Monday, November 29, 2010

Its Starting to Grow Mold

Its depressing to think that nothing fresh has been added to the fridge since the start of the season. Always having good intentions to start only to discover that this blogging interface has found a new way to piss you off. Whether its out of need or necessity, I felt the urge once again to give it a go, despite the inability to produce and break stories like the rest of the web wunderkind. Its Cyber Monday, (the next new greeting card holiday), and I don't feel like shopping or working, so we'll wade our way through the hilarical hijinks of this crazy League.

I owe Dustin Byfuglien an apology.
I predicted him to be a smug, unhappy fuck, begrudging the fact that he wasn't a retainable piece of the 2009 Blackhawks and instead being sent to one of the now many hockey hells in Atlanta. He was shifted back to defense, where he has shown defense but servicable ability, and has turned on a committed sense of leadership and desire to get this anchor of a franchise back on the boat and moving again. This week named one of the NHL's three stars with a 4 point game against Boston, and potting 9 goals and 16 assists for 25 points so far on the year. There's no sense of entitlement from him, just a good team guy laying it out on the line in a nearly empty arena.

Woe is Me.
Using that shitty lead in, I promise not to use the word woes when talking about attendance. It has been downright painful to look up from the ice and see tons of empty seats in the lower levels. Atlanta has always been bad, the Islanders can't give away seats, and Dallas is suffering badly. Even teams with good attendance wait until about 10 minutes into each period before the seats get filled back up. Hockey Night in Canada puts on full display the ACC bombthreat that gets called in at the start of the period.

Is this a good time to talk about contraction?
I don't know about you, but despite the fact that the game is more competitive than it has been in years, I'm starting to get the feeling that the talent pool really is watered down. When there's a regular story on Lee Stempniak's production, or lack there of, or Kevin Bieksa's potential LZ for a trade or how Cal Clutterbuck's mustache is growing. There are more than a handful of teams who have landed themselves in a perpetual vacuum of suck. Whether its by not offering the dough, or more importantly not being a desirable place to play, marquee players are staying away in droves and its a system that I only see continuing until the bottom falls out.

And you're left there hanging.
As the franchise moves from Long Island, to Stupidmoveville, to eventually Dumenuftotakem, the braintrust of WangSnow have decided to release Scott Gordon from the torture of coaching that godforsaken team. In the interest of doing something/anything, they'll use Gordon as a scapegoat for an AHL team playing in the NHL. And replace him with... wait for it... an AHL coach. Sound logic. Does that move strike you as something that would pull you out of a 14game losing streak? Here's the thing that gets me... These two idiots have admitted that the team is in a re-building phase, and Gordon was hired to see that shit through, come hell or high water. You've pretty much conceded the team's a loser for the season by putting together that roster, is this an attempt to show the fans you haven't done that already? And instead putting you further back from a successful season than you were a moment ago?

Who didn't see this coming?
Toronto getting impatient? Nahhh! The center of the hockey world can't wait the typical 5 to 30 year plan of franchise rebuilding? Who could have predicted that? Burke's making moves to make this team better, but it'll never be enough, the expectations are unrealistic. And they want to can Wilson because the team can't get it done? They'd be as dumb as the Islanders if they followed that genious thinking.

Kessel's made of cardboard.
With that said, Kessel is about as worthless as a hockey player as Ilya Kovalchuk. Sure, you can say these guys are purely offense but when you do the same two or three moves (1:44) when you're coming into the offensive zone this is going to happen to you more often than not.

Taking 'em down a peg or two.
And with a severe Napoleon Complex, its going to make it even worse. Tom Benjamin took the boots to reliable sports newsman Damien Cox after he took it upon himself to tear down Tyler Dellow's work on Collie Campbell's GMail account. Cox took the typical, "he's just a fat fuck blogger sitting in his mother's basement," line on Dellow without giving him credit for doing all the legwork on that story. Tommy reminds Cox about his shotty journalism unaccountability capping it off with the early, and inaccurate posting of Pat Burns death weeks before it happened. I'll admit it, I love Benjamin and I hate Cox, but you've got to admit what's right is right. Cox is an opinionated journalist who likes to make news instead of reporting it. Benjamin's a no-nonsense whistle blower, who when he smells shit, he calls it shit.

I'd like to get into the whole Campbell thing, but I'm not gonna, not at this point anyway. Hopefully another time, but I've promised shit before and didn't deliver, and it'll get old and something else will stir the pot. So until then.

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 Prediction Wrap Up

Okay let’s package the fucker up…

Western Conference FinalsSan Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

I don’t know why, but that’s what I got. I think everyone’s given up on the Sharks, and that’s probably exactly what they needed. I think the Kings are going to surprise a lot of people, but just come up short, putting San Jose as the West representative. A more likely situation will have the Kings advancing a round further that last season, and the Sharks bowing out to Vancouver. I just can’t put the Canucks in there, I want them in there so badly, that I think its clouding my judgment, so I’m keeping them out.

Eastern Conference FinalsWashington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

I like this matchup, but I see Philly taking it, and the eventual prize as well. Frustration ensues for the Red Russians.

Stanley Cup FinalsSan Jose Sharks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Its anyone’s guess as to who would win this one, but given the Sharks record, and Philadelphia’s bitter defeat last season, its easy to see the Flyers taking it. Now watch they’ll both be out in the first round.

Stanley Cup goes to... Philadelphia with big props to Peter Laviolette, Mike Richards, Chris Pronger, and some goalie who we’ve never heard of before. Claude Giroux to snatch the Conn Smythe with a huge playoffs.

More Awards...

Hart goes to… Joe Thornton. Points race too. Oh shit I blew the surprise.

Art RossJoe Thornton. It is a contract year folks.

Vezina… I think this year it will finally go to Luongo, but some young upstart like Bernier will probably chase him.

Speaking of young upstarts, the Calder will go to… Is Bernier even eligible, I’ll give him my vote.

SelkeMike Richards, I’m starting to get predictable in my picks. Datsyuk will have an injury-filled year, and Kesler will just miss once again.

NorrisDrew Doughty runs away with it. Duncan Keith’ll give ‘em a fight to hold on to it though.

Jack AdamsTerry Murray gets kudos for getting the Kings to where they are towards the end of the season.

Presidents Trophy once again goes to Washington. Easy conference.

That’s it, I’m available for hire to entertain at parties, or any other events where a good laugh is needed. We're cranking it back up again over here, I just can't quit you, you dumb, fucking game. Managed to scrounge up enough change to get Center Ice hooked up again. Best spot to panhandle... Freeway off ramps.

Enjoy the season, you big, dumb animals.

2010 East Predictions

When doing these predictions, its so easy to see these teams in three separate groups; definite playoff teams, bubble team, and shit-out of-luck teams. The East usually gets ragged on for being a much less competitive Conference than the West, and I don’t expect this year to be any different.

I expect Washington to once again take the top spot in the East, rounded out by Pittsburgh in the Atlantic, and Boston in the Northwest. I don’t think Philadelphia’s goaltending roundhouse will be as much of an issue as it appears to be, and the Flyers will probably finish with more points than the B’s.

But the top 8 should look something like this…
1. Washington Capitals
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Boston Bruins
4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. New Jersey Devils
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Montreal Canadiens
8. Buffalo Sabres
Again, not too crazy about the Sabres, but I think Miller will put that team on his back once again and lug them into a first round exit. Montreal is already having a rough go, going with Price instead of Halak, but I expect them to squeak in with the lack of competition. I have Toronto and Atlanta much improved, but on the outside looking in. I just can’t see Ottawa sniffing anywhere near a berth this year with their goaltending woes, and I may be crazy to have them this low but fuck it. What have they done for me lately? I like the Isles to beat out the Rangers just ‘cause its funner, and I think Florida will be way out in front of taking the “shittiest team in the League” title. Carolina just in front of them.

Mistakes? Pittsburgh always seems to be a much better team in the postseason than the regular season, but I expect the opposite to be true for no good reason other than my opinion. Bruins get third by default, despite having two rivals in the top 8 as well. Putting the Devils that low is really defying the typical magic they pull when the season comes to a close, but I do not expect the Kovalchuk experiment to work this year either, as well as MacLean’s honeymoon. Tampa is obviously a long shot but considering the good vibes radiating off of Stevie Y from down in the Bay, you can’t help but toss them into the mix. Not including Ottawa will probably be a mistake, but like I said before, fuck it.

