Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Vancouver loses its MOJO

The Vancouver sports radio scene saw another casualty as MOJO radio is now being turned into a garbage dump.

This makes complete sense, given the fact that this city can barely support one sports talk radio station and given that CORUS, which owns MOJO, lost the Canucks to TEAM and seems to be divesting itself of its sports properties.

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver has lost its MOJO.

Corus Entertainment has killed the all-sports radio station and is replacing it with continuous traffic reports during the day and the best of talk from sister station C-K-N-W at other times.

The change means 14 people have lost their jobs, including MOJO sports personalities John McKeachie, Bob Marjanovich, Jeff Paterson and Blake Price.

Long-time sports broadcaster and C-K-N-W sports director J-P McConnell is also leaving.

Corus spokeswoman Sally Tindal says the traffic format is the first of its kind anywhere in North America.

The changes will take effect on Monday.

Just last month, 12 people were fired from their jobs at C-K-N-W in what Corus called a restructuring aimed at keeping the station successful in a competitive marketplace.

Corus owns four radio stations in the Vancouver area.

MOJO is not a favourite station of mine (it was a station 'for guys', as in the stereotypical 'guy'), but they have done a great job with the Vancouver Giants broadcasts over the years. Apparently, they will keep the Giants until that contract runs out. So, it's basically nothing during the day and a few sports broadcasts on certain nights. The formula for a winner?

It's hard to see how MOJO can get much worse.

(John McKeachie must have been fired from about 20 different places by now. He's not bad, but continually is undercut by situations like this or just younger broadcasters who supposedly appeal to the younger demographic)

Here are the local Vancouver radio ratings...

CKNW 14.8 (they lost the Canucks but they are still the King)
CHQM 8.8 (Soft Rock is second. It's true, it's true)
CKLG [Jack] 7.3 (Known for good commercials and no constant format)
CJJR 6.6 (Country Muzak. Yes, country is 4th in Vancouver. WTF?)
CFMI 6.3
CFBT 6.2
CBU-FM 6.1
CKZZ 5.4
CBU 5.0
CKWX 4.6
CKBD 4.3
CFOX 4.3
CKCL 2.9
CISL 2.6
CKST 1.9
CFUN 1.6
CHMJ 1.0 (MOJO - Quite pathetic)


Oil Droppings

It's quite fashionable to pick an early Conn Smythe trophy winner for playoff MVP. Bloggers and mediots are falling over themselves crowning Chris Pronger as the king of hockey. Pronger's been quite the sensation with 17 points in 17 games with a +9 and only 18 PIM (for him, that's pretty good)

My Pick? Dwayne Roloson.

I didn't even have to think long and hard about it.

With the Oilers out-shot and out-chanced every single night, it's been Roloson's exceptional goaltending that has allowed the .500 Oilers to defeat three superior teams and give them a real shot at the Stanley Cup. If it wasn't for his 2.22GAA and gaudy 93.1SV%, Christie Pronger and the rest of the Oilers would be golfing right about now.

There's also been lots of whining about how the Oilers one-week-plus layoff will hurt their momentum and make them rusty.

Sure. Warm up the excuse-making machine while I finish my latte.

If there is a team that needs a good break, it's the Oilers. They play a very high-tempo style that requires a lot of self-sacrifice and a lot of energy. The Oilers have also had the most extensive travel schedule, especially compared to any Eastern Conference team. If they had to start the Stanley Cup playoffs not long after their last series, they could have easily run out of gas. The signs were there against the Ducks, but the Ducks lack of experience and goal-scoring punch, plus Roloson's awesome goaltending, allowed the Oilers to win a series in 5 games and make it look more lopsided that it really was.

The Oilers should be thankful for such a break and use it to rest, heal, and recharge for what will be a tough series against either Carolina or Buffalo. The Oilers should also can the momentum of getting out-shot and out-chanced every single night and learn to win all of the battles. Living dangerously is bound to lead to your death eventually.

  • Fernando Pisani = Dave Lowry. Substitute Mike Peca for Stuuuuuuuuu Barnes and Raffi Torres for Ray Sheppard and this line looks very familiar to moi.

  • Patrik Elias is STILL tied for 3rd in playoff scoring.

  • Who has the worst speed-to-offensive ability ratio in the NHL? Mike Grier or Radek Dvorak?

    • Monday, May 29, 2006


      Are Goaltenders Fungible?

      adj : of goods or commodities; freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind in the satisfaction of an obligation n : a commodity that is freely interchangeable with another in satisfying an obligation

      It used to be that a playoff team was screwed if they didn't have a bonafide #1 goaltender who could carry a heavy workload and carry the team with him (apart from the Osgood Red Wings). More and more, we're seeing the idea of a set #1 fall by the wayside as teams such Carolina, Minnesota, and Anaheim freely exchange #1 goaltenders and go with the 'hot hand', while getting good results. The idea of a true #1 and a backup isn't quite set-in-stone as it used to be.

      Look at the Canes. They switch from Martin Gerber back to Cam Ward and win Game 5. Gerber carried the Canes for most of the season, but now it's Ward carrying them in the playoffs. I can't imagine the Canucks of 94 going with Kay Whitmore over Kirk McLean in any instance (McLean played every minute of every 24 games he started).

      Is goaltending less important than it used to be thanks to better defensive play? Perhaps a little.

      I think it has more to do with the quality of depth at the goaltender position in the NHL. You'd think there would be more than enough quality world-class goaltenders in the world for each team to have more than one.

      We also see the trend of teams willing to give a shot to an older, more unproven commodity. Cristobal Huet, Tomas Vokoun, Roman Cechmanek, Martin Gerber and goalies like them were older fellers who weren't ever given much of a chance in the minds of most people to become #1 NHL goaltenders.

      Of course, goaltending has always been a very hard position to project and develop. Most of the star goaltenders of the past and present weren't necessarily big-time prospects before they made the show. Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur are actually the exception to the rule in being high draft picks that have really succeed as star NHL goaltenders.

      Curtis Joseph - Undrafted free agent
      Ed Belfour - undrafted free agent
      Dominik Hasek - 10th round in 1983 (of course, the Iron Curtain was the big problem)
      Martin Gerber - 8th round, 2001
      Roman Cechmanek - 6th round, 2000 (after years of being one of the best Non-NHL goalies)
      Crystal Ball Huet - 7th round, 2001
      Miikka Kiprusoff - 5th round, 1995
      Evgeni Nabokov - 9th round, 1994
      Marty Turco - 5th round, 1994
      Henrik Lundqvist - 7th round, 2000
      Ilya Bryzgalov - 2nd round, 2000
      Dwayne Roloson - Undrafted free agent
      Curtis Sanford - Undrafted free agent

      What you notice is the influx of European goalies has really deepened the pool and given teams so many more options. NHL teams never wanted to touch Euro goalies in the past because their techniques were often very flawed (Hasek) and undeveloped. Many European countries (well, the clubs in those countries) had the bad habit of simply making the worst skater on the team into the goalie, and letting them to their own devices as to how to stop the puck. Now, foreign goalies get the quality training that Canadian goalies have had for decades. With so many goalies to choose from and only 60 spots, teams should have a real #1B option that they can toss in and get some good games from.


      What did the Oilers do to their goal horn? It was annoying before, but now the higher pitch has made it almost as unbearable as Greg Millen's commentary.

      Speaking of Millen, I wonder if the CBC guys hate him as much as the rest of us. Millen asked for a clip of a save to be rolled last night (and there was lots of time to do so), and the clip was never rolled. This isn't the first time I've heard Millen ask for a replay and he's never received it.

      Oh, and did you know Greg Millen is available for consulting?

      You must have some real issues if you need GREG MILLEN to help you with anything other than annoying the hell out of someone. (I don’t seem to have that problem anyway)

      Friday, May 26, 2006


      The Sartorial Secret to Success in Alberta least for a day!

      It wasn't enough just to shave off part of my beard. Nope, I had to shave off the moustache, too. The Bill Houlder/Redneck look just does not work for pale, boyish, Slavs. So, off went the porn stache.

      The Vancouver Giants beat the Petes by a 6-0 count in their life-or-death tiebreaker gmae at the Memorial Cup and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim fought off elimination for one more night. I'll get a full leg wax if it means the Ducks can make a miracle comeback from a 3-0 deficit.

      If you think the theory of playoff beards = karmic success/failure is strange, check out my pal Beezer's theory on uniform patches and the success patterns of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.


      There is a pattern that shows how the Oilers did when the Flames had a patch on their jersey and vice versa.

      83-84 - Flames - City of Calgary 100th Anniversary patch, Oilers - no patch, win Stanley Cup

      Neither team wore patches in 84-85 or 85-86 (although I could be proven wrong since some have said the Flames wore the
      88 Olympics patch prior to 86-87).

      86-87 - Flames - 1988 Olympics patch, Oilers - no patch, win Stanley Cup
      87-88 - Flames - 1988 Olympics patch, Oilers - no patch, win Stanley Cup
      88-89 - Oilers - 10th Anniversary patch, Flames - no patch (until SCF), win Stanley Cup
      Flames - 10th Anniversary patch, Oilers - no patch (until SCF), win Stanley Cup
      Oilers - 10th Anniversary patch, Flames - no patch (until SCF), win Stanley Cup
      Flames - 10th Anniversary patch, Oilers - no patch (until SCF), win Stanley Cup

      Neither team wore team specific patches from 90-91 to 02-03, there were the league patches (NHL 75th, Stanley Cup 100th, NHL 2000, HFC, etc), the Flames had a 15th Anniversary hem tag in 94-95 and the Oilers wore the Bill Hunter armband in 02-03 but not jersey-front patches

      03-04 - Oilers - 25th Anniversary patch, Flames - no patch (until SCF)

      --- is there some reverse karmic thing going on in Alberta? Flaunt your franchise and the other franchise enjoys a run of success?

