Sunday, June 28, 2009

Free Agent Freak Out

Its looming out there boys and girls, July 1st is just about here and there's plenty of signings, releases, buyouts already happening.

The first big deal of the weekend sent Captain Elbows to the Philadelphia Flyers, the team he identifies with in terms of similar personality. Philly shipped Lupul back to Anaheim after his three year trip to Edmonton and Philadelphia, along with promising young defenseman Luca Sbisa, and three picks. Philly toughens up their blueline, and forces the team into 'Win or Bust' mode by giving up some of the future. Anaheim may have destroyed their impeccable defensive lineup with the trade and almost certainly losing Beuchemin to Free Agency. Scotty said he and his brother would be back, but there's been a lot of speculation of them heading home to BC. They've already won a Cup together, is there any reason to stay down in Southern California other than the weather?

Jay Bouwmeester has had his rights traded to Calgary in exchange for Jordan Leopold's rights to Florida. So he can talk to Calgary exclusively, but he's still more than likely going to see what other offers are out there. And this is the same Calgary team that couldn't dress enough defenseman last year because they were planted against the cap. This makes no sense to me, unless Darryl thinks he can intimidate Jay into signing a deal for the league minimum, because we all know Jay is pretty timid, and Darryl is kind of like this scary, mesmorizing zombie.

Since then its all been free agent signings by their current teams... Craig Adams and Billy Guerin (PIT), Dave Bolland (CHI), Jussi Jokinen (CAR), Johnny Oduya (NJD), Peter Budaj (COL), and probably the biggest with Rob Blake (SJS).

Some 'Please Stay!' pleading... Marian Hossa (DET) for $4-5mil for 1,000,000, 000 years, the standard Scientology membership contract, Dwayne Roloson (EDM) $3mil for one year, and Alex Kovalev and Mike Komisarek (MTL),

Flat out 'Fuck-Off's'... Nik Antropov (NYR), Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay (MTL), and Marcel Goc (SJS).

And some general ambivalence... Rob Scuderi (PIT), Taylor Pyatt (VAN) and Steve Sullivan (NSH).

In other Free Agency news...

The Blue Jackets are already scrambling to re-sign Rick Nash with his Free Agency not kicking in until next July.

Looks like Jumpin' Joe Sakic could be hanging them up with an announcement scheduled for the middle of the summer, and the ushering in of this new Duchene kid to the Colorado franchise.

The hotly debated Heatley race has had two runners drop out, St. Louis and Los Angeles but the Rangers seem to be very much in play with Dany heading to New York tonight. Let's hope he's not driving. In other Ranger News, Gomez has been shipped to Montreal for Higgins and other scrubs.

And Pierre McGuire's favorite goaltender, Jonas 'Monster' Gustavsson, this year's winner of the free-agent-out-of-nowhere award, has decided to wait out until July 1st to see who's going to show him the money.

And some more Swedish indecision from the Twins this time. Gillis does or does not have counter offer to J.P. Barry's ridiculous double contract? I can't tell any more. Montreal's a potential suitor for the pair?

There have been a few good lists of Free Agents out there, Mirtle seems to have the best with his defenseman, forwards, and goaltenders, not to mention his youngest and oldest FA list, and his cheat sheet for all teams assessing needs and listing available cap space. Wyshynski and Leahy over at Puck Daddy has set up a little Good, Bad, and Ugly parody of the top 10 players by position, but so far he's only got defensemen, goaltenders, and centers.

Enjoy the craziness.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Snow Job

I've got a little confession to make...

I was born on Long Island in 1980.

Yes, as an unborn fetus in Momma's belly, on a late night run for smokes and vodka, I mean pickles and ice cream, I watched the Philadelphia Flyers team bus drive home from Nassau Memorial that fateful Saturday evening.
It was the start of something great. No not my birth, the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups for the blossoming franchise. The impact of that dynasty produced roots that have held strong, although weakened somewhat, through miserable years of unsuccessful professional hockey.
Mistake after mistake, bad decision after bad decision from poor management have relegated this franchise to what it is now, a worse than mediocre hockey team playing in a rundown building with a fanbase that's had just about enough.
This draft could be the most important in the Isles history, or at least in the last 25 years. Definetely more important than taking goaltender Rick DiPietro #1 in the 2000 draft, (a impending problem that will need to be remedied soon).
This is a chance to turnaround all the shit that these fans have suffered through. A chance to rebuild from the ground up, considering the fact that you can't get any lower. With seven picks in the first three rounds, (two in the 1st, three in the 2nd, two in the 3rd), and the first pick in every round, the destiny of the New York Islanders lies in the hands of backup goaltender, I mean General Manager, Garth Snow.
Snow can't lose on whoever he picks at #1, as long as he picks one of Tavares, Hedman or Duchene trio, and doesn't do anything stupid like trade away the pick, or wake up late. He may surprise and upset some people with who he actually chooses out of those three, but in the end, there's going to be plenty of reasons to back your decision. Of course, there will always be reasons to shit on the choice as well, real or fabricated, but that's just the nature of the scruntiny of professional sports.
Lets take a look at some reasons, good and bad...
Of course we're here at almost the midnight hour of the draft, we have all the insight of everyone who's already written about tomorrow, we can just swoop in and steal all the research and reap the rewards.
The skinny on John Tavares...

