Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ron Francis Night

photo: slam.conoe.ca
Ron and one of his Lady Byngs, 1998
I became a Hurricanes fan during game two of the '01 Cup playoffs. That was the game the Devils beat, and Scott Stevens beat up, the Hurricanes sending Shane Willis to the ER with a concussion. In game three he laid out Ron Francis in similar fashion and the Devils went up 3 games to none in a 4-0 shutout. I'll never forget the scene of Francis stumbling and finally crawling to the Hurricanes bench. The 'Canes came back and won the next two games.

The grit that this clearly overmatched team showed in coming back made me a Hurricanes fan. Much of the credit for the workman-like personality this team exhibited was rooted in Ron Francis' approach to his responsibilities as a player and as a captain. Rod Brind 'Amour, Glen Wesley and Kevyn Adams are the clubhouse and on-ice leaders they are today in part because of the quiet leadership by example they saw every night from Ron Francis.

Don't expect an over-the-top extravaganza tonight a la Mark Messier. That kind of NYC glitz is not what Ronnie Franchise would want. I would expect a heartfelt but understated tribute to the face and heritage of this franchise.

The perfect night would then be capped by a thorough bitch-slapping of Koval-chick (and his puffy upper lip, compliments of Bret Hedican) and the rest of Bob Hartley's Crip wanna-be's.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I Love Hockey Players Vol. II

Why yoooou--I'll Murdalize Ya!
No blood, no stitches, just a nasty noogie
photo: canoe-slam

In Volume I of this series, I reflected on a video tour of Rod Brind'Amour's Cary mansion (scroll down). I marvelled at his lack of interior design taste-especially his bed made of rough hewn lumber. Qualities I respect in a hockey player.

Volume II-The Honor Code
I love hockey players because the ones who respect the game live by an honor code. Fights happen, physical play is answered by physical play, but cheap shots are avenged. In hockey, nobody enjoys immunity from responsibility for their actions. Hockey has no equivilent to the AL pitcher who can plunk guys in the mellon at will knowing they don't have to face retribution when they enter the batters box.

If Roger Clemmons were a hockey player, he'd wear #6 and play for the Rangers. Darius Kasparitis nails Tim Connolly with vicious a hip check to the knee. He will probably face on-ice retribution when the teams next meet.

Last night we witnessed one of the truly hilarious episodes in sport-a goalie fight. According to Melissa Tee or MVN Avalanche Blog:

"Aebischer got upset because Amonte took a slap at the puck while it was under
his glove. He (Aebischer) then took a shot at Kobasew who was in the crease.
Already frustrated, and likely having seen this, Sauve skated all the way down to the Avalanche zone to pick a fight with Aebischer, who obliged him. The fight wasn’t a particularly vicious one, as the bulky equipment, not to mention Aebischer’s inability to get Sauve’s mask off, prevented any damage from being done to either party."
So much for that legendary Swiss neutrality. In most of the goalie fights I have seen, the two gladiators disrobe each other like those two girls around the fountain in that old Miller Light commercial. This fight reminded me of those folks they dress up in in inflatible Sumo costumes for between-the-period entertainment. The honor code ain't always pretty-in this case it was pretty funny.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Adieu Super Mario

photo: eur.news
Good move. Life is too short. Sell the club and enjoy retirement. Your place in history is secure.

Implosion Watch Placed on Leafs

1967 - I started kindergarten, a stamp cost 5 Cents, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I, and the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup

photo: radio.weblogs
It's about that time of year when Leaf Nation starts chanting for somebody's head. The mobs started forming and the torches were lit soon after last night's "must-win" loss to the cross-province rival Senators. The signs are truly ominous. GM John Ferguson JR, offered a less than stirring endorsement of Pat Quinn the other day, Jason Allison has been on the trading block for weeks, Eric Lindros is perpetually on the IR, Jeff O'Neill is still affixed to the high slot like a bubble hockey figure, and now Captain Mats Sundin apparently wants out (HT to Spector and Bruce Garrioch).

I wonder if missing the playoffs might accelerate the renaissance this club needs. Relieving themselves of the high-mileage guys and bringing in, or up some prospects more suited to the new NHL might be the investment in the future so overdue. Watching the Kings/Ducks game last night, and I think I saw the future of the NHL in the play of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. These two swooped around the ice like locomotives on afterburner. I think I saw the future of the Leafs in Carlo Colaiacovo's cartwheeling head-first smash into the boards after bouncing off Vaclav Vrada.

Toronto's six top salaries push the club past the halfway point to the league max. The 'Canes spread the same total salary dollars over their top 12. The Leafs are also saddled with one of the league's least promising talent pipelines (28th out of 30 according to Hockeysfuture.com). Front-running Ottawa can't get ice time for right-now NHL ready prospects like Patrick Eaves and Brandon Bochenski. In their analysis of the Leafs prospect base, Hockeysfuture states:

"Weaknesses: Overall depth remains a notable weakness for the
organization, especially on the wings. The club has far too often sacrificed
prospects and draft picks in trades for veteran talent, although this may have
to change in the new economic world."

