Monday, November 30, 2009

Ovie is His Own Enemy

Does he want to be the villain?? Is he tired of being the guy people look at as a great ambassador to the game?? Is he trying to push the limits of his superstardom?? Whatever it is, Alex Ovechkin is really doing more worse than good for himself. He's now starting to get hurt from his actions because it is.

If I'm the Caps right now, as much as I like to have his energy, he needs to be told to calm it down a bit. Odds are, he will be suspended for this hit and rightfully so, I may add. However, the knee injury is going to be the task at hand for the Caps. The suspension is almost good for him because it'll give him games to rest up. Plus, it could settle him down when it comes to the reckless abandon he may have going on in his head.

Yet, with all this going on and with Ovie missing the games he has been having, whether it's forced or not-- is there a time where the Caps don't become his team?? I mean, you look at what Nicklas Backstrom has been able to do, it almost seems like he's taking it on as his team; much like Evgeni Malkin did when Sidney Crosby was on the shelf for the Penguins. It's a good mentality for Backstrom to have, especially with what's going on with Ovechkin.

Somehow, the injury for Ovie shouldn't be a surprise, since many people thought that his style of play, as well as karma, would catch up with him. The karma part if obvious with all the misses he's had with the suspensions on questionable hits and such. Yet, his style of play is much like Pavel Bure's, where he's open to injury more often than not. In the same breath, I don't think Bure did it to himself like Ovechkin is doing. Still-- this would probably come later in his career, which is not good for Ovie when he's the reigning MVP and going out like he's untouchable.

Whatever the case for Ovechkin may be, it's going to be something where the Caps may need to talk to him and try to calm him down before he goes a little too crazy and does long-term, irrepairable damage to himself, thus maybe sinking his team, too. Luckily, the Caps have a deep roster and could be able to bounce back sooner than most due to it. If Ovechkin wants to be a leader, he needs to start doing it on the ice by not playing so headstrong and testing the limits of what he can get away with. If he doesn't-- more incidents like this will happen, for sure.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jason Muzzatti

This week's inductee could have played with the most teams and log the most frequent flier miles out of the rest of the AGMs. However, he made big headlines during the 2006 Olympic Games with his heart and soul play for his adopted home country. This week, we look at Jason Muzzatti.

Though he got limited time with the St. Michael's Buzzards in Toronto through his midget (6-3-0) and Junior A (10-5-2) career, Muzzatti's play was something that got noticed by the Michigan State University team. For his troubles, Muzzatti got thrown into the fray of the Spartans net as a starter in his freshman year. While going 19-9-3 in his first year, Muzzatti was just getting started, as shown by his CCHA second-team selection. That summer, Muzzatti's potential was seen by the Calgary Flames who picked him in the first round in the 1988 Draft. Not to show it was a fluke, in his sophomore year in 1988-89, Muzzatti went 32-9-1 with a 3.03 GAA, which was his best record in his four years. Yet, even with the record, the most accolades were achieved in his third year at MSU, where he went 24-6-3 and was named to the first-team CCHA All-Star team and NCAA West Second-Team All-American for the year. However, his senior year was struggle for Muzzatti, as he went 8-10-2 and split his time with Mike Gilmore.

After his last year, Muzzatti had nowhere to go but the pros, where Muzzatti went to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, the Flames IHL affiliate. He held his own as a first-year pro, playing in 52 games and going 24-22-5 for the season with a 3.30 GAA. In the 1992-93 season, it was a split between three teams for Muzzatti as he played in the IHL between Salt Lake (5-6-1) and the Indianapolis Ice (5-6-1), as well as playing for the Canadian National Team for 13 games (6-9-0).

For the 1993-94 season, the Flames moved their affiliate to the AHL and to Saint John, New Brunswick. Muzzatti got accustomed to the move, as he spent most of his time there, going 26-21-3 in his 52 games. Also that season, Muzzatti made his NHL debut, which was a horrific 8-4 loss against the Los Angeles Kings. It was back to Saint John for the 1994-95 season, but he was put to a lesser role with a young Dwayne Roloson being the Flames top prospect netminders now. Muzzatti only got 31 games in with a dismal 10-14-4 record for the year. Muzzatti did get 10 minutes back into the NHL, but it was to replace Trevor Kidd in a game.