      This theory certainly holds more water than the "911 attacks were faked" conspiracy theories still getting too much notice. Just don't tell Kevin Lowe. We don't need to give the Oilers any more help overachieving compared to their crappy regular season record *cough*

      Thursday, May 25, 2006


      Video of the Day: Islanders Prospect Camp

      Boy, it's not looking good for the future of the Islanders...

      Assist to Joeri for the find.


      This post is "Clutch"

      Looking at the scoring leaderboard, we've certainly seen a real changing of the guard. Eric Staal is at the top, and Daniel Briere is #2!!! Whether you believe in the NEW NHL or not, you'd never see Daniel Briere as the #2 playoff scorer in the pre-lockout NHL. Patrick Elias at #4 is the only familiar name in the Top 5.

      "Clutch" is an often overused term, since it can't really be quantified so easily and since most players don't tend to perform all that much better in 'stress' situations than in regular situations. A player who score .75 points a game in the regular season might be considered 'clutch' if they score some big playoff goals, but they will usually not have any significant increase in PPG during the playoffs. Many baseball studies have shown that 'clutch' hitters such as David Ortiz don't significantly perform better in 'clutch' situations than regular situations. Rather, they tend to perform just normally during big games, rather than wilt totally (like Alex "Pay-Rod" Rodriguez).

      It is true that some players an inherently 'unclutch', such as Joe Thornton and Nils Ekman, and perform obviously worse in the playoffs compared to the regular season. It is true that goals are harder to come by in the playoffs, so a dip in PPG is expected from all players. How much? I'd like to know, but that data isn't easy to find. Wayne Gretzky dipped from 1.92PPG to 1.88PPG, Mario Lemieux dipped from 1.88PPG to 1.61PPG, and Steve Yzerman dipped from 1.16PPG to 0.94PPG. (Which can make you appreciate how good Gretzky really was when the chips were down)

      It is also true that are a few select players who actually do better in the postseason than in the playoffs, and do it continuously.

      One such player, love him or hate him, was Claude Lemieux. His PPG rose from 0.66PPG in the regular season to .68PPG over a very long career.

      Another player, whom I have little love for, was Mark Messier, who went from 1.07PPG to 1.25PPG! Of course, he never made the playoffs in his last 7 seasons, so he didn't have a chance to decline his playoff PPG average in his old years.

      Who is a clutch playoff performer these days? One name I hear a lot is Chris Drury, who was a key member of those powerful Avalanche squads and is now 3rd in league playoff scoring as he's helping the lead the Sabres into a possible Finals berth. He always seems to score highlight reel goals in the playoffs, doesn't he?

      In 551 regular season games, Drury has 395 points and a +12 for a .072PPG, compared to a .70PPG in 94 playoff games. It's a dip, but a very small one at that. You could theorize that he's actually performing better than the standard in the playoffs. He's also +22 in those 95 playoff games. Overall, Drury isn't quite a Claude Lemieux, but he's consistently productive in playoff games and often seems to score big goals.

      Who else is considered 'clutch' by the media and fans? Just a little analysis here...

      Patrik Elias - .85PPG compared to .85PPG
      Jamie Langenbrunner - .57PPG up to .63PPG - Quite a jump!
      Patrick Marleau - .65PPG up to .74PPG
      Joe Sakic - 1.20PPG down to 1.10PPG. He has a real dip in playoff scoring, but he's consistently productive when the chips are down and scores those 'clutch' OT goals. His Goals-per-game actually increases from .46 to .51, which is definitely clutch.
      Peter Forsberg - 1.28PPG down to 1.17PPG. The fact that he can miss an entire regular season and then score 27 points in 20 playoff games pretty much sealed his 'clutch' label for all time.
      Craig Janney - .99PPG compared to .92PPG in 120 playoff games.
      CRAIG JANNEY? Believe it or not, his PPG is pretty good. OF course, when you consider that 73 of his 110 playoff points came during his first four seasons in the NHL (With Boston), you can pretty much see that Janney was anything but clutch after he left Boston. Still, he's done more damage in the playoffs than other less maligned players.

      In honour of the Acid Queen, who is rampaging across North Carolina and breathing fire onto thuggish Buffalo Sabres fans..

      Wednesday, May 24, 2006


      Stanley Cup Finals: Oilers vs. ????

      I’m at peace with myself and the world, despite the fact that the lucky-as-Paris Hilton Oilers managed to win another game.

      As those geekier than me would say, “Meh”

      After Game 2, I had the same feeling as most Oilers fans: This series was over. I pretty much knew that there was no way in hell that you could derail the bad ship Oiler with all of the puck luck they’ve been having. According to the calculations generated by my EXCEL spreadsheet, the Ducks have a 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% chance of winning this series, rounded up of course.

      I give the Oilers credit for a hard-working, gritty, and determined effort, but even the most homerific Oilers fan has to admit that they’ve been having EVERYTHING go right for them in these playoffs. A nasty flu bug was implanted by a secret operative, and that didn’t even do the desired trick! What’s it gonna take to stop these guys?

      This Western Conference final will probably go down in history as one of the most unremarkable match-ups of all time. Who will remember this series in years to come? Ducks fans will want to forget it, and Oilers fans will be too hung-over to care. The Oilers series over the Wings is definitely one to remember, and the finals, no matter the result, will always be a source of nostalgia. So, we’re just waiting to see who their opposition will be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

      Now, I’m sure that Oilers fans will be devastated once their team loses in the final. All the ‘woe is me’ coming out of Edmonton over the past decade would have you believe that Oilers fans have lived a life of agony and suffering thanks to the mean old' NHL and it's big spending clubs from big markets.

      Do the Oilers really NEED a Stanley Cup parade? Hm?

      Canucks fans still watching the playoffs, all 10 of them, should jump right on the Carolina/Buffalo bandwagon, or at least pull for the Oilers to lose. Canucks fans, Canes fans, and Sabres fans have much in common. We’ve suffered through years of crappy hockey teams, mismanagement, and have each had a heart-breaking trip to the Stanley Cup Finals that came up just short (We won't count the Canucks first trip, since that was a pleasant shock). The Oilers have had more Stanley Cups than most franchises (yes, that's right), and nobody should feel sorry for them if they lose in the finals. The Oilers fans seem happy enough just to win a playoff round, so let’s spread the joy where it’s most needed.


      The Vancouver Giants also beat the Peterborough Petes, forcing a tie-breaking game and saving their Memorial Cup skins. Although no team has ever come from a tie-breaker to win the whole thing, there is a first time for everything. *phew*. Stayin’ Alive is not just a generic disco song, ya know.

      Here’s some eye candy for you...

      Keep your eyes on the prize, guys!

      I think it's good that the NHL is trying to increase the 'cool' factor of the Stanley Cup. Sure, celeb shots with the cup are usually pretty contrived, but think of all the people being exposed to the Stanley Cup during their internet searches for Lindsay Lohan pictures. Anything to get celebs to show up at hockey games (Which, apparently, hasn't gone too well) and promote hockey in an indirect way is good marketing.

      Plus, people enjoy looking at Lindsay Lohan.

      (Hat tip to Michael the Hockey Fanatic for the lovely pic)

      Tuesday, May 23, 2006


      The Beginning of the End for "The Fraud"?

      So, it seems that 'the blogger who shall not be named' may be going to be in some big time legal trouble.

      I'm shocked. SHOCKED! How could such an upstanding citizen be the target of a class action lawsuit?

      (If your Sarcasm meter hasn't exploded, buy some new batteries)

      I can't say I feel a lot of sympathy for anyone who have lost money investing and/or working on that site. If they did any fact checking (check the archives here, and other blogs if you haven't already), they'd have quickly realized that this guy's story was as flimsy at wet rice paper.

      In the words of Nelson Muntz: HA HA!

      Still, this lawsuit may be just as much of a fraud as the 'rumours' he blogs about. I have tried to google the name of the attorney with no success. Is this a sneaky way of generating some publicity? or just one pissed off ex-'employee' throwing a little slander around? We shall see..

      Thanks to Eric at for the linkage.


      Edmonton hockey fans create beer emergency

      Quick, call in the Armed Forces!!

      A couple of real losers

      Beer-drinking hockey fans are knocking back brews at a record pace, forcing some Whyte Avenue bar owners to place emergency orders for more suds.

      John MacDonald, manager of Hudsons Canadian Tap House on Whyte, said he's facing a dwindling supply of suds.

      "I think we grabbed about 40 cases (from a liquor store) Sunday," said MacDonald, adding draft and bottled beer - being quaffed at record rates at the pub - were ebbing low.

      "The liquor suppliers are pretty swamped right now. They're telling me that it's doubling Christmas, and Christmas is the busiest time of the year."
      It's been pretty insane in Edmonton from the sounds of it, and they've only won two playoff rounds. I wonder how crazy it'll get if they ever win the cup again.


      Big shifts in the Hockey Universe

      These are depressing times...

    • Canada loses Bronze to the Finns, and the Swedes win gold at the World Championships. What happened to the gold old days when the Swedes couldn't win at medal at any tournament? Now, they have double gold >:(

    • The Vancouver Giants lose their first two games of the Memorial Cup tournament. The refs, unfortunately, don't seem to like the Giants' rough physical WHL style of hockey. If you so much a touch a guy in this tournament, they call a penalty.

    • I pick the Ducks to win in six, and now they are down 2-0 and those damn Oilers fans are partying it up. Even when the Ducks severely outplay the Oilers, Damn Dwayne Roloson, as he has this entire playoff season, comes to the Rescue 911.

    • The Slovaks, end up sucking like always *teardrop*. It's been too many years since the Slovaks have won a medal at a major tournament, and with the way hockey development is going in that country, the drought may continue for another decade.

    • With this in mind, I decided to do something to change the winds of destiny.

      I shaved my playoff beard.

      That’s right, because my facial hair holds the balance of power in the hockey universe. Right after I shaved, Carolina evened up their series with Buffalo, so I know that at least one team I want to win benefited from a Mach III treatment.