Like most who have never drunk the Leaf Nation Kool Aid, I don't mind seeing the arrogant strumble and fall. I just think this looming fratricide is fixin' to get real ugly.

Woooooo!
Just a thought. The 'Canes ought to bring in more celebs and other athletes (not just Alex Trebek) to emulate the Rick Flair holler. I'd love to see folks like Mike Krzyzewski, Chuck Amato, Julius Peppers, Steve Smith, and maybe even The Acid Queen to do the holler. They'd have to leave out Clay Aiken and Herb Sendek. I don't think Aiken could muster enough testosterone to do it justice, and Herb would probably end up sounding like Droopy Dog.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day in Canada!

photo: pbs.org
CasonBlog Officially Endorses Marijuana Party Candidate, Harry "Cheech" Garcia, to become the next Prime Minister of Canada

Given the critical issues now facing the citizens of Canada, as a pubic service to our friends up north, and in a blatant attempt to influence election results in sovereign Canada, the CasonBlog editorial board asks you to reject the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP parties and join us in support of candidates from any of the following "alternative" major Canadian Political Parties:

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada Campaign Theme - Count every vote-animal, vegetable, or mineral!

Communist Party of Canada Campaign Theme - Trust us. We have a five year plan.

Marijuana Party Campaign Theme - Dude, I am so wasted.

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada Campaign Theme- A Commissar on every corner, and a Gulag on every bloc.

Now get out there and vote early and often!

Danger Jake and the Demise of Nordgren

photo:
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Drop back, Riverdance, Back-Pedal a Little More, Eyes Closed, THROW!
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a Carolina Panthers broadcast on the Sirius radio coming home from Phoenix. Panthers color commentator, Eugene Robinson, coined the term "Safety Jake" to describe the Jake Delhomme that shows up most Sundays. Safety Jake plays within himself, sets up in the pocket, sees the field and makes smart plays. Yesterday, Panthers fans endured the untimely return of "Danger Jake." Danger Jake danced around in the pocket, was prone to panic, and had a nasty habit of lobbing wobbly passes into packs of enemy defenders. The Panthers are too good a team to rise and fall with the fragile mental state of this mercurial QB. I wish the Panthers brass would find a way to bring Philip Rivers back to North Carolina. Give the Chargers the first round draft pick-whatever it takes.
End of NFL rant.

Nordgren to Lowell
Back at the beginning of traing camp, Niklas Nordgren was a guy few knew anything about. I did a little blogger due diligence in preparing an October 4 post titled, "Flying Under the Radar." I sent an email to Joachim Sandstrom, the webmaster for the Timra Red Eagles, his old Swedish elite league team, and in his response he told me Nordgren would surprise some folks with his speed and skill as a finisher-especially on the PP. So even though he was coming in "under the radar," I expected some great things this season from a guy who spent last season on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Frederick Modin.

Norgdgren started the year without a clear role on the squad, and has been bouncing around the fourth line. His minutes have steadily waned, and with the departure of Radim Vrbata, he has become the healthy scratch of first choice. Sunday night in Lowell, Nik tallied a shorthanded goal late in the third period to break a tie and win the game for the Lock Monsters. I hope Nordgren continues to tear it up in the AHL and ultimately finds his way back to the big club in time for the stretch run.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hello Anton!

photo: nhl.com
This Just in-
Anton Babchuk is Not a Lady Byng Candidate...

Just saw this moments ago on Spector. Danny Richmond to the Blackhawks for Anton Babchuk. The teams also swapped fourth round picks in '06 and '07..

Looks like the Blackhawks get an NHL ready utility blueliner and give up a hulking prospect in the Mike Commodore mold. Since the injury to Glen Wesley, I've been ruminating in this blog about what I see as a team need for a more physical presence in the crease. A quick Google search reveals our new guy Anton is no patsy. Discipline might be an issue though. Check out this story on hockeyrefs.com from last spring. Looks like Babchuk already has issues with Philly fans. This relationship might already be off to a great start.

Here's Babchuk's profile on hockeysfuture.com

Thursday, January 19, 2006

One Step Ahead of the Game?

****FRIDAY UPDATE: The Coyotes sent Petr Nedved to the Flyers today for Dennis Seidenberg - The 'Yotes are now down to three of those "Top-Caliber" players from the summer of '04.

-----------------------------------------------------------
A Little Archair Quarterbacking on a Thursday
I was looking over the game night program I brought home from the Hurricanes/Coyotes game in December and came across an interesting article titled, "One Step Ahead of the Game." Not sure this feature is still in the publication, but it serves as evidence of how public relations can get ahead of reality. The article trumpets the Coyotes pre-lockout signing of free agents in 2004 in a superb display of hyperbole:

"...while most teams hesitated to sign players in the face of hockey's still
unknown brave new world, the Coyotes took advantage of the trepidation of
others clubs by signing five top-caliber players..."

So, who were these top-caliber players?

  • Boyd Devereaux (11 points and -2)
  • Sean O'Donnell (a respectable +7)
  • Mike Ricci (4th line checking center sits at a -10, contributing only 7 points to date)
  • Petr Nedved ( 2 goals, 11 assists, -11)
  • Brett Hull (1 assist, -3 in 5 games before he figured out he was no longer a top-caliber player)

As of today, the Coyotes sit in 11th place in the West, seven points out of the #8 position, and last in the Pacific.

