Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Thank You Holiday

Well I've been here over a year now, and with well over a hundred posts since then, it feels like I'm finally starting to find a groove. Sometimes its work coming up with ideas and churning posts out and always time consuming but its a labor of love that we truly enjoy. I'd like to thank you all for reading, whoever you may be, and I encourage you to comment on here (good or bad) and other blogs, because we know full well that getting a response it the most rewarding thanks we could receive. So again, thank you, and comment some more fuckers.

I planned to be prolific this week, and with nine posts in the last week (that's a lot for me, STFU already) I think I accomplished that. I just finished up my unsigned copy of Theo's book and plan to get my thoughts out on it in the near future because of course I've run out of time. I'm heading out to Phoenix this weekend to catch the Coyotes and the Stars play on Friday night, which I'm pretty excited about. I figured I'd go see the Desert Dogs experience before it goes extinct, if in fact it does. But I wanted to take it all in so I can accurately write about my experience there, and how the Coyotes are perceived by the Phoenix sporting public.

In any case have a good holiday, drink up, be merry. Thanks again.


Driving around I heard Bill Clement on NHL Home Ice this afternoon and he brought up an interesting point concerning head shots.

First off, he stated that the only way to truly eliminate head shots from the game is to eliminate hitting in the game. Nobody wants that, not the fans, not the GM's and not the players which he openly stated. But he brought up the wording in the recent Danny Briere suspension (which I think is a bunch of bullshit), as to how the League might re-structure the rules to prevent head injuries.

Briere was suspended for "a late hit on an unsuspecting opponent." Clement stated that if the rules prevent players from playing the body on an unsuspecting opponent that it might take the dangerous element of surprise out of the equation, and result in less concussions. Now, of course that will be a point of contention when it comes to disciplinary action if frequent injuries happen after a rule change like this is made, but how is that any different from today's 'Wheel of Justice'? How can you tell when a player is unsuspecting or not? Think about it, you can tell. You can see those situations in your mind if you've ever played the game.

Now of course this may take the unwritten 'keep your head up' rule out of the game, which is a rite of passage and a hard knocks learning experience to any kid who just entered Pee-Wee.

That reminds me of two things in Theo Fleury's book 'Playing With Fire'. First off, when he was talking about Eric Lindros and the skill he possessed, he said that he had a theory as to why he got so many concussions that knocked him out of the game. He thought that Lindros always skated with his head down through the neutral zone, something he had done since he was a kid. The difference was that in Juniors and before the kids were bouncing off of him, and in the NHL the guys were bigger and meaner, and knew how to hit (see Scott Stevens). And so time and time again, Big E would be down on the blue line with another concussion.

The second thing, and this might have been on the same topic, he said that Bearcat Murray used to say that the body responds differently when the mind knows it will be hit, it tenses up and braces for the hit. When a body gets hit unsuspectingly, it tends to be loose and flop which can result in even further injury.
It was interesting thought, and I know its debatable, but I thought it a valid post.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Western Conference Finals Preview?

Tomorrow night sets up to a big night of hockey with every team in the League playing with the exception of Columbus and Vancouver, for a total of 14 games. Most of the games are kind of ho-hummers in terms of matchups, but there's one game that stands out in terms of future implications. Chicago at San Jose. Lets take a look at each, shall we?

The Chicago Blackhawks

Currently the Hawks are in the middle of a six game road trip through Western Canada and the West Coast, and are riding a seven game win streak. They have earned six points in three games against Calgary (7-1), Edmonton (5-2), and Vancouver (1-0) with games in San Jose (11/25), Anaheim (11/27) and Los Angeles (11/28). They opened up the trip by offering a sound thrashing to the Flames, followed it up with an impressive win in Oil country, and played the Canucks in a hard-fought defensive game. Before they left the United Center, they handed the Sharks a OT loss in a great game that easily could have gone either way.

The Feathers

  • Marian Hossa is playing for the Blackhawks for the first time since leaving Detroit via free agency. Hossa is now on his fourth team in three seasons, yet he's no longer a mercenary, signing a 12year deal to stay in Chicago long-term. Not to downplay it but the Hawks are very strong offensively already, adding Hossa makes them that much more dangerous. He doesn't have Kessel-type pressure on him, considering the arsenal that Chicago has, but there are high expectations for him, and the team in general.
  • Jonathan Toews is a tireless workhorse, and I have no doubt that we will see him in Selke nominations in the near future. I thought the Mitchell hit would have slowed him down a bit, or made him fearful, at least for a little while, but that hasn't been the case, he's bounced back nicely. A well-rounded player and a perfect selection for Captain as one of the three faces of the franchise.
  • Patrick Kane has allowed his offseason infraction to focus him solely on hockey. Either that or the kid's so goddamn gifted that it hasn't looked like its phased him whatsoever. Pure offensive threat every time he has the puck.
  • Cristobal Huet has rebounded from poor performances to being solid in his last few games. He holds the fate of the Blackhawks destiny with his play this season. Of course Antti Niemi has looked strong in his relief outings, and earned the shutout on Sunday with his solid play against a very good Canucks team.
  • John Madden has proved to be one of the best pickups in free agency this season. His play as a defensive checking center is unparalleled, and is just as good on the kill.
  • Dustin Byfuglien's game as a power forward gets better and better every game. He's a big pest to the opposition and specifically their goaltender with his size taking up space around the crease. His shooting has improved, and when he doesn't have the puck he's going to the net hard every time on the rush. It would be sad to see him go as a casulty of signing the big 3, but that's the cap era for you.
  • While I'm not convinced the D corp is flawless, it is pretty solid. Keith leads as a core member of the team, with Seabrook and Barker as solid hard-nosed defenseman, and Campbell as the puck moving, offensive minded defenseman. And then it gets hazy. Hjalmarsson has been a steady surprise, but Hendry is not ready, and the wheels are falling off of Sopel. They're leaning on the top four pretty hard, and it'll get harder in the postseason.
  • The depth on the team is what amazes me most. Its a nicely assembled team with young skill guys (Versteeg, Brouwer, Bolland), and gritty enforcers/agitators (Eager, Burish). It will be hard to keep this roster together after this season with 10 restricted and 4 unrestricted.

The Blackhawks went to the Conference Finals last season, only to be knocked out by the previous Stanley Cup Champions the Detroit Red Wings. I'm a big believer in suffering a big loss in order to be hungry enough to want it the next season. To me, this is the best chance Chicago has at a winner, they are going to have to sacrifice too many lambs to keep their "core" and the lineup will be revised dramatically before next season. I don't see it getting better.

The San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games, are undefeated at home (7-0-2), and leading the Western Conference with 36 points (Chicago is 2nd). With 16 wins in 25 games played, you have to consider the Sharks previous season with 53 wins and 117 points, and then realize that they can have as great a regular season as they want, but the only question is postseason success. The Sharks know that they're going to be in the postseason, and all that this time in between determines is where they're going to sit. Last season they sat in first, played the eighth seeded Anaheim Ducks and got beat in six games. This is a team with something to prove.

