October 26th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement, Yes really
Today NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced all of Novembers games would be wiped out, here’s why:
10: The regular referees are all working elsewhere now and the only ones available are the ones the NFL had filling in,
9: Games aren’t going to be resumed until the last Rick Nash jersey in Columbus is sold.
8: This isn’t really a lockout, Shanahan put the season on the shelf for a phantom clipping call.
7: With Tuukka Rask injured (again) Jeremy Jacobs won’t allow the season to progress until he has another goalie.
6: Francesco Aquilini finally looked at Roberto Luongo’s contract and said not another game will be played until the dude is gone.
5: Holiday shopping will be a lot easier for Bettman and league ownership if they don’t have to show up for one game a month and be booed.
4: Novembers games were cancelled in retaliation for #ThePlayers offer to appoint Sean Avery their official full time liaison to Mr Bettman.
3: The real reason games were cancelled is NHL broadcasters still can’t tell Jordan and Eric Staal apart and are hoping one goes to pot before the season starts.
2: The owners are waiting for the roofies to kick in on the players.
1: Gary Bettman is still trying to figure out how to explain to his daughter why an industry that has experienced record growth over the last several years in a recession, has a new lucrative tv deal, has had several teams settle their ownership and arena issues, signed overseas content distribution deals, and is drafting players from places professional hockey didn’t exist twenty years ago can justify a lockout even to itself.
August 29th, 2012 — 2012-13 Season Stories
The Canucks have been the whole show in a pretty pathetic division for a couple years. The division won’t be quite as bad this season and that could be either better or worse for them. As noted at the trade deadline, this team abandoned their identity then, and collapse came pretty close on the heels of doing so.
- The Sedin’s are healthy.
- Jason Garrison is a sound addition.
- Kevin Bieksa is signed long term.
- Ryan Kesler is injured, again, to start the season.
- No major changes have been made to a possibly complacent team.
- The goalie drama will continue to be a distraction.
High: There’s no question this team should win the division and challenge for another President’s Trophy.
Low: If the Luongo/Schnieder drama becomes really ugly, Kesler is out longer than expected, and one or more of the teams in the division play better there is a small chance they fall to 4th or 5th if they lose the division.
Whatever happens in net, or off ice this team needs an identity. The Kassian for Hodgson trade was a poor one in terms of adding an element that fits, if Luongo is indeed traded whoever comes back in his place needs to either be someone the team will rally around as a new leader, or slide into the murky waters of the Vancouver media scene without a ripple.
April 18th, 2012 — Uncategorized
If there’s ever a time to enjoy sports in their purest form its the playoffs. Hockey sets the bar for that enjoyment higher than any sport. The NHL has ratcheted the level up higher than ever. That higher level has provoked me to say things I never expected to say.
Year over year the playoffs have turnover. The turnover is not just in teams that do and don’t make it in, but in who dominates who. Last year we saw the Nashville Predators win and advance then enter into a hell of a battle with the eventual western conference champion Vancouver Canuck team. In the past the Detroit Red Wings have dominated teams with ease. This year, quite remarkably both teams might fall out of the upper echelon. In the case of the Red Wings, they are facing a better team, but age and lack of depth are playing a part as well. The cycle of success for that team has turned slowly in the last half century. The last two decades of strength were preceded by “The Dead Wing” era that bred despair among fans. The Canucks are facing a team with better goaltending, stouter defense and more passion. Even with a missing Sedin they have the offensive force to outscore the Kings. The bigger problem is they never addressed the team accountability both on and off the ice that cost them last years Stanley Cup. They don’t get it at ice level, they don’t get it behind the bench. They don’t get it in management. In the off season they brought in Bitz for a more blue collar mentality, and at the deadline they brought in Kassian for toughness while giving up skill. Team identity does not come from a single pair of players, it has to be an organization religion. As such I’m in no way surprised they are likely to be eliminated in the first round.
