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)!

From "...Miami was ranked No. 2 in three National polls (including 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:

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.

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

...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 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.