The Teeth

  • Dany Heatley is no-doubt an elite goal scorer with great hands and a hell of a shot. Heater, now paired up with Joe Thornton, the NHL's most elite setup man, have become the most dangerous combo since Hull 'n Oates. Heatley is a 50 goal scorer on his own, now with Jumbo, who knows what he's capable of.
  • Patrick Marleau is one of the most capable all around centers in the game today. He can score, pass, win draws, play defense, kill penalites, and add skill to the power play. His speed creates so many opportunities, whether at even strength or short handed, he can easily scoot around the best defensemen. Doug Wilson won't know what he's lost until Patty is gone, if he doesn't hold on to him.
  • Add those three together and you have a deadly line, McLelland's put them together once or twice.
  • Evgeni Nabokov has looked very focused this season, even more so than last season, but once again it was in the postseason when the wheels fell off. He played in 62 games last season plus 6 in the playoffs, and more than likely was overplayed even though he would prefer to play every one. McLelland will need to pull the reigns back towards the end of the season when the post is assured.
  • Setoguchi/Pavelski/Clowe is a solid, well-balanced line on its own, and still provides McLelland with plenty of potential mixes with the aforementioned three.
  • Malhotra/Ortmeyer/Nichol a refreshed crop of veterans that has more skill and speed than last years third line. Ortmeyer and Nichol have chemistry carried over from Nashvillle, and Malhotra has fit in nicely to the lineup.
  • Blake and Boyle are to the Sharks as Pronger and Niedermayer were to the Ducks in their Cup run. Vlasic is a solid young defenseman, and Huskins can play but the corp gets a little suspect after that. Doug Murray is absolutely atrocious on a pair of skates, so the Sharks will have to rely on Joslin and Demers as their third pair.

We've talked up the Sharks but we should calm down until we see what they're made of in the post. San Jose is the gang of grisly veterans running out of opportunites to obtain a ring, while the Hawks are a team of right now, with a bright future of promise ahead of them. We'll see if this game tells us anything about their immediate futures.

Monday Night Notes

Even though I was away from the glory that is my Center Ice package and my mini-fridge filled with beer, I still managed to take down copious notes as I surveyed the league through highlights and the third period of the Ducks vs. Flames game. Commuting sucks, what can I tell you. We'll skim through the first nine with more content on the last. And away...
Preds 3 vs. Wings 1
* Drew Miller looks as if he as a new lease on life after being dealt to the Bolts from the Ducks, put on waivers and picked up by Holland. His move to the front of the net was determined, getting the lone marker for the Red.
* Pekka is now playing for next year's paycheck like I knew he would. His roaming goalie routine with the sliding poke check was pretty sweet. My pick for the top FA goaltender at the end of the year.
* Nashville is on a six-game win streak going 8-2 in the last 10.
Isles 4 vs. Leafs 3 (OT)
* Rolosson made 58 saves on 61 shots. 61 Shots.
* Phil Kessel took 12 of those in case you were wondering. One went in, he now has six on the truncated year.
* Matt Moulson got another one for 11 goals in 24 games. Who the fuck is Matt Moulson? This is Matt Moulson, glorious, glorious locks of Moulson.
* After giving up three, Toskala decided to call it a night, told Wilson it was his groin. Gus finished, allowing the Leafs to climb back into the game.
* Nik Hagman absolutely pissed on Freddy Meyer. Who's Freddy Meyer? Fuck, I don't know.
Rags 7 vs. BJ's 4
* Jackets score first two. Rangers score seven. Jackets score two more. Yeah. Maybe I should add that after the Jackets got two, Torts called a TO and basically did one of his 'Hi I'm John Tortorella, I'm your coach, and I'm pissed, now don't you feel like an asshole, get out there and play' legendary verbal abuse ass kicks. Shit, it worked.
* Gaborik with 2 goals and 2 assists, and Avery with 2 goals.
* Del Zotto looked sharp on his goal, head up, take the lane if its given to you. Nice shot just inside the far post.
* Gilroy with a breakaway goal, made Garon look stupid.
Pens 3 vs. Cats 2 (OT)
*Nathan Horton's speed was pretty impressive outskating the Pens defenseman to get a scoring chance to no avail.
* The big debate today is on the Panthers jersey, Scotty Wazz, Puck Daddy minions. To me, its a pass considering that their normal jersey is probably the worst in the League, but it does looks a lot like the Pens third in color, and that similar logo style on the Wild home and Blues thirds.
Sens 4 vs. Caps 3 (OT)
* Mike Fisher is the greatest thing since sliced bread, after Underwood goes on the morning show circuit with Ellen and Regis & Kelly and talks him up. That and he actually started putting up points. Gets the OT winner, and the girl.
* Pascal Leclaire took a puck in the jaw while sitting on the bench, we'll see what that does to him. Ed. note: It did this.
B's 4 vs. Notes 2
*Lucic and Savard return to lineup and kick start Boston's locker room. Will it be enough, and will it last?
* Bergeron with four assists, I mentioned something about him finally returning to form, didn't I?
*Carlo Colaiacovo with a goal going hard to the net, and an assist.
Stars 2 vs. Canes 0
* Morrow and Gleason go at it right after opening faceoff. Something must have pissed them off.
* There was no one in the arena that night, I'm sure the stands filled up a little more after puck drop, but someone even left a comment in that video about it.
* Turco was flopping all over the place to preserve the shutout. Not like there was anywhere to go but up, it seems as if he's put last season behind him.
Avs 5 vs. Flys 4
* Colorado and Anderson have come back to Earth going 1-4-1 in the last 6, but played hard against a tough Philly team and got the win.
* Scott Hannan scored, alert the media.
* What is with the skill players on the Flyers getting into fights lately? Are they really trying that hard to fit in to the Broad Street mantra? Giroux got into it with Svatos last night, and Briere hugged it out with Vlasic last Friday.
* Speaking of Briere, he had two goals and two assists, Jeff Carter also had two goals for Philadelphia, David Jones had two goals and Paul Stastny had a goal and two assists for Colorado.
Oil 4 vs. Dogs 0
*'Wait, wait, pull what out?' This was a what happened here kinda game. Three goals in less than 12 minutes and the second and third goals were 7 seconds apart.
* Lombardi shoved one in his own net to help Edmonton, guess he still wants to play for Alberta.
* Dustin Penner has had some strong games since MacTavish left town.
* The guy with the biggest last name in the League (Drouin-Deslauriers) got the shutout.
Ducks 3 vs. Flames 2 (SO)
* Giguere looked like he finally got that kick in the pants he needed. He looked strong, making big saves behind a shoddy defense, to keep the Ducks in it. Stopped 43 shots and all 3 shootout attempts. All he needed was to 1. talk shit to the press, 2. do damage control after press smelled shit, 3. play like you deserve $6mil a year. By the way, that was his first win since March.
* Did I mention how shitty the Anaheim defense looked? I did? Well it was. Shitty. They were mishandling pucks, and getting beat left and right. Even Niedermayer looked out of place, making up for it with a timely stick check, but still what's the deal? Sick? Tired? Old? Last night's game looked like this could in fact be his last season.
* Glencross was dancing through the defense more often than not last night with one goal on three breaks. The goal was a ripper though.
* Artyukhin lined up with Selanne and Koivu? Are you sure Randy? There were several mentions of Arty's foot speed by announcer John Ahlers, and not in a derogatory way like they should have been directed.
* The Ducks have 21 of the next 30 games on the road. Yeah, that sounds like fun.
* Glencross/Langkow/Conroy is like this dreamy line that reminds you of days gone by. KowConCross.
* Oh, have I mentioned Iginla in October vs. Iginla in November? I forgot. Five game point streak, seven goals in those five, and 16 goals on the year. Dreamy.
* I was laughing my ass of with that little exchange towards the end of the game. Jokinen nails Perry into Kipper. Perry doesn't hold back and throws his arms out into the mask of Kiprusoff. Miikka starts smacking Perry. Phaneuf feels the need to help, he gets leveled by Boynton charging in. Iginla and Bobby Ryan are exchanging pleasantries with facewashes, and we end up four on four. Comedy, pure comedy.
* Did Olli look for Iggy or what?! What did I tell you?! Sure he had three Ducks on him, but normally he's taking that shot anyway. Jokinen is slowly learning to look for Iginla before he takes that normally obligatory shot. And as a dog biscuit to Olli for passing instead of shooting, Brent lets him take a turn in the shootout. Should have let Jarome go instead. By the way, that play was offsides, big time.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I love hockey, (in my best Kanye West accent). One game tonight, but 14 on Wednesday. Yessssssssssss.