Raffi Torres may just be too stupid to play in the NHL. I can’t believe I’m writing this but he clearly needs to take a page from Matt Cooke’s book if he wants to keep playing in the NHL. He can no longer claim ignorance of the NHL’s policy on head shots or leaving your feet to make a hit. He’s been suspended before. He’s been fined. He has to have seen the NHL’s videos. So stupid is the word we’ll use for someone who gets fine, days later gets suspended, and less than six months later makes the two most talked about suspendable infractions in one play in the midsts of the most intense round of playoffs since the lockout.
April 10th, 2012 — Uncategorized
I feel like this post should start with Kool Moe Dee slangin’ lyrical crack on the mic. The west was as wild as it gets with the last playoff spots not being known until the final moment, of the last of the NHL’s 1230 regular season games.
1: Vancouver Canucks vs 8: Los Angeles Kings
This is opening round show down isn’t going to be quite as volatile as the Flyers/Penguins match, but make no mistake about people will be hitting hard enough someone will be told go see the doctor before the series is over. The two teams were both in the bottom five in blocked shots this season, the Kings have slight PK advantage, and the Canucks hold title to a better powerplay. The Kings own a better defense and goaltender and the Canucks generated more overall offense.
The important part though is what’s happened in the last 45 days. The Kings added a top six forward to their team, and the Canucks had one sent off with a concussion, as well as losing defenseman Keith Ballard, and Zach Kassian’s physical element.
The skill edge outside the crease belongs to Vancouver, inside to the Kings, the will edge is something you can debate amongst yourselves.
2: St Louis Blues vs 7: San Jose Sharks
This series features two teams with a lot of contrasts. The Sharks haven’t failed to be a top four team in a while, the Blues haven’t won the division in quite some time. The Blues are getting contributions across the board from a solid cast of stars without any true superstars, and no one in the league has put more points on the board since October 8, 1997 than Joe Thornton, the Blues have just two twenty goal scorers, while the Sharks have three thirty goal men.
If the Blues get the goaltending they’ve gotten all year from their dynamic duo of Elliott and Halak they go on to round two, if they continue the funk that left the drifting into the playoffs going just 4-3-3 in their last ten things are unlikely to be sweet music.
3: Phoenix Coyotes vs 6: Chicago Blackhawks
First congrats to the Coyotes on winning their first franchise Pacific Division title. While the Nashville/Detroit series will get the hype, this one may have the heat. The Blackhawks have better talent a the top of their roster, but in the bottom half it’s not even close, the Coyotes are much better on their 3rd and 4th lines and lower defensive pairs. More importantly is the quality of goaltending isn’t even close. Mike Smith has had a Vezina worthy season, the guys in Chicago would be lucky to win top goaltender in the AHL.
The Coyotes proved they can win both home and on the road, the Blackhawks struggled on the road at times and finished just .500 on the road this season. Neither team has a powerplay worth mentioning, in fact it’s entirely possible we could see this series close without a single powerplay goal for either team, but the Coyotes have a much better penalty kill. Edge: Coyotes.
4: Nashville Predators vs 5: Detroit Red Wings
The biggest surprise to everyone outside Detroit this season is not that they finished outside the top four, but how much their goaltending helped them. Jimmy Howard bounced back in a big way after being flat last season, which is possibly they only reason they made it into the playoffs. I’m not sure when the last time the Detroit Red Wings entered the playoffs against a better powerplay, better penalty kill, better road record, than their own. Much like the St Louis vs San Jose series, you’ve got a younger team with the talent spread out vs a team with a handful of aging ringers.
With the Blue winning the division, and the Predators getting the last home ice slot, it looks like the guard in the central division is changing.