      Oh, I still have the moustache going, so I haven't completed chickened out. I'm going for something along the Bill Houlder route.
      Now, THAT'S a moustache, bitches!

      Now that I've rid myself of some hair, will Samson(ov) and the Oilers lose all of their mystical mojo? Muhahahahaha!


      David over at Hockey Analysis is in shock and awe over the Tampa Bay Lightning giving Brad Richards enough money to use a toilet paper for the rest of his life with enough left over to buy 14 million bags of Cheesy Poofs

      Am I reading this right? Did Brad Richards really sign a 5 year contract that will pay him $7.8 million per year? Is the Tampa Bay management insane? It appears the answer to all of those questions is yes. How sad for Tampa Bay Lightning fans.

      Here is the problem. Richards will make $7.8 million a season. Martin St. Louis will make 5.25 million a season. And Vincent Lecavalier will make 6.875 million per season. Combined those 3 guys will make nearly $20 million dollars, or just over half of this past seasons salary cap.

      I can see the justification for giving Brad Richards that much salary, considering he is more valuable to the Lightning and has performed better than the other two for the past few seasons. If I had to pick one of the three, I'd take Richards first every time. St. Louis is older and not as consistently productive, while Lecavalier is rather atrocious defensively.

      Over the past three seasons:
      Richards: 242GP 66-178-244PTS
      St. Louis: 244GP 102-123-225PTS
      Lecavalier: 241GP 100-119-219PTS

      The problem, as mentioned, is that the Lightning are dangerously entering the old Larry Pleau danger zone and giving a huge chunk of their payroll to just a few players. How can the Lightning acquire quality depth when they spend so much on just 3 players? The Lightning aren't flush with quality prospects in their system, and the lack of depth was apparent this season as they barely squeaked into the playoffs. The Lightning could easily end up like the Blues in the next few years...

      Friday, May 19, 2006


      Pavol and Kings to eat Crow

      Well, Marc Crawford wasn't out of work for very long as the LA Kings quickly snapped him up as their new head coach.

      (Btw, thank you Andy McDonald for scoring.)
      From ESPN.

      Marc Crawford will reportedly be introduced as the new coach of the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

      The Kings scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. ET and said Friday that the new coach would be revealed.

      Quoting sources, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Kings are expected to hire former Vancouver and Colorado coach Marc Crawford as the replacement for John Torchetti, who was behind the bench for the final 12 games last season after Andy Murray was fired.
      With the hiring of Dean Lombardi, and a good crop of young players, the Kings are really building for big things in the next few seasons. As much as I didn't like the job Crawford did for the Canucks last season, I think he's still a good coach overall and is going into the perfect situation. Would you rather coach a wreck like the Islanders or a team with a plan like the Kings?

      BTW, Ducks in Six.

      As they say in Sweden, *QVACK*


      Eastern Conference: Carolina vs. Buffalo

      This seems to be the playoffs for 'destiny' teams, and we have two good ones in the East.

      I remember my trip to Niagara Falls a few years back. You could see Buffalo on the other side of the river, and it looked like a desolate, dirty place. Buffalo is not the place one normally aspires to live, but rather a place that you just 'end up' when you can't find a good job in the place you really want to live. (I actually know somebody in that exact same situation, so don't get your panties in a knot Buffalonians)

      With gut-punches such as the NO GOAL and those three straight "WIDE RIGHT" Super Bowl defeats in the past, Buffalo seems 'due' for something right to happen to them. This year's Sabres could very much be the team that finally brings some joy to that depressing border town, after a long rebuilding program, criminal ownership, and the old 'small market' troubles that held them back.

      Buffalo seems to have hit the jackpot so far in these playoffs, facing a Flyers team in which 2/3 of them needed major surgery, and facing an Ottawa team of scarecrows who should be off to see the Wizard (but not Ray Whitney). The thin swords deserve full credit for their victories, but I get the feeling that they really haven't been tested as much as they should have been.

      Carolina has been one the league's top teams all season long, yet I doubted them versus the Devils. The injury woes turned out to be non-existant, Eric Staal is teh bombz0rs, the Devils offence lacked as much depth as The Da Vinci Code movie, and Cam Ward continued his fine play. The Canes are for real, I now realize, after years of being the league's doormat.

      The tilt in this series may be the injury factor, as the Sabres will be without Dmitri Kalinin and Tim Connolly while the Canes will be almost perfectly healthy apart from Cory Stillman's shoulder.

      Cam Ward: 10GP 8-2 1.77GAA 93.0SV%
      Ryan Miller: 11GP 8-3 2.25GAA 92.1SV%

      The numbers favour Ward, but the performances have been just about equal, considering Miller had two brainfart games versus the Flyers and has kicked ass otherwise. When all else fails, go for experience over youth, so I'll give a slight edge to Buffalo. Should either of these goalies fail, both backups (Gerber and Biron) could step in and provide good goaltending.

      Defence: With the loss of Kalinin, the Sabres are forced to play Rory Fitzpatrick, who is every bit the AHL defenseman you know him as. The Sabres big advantage will be their skill and offence from the back end, with guys like Henrik Tallinder and Brian Campbell. The Canes defensemen have only 3 goals total in these playoffs, and Hedican leads their d-core with a whopping 5 assists in 11 games. Carolina's unit is much bigger and stronger overall, and definitely built just right for the playoffs. Both teams block shots extremely well, it should be noted, and put their bodies on the line to win games and lay out RJ Umberger. I'll give a very slight edge to Carolina since they much deeper in quality defensemen and have the size and grit needed for playoff success.

      Forwards: Like the defence corps, the two teams have different looking forward groups. Compare the Sabres with a group that leans towards smaller, slicker, skillful forwards compared to Carolina's sizable, experienced, and defensively-adept group, and the constast of styles between both teams becomes evident.

      Buffalo has 4 lines that can score goals on you, giving them better 'long' depth up front and making it hard for any opposition to shut them down completely. The Canes 4th line couldn't score in an NBA All-Star game. The Sabres also have 5 shorthanded goals in these playoffs, so they never stop being a offensively dangerous foe.

      Carolina doesn't have quite the offensive depth that the Sabres have, but they are bigger and stronger up front overall and much better defensively. Guys like Brind'Amour, Adams, Vasicek, and Cullen can spread out and shut down the Sabres offence leaving the offensive stars like Doug Weight, Justin Williams, Ray Whitney, and Eric Staal to worry about the offence. (of course, Brind'Amour is a machine and does everything well).

      My instincts suck, but they tell me that Carolina is better built for the playoffs, with great attention to defensive play and lots of grit and size all around. The Canes have the heart the Senators don't and the size and physical play that the Flyers were unable to bring, giving Buffalo their first true test of these playoffs.

      I'll go with the Canes in 6.

      Thursday, May 18, 2006


      Separated at Birth: Two Red Clowns


      The Playoff Beard Update

      I've calmed down from last night's little tantrum. I'm at peace with the fact the Oilers smoked the Sharks like oversized salmon, because I just 'knew' they were going to win last night's game. It was if the Oilers were the ones smelling blood and going in for the kill in a role reversal of sorts. The Sharks didn't particularly look into last night's game as much as the Oilers did, and now we've got the battle between two plucky, hard-working clubs. It's probably Gary Bettman's nightmare, so that's one good reason to celebrate. It's up to the Ducks now to save the future of humanity.

      Now, it's time to update the progress of my playoff beard. The itching has subsided and I barely notice it's there except when I touch my face. As you can see, my hair grows quite slowly, making it very precious and valuable on the black market. I believe this style is now called "The Federline"

      The trailer-park look is complete with a Mighty Ducks cap that I stole from some whiny kid who was playing baseball outside. Compare this look to the Hobo/Cult Leader look preferred by Swedes such as "Ingmar"

      ...and DLee, who brings a Southerner's touch to the playoff beard.

      ...and the standard Canadian hockey-beard look courtesy of Chris @ Covered in Oil.

      See? Chicks dig the facial hair. Metrosexuals like James Mirtle may wanna take notes and put away the Gilette Mach III's for awhile.

      Wednesday, May 17, 2006


      G*DDAMN OILERS!!!!!!!!!


      Well, this video accurately describes the state of mind I am in...

      Tuesday, May 16, 2006


      Quick Studies: Does Discipline Matter?

      The general theory is that if you take fewer penalties, you hurt your team less and you are more likely to succeed. It makes sense, after all, to not waste valuable game time giving opponents better chances to score while keeping your best offensive players busy killing penalties or sitting on the bench. I decided to take a quick, cursory look at the penalties taken so far this playoff season.

      Using our small playoff sample size to date, there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation with the amount of minor penalties and how successful a team has been. (Only two teams took major penalties that didn’t involve fighting, so I converted those to 2.5 minor penalties taken)

      Lindsay Lohan

      If San Jose is eliminated and the table stays the same, then the 4 most disciplined teams will not be in the third round, while Anaheim is 4th worst and had little problem with Colorado.

      One interesting stat of note is that the Carolina Hurricanes lead the NHL, by far, with 7 goaltender interference penalties. Now, I know the one called against Rod Brind’Amour was utter BS, but you have to figure that Carolina’s strategy involves running/rushing the opposing goalie hard and creating havoc. Ryan Miller better be prepared for an onslaught.

      Monday, May 15, 2006


      The Oilers Must DIE!

      I've finally found a cause in these playoffs. I finally have something to cheer for, rather than just sit idly by on the sidelines.

      I admit it. I want the Oilers to lose, and am actively cheering for their demise.

      “But, why? The Oilers are now Canada’s Team...”

      BS. Edmonton is no more Canada’s team than the Maple Leaves or the Senators. The Oilers are Edmonton’s team, and the rest of the country cannot take joy in someone else’s victory. Nobody really likes Edmonton, otherwise more people would actually move there, and not to Calgary, Toronto, or Vancouver. You can have your ice-cold winters and mosquitoes, we’ll take our rain and mild weather, k? After seeing the Cup won by Tampa Bay of all teams, I’m pretty much numb to the Stanley Cup being won by oddball cities.