Monday, November 23, 2009


For all you hockey-loving, Rush fans (i.e. nerds) out there, get a whiff of this. Neil Peart, one of the best percussionist of all-time "will record a special rendition of The Hockey Theme, the iconic theme song originally written by Dolores Claman in 1968."

Rush fan or not, Peart is a bad ass when he gets behind a kit, and if you've got the nuts to tote around a set like the one above (not to mention play the shit out of it), then you've got to give respect where respect is due.

Best Canadian Drummer of All Time + CBC Hockey Night in Canada Theme = Kick Ass

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Movie Review? On This Blog?

This week I subjected myself to the tragedy that is 'The Love Guru,' (I know only a little over a year late, I held out as long as I could). I figured it was somewhat a hockey movie and therefore I'd have to watch it at some point and time, and don't even think of lying to me, (or yourself), that you don't see every single movie that has some inkling of hockey in it. From every shitty sequal of 'The Mighty Ducks' and 'Slapshot' to pieces of crap like 'Hockey Mom' and 'Airborne.'

For this masochist act, I settled in to my favorite ass dent of the couch, poured myself a picture perfect pint of Molson Canadian, (I think I'm the only guy in Southern California who drinks that heavenly nectar), and popped an artery clogging bag of corn.

I knew full well that the movie would suck, but I figured being hockey themed I might get some minute form of enjoyment out of it. Basically, it was a forum for the unused jokes of sex, dick, and fart jokes from the 'Austin Powers' movies. But the thing that surprised me most was Mike Myers' grasp of the hockey world in writing the movie.

Granted he grew up right in Scarborough, neck deep in Maple Leaf territory, but it was his use of the NHL and its traditions that kept a hockey fan like me chuckling quietly under my breath.
Playing off the sad saga that is Toronto Maple Leafs hockey, with the "Bullard curse," and the dozens of Cup-less years that plagues the faithful was funny to every non-Leaf fan, (and I'm sure a few T dots as well). Using the Hockey Night in Canada presentation with announcers Jay Kell (Stephen Colbert) and Trent Leuders (Jim Gaffigan) and their banter back and forth might have been the best scenes. And of course antagonist Jacques 'Le Coq' Grande (Justin Timberlake) as the French-Canadian goalie nemesis with his namesake third leg and love for Celine Dion had his moments as well.
But it all played off of Darren Roanoke, (Romany Malco) our hero as an African American hockey player in its passive aggressive attempt to callout the typical demographic of the game. I've seen enough 'Hockey is for Everyone' commercials for a lifetime, and in the League's "lets-grab-all-of-the-colored-hockey-players-we-have-and-shoot-a-commercial-to-expand-our-audience-and-sprinkle-a-few-white-players-in-so-no-one-figures-it-out" lousy marketing campaign, is just a little too phony to me, and painfully obvious. The final blow was Kanye West celebrating with Mike Myers in the stands as he screams 'I love hockey!' in his best caucasian accent.
After having watched it I feel like an 'ass-hole-face-man!'

Interabang... Look it up.

? One of the questions last night on NHL Network from Brian Duff to Dave Reid was 'will Stamkos hit 50 goals?' I guess its a fair question considering his totals up to this point, but my first reaction was, 'are you serious?!' The kid's definetely got it in him, but in the years ahead, if hits it this year I would be very surprised.

! Speaking of 50 goals, I would say Dany Heatley's got that well within reach and will surely be in the race between Ovechkin and Kopitar as to who hits it first, now that he's got magical setup man Jumbo Joe with him. How the hell did Thornton fish those passes through the Philly defense, not once but twice? Reid hit it on the head with his comment about Joe, ' the guy has no interest in shooting the puck.' Werd Dave, werd.

? Briere has eight goals? When the hell did that happen? Nowhere near the amount he should have considering the bloated contract that's been weighing him down the last few seasons. Either that or the groin, one of the two. Speaking of Briere, did you see his little tussle with mild mannered Vlasic last night? Pretty tame, probably their first fighting majors but I'm too lazy to look it up.

? How many quality chances does vanRiemsdyk get? How many does he actually put in? Time after time, I see highlights of this kid with great chances and missing the net. Rookie mistakes that he'll no doubt be burying as time goes on.

! Patrick Marleau has to be most dangerous guy in the League when the Sharks are shorthanded. It seems like every time I post comments I'm going on and on about this guy. Wilson's going to be making a big mistake if he lets him go, but I know, money's the issue too. But Thornton/Heatley/Marleau together on a line, scary. McLellan sent it out a few times last night too.

! Malhotra scored a goal for both the Sharks and the Flyers last night. Nice.

? Can you tell what game I watched last night? Catching the matinee of the Flames and Kings this afternoon, can't promise any notes from that one, even though I know you love it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Nickel's Worth

*Chicago has only had 7 road games? WTF?

*Who gave Huet the kick in the pants he needed? Is he back in the good graces of the Second City yet? He looked pretty damn sharp to me, and his teammates were making him look even better by running up seven on Kiprusoff.

*Kopecky truly is worthless. Come to think of it was he really that great in Detroit, or was being on that Wings team make him look better?

*Iginla blocks Keith's shot, attempts to beat him in a foot race to the puck, and Duncan mugs him like a pro off the streets of Chicago. No penalty shot was the right call, it was a scoring chance for a sure, but he was never in the clear, and possession was a little iffy. It feels warm in here, did someone turn on the heat?

*Andrew Ladd's shot on the break was a thing of beauty, below the glove hand on the far post. Awesome.

*The Calgary defense looked like shit last night, no one looked good. Phaneuf gets in a hugging match with Seabrook after his hit on on Langkow, to make it look like he was doing something all night other than loaf around like a sloth. Either that or he just wanted out of the game. Maybe both. And this after his (supposed) yelling match with Sutter no less. Nice effort Dion, I hope Brent strung a lot of expletives to 'lazy.'

*Okay correct me if I'm wrong. The Leafs were up 3-0 at the 1st intermission, no? Then how the fuck do you lose 6-5 to the draggin' ass Hurricanes no less?

*Jeff Finger may be giving Brendan Witt competition for worst defenseman in the League right now. Although, too his credit Witt had a two goal night a few games ago. Before that he hasn't scored since he was in Juniors.

