Friday, December 30, 2005

The Spirit and the Sword

I just started getting interested in Napoleonic history again. The 'Canes play over the last few games reminds me of a quote often attributed to Bonaparte:

"There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit."

Of late, the Hurricanes remind me of Napoleon's army-deadly on the attack, but lacking in heart when placed on the defensive. The boys flat-out let Cam Ward down last night. The kid left it all on the ice. The last 6 minutes of the 3rd period and virtually all of the OT were spent in the Hurricanes defensive zone. You could just tell it was a matter of time before something broke the Flyers way.

Poetic justice for Sami Kapanen. On the day the last vestige of the trade that sent him to Philly (Krispy the Duck, errrr Dog) was sent packing in a head-case swap with the Coyotes, Sami scores the winning goal in the OT.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Redhawks Supreme

Bravo Zulu to the men of Oxford (Ohio)!
photo: curtiswalker.com

From nhl.com: "...Miami was ranked No. 2 in three National polls (including NHL.com) with a 12-2-3 overall record and stood a top the CCHA with a 10-1-1 conference mark. "

If Jack Johnson really wants to earn an NCAA championship before joining the pro ranks, maybe he should transfer to Miami University. Alain Chevrier (my generation), Kevyn Adams, and Danny Boyle all wore the Redskin/Redhawk sweater.

Sophomore, Hobey Baker candidate, and WJC Team USA member, Nathan Davis, leads the attack for the Redhawks in the final year of play in Goggin Arena. I too played on a championship in Goggin Arena during my collegiate years-The 1983 Winter Co-Ed broomball championship. Me in goal, a couple of fraternity brothers and their field hockey girlfriends were unstoppable that season!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas Hoser

How's it goin' eh?
Merry Christmas to all the blog brothers and sisters from the staff of one at CasonBlog

SCTV skits remain some of the best ever. Bob and Doug, Count Floyd, Earl Cannonbear, and most of all the late Dr. Tongue and his 3D House of Beef.

For you youngsters, enjoy this audio file for the holidays: http://aetherealforge.com/~aeon/humor/12days.shtml

In other news:
Cane's win ugly-'Ning lose and look bad. Life is good going into the break.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hey honey! Let's go eat Canadian tonight...

Ummmm, Donuts...
image: tim horton's
I've been watching this Tim Horton's commerical on Center Ice broadcasts that shows a Clint Eastwood-looking guy talking about his southwest chicken sandwich. Once the schtick is over and they start pitching the lunch, it turns out to be a spicy southwest chicken sandwich, a cup of coffee and a donut. How the hell do you combine, "...sautéed vegetables, Monterey Jack cheese and zesty sauce on a toasted focaccia bun," with a donut and call it lunch? What graduate of the Kamloops Culinary Academy ginned up the idea that you should follow spicy cayanne pepper seasoning or chipoltle sauce with a maple glazed crueller?

I'll bet your 'burg doesn't have any great Canadian food restaurants. Now you know why.

Counterpoint:
Maybe we shouldn't point the finger at Canadian management for this one. Horton's is part of the Wendy's operation. They are the ones who randomly combine incredients every six months or so, put it on a bun and call it their new taste sensation. Like their new Junior Smoky Cheddar burger. Now if I could just get it to go with a donut...

OBTW: My Team USA prediction (hope) prior to Torino:
Hatcher and Chelly go down with the gout, prostate problems, erectile disfunction, or some other old-guy ailment and Hedican and Martin or Mara step in.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Team USA Dark Horses


photo: hockeysfuture.com
...and starting in goal, Univision/Telemundo Heart-Throb Alavaro Montoya

OLN will host the announcement tonight of the Team USA roster. John Buccigross, ESPN's erstwhile hockey host, is out with his selections. Shawn Roarke of Fox Sports posted his prognostications as well. I hope Don Waddell opts for younger and faster guys this go around. I say invest in the future and let the old guys groins, knuckles, and mellons heal over the 3-week break.

on "D"
I like the idea of Paul Mara and Jordan Leopold getting shots in place of Bret Hedican and Aaron Miller. The 'Canes fan in me would just like to see Hedican (and Erik Cole for that matter) get the 3-week rest. Miller is a pretty solid defensive-defenseman, but won't push the puck or join the rush. Going with the young guys might just be a great investment Team USA-Next. Locks for me here include Mathieu Schnieder, John-Michael Liles, Brian Rafalski, and Paul Martin. All are all solid NHL defensemen with skills that translate well to the international game. Four years from now, we could be looking at a Team USA defensive corps with the carry-overs mentioned above plus the likes of Jack Johnson and Ryan Suter.

at Forward
I would like to see Tim Connolly and Chris Drury get shots in place of some combinaton of Keith Tkachuk, Mike York, Jason Blake or Mark Parrish. Drury is at his best in big games and Connolly is on pace for a 60+ point season and ahead of guys like Gomez, Weight, and York in the points race. The only locks for me at forward would be Rolston, Knuble, Conroy, Modano, and maybe Gionta. Bucci wants Dustin Brown on the squad. Right now I'm only seeing an agitator and bookend to Sean Avery, not a future star.

in Goal
I say Rangers prospect Al Montoya. WTF you say? At least he has a world championship under his belt. Can't be much of a let-down from consensus picks Robert Esche, Rick DiPietro, and John Grahame. The only other option would be to get a really, really fat guy to clog up the net. Hey, maybe Keith Tkachuk can join the team for the later rounds after two weeks off and lots of figgy pudding...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Grapes Makes the Case for Staal

Staal to don the Red, White and Black (sans Silver)
The HNIC stream below is billed as Don Cherry making the case for Jason Spezza, but he starts by making the case for Eric Staal's selection to Team Canada. I like the fact that Grapes thinks the past is past, and team selection ought to be based on who's performing in the here and now.

December 10, 2005: Don urges Team Canada to bring Jason Spezza to the Torino Olympics.» Real Video

Staal has a real opportunity here to contribute to what should be a gold medal winning team. The chance to play alongside Sakic, Iginla, Thornton, et. al. will refine his game at a stage when he's still evolving into the player he's going to be. Yeah, he/the 'Canes risk injury, but the upside for Eric and what he can bring back to this squad is too great.

At least with Staal there, I won't get so depressed when Team USA get's their clocks cleaned.

Lots of buzz in 'Caniac world about the longer term cost/benefit of Hurricanes playing in Turin. I agree with many pundits that Cole might best benefit from the three-week rest and the shock to his self-esteem from being left off. It might make him return newly inspired going into a contract year. Not that he doesn't play hard every night, it's just that he plays injured and hard nearly every night. Anyway, what's he going to learn at this stage in his career by playing with Roenick (god forbid), Guerin, Hatcher, et. al?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why I love hockey players: Volume 1

Every now and then, I'm reminded of why I love this sport and the characters who make hockey so compelling. Thus, the first installment of what I hope to be several issues in the series, "Why I Love Hockey Players."

Take a look at this video tour of the Brindy mansion from an NBC 17 feed. Roddy's crib looks just as you would expect the den of a hockey player to look who enjoys no direct female influence in his life. Almost no furniture to be seen. Other than a sweet kitchen, the Brind 'Amour manse is an 11K square foot Chuck-e-Cheese playground full of kid-friendly foam pits, trampolines, inflatible jumping things from your kid's last birthday party.

The killer is the only piece of real furniture they show in the video. Roddy's rough-hewn log bed. What a hoot. It's the only furniture in the MBR, and it looks like it was crafted by a drunk and blindfolded lumberjack with a chain saw. Only a hockey player would take pride in furniture from the Grizzly Adams collection. Yeah, Shaq has a climate controlled showroom for his Ferraris, but Roddy's got a coffee maker in his bathroom, and a bed that will give you splinters if the "play" gets too rough. Sweeet.

NBA, MLB, and NFL stars seem to know how to litter their lives with the trappings of wealth. If Roddy is any indication, hockey players struggle more with the display of their wealth. I used to see some very pedestrian vehicles at the Rec Zone on Hurricane practice days-lots of pick ups and GMC Yukons. Never saw anything nicer than Staal's (I think) Escalade. Imagine Eric Staal's single guy snake pit right about now. Unpacked luggage from the west coast roadie strewn about the entry hall, a huge HDTV, XBOX 360, surround sound, cable and Direct TV, a folding card table in the dining room and an inflatible camping mattress in the MBR. What a life.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What's Working and What's Not

Has anybody seen this Cory Stillman?
Props from the plain-speaking contributors to the LetsgoCanes.com discussion board are greatly appreciated. I'm not a student at UA, just a former North Carolinian living in warmer climes (it's partly cloudy and 70 degrees right now).

Caniacs Mobilize! I know the enemy and he's a Czech-o-Centric from western Canada. Check out Jes Golbez's jab at Puckit and general slap in the face of our collective Caniac hetero-manliness (not that there's anything wrong with a lack of hetero-manliness).