The Coyotes have over $6 million tied up with in four of these five players. Hull signed to a two-year, $4.5 mil deal before he retired, so I don't know if they still owe him any money or if any portion of his salary remains in the equation. The club has hit a brick wall in trying to move Nedved and his $2.2 mil salary. The biggest pulls on Phoenix's salary structure (the + $2 mil guys) come from the salaries of Doan, Morris, Sanderson, Nedved, and Scatchard. I doubt the 'Yotes would look to move their captain, so just who has real market value among those remaining? Come the trade deadline, there might be some interest in Morris and Sanderson, but Phoenix will probably have to eat some salary to make these guys attractive.

GM Barnett and The Great One might have been bold in the summer of '04, but it looks like a little "trepidation" might have served them better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Playing the Francophone Card

But I don't like Bree!
Huge Monty Python fan from back in the day when you could only watch it on with the rabbit ears antenna on PBS at night. In one memorable sketch involving an exploding penguin on a television set, Graham Chapman becomes frustrated by John Cleese's absurd fixation on the bird and exclaims, "Oh, intercourse the Penguin." Cleese proceeds to bust up laughing. Now we're all adults, and you can probably guess what word Chapman artfully ad-libbed out - it's the "F" word.

Well, January 23 is election day in Canada, and it looks like at least one politico is pulling out all stops to find the key wedge issue. Liberal MP, Denis Coderre, chose to score political points via a letter to the Canadian Olympic Committee demanding Shane Doan be pulled from the squad unless he apologizes for dropping the the "F" word on officials at the Dec 13 'Yotes/Habs game. Doan was handed a gross game misconduct for verbally abusing the officiating crew, but an investigation by the league uncovered no evidence of Doan dropping said "F" bombs on the crew.

So what's the big deal? St. Louis coach, Mike Kitchen, dropped several "F" bombs on his way off the ice after the 'Canes whacked his boys on Sunday. Pick a sport, any sport, you don't have to be much of a lip reader to catch such colorful language in the off-mike dialog. In politics, especially around election time, it's often not about the evidence, but nature and subject of the charges. You see, the "F" word in question here is not the one most Americans most immediately think. It's "Frog," and it's use, or even alledged use, makes French-speaking Canadians blow their collective berets. Doan alledgedly called the all Francophone officiating crew "Frogs."

Yes, the investigation yielded no evidence of Mr. Doan having committed this heinous crime, but in politics, evidence be damned. Missuer Coderre is determined to win the hearts and minds of Canadians by standing up against Francophonia, be it real or imagined.

More on the story from TSN

Monday, January 16, 2006

If it ain't broke...

photo: nhl.com
Bravo Zulu to Eric Staal
Offensive Player of the Week, 3 Stars, a fat lip, and a busted toofus!

red and black hockey: "There was some talk on the post-game radio show (post Preds game) about trying to obtain a veteran blueliner via trade. I don't know who we'd give up in a trade, but one name they threw out there was Paul Mara. I would like that quite a bit. We'll see."

If it ain't broke...
Right now the 'Canes are winning despite the losses of Glen Wesley and AWard, and what looks like a shorter-term loss of Mike Commodore. Not only are the boys winning, they have beaten two of the top teams in the west (Detroit and Nashville) over the past two weeks. So, why mess with success? If JR goes out and cuts a deal for a blueliner now, who sits when the three mentioned above return? I think as long as the 'Canes keep winning, you won't see the front office tinker with success.

Dreaming on...
That being said, we're about to enter a very interesting time of the season. The bottom feeders are gonna start shedding salary and cleaning house. Teams with playoff ambitions will also start to look for help. Atlanta needs help on the blueline. The Thrash score in bunches but they rank in the bottom third in goals allowed. New Jersey is just the opposite. The Devils would love to add a legit scoring threat to their lines to compliment the recently returned Patrick Elias. Florida and Tampa are both looking to make significant roster moves in the hope of breathing some life into their seasons. The Islanders and Canadians are in the process of crawling out the the wreckage of their season to date, and the Blackhawks and Pens are looking to start over-after they lose some hefty salaries. The Blues would probably be willing to make changes anywhere (unless they are consciously waiting until the ownership situation is settled).

The way I look at it, JR might make a trade/acquisition to shore up the 'Canes blueline under some combination of conditions:

1. Instant impact

2. It doesn't screw with team chemistry

3. Maybe it keeps a difference maker off a rival squad

4. It offers a chance to invest in the future

5. Rent-a-player time for the playoff run

So where are the deals?
Phoenix
David mentioned Paul Mara in his posting. He's on a one-year contract and is still owed around half of his $1.7 mil . The Coyotes also have strong young blueline talent in Keith Ballard, Zbynek Michalek, and Matt Jones. What the Coyotes need is some right-now scoring. The 'Canes don't really offer the kind of instant scoring the 'Yotes are looking for, unless they could be convinced that Mike Zigomanis is their guy. My idea of a few weeks ago of offering Erik Cole as part of a deal looks really stupie upon reflection. Mara is more of a PP quarterback than a crease clearer, so while we might get a solid blueliner in a deal, the 'Canes wouldn't fill their possible need for a physical blueliner. Mara might however be a nice investment in the future-ditto one of the young guys mentioned above.