      You wanna know why I want Edmonton to lose? Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

      I hate the Oilers because I am a bitter, angry, spiteful, jealous Canucks fan who is sick and tired of watching Oilers fans party it up when the rest of us Canadians have to suffer with less-than-inspired hockey teams (Sans Calgary, who just lacked offence). The Oilers are the luckiest bitches alive! The Oilers have no business being where they are today.

      It started when the Oilers barely squeaked into the playoffs, thanks to just happening to suck less than the Canucks. They didn’t really ‘earn’ their playoff spot so much as luck into it. The squawking, in-your-face, gloating of many Oilers fans immediately turned me off from their ‘cause’. All of the whining about being a poor small-market club over the years was just BS propaganda by a lazy fanbase and media that couldn’t come to grips with the real reason the Oilers sucked: Piss poor management by Glen Sather and company. Why should a city that has actually won the Stanley Cup MULTIPLE times ever whine about anything? Nobody likes a spoiled brat.

      As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Oilers get outplayed and out chanced by a team of superior skills in the Detroit Red Wings. Somehow, the Oilers managed to steal that series and knock off the #1 team in the NHL despite being outclassed most of the time and out shot about 350-12.

      Now, we see the same pattern emerging in their series against the Sharks. Look at last night’s game!! The Oilers get out shot yet again (24-18), and somehow managed to score 6 goals!!! Why can’t the Canucks find goalies that totally decide to suck when they play against them?

      Look at Game 4...The Sharks are up 3-1 and Joe Thornton hits the post on a shorthanded chance, allowing the Oilers a second-chance to come back and they do, thanks to Vesa Toskala committing the most brutal giveaway since some lucky schmucks in Ontario received Albertan energy rebate cheques. Does Vesa owe Sergei Samsonov some serious cash or what? Thanks to Vesa’s implosion, the Oilers are now 1 game away from getting swept by the Ducks.

      Greg Millen...he LOVES the Oilers. That is reason alone to hate them, although I may reconsider my entire position if an Oilers fan were to shoot Millen through the head with a cross-bow.

      The Blue Mile – Look, ladies, you aren’t nearly as good looking as the chicks here in Vancouver or even the cowgirls in Calgary. Do us a favour and keep your shirts on, k-thx.

      Ron Wilson needs to make a regime change in goal, and install Evgeni Nabokov back in the nets for Game 6. Don’t even think about it, or consider the fact that Vesa may ‘get it back’, JUST DO IT!

      As for the booing of the anthem, I really don’t care. Is there even a good reason for playing national anthems before sporting events?


      No, I didn’t think so.

      Sunday, May 14, 2006


      A Picture is worth 1,000 words

      What kind of words can we see in these photos?

      Joy. Celebration. Victory. Happiness, Euphoria.

      Failure. Shock. Dismay.

      Sportsmanship. Respect. Reflection.

      The calm before the storm!

      Agony. Pain. Jealousy. Defeat.

      Until next season...

      Friday, May 12, 2006


      Are the NHL Finals Fixed?

      (Zoinked from 'ThePandaManCan')


      Around the World in 186 seconds


      So, the Ducks have swept the Avalanche and continue to gain momentum. Ilya Bryzgalov and the Ducks defence did an almost perfect job of shutting down Joe Sakic and the Avalanche offence. I didn't think the Ducks would be able to do it, and do it so easily! It's shaping up to be an All-Californian Western final (because we know the Oilers don't have a chance in hell. You know it. I know it. Your dog knows it.)

      Jose Theodore? The goalie with the great hair wasn't very great in net for the Avs in the postseason. Big shocker, I know.

      9GP, 4-5 record, 3.04GAA, and 90.2SV% (which ranks him 9th among starting goalies)

      While Bryzgalov was providing the Ducks with exceptional goaltending, Theodore was pretty shaky throughout the entire series, apart from one glove save that caused TSN's Pierre McGuire to orgasm on national TV.

      Bryzgalov's numbers are eye-popping: 8GP, 0.87GAA and a 96.7SV% with 3 shutouts. No other goalie has more than 1 shutout.

      Does it shock anyone that Patrice Brisebois was a team worst -7? (to go along with just 1 puny assist)


      Post of the Day: The Hairy Swede has the 12 best hockey program covers from a bygone era. Check out the Larry Pleau beauty, which had me in absolute stitches. Pleau just looks way too suave and smooth...

      2nd post of the day comes from SHARKSPAGE, where PJ/Jon/whateverhecallshimselftoday, interviews Predators colour-man Terry Crisp, who channels Tom Benjamin in his response on officiating:

      I'm the last guy you should ask about officiating because I've been the guy beating the drums all year that I didn't like it. I liked a lot of our rule changes and I like the way the game evolved, the way the game got better in a lot of areas. I just think they took too much out of the officials' hands, not letting them decide from their own makeup.

      When I played, you knew what the makeup of an official was. He had control of the game and it was him calling it. I think now there's too many ticky-tacky penalties. They keep saying they're going to call them. I can't argue with it. I think in the playoffs, you can hear fans all around the league saying they wish that the referees would allow the players to play a little more "playoff-type hockey." And I do too.

      If they're going to stay with it, call diving. Just call plain diving. Not unsportsmanlike. Not anything else. Put it in the book as diving. Believe me, every referee and every player and every fan knows when a guy dives. Don't give the other guy the ticky-tack little lay-on. Don't give him a penalty. Get the guy for diving. I guarantee you you'll see a lot less guys butterflying around the ice.
      At the World Championships, things got just a little rowdy. Oh, those crazy Latvians...

      Canada scored a staggering nine power-play goals en route to an 11-0 win at Riga Arena Thursday night in one of the most extraordinary games in international hockey history. The game, refereed by American Rick Looker (who worked in the DEL this year), was dominated by a total of 23 minor penalties, 16 of which were incurred by the Latvians.

      The Canadians had already scored 4 power-play goals by the time Looker called the eight penalty of the game against the Latvians at 18:00 of the first period. Fans renewed their whistling and littered the ice with refuse, the most interesting item being a single shoe. That culprit, no doubt, was easily discovered. More dangerously, the idiot element in the crowd threw coins as well, difficult to spot and dangerous to players. At this point, Looker had no choice but to send the teams to the dressing room early so the ice could be properly cleaned off.

      Latvian forward Janis Sprukts came out onto the ice, went to the penalty box, and took the microphone from the PA announcer. In Latvian, he told the fans that he understood their anger at the referee--the players felt the same--but please, he begged, let the teams finish the game. He skated off the ice, back to the dressing room, and the Zambonis came out to clean the ice.
      You know it's getting bad when one of the players has to beg for the crowd to stop acting like children.

      The IIHF had to grit its teeth and issue the following statement this morning.
      We regret and strongly condemn the behaviour of the fans during the Canada-Latvia game. We call on all fans to display good sportsmanship and proper conduct for the remainder of the championship and we urge them to show this in Latvia's upcoming game against the USA on Saturday, May 13.

      The Latvian ice hockey fans have a reputation for being the most supportive and vocal in the hockey world and we all wish that the good reputation is maintained.

      Recurring incidents could potentially hurt the reputation of the event, and throwing objects on the ice is dangerous, as serious injuries to top world athletes can happen as a result of this.
      Maybe it was a bad batch of [INSERT POPULAR LATVIAN BRAND] beer. It's time like these where we need legal weed, man!

      Thursday, May 11, 2006


      Alexander Ovechkin: Not a Rookie?

      IIHF Talking Head and leader of the anti-NHL brigade, Szymon Szemberg ,makes the case that Alexander Ovechkin shouldn't be considered a rookie, and that Sidney Crosby ought to win the Calder by default...

      O RLY!?!

      From the article:

      Imagine the following scenario: giant Ottawa and Team Slovakia defenseman Zdeno Chara, who played his first season in Sweden last year, wins the Swedish Elitserien rookie-of-the-year award. Or let's say Joe Thornton, who spent the entire lockout season with HC Davos in Switzerland, outscores all the native 19- and 20-year olds to grab the Swiss Nationalliga A rookie-of-the-year honors.

      This, of course, didn’t happen, since neither Chara nor Thornton was eligible. The rookie awards should be for true rookies, players who play in their first year of major league professional hockey after spending time in junior or developmental leagues. Incidentally, how would North American hockey fans react if the Swedish or Swiss league had announced that a seasoned NHLer had been received the rookie-of-the-year trophy? They would probably have laughed.

      This is what many Russian hockey fans are doing as well with Ovechkin and his race with Sidney Crosby for the Calder Memorial Trophy
      Well, Szymon, the NHL is not the Swiss Nationalliga or the Swedish Meatballserien. The awards in the NHL are based on much different criteria than than smaller European leagues. While the NHL has the best of the best, your little leagues simply don't. Get over the jealousy. If the Swedish league doesn't want to award Rookie-of-the-Year to players with NHL experience, that's their perogative.

      Two fundamental issues are important here:

      1. The unfairness of comparing Crosby to Ovechkin in order to determine the winner of the NHL’s rookie award.

      2. The general misconception of the North American hockey establishment that goes something like this: “You haven’t played pro hockey until you have played in the NHL."
      1. The more 'unfair' component is that Alexander Ovechkin is 2 years older than Crosby, and has 2 years more of hockey experience at ANY level and 2 years more of physical development. Age is far more of an important factor when comparing players so young.

      2. Let's look at the REAL definition of the Calder Trophy:
      The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.

      That's right, it says first year of competition in the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE. It does not say first year of PRO hockey, or first year out of junior hockey, or first year playing the bongo drums. The award ignores all previous NON-NHL experience because it is awarding based on the most fair-for-all criteria possible. It would not be fair to simply disqualify Ovechkin for having played in the senior Russian league or disqualify any player who has played in the AHL. You would bring so much subjection into the award process that the award would lose most of its meaning.

