on the ice.

The incidents occurred on a day when the English-language St. Petersburg Times had a front page story about attacks on ethnic minorities in the city. Such racial taunts have plagued European soccer in recent months.

LAME! St. Petersburg is generally known as one of the more beautiful Russian cities (Not that there are many) and more ‘western’ than it’s brothers and sisters. Let’s just hope nothing like this happens when the Worldstars visit Plzen.

2. In happier news, members of the Vancouver Giants and Vancouver Canucks joined with some other NHL veterans to produce a wildly successful charity game at the old Pacific Coliseum. This game will raise a few hundred thousand dollars for Canucks Place, a local hospice for dying kids.

I really wish I had been there: "A sold out Coliseum felt like the good ole Canucks' days, as 16,878 people helped support the charity and came to witness hockey at its finest"

Todd Bertuzzi, the baboon who can snap in an instant, was given a loud ovation by the sheep in the audience.

The sold out crowd gave Bertuzzi a deafening, prolonged standing ovation when he skated onto the ice during the pre-game introduction. There were shouts of "I love you Todd."

Yeah, I love the way you screwed the Canucks playoff chances with your cowardly attack-from-behind.

After the game, the players were asked about the recent NHLPA offer and the state of the league:

Trevor Linden: "The players are pretty much at the end so it will be interesting to see where he (Bettman) comes back at. With the strides the players have taken to get the game back on the ice it leads me to be hopeful."

Brad Lukowich: "We gave back more than they even asked. The only one thing we didn't give was a salary cap and that's the one thing we're not going to do. We found a way to save the money. It's odd it came down to the players to have to do that."

3. also reports that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is not impressed with the NHLPA’s public relations exercise, also known as the 24% reduction on all salaries:

"It's not a solution," Melnyk told the Ottawa Sun. "It's a one-shot deal that doesn't work."

"The most important thing is to fix the system. What we don't want to do is end up back in the same situation three, four or five years from now. What happened to this team and in this community in the last three years is devastating. We can't let it happen again," said Melnyk.

"There is one solution and that's what is being proposed by commissioner Bettman. If we follow that track, we will have hockey that is here to stay."

I have/had a feeling that this would be response from the NHL all along. I wonder if Bettman will issue a fine to Melnyk for speaking out about the issue before the NHL gives its ‘official’ response to the issue.

Zlata Helma Time!

Only one NHLer on the roll this week as wanker Martin Rucinsky jukes and jives in the #1 spot.

Check out Predators prospect Zbynek Irgl, the Vitkovice Express is on a roll.

Be sure to head on over to the Zlata Helma website and give a vote for Zbynek. We can’t have Rucinsky win the damn thing!

Of course, here are your stat updates from yesterday’s round of games...


Saturday, December 11, 2004


Weekend Update: Two of Hearts

I am sure you have all read about the NHLPA's proposal to the NHL. You can view a 235-page document of the entire thing on the NHLPA's website.

Since the other bloggers have already weighed in with their opinions, I don't really need to expend too much energy reiterating the same points. Just some things that struck me...

i. It's funny how the players were so taken by surprise by the offer to cut salaries by 24% across the board. Doesn't the NHLPA keep its agents and players informed?

"It's definitely something that caught everybody by surprise," said Martin Brodeur, the netminder who was slated to earn $6,891,000 US this season. "It's a lot of money for me. It's almost $2 million a year."

ii. Here's some interesting food for thought, courtesy of Lucky Luc Robitaille:

"I'm surprised it was 24%, though. I didn't think it would be that high. I'm sure Bob Goodenow will take a 24% pay cut, too."

iii. The one thing I looked at first was not the 24% slash in current salaries (designed by the NHLPA as a great PR move), but the luxury tax of only 20 cents on the dollar. The owners want cost certainty, and only a punitive luxury tax or salary cap is going to appease them. The NHLPA can make all the proposals and offers it likes (and many aspect of their offer were good for the owners), but nothing will ever get resolved unless an effective salary ceiling is put in place.

If a team has a $45 million dollar payroll, and it wants to sign Robert Lang to a $5mil contract, a $1 penalty would not dissuade such a team from signing Lang. If you are willing to have a high payroll, a 20% luxury tax will only really prevent you from signing that extra role player you always wanted for Christmas (like a cute Kirk Maltby bobblehead doll)

Extraleague Update Machine

1. 'Two of Hearts' - Brat-packer and ex-airline pilot Patrik Elias will leave the Znojmo Eagles and follow the trail of Russian oil money (and his boyfriend, Havlat) to Magnitogorsk (the coolest city name in Russia by far). Elias will stay with the Eagles until just after the Christmas holidays, just so he can spend Christmas with his family. (Thanks to joolzie for the tip).