He's been watched since he was 15 or 16 years old, he's broken Gretzky's goal scoring record in the OHL, he's got a nose for the net, good hands, a great shot, and thrives under pressure. He's also a little lazy as far as working to improve areas of his game, and he's also a little bit of an asshole, (not sure if that's good or bad). In that regard, he's been drawing comparisons to Eric Lindros' standoff against the Nordiques in '91, but Tavares has given no indication that he would pull such a move if the Isles were to draft him. But its his attitude that have compelled experts to give hard looks at Mr. Hedman and Mr. Duchene in the first choice perspective. If its already noticable now, it could be a potential problem down the road, when the Islanders aren't making the turnaround quite as quick as everyone expected and the blame game begins to play out.

The lanky on Victor Hedman...
This tall drink of water has drawn comparisons to Nick Lidstrom with his hockey IQ, offensive ability, ability to close, his size, and probably mostly because Lidstrom is the best defenseman to come out of Sweden. But he, like all European imports placed under the microscope, is being questioned about his toughness and physical game. He says he can play with a chip on his shoulder if he gets riled up enough, but something tells me this kid is going to let his game do the talking.

The plucky on Matt Duchene...
The rugrat has drawn comparisons to Stevie Y and Joey Sak for his all-round game, quick feet, playmaking ability, hard work ethic, leadership ability, and 'everyman' persona. How's THAT for a slice of fried gold? Experts are tongue-tied when looking for a reason to dog the kid, which is why this duel of Tavares and Hedman has turned into a three horse race.

Predicting who's going to nose out who is anyone's guess, the Isles need everything. However Strong Island has been clamoring for JT as if he were the new Justin Timberlake. One bar out on the Island is offering $1 drafts if Johnny boy goes #1, and 25cent drafts if he doesn't.

Tavares will put asses in the seats regardless of how well the Islanders are playing, that's an instantaneous dividend for a team that's struggled to sell seats to a hockey game at a dungeon. Hedman and Duchene don't carry that same star-power even though they appear to be smarter choices for the long run. It would show a lot of balls on Snow's part to go against the grain, and pass on Tavares. Of course we all know the grain is stupid, and that its the smart hockey decision to go with Hedman or Duchene. Or do we? Besides, when have the Islanders been accused of making smart hockey decisions? Your silence is defening.

Offence or defense?
If you want defense, the choice is easy. Bill Torrey, the architect of the Isles dynasty, took Denis Potvin in the '73 draft and built the team around him. It appears that Hedman along with Duchene are cornerstones, Tavares on the other hand has the potential to become another #1 flop. But let's be honest here, Snow is no Torrey, and Hedman is no Potvin.

If you want offence, the choice gets blurry. Do you take the star power or the steady hand? Seems unfair to judge any of these kids before they even pull a professional uniform on, but once again, that's the nature of the business.

The money, and the pressure, is on Tavares to go #1. The smarter move is to take Hedman, and build from the back end out.

But it will probably play out Tavares, then Hedman, and then Duchene. Colorado needs a new Sakic, Tampa needs a new Dan Boyle, and the Islanders need a hero. Will Tavares be the next Mike Bossy?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Red Carpet

Piss poor production quality and the Vegas atmosphere did nothing to spice up this otherwise bore of an event. And once again we learn how humble hockey players are compared to all other professional athletes.


Kuklas had this streaming video link up pre-Awards Show with the gorgeous Heidi Andriol and Carrie Milbank. Did these two titular beauties know that the microphones were on in between interviews with the attendees?

Probably not since it appears that the NHL has edited out about the first 5 minutes of the broadcast since the day of. Things you missed from that little juicy segment; they have no idea who any player is until one of the producers tells them, they both loved each other's make-up job, especially since they did it themselves, and how cute Max Talbot is. Totally.