March 29th, 2012 — Uncategorized
With Gauthier and Gainey both out the door on Montreal, the search will begin in earnest for the new hand at the helm. If Molson is serious about getting the team to contend again, he almost certainly needs a person who’s crazy enough to want to step into the inferno that is the Montreal daily lot, and experienced enough with building a contender or champion to have a shot at lasting. Dale Talon is probably having too much fun in Florida to consider making a lateral move even if it is to an original six franchise. Jim Nill of the Detroit Red Wings springs to mind as someone who might be a great fit, he’s overseen their prospect development for years and has been part of that organization since before the lockout. While more likely to want to move west than north, Dave Taylor of the St Louis Blues has extensive experience and could be the steady hand that is needed. Another really intriguing choice might be Lorne Henning of the Vancouver Canucks, he’s won Cups as a player and coach.
Back To The Blueline
Joe Corvo having sat out several games as a “banged up but healthy” healthy scratch, will be back in the lineup for the Boston Bruins tonight. The Washington Capitals will get to face him instead of defensive stalwart Dennis Seidenberg. A cut suffered in a game against the Kings that became infected is to blame. Interestingly Mike Mottau is not going back in. Tim Thomas will man the crease. Assuming a magic number of 95 to clinch a playoff spot in the East this year, the Bruins will nail one down with a win, and the Capitals would need to win to retain any hope with just four additional games remaining
Two Will Do
A look at the schedule of action in the NHL for today will tell you the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars are both hoping for the exact same thing; a two point game between the Coyotes and Sharks. With two points and four regulation or overtime wins separating the four teams, we might not know who lands where until the final game goes into the books. Dallas, having the most in the ROW column has the first tie breaker if there is a points tie between them and another team, but it will be close.
And The Pink Slip Goes To
With Gauthier out the door in Montreal, it looks like open season on general managers is in effect. My guess is there will be three more general managers who get the ax between now and the middle of the playoffs. I suspect one from the southeast division, and possibly two from the Pacific. Almost any others would be a modest surprise, some would be an enormous one.
March 21st, 2012 — Uncategorized
With the playoffs oh-so-tantalizingly-close for some teams, and out of reach of many, here’s a few story lines to keep yourself busy while you wait for the second season.
- What franchise most needs to be blown up if they get anything less than the Cup? The Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks? Or maybe its a near the top team like the Canucks who would be falling short again, how about the Wild?
- Which team likely to finish in a 6, 7, 8 spot is most likely to score a first round upset? In the east the Senators are playing well in front of Bishop and Anderson will be back soon. The Washington Capitals Ovechkin is warming up again, and Backstrom is skating again. Out west as tight as the Pacific division is, any 3-6 is likely to be an even closer matchup than the 4vs5 spot.
- The two most deserving candidates for two top awards are likely to get screwed, how many will end up voting against Kovalchuk for Hart and just as bewilderingly for anyone other than Dineen for Jack Adams?
- Will we see a suspension for anyone on a team jockeying for playoff position? We know the #NHLWheelOfJustice works in mysterious ways, will it take away the chance for a troubled franchise to rake in a few extra dollars by suspending a star?
- Can anyone catch the St Louis Blues in the race for the President’s Trophy?
- Will the Red Wings spiral continue once the playoffs start?
- Having finally matched the career best he set when he was in Boston of 36 goals, can Phil Kessel actually hit the 40 people have sworn up and down he was good for?
March 15th, 2012 — Uncategorized
1: St Louis Blues
Good News: If the playoffs started today you’d go home with a Division Title and a Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: No underdog status for you!
2: Vancouver Canucks
Good News: It doesn’t look like you’re going to have to worry about the ‘curse’ of the Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: That probably has something to do with being a .500 team over your last ten.
3: Dallas Stars
Good News: It certainly appears the new owners faith in the team was rewarded by solid play.
Bad News: Uh, no one start a pillow fight with Lethonen, you might actually need him healthy in May for a change.
4: Detroit Red Wings
Good News: Despite a 3-6-1 spiral you’re currently clutching the last spot with home ice in the first round.
Bad News: Nashville has two games in hand, can win on the road and at home, and could be your opening round opponent.