While the Flames wanted to keep Muzzatti, the Hartford Whalers pluck him off of waivers before the start of the season. Muzzatti was sent down to the Springfield Falcons of the AHL to start the season, and he played strong going 4-0-1 in his five games there. That was good enough to get the call-up to back-up Sean Burke. Muzzatti got 22 games in for the season, but went a disappointing 4-8-3 even with a 2.90 GAA and .911 save percentage. It was good enough to keep him up the entire 1996-97 campaign, again backing up Burke, but getting 31 games in. Yet, even with more of a chance, Muzzatti disappointed with a 9-13-5 record and a 3.43 GAA and .888 save percentage.

Interesting note of his tenure in Hartford-- on two game in his two year there, Muzzatti racked up 12 PIMs even though he did not play a minute. One game in March of 1996, Muzzatti got 12 PIMs from the bench, while in April of 1997, Muzzatti played one second and was able to rack up 12 PIMs as well. Quite a feisty player, eh??

In the summer of 1997, the Whalers moved to Carolina to become the Hurricanes. Before Muzzati had the chance to don the Hurricanes colors, he was traded to the New York Rangers for a fourth-round pick. Muzzatti started out with the Rangers, but went 0-3-2 in his games, which sent him back to Hartford, but this time playing for the WolfPack of the AHL. He calmed down a lot in Hartford, posting an 11-5-1 record. However, Muzzatti was on the move again as he was traded to San Jose at the deadline. It moved Muzzatti to Kentucky with the Thoroughblades of the AHL for seven games, going 2-3-2 in those games. Muzzatti was also recalled by the Sharks and played a few minutes as Mike Vernon attended to family matters.

Muzzatti couldn't get a contract in the NHL for the 1998-99 season, which sent him over to Europe to play for Eisbaren Berlin; but that only last for four games. Muzzatti had to have heart surgery, which limited his playing time for obvious reasons. Once healthy, Muzzatti put up a 3.00 GAA, but no record seems to be around to web. In the 1999-2000 season, Muzzatti went up to Finland to play with Tappara Tampere and did well in his 41 games going 26-9-5 with a 2.28 GAA in that season. Once again, it was back to Germany for Muzzatti in the 2000-01 season for the Ausburg Panthers. Muzzatti played 43 games with a 3.59 GAA, but once again-- no record provided.

Yet, the most contribution Muzzatti had to the game was going back to the "Motherland" of Italy to play hockey there. It started in the 2001-02 season, playing for HC Milano to start off with. Muzzatti played for Milano until the end of the 2003-04 season. For the 2004-05 season and 2005-06 season, Muzzatti played with HC Bolzano Foxes. During that time, Muzzatti got his duel citizenship status, which allowed him to play for Italy in International competitions, like in the World Championships, where Muzzatti helped Italy get into Division 1 after the 2005 tournament.

The greatest moment of Muzzatti though may have come when he played for Italy in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. It was a big moment for the country in ice hockey, but more for Muzzatti who's first game was against his other country-- Canada. While the Italians were the vast underdog, they tried to give hope, even have a tie of 1-1 for a short time. Muzzatti made 43 saves in the 7-2 lost and garnered a lot of attention from the game. The restof the tournament was a bit of a wash with Italy getting skunked 6-0 to Finland (Muzzatti did not play), tying Germany 3-3 (31 saves), losing 4-1 to Czech Republic (18 saves in relief), and tying 3-3 to Switzerland (22 saves). However, the ties to the borderline teams of Germany and Switzerland caught the attention of most thinking that Italian hockey wasn't anything to worry about.

After the 2005-06 season was complete, Muzzatti got lured back to North America by the UHL's Flint Generals. Muzzatti split time with Bryan Worosz, with Muzzatti getting one more game and going 18-15-6 for the season, which would end up being his last pro season playing. After that season, took a few years away from hockey before the Generals called Muzzatti to make him an assistant coach in the 2008-09 season in the newly formed IHL and eventually named him Head Coach for the 2009-10 season.

While he didn't pan out like the Flames had wanted to, Muzzatti made his mark in other ways through the pipe of international hockey. He made headline in a somewhat meaningless game, but made headway for one country to be a viable option for consideration in the hockey realm. Now, he's taking what he learned to the other young kids out there as a coach.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Testing Out The Sean-O Rookie Theorem

If you listen to the Face Off Hockey Show like I do, you are fully aware of the Sean-O Rookie Theorem. If you're just a mooch-- what's wrong with you?? In any case, the SRT works as such:
No matter how good a rookie is at the start of the season; there will be a darkhorse rookie to tear it up in the second half to win the Calder Trophy. In addition, Jason Spezza is always in the running.
So, with that in mind-- we look at the early goings of the rookie season, with John Tavares and James van Riemsdyk leading the points for rookies, with Ryan O'Reilly and Michael Del Zotto close behind. However, the hot rookie to start the season, Matt Duchene, has slumped and even demoted to the fourth line for the Avalanche.