Chicago
You are starting to hear Jassen Cullimore's name being bantered. He is still owed half of his $1.9 mil per year salary and he has a multi-year contract. He does have Stanley Cup experience, but his play this year has been less than stellar. Adrian Aucoin is also out there with his hefty salary and brittle bones/joints, but don't think for one minute JR would bring in that kind of salary. The Blackhawks have solid young blueliners in Brent Seabrook, Anton Babchuck, Duncan Keith, and prospect Cam Barker, but any of these guys acquired in a trade are more investment than instant impact. JR successfully pawned Radim Vrbata off to the Blackhawks, so I doubt he'll try and fool them again.

Montreal
Mike Komisarek's name keeps coming up as well. He's young and wickedly aggressive, but prone to mistakes. We already have Mikey C playing that role. Komisarek might also have some off-ice baggage to worry about. Speaking of off-ice issues, Sheldon Souray could probably be had. He is a great blueliner, but prone to injury and family distractions.

St. Louis
Eric Weinrich might be a steal. His yearly salary is under $2mil, so he passes the JR cheap test. He's said to be a great clubhouse guy. He's steady if unspectacular-a consistent + player until this season. On the downside, he's 39, so there might not be much left in the tank. The Blues need help everywhere. Their two top goalie prospects are only "C" rated by hockeysfuture.com , and their organizational ranking by these same folks is 29th out of 30. The 'Canes might be able to move Nastiuk or Peters in a deal. Throw in Zigomanis as a possible scoring addition/playmaker, and we might get Weinrich and a prospect in the deal.

Other blueliners who might be had:
Brent Sopel - Solid player, great attitude, $2.2 mil salary hurts. Islanders might not want to lose one of their few character guys.
Ruslan Salei - Fearless and physical, a good teammate, and an under $2mil/year player. Brian Burke is a wheeler dealer and unafraid to take a risk with team chemistry.
Chris Therien - This guy attracts a lot of venom. Most have heard by now of the website dedicated to slagging the guy, but if the Flyers waive him, he would definitely come cheap.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"C" is for Composure

For two periods the 'Canes owned the Preds. Even Corey Sillman threw a nasty hip check into Paul Kariya. The boys of the lidless eye swarmed and grinded to a two goal lead by the end of the second period. With help of a "doink" off the sideboards that eluded Gerbs, the the Preds fought back to tie. No sweat, Roddy took a sweet pass from Ray Whitney and coolly slid it under Vokun's pad. No huge backswing, no dipsy doodle Cullenesque stick handling-he just pushed the puck.

Re-enter Paul Kariya. Can you imagine this Hurricane squad with that little dynamo? I'm not sure how close JR was to signing him, but he is a hell of a player. Kariya makes a dandy pass to Martin Erat for the goal that sent the game to OT.

Now the old 'Canes would have found a way to lose this kind of game. Composure is a definite characteristic of this squad. The Phoenix game I attended an exception (just my luck), the boys battle back in third periods, and now they are just finding ways to win.

Enter Frankie Kaberle. Yeah, his brother up in Toronto get's all the love, but our Kaberle has been a huge part of what is increasingly becoming a patchwork blueline (Mikey C left the game with an injury logging only about 6 minutes). Frankie takes the puck, does a gunslinger staredown with Vokun, then l Scott Hartnell looses his mind and slings his stick. Frankie nets the penalty shot with a couple of taps of the puck, game over.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Fine Mess

photo:nyr.com

In the late 70's I was in high school in Connecticut. My dad had just moved us from Cincy to take a job in Manhattan. This midwestern boy immediately started to hate all things northeast. I hated the course dialect and dismissive tone of my summer job boss, Benny Bruno. I tired quickly of the girls who looked and talked like Joe Pesci, the snobbery that permeates New England culture, the failure to appropriately sound out the letter "h" when pronouncing words like "huge." Worst of all was the "We do everything better in New Yoak than youse guys out here in fly-over country," attitude that makes southerners wish those Empire State snowbirds would just go home for good.

The only exception to that sentiment for me was the New York Rangers. I loved JD, Duguay, and Espo, and watched the Blueshirts nearly every night. My senior year art class oil painting was of a Ranger taking a slap shot at Billy Smith with Denis Potvin going to one knee to try and block the shot. I got a B on the project, but my college buddy, the crabby artist, used to ridicule my vain attempt at artistic expression.

When I went away to college, I lost interest in the Rangers, and my interest in NHL hockey hibernated until 1994. In that Cup series, I re-discovered my love of hockey and the Rangers. The guarantee, the hat trick, the deranged UPS driver on acid Canucks uniforms, Mess taking the Cup bar hopping-all are seared in my memory. I lost interest in the Rangers again when Glen Sather started bringing in the high-priced guns who wrecked team chemistry, but I was back as a hockey fan.