Well I’ll smash the last two posts into something vaguely readable in a wrap-up, and then we’ll finally get a puck drop.

2010 West Predictions

Once again its time for pointless predictions of how an 82 game season involving 30 teams will iron out before even one game it played. Considering last season’s predictions went something like 4 for 8 in the West and 6 for 8 in the East, and I missed just about every Division and Conference finish for each team, I wouldn’t trust this shit any further than I could throw it. And in order to streamline the process and limit the endless bullshit that I could write, I’ll keep it real simple and name those teams in it or out of it, learning from previous mistakes for a change. We’ll kick off the West today, and hit the East sometime in the near future, preferably before Thursday to keep this shit legitimate. That’s what we strive for here at "the Grip," legitimacy.
As the true sucker I am, I’m going with the Sharks to take the points lead in the Western Conference, followed closely by Detroit. I think Vancouver’s a shoe-in to take the Northwest considering what that Division looks like.

So those are your Division winners, and if I had to break down the rest of the top 8 its gonna look like this…
1. San Jose Sharks
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. Nashville Predators
7. Calgary Flames
8. Colorado Avalanche

Not too confident about the Avs being in there, but the Blues missing the postseason with their half-price jinx they put on the team. That's some bad juju right there. But I could see them or Phoenix battling for that eighth spot, but that was a miracle run for them last year, despite Tippett still a fixture. Dallas is in a pending sale, Minnesota is, well Minnesota, and Anaheim will need to reload for a few years. I like Columbus for last, just to piss some dickhead off, and I’d think Edmonton would improve with the young talent and nowhere to go but up. But you never know.

Mistakes? Well putting San Jose, the perennial regular season champion, back in that spot might be optimistic with the new goaltending situation, but I have a feeling that powerful offense will carry the load, the same way Chicago did last season. The Canucks will earn plenty of points in their Division but they’ll have some rough patches to keep them back a bit. Chicago, despite having a lot of keep personnel still in place, will be hungover with cockiness. The Kings will surge but still have some lessons to learn at the end of the season. Calgary could also be a mistake, but I have to think the last chances of Kipper and Iggy et al. will be the driving force behind that team, not to mention the misery of last season’s miss.

After doing a breakdown of the East, I’ll wrap it up into a neat little package, and make a few more pointless, unfounded predictions just for shits and giggles.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back with Thoughts

What can I tell you? I couldn't stay away, I love this game, despite the fact that I constantly bitch about it. Back with some more thoughts as we struggle to get through the last few weeks of offseason boredom. And off we go...

Getting Warmer

Super cool that the NHL releases this new rules enforcement video to the fans as well as the teams.

Not cool that they have Sears-quality models pimping the NHL gear. If it's the stuff the pros wear, why can't you shove them into this overpriced crap? Besides, it's not like you don't make them do every other retarded promotional appearance. I might actually buy this shit if they did that. Except for those Carolina pajama bottoms. And I don't need to see Eric Staal modeling them with his brothers in their corresponding team's pajamas having a pillow fight either.

How cool is the NHL store? This cool. How did NASCAR not think of this first?

But why?

Souray for Commodore? Souray had a pretty heavy of helping of shit in his mouth when he started bad mouthing management last April and openly, as in stating it publicly to the media, that he wanted a trade out of town. Not the first to spurn Oil Country, and most likely he won't be the last. But the Edmonton front office attempted to push back, albeit almost six months later, by stating that the guy with a horrible first name, is not welcome at training camp, despite the fact that he said he would attend. Pick up your lunch pail and hardhat and head on into work, despite the fact that you got drunk at the Christmas party talked shit about the bosses, and then puked on your own shoes. I don't know how Tambellini expected to get any suitors by doing that, he's going to need someone really, really foolish to grab an injury-prone, aging defenseman. Cue Scott Howson and the Columbus Hobos. "We got Mike Commodore, interested?" Its a move by Howson in desperation of making some kind of splash in town before the season starts. Considering the players that have come through and sit presently in Ohio, Souray would probably be the best defensemen they've ever had, and that's downright depressing. The Oil are so desperate to get this cancer out of the room before it affects the young guys they might just take Commie off their hands for the next three years at $3.75 per. He makes the most of any defenseman on the team and he's been shelved to the third pairing. Anyone got a gun?

Well it's finally done. Kovy is contracted to be a Devil for what would conceivably be the rest of his career. 15 years, a cool $100 million to be paid out over that time for a guy who's as one-dimensional as a cardboard cutout of himself, and probably containing just as much substance. The League tossed in a $3million fine, and the surrendering of a third round pick next year, and a first rounder sometime in the next four years at the discretion of the Lamoriello, for good measure.

This one got a lot of talk around the campfire, Matt Duchene's little in-game tiff with his landlord Adam Foote. To me, it was a little overblown, its hockey, not tennis. What was more interesting in that game was Matt's sweet move in the shootout.

Howard Baldwin, the used-to-be owner of the Hartford Whalers, has been trying to get the buzz back in "the insurance capital of the world" with events like this. Now there's talk of re-naming the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale. Painfully awful. Now that we're a decade into the new millenium, naming a sports team the Whalers is politically incorrect, despite it having one of the classiest logos in hockey history.

The new St. Louis Blues have their work cut out for them. After taking them on a remarkable run to the postseason in 2009, they've managed to get Andy Murray fired and replaced with Dan Bylsma's clone. They made the dental patient Tkachuk retire, put Kariya on a year-long furlough for mental health, and walked away from Chris Mason (Not Steve). But they somehow persuaded Montreal to give up Halak, and they've got a healthy crop of young kids in there ready to take up the charge. But this move may be counting your chickens before they hatch.

Pat Burns is in bad shape, but he ain't dead yet. Leave it to Damien Cox to trust senile Cliff Fletcher's word without doing any, you know, fact checking and then tweet it for all the world to catch fire. Tough ol' Burns calls up B. McKenzie to let him know he's not dead, and to have him set those fuckers straight.

It really doesn't look good for Savard. The fact that he came back and played in the playoffs after suffering that concussion, only to start feeling the effects of post-concussion syndrome just before the season starts is really not good. It's no wonder why Chiarelli attempted to shop him over the summer, despite the fact that he had just signed him to a 7 year $28million contract extension. Savard's damaged goods at this point, and the Bruins are essentially fucked at this point if he isn't the same player he was, or if he can't go on. Example of why not to sign players to long-term deals #638.

While we're on head injuries, Bobby Probert's family has decided to donate his brain to a Boston University research project that's looking at athletic head trauma. It's a great thing that the family has done, but by the sound of it, it appears that Bob and his wife had discussed it prior to his passing. It's been the hot topic of last season with Savard and Booth going down, and there's no reason to see it fading away this season, despite the new legislation for blindside hits.

Unless the discussion moves to performance enhancing drugs in hockey. Nah, let's just sweep that back under the rug for a while, shall we?

What's New?
We're big Puck Daddy fans, but there's a new reason to enjoy the Yahoo hockey blog, and his name is Justin Bourne. Bourne's the son of Islander legend Bob Bourne, and he's had some first hand experience of attempting to claw his way to the big show with unsuccessful results. He started writing after giving it all up, and he's parlayed it into a few gigs with The Hockey News, USA Today, and now Puck Daddy (he wrote the last link about PED's). His spots have great insight into the world of professional hockey, and they've all been pretty good reads on PD so far. Check 'em out.

The re-built Atlanta Thrashers for real? New blood in town consists of a healthy portion of the team formerly known as the Blackhawks including Byfuglien, Sopel, Ladd, Eager, and via free agency, Dawes, Chris Mason (not Steve), Modin, and Meyer. Not a Cup contender but definitely a step in the right direction.

Speaking of the right direction and bringing in new blood, Jeff Vinik buying the Bolts might have been the best thing that's happened to the franchise since their Cup and subsequent lockout. He hires Stevie Y, who hires Guy Boucher as probably one of the most sought after rookie head coaches this offseason. He reassures Vinny that he's not going to move him, then goes ahead and re-signs fan favorite Marty St. Louis to keep the lynchpins in place. He trades for Simon Gagne to complete the 'South of France Connection,' and grabs Bergenheim, Moore, Pouliot, Kubina, Clark, Jones, and Ellis (who has problems). And brought back Steve Downie who had a career year last year lined up with Stamkos and St. Lou, despite his previous reputation. Not bad for a team in need of a new identity, both on and off the ice.