What's Working...
The youth movement: Unlike the floundering Panthers, JR decided to count heavily on the 'Canes meager but capable supply of young guns. Eric Staal is the real deal. The baby-faced assassin is producing balanced scoring right now both at even strength and on the PP. Staal is 4th in the league in scoring but only in the 80's in ice time (Jagr ranks in the 20's and Thornton in the 60's). Andrew Ladd was a force before his injury (4 goals in just 7 games). Justin Williams is on a tear of late and showing that he doesn't have hands of stone after all. He plays with the recklessness of Eric Cole, but he's starting to become a finisher.

Goaltending: Gerbs is without a doubt the man now in goal. He was the difference in taking Dallas to OT and he might just have well taken the ice by himself in the third period vs. the Kings. He's just 4 off the pace in wins, 7th in save percentage and 11th in goals against avg. Henrik Lundqvist might be a bigger story thus far, but it's looking like JR was right when he let Weekes go.

Old Guys on Defense: Lots of ranting after the 'Canes re-signed Glen Wesley. Lots of talk about moving Bret Hedican, his salary and bad back. Glen continues to crunch, grind, and make smart plays at critical junctures. Glen ranks around 14th in +/- and Bret around 22nd. AWard has gone from proverbial player-to-be-named-later trade bait to a real physical and steady presence. Aaron is playing hurt, blocking shots, carrying the puck, and the first guy to make a hit when it's time to change some momentum.

What's Not Working...
Free Agents: Ray Whitney has added finish to the PP (when he's healthy) and ditto Frankie Kaberle, but Oleg Tverdovsky has been an under-achiever to say the least. The 'Canes second highest paid player and highest paid blueliner ranks somewhere around 6oth place in scoring for NHL defensemen. Hell, he's only two points above AWard at this stage. Couple this with a return of his mellon problems, and we've got the makings of a $2+ mil. bust.

Matt Cullen looks lovely with the puck, but the franchise doesn't need Brian Boitano at center.

Cory Stillman got a nice contract with a no-trade clause that will take him to retirement, and he's playing with the complacency of a man who just landed a nice contract with a no-trade clause that will take him to retirement. His 25 points are enough to place him in around 40th place in the league and well below other free agents from last summer including Jason Allison, Pierre Turgeon, and Pavol Dimetra to name just a few.

Counting too Heavily on Team Speed
The 05-06 'Canes were built for speed, but what seems to happen when we meet teams that combine speed with size? The only guys banging right now seem to be CAdams and AWard. Cole will lay some lumber, but it's usually behind the play. The Thrashers have whacked us a couple of times. We're about the only team they are whacking. The boys don't seem to be able to drive Hossa or Kovalchuk off the puck. The Sharks came out playing the body in the second period the other night. The 'Canes couldn't break out of the defensive zone-couldn't even protect the puck in the defensive zone. Tverdovsky was just spitting pucks any time Swedish uber-enforcer, Nils Ekman, was in the vacinity. The Sharks basically owned the game until they went into a prevent defense with a three goal lead. Joe Thornton was King Kong and the 'Canes were pesky little biplanes.

Groins: What is the deal with all the groin injuries? Are these not world-class athletes? Occasional blogger, John Forslund, had a nice piece about how down players get when they are hurt and rehabing, so I would think groin health would be a big part of their conditioning routines. Have they not been using their groins since the lock-out? Sounds like a question for Trip Tracy, huh?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reflections on Saturday in PHX

Glad the 'Canes bounced back last night vs. the Ducks. Saturday night tested my faith. It's hard to blog about this team because the minute you think you get a read on their strengths and weaknesses they come back the next night and do a 180. It would be easy to blog for the Sens or Blues. You pretty much know what's going to happen each night. Not this team.

Saturday started with some Christmas shopping in Scottsdale. Rodeo Drive east it was. Went to Scottsdale's version of Streets at South Park err Point called Kierland. Botox enhanced, leather-skinned and plastic surgery scarred women in their 60's cruising the intersections in their BMW and Lexus convertible coupes or walking their recently shampooed poodles in and out of stores. Isn't it cute when some rich hag in leopard skin pants let's her little Shih Tzu urinate their way up and down a sidewalk? Scottsdalian Male counterparts could be seen strutting around in their Tommy Bahama or resort-branded golf wear and still wearing their golf shoes.

Went into a store called "The Counter." In this place you can dine on a gourmet sandwich (prepared in the most un-hygenic conditions imaginable and prepared by a very hip but un-hygenic sandwich chef) while you shop along one the wall for latest fashions in velour. You can also cross to the other side of the lunch counter and browse cute hand painted ceramic teapots, aromatic candles, and various knick-knacks. Step outside and you can check out one of their custom designed beach cruiser bicycles. These were just adorable. Big fat seats and tires with frames hand painted with pretty sunflowers and cute little monkeys. Take every element of shopping despised by straight men the world over, and wrap them into one intensly foo-foo establishment and you get The Counter. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

On to the game...
Andrew Hutchinson looked like he was out there for a Saturday morning pond hockey game with a nasty hangover. No sense of urgency. No edge in his game. Spicoli on skates.

Glen Wesley would have left his spleen on the ice if he thought it might bring the 'Canes a chance to win. He scrapped and clawed like a man possessed. I love Wes.

Eric Staal showed how he can take over a game. He scooped up the puck after a crappy Hutchinson pass and took it end to end and scored. The finish looked like an Eric Cole rush, but he finished. You could tell he was just pissed and said to himself, screw it, I'll do it myself.

Andrew Ladd hit everything in red. He's going to be a star if he doesn't destroy himself.

Mike Comrie pulled the sweetest toe-drag and wrister I've seen since Kevyn Adams' gem last season. He also agitated and took a very graceful dive that went un-called.

Denny Gautier should be forced to play without a visor and shin guards. Cheap shots and instigating were the highlights of his shifts. Sean Avery is a jerk, but he's right about Gautier.

Fat guy and his skateboard punk son next to me were a pain. Dad and teenage son traded F-bombs all night and seemed to hate everything about the game. They hated the refs when they made calls either way, they hated Torgy, the in-game host (well, actually so did I), railed against each player's obvious stupidity every time they took a penalty. You get the picture. It just makes you feel good to see fathers and sons bonding in such a manner.

Grampa Euro in front of me kept turning around to provide color commentary throughout the game. Nice enough guy. I just don't speak Serbo-Croation.

'Caniacs were in extremely short supply. Saw two in a beer line and two across the ice. I also saw a few of those ubiquitous Whaler jerseys. I had on my black Hurricanes windshirt with the big lidless eye and nobody seemed to notice. You can usually get heckled for wearing the opponents colors in their house, but I guess we're all safe in Phoenix. They must have had a nice lunch at The Counter.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Game Day PHX!

'Canes vs. Dogs Tonight!
My first chance to see the boys live tonight in PHX. Section 112-Sweeet...

Tough loss in overtime last night. Hutchinson looks like he's arrived, so Red and Black can start taking pride in his avatar. Concur with your analysis on the shoot-out goal on continuation by Modano. It the puck hits the glass on goes in after rolling on end for a few seconds, is that a goal in the shootout? To my eyes, Gerbs stopped the puck on the line. As he shifted to get up, the butt of his stick tipped it over. Granted, it was a pretty bang-bang play. Oh, well, if we take advantage of all the third period power plays, it doesn't get to a shootout.

Looks like Justin Williams is about to prove he doesn't have hands of stone after all. His deflection of the Hutchinson shot from the point was a thing of beauty. Roddy and Cole are back to being prime candidates for induction into the hands of stone hall of fame.

What was the deal with Staal falling down all over the ice last night? It looked like he was re-living some adolescent growth spurt. I wonder if his voice was cracking?

Hope the boys are good and bitter tonight. Can't wait to see Staal and Ladd.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

CasonBlog Prognosticates Team USA

James Mirtle is out with his Team Canada locks. I'm sure Jes is close behind with his Team Bohemia picks. Thought I'd jump ahead with my thoughts on who I think will form the core membership of Team USA heading to Turin.

Forwards: Eric Cole, Matt Cullen, Mike Modano, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Mike Knuble, Zach Parise, Jeff Halpern, Shawn Bates, David Legwand, Mike York, Richard Park

Defensemen: Paul Martin, John-Michael Liles, Jordan Leopold, Ryan Suter, Aaron Miller

In Goal: Rick DiPietro, John Grahame, Ryan Miller

Grampas on the bubble: Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, JR, Mathieu Schneider, Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams, Hal Gil

Note to self: Dan Boyle is a distinguished former Miami Redhawk (currently #1 in the CCHA), but he's is not an American. Otherwise he'd (still) be on this list ;)

The New Big Ass Shark

Bully to Joe Thornton. Back when I first started blogging this summer, I did a post calling Joe the Larry Brown of hockey. I said he's a guy who just needs daily love and maintenance. He definitely wasn't getting it in Beantown. In San Jose, Joe can be a star and not have to answer for every stumble.

I think Thornton's in for a Heatley-like renaissance. The burden of command is gone. Joe was made captain of one of hockey's most storied (and underachieving) franchises at age 23. Were any of us ready for that kind of responsibility and limelight a year out of college? He's always struggled wearing the "C." Now he has a chance to be part of a solution, not a fallen savior.