Last night the Rangers retired #11 in the type of over-the-top extravaganza you would expect in the Garden. Mess cried until the ice was resurfaced. Adam Graves still can't grow facial hair. Sather got booed, but Neil Smith didn't. Eddie Olcyzk looked lost (wonder why?). Jeff Beukeboom got "Booed" in appreciation, just like the old days.

I've read a lot of mixed reviews regarding Mess the man, especially as his career was ending. No person, let alone hockey icon, lives a life of complete virtue. Mess and the Rangers of '94 restored my passion for hockey. For awhile last night, I was a Ranger fan again. Then Kasparitis took the ice...

Nice article about Mess' influence on hockey and the Blueshirt-nation from Duncan Currie here:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stuart Scott, Kovalchick, Milbury and AWard Rants

photo:kiltmen.com (no, I'm not kidding)

I'm too sexy for my kilt, too sexy for my three chest hairs, too sexy for my utility belt...
(Note to Ilya: Even Canadians know you just don't let yourself get photographed in your paisley kilt-that stays in the privacy of your bedroom!)

Stuart Scott
He's one of the darlings of ESPN. His "Booyahs," and "Cooler than the other side of the pillow," riffs are part of the current sports lexicon. Last night he demonstrated that his sports knowledge doesn't extend much beyond the parquet, diamond and gridiron. In one highlight snippet about the Trash/Preds game, he butchered no less than three names:

  • Marek Zah-litsky
  • Ilya Koval-chick
  • Kar-a-lee Let-oh-nen

...But he did nail "Paul Kariya."

Kovalchick
Speaking of Mr. Rocket Richard Winner, E.J. Hrakek and Don LeGreca were discussing Ilya's behavior on NHL Live this morning. Both agreed that while he was a little over the top, his emotional play probably added color to the sport. As most already know, Don Cherry disagrees. I'm with Grapes. I think Ilya talks a nice game off the ice, but on the ice the real jerk comes shining through. He's Kovalpunk, the spoiled brat. We've all seen the over-zealous fist pumping and manic celebrations after goals. His antics pissed off the 'Canes enough that usually low key Eric Staal felt obliged to return the dis. He avoids direct contact on the ice, prefering to ambush guys from behind or jump into scrums after the officials have tied up some arms (ex. last night). Yeah, he's got mad skills, but as an old coach used to say, "Act like you've been there before." AWard had him lined up last game. Damn if he didn't miss.

Milbury
I guess there is a version of final justice in hockeyworld. Right after it looked like Pirhanaman, Steve Stirling, was gonna take one for all the Islanders woes, Charles Wang made a good call and tossed Mad Mike under the bus as well. Maybe Wang is not the second coming of "the Donger after all."

AWard
God the 'Canes are going to miss AWard. Last week I posted my concerns over the loss of Glen Wesley. I suggested that JR should look at making a trade for a stud blueliner and a prospect, dangling Erik Cole as bait. David of Red and Black set me straight, so I won't go down that road again. Big moves when the team is gellin' are just not wise. I suspect JR will just hold his cards unless the roof starts to fall in. It should make for some third period nail biting over the next six weeks (thank goodness for the Oly break). Mike Commodore has to stay disciplined and Andrew Hutchinson may have to actually guard somebody in the interim. Danny Richmond will probably be called up, but he's been less than studly in previous stints.

Carnival Time on Tobacco Road


Missing AWard Already:(

Hi all-David at Red and Black is the latest host on the hockey blogger carnival circuit. Tremendous effort, wickedly funny and a CasonBlog must read. And best of all-It's Maple Leaf free!

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Mid Year Bizzaro World NHL Awards

photo: batman-superman.com

Gimme a Kiss Elisha Honey!
Bizzaro is the anti-Superman creation of Lex Luthor. In Bizzaro World nothing is as it should be. That which we would deem good is actually evil. Everything is opposite. Thus, I am proud to announce the first annual CasonBlog Bizzaro World Mid-Season NHL Awards...

Rocket Richard: Chris Dingman. From first round pick, to Stanley Cup champion grinder to waived enforcer. Zero goals and a minus 6 before being waived.

Art Ross: Krzysztof Oliwa. The kind of guy you think you might need on your club (Pittsburgh?), but you would prefer not to admit it. I think most of the clubs he played for kept him in an old school zoo enclosure (aka cage) until game time. Zero points hovering beyond the fringe of the big leagues. TSN says in their bio on Oliwa, "Loves to beat people up." Just what we want in a Bizzaro World scoring champ.

Vezina: Patrick Lalime. Only 3 wins in 18 games before he was waived. Gave up 66 goals for an admittedly bad Blues team. I give the Bizzaro World Vezina to Lalime because I think he was the first of the former first stringer goalies to be handed a bus ticket to the minors after they couldn't move him otherwise. Hello Peoria! I'm sure he was angry-very angry indeed.