*What the hell was up with that no goal call on the Wings in Dallas the other night? That was brutal. Oh, karma just called, Detroit, its for you.

*Kovalchuk still lighting it up. Four goals and seven assists in four games since coming back from injury. That's three nights with three points or more. I have a feeling this will be a recurring trend through the rest of the season.

*Niedermayer's OT winner was just a well-placed shot, but it shouldn't have gone to overtime. Looked like the Ducks didn't even care that they were on the PP, just slowly skating around the offensive zone, until Getzlaf draws two defenders away from Scotty's shooting lane. Did you see the fight in the stands after Nied's was trying to give away his Star of the Night signed stick. Orange County, should have had Pennywise's 'Bro Hymn' playing in the background.

*Arthyukin was playing and more importantly hitting like he wasn't too fond of his old teammates.

*Man do I feel bad for Mike Smith, every time I see him play it looks like the world's taking a shit on his lap.

*But the highlight reel goal was Stamkos' second whack while on his ass, up and over Hiller. We all knew he'd eventually be scoring goals like that soon enough.

*Tkachuk looked like he had a mouthful of dip in between the 1st and second. Gotta love that behind the scenes coverage.

*Oshie with the barehander to forehand to backhand to break up that slump. Nice. But Mason kept them in that game, and the only reason why they won, and the Blues needed that win bad. Not as much as the Hurricanes, but.

*Wait. What's this? Jonathan Cheechoo scores a goal? Oh, it was already 5 to 1 by then. Still looks good on paper.

*Huselius with a shorthander in the 1st, and then a powerplay goal in the second. Solid.

*That's it, I'm flipping back and forth between the Sharks and Flyers, and the Avs and 'Nucks tonight. Enjoy.

The Cold War

Many, many moons ago, the MSM would often toss the idea of European expansion for the League into the ring. And time after time, it would get shot down with a list of travel and economic logistics. But the powers that be have humored us and teased the idea of the NHL on foreign soil with the a handful of regular season games to kick off the year in Western Europe.

The history of NHL exhibition games in Europe first began in 1938 with the Canadiens and Wings leading off, and that wouldn't get followed up until over 20years later when the Bruins played the Rangers in 1959. The next international game wouldn't happen until 1976 when it circled around the globe to Japan. Sweden would host the next few games, but the idea really didn't get hot until the 90s, when exhibition games between NHL teams would be played almost every year.

After a four year layoff, the trend was picked up again, this time at the O2 Arena in London with cross-town rivals the Kings and Ducks facing off in 2007, and for the first time counting in the standings as a regular season matchup. The next year followed up with tilts between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators played in Stockholm, Sweden. However, before the Rangers were to face the Bolts, they played European Club Champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk from the KHL for the Victoria Cup. This year we started off with games pitting the Chicago Blackhawks against the Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland, and the Detroit Red Wings against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm, Sweden. The League hit us with tacky slogans like 'When Helsinki Freezes Over,' and 'How Swede It Is' in order to (make us gag) promote the Premiere Games.

Why all the background on these seemingly meaningless games?

Because today, the Swedish club team, Stockholm AIK signed a letter of intent to join the Kontinental Hockey League starting in the 2010-2011 season. Dirk Hoag, at On the Forecheck was the first to break the news (at least on my radar), so he gets the credit. This is a major step in terms of swagger and the amount of respect that we should throw in the KHL's direction.

Granted the KHL is already an international league with the majority of teams hailing from Russia, but also individual teams coming from Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Latvia. I know what you're saying, 'does that really count since those countries are all former Soviet Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?' Or maybe you're not saying that, maybe I'm giving you too much credit. In any case, the USSR broke up in 1991, so you're either kidding yourself, or you feel really old and/or dumb. Those are legitimate self-governing countries and even if they weren't, adding a team from Sweden certainly makes it international, and a League that's now ventured into Western Europe. So what was I saying? Fuck, you little 'ignants' made me lose my point.

My point is that the KHL has inched that much closer to being a legitimate hockey league and on an even broader scale by becoming more international. The NHL can no longer hide behind the guise that it maintains the top pro hockey players in the world as we see disgruntled foreign born player after player leave for a very lucrative, and viable league.

People love international play, there's no disputing that, its very easy to get behind your very countrymen and boast about your nationalism. Easy because everyone gets represented, at least everyone who gives a damn. The lines of America and Canada are blurred by the similarities of our cultures, so to call the NHL an international league is a bit of a stretch. But there's leagues set up in every corner of the hockey-loving world. Its only a matter of time before the Champions Hockey League gets off the ground with their stable of national leagues from 22 different countries. Again, they all aspire to be like the NHL but the more cooperative it gets, the bigger it gets, and the more competition it creates between the two.

Bottom line, there's two ways to approach the KHL. Embrace it as an up-and-coming competitor and establish some type of an agreement with regards to player transfer and possible tournament play between one another. Or attack it by acting indifferent towards it as if it doesn't exist, and continually questioning its worth, existence and ability to compete with our League, essentially the status quo.

Its like the Cold War (bad pun intended) all over again, when we as children pit the United States (or Canada) against those commie bastards in whatever type of imaginary battle we were fighting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Contract Year Anomaly - Defensemen

The second in a series of posts listing the available free agents at the end of the term. We did goaltenders last time, and this time we'll hit up the defensemen. As you look at the list, it seems that the D-men fall into certain categories. You have your...

Veterans/Lifer's/One-Year Dealer's/Will I or Won't I's

Can't go back to Jersey?
Scott Niedermayer, ANA - $6.75mil
Scotty's already pulled the semi-retired half-a-season a la indecisive Swede Mats Sundin, but he's had another full season under his belt. Its hard to imagine Niedermayer hanging them up considering he's still one of the premier defensemen around the League even though he's up there in age. Especially with his flirty trade comments of heading back to Jersey to play with his brother and back under Lemaire. To me that's a been there done that scenario, unless he's looking to win a Cup with both of those factors in place.

Nicklas Lidstrom, DET - $7.45 mil
Again, hard to imagine Nick leaving the Wings to play elsewhere, I think the only other possible scenario is retirement aside from re-signing. Lidstrom has done it all, winning several Cups, one as Captain, several Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe, as well as gold medals in the Olympics and the World Championships for Sweden. If he wanted to retire on top he should have done it two seasons ago.

Sergei Gonchar, PIT - $5mil
Gonchar has been known as an elite offensive defenseman since he entered the League 15 years ago with the Washington Capitals. Injuries have slowed him down in recent years, but he secured his place in immortality by winning the Cup with the Penguins last season. I would think he'd be back with Pittsburgh for another year deal, considering he spent the majority of his career with two teams.

Rob Blake, SJS - $3.5mil
Blake just received the bullshit of honor of being named Captain of the Sharks, and who knows if that's gone to his head enough to keep him there another year if they can't bring it home this year.


Joe Corvo, CAR - $2.625mil
Corvo falls into that elusive available offensive defenseman category that is so hard to come by on Canada Day. He put up some nice numbers in Ottawa, and was a major boost to the Carolina blueline in the playoff push to the Conference Finals last season. I could definetely see him bolting Carolina considering the wretched season that team is having, and coming out of it with a nice paycheck from somewhere in need a power play quarterback.