2. The Czechs have finished their Czech-based training camp and have announced their roster nominations from North America and Europe. The notable ommissions are certainly Dallas 2nd rounder and soon-to-be-bust Vojtech Polak, ex-Vancouver Giant Lukas Pulpan (just days after his return to the Extraliga), and the highly touted Jakub Sindel. According to coach Alois Hadamczik (who is still revered in Trinec), Polak simply didn't fight hard enough for a roster spot and has played poorly and sporadically for too many teams this year.

3. Roman Malek, the talented Flyers goaltending prospect, made his debut for Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad). According to my pal Daniel, Malek's wife is pregnant and Karlovy Vary (Far Western Czechia) is a lot closer to his home than Trinec (Far Eastern Czechia). Now that Trinec is in 2nd-to-last place, I can't imagine he'll regret his decision to pick Karlovy Vary (the 3rd-to-last place team).

King Richard reflects the depression suffered by all Trinec fans this season. :(

4. Jiri Hudler apparently injured his ankle while in North America before he even went back home to Vsetin. Thus, he's now out until at least the new year recovering from this injury. It will give him more time to spend with his ailing father, but it's a huge blow for Vsetin, who are fighting hard for a playoff spot. (Thanks to misha for the tip)

Now, for your stat updates from yesterday's action...



Thursday, December 09, 2004


Surfing the State of the NHL

Here’s the latest and greatest on the state of the NHL these days...

1. Brendan Shanahan and some of his gangsters had a summit to come up with ideas to improve today’s moribund NHL product. On The Wings Blog has a great summary of the ideas generated by this conference.

There isn’t a lot of anything new here, but as Eric points out: "I'm just relieved to hear somebody talking about the actual game instead of salary caps, arbitration, paltry television contracts and failed marketing strategies"

Looking over the suggestions, the most interesting rule suggestion, to me, was this one.

-- Reducing minor penalties from two minutes to one minute during overtime. They want to take the away responsibility the referee of essentially deciding the game in overtime by making it 4-on-3 for two minutes, even if their call was right. This way the refs will not feel so pressed to not make the call.

As you may be aware of, one of my pet peeves is that the refs and players feel that calling a penalty means ‘deciding the game’. Since when does enforcing the rules decide a game? It’s up to the players not to commit the fouls in the first place.

Still, this suggestion does have some merit and I wonder if it would actually correspond with an increase amount of penalty calls in OT. 4 on 3 PP’s are the most devastating, if you ask coaches and players.

As a final word, I am totally opposed to shootouts in any form. Always have been and always will be. Do NFL games decide overtimes with a field goal contest? How about deciding a baseball game with a Home Run Derby? Hockey is a team game, and it should always be decided within the normal rules of the game.

2. "I don’t think they want a Salary Cap, eh?" - Tom at Canucks Corner pointed out this interesting survey conducted by The Hockey News regarding the Salary Cap issue. (Defined as a $40/mil cap)

Out of 121 players polled, here are the results...
No: 105 (87%)
Yes: 9 (7%)
Maybe: 3 (3%)
No comment: 4 (3%)

So much for cracks in the union! Of course, it should be noted that many of the players quoted were established regulars and not the Juraj Kolnik’s of the world.

All 3 of the YES quotes printed are all anonymous, which shows players fear retribution from their guild buddies for having the gall to break from the Borg Collective.

Some interesting quotes:

Anonymous (From New Jersey): Yes. (Would not comment on the record, but is already on record as being willing to negotiate a cap.)

[As if we couldn’t figure out that this is John Madden]

Bobby Holik: “I will put my word to it-the proposals we already have made to the league contain significant concessions that address every one of their issues. It is very clear to me that the owners expect us to bear the burden alone of solving the problems they have brought on themselves by showing a lack of control. We are willing to negotiate. We are willing to work with the owners to fix the problems they have identified. They refuse. They want to dictate. They have one solution and one solution only. They demand a cap-and that isn't even a solution. They don’t acknowledge what a cap would do to the game. It would drive the game to mediocrity."

[Well said, Robert. I wish more fans would see it this way.]

Bill Guerin: “Would Gary Bettman accept a market place system if it would save the season?"

[Obviously, Bettman has already said the NHL would rather lose a season than have the current system continue. I wouldn’t mind Guerin’s attempt at humour, except for the fact he’s on the NHLPA’s executive committee, grossly overpaid for his production, and a jerk]

3. Jamie Fitzpatrick lays down the details of the NHLPA’s coming proposal to the NHL which offers concessions and room to start some real negotiations.

Either one of two things will happen with the NHL.

1. Bettman and his cronies simply reject the proposal because it doesn’t have a hard-cap/cost-certainty/costs-tied-to-revenues etc etc etc. If this happens, then we truly know the NHL is not prepared to negotiate! If the NHL had any hopes for breaking the union through the courts, the NHL would lose because the NHLPA is the only party negotiating in good faith.