Mostly Bullshit
Seems like every mediot who ventures to pick winners and losers are hailing the Canucks as the heir to the throne. As I've said before, I'm a big believer in the thought that an SC winner has to suffer a hard loss at the hands of a victor in order to push them over the top. Given that the 'Nucks have lost to the Hawks in the second round for two years in a row, and the latest having them go onto win it all fits nicely with that philosophy. But for some reason I just don't see it, not yet, as much as I hate to say it.

Now that red pipe savior Roberto Luongo made the respectable move to give up the 'C,' the question now becomes who earns it? The race seems to be between two polar opposite contenders. In one corner you have Hank Sedin just coming off a career year with an Art Ross and a Hart trophy in tow. The polite, skillful Swede is as much a humble ambassador as Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And in the other, you have Ryan Kesler, shit-stirrer extraordinare. The brash, defensive specialist thrives on getting to the opponent in more ways than one. Most smart hockey people are leaning towards Sedin, to follow in Naslund's footsteps, and have a good rapport with the officials, which the Canucks so desperately need. But my gut, and Canucklehead nation says Kesler, as a heart-and-soul, leave it all out on the ice kind of player, like beloved Captain Trevor Linden. (Rumor has it that Hank's already been tapped.)

Kari Lehtonen might be soft, but he knows who's hard. The Finn with a girl's name may have stolen Dallas fan's hearts by electing one of the most beloved figures of the State of Texas to adorn his helmet. No it's not George Bush, its Walker, and Texas Ranger. The badass ginger has his double-fisting machine gun pose from 'Invasion U.S.A.' with shades, and his trademark karate kick, handsomely shown off in his 'Chuck Norris Action Jeans' advertisement proudly displayed on Lehtonen's new three-year deal helmet. Lehtonen's had some pretty sweet helmets before with Clint Eastwood on his last Stars helmet after the trade from Atlanta, and Heath Ledger as the Joker back in A-town. But he's also had some bad one's as well, check out Heika's list to see them all.

The Pop Stars have officially entered into the NHL courtship. Two Mike's have shelved both Hilary Duff and Carrie Underwood. We've already seen Duff put Comrie in her videos, but now Carrie has matched the deed by putting Fisher in her latest music video. No blowjob highlight in this one, but we do get a keen look at some crappy family photos, and Underwood's scrapbooking skills.

Belanger came out swinging after signing a deal with the Coyotes, with haymakers labeled for George McPhee. Belanger, his agent, and GMGM apparently had a verbal agreement for a $1mil plus deal, but the double GM asked Belanger to hold off, due to an ongoing trade negotiation and the handicapping that would go along with the signing. McPhee asked for a week to iron it all out, and Belanger gave him a month. In the meantime, the Caps organization assisted Belanger and his family with integrating into the community, recommending schools for his kids, and the like. Belanger thought it was all good until the days kept ticking by. By this time the pending trade had fallen through, and McPhee backed off on the deal, Belanger felt he had to sign somewhere. It ended up being hockey purgatory for almost half of what Washington had agreed to. In principle. Apparently, Belanger has filed a grievance with the powerless NHLPA, and his lawyer turned agent has successfully burned the bridge to Washington with his other clients by spouting off at the mouth. I understand Belanger's stance, especially when it comes to making arrangements for your family, but he should have pushed McPhee shortly after the week about signing a contract, and not waited a month. GMGM is just as much to blame for this PR blip, but was ultimately doing his job and that may require taking some shit from time to time, and working on two things at once.

Well that's all I got for now, I'm going to go panhandle to come up with enough scratch to get Center Ice or Gamecenter, whichever's cheaper.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Stench of Desperation

There's a certain whaft of stink, whine, and complaint from the 'homeless' players collective. An odor that was strong enough to get whoever runs that sham of an organization known at the NHL Players' Association to carry out their first order of business since Paul Kelly was dismissed.

As we get closer to the end of the term for the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, we see just how dramatic "cost certainty" influences cap spending and the free agent marketplace. Plenty of players with multiple years of NHL experience are sitting by the phone, chewing their fingernails in anticipation of a call from their agent with a job offer from any team (exception: Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders), and not some pain-in-the-ass reporter asking why they haven't signed a deal yet.

Not too long ago, more than a few of these guys would have been picked up on name alone, given their willingness to play another year and the bottomless pockets of team ownership. Now, veterans, middling bottom six forwards, and third pair defensemen alike are without someone dumb enough to pay them for their "storied history" and mediocre stats. Its a little surprising to see it all shake out, based on everyone's individual perceived value of a player's worth which has been skewed by the salaries we've seen in past years.

But now they've been humbled, and they asked the powerful NHLPA to post this propaganda (i.e. eHarmony profile) to generate interest and let all 28 ("No thank you Mr. Snow/Tambellini, I've already signed with a club in Liechtenstein") General Managers know that they're still alive.

The air of desperation is thick.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seriously, Enough is Enough

Drop the fucking puck already. I'm so sick of reading about this kind of shit. Or this pile of crap that waits outside my door each morning. Just fucking go already, we're all done with you.

Can you tell I'm pissed? Maybe it's 'cause I'm at work on my day off. But maybe I should shut my dirty mouth and be thankful I still have a fucking job. A job that's not covering the bills, especially for Center Ice packages and XM subscriptions for NHL Home Ice. So the end of an era may be coming folks, this could very well be my 'Swan Song.' Either that or it'll force me further into the depths of the hockey blogosphere, and I'll be writing as frequently as I shit. So without further ado, let's try and shoot for 30...

1. The Abritrator's decision on Kovalchuk's ludacris deal has opened the door to the review of other suspicious long-term deals including, but not limited to, Pronger, Hossa, Luongo and Savard. The League has a period of time after registering the deal that allows them to begin a review of the deal, which is supposedly what they've been doing since these deals were filed which keeps the door open. I'll buy that as a legal loophole for the Pronger, Luongo, and Savard deals which are extensions that don't kick in until the start of this season, (which I guess is technically July 1st), but not for Hossa's deal who's already a year and a championship into it.

2. Speaking of reviewed deals, the MSM has painted a picture that Vancouver and Boston would be very open to the possibility of reneg'ing the Luongo and Savard deals, after second round disappointments and that whole concussion thing. The two franchises are "cooperating" with League officials into the review of the contracts. My thought is you don't offer multi-year deals like that without expecting down years somewhere in that time frame, and you sure as shit don't change your mind on a decision like that the year after you offer it. I think Gillis is committed to Luongo (obviously with a 12year deal) but I'm not so sure about Chiarelli and his questionable moves considering the distance they've put between themselves and Savard, and their concern about the lack of distance between Savard's skull and his brain.

3. In true Philadelphia fashion, Holmgren isn't having any part of that League review nonsense. That, and they actually want to keep Pronger.

4. Good on Mike Van Ryn for plowing the shit of a career ended early to join an OHL junior team as an assistant coach for the defense. Van Ryn was issued a shitty skeleton by birthright that prevented him from continuing as a pro, and decided to call it a day and join the coaching ranks. Van Ryn took a lot of shit from the Leaf faithful for being on the payroll without actually playing due to injury, here's to a healthy, and successful run as a coach.

5. Adam Burish on the Stars has some muted down connection to Sean Avery being there and subsequently shipped out, and back to the Rangers. Burish has been known to run his mouth, but not to the extent and spotlight grabbing that attention-whore Avery does.

6. Is this the first time in NHL history where a Stanley Cup winning goaltender may end up out of the League the following season? (Lockout years excluded.) As the start of the season draws closer I see that being more and more of a possibility. That is until a Flyers goaltender goes down to injury.

7. Speaking of the Blackhawks and the non-existent possibility that Niemi returns to Chicago, has anyone actually looked at last season's and this upcoming season's roster? Byfuglien, Sopel, Eager in Thrasher jerseys, Burish to Dallas, Versteeg to Tdot, Madden to Minnesota, I'm sure I'm forgetting some. So its Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Brower, Kopecky, Keith, Seabrook, Campbell and Hjalmarsson. Oh and some old guy name Turco in net. Goddamn, they're still scary deep.

8. Then of course there is the whole pesky Huet, $5.625million for the next two years thingy.

9. Getzlaf's the new captain of the Ducks, right? Who else would it be, Paul Kariya?

10. Frolov to the Rangers makes a whole lot of sense for all the wrong reasons, doesn't it? I'm looking at you Glen Sather.