Selke: Jeff O'Neill. Defense is heart and controlled aggression. I'm still bitter about how he handled himself in the last few years with the 'Canes. He doesn't play defense-barely moves from his backside slot on the PP. Ten of his thriteen goals have been on the power play. He's spent time in Pat Quinn's doghouse for lack of effort and has a -10 with 30 penalty minutes to show for all the glow he got after joining the hometown Leafs.

Lady Byng: Sean Avery. A whopping 136 penalty minutes, a league leading 2 game misconducts. His 6 majors put him in 5th place in the league. Nobody likes him. His mother screens his calls and Elisha Cuthbert is probably only dating him to piss off her parents.

Calder: Braydon Coburn. He was the #8 pick in 2003-Ahead of Dion Phaneuf! Couldn't stick with a lousy defensive team beyond the first 9 games of the season. Now intimidating smallish forwards in the AHL.

Hart/Norris: Vladimir Malakhov. Dude quit or retired (depending on whether you ask him or his agent) right after Larry Robinson bailed. Surrender is infectious. Just ask the French. He was -9 when he exited for the friendly confines of Sverdlovsk-the New Jersey of Russia. The only guy I've seen who has two injuries this season listed only as, "illness." Vlad has no "Hart," and is thus the Bizzaro World mvp and defensive player of the half season.

President's Trophy: No team has a more fitting name than the St. Louis Blues. Bad and getting no better. No Pronger. Lalime a bust. A fat and injury-riddled Tkachuk. Dougie Weight looking for the exit. Jamal Mayers with season tickets in the penalty box. Last in the league in points, and threatened only by Columbus. Don't count out those Blue Jackets yet. They have a proven ability to suck mightily when given the opportunity.

Adams: Eddie Olczyk. Gonchar stealing money. Crosby gets beat up every night. Mario hires an old buddy with no coaching experience and then makes him the fall guy. Ed is now the Chauncy Gardner of hockey. But Eddie didn't sign "character guys" like Gonchar, Malone and Palffy. Much smarter people than Ed are responsible for those strokes of brilliance.

OBTW-Not to boast, but that was my email yesterday on NHL Live guessing that Zig had on a Nordiques throwback. Heard the challenge in the car on my way to work (the clue about an element on his jersey that also appears on an NFL jersey made me think fleur de lis right away). Got Zig and Don to accord props to Lavvy and the boys and rip Milbury for letting Pete go, but got no prize for guessing correctly. Yeah, I know. I need to get a life...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Milbury

photo: eishocky.com
Check out the Pirhana Gob on Ole Steve-O
Have you noticed how many shots of Steve Stirling show him with this face? I watched the home-and-home on Center Ice, and Steve looked like this in every bench shot. Does he look the same when he's happy?

The world may never know, because no amount of knitted brows and underbite grimacing is gonna save this club. The Isles are a team adrift. Two days-two butt whoopin's from Peter Laviolette and the boys. Tell me again how Lavvy had trouble connecting with his Islander players? From Pete's bio-"As head coach of the Islanders during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, Laviolette led the team to the playoffs both seasons after the Islanders missed the postseason seven straight times between 1994 and 2001." Remind me again of Mike Milbury's rationale for firing Lavvy. I think it was because he didn't hold the respect of the clubhouse. Who's respect? Alexi Yashin? Was it the guys Mike would love to move right now like Niinimaa, Bates or Parrish? Mike Milbury has to be the biggest fool currently wearing an expensive suit in the NHL. Time again for Mad Mike to go into the stands and beat somebody with a shoe. Then he could at least claim insanity.

According to Wikipedia, Milbury is quoted in 2000 as saying, "If we are not better immediately....and if we are not a playoff team in the near future then it's off with my head." Well, the clock struck midnight long ago, but Isles owner, Charles Wang, seems to be sticking with him. Tis a far, far better thing "the Donger" is doing for the rest of the league by leaving Mike in place than any other owner has ever done before. Let's look at some of the players the Isles might have right now if it wasn't for that meddling Milbury:

At Forward:

  • Olli Jokinen (traded with Luongo for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha)
  • Todd Bertuzzi (traded with Bryan McCabe and 3rd round selection that ended up being Jarkko Ruutu to the Vancouver Canucks for Trevor Linden.)
  • Bryan Smolinski (sent to the Kings with Palffy and pucks for several players including Jokinen and Mathew Biron)
  • Raffi Torres (traded for head case Janne Niinimaa and now gone Brad Isbister for Raffi and pucks)

On Defense:

  • Zedeno freakin' Chara (traded for Yashin, his model girlfriend and a months worth of cute mock turtlenecks)
  • Wade almost as freakin' Redden (traded for 3 guys including long gone Berard and Marty Straka)
  • Bryan Berard (traded with pucks for Felix Potvin)
  • Bryan McCabe (part of the Linden deal)

In Goal:

  • Roberto Luongo (Gone in the Kvasha/Parrish deal)

This weekend's home-and-home was tough to watch, because it reminded me too much of the final days of the Maurice regime. I wouldn't wish that on anybody...except maybe Eric Godard.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jealousy breeds respect

Looking at a strand about the WJC on Hockey Rants last night got me thinking. The words "jealousy" and "envy" keep coming up along with all the political hating. Jes semi-humorously made the point that Russians were jealous of Canadian hockey and prosperity. A commentor from Tzar Putin's realm pointed out that he wasn't jealous at all and thought his country was doing just fine thank you. Some steroid-enhanced commentor took Jes to task for possibly being gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) and hating Swedes.