The best part however was Carrie re-telling Heidi her little conversation with Geno; "He said, 'We won the Cup!' and I was like, 'Really?! Nobody fucking told me." Now tell me who doesn't love a sarcastic bitch with a great rack dropping 'F' bombs?

The Bruins, along with Ovie were cleaning up at the podium with Claude Julien taking the Jack Adams, Timmy Thomas taking the Vezina and the Jennings, (with Manny Fernandez), and Big Z surprising everyone for the Norris.

Speaking of the Norris, Mike Green, with his faux hawk and bow tie in tow, looked pretty pissed about missing out on the award. Nick Lidstrom, on the other hand looks great even in defeat.

His teammate Pavel looked a little unnerved by Ovie's comment about Datsyuk's english, which was funny to everyone else, as A.O. picked up his umpteenth award of the night.

Both Thomas and Chara showed a lot of humility and gratefulness in their acceptance speeches, meanwhile Ovechkin carried the swagger of League Pimp.

Messier almost cried, handing out his Leadership award to Jarome Iginla, a picture of class by the way.

The one thing that was really misplayed, the Gary Bettman-sized mock trophies. What the fuck was up with that? They were so small, half the players were forgetting them as they walked away from the podium. The best thing about the awards of the NHL, not to mention Stanley, is that they are larger than life. You walk around carrying those things and people are gonna notice. No question.

Whole breakdown of the award winners here.

Otherwise, lower the fucking price so I have an excuse to go to Vegas and piss away money instead of pissing it away before I even get there.

Hockey Summer Calendar

Thursday, June 18th - NHL Awards Show, Las Vegas, NV
  • Relocated from the Hall in Toronto, the League tries to spicy up an otherwise dull event.
  • A Charity N0-Limit Texas Hold 'em Poker Tourney will kick off the event, featuring Lu, Ovie, Mikey Richards, JR, Souray, Versteeg, LaFontaine, SeaBass, and Luc, and few other guys that ESPN made famous.
  • More speculation like this, after the trophies are handed out.
  • And you can always have some cheese and whine with me about the cost of tickets on an event that should be fan friendly, especially in this shitter of an economy.

Friday & Saturday, June 26th & 27th - NHL Entry Draft, Montreal, QC

  • "Planned as part of the Montreal Canadiens Centennial Celebration." Or at least, what's left of it.
  • I'm not big on these Mock Drafts, but I will, from time to time, give them a quick read to get an idea of the talent pool.
  • I've got an article planned focused on the amassing of picks in this year's draft, and the potential turnaround of a bottoming-out franchise known as the New York Islanders.

Wednesday, July 1st - Free Agency Bidding Wars

  • There's a few big names out there to be had, and some little ones too. I'll try to take a look at them, and give you a sterling recommendation based on my impeccable reputation. (For being an asshole.)
  • I'm getting the feeling that we are going to see more trades this summer than we did at the deadline. With the Cap staying roughly the same, ridiculous contracts unfullfilled, and general discontent from players, GM's, and fanbases, I think that will see some teams ushering out previously heralded saviors.

Later - Training Camps Open

  • Already?
  • Have a great summer. Shitheads.

The Long and the Short of Playoff Picks

'Hello Boys and Girls, this is your old pal Stinky Wizzelteets,'

Instead of apologizing to all seven of you for my delinquency, and whining my way out with carefully crafted excuse after excuse, I figured I'd just jump right back in and talk about my shortcomings in picking playoff winners.

Should be humbling enough, no?

Well if you cared to read my original post and painstakingly beautiful AutoCAD creation of a playoff tree, you would see that I went 6 for 8 in the first round. However, as there is no way to blind your eyes from the tops of the trees, you can see that it get miserable from there on out. I won't excuse myself from the San Jose pick since just about everyone but the wisest of the wise, the seer through the trees, could go on their previous infamous record of falling flat. The real blemish is picking Philadelphia over Pittsburgh in the first round, and then sending them to the conference finals. Last year I went against the grain and took Philly over the Caps in Round Two and it paid off. I desperately tried to recapture that instinctive pick and it backfired. Horribly.

The MSM and all of these "professional" sports analysts only pick one round at a time for two reasons I've discovered. With the re-seeding of teams after the first round, a whole tree can get screwed up just by missing one series, and therefore fucking up the matchups. And two, picking a round at a time makes it easier to cover up your mistakes, when it comes time to pick the next round. One makes sense, the other is a "cover-your-ass" tactic.

I will continue to select both ways, making a complete tree up front, and picking it round after round after I shit it up. Making a bracket reveals the true conviction of a hockey fan, allowing everyone to see their fuck ups.