11. But Torts is psyched about it. That is until he turns him into a whipping boy.

12. No mention of how much Tortorella liked Sather's outright robbery of that saavy contract to Boogaard. And I don't think its coming in part two either.

13. The Isles on the other hand, are holding open tryouts to see what remaining free agents will take contracts at a quarter of what they are worth. Their prices are insane!

14. Seriously, these teams that spend barely enough to make the Cap floor, and who no self-respecting free agent wants to play for, when will it be time to just fold up shop instead of giving fans no sense of hope right from the start of the season? I know there are good years and bad years, but when no one wants to play for a team isn't that a sign that something's seriously wrong?

15. Sami Salo's horrific injury while playing some sick version of ball hockey is a little ridiculous if not outright unbelievable. The problem is that it puts the Canucks in as awkward a position as a Ben Stiller movie with a plethora of defenseman signed, while at the same time shelving the trade talk to move Kevin Bieksa and clear some salary. If not spots on the defense.

16. Matt Reitz over at Hockey from the Cheap Seats had a great post about how Gillis adding two puck moving defenseman (Hamhuis and Ballard) to join the one he already had (Erhoff) does nothing to solve the problem of power forwards camping out in front of Luongo. The way Hamhuis shunned all of his suitors (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) to come to Vancouver made a lot more sense than trading Grabner away to get Ballard as well. Mitchell is still unsigned but cleared to play, and the intention is (was) to move Bieksa. Those are your grit/shutdown guys right there. Instead GM MG is building his defense like he did his offense with speed and a quick, puck possession offense. Sound like another team you know from the East?

17. I'm actually pretty surprised that no one has pulled the trigger on Willie Mitchell as of yet. The internal scouting reports must not read as well as the health clearance. Either that, or he's expecting more than he should after a half season with no playoffs on a team that desperately needed him in the post.

18. Bob Probert was working on a memoir of his life as a tough guy at the rink that his family has decided to go ahead and publish. Its called 'Tough Guy.' Not all people who work with their hands are creative individuals folks.

19. The Panthers have gone Shatner using the Priceline "Negotiator" system to name your own price for tickets to a game. Casual hockey fans love shit like this, but what about the season ticket holders who are shelling out top dollar for their seats, and have been for years in order to get the deal and the seats they want and deserve?

20. Foppa is doing the Favre. Just when you thought the Kovalchuk ordeal was sickening.

21. By the way, what kind of 'Mickey Mouse' operation is the NHLPA that agreed to select Bloch as the arbitrator, a man who worked for the NFL and was dismissed for being biased towards the League, and then sat idly by as they voided Kovy's contract?

22. Speaking of the NHLPA, ever thought about interviewing over there?

23. Any reason to suspect Kaberle actually being moved? No, none.

24. How does this shit happen in this day and age? The Capitals weren't even through the first round, do you need that much time to schedule an engraving?

25. Restricted Free Agents yet unsigned... Bobby Ryan, Carey Price, Marc Staal, and James Neal.

26. Someone tossed out the idea of throwing a long-term deal at Ryan with of course the cap circumventing cap hit in order to get his ass signed for longer than when the Getzlaf and Perry deals expire. It wasn't a bad one, that was of course until the League announced that they were looking at all long-term deals signed within the last decade or so.

27. We love walkinvisible, especially when she takes the NHL marketing/merchandising department to task. And rightfully so.

28. By the way, we're also Puck Daddy fanboys too. Just in case you didn't notice.

29. One last thing on the "Great Rejection"... Any reason why the League didn't put a stop to these long-term deals when they allowed the abomination of the Dipietro deal to occur? Between that and the Yashin deal, do you think those two alone could stand as the reasons to sink that once-proud franchise for good?

30. Could the Flames Heritage Classic jersey be any more hideous than the Habs jersey is boring? Especially after all those crazy jerseys we got to enjoy all two centennial season long.

I did it. How fitting is that? On what could be my last post, I finally hit the mark that Elliotte hits week after week. I applaud you sir. I applaud all of you. Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm 30, But I Don't Have That Many Thoughts

I don't know what to tell you... I'm slowing down, I forget things, I don't come up with as many things to forget, I'm thinking about my health. Age has hit me like a ton of bricks and I only turned 30!

The lack of posts has been embarassing and I deeply apologize to my legions of readers. All twelve of you. I've been tied up with all those things that end up in life's shopping cart as you hit middle age, marriage, kids, buying homes, buying small, fast cars to match up with your phallic size and shortcomings. I'd like to blame it all on an extreme consumption of booze but alas, my wife has curbed that as well. These are not thoughts, this is my life... you want to get on with the thoughts, okay, but thinking about what your team did in the offseason is just as depressing as whatever we were just talking about.

1. Please, step away from the Kovalchuk

Its not bad enough that this guy is completely worthless in his own end, its that he has the nuts to ask for an unholy amount of cash in order to feed his kids. And teams are bending over in order to entice him into putting it into their ass. I hope he drags his greedy ass back to the KHL, his inflated salary sinks the League, the poor of the country become enraged and take down the political structure, falling back into communism, just so that boyish Ilya is left broke and penniless, and responsible for the collapse of his homeland. That would be justice for all of us having nothing else to read but this retarded Russian soap opera.

2. St. Petersburg is Not Ust-kamenogorsk

No matter how bad you want it to be. Evgeni Nabokov has headed to SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL instead of taking an amount of money he's actually worth. Think I'm picking on these money-hungry Russians too much? Well, stop. Nabokov's actually from Kazakhstan. If obtaining the almighty dollar is more important than lifting the silver chalice than I don't want these fucks in my League anyway.

3. The Balance of Mediocrity is Shifting

Oh my friends from Calgary, I feel for you, I really do. Not only has the Daz Dismissal Counter gone Dodo, but now he's pulling reclamation projects out of his own 'Discard' pile. Bringing back Alex Tanguay to the Flames is strange but not entirely unexplainable given that he did have some chemistry with Iginla way back when, despite the large-looming fact that his best days are behind him, (that was meant for Tanguay, but sadly it applies to 'Romie as well.) But the move that made even the creepy Pierre McGuire speechless is bringing back Jokinen for only slightly less money. The ape was thought to be limiting his talent in Florida, and was stuck into a new laboratory in Phoenix. When that produced minimal results, he was dealt to Calgary with the Sutter braintrust hoping to have finally found a centerman for Iggy. Less than mediocre results prompted Darryl to deal him to the Rangers at the deadline for Higgins (now gone) and the puzzling Kotalik (now waived). Supposedly Daz admitted to "the Joke" that he never should have traded him, the primate grunted and nodded in agreement. If the roster swapping with Burke and the Leafs wasn't enough to send you to the ends of the Saddle, then this move has surely sent you over the edge.

4. Bettman's Salary

The guy with a name fit for Nascar, Tripp Mickle from the Sports Business Journal dug up some crotch-kicking financial info for the League brass. Apparently, the little man from Queens rakes in about $7.2 million for being combative and argumentative with anyone who attempts to question his methods. Daly earns just south of $2 mil, and Collie makes less than a $1.5mil, and do more damage control than the boss. Its not bad enough that everyone hates this guy, but that he's overpaid to be hated? Sometimes I wonder if anyone in that position would be hated, or if its just that this smirking, shitty little troll makes it easier to hate him.

5. Dropping the Hammer

Four years for $14 million, approximately $3.5mil/year. Not too shabby for a young defenseman who shined alongside Olympic defensemen Keith and Seabrook. I would say its probably a $1mil to a $1.5mil too high but that's the point or the screws that Doug Wilson was trying to put to Stan Bowman and the Hawks. But Hjalmarsson played to the spotlight and was bound to get a few bites in the open market.

6. My Ass Restricted

Is this gentleman's agreement ever going to go? I am amazed that more of these are not handed out by ruthless GM's looking to fuck a competitor over. I don't think I'm fully understanding the "penalty" an offering team suffers with regards to draft picks when a RFA accepts and the former team doesn't match.

7. Sweet Release

The word is that all teams are basically holding until Kovalchuk signs or Kaberle gets dealt. I don't really understand this other than the fact that it has an impact on market value. But its not like 30 teams are in the mix for Kovy, the smart ones are staying out of it, and those desperate are decorating their anus with sprinkles. Burke is going to perpetually dangle Kaberle until he feels he's legally getting away with robbery. I get the feeling that Tomas is severly overvalued and if he was to be dealt that you would see a similar situation as Bouwmeester in Calgary for the team that lands him.