I'll be honest. I am way jealous of Canadian hockey culture. I've never lived anywhere where hockey is part of the social fabric. I never been able to find anybody at work or in the neighborhood who cares a lick about the game I love. Unless I played adult hockey, I would never encounter another human who embraced hockey culture and values.

So I am jealous. Canadians just do hockey better at every level. HNC is a scream. Grapes and Don are so much more watchable than any talking heads doing hockey in the US. Love him or hate him, Grapes passes the Jim Rome test-He has a take and he doesn't suck. I also have a definite love/hate relationship with Toronto broadcasters. They piss me off with their bombastic "Leafs vs. the world BS," but I keep coming back for more. There might be seven games on, and somehow I'll always end up migrating to the Leafs, Calgary, or Edmonton game. My head might tell me to watch Tampa Bay vs. Florida, but my heart pushes me towards Joe Bowen and his constant french kissing of Darcy Tucker between "Holy Mackinaw!" outbursts.

This week, I could get the Australia vs. South Africa cricket match on pay-per-view, but not the WJC. To get the WJC, I would have to get Fox Sportsnet North. To get that, I would have to subscribe to every freakin' Fox Sportsnet channel. I don't want or need to know how the Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt girls basketball team did last night in the New Jersey high school playoffs. Canadians didn't have to look very far to find the WJC games-I would have had to take out a second mortgage.

I went to a local eatery last night for a sandwich while my daughter had volleyball practice. I sat at the bar and asked the guy to put the WJC or Kings/Coyotes game on. Nope-didn't have that on their satellite package. I was stuck with some Mexican professional (?) soccer league game. Fourty-five minutes of crying and gesticulating little men falling down all over the place.

OBTW, Soccer players take more dives in one game than Erik Cole does in a season. Have you ever seen a sport where a guy suffers an apparent catastrophic injury, gets hauled off on a stretcher, and then pops up ready to sub-in the minute he hits the sideline? God I hate that game. Some commentor from Canada decried that fact that the US was ranked internationally higher in soccer than Canada. Brother, you can have soccer. I'd rather be in the top 10 in ice dancing than in that weenie sport.

Goooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

We Know You're all Out There...

Lunatic fringe-we know you're all out there...
photo: ear.fm
Long distance dedication time for our friends in Canada. The song is "Lunatic Fringe" and it goes out to all the Ameri-haters in BC and Quebec.

Blogger's note: Red Rider was one-hit-wonder band band from the 80's. They were Canadians, wore tight leather pants a la Loverboy, and as you can see from the period photo, they had world class mullets! Saw them twice in college. Their drummer once sat in with the Beach Boys when Dennis Wilson was off on a bender.

Time for my last call on all the political bashing. I think the USA is the greatest force for good the world has ever seen, so I honestly don't get all the venom coming from a bunch of bleeting Canadians. I guess when you take on the mantle of leadership you also have to be willing to suffer the slings and arrows of those who love to prostelatize from the safety of the world's nose bleed section. That Chinese guy facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square or the US Army Ranger scouting the mountain passes of Afghanistan hunting for terrorists-these are the brave and principled ones. They took a stand even when it might cost them their lives. Harranging a bunch of American teens about American foreign policy from the safety of section 330 in the GM Place or Molson Center, now that's just cowardly.

As a service to our loyal readers on both sides of the world's longest undefended border, I've provided some lists below of the top political blogs in America. Bloggers in both worlds either share your views about America or would love to remind you of your kookishness. Feel free to choose a side and vent with more anonymity than you could find even at a Canadians game.

Some of the top Conservative blogs include:


Top Liberal blogs include:

Now back to hockey. Eric Staal will chat on nhl.com today. If I sit in, I probably won't ask him anything about global politics.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Piling on the Habitants and British Columbioids

Today's posting by the Acid Queen coupled with what I heard last night on the audio stream of the US/USSR errrrr Russia WJC game and read online has my blood up today.

One of the reasons I started a hockey blog was because even though I too have strong political views (none of which involve "Softwood Lumber Duties," which is apparently not a political issue at all, but rather a specific type of erectile dysfunction experienced as part of the duty of being a Canadian citizen), there was just too much venom in the world of politics for the endevour to be any fun. The culture of hockey is a lot like that of rugby. We can kick the crap out of each other (literally or figuratively) for three periods and then turn around and throw back a pint together as best buddies immediately afterward. This compelling interpersonal dynamic doesn't exist in the realm of politics.

And that's what's got me steamed today. Have you noticed how long the comment posts get when politics worms its way into the discussion? According to the apologists, the reason the BC fans were giving it to the Team USA boys was because of George Bush and his policies. On numerous occasions in '03 Canadian fans booed the US national anthem. Again, it was attributed to President Bush's policies.