Anton Volchenkov, OTT - $2.5mil
Volchenkov could be the prize of the offseason as far as defenseman go. He's a big time hitter, and is always at the top of the list in shots blocked. He's got a decent first pass out of the zone, but he's more defense than offense. Bryan Murray will make signing him his biggest priority this season, probably because it will determine the viability of his job in the near future. Murray's running out of free passes.
Are you just happy to see me?
Willie Mitchell, VAN - $3.5mil
I've gushed over Vancouver before, but I'm really sold on the defensive corp they've put together. Bieksa definetely leads, but Willie's a close second. If I were Gillis I'd work like hell to keep it together, but Mitchell's going to look for a significant raise I would think. Might be unable to make the numbers work, and he's off to the highest bidder. I'm not sold on Mitchell being an all-around perfect defenseman but he adds a nice element of size and toughness to that blueline that's going to be desirable to a lot of teams looking for back-end grit.

More FA Candidates
Milan Jurcina, WAS - $1.375mil - Anyone named Milan deserves butter.
Shaone Morrisonn, WAS - $1.975mil - Your name is stupid.
Brian Pothier, WAS - $2.5mil - Makes me think of that comedian Brian Posein.
Shane O'Brien, VAN - $1.6mil - Hold on to your stick and shut up.
Mathieu Schneider, VAN - $2.75mil - Still has 21 more teams to play for.
Garnet Exelby, TOR - $1.4mil - How did that work out for you?
Darryl Sydor, STL - $1mil - Has one more Cup and 3 less teams.
Carlo Colaiacovo, STL - $1.3mil - Should have beat the shit out of Ott.
Martin Skoula, PIT - $575k - Because no one else is left on the Pens defense.
Jay McKee, PIT - $800k - Smell my finger.
Mark Eaton, PIT - $2mil - See Martin Skoula.
Adrian Aucoin, PHX - $2.25mil - Still traveling from Calgary. He's slow, okay?
Freddy Meyer, NYI - $588k - Scariest name ever. Except for Michael Kruger.
Andy Sutton, NYI - $3mil - Expect a 10-year contract.
Mike Mottau, NJD - $763k - Could've been good.
Paul Martin, NJD - $3.8mil - As boring as Devils hockey.
Wade Belak, NSH - $650k - Kicked the crap out of Brashear, worth something.
Francis Bouillon, NSH - $750k - Mmmm, soup.
Dan Hamhuis, NSH - $2mil - Mmmm, ham.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, MTL - $750k - Sometimes has offensive ability.
Paul Mara, MTL - $1.675mil - Has a great big bushy beard!
Kim Johnsson, MIN - $4.85mil - Solid defenseman.
Shane Hnidy, MIN - $750k - The Sheriff always has a place in my heart.
Marek Zidlicky, MIN - $3.35mil - Nashville to Minnesota. Wild.
Sean O'Donnell, LAK - $1.25mil - A healthy scratch more often than not.
Randy Jones, LAK - $1.375mil - Hextall's stamp.
Jordan Leopold, FLA - $1.75mil - Calgary is still laughing about this.
Dennis Seidenberg, FLA - $2.25mil - Carolina to Florida. Me-ow.
Jason Strudwick, EDM - $700k - Keep him, no one else will come.
Brett Lebda, DET - $650k - Undrafted, through the farm.
Andreas Lilja, DET - $1.25mil - Likes the rough stuff.
Adam Foote, COL - $3mil - Didn't you die yet? Please.
Ruslan Salei, COL - $3.025mil - Colorado love.
Brett Clark, COL - $3.5mil - Sounds a bit high, but okay.
Niclas Wallin, CAR - $1.725mil - I got nothin'.
Aaron Ward, CAR - $2.5mil - I love getting five on my lip.
Henrik Tallinder, BUF - $2.6mil - How many more of these?
Toni Lydman, BUF - $2.875mil - You spelled your name wrong.
Andrew Ference, BOS - $1.4mil - De-Ference. You don't got it.
Derek Morris, BOS - $3.3mil - How did you get this much?
Pavel Kubina, ATL - $5mil - I spoke too soon.

Restricted Offer Sheet Bait
Erik Johnson, STL - $3.7mil - Does that golf cart year count?
Kris Letang, PIT - $835k - See and raise.
Ian White, TOR - $850k - Arbitration Eligible - And has a mustache.
Braydon Coburn, PHI - $1.3mil - Am I too nice for Philly?
Marc Staal, NYR - $827k - I'm the least talented.
Dan Girardi, NYR - $1.55mil - He coached the Yankees right?
Denis Grebeshkov, EDM - $3.15mil - Probably have to keep him, right?
Matt Niskanen, DAL - $850k - The reason offer sheets exist.
Nicklas Grossman, DAL - $975k - Arbitration Eligible - Guesses?
Kyle Quincey, COL - $525k - Arbitration Eligible - Avs keep him.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, CHI - $650k - There won't be any money left.
Duncan Keith, CHI - $1.475mil - Arbitration Eligible - See.

I'm bringing sexy back?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Notes are for Tests

My notes are definetely not that complicated, more like chicken scratch on a napkin. But I'll tell you, there's nothing I love more than getting my money's worth of my Center Ice package and jotting down notes about the various goings-on around the league. So without further ado...

*J.S. Giguere got all riled up earlier this week after coming back from a groin injury, pissed off about his lack of playing time and starts. And then had to do some subsequent damage control, and further explain his displeasure, and basically say he was being sarcastic. So Carlyle gives him a start, against the Columbus Blue Jackets coming off a 9 to 1 schellacking from Detroit. Columbus didn't play all that pissed off, and the game ended up going to a shootout, where Rick Nash wins it on off balanced shot over the glove. Real nice stop Giguere, way to get back in the good graces. I know Giggy's had his struggles in the last few years, (his father passed away last year), but he's seemed slow and lazy since winning the Cup, and it doesn't seem like he's all that interested anymore. Despite his comments.

*Throw that on top of Scott Niedermayer's rumblings about being traded and the Ducks are in a tailspin, besides being second to last in the West. That defensive corps is a shell of what it used to be last year, mainly with the departures of Pronger and Beauchemin. Whitney sucks, and if Scotty leaves there's is no blueline.

*Marty Havlat was supposed to be a replacement to the scoring that Marian Gaborik provided for the Minnesota Wild. I think this great post from Hockey Joe says whether or not he's filled that void. The answer is no. I believe Havlat was surrounded by great offensive hockey players in Chicago, and he doesn't have that supporting cast in Minny. Gaborik on the other hand, was flashy and sensational despite being in a defensive system like that. That is the greatness of Gabby's hockey, and while he's still tearing it up on another team. I was never a big Havlat believer. Call me skeptical.

*Ryan Miller is my early favorite for the Vezina. He is just sensational, and plays so well night in night out that he gives his team a chance to win it every night he starts. The game against Calgary on Friday between he and Kiprusoff was awesome, big saves on both ends. In the past Miller has been a victim of too many starts in the regular season to make any kind of dent in the post. We'll see if Lindy knows how much is too much this season while it looks like Buffalo is posed to be in the top 8.

*Speaking of Kiprusoff, he has definetely returned to form from his past few subpar seasons. Getting rid of that monkey on your back Mike Keenan will have something to do with that. Either way, he has looked sharp so far this season, and has made Calgary a formidable opponent this year.