      Where do we draw the line? The French league? The Polish league? Why would those leagues be included with the Russian and Czech leagues when the quality of play is so poor?

      If you want to get technical, how about this... The CHL actually pays its player a 'per-diem'...cold hard cash. The NCAA considers juniors from the CHL to be 'pro' simply because they actually do get some (albeit) little money to play hockey. So, Sidney Crosby was already a 'pro' before he ever reached the NHL, if you look at it from a certain point of view.

      The Calder Trophy is not an award for making the leap to pro hockey. By the definition, it's all about the first year in the NHL. Nothing less, nothing more.

      By the true definition, Ovechkin is a rookie just as is the veteran minor-league who makes his NHL debut at age 26.

      Get over it.



      I admit that I didn’t stay up after 2 OT’s were done in the SJ/Edmonton game. There’s no way I’m compromising my precious sleep hours for those two teams. Of course, it’s only fitting that the game gets settled early in the third overtime >:(

      At least Edmonton has made it a series, since the others are now 3-0 and are pretty much over.

      Edmonton really did appear to outplay the Sharks last night, and the stats would agree. Apart from the 30-18 shots on goal differential, Edmonton actually had 34 missed shots and 18 other shots blocked. They were outhustling SJ for most of the game and showed the ‘never-say-die’ attitude we’re used to with their teams.

      Oh, and while mediots are going gaga over how much ice time Chris Pronger got (46:54), how about some acknowledgement that Jaroslav Spacek played 46:30, second most among all skaters in the game?

      I never gave much credit to Kevin Lowe before, but getting Spacek for just about nothing was a great move. Spacek is not the type of defenseman that carries a defence corps, but he’s a great support defenseman and has the perfect role in Edmonton. Unlike Dick Tarnstrom, Spacek can actually play defence.

      Carolina/New Jersey –

      Certain things are becoming quite obvious as this series nears completion.

      1. The injuries to Carolina’s forwards weren’t nearly as bad as I thought. Ray Whitney is looking better and more energetic as time goes on, Josef Vasicek has recovered well and is playing solid defensively, and Justin Williams doesn’t seem to be too hurt, either. With a healthy forward corps, Carolina is pretty damn deep up front.
      2. New Jersey’s offensive depth is crap, just as I figured. If you stop or contain Elias and Gionta, you are pretty much set. Who did the Devils use as an Extra Attacker last night in the dying seconds? John Madden. ‘Nuff said.
      3. Martin Brodeur is Martin Brodeur. He’s not great. He’s not bad. He’s just fairly good. He’s not stealing the series for the Devils and you can’t really expect him to. Brodeur is not that type of goaltender.
      4. New Jersey has lousy crowds. I’m not talking just attendance wise, but in terms of ‘enthusiasm’. You might as well call their arena ‘The Graveyard’
      5. I’m surprised that the Devils never thought about brining Alexander Mogilny back. With their lack of offence, and the decent numbers AlMo was posting, you’d think they’d want his skill and experience.
      6. Carolina’s defence rocks! Aaron Ward is one hell of an underrated defender, and the rest of the D core are giving up their bodies to block shots. The group isn’t very offensively gifted, but they don’t necessarily need to be. Bret "Soccer Dad" Hedican has aged quite well, as you’d expect a swift-skating defenseman to do.


      I hate to use the “choke” word, since it’s used far too often and in the wrong situations, but Ottawa just can’t get it done in the postseason. They have the most well-rounded team in the NHL (although Ray Emery has blown up in their faces), and more depth than any other team. Are they too soft this time around? It doesn’t appear so.

      Perhaps it’s karma for housing crooked politicians, overpaid bureaucrats, and selfish techno-geeks?

      Buffalo blocked 19 shots last night (5 each for Teppo and McKee), compared to 8 for Ottawa. Ottawa also missed the net 22 times, and had 28 actual shots on net. It’s obvious that Ottawa is out-chancing Buffalo this whole series, and are running into either a hot goaltender or a Buffalo team that gets the right breaks. Detroit Red Wings fans must know exactly how Ottawa fans are feeling right about now.

      Playoffs Zeroes #2 – Nils Ekman

      Nils Ekman really busted out a couple seasons ago, mostly on the strength of his astonishing even-strength scoring capabilities. In the past two seasons, Ekman has put up 112 points and a +50(!) in 159 regular season games.

      The playoffs? Just 1 goal and 4 assists and -4 in 24 playoff games. He went 0-3-3 in 16 games in 03/04 and now has a whopping 2 points in 8 games during this year’s playoff run. If San Jose could start getting more scoring from him and Joe Thornton, they’d be pretty damn hard to stop. As it is, Joe Thornton and Nils Ekman are struggling in their playoff careers and that helps Edmonton keeps things close. 1 points approximately every 5 games is not going to cut it, Nils. I know Sweden’s socialist system gives a free ride in life, but the NHL is not Sweden!

      Wednesday, May 10, 2006


      Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, GOOSE!

      The local free rag 24 Hours printed this ‘aww how cute’ story about ex-Canucks goalie Richard Brodeur and his art work.
      It’s an OK story, but I can’t get past the rather atrocious error about Richard’s playing days. See if you can find it.


      The damn Ducks keep on rolling, thanks to Joffrey “My parent’s kant spel” Lupul’s 4-goal effort. This Ducks team feels like the ‘Team of Destiny’, without the lame-ass Disney soundtrack in the background.

      With 7 goals and 0 assists in 10 games, Lupul is the front runner for the postseason Cy Young award. Lupul does have the second most shots in the playoffs with 35, so Jose Theodore should know that Lupul is thinking ‘shoot first’, and play him accordingly. Speaking of shooters, I notice that Anaheim has 3 of the top 6 shooters. Lupul, Selanne, and Andy McDonald(?). McDonald has just 1 goal in the playoffs in 33 shots. He’s certainly trying, but apparently snakebit or just plain crappy.

      Sticking with the Ducks, Marc Crawford made a grade point that the Ducks get some serious traffic down the middle of the ice on the rush. Even little Andy McDonald is driving hard to the net and paying the price. Crawford was gushing at how wonderfully the Ducks were generating scoring chances off of the rush with the basic ‘keep your stick on the ice’ type style they teach you as a kid. I wonder if Crawford was thinking to himself, “Why the hell didn’t Todd Bertuzzi play like that? Maybe I’d still have a job.”

      Tuesday, May 09, 2006


      WHL: Giants are the Champs!

      With a 6-3 win against the Moose Jaw Warriors tonight, the Vancouver Giants completed the series sweep and roll into the Memorial Cup on the heels of their first ever WHL Championship.

      Gilbert Brule added two more assists as the Giants got a balanced effort in their series clinching victory. Somehow, the three stars of the game all ended up being Moose Jaw players. How the hell does that work?

      Anyway, tonight is all about celebrating and anticipating the Memorial Cup, in which the Giants have to be one of the favourites. The Giants lost only 2 games this entire playoffs, finishing an astonishing 16-2 and sweeping the last two opponents rather handily.

      Gilbert Brule
      - 16 goals and 14 assists in 18 games with a +14 to lead all WHLers. Brule was also named WHL Playoff MVP and finished with 5 goals and 12 points in the 4 game series against Moose Jaw. Can you say 'clutch'?
      Cody Franson - led all defensemen with 5 goals and 20 points and also finished +14.
      Mitch Bartley - The last season for our beloved 20-year old saw Mitchell finish with 8 goals and 7 assists and +12.
      Dustin Slade - Played every minute for the Giants, finished 16-2 with a 1.31 GAA and 93.8SV%.

      Who needs the unmotivated Canucks? Hockey is alive and well in Vancouver this spring and will be next year when we host the Memorial Cup. Good times, indeed!


      Gilbert Brule: WHL Player of the Week

      Just want to shower some more love on Gilbert Brule.

      The Greyhound WHL Player of the Week is forward Gilbert Brule of the Vancouver Giants. Brule earned player of the week honours by scoring five goals and nine points including two power-play goals and a game-winning goal in the first two games of the WHL Championship best-of-seven series against the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Giants lead the series two games to none.

      On Friday, May 5th, Brule scored two goals and added an assist in a 5-1 win in Game 1 against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

      On Saturday, May 6th, Brule recorded a hat-trick, including the game-winning goal and added three assists in a 7-5 win in Game 2 against the Warriors.
      It's Brule's third such honour since March 27th.


      World Championships: The Sucky Slovaks!

      How many North Americans are actually paying attention to the World Championships this year?

      I’m not slagging the tournament, but I am honestly having a lot of trouble drumming up a lot of interest for this year’s tourney. Like many of the players, I’m already ‘burnt out’ from the NHL, the Olympics, plus the fact that I got to see the WJC and the Vancouver Giants are one game away from the Memorial Cup (after a 2-1 victory...Brule with another assist). My attention is quite diverted as it is, and the lack of star power and the fact the games are on basically when everyone is at work (which they usually are, anyway) means that this tournament is pretty much a non-factor to me until the finals are being played.

      We’ve already seen how the Czech roster is quite weak and lacks many NHLers who are skipping due to fatigue and injury. The Slovaks? They are even worse!!

      Count how many players you recognize. Extra bonus points if you can actually pronounce their names.

      “Krazy” Karol Krizan
      Rastislav Stana
      Jan Lasak

      Martin Strbak
      Dusan Milo
      Dominik Granak
      Rene Vydareny
      Milan Jurcina
      Tomas Harant
      Richard Stehlik

      Miroslav Zalesak
      Martin Cibak
      Lubomir Vaic
      Milan Bartovic
      Rastislav Pavlikovsky
      Miroslav Kovacik
      Richard Kapus
      Andrej Kollar
      Ivan Ciernik
      Tomas Surovy
      Marian Hossa
      Marcel Hossa

      That’s right, there are just 6 NHLers are on the Slovak roster.