2. Bettman and the NHL could realize that the NHL could be fixed without a hard cap and BS costs-tied-to-revenues plan (Which the players will and never should accept). The NHLPA, it seems, has given some decent concessions and is willing to make room in order for the owners to have a more ‘economically realistic’ system. Why should the NHLPA be responsible for idiot-proofing the system? It’s up to the owners and the teams themselves to run their businesses effectively. Stop signing overpriced veterans and go with cheaper and younger talent than can play just as effectively.

If the NHL was smart, they would go and get the UFA age reduced to 28 or 29. The flood of players in the market every year would drive down free-agent prices and allow teams to rebuild/reload without breaking the bank for every Dallas Drake.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Extraleague Update Machine: 12-08-04

Not a whole lot of incredibly breathtaking news today...just a few things here and there

1. Zigmund Palffy re-confirmed his commitment to playing for HC Slavia Praha in an interview. He won't be chasing after the oil $$ in Russia, unlike some people. (*cough* Havlat *cough*)

2. Jiri Hudler took the day off to rest and chill with his ailing father. In his place, Radovan Somik had a big night with 3 assists in Vsetin's win. Both Somik and Radivojevic have been named to the Slovak team for the upcoming LOTO CUP tournament.

3. My little dig at Miroslav Zalesak seems to have sparked him. Miro had 2 goals and an assist in a 7-0 Litvinov win over poor Trinec. I will take full credit!

It's only December 8th, and I've already given up on Trinec' playoff Roman Malek, who was apparently going to join Trinec, has decided that he'd rather play with crappy Karlovy Vary...I'm still awaiting some real confirmation.

4. A new name has been added to the Czech updates... LUKAS PULPAN! Pulpan is the 3rd ex-Vancouver Giant (We're glad to be a farm team for the Czech Extraliga) on the list and he got the call up from the 1st division to play for his hometown Plzen club. If ex-Giant Jiri Jakes can make it back up from the 2nd division (He played for Sparta last year), that would make it 4 for 4 for ex-Vancouver Giant Czechs playing in the Extraliga.

Note to Blue Jackets fans...please start spreading the word... we need to get Jaroslav Balastik over to the NHL. The 'Bring Over Balastik' campaign is now in full force.

Now, for your stats from the last round of games...



Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Going Ballastic for Jaroslav Balastik

A few years ago, when I was writing for, I had quite a loud and ongoing campaign to the Blues to bring Petr Cajanek over to the NHL...and it worked! Now, I’ve attached myself to a new target: Jaroslav Balastik and the Columbus BlueJackets.

Matt MacInnis at Hockeysfuture had an exclusive interview with Jackets’ GM Doug MacLean, and, at my request, asked MacLean about the Jackets’ plans for Balastik (pronounced: BA-lash-teek)

HF: What are the team’s short and long-term plans for Jaroslav Balastik?

DM: Yeah, we were very close to signing him this year to be quite honest. We had a deal in principle done. And then because there was no IIHF agreement it fell through the cracks in that we couldn’t, you know, we were negotiating with the team and we just decided that because it looked like we might not start we would leave him. We certainly plan and hope to sign him. He’s a very good prospect, he’s one of the leading scorers of the Czech Elite League. We’re very high on him.

This season, Jaroslav has just continued to pile on the points and is now ranked second to teammate Petr Leska for the overall points lead in the Czech Extraliga. Balastik leads the league in goals with an astounding 22(!) goals in 29 games and has 11 assists to go with them. (Cy Young Award nominee). As a comparison, noted NHL goal-fiend Milan Hejduk is second in the league with 15 goals.

So, would Balastik be a good fit in the NHL? At 6’2" 210, he certainly has the size.

My friend Robo Neuhauser provides a scouting report on Balastik:

Jaroslav Balastik skates well for a player of his size and has very good balance on his skates. He also possesses soft hands which enables him to control the puck with ease and make smart decisions with it. He can take advantage of his superb upper-body strength to cover the puck with his body easily and keep the attacking defensemen off of him. Jaroslav has bright vision and a nice portion of hockey sense which contributes to his strong decision making. Once he is on the puck, he can shoot and pass quite well. He has a highly accurate wrist shot and his slapper is also very solid. Intensity isn't a problem for Jaroslav, as he is always involved in the games and fighting for the puck. His size allows him to play a physical brand of hockey, but Jaroslav doesn't tend to throw punishing checks and will have to develop this aspect of game in North America a bit. Overall he is a mix of the three s’s: Size, Speed and Skill.

So, while Nikolai Zherdev and Rick Nash get all of the press for the Jackets, they have another darkhorse offensive talent tucked away in Czechia. When Jaro starts scoring piles of goals in the NHL, just remember you heard about him here first :)

One final thing: My pal Michael believes the Jackets (BJ’s) are a force to be reckoned with in the future. While the DinnerJackets have some good young talent, I expect the Atlanta Thrashers to do much better than the Jackets given their organizational depth and quality of star talent. I’ll take Heatley, Lehtonen, Coburn, Valabik and Kovalchuk over Nash, Zherdev, Leclaire, Klesla, and Fritsche.

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