I got the chance to watch Thornton last full season in Atlanta. He took over the game in the third period. I saw him carry two Thrashers on his back and around the back of the net during a rush. He carried them to the slot and still got off a wicked wrister (don't recall if he scored). He's a beast, and I think San Jose is about to rebound.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Staal turns it up a notch

CasonBlog in PHX!
Finally getting to see the boys up close Saturday night in Glendale. Section 112, Row U. No netting and no nose bleed. Booo Yah!

Nice bounce back by the boys last night. Eric Staal's post-breakaway goal glare down of Kovalchuk was especially sweet. More than the other guys, Staal seems to take losing and the grandstanding of prima donna Euros personal - and that's good. Staal turned the frustration of the previous game into a fundamental change in the way he approached each shift last night. He's making the transition from flashy playmaker to physical presence. He's already passed Alexi Yashin on his way to Joe Thornton. It's the normal NHL hockey player maturation process accelerated to light speed with Eric.

I keep hearing the key to the 'Canes quick start is that they are just out skating opponents. Last night we still saw speed, but with a touch of mean. Unlike the last few games, they played like they expected to get to the puck first, get the good bounce, and create the next opportunity.

Lots of glow in the message boards today for AWard. I left a post about the pick he set to take two Thrash defenders out of the picture on the Kaberle goal. He also took a wicked slapper to the chest from Kovalchuk, and stayed out for the subsequent face-off. He's just been a rock on D. Aaron's playing smart, clean and with a great sense of timing on his hits (I hope Mikey C is taking notes). He's also blocking shots like he's got Ian Laperriere's face.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Getting What You Pay For

My wife likes to say, "You get what you pay for." That often means we end up spending a lot more money than intially intended, but the phrase often rings true in life and hockey. We bought a Kirby vacuum in 1990 for around $1K. At the time, that money would have been better spent elsewhere, but that machine still sucks-in a good way, as far as vacuums go.

Last night, the 'Canes got thrashed...again. Atlanta dropped over $15 mil on Kovalchuk, Hossa, and Holik, and at least last night, the investment showed signs of paying off. Two breakaway goals from two proven finishers. Gerber faced ten less shots than 5th stringer Garnett, but gave up two on break-aways.

I think the tide might be turning in the Southeast. If Lehtonen comes back strong from his groin injury, the Thrash will be solid in goal, and we might soon be looking up at both ATL and the Lightning.

The 'Canes big off-season acquisitions of Tverdovsky, Stillman and Whitney cost $5.75 mil. Last night, Tverdovsky was out with an undisclosed ailment (apprently centered somewhere between his ears), a now sluggish and mistake-prone Stillman has generated only one point in the last five games, and power-play specialist Whitney is still out with a seemingly chronic groin ailment. I don't know why lack of mobility should keep Whitney out of the lineup. Jeff O'Neill serves as living proof that you don't have to be mobile to score goals on the PP-just park in the high slot on the backside and wait for Sundin to feed you the one-timer.

I think we're getting what we paid for.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kaitonisms, Forslund's Doo, and Trip in Control

I'm seeing horns...
photo: Apex KOC
Listening to 'Canes radio voice, Chuck Kaiton, on the Sirius radio during the drive home last night I was reminded of his unique pronunciation of Czech and Slovak names. I first noticed his seemingly odd pronunciation pattern years ago. He always called Marek Malik, "Malek Mahleek." Last night I heard Chuck call Radim Vrbata, "Razim Vuh-bata." He also called Thomas Kaberle, "Toe-moss Kahber-lah." Is he a deft integrator of eastern european dialect or a hopelessly clueless linguist? He doesn't seem to fiddle with the pronunciation of most other other Czech or Slovak names.

Got home to watch the 'Canes broadcast on Center Ice and was struck by the continuing deterioration of John Forslund's control over his hair. He seems to have added an additional 2-3 quarts of Mobil One to the mullet hoping I guess to give it more body. Unfortunately, he's forming hair horns with this now radical fore-and-aft comb over. I'm sure John's a great guy-he's just starting to look a bit demonic.

I've really enjoyed Trip thus far this year. Less non-sensical dialog about dinner the night before. Less name dropping and more thoughtful analysis. His hair also looks marvelous....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Big Ups to the Windy City

crappy photo: me
The View from Section 321
I was in Chicago for the first part of this week and took in the Blackhawks-Oilers game Sunday night. The rumors of the demise of the "Bulin Wall" have been greatly exaggerated. He was great. The rebounds he did give up were ones he aggressively pushed out of harm's way. On Sunday night, he was the old cat-like Khabibulin. Mark Bell missed a hat-trick when he doink'd an open net 20 foot shot off the right post.

I was impressed with Mathew Barnaby's hustle-it was good hustle, not agitating. He was working hard to make plays.

Chris Pronger is so poised with the puck-never rattled, always physically owns the ice within his immense stride. Ryan Smyth is also a joy to watch. You can tell he just loves to play the game with reckless abandon. During the pre-game skate, he didn't just do a few laps then go stretch and shoot the bull for 15 minutes at center ice. He started flying the minute he hit the ice, and was the last one off the ice when the skate was over. He's Erik Cole with hands.

A huge highlight of the night was the opening national anthems. I've never heard a US crowd cheer Oh Canada with as much vigor. The real suprise was when the singer burst into the Star Spangled Banner. The crowd clapped and roared throughout the whole song! They cheered every high-note and the end every line in the song. Immediately after, I turned to the guy next to me, and asked if this was a Chicago thing. He said since 9-11, that kind of reaction was common at every Chicago sporting event. The guy had tears in his eyes. Now I'm a veteran and R,W & B to the core, but I have never seen an outpouring of emotion like that at an event not specifically scripted to be a patriotic event.

The rest of my stay in Chicago was marked by cold 40 mph winds, cold sleety rain, and cold blowing snow. On Wednesday, a Channel 5 TV reporter stopped me on Michigan Avenue and asked me how I was enjoying the onset of Chicago's winter season. I told her I would only get to "enjoy" the wintery mix for the time it took me to get to O'Hare and get on a plane. Great city, but nice to be out of 20 degrees and gray and back in 70 degrees and blue.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Enough with the Skirts

photo: the oakland press
Robert McLang and His Kilt
I first noticed it with Robert Lang. It's now spread to others including young and impressionable players like Kyle Wellwood. Michael Jordan introduced the baggy pant-now baggy has joined with droopy to become the unfortunate fashion norm in sports.

Designed for convenience, the zippered inseam hockey pant was a great innovation. The design concept seemed sound-a hockey pant you could slide on over your skates. Guys like Lang and Wellwood are now abusing the convenience.

Washington Redskin, Clinton Portis, was fined this week for wearing striped socks and non-approved shoes. The least the NHL could do is fine Lang for wearing a non-approved skirt on the ice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Leaf-Nation Spin Cycle

Once my Bengals locked up the "W" against the Ravens on Sunday, I started watching the Leafs/Craps game. In the third period, Leafs announcer Joe Bowen made the comment that Leafs always had to play at a disadvantage because every other team in the league (including obviously the lowly Craps) stepped up whenever they played the Leafs. He went on to say that in particular, the Ontario-born players were the ones who stepped up the most. The truth on Sunday was that they were out-hustled and out-disciplined by the Craps.

There are only four Ontario-born players on the Craps roster. Only two log any significant ice time (Willsie and Emminger). Washington's captain is American-born and their best player is a Russky. Jeff Halpern was born in 1976, nine years after the Leafs last won the Cup. Ovechkin was born eighteen years after that last Cup.

Delusions of grandeur remain strong in Leaf-Nation. The first step in fixing a problem is to accept that you have a problem. To Leaf apologists it's always somebody else's fault. Yes, within Leaf-Nation there is always plenty of name calling and back-biting. But to us outlanders, they want to be seen as the New York Yankees of hockey. The only problem is, unlike the Yanks, the haven't won squat in almost fourty years. Just once I want to hear somebody on Leafs TV tell the truth about this underachieving and heartless team without qualifying every utterance with the word, "but."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

"Coveting" Comrie?

photo: onlinesports.com
Comrie? We don't need no stinkin' Comrie...
I started the morning with a look at Spector today and he had an entry referencing comments made by the Arlington Heights Daily Herald's Tim Sassone. The close of passage includes a line about the 'Canes coveting Mike Comrie. I don't get this rumor for a variety of reasons.

  1. The lidless eye is flying right now and really don't need a guy straight out of Gretzky's doghouse.
  2. We are fat at center with Staal, Roddy, Cullen, and Kevyn doing just fine thanks (hell, lumbering ole' Vasicek can't lock down any time at center as it is).
  3. Comrie's track record of acrimonious relations with management make him a potential clubhouse nightmare.
  4. Comrie is making $1.7 mil-that would make him the 5th highest paid player on this squad above red-hot players like Staal, Cullen, Cole, and alternate captains Adams and Wesley.