Yet, according the theorem, we have to look for a darkhorse rookie who will rise through the ranks and take over the Calder. Going up and down the list, who can we pick out as a possible candidate for the SRT??

There's a lot of defensemen out there who can be considered for the Calder. The hype with big Tyler Myers is certainly worth buying into. Myers plays a tight checking game and has been a welcome surprise for the Sabres into the line-up. Also, Cody Fransen in Nashville could create some buzz if he can continue his solid play in Music City, USA-- though he would get lost in the defense corp with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in the mix. Also, Davis Drewskie of LA should get some consideration for this award, as well as Olympic consideration as well. Drewskie has been a welcome surprise to the young LA Kings' squad, and is at the top of the chart of ice time. Plus, how could you forget Victor Hedman, who leads all rookie's in ice time and is a vital part on the rebuilding Bolts blueline.

At the same time, we all know defensive defensemen don't get that much consideration if they don't put up points along with it. That's why a player like Del Zotto will get more consideration over the likes of the names above.

Also, you can't look past two Dallas Stars as candidates for this award, with Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell really making some quiet noise. Wandell is a definite darkhorse, but his role playing is fairly unseen; yet Benn could make some noise if given the chance. Benn right now has 13 points in 24 games, which puts him sixth in rookie scoring and seventh on the team. The downside to Benn is maybe getting his time overshadowed by other forwards and getting lost in fold of all of this.

Even with all of that, Evander Kane goes under the radar in terms of consideration. He's second in rookie goal-scoring, he's tied for second in rookie +/-, and eight in rookie points. While he's in a market like Atlanta which often goes unnoticed beyond Ilya Kovalchuk; Kane should be one to keep an eye on should John Anderson give him an increased role with the Thrashers as the season moves forward.

Let's not forget goalie, too. Seymon Varlamov in Washington has played solid with the big club and is 9-1-2 on the season. The trap for Varlamov is not being the clear-cut start, mostly splitting time with Jose Theodore when Theodore is actually rostered for the Caps. Even so, many think Varlamov is the #1, even with coach Bruce Boudreau being coy with it. Jonas Gustavsson has a lot of hype with him, but could be a victim of being on a horrific team, which will inflate his GAA and wins for the season. Even with that, Gustavsson has keep his save percentage at a decent .900. Though, sneaking in-- Tuukka Rask could be a darkhorse, depending on how long Tim Thomas is out for the Bruins. Rask is 7-2-2 for the season and has been a shot in the arm for the B's.

In the end, however, it looks like it could be John Tavares' to lose in all of this. He's playing magnificently and really doesn't seem to be letting the hype or pressure get to him. In fact, he seems to be taking it to heart with all the eyes on him and leading the Isles to an early-season surprising start. He's leading in rookie points and goals and will probably increase those throughout his run. While van Riemsdyk is a surprise, I doubt he'll get the chance to really catch up to Tavares, even though the team around JVR is solid and may get a chance to get more time should his pace continue.

We're a quarter of the way in the season, which gave us a nice look at who's-who in the NHL rookie race and only time will tell in the new calendar year if the SRT will be put into play this season....and if Jason Spezza and finally pull this one out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kiprusoff Hard On Starter's Role For Finland

Does it make sense for Miikka Kiprusoff to go out on the record to say he won't participate in the Olympics if he's not the starter?? Considering the fact the Games are in Vancouver, it's not like he's lose much energy being a back-up on the bench, but does it make sense at all for him to do this??

If you remember correctly, Kipper wasn't on the Finnish roster for the Torino Games due to a hip injury; it was Niklas Backstrom, Antero Niittymaki, and long forgotten Fredrik Norrena. The leverage isn't really there for Kipper to go boldly go out and make this big claim that he's not interested if he's not the #1, especially when they were able to get a silver medal without him on the roster or even a second thought about it. There is no fear for the Finns with this threat of Kipper trying to rest up.

Beyond Kipper, Backstrom is there, along with Niittymaki again. Also, you have Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Chicago's Antii Niemi, as well as Boston's Tuukka Rask in the wings. Finland seems to the big factory for goalie's nowadays and to be honest-- what if Kipper doesn't show up; there's plenty of guys out there to fill his role and should be fantastic enough to make people forget Kipper is actually Finnish.