*Have I mentioned the difference between Iginla in October and Iginla in November? Yes, yes I have.

*How sad is Carolina? Answer: Real Sad. How do you go from Eastern Conference contender in one season to kicking off the next with a what, 14 game losing streak? They've won two games all year, two. Figured they would be able to beat the Isles to break that streak, nope, lost in OT after clawing their way back into after being down three goals.

*Speaking of the Islanders, I heard that DiPietro is still over a month away from returning to the ice. Who imagined that that stupid contract would look even dumber as it went on? Yeah, me too.

*I heard Shalley and Berce say that the Caps were being very un-Cap-like so far this season. What the fuck does that mean? They're in first place in the East, what the hell do you want? Or are they just being un-Ovechkin-like because he's not in the lineup? Idiots.

*How about Kovalchuk? Comes back from a broken foot and in two games has three goals and four assists, two and two Friday night in an all out seven-nil beating on the Kings. Coach Anderson asks 'how does he do that?' Antropov replies 'he's a superstar.' Nice. Like KGB (John Malkovich) says in 'Rounders' 'pay him, pay that man his money' in his shitty Russian accent (4:45). Atlanta in for a playoff spot? Does that guarantee Waddell gets Kovy to stay in Atlanta.

*Stephane Robidas has to be the most underrated player in the whole league. I don't know how many times I've said this, but I can't say it enough. He does it all, he defends, he blocks shots, he scores, and he mentors the young guys on that Dallas team. Despite taking pucks in the jaw, and still returning to play in the third.

*There's no question that Kessel can rip the puck once he gets it, but the Leafs are status quo even with him in the lineup. There's virtually no change on the team since his arrival to the lineup. They're still desperately clawing to stay in the game in the late stages after giving up a few soft goals. Cue Toskala.

*Detroit is back. Nine goals against Columbus, seven against Anaheim. A trick for Jared Leto with the empty netter. Is Howard finally finding his footing?

*A new trend I've noticed within the last two seasons, not that its brand new its just something I haven't seen in a while, is the activation of the defenseman in front of the net in the offensive zone. Randy Carlyle had Scotty Niedermayer pinching in on the power plays last season, and I've seen him move down low more than a few times since then when Anaheim was in need of offense. The idea is simple, you've got an intelligent, all-star offensive defenseman with good hands, put him down low to tip in a shot or bang in a rebound. Todd McLelland started moving Dan Boyle down low, and Rob Blake has that extra size advantage to screen the tender. But this year I've seen Kevin Bieksa come down low, and even play the wing, although I'm sure that was due to injury.

*The new Colorado third jersey is pretty lame. After glimpses of it got leaked early on, I was hoping that it would turn out to be a fake. We weren't so lucky.

*I have been very impressed with Mason Raymond lately, that kid is playing his ass off lately. His speed creates a lot of opportunities for the Canucks and with Luongo back in the lineup the only thing that's going to slow Vancouver down in that ridiculous 14-game road trip over the Olympic break starting at the end of January through the middle of March.

*Let the Patrick Marleau should he stay or should he go debate start! He's putting up impressive stats for the team that can afford him next year. Or keep him.

That's it, there's more but I'm tired. Look for another Contract Year Anomaly post soon, this time, the Defenseman.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anybody Can Be Cool... But Awesome Takes Practice

God damn right. How radical is that picture, looks like a typical bullshit '80s public service announcement that they used to make us watch in health class, in between learning about the vas deferens and fallopian tubes. Standard on VHS. The acting was awesome on those things.
Just some news and notes and highlights and shmilights from an almost super Saturday. 13 games around the League today, and just about one Awesome in every game. Not sure what I mean, hop aboard, lets go for a looksee.

The Matinee, Nashville Predators @ Los Angeles Kings
*Well it was a matinee out here.
*Dan Ellis backstopped a solid win against a rolling Kings team, after a miserable effort on Thursday from Rinne. And right after I gave him that glorious review. Ellis trying to steal that job back from the young Finn? Both in final year of contract.
The Awesome? Joel Ward's move on Quick for the Preds third goal.

The American Northeast Division Matchup, Buffalo Sabres @ Boston Bruins
*How is Boston winning this game? Oh, Ryan Miller's not playing. Neither is Lalime, (groin). Enroth? Didn't play that bad but looked out of position on a few goals, not unlike Mr. Jimmy Howard.
*Is Patrice Bergeron back? Or is he still woozy? He kinda looks like he's returning to form again with a season post-concussion under his belt. Although I must say that breakaway attempt was brutal.
The Awesome? Shawn Thornton with two scraps on the night, and two wins, (technically three). Whooped Montador's ass, and then finished strong on Gaustad.

Hall of Fame Game, Detroit Red Wings @ Toronto Maple Leafs
*You know its bad when... You get your ass handed to you by the 2-7-5 Leafs.
Osgood looked like shit. But don't worry, he never doubts himself. Fucking little prick.
*Gustavsson is a difference maker. Goaltending is crucial.
*The Detroit penalty kill was passive as hell. Dan Cleary was the only one working out there.
*Kessel gets a real crap goal for his first in Toronto, and the messiah has arrived. Can you imagine if his shoulder hadn't healed well and he was out longer, or if he didn't take 300 shots in the last two games? Shit, he would have been crucified. Now he's just delaying that until later in the season.
*How fucking useless is Todd Bertuzzi? A graph should be made. Mirtle?
The Awesome? The only thing better than the Red Wings losing, is the Rangers losing.

Vinny Returns, Tampa Bay Lightning @ Montreal Canadiens
*Vinny's got to be hurt right? Lecavalier is too good to be playing this bad without something else going on. Have you ever seen this guy play live? He's just pure, natural talent. I predict some time off in the near future.
The Awesome? Andrei Kostitsyn's double hit on two Tampa players for an icing touchup. Yeah, there wasn't much here.

Yeah, I don't know, New Jersey Devils @ Ottawa Senators
*Ottawa blows a two goal lead to lose 3 to 2. Three power play goals will fucking kill you every time.
The Awesome? The Devils are 8 and 0 on the road. Lemaire doesn't miss a beat. Not much here either.

The Worst of the East? Atlanta Thrashers @ New York Islanders
*Pavelec is the greatest thing since sliced bread, then looks like ass the next. I wasn't fooled.
*Who the hell is this guy Moulson? I've seen him chip shit in almost every night. WTF?
The Awesome? The Isles have won four straight at home. Yippee kaiyea motherfucker.

Missoura @ Pennsyltucky, St. Louis Blues @ Philadelphia Flyers
*Two Awesomes in one barn burner of a game.
Awesome #1 - The scrap between Cam Janssen and Arron Asham, best of the night.
Awesome #2, and bigger awesome - Chris (not Steve) Mason's stop on Fartsmell halfway through overtime. That was just awesome, that was fucking awesome. To make that save and then lose in the shootout does just suck, it fucking sucks.

Southeast Shootout, Florida Panthers @ Washington Capitals
*Cory Stillman, has still got it. Oh, he's only 36? Why does he look like he's a Korean War Veteran?
*Lots of Washington goals from whacks right outside the blue paint. Cats need to do a better job of clearing out the middle. Among other things.
The Awesome? Mike Knuble with a four point night, two goals, two assists.