All that being said, the chance to get Comrie for some deal involving dead wood Vrbata and a Phx commitment to eat some salary is enticing.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Return of Doc Holliday

In Vino Veritas

One of my all time favorite movies is Tombstone. Kurt Russell stars, but Val Kilmer steals the movie. Kilmer's Doc Holliday is an absolute train wreck. Wracked with pain both emotional and physical, drunk his entire waking day to escape the demons of his past transgressions and the tuberculosis that will soon take his life, he's the uber-cool anti-hero.

Jeff O'Neill returns to the Triangle tonight as the 'Canes face the Leafs. Harken back if you will to the spring of 2002. The 'Canes cup run had just come to an end and the city of Raleigh threw a party for the Eastern Conference champs. Doc O'Neill showed up for the event unshaven, disheveled and a couple of sheets to the wind (No stranger to the bottle, Jeff picked up two DUI charges/one conviction during his tenure with the 'Canes). At one point, "O" seized the microphone and proceeded to ramble and grunt his way through a series of unconnected predictions of retribution and promises of future team greatness. Most shrugged off Jeff's antics, attributing them to his disappointment after failing to win the cup. Jeff was just such a competitor, he couldn't cope with losing. After three consecutive years of 60+ point production, O'Neill finished an injury riddled '03-'04 season with only 34 points-a season where Jeff was frequently clashed with head coach Paul Maurice over inconsequential things like work ethic, attitude and commitment.

In a cruel twist of irony, Jeff lost his brother in a car wreck this summer right before the O'Neill family got the chance to celebrate Jeff's signing with the beloved Leaf Nation.

By all current accounts, O is returning a changed man. I hope so because the old one was, to quote Val Kilmer's Holliday, "a huckleberry."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Trade Winds

photo:theahl.com
He's Moved Up From #21 to #2 (on his jersey)
'Yotes Blueliner, Keith Ballard
Spector and thefourthperiod.com reported today that Vrbata and possibly AWard are available for the right deal. Supposedly, Chicago, Florida, Phoenix and Columbus are looking for a "scoring forward."
Spector also reports that Comrie is on the outs with Phx brass. Tell you what, the 'Yotes flat-out reek. The two Coyotes with the most ice time are Mara and David Tanabe. Tanabe (as you 'Canes fans might have guessed), is a -5. Paul Mara is 0 in the plus/minus column. The Coyotes high priced forwards are bringing bupkis to the rink right now. The most exciting player on the ice is relative newcomer Oleg Saprykin. These boys are deep in the hurt locker and need to make a change soon to salvage the Great One's aura.

I don't think the 'Canes want to screw much with team chemistry. I would hazard to guess that Vrbata adds nothing to this team's chemistry. But I don't like the trade buzz about AWard. He's earned his place on the squad this year. There is still a place for a stay-at-home defenseman, as long as he can skate. I'm not convinced Mikey Commodore is the guy yet.

That being said, an interesting deal might be Vrbata and AWard for Kolanos and Ballard. Phoenix has been reported shopping Kolanos for a while. He's pretty big, plays center and wing, he's got nice hands and concussion problems. I love this Ballard kid. He was ditched by both the Sabers and the Avalanche before coming to Phoenix, but he's fast, aggressive with the puck and just a little nasty. The 'Yotes have youth on the blueline now and in the pipeline, and a potential #1 or #2 with Michalek. AWard would bring instant stability to the Phoenix blueline. Vrbata would add another soft floater to motor around on the periphery. On second thought the Coyotes already have about 5 of those guys.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Staal-Arriving

photo: canes
Boyish Good Looks Hide a Killer Instinct
What a comeback tonight vs. hockey elite's golden boys-the flightless waterfowl! The boys looked dead on their blades the whole second period-everybody doing the Vasicek half-speed drill. Then came the third. The men of the lidless eye own third periods these days.

Favorite vignette: His Mario-ness taking exception to Staal's skate-to-skate crunch in the third. Yeah, it can be reckless to run at a guy like that, but it didn't look intentional on Eric's part. Mario dropped a couple of F-bombs on our boy, but it looked like Staal just glared back...Whatever grampa.

Staal brings a kind of sereness to his shifts. I just get the sense when he's on the ice that he's in control of the tempo as well as the puck. I roll forward in my seat whenever I see #12 on screen. I can't say I've ever felt that way with any previous Hurricane. If I did it was in anticipation of doom. I guess I've gotten conditioned over the last two years.

Staal's first couple of strides are so powerful and fluid. Vasicek probably has over 20 pounds on Staal, but he get's ridden off the puck far more than Eric. Staal blasts across bluelines while Joe tip-toes, wheels, and tries to dump a weak and dangerous pass across the center of the ice. Cole blasts across bluelines too. He's just out of control most of the time. Staal is almost always in control.

Happy 21st B-Day Eric. Enjoy a few Iron City's with the boys and your dad.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Looking Ahead to Broad Street Bully Night

photo: evil empire ministry of propaganda
Hockey's Darth Sidious (with his front toofus)

It's Waterloo...Southern Style
I can't wait for tonight's contest. It's gonna be the early season pitched battle between the not so evil and hockey's evil empire (HT Jes and the Evil Index). It's the ultmate test of team design in hockey's new world order. It's the $36 mil payroll vs. the $26 mil payroll. It's the under-the-radar investment in speed and offensive skills vs. the high profile $13 mil signing of an inury prone superstar of two years ago and two hulking redwoods on D. It's flamboyance and big city arrogance vs. small town work ethic. It's our kids on the verge of stardom vs. theirs.

Things I'll be looking out for:

  • Staal busting across bluelines with speed, power, and stickhandling
  • The exact time-of-the-period when I'll start really wanting somebody to whack Brashear ( I doubt Lavvy's gonna sit Jesse tonight)
  • Cole drawing hooking and interference penalties as he blasts by the redwoods and crashes into Esche, the post, the boards, etc.
  • Tverdovsky getting caught up ice on an untimely pinch
  • CWard, or more likely Gerber, facing a ton of shots
  • Esche giving up the game winner late

Thursday, October 27, 2005

JR Spiralling Towards Genius?

At this fleeting moment in time, the JR and Hurricanes brass look like friggin' geniuses. While a slew of teams including NJ, SJ, Edm, ATL, are in desperate need of help in goal, adjusting to the new rules, and keeping their groins healthy, the lidless eye is sitting pretty with the realtively healthy netminding tandem of CWard and Gerber, a solid positional and puck pushing blueline with additions Mikey C, Tverdovsky and Frankie Kaberle, and comeback-capable scoring fueled by Cole, Roddy, Staal, Stillman, Whitney, and Cullen.

Kaberle, Commodore, and Gerber were picked up before the free agent stampede that followed the lock out. Those investments look pretty solid right about now.

Time for a little Southeast UFA investment comparo to date:
Holik: $4.25 mil -3 pts
Hossa: $5 mil -10 pts
Nieuwendyk: $2.5 mil -3 pts
Roberts: $2.5 mil -0 pts
Cassels: $1.5 mil - 3 pts
Tverdovsky: $2.5 mil - 6 pts
Stillman: $1.75 mil - 8 pts
Whitney: $1.5 mil - 5 pts
Kaberle: $1.3 mil - 6 pts
Cullen: $668 k - 9 pts

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Random Rants on a Wednesday


Thrashers: Hartley's boys are thugging it up. The Boulton hit on Ranger-the Boulton-Exelby-Sutton gangland hits on the Leafs all point to a frustrated team and a coach who handles adversity with no class. For a cool $4.25 mil a year, Bobby, the Missing-Holik, has amassed three points over the first ten games-that's around $1.4 mil per point thus far. Oh yeah, I forgot about all that leadership he was gonna bring.

Jackets: So much energy in that town for sooo long, and still they suck. The other night versus the Wings was a debacle. Both Denis and Zhverdev looked like they wanted to cry. Zhverdev looks lost. He'd start to drive with the puck, get rubbed off and then sulk. Same with Denis. In one instance, he sprawled face down on the ice to make a save and then just stayed there with his head buried while some Wing was burying the puck. The image of Denis face down on the ice basically symbolizes the Jacket Nation experience to date. Columbus deserves better.

Craps: The 'Canes just had their way with the Craps the other night. Ovechkin was never a factor in the contest. By the end of the second period, Kolzig looked like a deranged postal employee in search of the nearest deer rifle.

'Canes: Finding a way to win. Nice bit of agitating, opportunism, and dive-taking the other night against the Sens. I can't remember the last time the 'Canes beat the Sens. The boys were probably thinking that in the third period as well. They fell apart in their own zone and Gerber had to save their donuts and the one-goal lead. Looks like the issues in goal the Hurricanes were supposed to plague them this year aren't so bad after all. Actually, Carolina is sitting pretty with Cam and Gerber slamming the door on a nightly basis. What would the Thrash give right about now for either of our tandem? At the start of the season I called them "a faceless pack of opportunists on the forecheck." They are living up to that description thus far.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

'Canes and Leafs

It's Roddy on the Breakaway!
No Mas! No Mas!
photo: historiodelboxeo
The boys showed lots of grit tonight. Liked how they swarmed and battled. The penalty Staal took at the end of OT was an unlucky break.