Plus, if you're the Flames fans or staff-- you'd want Kipper to skip the Olympics because since he's a workhorse for the team and will be getting a lot of action down the home-stretch, so the more rest the better. Especially if the Flames can't/don't want to get an experienced back-up, Kipper will be under pressure to carry the workload for the expectations the Flames have for this season.

Yet, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News made the best point saying that no player is above the team and the fact that Kipper is trying to dictate things to the Finnish Hockey Federation is a bad route to go for international play. Not just the Olympics, but maybe the World Championships and beyond. Maybe it's not Kipper trying to dictate at all, but him not wanting to play for his country because he's actually worn out. This could be a reverse-psychology move that could very well work out for him.

Point is, even if Kipper doesn't show up for the Finns in the Olympics-- it could be a win-win for all. The Finns win with or without Kipper because they have plenty of goalies to go around for their team. Plus, Kipper wins either way because he'd be starting for his country in the Olympics or resting for a run at the Stanley Cup. In the end, this could very well be a none-story; yet here we are talking about this slower news day.

"Bett and Bals": Relief From The Heat??

This gimmick will never end, even with all these people coming out of the woodworks. Hit the "Bett and Bals" tag at the end to see the other episodes of this gimmick. You may laugh, you may learn something, but you'll definitely read it. That much I know.

(Scene: Gary Bettman is sitting at the kitchen table, looking through papers while on the phone. Bettman searches to find something that could get him rid of this team.)
Gary Bettman: So, we have this team-- they are going to be fantastic. There's a lot of young players ready to go, there's an untapped market out there, and if you want me to be honest-- I think I can get you a steal of a deal.

Anonymous Caller: I see Mr. Bettman, but can I trade them??

GB: Players?? Sure, you'll own the team-- you can do what you want, so long as you keep them in Phoenix.

AC: I mean, trade you some BlackBerries for the Coyotes??


(Jim Balsillie peeks his head around the corner with a smirk and walks to sit down near Bettman)
Jim Balsillie: I almost was going to lead you on a little more, but I think I'll let you off the hook this time. Yet, I was going to see what I could do and maybe get you drunk to get you off your rocker to get this team.

GB: Keep trying, but I'm waiting for this phone call about another investor.

JB: You're kidding me right?? Is it those Saskatoon guys again, because it didn't work with the Expos when they were moving between Montreal and Puerto Rico, but ending up in DC-- how will this all work out??

GB: No, look-- according to the Globe and Mail there's a guy who wanted to buy the Canadiens at the start of the decade and then again just recently that wants to buy the Coyotes. He's got a lot of local investors and actually wants to keep the team here in Phoenix. Then we can finally get rid of this condo and not have to worry about dealing with each other until Atlanta or Miami gets in trouble.

JB: He goes from trying to buy the greatest team in the history of the NHL to a footnote in the Sunbelt expansion project?? I don't know if this guy's mentally apt to take control of a team, to be honest. How is he really any different from me??

GB: For one, he's not trying to move the team to Montreal and already selling tickets. Second, he's got local interests and wants to keep the team there. Third, this could work out. I mean-- the local investors thing worked out in Edmonton and Atlanta. Why do you think that it wouldn't work out in Phoenix??

JB: Too easy.

GB: Then explain it to me Mr. Smartypants.

JB: Real grown up. Anyway, the Edmonton situation turned into a disaster at the end before they finally sold it to Daryl Katz-- and even then, they had to be pressured into doing it because they wanted to seemingly drag the team down with 124 different investors having a say in it. Plus, with a name like Camelback Hockey, they may be able to survive the drought of income because they are stacked up, but it seems destined for failure.

GB: The fact of the matter is this could be the only reasonable bite we've had. I don't know what's going on with the heat for this team-- but if we can move this soon enough, god knows we may have to sell this team to you in order to get our investment back.

JB: I like where this is headed....may have to talk to this guy and get on this investor train...

GB: Like we'd allow you to do that. Truth of the matter is we need to unload this team sooner rather than later so it doesn't affect the other teams with us owning it. Plus, the team can grow in a bigger role with an independant guy at the helm. Even with all those hands in the pot-- our hands would be out of there.