8. Lots of Fish in the Sea

There's a ridiculous amount of free agents available. We could see a second opening day of free agency once the previously mentioned above mess gets sorted out. I'm not going to do the math, but I think there's more guys unsigned than there were signed after July 1st.

9. Back to Bouw

I get that feeling that Bouwmeester might have a bounce back season this year. But that still won't make Daz look like a genius. Or even competent.

10. No Mo'?

Its funny how some teams respect the aging legends on their team, (see: Anaheim Ducks, Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer), and other teams tell their legends that they're done, (see: Dallas Stars, Mike Modano). Ironic how the Ducks are one of the teams offering Mikey another year. The Wings don't have the space to pay him a respectable amount, while Minnesota doesn't offer anything remotely close to a shot at the Cup. San Jose would take on another aging vet but of course it would be under Wilson's hard line. Modano first stated that if he went anywhere it'd be somewhere in the Pacific Division before Ken Holland came calling.

11. No Love for Frolov

Talk about somebody really waiting to see where the Kovalchuk stack of chips fall. He's been patient but its hard to tell if he'll be the next winger sought after "the decision" is made, or if GM's are staying away from yet another enigma. Frolov's going to chip a few in but never be a breakout or game changing player, he's just not. I don't think his salary demands are going to match up with the assessment, and he'll be off to the KHL.

12. Its a Brave New World

Its amazing to see how the offseason game has changed with the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement and the development of the Kontinental Hockey League. I mentioned before there are hordes of legitimate free agents available, and now with the KHL as a semi-legitimate alternative, bonafide NHL players who are more interested in collecting paychecks than a place in history are heading to the other side of the pond.

13. Dude, Where's My Locker?

Its become pretty apparent now that the Bruins are attempting to distance themselves from Marc Savard and his slightly shifted sponge. I still think his value is high, and its surprising to think that Chiarelli can't find a suitor for his playmaking. But the push to move him is a need to free up cash and reduce the glut at center.

14. At Least He Got Seguin

Or maybe its just that other GM's don't want to deal with Chiarelli considering the way he's handled Savard and Thomas and issued them large multi-year contract extensions.

15. ReKhab

There's a chance that Nikolai Khabibulin could face 30 days in jail or be in Phoenix for court when the season opens or at the very least when training camp opens this season. Khabby was nailed for extreme DUI and speeding while nursing that injured back of his. Say it with me, "Speed." "80." That opens the door for the Oilers to get out of that $3.75mil per until 2013 that's hurting their back. Then again, Khabibulin might be the best player on that roster.

16. Training Your New Boss

In a situation that's not all that different from mine at the workplace, Darryl Sutter may have very well found his replacement for the Calgary GM position. Jay Feaster, the enemy from the '04 finals was just hired as assistant GM to Daz in Cowtown. Apparently, the man who may be headed for a straightjacket contacted Feaster and brought him in to meet Ken King for an interview. So after dropping three members of the Flames brass, Feaster was hired to help clean up the mess that the Dazman has made. I guess this could be seen as an improvement for the Flames faithful, but then again I know how certain members of that congregation feel about Feaster. And not because of that Game 6 no goal.

17. Remove Your Gloves

A moment of silence for maybe the greatest pugilist to ever play in the NHL, Bob Probert.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

30 Thoughts, or Less

Welcome to the mockery of a thieved idea that I happen to think is great. Check that. Reverse it. I love Elliotte Friedmann's 30 Thoughts, so much so that I decided to steal the idea, and half-ass it, as I passionately love to do. So without any knowledge or any of that fancy insider information I bring you... 30 Thoughts, or Less.

1. Not as Dumb as He Looks
Despite how well he photographs, Wilson has signed Marleau and kicked Nabokov to the curb. He's obviously voiced his displeasure about St. Pat before, but when it came down to brass tacks, he told Nabokov, "No thanks, we're full," when it came to his playoff failures. Marleau is a cornerstone, as he has been for the Sharks since they drafted him behind Joe Thornton. Nabokov is yet another Russian goalie who has imploded when it counted.

2. Jumbo Next?
I would not be surprised to a) see the Sharks pass on re-signing Thornton, or b) begin shopping him in the middle of the season when his value's high dishing passes to Heatley and Marleau. Then again, there's always that postseason thing that the Sharks hold out hope for.

3. One More Thing
They re-signed RFA Pavelski after his epic postseason. They did not do that for Setoguchi, who was not epic, or postseason. Like the Sharks.

4. Chanelling the Boom
Nashville is billing Blake Geoffrion as the second coming of Boom Boom. Maybe he should talk to Stamkos about the pressure a franchise puts on you when you become the basket they hold all their eggs with.

5. You Got Hart?
The awards pretty much fell the way everyone expected them to with the exception being the Hart that went to Hank Sedin. Sedin won the Art Ross in a ridiculous 4point final game in the regular season, but had stiff competition from fan favorites Crosby and Ovechkin. Lots of grumbling today about it all, I think Crosby probably earned it out of those three, but I'm glad to see Hank win it. Bryzgalov would have been my next choice, but he didn't win the Vezina so how can he win the Hart, and then you have that debate.

6. The Job Hunter
Last year's Vezina winner might be looking for a change of address after the Bruins gave his agent permission to speak with other teams about a trade. Rask has inherited the job after playing a little less than half the regular season, and a pretty solid postseason. He just signed a four year deal last season with about $5mil per and a no move clause.

7. Roaming Goalies
Lots of movement this offseason when it comes to goaltenders, and after the postseason's saw back-ups and rookies battle their way to the Cup, teams are re-thinking the term "money goaltending." Halak instead of Price, Nabokov's out of San Jose, Turco's been out of Dallas since March, who knows what the hell they're going to do in Philadelphia.

8. Do You Feel That Cold Air?
This draft certainly doesn't have the buildup that last year had. It seems obvious that Hall's going #1, and Seguin's going #2, and after that nobody seems to care. With it being in LA this would have been the first opportunity I've had to attend, but sadly real life beckons. Boo fucking hoo, how exciting could a draft be anyway?

9. Anyone Want to Overpay?
With Marleau signed, Ilya Kovalchuk becomes the only option for teams seeking an offensive dynamo. Marleau offered skill on both sides of the rink, Kovalchuk can skate loops just inside the blueline, but that's about as far as he'll venture in. Los Angeles seems to be in the market for one of those defensive zone buzzing flies.

10. Adding Validity
How much more respectable do the Florida franchises look after adding General Managers with good hockey reputations?

11. Two Approaches
But the differences between Tallon and Yzerman are night and day. Yzerman's going to take the slow, measured approach to team architecture, while Tallon's building it like a contractor, "get it done quick." Although most contractors will build as cheap as they can and that's not necessarily Tallon's style (see: deconstruction of a winner in Chicago).

12. How Many Licks Does it Take?
How much would it suck to win a Stanley Cup and then get traded two weeks later. To Atlanta (or Edmonton). I'm not sure which part is worse.

13. Think of the Children
Todd Bertuzzi has agreed to a two-year, $3.875 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings. “It’s just a really good fit for me,” the forward said. “My kids were so pumped when they found out we’re going back for two more years—now my son gets to stay in his hockey program, and they get to go back to the same schools.” Bertuzzi's got kids?!?! Somebody save them!

That was 13 and I'm left feeling impotent. That's a natural feeling for me. Enjoy the draft, and looking forward to July 1st.

Trading Places

Seems I can't keep up with the slow pace of the offseason.

Trades from latest to earliest...

Byfuglien/Eager/Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu to Atlanta
---> Reasoner/Morin, 2010 1st round (24th overall) and 2nd rounder (54th overall) to Chicago

Can somebody please just start boxing up this Thrashers franchise or at the very least get someone down there with some hockey knowledge and some kind of grasp of today's game? Between Waddell and Dudley they have run this ship aground with the engines still at full. Tell me, what does Sopel or Eager offer to the Thrashers? An "experienced" defenseman with the wheels falling off, and a checking line knuckle dragger. That's what that roster needed, not an infusion of some young talent. And to top it off, I just about guarantee that Byfuglien gets shipped elsewhere before the year is over. His value shines in the postseason not the regular season, and the Thrash don't do the postseason so good. Morin is supposed to be bad ass too.