Lavvy ought to just leave Williams, Brindy, and Cole and a line and call it the Roberto Duran line because these three have hands of stone. Cole steamrolls into a collision on two breakaways before scoring in a typically unorthodox fashion on his last. Roddy nails a sweet one-timer and then pulls a Cole, driving the puck right into Belfour's pads. Sooooo many missed chances, soooo many clanking pipes and open nets. Arrrrgh!

Joe Vasicek looked like the featured star of the Lurch-Capades out there. If it wasn't for his wingspan, he would have been truly invisible tonight. Slow, lumbering, clumsy with the puck. Sit him next game and move Kevyn Adams up the shift chart. Once again Kevyn's not getting the love. Why not try Staal, RodBerto, Adams, and then Cullen running the 4th line for a change?

Tverdovsky had a Oh-Nozolinsh moment tonight leading to the Tucker goal. I guess that's the risk you take with a guy who treats every shift like he's point on the PP.

Time to look forward to Saturday night in the Nation's Crapital.

Monday, October 17, 2005

AWard Glow

Jumpin' Giontas Batman! AWard is here to play-here to stay!
photo: carolina hurricanes
In a previous posting, I joined in on widespread speculation that JR might be looking to move a blueliner early in the season. I singled out AWard in a bit of hopeful and projective speculation thinking moving AWard might make room for Danny Richmond on the big squad. I was a bit puzzled when Bruno St. Jacques was shipped to Anaheim for cast away Craig Adams. Despite his shortcomings, I thought we might get more for AWard. TSN raps Ward as "Lacking consistency and confidence in his ability." In years past I would have been quick to second that rip. Back then, you could hear his lack of confidence in interviews, especially when asked about his future with the team. You could see indecision and frustration in his play. During the '03-'04 season he tended to take dumb penalties at very inopportune moments. We weren't scoring any goals, so dumb penalties always seemed to lead to PP goals that sealed the 'Canes doom.

That was then. Right before the start of the season, several 'Canes made a promotional stop at a Durham Bulls game. Pix from the event show a lean and chisled AWard in a black mock turtleneck. Dude looked a bit like that Soviet assassin from the Bond flick From Russia with Love (I mean the one on the left). I chimed in on Red and Black's discussion after the last Crapitals game noting how much I loved the fact that AWard got a couple of solid and clean whacks in on Brendan Witt. Loved the video of our boy glaring down dismissively at an agitated Witt while barking something akin to, "Scoreboard baby!" (numerous expletives most likely omitted). Witt got his revenge through a cheap shot from behind on Roddy after the horn.

All we were missing to make it a complete evening of 'Canes/Craps hockey was a Nancy Kerrigan-like shot to the knee from our old pal Jason Doig. But alas, Jason is probably breaking kneecaps in a beer league right about now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

OLN and the Sirius Satellite Radio

Jonesy, Knock off the Hand Twitches, eh!
photo: si.com
I'm having real trouble watching the OLN broadcasts. Their studio show is wretched. Keith Jones and the hand twitching is really annoying. Bill Clement, who I loved as a color man on ESPN broadcasts of yesteryear is really clumsy out of the gate. I heard a line the other night akin to, "The (team name here) are home, and that's where they like to be." cutesy homespun catchphrases off the cuff didn't work for Dan Rather either.

Camera work is another thing OLN hasn't figured out. In their effort to bring the lens closer to the action, they always seem to be behind the flow of the game. When the cameraman realizes that the play is now 20 yards up ice, he whips the camera around to catch up. This leads to in-game bouts of vertigo and post-game migraines.

I like the mikes on the refs, but just like Sunday night football, mikes on the players yield little insight into the game. Tonight I heard Shane Doan miked up to provide us with thrilling dialog like, "Come on boys, let's get the next one." At other times they've merely replayed grunts and background noise.

On the lighter side, I bought a Chrysler Pacifica last week. My kids (I've got 4) call it a station wagon or a minivan. I prefer to call it the Mercedes. The car has a Sirius satellite radio in the back. I didn't buy the car with any plan to use the thing-it just so happened to come with the radio. I saw a posting on a Hurricanes message board last weekend where a poster asked others if they had the XM radio. This kind of piqued my interest. I activated the thing just prior to the 'Canes/Pens game and was able to listen to Chuck Kaiton call the game on the way home from work---In Tucson! Since the games back east start at around 4 pm my time, it should be a nice companion on 40 minute drive home. Plus the music channels are sweet! (this is not a paid endorsement)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

After an 8 Minute Glance


From Opey to Ahhhhnold in Just Two Years!
photos: carolina hurricanes
Dude is starting to look like Dolph Lundgren, eh? Apparently, Eric Staal was the only 'Cane who's play generated any anticipation last night.

I caught the last eight minutes of the third period on the free Center Ice stream last night. The boys looked disjoint. The Bolts, with a comfortable lead, looked like champs. One game does not a season make, right? Still, it was a bit disturbing to see Aaron Ward playing left wing at the close of the debacle. I remember Maurice moving Tanabe to wing just before he became a Coyote. I heard a rumor that we picked up a left winger named "Whitney" over the summer. Anybody seen the guy? I'd check, but I just pulled my groin....

Gerbs is out with a hip issue, so it's an all Kid-Crew now. If Cam gets in a jam, Lavvy can toss Kevin Nastiuk and his zero games of experience into the fray. Oi Vey (to quote the Acid Queen)...

Predictions Part Deaux

With one day of play in the books, I'm ready to make even more baseless '05-'06 predictions for the NHL's Western Conference:

Central
xDetroit - A culture that understands how to win remains
xNashville - Good goaltending + Young and hungry players
Columbus -Young and hungry with Foote and his rings to role model
Chicago -Bulin Wall and Aucoin, but old habits are hard to break
St. Louis - Spending and eating their way out of contention

Northwest
xCalgary-Close enough to taste it in '04, now rested and ready to charge
xVancouver - Mean and talente up front, but Cloutier still questionable in goal
xEdmonton - Pressure is on after the summer additions
Colorado - Rebuilding around Aebischer?
Minnesota - An enigmatic team personality makes this one a tough call

Pacific
xSan Jose - Not a lot of personnel changes on a team with good chemistry last go
xAnaheim - Neidermeyer and the kids will do well in the relatively weak Pacific
xDallas- Mary Turco can carry a team
LA - Issues in goal and in JR's cranium
Phx - Can The Great One stomach rebuilding?

Calgary moves on to face the Sens in the Cup final

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Predictions...Sure to Crash and Burn

Hope springs eternal here at CasonBlog. Here are my Eastern Conference picks (x marking the playoff bound teams) for this season:

Northeast:
xOttawa-They're mad, and they're not going to take it anymore
xBoston-Great mix of youth and maturity
xMontreal-Youth and speed kills
Toronto-Fratricide and civil war breaks out in Leaf Nation
Buffalo-Wandering aimlessly

Southeast:
xTampa-Marty and Vinny rule under the new rules
xCarolina-Vasicek, Cole, Williams emerge as stars
Atlanta-If they sign Ilya, they might move up
Florida-Applesauce and medicine for the grandpas
Crapitals-Overchkin grumbles about going back to Rooosha

Atlantic:
xPhiladelphia-Despite planting redwoods on defense
xNew Jersey-Wiley and always in the mix in a division not that strong
xPittsburgh-I'm talking Recchi, Mario, Dick, and Sergei, not so much Syd
NYI-Captain Yashin?
NYR-Under construction

Ottawa moves on to the Cup finals

Dateline Tucson: The Saberhawks of the Blogger Challenge #2 league today announced their opening day roster:

M. Modano (Dal - C)
P. Marleau (SJ - C)
E. Cole (Car - LW)
J. Sim (Phi - LW)
N. Zherdev (Cls - RW)
C. Kobasew (Cgy - RW)
S. Niedermayer (Anh - D)
B. Rafalski (NJ - D)
O. Tverdovsky (Car - D)
M. Komisarek (Mon - D)
E. Nabokov (SJ - G)
K. Lehtonen (Atl - G)

The Scratches: Gaborik (get well quick dude), Vrbata, Blake (make sure that knee is 4.0), Staal

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Flying Under the Radar

photo: Aftonbladet
When I first started blogging in July, preseason camps were just about to begin and I was looking over the 'Canes roster and seeing the same old faces. One totally unfamiliar face was Nicklas Nordgren-never heard of the guy. Did some Web research. Searching for "Nordgren" can be real cool cause you get links to bikini pix of Tiger's turbo-hottie wife. After this tasty diversion, I found one posting from a Zetterberg fan site and an article on a Swedish website that includes video. (You can run the second site through a translator and get a rough idea of the narrative). There is one interesting tidbit in the this second piece of media. The article basically announces Nordgren's impending departure to Raleigh. It seems (if I interpret the crappy translation correctly) that Nicklas had a glitch in his contract that would have totally released him from any rights ownership with the 'Canes if he didn't make the big club. I guess the LaRose or Nordgren decision was a no brainer, huh?