I can understand booing as part of a rivalry. If I'm watching a US/Canada game, I'd cheer for my homeboys and boo and holler loudly if one of my guys were to take a flagrant elbow to the mellon. Who boos Evgeni Malkin just to make a statement about their outrage over Vladimir Putin's efforts to kill real democractic reform in Russia? Who shows up to a hockey rink with the intention mobilizing the crowd to make a political statement?

Hockey players traditionally stand up for each other-especially US and Canadian boys. Americans at the United Center in November cheered Oh Canada with great vigor-more than Thrashers fans displayed in September for our own national anthem. Now maybe that was because it was played on a viola by a little band geek and not sung by a fat guy in a booming baritone, but the point remains.

The fact is, these Montreal and BC fans acted in a cowardly display of pack, or better yet, sheep-like behavior, and I don't think it's just about world politics-it's also about hockey politics. If you asked Dr. Phil, he'd probably say these Canadians were acting out through a burst of repressed anxiety rooted in concerns over an uncertain future. These sheep see the emergence of Team USA and the growth of hockey in the USA (Texas now has the most active hockey players at all levels in the USA) as a threat to Canadian hockey hegemony (how's that for a geo-political buzz word, eh?).

The natural reaction of the sheep herd is to huddle butt-to-butt, bleat really loudly and hope to fend off the aggressor. Hey sheep of the great white north, the wolf is at the door, and his name is not George Bush. His name is USA Hockey and he's about to blow your house down and eat your Tim Horton's lunch donuts. Just not at this year's WJC.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dealing with the loss of Wes

Carolinahurricanes.com is reporting that Glen Wesley will be out 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Tough loss of steady defensive play and blueline leadership at a time when the boys might otherwise be poised to bury Tampa and fend off a resurgent Atlanta squad the 'Canes will face three times in January.

The loss of Wes probably means more ice time for Mike Commodore. Mike is around 14th or 15th in the league right now in penalty minutes. The Hurricanes have taken the 5th most penalties in the league as of today (UPDATE-Wrong CBlog-they have taken the the 6th least total penalties.Thanks to Zachary and the folks at Letsgocanes.com for pointing out my aggregious error). But, once Lavvy's boys take those penalties, they have the 5th worst penalty kill in the league.

I concur with David of Red and Black that Oleg Tverdovsky has been a disappointment this year-not much point production or leadership, and a lousy +/-. Andrew Hutchinson and Frankie Kaberle have nice hands and can run a PP, but both play a malice-free game. Bret Hedican has been steady but unspectacular in a new NHL that was supposed to free up guys like him to fly and carry the puck. CasonBlog hero, AWard, is a blast to watch every night. He's making solid plays and cracking some skulls.

Overall, I fear Wes's leadership and consistency will be missed at a critical juncture in the season. The boys are in the top ten in both PP and team +/-, so the real issue for the boys right now is stepping up on the PK. The prospect of facing Kovalchuk, Kozlov, Savard and Hossa on the PK without Wes's smart and physical play on D is scary.

Is now time to make a move in the marketplace? Which teams might be willing to move a solid blueliner to gain a prospect or a forward? Who might the 'Canes offer at the risk of crushing team chemistry? JR couldn't move Radim Vrbata for a bag of pucks. The same would probably go for Mike Zigomanis, and Joe Vasicek is damaged goods right now.

The most marketable guy on the squad right now and not among the list of presumed untouchables (Staal, Stillman, Roddy, Ladd, the goalies) would probably be Erik Cole. JR only gave Cole a 1 yr deal. At the time, Cole was bitter about being low-balled. If Cole stays healthy and shines the rest of the year (including the upcoming Olympics) The 'Canes could well lose him to free agency with nothing in return. I don't think JR would make a move with an Eastern Conference team. Moving Cole to a conference rival could come back to haunt the club over and over in a season.

Where could JR get instant help on D without taking on a ton of salary (< $2 mil)? Unless JR could find a club looking to unload and/or share salary on a top defender, Cole is the most sellable player, and his market value should demand more than just a steady defenseman. So among the possibles noted below, I would think a trading partner would have to throw in a prospect at a minimum to close a deal:

  • Phoenix-The 'Yotes are looking for scoring and character and have a stock of solid young blueliners in Paul Mara, Keith Ballard, Zybnek Michalek and Matt Jones.
  • Anaheim-Ruslan Salei ranks among the league leaders in +/- on a team with solid PK stats but lousy PP production. Vitaly Vishnevski also blocks shots and hits like a man possessed and takes half the penalties of a Mike Commodore.
  • Chicago-Jassen Cullimore's name keeps popping up in trade rumors on a squad with solid PK numbers (despite a lousy record) and intriguing youngsters on D including Brent Seabrook and Anton Babchuk.

Is it heresy to talk about moving a top performer and fan favorite at a time when the boys sit well atop the Southeast? Possibly, but I think JR is quite possibly looking at a squad right now that has discipline and heart issues on D. He would also be remiss if he wasn't contingency planning for a future that might well include the loss of Erik Cole through free agency, the retirement of Glen Wesley, and the possible mental/physical collapse (again) of Oleg Tverdovsky. The time to leverage capital is not when you are desperate, but when you appear to be in control.