5: Nashville Predators
Good News: Still something to play for; namely home ice advantage in the first round.
Bad News: The division title is almost certainly out of reach.
6: Chicago Blackhawks
Good News: Toews is on the mend.
Bad News: Six of your final ten games are on the road where the team has been routinely scalped this season.
7: Phoenix Coyotes
Good News: Playing well on both home ice and the road means all else being equal you’ve got a good shot in the playoffs.
Bad News: The division title is probably out of grasp.
8: Colorado Avalanche
Good News: Landeskog, McGinn, O’Rielly have given the team a late push into a playoff spot.
Bad News: Don’t get used to the view, you’ve played more games with less ROW wins than anyone in range to take the 8 spot.
9: San Jose Sharks
Good News: All the key players are healthy.
Bad News: You’d never know the good news was true by looking at the 2-5-3 record in the last ten.
10: Calgary Flames
Good News: More ROW than anyone else from 8 down means the playoffs are still possible, especially with games in hand.
Bad News: Gotta win the games in hand.
11: Los Angeles Kings
Good News: Jeff Carter has finally warmed up.
Bad News: It will take more than just Carter and Quick to climb into the playoffs.
12: Anahiem Ducks
Good News: The playoff push since the new year were a valiant effort.
Bad News: Next year trying a smart effort from October might work better, and it might keep your prospects from jerking you by the short and curlies over where they sign after their college career is over.
13: Minnesota Wild
Good News: The teams weaknesses are easy to identify for off season attention.
Bad News: I’m not sure anyone trusts the current leadership to address the teams weaknesses.
14: Edmonton Oilers
Good News: Hooray! A better finish than last year!
Bad News: The free agent market probably isn’t going to provide enough to boost this club into the playoffs next year either.
15: Columbus Blue Jackets
Good News: Great draft potential at the top.
Bad News: Holding fan attention would probably be easier of that 1st pick overall and maybe the Kings first could be flipped for immediate help, but leadership probably will ask for six roster players, a prospect and three second round picks for them.
February 28th, 2012 — Uncategorized
Some teams you just can’t tell how the moves will work out. In some cases it is because the player is inexperienced, or going from a really good team to a bottom feeder and the adjust might period might be rocky. In some cases it is a question of the player fitting the system. In still others the chemistry of players left behind can be damaged.
The Vancouver Canucks took a big, big gamble on deadline day. Not only did they give up skill and experience. Zach Kassians physicality is a huge element to add to the team. Marc Andre Grangnani is also a skilled defenseman I’m pretty high on. But Cody Hodgson is not just skilled, he’s canny. He’s displayed the ability to be a game changer. Alexander Sultzer is a more defensive minded defenseman than Gragnani as well. The relative skill difference doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the age and attitude differences. Sultzer is 27 and broke into the NHL in 2008-9, Kassian just turned 21, and Gragnani is 24. While Sultzer didn’t play a huge role for the Canucks, I’m curious as to how the Sedins, Salo, Bieksa and the other older players are going to deal with being told, implicitly or explicitly, that they need to take their emotional cues from guys that young who have never even seen a conference final in Gragnani’s case or a single NHL playoff game in Kassian’s.
Even more you have to wonder if, should the team make it that far, if Kassian will have enough skill to be impacting on the ice or if he’ll just be setting things up for other players to take lumps for him. We saw last year in their series against the Bruins and in the earlier rounds that the bulk of this roster is not able to play ferociously and focused at the same time. I’m not sure Bitz and Kassian can impart that trick to the rest of the roster and shaking up a teams identity is rarely a good thing unless it is changed entirely from the top down.
The Winnipeg Jets didn’t do much. This is probably for the best given some of the prices we saw and that were reported. They did pick up defensemen Grant Clitsome (@GClitsome) off waivers and then shipped out Johnny Oduya to Chicago for two draft picks. They are still a bubble team and entered Monday’s play in 8th place, but given how desperate Claude Noel was for offensive help, its curious that there wasn’t even a token trade. A team that’s been as erratic as this one has could have used the vote of confidence implied by bringing in a little help, as it is they essentially stood still. This might rally the dressing room or deflate it.