I exchanged emails over the night with Joachim Sandstrom, webmaster for the Timra Red Eagles, about Nordgren. Like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and teamate Frankie Kaberle, NN is a product of Sweden's Modo Hockey factory. A cursory glance tells me Modo is kind a of a Soviet style hockey immersion program. Here's a line from their website, "Since the sixties we have developed our own training model in order to rear youngsters into becoming world-class ice hockey players for whom team spirit and solidarity are the cornerstones." Sounds suspiciously like it could have been the mission statement of the old Red Army program. Dah comrade?

Joachim echoes what John Forslund and others are saying about his skating ability. He also says Nordgren's real value on the Red Eagles was on the PP. According to Joachim, he's a heck of a sniper. He finished second in scoring to Henrik Zetterberg on the third place Eagles, and played with Zetterberg on the Swedish Elite team's #1 line. I think we saw a glimpse of that talent with the two shorthanded goals Nordgren scored in the final preseason games.

All the preseason prognosticators have the 'Canes way down on the power rankings largely because the boys have done bupkis in the scoring department. Stillman, Whitney, Staal, Vasicek, Vrbata, and now maybe Nordgren will be counted on to change all that. We'll know soon enough. The puck drops tomorrow night.

Here's NN's career stats: http://www.eurohockey.net/players/show_player.cgi?serial=9935

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Preseason in the ATL

Friday Night Recap: Preds vs. Thrash
I was in Atlanta on Friday for a seminar and skipped the post-seminar happy hour to ride the MARTA with 3 million of my closest friends down to Philips Arena for the final preseason game of the Thrash. Here are my reflections...

Bang on the Glass Guy
I quickly realized one thing I didn't miss since my last NHL game-Bang on the Glass Guy. Every arena has at least one. The guy who charges down from row ZZ to pummel the glass in a fit of self-righteous indignation. Atlanta's Bang on the Glass Guy of the evening was no doubt an otherwise mild-mannered accountant with one those Michael Jordan shaved heads (to compensate for the fact that he's actually bald). Our anti-hero took exception to little Jordin Tootoo's participation in a scrum in front of the net. Yes, Tootoo had just clocked and put Shane Hnidy out of the game with a separated shoulder, but noooo, Petrovicky's charge and subsequent cross check on the Inuit dynamo while he was bent over the Thrash bench wasn't good enough for Bang on the Glass Guy. He had to get his piece of Tootoo through a sound glass thrashing followed by a few Hans und Franz flexes for the arena cameras.

Ban all Bang Sticks
Ok, I also realized another thing I hate in the NHL-Bang sticks. They give everybody who's not really there to see hockey and even more effective way to bother those around them. I started the first game with a kid on my right who managed to bang me with every third or fourth bang of her bang sticks. On my left was a young grunge couple who wanted to use their bang sticks (metaphor intended) as part of their little mating ritual tussle. By the start of the second period, I moved down next to two 300 pound black ladies who were a hoot. Every crushing check along the boards or every puck banging around the glass or dasher elicited whoops and wails from Star Jones and her twin. At times I felt like I was either on a roller coaster with them or maybe sitting next to them during a fire and brimstone sermon.

Now to the Game
Danny Markov: God I wish he was still a 'Cane. Danny is the consummate pond hockey player. He's all over the ice, in on a lot of rushes, looking for the puck the way a winger would. Pinched in but always seemed to get back in position just in the nick of time. I watched him head for the bench at the end of a shift. He pretended to skate slowly until he say one of the Trashers motoring by. He sped up enough to make it look like he was trying to get off the ice and only inadvertently pounded the Trasher into the sideboard.

Braydon Coburn: Plays with an edge, but made some dumb mistakes. Got beat a couple of times transitioning and took a bad penalty on a cross check away from the play.

Ryan Suter: This kid has the genes. Seemed always in control and in position. Made some great outlet passes. Skated stride for stride with Marion Hossa after a loose puck and broke up what should have been a scoring chance.

Jordin Tootoo: Can't help but focus on him when he's out there. tough little son of a bitch. His hit on Hnidy carried far more force than you would think the little guy could muster.

Kari Lehtonen: Smooth as the other side of the pillow (props to Stuart Scott). Made some fantastic saves with the pads down low and with the glove on a point blank shot from the slot. With conditioning and maturity, this kid could be a star. Wishful thinking since he's one of my Blogger Challenge fantasy goalies this year.

Scott Melanby: Captain Scott looked old and slow. It was like watching Ronnie Francis at the twilight of his career. Scott's wheels won't get him into any plays.

Marion Hossa: Seemed to just cherry pick and operate on the periphery. Great bursts of speed and power and an incredibly quick wrist shot.

And Another Thing
I paid $15 for a beer, cheesburger and fries! The hideous price was bad enough, but I don't think my burger contained anything resembling meat. It wasn't brown or hockey puck black. It was kind of orangy, greenish beige. Maybe it was soylent green?

Final Rant
No Kariya, Bondra, Zidlicky, or Steve Sullivan

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

CasonBlog in the ATL


photo: Nashville Predators
At least he's no longer a Flyer...
I'm off to the ATL tomorrow on business. I've got lower level tix to see the Thrash vs. the Preds on Friday night. I can't wait to see Danny Markov again. I love the way he rolls his helmet back on his head so that his shield only protects from the eyebrow up. I think this even passes the Sean Avery Frenchie test, huh? God, I miss Danny in Hurricane red.

Others players I'll be watching with great interest:

  • Marian Hossa
  • The Unibrow (Holik)
  • Coburn
  • Kariya
  • Captain Mellanby
  • Saberhawks Blogger Challenge #2 Goalie Kari Lehtonen
  • Zidlicky
  • CasonBlog fav Danny Markov
  • Steve Sullivan
Stand by for a full report on Monday, next!

Monday, September 26, 2005

'Canes shopping a blueliner?


photo: some company that sells cute bears

Is this the Face of the Hurricanes Defense? We're Dooomed I Say, Doomed!!!!
(I'm sure there's a very manly excuse for this photo, right Aaron?)
The 'Canes seem to have an abundance of like-skilled blueliners at this stage in the preseason. With Andrew Hutchinson and Mike Commodore making a strong cases for big-club roster spots on October 5, it might be time to move one of the guys who might have over-stayed his welcome. Commodore was acquired to be the physical presence the 'Canes lacked when they last took the ice. Hutchinson is racking up preseason points in his bid to join Oleg Tverdovsky as the 'Canes principal puck-carrying defensemen. JR is on record saying he doesn't want a deja vou of his 2003 Marek Malik mistake. Malik, the league's plus/minus leader in '03-'04 and the ugliest skater I've ever seen (more like a cross country skier on blades), turned out to be Lurch on steroids for the 'Canucks.

News and Observer writer, J.P. Giglio reported the other day, prime candidates for greener pastures appear to be Frankie Kaberle and Aaron Ward. A couple of reports I have read indicate Ward's not keeping up with the flow of play in the new NHL. Kaberle is a tough call. JR went out and got him before last season crashed, but I'm not sure what he brings that Hutchinson or Danny Richmond can't right now.

Bret Hedican and his 2+ mil contract might be in play, but he might still need to demonstrate he's really back from back surgery before his market value rises enough to justify the expense. Bret might end up being a later-in-the-season push to a contender if the 'Canes tank.

Giglio (I wonder if he looks like Rob Schneider as well) says the Coyotes, Preds, Devils, and Jackets have had scouts looking at the 'Canes, with Phoenix most interested. The Coyotes have issues on the blueline and in goal. They also have about 20 centers on their preseason roster-a position we aren't in dire need to fill right now with Roddy, Adams, Cullen, Staal, and Vasicek already in the queue. The Preds also have concerns on the blueline. The Devils want to unload salary, and according to fourthperiod.com, Sergei Brylin and Jamie Langenbruner being dangled. The Bluejackets probably also need help on "D" and a solid goaltending prospect.

If a deal of consequence get's done (more significant than Brendl for Harold Druken and a bag of pucks), I think will involve one of the 'Canes goaltending prospects (Nastiuk or Peters). JR might be holding his fire until he definitively believes Cam Ward is the future in goal. But the Malik debacle is probably not the only bad trade in the back of JR's mind right about now. He probably also remembers letting Giguere go for Trevor Kidd (Ok, Gary Roberts was part of the deal as well).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Have the Kids Arrived?


photo: carolina hurricanes
Hustle Paying off
Darkhorse Chad Larose Tallies 2 Pts vs. the 'Ning

Youth Movement
Ok, it's still early, but some of the kids continue to impress. While the vets continue to nurse groin pulls, the under-30 crowd is racking up points and winning games. JR has bet heavily this year on the emergence of his young guys, and it's paying off thus far in preseason. If I'm Vrbata, Brendl, Hedican, Ward, St. Jacques, or Wallin, I'd looking over my shoulder right about now. Andrew Hutchinson is playing like he's the second coming of Dick Tarnstrom. Young Danny Richmond stepped it up tonight as well. If Mike Commodore becomes the the key crease and dasher enforcer, it might make things interesting for a few vets.