Horton/Campbell to Boston
--> Wideman, 2010 1st round (15th overall) and 2011 3rd rounder to Florida

Horton, the man notorious for stupid faces, wanted out of Florida (Who doesn't?) and that's been pretty clear since about January. Wideman was nearly beaten out of Beantown until he got his shit together in the postseason. Their salaries are just about a wash at around $4mil., and they both get that "fresh start" that we all masterbate to. The Bruins get some leverage on the Wheel of Discipline with Campbell and already have the number two pick or Tyler Seguin from Toronto. Tallon on the other hand has collected a fifth pick in the first 50 of this year's draft, the third overall, the new fifteenth, plus three more in the second round. He's already done more than Jacques Martin ever did.

Arnott back to Jersey
---> Halischuk and 2011 2nd rounder

Nashville's captain just waived his no-trade clause to return to the Devils for a promising prospect and a pick. What else is on TV?

The rights to Hamhuis and a conditional 2011 pick to Philadelphia
---> Parent heads back to Nashville

This deal strikes me as lopsided in favor of the Flyers. Wasn't Hamhuis one of the most sought after defenseman at the deadline by playoff teams looking for a mover at the back end? I know the Preds desperately wanted to get Parent back, but I didn't think they were willing to give up Hamhuis and toss in a draft pick for good measure. Then again I guess if its an eighth rounder it really doesn't mean shit anyway. Late word is that Holmgren and Hamhuis are far apart on getting a deal done.

Halak to St. Louis
---> Promising prospect Eller and so/so prospect Schultz to Montreal

'Should we go with the humble guy out of Slovakia that we drafted in the umpteenth round in '03 and killed it for us in the post this year, or the overindulgent dumbass that we put all our faith in with our first round selection in '05 and didn't do shit for us except open the bench door?'

'Uh, let's go with Plan B.'

I know this decision wasn't Pierre Gauthier's alone, but this has to prove that this guy does not belong in a GM's seat. Its got to be pride that the Habs braintrust didn't want to have to swallow and admit that they were wrong about Price, and instead put their pressurized hopes in him when he sure as shit didn't earn it. Unless its cash, and they're cheaping out, which doesn't sound like a team that traded for the Gomez contract. Then again, that may be why.

But I have to admit, it does take a lot of balls from Gauthier to pull something like this, especially when he knew the fan base would be calling for his head shortly thereafter. But has Price's value diminished so much on the open market that they had to resort to this move? Almost everyone in the hockey world agreed that he needed the ol' "fresh start" to get his career, his game, and his head back in order. Were there really no takers for him?

And the return? Lars Eller better be the next Niklas Backstrom in order to put out that fire in Montreal. For Christ's sake he's a Dane! When's the last time you heard of a quality hockey product coming out of Denmark? Jannik Hansen? Really?

And now the Blues look like a playoff contender, although I'm not sure how credible that makes them, upgrading from Mason to Halak. They also grabbed TJ Hensick from the Avs making it the busiest day in Blues history in the last decade. Or two.

Potential Suspects?

Kaberle is the usual suspect, this time he's linked to a swap with Marc Savard. Boston's got a glut of centers and just dished their puck mover in Wideman. Savard would salivate already rabid Leaf fans linking him back up with Kessel.

Mike Ribeiro is a fuck, and nobody wants him on their team. Well somebody might, but apparently its not Dallas according to EJ Hradek who's been known to be overly filled with shit.

Spezza to the Blue Jackets is the hot rumor that makes too much sense to happen. Nash needs someone to dish him the puck, Spezza needs out of Ottawa (who doesn't?). Murray's too stubborn to allow another diva demand a trade and get what he wants, and Howson's too inept to actually make something happen.

And I laugh sinisterly from my chair in the basement...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blackhawk Roster Thoughts

And the inevitable has happened. Despite all the questioning of goaltending, the depth, the drive, and the chemistry proved to be the right formula. The revitalized Blackhawks organization has brought home the ultimate prize, if only for one year. The championship winning roster pushed up to the cap and then some, and now there is some value engineering to be done. Just some thoughts on the key (and not so key) members of this lineup...

Jonathan Toews - The new Sidney Crosby (Thank Christ). Think about the year he's had... An Olympic Gold Medal and named the tournament's best forward, then accepting the Stanley Cup as Captain and the hands down winner of the Conn Smythe. And he's already won a World Championship (and a Junior Championship) to become the youngest member of the elusive Triple Gold Club. That's pretty motherfuckin' impressive. That's not being in the right place at the right time, that's being a major cog in the wheels that won those championships. And he's humble.

Patrick Kane - The Yang to Toews Yin. While the kid's got a nose for the net, he's not even close to the vicinity of the complete player that Toews is. I don't know what it is about him, maybe the arrogance, the invincibility, the God complex he carries, that makes me not want to see him succeed. Maybe I'm just hatin'.

Marian Hossa - So unable to believe that he won the Cup that he actually didn't want to take it from Toews. And now everyone's screaming "trade him!" It kinda makes sense in a salary dump/high current market value way, but that would be his fifth team in four seasons. On the other hand, he's one of the pieces you have locked up if you can get the rest of the dollars to add up. And I'm not sure who would be willing to take on that $7.9mil anchor of a contract for the next four years without a support staff already in place.

Dustin Byfuglien - Another arrogant prick. But he's big and he plays big. That is, at least when he's got future HOFer's on his line. I think of two other examples of NHL players when I think of Byfuglien... Dustin Penner, in the sense that his linemates made him better, and he'll probably sign some ridiculous offer sheet that he'll never live up without a supporting cast. And Ray Emery, that all this shit is gonna go right to his head, and make him implode.

Duncan Keith - Another humble warrior. Between Keith and Toews, this team has enough leadership for two teams. Look for that to happen in four years. My choice for the Norris despite the fact the odds are on to Doughty.

Brent Seabrook - Really surprised me as to the kind of player and defenseman he is. His spot on the Canadian roster was for real, and this duo is the best pairing in the League right now.

Andrew Ladd - Did you ever think that Ladd would be a two-time Stanley Cup winner? Now this is being in the right place at the right time.

Patrick Sharp - One of the most underrated forwards in the League. And this guy can shoot the fucking puck.

Niklas Hjalmarsson - One of the most underrated young defensemen in the League. I'd be surprised if the Bowmans' let him walk.

Kris Versteeg - In serious competition with Sean Avery as League's top douchenozzle. I have no doubt the rest of this team will have no problem saying goodbye to this cum stain.

Antti Niemi - If you had to guess which Finnish goaltender between Kiprusoff, Backstrom, and Niemi would win the Cup first, would anyone have the balls to give any thought to Niemi? Its funny despite him getting a ring for the Blackhawks, I'll still don't see him as their long-term goaltender. It'll be interesting to see how the perspective on him in the hockey world will change next year (i.e. Cam Ward).

Cristobal Huet - Have you ever seen a cleaner set of pads for a Stanley Cup picture before? This guy winning a Stanley Cup is an insult. If they have to remove someone else's name to fit Dale Tallon's on, I petition that it should be Huet's.

Brian Campbell - Had his lowest season point totals since his first few years with the Sabres, and his lowest postseason point total ever despite playing in 19 games. This is not the same Brian Campbell that we once knew. He still skates through the neutral zone with the greatest of ease, but there's something about his game that's dramatically different.

Tomas Kopecky - Next to Adam Burrish and Ben Eager, the most useless part of this team.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book It?

Is it safe to say that whoever wins a Game 5 after the teams are knotted at two is the eventual winner?

I don't have the answer, or feel like doing the research, but that's what I'm thinking.

And Arby's.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stanley Cup Final Prediction

Well seeing as how I went 0-2 in the Conference Finals, 2-4 in the Semifinals, and 5-8 in the Quarterfinals for an overall total of 7-14, you might as well flip a friggin' coin once again. At least I admitted that I thought it would be wrong on both, for whatever the fuck that's worth.

I'm not going to elaborate too much on this matchup, I think the Cup is the Hawks to lose, and the Flyers are very capable of that upset. It is an extremely well-balanced matchup, and one that I think any hockey fan can appreciate if you've done enough healing since early April to get over the loss of either a) not making the postseason or, b) or not being one of these two teams. I am glad that this is not a repeat matchup, and I think its fitting that both Philadelphia and Chicago are the cities/teams involved.