Okay enough of that happy horseshit. Which is exactly what my next round smells like.

I took Pittsburgh in 7, Boston in 5 (shit), Anaheim in 6 (fuck), Vancouver in 7 (bitch). That's one for four, ain't that some stanky shit. I took Anaheim out of pure hatred for Detroit, and for the jackass reason of having Game 6 tickets. At least they forced a Game 7.

So now where am I at, 7 for 12. Fuck I might as well be a baseball fan, or just your average shithead on the street. They're both of equal intelligence. 'I'll teach your Grandmother to suck eggs.'

Conference Finals, I took Pittsburgh and Detroit. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Not really, I just didn't think Carolina or Chicago had a prayer against either of them.

Nine for fourteen, I guess I can still show my face around these parts.

For the enchilada, on a gut instinct, and probably more of that pure hatred for the Wings, I took Pittsburgh in seven. Whadaya know, it paid off. Crazy how the whole season comes down to one game, winner take all. And it was a helluva game at that. I thought it was the most exciting game of the year, but that might have had something to do with what was at stake.

Ten for fifteen overall. Moderately respectable, I guess.

Boston really let me down this year, as did the Sharks, but they let everyone down. I underestimated the Pens, and I let my hate for the red, cloud my judgement on the Wings.

Oh well, lots of shit to go over in the next few weeks, NHL awards, the Draft, Free Agency, and then the start of training camp, and we do it all over again.

Happy happy joy joy, happy happy joy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Unemployment Office...

...has a load of hockey Coaches and General Managers.

Let's recap...

Edmonton Oilers...
Coach Craig MacTavish ousted at the end of the season, Pat Quinn hired as new Coach. Former NY Rangers benchboss Tom Renney hired on as an assistant.

Minnesota Wild...
Coach Jacques Lemaire quits, GM Doug Risebrough gets shitcanned. Chuck Fletcher, son of the "great" Cliff Fletcher, hired as new GM, Todd Richards, former assistant under McLellan in San Jose, hired as new coach.

Calgary Flames...
GM Darryl Sutter blows off 'Iron' Mike Keenan after an early dismissal from the playoffs this year. Sutter announces himself as one of four front-runners for the job, and states that the other two are current NHL coaches but doesn't name names. But then...

New Jersey Devils...
Coach Brent Sutter turns green with homesickness, and tells GM Lou Lamoriello that he's resigning, creating an interesting possibility in Alberta.

Colorado Avalanche...
Team President Pierre Lacroix dumps GM Francois Giguere, and attempts to hire 'Saint' Patrick Roy on for dual-duty as Coach/GM, "allegedly," all before he officially releases Coach Tony Granato from a very public hell. Patty passes, Lacroix finally lets go of Granato, hires his son to some bullshit front office position, and promotes assistant general manager Greg Sherman to GM. And now, they're looking at Adam Deadmarsh, a guy who cries when you spell his name wrong, almost, for the head coaching spot? Or are they?

Florida Panthers...
GM Jacques Martin quits, gets hired as new coach of Montreal Canadiens. Panthers are sold, at least in the news. No new GM hired.

Dallas Stars...
Co-GM's Les Jackson and Brett Hull are sent home packing. Joe Nieuwendyk hired as new GM. The 'Dyk sends Coach Dave Tippett out on a rail, and brings in the 'Hair,' Marc Crawford a day later.

Did I cover it all?

Probably not, but that's all I can remember.

There are actually quite a few viable head coach candidates for the vacancies around the league. Tom Gulitti, writer for the Bergen County Record, broke down a great list of potentials for the Devils on his Fire & Ice blog.

Its easy to see Lemaire head back to Jersey, given his previous work with Lou, but the word is he's headed back to Montreal.

Guy Carbonneau was canned by Bob Gainey before the postseason, and seemed like the more logical choice for Joey 'Dyk to go with in Dallas.

Peter Laviolette's a young, American coach with a ring from the last team that dismissed him. I'm surprised he's remained on the market this long, since his broadcasting skills are brutal on his TSN guest appearances.

As for General Managers, teams are grasping at straws to find a captain to man the helm. Risebrough is the only viable candidate with previous experience in the position, but unless you want your team to turn into a reason to change the channel, he won't be getting much of a look. However, teams in dire straights and with bad decision making will be looking for that experience no matter what the cost. Giguere's resume consists of poor choices, and puppet strings, neither of which will bode well for a new opportunity for him.

Unless of course, somebody wants to hire Pierre McGuire?