Big Joe (2 goals 1 assist tonight) is living up to his god-given power forward physical gifts. He's cutting to the net with power and just about owning the crease. The last goal of tonight's tilt featured a breakaway chance by Eric Cole (4 assists tonight) finished by the Condor. Justin Williams and Mike Zigomanis are also showing real killer instinct. Hustling Chad Larose (goal, assist) finally got a got his first preseason goal on a penalty shot. Danny Richmond even had two points tonight.

Filling the Void in Preseason Game Media and Stats Coverage
Hat's off to the Tampa Bay Lightning web team. I've never seen such detailed in-game and post-game stat summaries before. Check out all you can get from tonight's preseason game from their site. The 'Canes site, with it's circa 1995 html marquee scroll, pales in comparison. I do however like the pix and the goal videos the 'Canes web crew posts after the games. You get the gist from the videos, but they come through on my cox.net connection pretty grainy and jumpy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

If I had to pick 'em today

Hutchinson nets one lower-left photo: slam hockey

After two preseason games, it's time for the Good, Bad, Ugly Report

The Good
Ziggy: Looks like Mike Zigomanis is playing his tail off. After authorizing his agent to pursue a trade in the off season, he seems to be playing like a man who knows it might be his last chance to stick. He leads the NHL in total preseason points as of today, and at least one of his goals against the Panthers was a very nasty wrister from the slot.

Hutchinson: Might be a steal of a deal. Very smooth skating on the penetration and goal he scored vs. the Panthers (both Nikki and Hutchinson scored).

The Bad
Brendl: Reports from game eye witnesses indicate Krispy has pretty lethargic on the ice. He might be taking that last train to Pilsen.

The Ugly
Gerber: Looked slow and unathletic on the grainy highlight reel. Let's see if Ward's play in the first game was the real deal.

If I had to pick 'em today
Stillman-Staal-Williams
Vasicek-Roddy-Cole
Whitney-Cullen-Vrbata
Nordgren-Adams-Zigomanis
Boulerice-La Rose

Tverdovsky-Wesley
Kaberle-Hedican
Ward-Hutchinson
Wallin

Gerber
Ward

Friday, September 16, 2005

Creating a Team That Lives in "the Zone"

"The zone" describes a mind-body experience when an athlete just seems to know where to be, when to be there, and how to finish. As a high school baseball player I had a brief in-the-zone experience. I was already 2 for 2 in a game against our arch-rivals when I came up to the plate in the top of the last inning. I hit a grand slam to put us up one run. The ball seemed to slow down that day-like I could see the seams. I didn't really swing hard-the ball just jumped off my bat. My time in the zone was shortlived. In the bottom of the last inning I threw the ball over the dugout on a relay to home. It cost us the game.

Would any hockey prognosticator have predicted the Hurricanes as a Stanley Cup finalist in 2002? How about a Lightning/Flames final in 2003? I think not. These were teams that lived in the zone for those brief moments in time. The Hurricanes might never have made it to the '02 Cup final had it not been for Nick Wallin's improbable overtime goal in game 4 of the Canadians series. That goal deflated the Canadians. It took them out of their, "Saku is back-we are French and invicible" zone. It also boosted the 'Canes belief in their own rising star-a star that unfortunately peaked and imploded after a grueling overtime loss in game 2 of the '02 Cup finals.

This week the boys are in up-tempo immersion therapy, Lavvy-style. Gone are the days of defense, defense, defense, counterpunch, defense. From what I'm reading, the 'Canes will spend almost as much time building team identity and chemistry as they will spend learning the system. He's got a family picnic day and a ropes course program on the training camp schedule. I'm not sure I believe in the all the Dr. Phil, Dr. Covey, touchy-feeling stuff. Hockey players are not wired like Arthur Anderson consultants.

On the radio the other day, I heard a former politician (name witheld to avoid knee-jerk political reactions) quoted as saying, "If you're not on the offensive then you're playing defense." Being on the defensive all the time wears out your team and your fans. You are forced to play/watch not in expectation of the next rush, but in fear of a break in the levee.

One of the reasons I'm optomistic about this upcoming season is that Lavvy seems committed to up-tempo hockey. I think this will foster an expectation among the boys that they will inevitably gain control over the flow and tempo of their games. Control is power and once the 'Canes start believing that they have the power reach out and grab control of a game through the force of their will, they will begin to live in the zone on a nightly basis.

Hey, Tony Roberts has nothing on me...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Camp Opens with a Glut in Goal


image: timrak eagles
CasonBlog's Darkhorse '05 Hurricane- Niklas Nordgren

Which of the following 'Canes was featured on the cover of the 2003 Training Camp guide?

  • Kevin Weekes
  • Radim Vrbata
  • Ron Francis
  • Arturs Irbe
  • Wally Tatomir

Answer is at the bottom of this post...

Camp begins tomorrow and the 'Canes have invited 39 players to participate. JR has invited five goalies to camp. Sounds to me like it's showcase time to set the stage for a possible trade. Nastiuk and Peters played extremely well in last week's Ottawa Senators Rookie tourney. The 'Canes are the only club in Hockey's Future organizational rankings to feature three goalies in the top prospects list.

So who needs young talent in goal? According to Hockey's Future's organizational rankings, the following clubs have a significant weakness in goal: Nashville, LA Anaheim, Minnesota, Florida, Phoenix, NYI, Toronto, and Tampa. I don't think we are talking about immediate impact here, just an investment in the system's playmaking forward pool. The future on defense is getting stronger now with Jack Johnson in the system. If Richmond, Commodore, Hutchinson and Vjota have good camps, the need is probably less pressing on defense. Anaheim has a trifecta of very talented forwards in the system in Gretzlaf, Perry and '05 pick Ryan. The Kings also have a wealth of good young forwards in Brown, '05 pick Kopitar, and Tambellini.

My what a difference a lost season can make. There will be quite a few new faces in Hurricanes camp this year. The only old face I really miss is Danny Markov. Here's a look back at the 2003 camp roster (players who have moved on are in red):

Adams, Craig
Markov, Danny
Adams, Kevin
Murray, Marty
Bayda, Ryan
O'Neill, Jeff
Boughner, Bob

Richmond, Danny
Brendl, Pavel
Rourke, Allan
DesRochers, Patrick
St. Jacques, Bruno
Francis, Ron
Staal, Eric
Hedican, Bret
Trojovsky, Matej
Kurka, Tomas
Zepp, Rob
Boulerice, Jesse
Svoboda, Jaroslav
Brind'Amour, Rod
Tetarenko, Joey
Cole, Erik
Vasicek, Josef
Daniels, Jeff
Vrbata, Radim
DeFauw, Brad
Wallin, Niclas
Fast, Brad
Ward, Aaron
Heerema, Jeff
Ward, Cam
Hill, Sean
Weekes, Kevin
Malec, Tomas
Wesley, Glen
Surma, Damian
Zigomanis, Michael


Answer: Radim Vrbata graced the cover in 2003

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pavel on the Bubble


photo: tsn.com
Great nicknames abound in the sport of hockey. "The Rocket," "the Golden Jet," "Boom Boom," and of course, "the Great One," come immediately to mind. The Hurricanes have a player who has been given (by local fans) the rather unfortunate nickname of "Krispy." No, not as in crisp play, crisp skating, or crisp finishes, it's Krispy, as in Krispy Kreme.

Pavel Brendl was the number 4 overall pick in the 1999 draft, and thought at the time to be a future scoring machine. He was traded prior to the 2001 season along with Jan Hvlac (another sweet treat), Kim Johnsson, and a 3rd round pick to the Flyers for Eric Lindros. The Rangers, never really known as purveyors of best practices in the field of personnel management, were willing to give up a top four pick within two years. Worse yet, they were willing to package him with three other players to get Lindros.

The Flyers also quickly soured on Brendl. They moved him and Bruno St. Jacques to the 'Canes in 2003 for an under-performing Sami Kapanen and a guy who is probably playing in a beer league right now in Alberta.

Now with his third NHL organization, Brendl had a poor showing in camp in 2003 and started the year with the Lowell Lockmonsters of the AHL. I remember a radio interview early in the fall of 2003 in which Jim Rutherford commented rather harshly on Pavel's work ethic, conditioning and overall attitude. JR basically told 850 The Buzz host Adam Gold that until he saw changes, the young Czech wouldn't get near the RBC Center.

Hockey Armageddon arrived in 2004 with the lockout, forcing Brendl overseas to play in the friendly confines of his native land. Well, Pavel went through two Czech clubs within the first two months of the '04-'05 season, and quickly exited the Bohemian Beer Belt for a chance to play for the MIF Redhawks (not to be confused with my beloved CCHA Miami University Redhawks) in Sweden. Here at last he was able to establish some roots, learn to sing karaoke in time with old ABBA records, and become a pillar in the local community-for around a week!

Next, the jet-setting international man of mystery was off to Finland-much like Sweden, just less rigidly Germanic. Pavel lasted around a month in Finland, likely finding the bland local cuisine and extended periods of twilight unbearable.