Enough of that happy horseshit, I'm taking the Hawks in six. I feel like anyone picking this series to go seven games might as well take the Flyers, because if goes that far its going to come down to who wants it more. I believe the Flyers have more desire, where the Blackhawks have operated like a finely tuned machine, (a term I often used for the Wings in years past). Chicago has suffered that all important lesson of going deep last season, only to come up short, whereas the Flyers were bounced out in the first round to the eventual SC Champions last season.

Hockey is coming to its seasons end folks, until we begin the process of re-building for next year, after awarding those who earned accolades, only to get ready to do it all again. So long from hockey-mad New Mexico.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Devils Den

Often thought as a model franchise, (behind Detroit of course), the New Jersey Devils have made the postseason 14 times out of the past 15 seasons, travelled to 4 Stanley Cup Finals, and won the Cup 3 out of those 4 times. In that same time they've gone through 9 head coaches, including two separate stints with Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire, and 11 head coaches if you count General Manager Lou Lamoriello coming downstairs to get inside the glass. Four coaches in the last five seasons, once again, not including Lou stepping in for Robinson's health departure, and Claude Julien's firing before the '06-'07 postseason. And once again the Devils are looking to fill another vacancy at the head coaching position.

Pat Burns led the team from '02-'05 with a Cup in '03, before retiring from head coaching after suffering bouts of colon and liver cancer in '04 and '05 respectively. Larry Robinson then took over the reigns once again, having originally served as head coach from '00 to '02, however his second stint was short lived, citing stress and other health problems as his reasons for resigning halfway through the '05-'06 season. Insert your off-color "the Devils are killing their coach" joke here.

Friar Lou took over the team then, taking the team to the Conference Semifinals before losing to the Hurricanes who would go on to win the Cup that year. Lamoriello then hired Claude Julien to coach the following year, but canned him at the end of the regular season despite the fact the Julien had the Devils winning the Division and 2nd in the Conference. It was "the team's lack of readiness to challenge for the Stanley Cup," that led Lou to replacing Claude with none other than himself. Losing once again in the semifinals, LL hired Brent Sutter to take over as coach. Sutter kept New Jersey in the postseason, but not for long, suffering 1st round defeats in his two years as head coach. Shortly after the season was over, Sutter resigned, citing family reasons as the cause of his "homesickness." Two weeks later, it was family who hired him to take over coaching duties for the Flames.

So Jacques Lemaire once again returned to the Devils bench this past year, after resigning from his 10 year tenure with the Minnesota Wild, to guide them to yet another 1st round exit. Almost immediately following that disappointing season, Lemaire retired for what we can only assume is for good.

That's only eight years of head coaching history there folks. And the Devils are what we consider a "stable" franchise.

Lamoriello has run the Devils like a dictatorship since '87 with a firm grasp on all aspects of the franchise. His history with the club is impeccable, visiting the postseason 18 of the 20 seasons he's been in command since the team relocated to New Jersey, with three Stanley Cups to show for it. With a continuously competitive team, he's managed to draft, groom, and retain many high profile players through the system. But is it his style coupled with his selection of hard-nosed coaches that's resulted in player's (and maybe coaches too) being dissatisified with their work environment? I think the signs are starting to show now more than ever.

The first sign, if it wasn't the coaching carousel of years past, was captain Jamie Langenbrunner's silence and obvious displeasure. The media speculated that it was sparked by his assignment to the pressbox late in the season, and Jamie's quest for playing all 82 games of the season. It turned out that it wasn't just that, but it was Lemaire's attempt to try to hand Colin White the "C" that rubbed him the wrong way. White declined, but the damage had been done, as a difference of opinion between coach and captain had been brewing since Christmas. Langenbrunner was quoted after the season as saying,

“There were a few things that happened, a few issues that were tough for me to let go. I probably didn’t handle them correctly. Not all personalities completely mesh, but they are able to work together. I had no problems with the way he treated me. It was more about team issues that we would never agree on.”

Team members revealed some of those issues to be about the handling of lineup changes and more prominently the freedom given to Ilya Kovalchuk when he was brought over at the deadline from Atlanta.

Players would be told after the morning skate that they would be in the lineup that night, only to receive text messages informing them that there was a change of plans. This occurred not only in the regular season but in the postseason as well. Elliotte Friedman even mentioned it in his 30 thoughts this week,

"22) I was absolutely blown away by some of this story on the Devils by Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger. Text messaging players after a game-day skate to tell them they weren't in that night? Just awful.

23) How much of a breach in protocol is that? I heard one player in this year's playoffs go crazy because he was told (last-second) he wasn't playing by the goaltending coach. I asked Garry Galley and Healy (combined 31 seasons) if this was acceptable and both said no way. An assistant coach should do it if the head man doesn't."

Text message or goaltending coach, if you don't have the balls to tell the man face-to-face than you shouldn't be taking him out of the lineup. Especially in the playoffs.

But the bigger issue seemed to be about Kovalchuk's role on the team. On a club that is all about "team" and "defense," this "individual" seemed to have precedence over the rest of the team that's had to buy-in to this system. In Rich Chere's follow up article to Lemaire's retiring, Jacques had the following to say, comparing Kovalchuk's talent with his experience with Marian Gaborik in Minnesota,

“I had the opportunity to coach Gaborik,” he explained. “I tried at the start to get Gabby to play a two-way game as good as he could play. You know what? It wasn’t working because Gaborik is an offensive player and he has to think offense pretty much 90 percent of the time he is on the ice. The 10 percent when he thinks defensively is when he is in his own zone.

“I heard people say when Kovalchuk came, ‘He’s going to make him a defensive player.’ No. These guys have to go offensive. They certainly have to be responsible at certain times, which I thought Kovy was and I thought Gaborik was. But you cannot try to change these guys’ games. That’s one thing I’ve learned in my career.

“He played different than the other guys because of his talent. I have no problem with that. He had 6-7 chances a game. You think I’m going to tell him to play defense? Come on. We’re looking to score goals here. Give me a break.

“I let him play as much as I could as long as it didn’t disturb the whole team: ‘Play the way you want, but be responsible when it’s time to come back and when it’s time to do the job in your zone.’ Which he was.”

Problem was, it did disturb the whole team. A different set of rules or standards were set aside for this dynamicaly offensive, yet defensively anemic acquisition, and the rest of the team wasn't having it, nor should they.

When word came over the wire that New Jersey was interested in Kovalchuk, I immediately shot it down thinking that 'he'll never work in that system.' I felt like an idiot after Lou landed him, but my thoughts were apparently right on. The front office wanted Kovy's goal-scoring and were willing to give him a pass for his defensive liability, which was clearly identified in Atlanta. Half of the Devils locker room was probably willing to allow it if he brought something to the offense, while the other half wasn't having any of it. Is that what Jacques meant by the 'whole' team wasn't disrupted?

In any case the Devils, or maybe just Lamoriello have a bunch of questions to answer. 'Who do we get in here to coach this team?' 'Do we continue with the present mold of coaches we have in the past and hire Ken Hitchcock?' 'Can we win it all with this type of situation in place in the post-lockout NHL, or are we asking for another implosion in the locker room?' 'Do we attempt to bring Ilya Kovalchuk back in the Fall?'

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I've been deliquent, I know people. Priorities are what get in the way when you don't get paid to do what you want to be doing. And that as always is talking hockey. But I don't think I'm totally at fault. The lengthy blogroll to your left hasn't been exactly prolific. How's that for throwin' those fuckers I don't even know under the bus?! But its true, everyone's concentrating so much on actual hockey, because its playoff hockey, that there isn't all that other superfluous bullshit. Well we'll try and find it, and then wade through it.

No Longer Relegated to the United Center Basement
Someone allowed Tallon to escape. No one knows who, it sure as hell wasn't the Bowman's. As loyal as Dale is, Scotty would never believe that Tallon would keep his mouth shut about Stan fucked up all those RFA offers. Should have killed him Scotty, you would never get convicted in Canada. Or Detroit. Probably was McDonough. He fucking hates Dale. But anyway, Tallon got hired to take over the mess that is Florida and has nothing but big expectations in front of him after getting all the credit for building what is now the Blackhawks. Look at this way Dale, there's nowhere to go but up, but its long way up to any level of respectability. Look for the big shake-up somewhere around July 1st, if he's got a blank check.