If it wasn't for Bad Luck, Carolina Hurricanes @ Columbus Blue Jackets
*Carolina has lost 12 straight. That's completely unawesome.
*And Cam Ward gets his thigh sliced by Rick Nash's skate coming through the crease. If they weren't already fucked, I'd know what to call the shit they're in now. There have been rumblings of Schoenfeld making a move to shake things up in the locker room, but they haven't hit the panic button yet. Is Maurice the first to go? Do they pull the trigger to bring in a goaltender, or does Leighton earn himself another contract in his final year?
The Awesome? Steve, (not Chris) Mason's toe save a la Marty Turco.

Battle of Minnesota? Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild
*Does a Stars/Wild matchup have any special meaning? 'Cause no one else seems to care.
*On Zidlicky's goal, Grossman must feel like a total ass.
The Awesome? I guess Buttercup's shorthander ripped over Auld's shoulder was pretty cool.

Sloppy Seconds Eventual Fallout, New York Rangers @ Calgary Flames
*This was the game I devoted myself to for the night, unlike my family. Watched the whole thing through so there's lots of comments.
*Sean Avery's such a fucking chicken shit. He dodges the media all day so that he doesn't have to explain himself, and plays the entire game as if someone was about to take his fucking head off. As soon as he got the puck, he would dump it or just get rid of it. Fucking pussy.
*By the way, Phaneuf's hit on him in the third was not nearly enough. Don't think its over Vogue.
*Jarome Iginla in November is very different from Jarome Iginla in October.
*I love it when guys take it to teams that spurned them previously. Dawes helped on all three goals to down his old teammates.
*I think we should start keeping a camera on Tortorella every night. His facial expressions are hilarious.
*Higgins surprised me with some speed and almost beat Giordano to a lose puck.
*A lot of shitty, ticky-tack penalty calls in this game, only one powerplay goal.
*Surprised at how much Gaborik mouths off, he should let his game do the talking.
*Watching Mike Keenan fumble in the MSG broadcast was fucking priceless. Especially since they were playing Calgary. Its easy to see how he would lose teams if this is how he was in the locker room.
*Dubinsky blocked a shot from the point, Torts says out a while. Broken wrist?
*The hit on Drury? I don't know, it was too convoluted by homer announcers for me to even think straight.
The Awesome? Kirpusoff, the sole reason the Flames won.

Pacific Division Matchup, Phoenix Coyotes @ Anaheim Ducks
*Ducks weren't in penalty box for once, 6 minutes total.
*The Dogs almost climbed back into the game, with three goals in the third.
*Where is Giguere? Is he injured? I honestly don't know. Will Pogge ever get a start for the Ducks?
The Awesome? None from this game. Got tickets for a Phoenix game later this month. Going to take the temperature of the atmosphere around the Desert Dogs. Before its too late.

Would-be Stanley Cup Matchup? Pittsburgh Penguins @ San Jose Sharks
*Pittsburgh looked exhausted from a West Coast road trip, got their asses whooped. Game got billed larger than it actually was.
*Fleury got yanked after three goals on 14 shots. Not his best performance.
*I thought Brent Johnson's Zeppelin themed helmet would be bad ass, its fucking lame. And from the sides, those black Bauer pads make him look like he's wearing Cooperalls.
*Boyle's quick move to the outside, and even quicker shot for the goal was pretty sweet.
The Awesome? Douglas Murray has to be the worst skater currently playing in the NHL. You want some comedy watch that behemoth Swede(?) skate. Its like Fulton Reed playing for the Sharks.

Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Contract Year Anomaly - The Goaltenders

This is a first of a series of post I hope to get out before we get too deep into the season, compiling lists of those players who are in the last year of the contract, what they're doing to Rod Tidwell status, and what teams will do to keep them. I figured we might as well start from the back out and list the goaltenders, seems like as good a place to start as any. I've been trying to figure out the best way to compile these lists, and I think by position makes the most sense. Now this isn't a complete list, this just highlights the best and brightest, (or at the very least the B-listers) of the League at the time. Those who have been guilty of sucking have been left out to protect the innocent. And away we go...

Yes Vesa, bow your head in shame.

10. Vesa Toskala, TOR - $4mil

Mr. Toskala seems very uninterested in playing hockey anymore, whether that's due to playing in Toronto, or just typical Finnish demeanor I don't think we'll ever know. Its hard to imagine this guy coming back to play in the League, although I'm sure some schmuck will offer him something, my bets are on him leaving to play in the KHL, the Swedish Elite League or back home in the SM-liiga.

9. Dan Ellis, NSH - $1.75mil
Mr. Ellis has played himself out of the #1 position for the Preds. Either that, or last year's would-be Calder nominee (see #1), played better. Dan's probably headed for another seat on the bench next year, but probably in some other town due to the fact that Nashville will have to pony up to keep Rinne.

8. Jose Theodore, WAS - $4.5mil
Jose hasn't played all that terribly this year but he won't command anywhere near the salary he's been earning. Originally thought as George McPhee's biggest mistake, he and prodigy Var-LAHM-ov have made a nice tandem for the Caps. Washington will need one or both in order to go deep this year. My feeling is that Jose will play well enough this year to earn some of the value back that he lost from his poor play in previous years, but like I said nothing near $4mil.

7. Marty Biron, NYI - $1.4mil
Poor Marty got picked last, but seems happy to still be in the League. He and Rolosson provide good support for a young Isles team that's trying to find its legs so that it can stand in a few years. Maybe. Most experts pegged this deal as genius, a movable contract that can go to a team in dire need of goaltending. Biron hasn't been the answer in Buffalo, or Philadelphia, it would be funny to seem him do something with a contending team in a trade.

'He's got a great big, bushy beard!'

6. Chris Mason, STL - $3mil

We hear at 'the Grip' love talking about Mason's, but we are always sure to get the right Mason. This one is Chris, he plays for the Blues, loves long walks on the beach, and hates rude people. Chris was one of the main reasons the Blues made that incredible playoff push after the All-Star break. Not one of the best goaltenders in the League by any means, but he gets the job done as a solid workhorse on a nuts and bolts team. I would think that John Davidson would extend him, the Blues are never big buyers in free agency, but you never know how it will play out.

5. Ray Emery, PHI - $1.5mil
Everyone's favorite timebomb. Holmgren could only offer him a year deal to see if his game hadn't gone to shit, and that he could be on his best behavior. Who am I kidding? This is the Flyers we're talking about, bad behavior is a commodity in this town. Emery's doing well enough to get the Bullies to the postseason, but I don't know if he's the netminder to get them over the hump. My guess is the Flyers will go deep, but of course not deep enough, and they'll re-up Emery on a two or three year deal with a small raise, if possible.

4. Evgeni Nabokov, SJS - $5.375mil
Well Ron Wilson picked the right one, or did he? Nabokov runs hot and cold, and I think its safe to say that Wilson's "makeover" that began this summer will probably continue into next if the Sharks can't get it done. Sometimes this guy is unreal, other times he makes Vesa look sharp as a tack. But he's a solid goaltender, and if he doesn't get re-signed in the South Bay, he'll get picked up elsewhere, no doubt.
3. Marty Turco, DAL - $5.7mil
Marty Turco's in a contract year, holy shit! This is the one everyone should be watching. After an absolutely miserable season last year, blamed solely on Sean Avery, Turco can't help but play better this year. It's impossible to suck any worse. Dallas is a middle of the pack team, that can always make a run, and that's thanks to solid goaltending, when they have it. My gut says Turco will retire in Dallas. Money-wise, probably somewhere near the same amount.