The Boston Bruins gambled and gambled big. Their biggest question marks are offensive production and forward depth. Adding Greg Zanon, Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau does little to address that. With Rich Peverley out with a knee injury, Nathan Horton not even skating yet with his second concussion in a year, and now Boychuk out they added no one who has displayed an offensive gift of late. Mike Mattau hasn’t scored a regular season NHL goal since March 13th 2010. Since breaking into the NHL Greg Zanon has never had more than four goals in his seven seasons of NHL play. Brian Rolston is not the player some Bruins fans remember, not only has his shooting percentage dropped every year since 2004, he only hasn’t broken 40 points since the 07-08.
Tampa Bay Lightning had an interesting two or three weeks heading up to the deadline. Steve Downie was packed off, as was Dominic Moore, Aulie, Lee, a second round pick and a 1st round pick were the major fruits of the trades. Neither Aulie nor Lee have managed to be impacting players to date in their careers. The two picks are from teams who will almost certainly be in the playoffs meaning they first can’t be any higher than 17th and the 2nd will at best be 47th. Given the deficiencies of the defense and goaltending this season that seems an odd way to address them even if you lay the blame at the feet of injuries to key players and father time catching up with Roloson.
The Minnesota Wild rolled the dice by trying to add by substitution. Bringing in Steve Kampfer for Greg Zanon is a clear attempt to get younger and better offensively. Erik Christensen coming over from the New York Rangers earlier in the year was also a clear attempt to add offense. Gilbert for Shultz was again a swap up in offense. The problem with all of these trades is that the total goal difference is probably on the order of 7-8 goals a year. That is unlikely to be what separates a tenth place finish from a sixth or third place finish. If they had ten more goals to date this season it would move them from 29th in goals for to 27th, hardly inspiring. These may prove to be helpful moves, but you have to wonder how long even “The State of Hockey” will put up with a mediocre team that can’t score and doesn’t often stand up for itself.
February 27th, 2012 — Uncategorized
We’ll know when and how much teams won about June 15, and again a few days later on draft day. The biggest impacts from here on should be apparent almost from the word go.
The Nashville Predators have to be considered the biggest winners of the trading season. They added Hal Gill for leadership, defense first mentality, and Cup winning experience. They added Paul Gaustad who at 6 foot 5 and 212lbs becomes the largest forward in their top nine. Better still, they kept the BlackHawks (among others) from adding Gill’s experience or Gaustad’s size, the only real wild card is the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn. I have to give that at least a neutral for the rest of the season because he will get to play with Gill and his brother again, both of whom can help with the adjustment and give him someone he’s got some comfort with.
The Colorado Avalanche made a quiet move. It might get overlooked, and it won’t help them a great deal this year, but picking up Jamie McGinn is a good move because he’s a gamer. He doesn’t just lace up the skates and get on the ice, he goes out there and takes the ice. A lot of hits, a player who ends most years with more takeaways than giveaways. This doesn’t remake the whole character of team that needs serious reshaping but it is a start.
The Buffalo Sabres got the first round pick they wanted for Gaustad, and picked up some young skill in Cody Hodgson. Best of all in picking up a former Canuck they get someone who will put no stock in what Brad Marchand said about Buffalo being the worst place in the NHL.
The Washington Capitals lose. While the team isn’t going anywhere this season, the chance to jettison pieces that won’t be retained for assets either picks, prospects or players that may help in the future.
The St Louis Blues are also losers from inertia. Outside of their goaltending this team is aggressively average. They are 23rd in goals for, 27th on the powerplay, and 14th on the penalty kill. There is a lot of validity to the argument that having Andy McDonald back in the lineup is the best trade they could make, but other teams like Nashville and Detroit got deeper and Vancouver got got tougher.