      Pavol Demitra, Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy, Jozef Stumpel, Vladimir Orszagh, and Branislav Mezei are missing due to injuries while Peter Bondra, Lubo Visnovsky, Miroslav Satan, Ivan Majesky, and Marian Gaborik are skipped due to ‘family/personal’ reasons.

      The Slovaks already lost to Belarus by a 2-1 score and will probably get torn apart from the stronger teams later in the tournament. Even some of the European selections are quite mind-boggling...

      The one non-NHLer to watch is Dominik Granak. He’s a bit undersized for a defenseman (He’s 6’0” but skinnier than Nicole Ritchie) but has played for Slovakia at the senior level in World Championships twice before.

      He’s not an offensive defenseman, but a very skilled finesse defensive defenseman, much like Miroslav Blatak of the Czech Republic (A Red Wings draftee). There seems to be some noise that Granak may finally get drafted this year. How could a team like Columbus not spend a low draft pick on Granak and bring him over to the AHL? It would be a lot better risk than picking some WHL grinder with no upside.


      Putting the Humpty Dumpty Flyers back together again!

      Just how broken were the Philadelphia Flyers? They gave absolutely no effort in their elimination game against the Sabres and it seems they had practically none to give.

      According to the Courier Post Online, 14 players on the Flyers will be having surgeries this month. 14!!! The Sabres are a good team, but very fortunate that they faced a Flyers team that was so wrecked that they couldn't play anywhere near their full potential.

      I've never seen a team with so many injuries at one time for a playoff squad. Given that it's the Flyers, I'm not shedding any tears :)... I'm just a little bit in awe.

      The Flyers had plenty of injury to go with the insult of bowing out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last week.

      By the end of this month 14 players -- more than half the roster -- will have undergone surgeries.

      According to Flyers head athletic trainer Jim McCrossin, five of them are to repair torn shoulder ligaments and five are to repair torn hip ligaments.

      Center Michal Handzus and wingers Donald Brashear and Branko Radivojevic underwent surgeries to repair torn labrums in their left shoulders and are looking at eight weeks of rehab.

      Defenseman Derian Hatcher and winger Turner Stevenson will have small tears in their right knees repaired today that will require 10 days of rehab.

      On Wednesday, left wing Simon Gagne will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip in Vail, Colorado and will require 8-10 weeks of rehab.

      Defenseman Eric Desjardins will undergo surgery on his left hip on Wednesday at Baptist Hospital in Nashville and faces 10-12 weeks of rehab.

      On Friday, it's defenseman Mike Rathje and goaltender Robert Esche heading down to Nashville for repairs on their right hips. Dr. Thomas Byrd is scheduled to perform the surgeries and both Rathje and Esche face 6-8 weeks of rehab.

      Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who is currently playing for Finland in the World Hockey Championships, has an "extensive" labrum tear in his right hip, according to McCrossin, and will undergo surgery in Nashville when he returns on the week of May 29.

      McCrossin said defenseman Denis Gauthier has a "very extensive" labrum tear in his right shoulder. He and winger Brian Savage (shoulder) will undergo surgery May 17 by Flyers orthopedist Peter Deluca and both face 8-10 weeks of rehab.

      Right wing Sami Kapanen will have debris in his right bicep tendon removed on May 18 by Deluca.

      Meanwhile, Flyers captain Keith Primeau will have a broken nose repaired by Dr. Guy Lanzi in the hope that it will relieve some of the sinus pressure brought on by post-concussion syndrome. McCrossin said Primeau has made "great strides" in his recovery and hopes the surgery on his nose will speed his recovery.

      Today McCrossin and Flyers center Peter Forsberg will visit foot and ankle specialist Thomas Clanton in Houston to get a second opinion on Forsberg's right ankle. Two months ago Dr. Robert Anderson found laxity in both of Forsberg's ankle ligaments and recommended reconstructive surgery. The extent of the damage in both ankles will determine the length of Forsberg's recovery.


      Much has been made of the poor Flyers training/medical staff in the past. Dave Babych launched a lawsuit for poor treatment and there have been other horror stories. How could the Flyers, being a high-revenue team, be so cheap when it comes to their medical staff? I know injuries aren't always controllable, but the Flyers often have many under-the-surface problems thanks to rather poor medical practices.

      And Peter many times have his ankles been repaired? They must be absolute mush by now.

      Monday, May 08, 2006


      There is no Ducking Anaheim

      More Monday Mumblings...

    • Should I start taking the Mighty Ducks seriously now? Two straight shutout victories over the Avalanche and, suddenly, they are scaring the crap out of me. Jose Theodore sucking Duck eggs? Not a surprise. Holding the Avalanche to 0 goals in 2 games? Quick a shock. If my crappy prediction doesn’t hold, I’m looking forward to an All-California Western final between two very late-surging squads who were built ‘the right way’.

    • The Armenians completed their shocking Division III World Championships with a 2-2 record! After securing their first victory, over Ireland, the Armenians narrowly lost to first place Iceland before beating Luxembourg 10-7. After finishing with a combined 142-5 score in 2005, Armenia improved vastly and finished with a +4 differential with a 23:19 margin. We definitely have our winner for most improved team!

    • The Vancouver Giants are just 2 wins away from the Memorial Cup after a 7-5 goaltenders’ duo on Saturday Night. Gilbert Brule, the next big thing in the NHL (forget Evgeni Malkin, Brule will kick his ass and then some), had 3 goals and 3 assists on the night in his obvious quest to win the Memorial Cup before he loses 50 games a year as Dinner Jacket. The man is POSSESSED! You know Brule is going to be ‘money’ in the NHL with the kind of attitude and work ethic he shows in big games. It’s the same kind of determination you see out of Peter Forsberg when the playoffs begin.

      Brule now has 16 goals and 16 playoff games to go with 11 assists. Brule is the ONLY player even in double digits for playoff goals! The second leading scorer is Moose Jaw’s Blair Jones, who has only 21 points in 20 games.

    • Brule > the rest of the WHL.

    • Speaking of Forsberg, as Eric @ OffWing mentions, he’d be proud of this double-twist by Czechia’s Ivo Prorok.

      The Czechs have long used the dive as an in-game tactic, and this one was so blatantly obvious that it deserves high marks for entertainment value. The landing sucked, and the crappy (as they usually are) IIHF refs didn’t even give Prorok a penalty. Maybe they were too busy laughing. In any event, the Czechs will continue to dive and flop around as long as the refs call penalties for hooking, holding, etc (they often do) and as long as the Czechs don’t get penalized for trying to induce a false call. They’ve obviously watched a lot of Italian soccer.

    • Some interest Playoff stats of note:

      Mike Grier: 3 goals and 5 assists in 7 games. Somehow, Mr. Stone Hands has managed to put up more points per game than Teemu Selanne, Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, and Joe Thornton.

      Speaking of Joe Thornton, he’s in real danger of becoming a playoff dud ala Pavel Datsyuk. Dude has only 4 assists and is -2 in 6 games thus far, and his career playoff totals are quite poor.

      Regular season totals: 546 points and +56 in 590 games
      Playoff totals: 22 points and -12 in 44 games.


      YEAR: GP G A PTS +/-
      1997/98 6 0 0 0 even
      1998/99 11 3 6 9 +1
      2001/02 6 2 4 6 even
      2002/03 5 1 2 3 -5
      2003/04 7 0 0 0 -6
      2005/06 6 0 4 4 -2

      Joe hasn’t scored a playoff goal since 2003, and he’s been -13 in his last 18 playoff games. That’s just brutal and not what you need out of an ‘elite’ player. For all of the kvetching about Jagr’s ‘heart’, he’s always been quite money in the playoffs. Apart from this season (due to a serious injury), Jagr hadn’t had less than a point-a-game in the playoffs since 1993. The Sharks need Thornton to start lighting it up if they want to go all the way.

    • Saturday, May 06, 2006


      A Punch to the Moose Jaw

      Yikes! Perhaps Ottawa does want Dominik Hasek back, after all! I've been many a blue moon since the Senators got a goaltending performance that bad and had that many defensive miscues in a single game. As for the Ducks?


      Now, one of the stories lost on too many hockey fans around here is the Vancouver Giants "March to Moncton".

      I was at Game 1 of the WHL Finals between the Giants and the Moose Jaw Warriors which took place last night, and they place didn't even sell out :(. C'mon, yuppies, you can't tell me you'd rather watch Anaheim and Colorado than support your Giants?

      Just over 13,000+ showed up and were treated to a great 5-1 victory for the G-men, giving them the 1-0 lead with Game 2 tonight.

      The Giants have just been rolling throughout these playoffs, having lost only 2 out of their 15 games thus far. Coach Don Hay has done an excellent job turning the Giants into a lean, mean, forechecking machine that cycles the puck as well as the Sedin twins and defends as well as Jere Lehtinen. We also noticed Canucks scout Ron Delorme sitting in the row in front of us (until we 'upgraded' to better seats), though he refused to reveal state secrets.

      Keep an eye out for these players, coming soon to an NHL arena near you

      While the Giants are hosting the Memorial Cup next year, this year is really THEIR year to win it all as the Giants will be severly depleted by the departures of Fistric, Brule, Slade, et all next season.

      Friday, May 05, 2006


      Itchy and Scratchy in the West

      Like Mike W over at Covered in Oil, I’ve been growing (my first) a playoff beard. Unlike Mike, mine looks rather atrocious. As a guy who has to normally shave only once every 5-7 days, I make the Sedin twins look like Gimli, son of Gloin. The hair on my face is growing in weird random directions, as if it’s unsure of what it’s actually supposed to be doing.

      I don’t know how anyone can put up with having a beard, since it’s rather itchy and I can ‘feel’ the hair on my face. I have quite the urge to scratch myself every 5 minutes and it certainly feels coarse to the touch.

      I’m resisting the urge to shave it all off, but I may trim it down and keep the (porn)stache if I lose my will power. Since I’ve last shaved, the New Jersey Devils haven’t lost a playoff game (hmmmm)...