You Thought Florida Was Bad? Try Tampa
Its the job nobody wants. Even after the two season sideshow has been removed, and a "respectable" owner has been found, who at least looks reasonably headed in the right direction. Vinik supposedly is receiving assistance in the selection of a new General Manager from the "experts" at the NHL. Four offers, and still a vacancy. Stevie Y was the hot candidate for a while, but that's cooled off now, Riseborough supposedly walked through the office and then realized that Floridians want exciting hockey and passed on the job. Ronny Hextall has been mentioned as well, but it sounds like he wants no part of that mess. So everyone just assumes that Pierre McGuire is the only option left. Hell, if you're going to hire that jackass you might as well bring back 'the Mullet' behind the bench. McGuire's resume is thin, and that's being polite, while his use of the word "monster" and uncomfortable touching of other men on air is a heavy file. It makes me wonder if anyone has thought about bringing Jay Feaster back in.

Returning to the Lineup
As usual, the playoffs are filled with players playing injured, and of course the sprinkle of injuries so horrific that they actually can't play. Gasp! Ryan Kesler was on the former list and as effective as a broken stick, as is Dany Heatley who's still hobbling around in a vain attempt to still make a good impression on his new teammates. Many speculated that Ovechkin had some kind of hitch in his giddyup, and it seems the only plausible excuse for Malkin's disappearance this entire season, despite both of them suiting up for the white, blue, and red at Worlds. Then you bring on the actual, vivid descriptions of the playoff injury such as the dreaded lower or upper body injuries. Markov's LBI in Game 1 against the Pens, or the undeniable leg laceration that Hal Gill suffered. A pair of broken feet for Flyer forwards Gagne and Carter that required surgery, and a trifecta for Pennsylvania if you throw in Jordan Staal's miraculous recovery. And that's what I can't understand, is how these guys return to professional hockey so goddamn quickly after suffering an injury. Did anyone think Brian Campbell would return to action any time soon with a broken collarbone? I mean its hockey, not pingpong, rib cages connected to the, collarbone, will be flexed by contact, its not his jejunum, he can play without one of those. Staal returned a few games later after having a severed tendon surgically repaired in his foot. Now Markov had surgery on his ACL or MCL or some CL, and is supposedly out 6 months. Are we going to see him in the Stanley Cup finals when the Habs once again pull off that miracle upset in 7?

Briere/Gagne/Leino - Briere took all the shit he's been suffering through in Philadelphia since he's signed that whale back in '07, with all of his injuries and lack of production, and produced when it counted the most. Nine goals, nine assists in 14 games. Gagne's been a "McGuire" since returning from injury notching game winning goals in pivotal moments in the seriesesssss. Six goals, three assists in 10 games. Leino, after quietly coming over from Detroit in a trade just before the deadline, has earned his spot on Laviolette's roster. Three goals, eight assists in 10 games.

Leighton - Wrap your head around this. Leighton has not allowed a goal since 14 minutes into the first period of Game 7 against the Bruins. That's 166 minutes of shutout hockey. Of course, tonight the Habs will score. He's only allowed four goals since taking over for Boucher in Game 5, preserving that shutout. And the Flyers only paid $11,250.- for him.

Flyers in general - On top of the three forwards and the waiver wire steal already mentioned, you've got Richards playing like a captain with 18 points (5G, 13A), Pronger just shutting down the blueline not to mention his 4 goals and 8 assists, and veteran play out of the younger guys in Giroux and vanRiemsdyk.

Toews/Kane/Byfuglien - Toews leads all playoff performers with 23 points (7G, 16A) in 14 games, leading by example, and showing great poise as a young captain. I don't know how Kane doesn't get plastered every night with his dipsy doodling. I guess they can't catch him. He really knows his way around the offensive zone, and really knows how to pick his spots with 7 goals, 11 assists. Byfuglien has 6 soul crushing goals and if that didn't get you I'm sure his shoulder or his agitating personality will.

Chicago in general - I don't know if its the depth, but everyone on this team is contributing in their own personal way. I think the Q is coaching the shit out of these guys too, getting good matchups, and response from his players when called upon.

Cammalleri - Twelve goals leads all postseason scorers, coupled with 6 assists for 18 points in 16 games. He's had some secondary support in the first two rounds, but the whole team needs to step it up to get back into these Conference Finals.

Subban - Why was this kid not brought up sooner? No one has been able to answer that for me. His skating is incredible, and he's got the desire of a kid who just broke into the League.

Halak - I still consider him hot because he's not the reason the Habs aren't scoring. Not to mention the facts that, he's the main reason they're still playing this late in May, and he has a penchant for bouncing back, as does the rest of this team.

Joe Pavelski - Again, has cooled off, but has 9 goals, 6 assists in 13 games. Is not getting the secondary help, and this whole team will need to respond quickly, to avoid the stamp of "CHOKE."

Nabokov - Has sucked this entire postseason. I cannot remember a single game where he was the difference for a win. However I can remember plenty of goals where blame could be placed squarely on him. If the Sharks lose this series, I expect Wilson to look for new goaltending.

Sharks in general - Fragile. Fire hasn't worked in the past with Ron Wilson, and it certainly doesn't work in the tanning both with Doug Wilson. There's a ridiculous number of incredible hockey players on this team and they're just folding. Where is that fucking Olympic line now? The young gang of Pavelski, Clowe, and Setoguchi bailed their asses out in the first round, and they finally put something together against the Wings, and now they've vanished again. All of them. This team should have the same blood thirst they had in the second round, carried over against the Hawks.

Gomez - He's got 10 assists and 1 goal, does that make his contract worth it?

I'm sure there's a lot more, but they're already on the sixth hole by now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Conference Final Predictions; The Elaborated Version

I know how to pick 'em, don't I? I got two losers in Game 1! But hey, that's why its best of seven, right?! I basically went 50% in the last round, so you could consult with me, or flip a friggin' coin and probably do just fine. I put my faith in the Canucks as my preseason pick, and they flopped like a fish out of water. Woulda been nice to see that one come to fruition. But the Flyers made me look like a genius, stealing back the series in seven games after being on the ropes. Montreal decided to defy the odds once again, so I'm not going against them again, but it didn't look too Cinderella-y last night. Honestly I think its a crap shoot on whoever comes out of the West is probably your eventual winner. Lets break it down a little further for you ignants...

#7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
I don't think anyone could've predicted that matchup for the conference finals. Once again, the East proves that the seedings are meaningless. Montreal took out the top team in the League (points-wise), then went on to defeat the defending Champs to head on to the Conference Finals. Not too shabby for a team that had the worst record heading into the post. The Habs success is hinging on three things, maybe four, depending on how much you "believe." 1) They've bought into the system, and its working against the best teams in the East, 2) Their triggermen are clicking at just the right time, and its more than one guy doing it. Even though Cammalleri is stealing the show. And 3) Halak. Up until last night, a minus one game per series, this guy is a fucking machine. He's playing like he's got something to prove, and he does. Looks like Allen Walsh wasn't really just blowin' smoke up everyone's ass, he had a legitimate point as to who the starter should be. At $775k per this guy is not only a savior, he's a bargain, and he is the Contract Anomaly, (I wrote nothing about Halak). The fourth, bullshit intangible is that the Habs believe they can do it. Hell, its almost like they've already done the heavy lifting, except for that pesky Stanley Cup championship thingy.
The Flyers are another low seed, but are just proving that they have in them what everybody originally thought they had. The goaltending situation is just getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous. Gagne returning to lineup has been huge, Richards is playing like a captain, Giroux and vanReimsdyk are playing like crafty veterans, and Laviolette has been the rudder to the previously rudder-less ship. Its hard to go against the Flyers, especially after that 6-0 stomping, but I'm doing it. Like a fucking idiot. Grip Pick: Habs in 6.

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #2 Chicago Blackhawks
I think this is going to be incredible series, just because of the depth of these teams on both offense and defense. I give the slight edge to the Sharks in goal, and I have very little to say after that. The Sharks will of course need all their depth to show up, the Hawks rarely have that problem, and maybe that's the deal breaker. But I'm sticking with it, like a fucking idiot. Grip Pick: Sharks in 6.

One vs. two, seven vs. eight. I get this funny feeling like it'll either be one and eight to get through, or two and seven, I don't know why. Its no longer predictable. You've got three backup netminders in the final four, killing it right now. That's pretty fucking wild, especially considering the argument about top flite goaltenders, while the likes of Brodeur, Luongo, Miller, and Fleury are sitting at home right now, and last year's Vezina winner was riding the pine this postseason.