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