      My Western Conference picks will be quick and dirty, since I’m a bit buried and harried.

      Sharks over Oilers in 6.

      Since I picked the Sharks to win the Cup, this is a pretty obvious choice. The Oilers are living dangerously by relying very heavily on the goaltending of Dwayne Roloson and Chris Pronger v.3O. They can’t expect to win the cup if they are constantly outplayed almost every game. The Sharks are certainly vicious and, unlike the Red Wings, don’t have too many forwards of questionable heart come playoff time (*cough*Datsyuk*cough*)

      Pronger leads the Oilers in scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists in 6 games, and has only 2 minor penalties!!! If he can maintain this newfound even keel, and somehow keep Joe Thornton in check, it will make Roloson’s job a hell of a lot easier. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have to put up with Keith Tkachuk’s lame-ass jokes.

      As for Michael Peca, why does the mainstream media still fawn over this guy like he’s a modern day Bob Gainey?

      Just look at Blob MacKenzie:
      (though not for too long lest ye be turned to stone!)

      Heading in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks carry a lot of talent up front in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo.
      And if the Edmonton Oilers want to control that offence, they have the perfect remedy in centre Michael Peca.

      Peca has forged his career as a veteran who can do a number of different things on the ice and it showed in Edmonton's first-round series. He helped set up a winning goal against the No. 1 seeded Red Wings, got in the face of Detroit goaltender Manny Legace, and created chances up front with his crash and bang style.

      Peca is a predator on the ice, and with so many talented players on the Sharks roster, it will be a target-rich environment for the two-time Selke Trophy winner. With Thornton and Marleau at the other end, Peca will have every opportunity to create havoc and take those two opposing centres off their game

      Many different things on the ice? You mean like pile up a whopping ONE assist in 6 games with a -1? Watching Robert Lang pile up 6 points in 6 games while Roloson was peppered with shots? Where can I buy my own Michael Peca inaction figure? Does it come with a holdout feature?

      How about some love for Fernando Pisani (he who actually scored some goals), Shawn Horcoff (one of their best players), and Jarret Stoll? They also get heavy PK time and yet are hardly given nearly as much favourable press as Michael Peca.

      Peca has been a severly overpaid player for most of his career and has rarely put up good offensive production. He may well be a good defensive forward, but he doesn’t deserve nearly as much praise as he gets. Why doesn’t Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson get some props? I’d take him over Peca every day of the week, including Thursdays.

      Avalanche over the Ducks in 7.

      I still have a hard time taking the Mighty Ducks seriously, and not just because of their stupid name.

      I see a roster with a few good players, a lot of inexperience, and not a lot of great depth. They have two above-average goalies who can’t consistently just kick some ass, yet they somehow managed to make the playoffs and knock off the very strong Calgary Flames. Credit the ‘role players’ like Rob “I love Hungarian Hookers” Niedermayer for not sucking nearly as bad as he used to (he actually turned into a good defensive forward) and Samuel Pahlsson for his Selke-worthy play (according to half-Swede James Mirtle), Todd Marchant for his hustle, and Francois Beauchemin for rocking Jerome Iginla’s world so badly that Iggy was rendered a big blob of goo for games 6 and 7.

      Now, the Avalanche has/have (stupid non-plural team names) a very big weakness in goal, albeit with great, yet artificially enhanced, hair. Jose Theodore was quite lucky that he was well protected in the series against the Stars. I’d still be very very nervous if I were an Avalanches fan.

      Stopping the ‘offence’ of Calgary is nothing like stopping the offence of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs did a masterful job tearing apart the strong defensive system of the Dallas Stars, firing shot upon shot against a woeful Marty Turco. The Ducks were lucky that the Flames were just so woeful offensively and Daymond Langkow never found good chemistry with Jerome Iginla. The Avs have more depth and more star power and more support from the defence. I think the Avs are playing very well right now and the Ducks don’t have quite enough to handle them.

      Oh, and just how good is this trade turning out for the Ducks?

      Anaheim traded centre Sergei Fedorov and a 5th round selection in 2006 to the Columbus Blue Jackets for centre Tyler Wright and defenceman Francois Beauchemin

      Dumping a lot of salary and acquiring one fine young defenseman...Burke pwned MacLean. This trade represents everything that is wrong with MacLean’s management. Beauchemin has shown me a lot more this season than Rostislav Klesla has shown me in his entire career. The BJs have a fine young DMan and basically give him away for an overpaid slacker who is not going to be a cornerstone of any franchise building effort.


      The Hobey Baker Effect

      I've posted before about the alleged 'curse' of the Hobey Baker Award. Many of the winners have struggled to have any sort of meaningful career in the NHL.

      Anyway, ex-blogger Ben Wright forwarded me an NHL propaganda piece regarding the Hobey Baker winners and runners-up making an impact in the playoffs. Just something to chew on this morning.


      The influence of American college hockey will be on significant display during the Conference Semifinals. Rosters of the remaining teams include three winners and 16 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented annually to the top player in college hockey.
      Criteria for the award, which is celebrating its 25th season, include strength of character on and off the ice, scholastic achievement and sportsmanship.

      The three winners are defenseman Matt Carle of San Jose (2006, Denver) and two Buffalo Sabres: goaltender Ryan Miller (2001, Michigan State) and center Chris Drury (1998, Boston University). Miller also was a finalist in 2002 and Drury was a finalist in 1996 and 1997.

      The finalists: ANAHEIM – LW Chris Kunitz (2003, Ferris State), C Andy McDonald (2000, Colgate).
      BUFFALO – RW Mike Grier (1995, Boston University).
      COLORADO – D Rob Blake (1990, Bowling Green), C Jim Dowd (1991, Lake Superior State), D John-Michael Liles (2003, Michigan State).
      EDMONTON – G Ty Conklin (2000, 2001, New Hampshire), C Shawn Horcoff of Edmonton (2000, Michigan State), G Dwayne Roloson (1994, UMass-Lowell).
      NEW JERSEY – RW Brian Gionta (1999, 2000, 2001, Boston College), C John Madden (1997, Michigan), LW Jay Pandolfo (1996, Boston University), C Zach Parise (2003, 2004, North Dakota).
      OTTAWA – LW Dany Heatley (2001, Wisconsin), Bryan Smolinski (1993, Michigan State).
      SAN JOSE – D Tom Preissing (2003, Colorado College).


      Of course, this is a good example of how many of the runners-up have had better careers than the winners :). Peter Sejna isn't exactly burning a hole in the earth, eh?

      Thursday, May 04, 2006


      NHL Award Finalists Announced

      Here they are... (my picks in BOLD)

      CALDER MEMORIAL TROPHY (outstanding rookie): Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames.

      FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY (outstanding defensive forward): Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes; Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators; Jere Lehtinen, Dallas Stars.

      HART MEMORIAL TROPHY (most valuable player to his team): Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks.

      JACK ADAMS AWARD (outstanding coach): Peter Laviolette, Carolina Hurricanes; Tom Renney, New York Rangers; Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres.

      JAMES NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY (outstanding defenseman): Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Mighty Ducks; Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars.

      LADY BYNG MEMORIAL TROPHY (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct): Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning.

      LESTER B. PEARSON AWARD (most outstanding player as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA): Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers; Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks.

      VEZINA TROPHY (outstanding goaltender): Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames; Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers.


      NHL: Eastern Conference Round 2 Matchups

      Wow, the top 4 seeds in the West are gone while the East is a bit more ‘normal’ with their top 4 seeds moving on. I figured Calgary would struggle offensively, but not quite so much as they did against the Ducks. Those who were proclaiming Jerome Iginla as the greatest forward in the NHL (and there were many) ought to realize by now that he’s not incredibly gifted at creating offence for himself and his linemates. Iginla is a great 2-way forward, but he isn’t gifted enough offensively to be the #1 guy in the NHL.

      Thanks to the shocking Western results, and the fact that Peter Forsberg isn’t the greatest force of evil in the universe any longer, I went 1 for 4 in the West and 3 for 4 in the East for a 50% success rate overall. I might as well be a stinky primate spinning a giant wheel (Yes, Maggie also went 4 for 8)

      Carolina vs. New Jersey

      The Devils/Rangers series did not give us a true look at the New Jersey Devils thanks to the utter suckiness of the Rangers, who were obviously the product of their two star players (Jagr and Lundqvist), both of whom were injured and ineffective.

      Since the Devils ripped apart the overmatched Rangers like a Hulkamania t-shirt, they are suddenly a popular bandwagon for mediots and other fanboys to jump upon. While the Devils have generally been a good playoff team for the past decade, past years’ results are not necessarily a good indicator of present and future capabilities. Doesn’t it seem that the Devils had it too easy? Even the late-season Vancouver Canucks could have provided a better challenge.

      The Carolina Canes? Their initial shakiness against Montreal only drove more non-believers to bleat that the Canes weren’t ‘for real’, despite the fact they basically swept the Habs after making a regime change in goal. From the looks of it, Carolina seems to be the ‘underdog’ in this series.

      New Jersey – Their BIG advantage comes in goal, with Martin Brodeur as the ‘devil you know’ versus Cam Ward the Cinderella story. Brodeur may be the most overrated goaltender of all time, but he’s still got a great track record in big games and you know the level of solid goaltending that he’ll provide. D00d has played 144 career playoff games and has a miniscule 1.84GAA! He’s not easy to beat when the Devils are on their game.

      Ward? I know he’s had great numbers in the AHL and CHL and he’s had an amazing 4-game run in these playoffs, but let’s not forget he was pretty awful during the regular season (3.62GAA and 88.2 SV%) and he’s only 22 years old. Counting on a very young rookie goaltender without an established track record isn’t the safest of propositions. It worked for Ken Dryden, but not so much for Jim Carey and Blaine Lacher.