2. Jonas Hiller, ANA - $1.3mil
This is where it gets interesting. Young goaltender, plays hard (almost every night), and fills up the net well. Jonas is a big dude, not big like Giguere's chest protector, big in the net. I have no doubt that Hiller is the future for Anaheim and Giguere is the past. They'll have to lock him up early in order to avoid the big money that will be waved his way if he sees the dawn of Canada Day.

I'm making how much?! Oh that shit's gotta stop.

1. Pekka Rinne, NSH - $725k
Pekka has both the best name in the league right now, and has the best value per contract. He and Hiller are the young guys of the group with bright future's in front of them. Now Pekka probably won't make the top tier $6mil threshold, but he'll command a hefty raise in the $4mil area I would think. Nashville's never big on shelling out big dough, but I think this is a contract they'll have to offer. Otherwise they'll be taking another ride on the Nashville goaltending carousel, Vokoun, Chris Mason, Ellis, Rinne, ?

There's another 10 of probable Pine Riders up for free agency as well, I won't even bother to rank or comment on these poor bastards....
Johan Hedberg, ATL - $1mil
Patrick Lalime, BUF - $1mil
Michael Leighton, CAR - $600k
Peter Budaj, COL - $1.25mil
Alex Auld, DAL - $1mil -
Yann Danis, NJD - $500k
Stephen Valiquette, NYR - $725
Brent Johnson, PIT - $525k
Antero Niittymaki, TAM - $600k
Andrew Raycroft, VAN - $500k

And then of course there's the Offer Sheet Bait...
Justin Pogge, ANA - $605k - Burke's not impressed, why should we be?
Kari Lehtonen, ATL - $3mil - 'We can re-build him, we have the technology.'
Ondrej Pavelec, ATL - $1.4mil - Helmetless save and you're the greatest thing ever.
Antti Niemi, CHI - $827k - Arbitration - Gotta steal the show from Huet. Shouldn't be hard.
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, EDM - $625k - Arbitration Eligible - Took his wife's name.
Jaroslav Halak, MTL - $775k - Arbitration Eligible - I do this when I cough up phlegm.
Jonas Gustavsson, TOR - $2.5 - Arbitration Eligible - Re-sign in Toronto.
Cory Schneider, VAN - $1.1mil - Manitoba Moose-bound.

'I love my tuxedo t-shirt because it says I'm formal, but I like to party.'

Carey Price, MTL - $2.2mil
Price name has hit the rumor mill of potential trade bait for Bob Gainey. He hasn't been playing great, but he's been playing well enough to keep the Habs in it. His motivation and his focus have been called into question more often than not, but again he's a young goaltender and he's got the potential to be a great netminder in the future. Think Jose Theodore, before everything exploded, that's right about where Price is at. And in Montreal too.
Somebody get me out from under this rock named Backstrom.

Josh Harding, MIN - $1.1mil
This is another young guy who I think has a great future ahead of him, but just needs to get out into the limelight, and establish some consistency on a regular playing routine. Backing up a great goalie like Backstrom is not going to allow you to do that. I hope someone extends this guy an offer sheet, but I don't think they will have enough faith to hand over the #1 role. Yet.
As far as Teams with something to think about...
Toronto - Dump Vesa, go with the Monster
Nashville - Sign Rinne, bye bye Ellis
Montreal - I don't know what Gainey's thinking. First he goes all in with Price, and now he's second guessing him.
Dallas - Will probably stick with Turco, for better or worse.
Atlanta - Its like a Presidential election, who's not as bad as the other.
Anaheim - Go with youth, ship JS to Toronto.
Philadelphia - Goaltending carousel, Emery and Philadelphia seem like a perfect fit. In demeanor.
Washington - Var-LAHM-ov's the future, right?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Game of the Night!

As mentioned before, I've picked the Canucks as my girlfriend team this season, not to mention my SC winner. So needless to say I was watching them play the Rangers in a really fun game to watch last night. The game was a little ho-hum in the beginning, but the first two periods were worth sitting through to get the enjoyment out of the third.

The big story was the non-brawl that happened at about four and a half minutes into the final frame. Perpetual shit-starter Ryan Kesler gave glorified savior Marion Gaborik a little push on the knee with his stick (it is, after all connected to that 'wonky' groin of his), during a stoppage in play (1:55). Both teams were changing at the time, so you see Aaron Voros coming off the bench to give Kesler the ol' horsecollar, and then everybody wants a dance. Problem is, the Rangers have 10 guys on the ice, while the 'Nucks have seven, (Puck Daddy's got a great shot of this highlighting all 10).

After the replay of the start of the brawl in the video, (at about 2:25) you can hear the Canucks telling Avery to 'Shut the fuck up,' (very appropriate). Hordichuk and O'Brien are the two Canucks having a friendly chat with Sean. As the Parm points out, O'Brien, as a defenseman, came from the other end of the bench to get at Mr. Avery. After speaking, O'Brien gently nudges Avery with the butt end of his stick, until Sean rudely rips it out Shane's hands, and throws it to the ice after taunting him with his own stick. Classic. AV comes over to pull O'Brien away in the whole "hold me back, coach/let me at 'em!' act, as Torts comes over to tell Avery to sit down, and wait until he is called on. Eventually, the penalties are handed out, five misconducts, O'Brien tosses himself, and Bieksa gets an extra two while serving his ten. Awesome.

Would have loved to see O'Brien actually get at Avery, since his passion was burning so bright it brought him from the other side of the city. Or let Hordichuk pound his ass, either one would do. But Avery did his job without even stepping on the ice, he agitated his opponent and got him to take a stupid penalty. The penalty didn't mean anything, but still it falls within the job description. Kesler did the same exact thing, going after the prized member of the Rangers, and stirring the pot. The TSN announcer said it best with, "Well a game that didn't have a whole lot of emotion is now chockful of it."

And the game got good after that. Just after the Vancouver penalty expired, Chris Higgins put in his first of the year to tie it at one. A little over two minutes later, Kesler took over, fired up that he only got a two minute minor instead of a ten. After his linemate peeled off for a change, the pain-in-the-ass dumped the puck into the corner, hit the gas to beat the defenseman to the puck, shielded the puck around the net to distribute a picture perfect pass to Rypien. The least Rypien could do was hit the net after that play. It was all Kesler's. His determination on that go-ahead was awesome.

After that Samuelsson banged home a rebound for his second on the night, and Henrik Sedin got the empty netter from an unselfish play by Steve Bernier, to set the final score at 4 to 1.

Raycroft got another W, and moves to 3 and 1 while filling in for Luongo. Nothing fancy, probably could and should have stopped Higgins' goal, but a win is a win.

The Rangers power play hums even though it came up empty last night. They move the puck well and quickly, and having Gaborik on the half boards or lurking in the slot is always dangerous. But the real asset is rookie defenseman Mike Del Zotto. I was very impressed with his play, calm, cool, collected, like he's been in the league for years. Its surprised me that a lot of the young defenseman this year have jumped right into the play, and are aggressive offensively while still trying to prove they're defensively responsible.

Other than that, very enjoyable. Highlights.