Arrrrgh! Time to move on. This time to Switzerland. Oooodles of chocolate, Riiiicoooolas, and goalies who just aren't quite good enough to make a real dent in the NHL; all in a nation with a reputation for keeping their nose out of other people's business. This could just be the perfect place for an iconoclast young Czech to play hockey! Krispy lasted around a month in the Swiss league.

The Pavel Brendl European tour ended last spring with Jokipojat Joensuu (say that three times fast) in Finland's free road kill reindeer meat league.

Pavel Brendl and the 'Canes will begin camp next week. Last time I checked, the roster listed 28 forwards. Andrew Ladd, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft is playing his butt off in the Ottawa Senators Rookie tourney right now. Niklas Nordgren (sorry 'Cane fans, apparently no relation to Tiger's turbo-hottie wife), linemate of Henrik Zetterberg and all-around scoring stud from the Swedish Elite league, will also be in camp trying to make the squad. The Hurricanes made a rather big deal out of his signing. Mike Zigomanis is looking at perhaps his last shot at sticking with the big club. Krispy better bring his "A" game, and leave his bags packed.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Guf' Coast Relief Donation Options


Bloggers are united in the effort to harness the reach and power of digital communications to bring in desperately needed funds for the folks of the Gulf Coast. On many hockey blogs, you will find the image link shown above to the Red Cross' donation page. Please click and donate what you can. A season's worth of third period beers is worth around $100, a small price to pay to help bring food, shelter and medical attention to good folks in dire need.

The Carolina Panthers have a pretty unique program going as well. They call it, "Beads for the Bayou." Donate $10 and get a set of Mardi Gras beads. Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What we do for family and PK - The Gambler?


photo: me
CasonBlog Aside: What we do for family...
Just got back after the road trip from hell. I looked like it was going to be a simple enough three phase jaunt. Drive 6 1/2 easy hours Friday to Grandma's house, pack and move her out of her place, blast back home Tuesday in time for a volleyball game and a football practice. Ah, but it didn't quite go as planned. Our beloved Durango got totaled in a four car wreck on the interstate when a kid driving a party rental truck smashed into us while we were at a stop. He lifted and rammed us into the back of the pickup in front of us, and that truck rammed a Honda in front of him. I loved that Durango. The only thing wrong with that V-8 powered hunk of American steel was a pervasive smell of yak that hung around two weeks after my youngest son barfed up pizza and two big lemonades in the back seat. C'est La Vie...

Now Back to the Puck Blogging
Not a great sign when your penny-pinching owner is talking smack about other owners before a puck has even dropped. In Luke DeCock's Sunday News & Observer piece, PK is unabashed in his disdain for the fiscal irresponsibility and even lack intelligence he see being demonstrated by many fellow owners, including, of course, arch-nemesis Mike Ilitch. This from the guy that brought us the $38 mil. bid for Sergei Fedorov in '97 that accelerated a fiscal crisis in hockey that ultimately lead to the loss of the '04 - '05 season. I don't mind PK going frugal if he just levels with the fans. If his new business model calls for positioning his club in the lower third of the payroll rankings to reap the benefits of revenue sharing, he ought to just be up front about it. Claiming his recent signings of Corey Stillman, Oleg Tverdovsky and Ray Whitney as strokes of genius before they've played a game is taking bluff poker to an extreme. No, genius is Don Waddell bringing in Holik, Hossa and DeVries, at the cost of a few mil and a physically and psychologically damaged Danny Heatley.

I sense the real truth is that PK is desperately attempting to navigate the franchise through troubled waters. I think the signings of Stillman, Tverdovsky and Whitney were truly artful moves for a club with little spending room. Just don't tell us they were strokes of genius. Come on PK, If you need to "hold 'em" now in the hopes of not having to "fold 'em" real soon, level with us. I think the Hurricane "party base" will rally around a lunch pail group of guys. What's not to love about these mutts? Roddy's face looks like the front end of my revered and recently departed Dodge Durango. Glen Wesley brings seasoned grit and DMV worker-type charisma every night. Kevyn Adams is a tough and over-achieving journeyman (and a fellow Miami Redskin, eerrr Redhawk). Finally, Corey Stillman brings top-ten scoring, a brand new "A," a guaranteed contract, cute kids in good schools, and probably a nice gray house in Cary.

Hurricane fans (including even the Chapel Hill chardonnay and bree crowd) just need to see the boys bring swagger, hustle and a killer instinct to the ice every night. Nobody wants or needs those things right now from the Hurricanes front office. I'll have more faith in the "Here to stay," mantra when I've seen a little more "Here to play" out on the ice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

RFA Socialism

Don Waddell-Super Genius
Today's sign-and-trade deal involving Heatley to the Sens for Hossa and DeVries points to what will soon become the new RFA economic reality. Unlike the thrilling days of yester-year when Pete Karmanos could take a free shot at stealing Sergei Fedorov from the hated Wings for a cool $38 mil (around $6.3 mil per year), today's clubs take big gamble if they tray to poach an RFA from another club. Under the CBA of today, if you want to land a $3 mil per year RFA outright, it's going to cost you three first round choices. Each $1.7 mil increment above that $3 mil threshold will cost you and additional first rounder up to a max of five.

So it looks to me like the only way some of these dangling RFA's will move to other clubs will be through a more neo-socialistic process. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." - this looks to be way RFA business will be done from here on out.

I think today's trade demonstrates that Atlanta management really understands the new world order. Hold enough cap space to walk in a steal top talent by offering a neo-socialist solution-namely an offer to share the economic burden. Waddell and crew correctly identified the Sens as a team over a barrel.

How could Muckler fill out and/or revamp an underachieving roster with seven Ottawa players under contract and sucking up over $24.5 mil? I could just hear the telephone conversation. "Hey y'all. We just wanna help. How about we all share the economic burden with y'all by taking over $4 mil in net salary? Yup, we get two established stars in this deal, but y'all get a physically and psychologically damaged kid with great potential upside in return."

Never mind the fact that Heater really wanted and needed to get out of the ATL anyway. I wish Danny the best. The kid deserves a fresh start after making a bad decision as a very young man. I'm really glad he didn't go to the Leafs. This kind of deal would have been enough to supercharge those zealots right into even more unbalanced delusions or granduer. Overall, this looks like a peach of a deal!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Decision Time for Some SE Clubs

photo tsn.com
Bondra's '04 Cup Playoffs "Deer in the Headlights" Impersonation
There is some buzz out there that the Panthers, Thrashers, and Caps have a few more deals to swing before the season gets going. Peter Bondra is being courted by the Thrashers and the Caps. Not too worried if he goes to the Caps, but he could be a difference-maker with the Thrash. Yeah, I remember, he was kind of the invisible man in the '04 playoffs, with his zero points and minus four, but he picked up eight of his 49 points in '03-'04 against the 'Canes. Put Bondra with Marc Savard and Scott Mellanby, and you've got a second line that generated 132 total points in '03-'04. Let's hope he goes to the Caps.

Unlike the Hurricanes who enter the week with a pretty set lineup, the Caps, Lightning, and Panthers all immersed in some rather serious personnel issues. Here's a basic rundown:

  • Caps: Sign or move an unhappy Brendan Witt and an aging Olaf Kolzig
  • Panthers: Sign or move hardball negotiators and possible holdouts Jay Bouwmeester and Olli Jokinen
  • Lightning: Scrape together enough pennies to re-sign Hart Trophy winner Marty St. Louis

Thursday, August 18, 2005

'Canes Roster Update and W*A*S* of the Week

Welcome Back Big Joe
Now Go Play Like the Power Forward You Were Meant to Be! photo: tsn.com
The Hurricanes today signed Big Joe Vasicek bringing to a close both the initial UFA rush that brought in Stillman, Whitney and seemingly enigmatic Tverdovsky, followed by the RFA blitz to re-sign our young guns, and much to the applause of CasonBlog, the better-late-than-never return of Glen Wesley. I thought the Vasicek signing would be tough, especially after reading Luke DeCock's "final offer" piece in this morning's N&O. But it looks like overall the lockout has played to that most central and admirable of hockey player values-a love for the game that can at times transcend even the invisible hand of the marketplace.

So now I get to my W*A*S*, or Wild Ass Speculation about what's to come on the personnel front between now and 10.05.

Question: Why in the world do we need so many either borderline or unproved blueliners?

W*A*S*: JR is hoping one or two of the young D'men shows a significant improvement in camp and pre-season that can make the more expensive Hedican or Ward expendable. I really don't think the 'Canes think either veteran is essential, so JR/PK are setting the table to take advantage of any opportunity to move one or both. Lot's of teams are openly shopping for a veteran blueliner, and Hedi or Ward might be a good fit for some clubs right around the start of the season. Pittsburgh is not talking to RFA Aleksey Morozov about a deal, and according to thefourthperiod.com, Toronto is rumored to be shopping for a blueliner and dangling physical centerman, Nik Antropov. The gem deal would include moving a package of our relatively inexpensive guys to Ottawa for stud Wade Redden. Dream on CasonBlog, but hey, that's why I call it W*A*S*.