      The Devils main disadvantage is their reliance on one line for offence. Although Jamie Langenbrunner had a shocking output in Round 1 (8 points in 4 games), the Devils clearly rely on the smurfy trio of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, and Patrik Elias to provide the majority of their offence. Apart from those 4, the rest of the forwards are pretty much grinders and defensive specialists. If the Canes can shut down the first unit, the Devils may run into the same problem the Calgary Flames had where their lack of offence couldn’t keep up with their defensive ability.

      (Edit: So, it's been brought to my attention that the main Devils line was broken up. It's true that Elias was spread out, but the main PP unit consists of those same 4 forwards and Brian Rafalski. The Devils rely on those 4 very heavily for the offense when they are mashed together.

      Another factoid...out of all playoff-bound teams, only Calgary (212) had fewer GOALS FOR than the Devils (242). The Devils PP% (17.7%) was also the 2nd worst among playoff-bound teams. Obviously, it's not the OFFENSE that drives them)

      The Carolina Hurricanes have a lot more offensive punch up front, which they will need to escape from the tight checking of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, Richard Matvichuk, and the rest of the defensive demons.

      As I wrote about yesterday, I’d be seriously concerned about the health of their forward corps and the ineffectiveness of Doug Weight and Mark Recchi. Justin Williams, Ray Whitney, and Josef Vasicek all have some big health issues plaguing them and the Canes depth up front is taking a serious hit because of it.

      Given those health issues, and the experience and playoff capabilities of the Devils, I’m picking them to triumph in 7 hard-fought games over the Hurricanes.

      Ottawa vs. Buffalo

      The Sens/Lightning series proved to be a quick disappointment thanks to the fact that the Lightning have crappy goaltending and a thin defence. Well, at least the press conference tirades by Fonzie were quite entertaining. Otherwise, the Lightning just could not match the offensive power of the Senators as they spent a lot of time digging pucks out of their own net. The losses of players such as Jassen Cullimore and Dave Andreychuk severely depleted their defensive capabilities.

      The Sabres also had a relatively easy time with the Philadelphia Flyers, who were too beset by injuries and infighting to play the physical brand of hockey that Philly teams are generally known for. Apart from Ryan Miller letting in some weak goals in Games 3 and 4, the Sabres had their way with the plodding Flyers and the Rebound Machine. Game 6 had to be the absolutely worst elimination game I’ve ever seen one team play. The Flyers obviously gave up from the opening whistle, and I wonder how far they could have even gone had they won the series. As more news trickles out of Philadelphia, it’s obvious that their crappy medical staff (just ask Eric Lindros and Dave Babych) did wonders again as the Flyers have more casualties than an infantry unit in Iraq. Oh, and who the hell trades for Petr Nedved? Bob “Must go!” Clarke, that’s who.

      Now, the Sabres will face an opponent that has just as much speed as they do, plus the ability to play a more physical game than the Flyers were able and willing to. Oh, and the Senators have a goaltender that doesn’t have more bounce than the Michelin Man. Both teams are very adept on Special Teams, and this should shape up at the best series of Round 2.

      The goaltending battle pits two rookie netminders who took over the #1 during the season and have performed well in their new roles.

      The Senators may not even want Dominik Hasek to come back since he’ll likely be rusty and prone to re-injure himself. The Sabres? Ryan Miller was pretty shaky for 2 of the 6 games against Philly, but he’s also older and more experienced and less likely to blow up mentally. While Ray Emery has made great strides in his focus, he still remains a bit of a mental risk.

      Regular Season:
      Miller – 2.60GAA and 91.4SV%
      Emery – 2.82GAA and 90.2SV%

      Emery has been enough for the Senators, but not nearly as effective as Ryan Miller. The Sabres have a clear advantage in goal.

      Defensively, the Sabres have a solid unit that meshes very well together, but they lack the star power and skill level of the Ottawa Senators. Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, and Andrej Meszaros are all more skilled than any defenseman on the Sabres roster. The defensive-minded Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov match up well with Jay McKee and Teppo Numminen. I’d take the Senators D core over any other D core in the league.

      Up front, the Sabres have an amazing spread of depth as they basically have 18-goal scorers playing as fourth liners. There are no defensive easy shifts to be expected against a team that can throw out an offensive weapon at every opportunity, giving the Sabres that sort of edge throughout each game.

      The Senators also have some fine depth up front, but tended to rely more on their big unit of Spezza, Alfredsson, and Heatley to do the bulk of their scoring. The top 3 of the Senators account for 36% of their goals, compared to 28% for the Sabres trio of Afinogenov, Briere, and Drury. The big X factor has become Martin Havlat, who’s been on fire since his return and leads all Senators with 10 points in 6 playoff games. Havlat helps spread out the Senators offence a great deal and he can drive defenders nuts with his cocky style.

      Given the skill advantage of the Ottawa Senators on defence and up front, and the fact that they can play have a physical dimension that the Sabres can’t quite match, I’m picking them to prevail in 6.

      Wednesday, May 03, 2006


      World Championships: Czech Prelim Roster Set

      The Czechs have announced their preliminary roster for the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia.

      Once the three players from the Canadiens/Predators are medically cleared/denied, the final roster will be set. If all 3 of the newer additions can play, 3 European based players will get canned.

      With it being an Olympic year and with a lot of star players injured or hurt, it’s not surprising that the Czech roster is lacking seriously in star power. The Slovaks are going to have a weak roster and Team Canada is going with a very young roster. This tournament will be quite interesting given the amount of youth and European based players taking spots on the rosters for the major teams.

      (NHLers in BOLD)

      Milan Hnilicka (Liberec)
      Adam Svoboda (Timra, Sweden)
      Tomas Popperle (Eisbaren Berlin, Germany).

      Tomas Kaberle (Toronto, NHL)
      Marek Zidlicky (Nashville, NHL)
      Martin Skoula (Minnesota, NHL)
      Lukas Krajicek (Florida, NHL)
      Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix, NHL)
      Jan Hejda (Chimik Moskevska, Russia)
      Martin Richter (Liberec)
      Miroslav Blatak (Zlin)
      Zdenek Kutlak (C. Budejovice)

      David Vyborny, Jaroslav Balastik (Columbus, NHL),
      Tomas Plekanec, Jan Bulis (Montreal, NHL),
      Martin Erat (Nashville, NHL),
      Patrik Stefan (Atlanta, NHL),
      Jan Hlavac (Geneve, Switzerland),
      Petr Tenkrat (Oulu, Finland),
      Miloslav Horava (MoDo Hockey, Sweden),
      Jaroslav Hlinka, Jan Marek (Sparta Praha)
      Petr Hubacek, Zbynek Irgl (Vitkovice)
      Jaroslav Bednar, Ivo Prorok (Slavia Praha)
      Tomas Rolinek (Pardubice).

      The goaltending sees the overrated and undeserving Milan Hnilicka get the #1 job with a shaky Adam Svoboda (he's worse than Chris Osgood handling shots from 50+ feet) as his likely backup. Tomas Popperle is a rising star who drastically improved his game over the past two seasons. I'd love for him to get a shot, but he's likely sitting in the press box.

      The defence is very offensive minded and a bit small overall. I think they'll have a lot of trouble against teams like Canada who can use their size to forecheck and create traffic in front of the net. Only Jan Hejda is really big and strong out of that entire group, although Martin Richter is not too shabby. I would expect the younger Kutlak and Blatak to be cut from the roster. Of the forwards, the slow slug Hubacek or the old Ivo Prorok will probably be cut.

      The offence will count on EuroPower to score goals. There are a lot of names I know you people haven't heard about, although frequent readers of this site or Hockey Rodent's rathole will know all about Jan Marek. Overall, this team is going to have a lot of trouble scoring goals and keeping pucks out of their own net. I feel the Czechs are set for a rather low finish.

      Here's a little primer on the European-based players who've never played in the NHL.

      Jan Hejda - A 27 year-old DMan, he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 4th round of the 2003 draft. He's big, strong (6'3" 21), and he's good offensively with a big shot. He helped HC Slavia Praha win the Czech Extraliga a few years back before being lured to Russia by the big oil money. Out of all of the Europlayers, he's the best bet for an NHL career in the future, if Buffalo is willing to match the money he can make in Russia.

      Martin Richter - A 28 year-old DMan who was taken by the Rangers in the 2000 draft in the 9th round, he's been a mainstay on the Czech teams that compete in smaller European tournaments, and has had a few sniffs at big-time competition as well. He's a decent 2-way defenseman, but nothing too special.

      Miroslav Blatak - He'll be 24 in a few weeks, and he's a smaller defenseman (5'11" and very thin at 174 pounds) who was taken by the Red Wings in the 4th round of the 2001 draft. Like other smaller Wings DMen, he's pretty skilled and his size isn't a huge detriment. His offence hasn't really developed as much as it could have, but he's a very dependable defenseman for his HC Zlin squad.

      Miloslav Horava - Son of a former national team player of the same name, Horava, like Alex Auld, was going bald when he was 20. He's a smallish winger who skates well and works hard, but has very little to offer offensively. His selection is quite puzzling.

      Jaroslav Hlinka - A 29-year old winger who's been one of the top players in Europe for quite some time. He's good speed to burn and he puts up pretty good numbers. I could see him doing fairly well in this tournament, as he'll be given a pretty decent role to play.

      Zbynek Irgl - A smallish 25 year-old winger with great speed who was taken by Nashville in the 2000 draft (6th round). I'm a bit surprised he hasn't been brought over to the AHL yet. His game is more North-South than most European players and he scores more goals with his speed and instincts rather than smarts. This will be a good audition for him and a good chance for the Preds to assess their selection.

      Ivo Prorok - One of my favourite Euro-based players, the 36-year old Prorok is a wily old wizard who is probably a little too slow for this tournament. I expect him to be cut if Plekanec and/or Bulis are healthy enough to play.

      Tomas Rolinek - A smallish and rather average Extraleague player. What the hell is he doing here?

      Yep, the Czechs are certainly bringing a very strange team to the tournament.

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