JB: Yeah, because we wouldn't be at the exact same issue in a few years with all those people in shambles. Look, honestly-- even if it's not me-- you have to give this team a situation where it has the viability to survive. If these guys just want the team for the hell of it-- then eff 'em. Yet, if they actually have radical changes to make this team profitable, then it's worth the shot. I don't think they really get the ideal of making this radical change and want it for a write-off or just to say they own a team. This guy had a hand to try and buy the Habs and yet, nothing came from it. That could tell you something about his leadership or organization towards things.

GB: Even so....I wouldn't have to really deal with it for a time, therefore, he's a great suitor. Take the burden off the league's hands and put it to someone else. Maybe they could make it work, maybe they won't-- it won't be a problem until it's a problem again. Out of sight out of mind to be honest.

JB: Just give the team to me-- we'll move it to Canada, you can come visit, I'll replace your iPhone with my new BlackBerry-- we'll get a place in Kitchener-Waterloo; I think it's gonna be an ideal situation for you and me both. We do well together.

GB: Look at this mess-- think I'm living with you again....too much money laying around. I know it's a desert, but you don't have to make it rain in the living room.

(Phone rings)

GB: This could be the guy, hold on. Hello, Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner.

Judge Redfield T. Baum: T-BOMBED!!!!!!!


JB: Best. Gag. Ever.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At Least They Didn't Put "FLA" On The Front

The Florida Panthers revealed their third jerseys on Monday night and it's....different.

As you see, it's got the mix of navy blue and baby blue and kind of rips off both the Pittsburgh Penguins thirds and the St. Louis Blues' third. So, as you can tell-- the creativity machine has been put into retirement with all of this coming to a head.

The logos themselves-- I have to say I enjoy the stylized panther-head logo. It's a little more sharper and modern than what they have on their regular jerseys. However, the sun logo with "FLA" on the shoulders....not a fan. Not only is it an eyesore to me and very out of place with the yellow sun standing out on the shoulder yoke, the FLA looks way too big for the logo and just not flowing with the rest of the scheme.

For a team who used to have a bitchin' red jersey design and solid foundation for jersey awesomeness; the templated piping with their Edge jerseys and unoriginality of their third jerseys, this is an ultimate example of horrific things can get if you don't have the best marketing team or any desire for creativity.

Though it just shows that blue is the new black. This year alone, the Predators went to a whole blue motif, the Avalanche going with the blues, combined with the other blue thirds out there (Blues, Sabres, Canucks, Pens, Isles, Oilers)-- it seems that any shade of blue is something that teams want to go to. You can bet the Capitals would have blues as a third since they don't have anymore options to go to, as well as the Rangers would probably go to a navy options like they did back in the day.

But in the end, there's more bad than good when it comes to the Panthers new thirds. It's something that could have been done a lot better, maybe even bringing the team back to their days of glory, when they made the playoffs and turned a lot of heads. Sadly, it's all for naught.

Thanks again to for the image direction.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Blaine Lacher

It is the Thanksgiving week for those in the US, and many fans could consider this inductee as a turkey of sort. Brought in for the hype of it, he had a decent season to start out with, but could never follow through on the rest of the hype. A one-hit wonder of sorts, this guy did have his college career to fall back on. This week's AGM: Blaine Lacher.

Lacher had skipped the major junior route to play junior A in Saskatchewan with the Melville Millionaires in the SJHL. He played 39 games with Melville and compiled a GAA with 3.57 GAA as a 19-year-old. With those numbers, it was good enough for Lacher to get into the NCAA with Lake Superior State University. However, the freshman year for Lacher was a rough one, as he was deemed academically ineligible for the season, ruining his freshman year.

The sophomore year was decent enough since Lacher was able to play for the Lakers, but it was a short-lived season. Lacher started up decent enough going 5-1-0 to start the season, but midway through the season it came crashing down. Lacher got sucked into the big life of Sault St. Marie, especially coming from small town Medicine Hat, Alberta. Lacher was arrested for disorderly conduct during one night of drinking, and while the charges were dropped-- the damage was done. Lacher was suspended for two games and once coming back was lit up by a lowly Ohio State squad for 15 goals in two games, putting Lacher on the bench for the rest of the season behind Darrin Madeley. The Lakers went on to with the NCAA Championship for the 1992 Tournament. After the season, Lacher went to head coach Jeff Jackson and pleaded his case for more playing time.

Lacher got his playing time for his junior and senior season, getting his chance as a starter after getting the confidence from his coach. During the junior season, Lacher put up a 24-5-3 season with a 2.59 GAA, but the best was yet to come. The senior season for Lacher was what got him noticed. Lacher had a 20-5-4 record with six shutouts and 1.98 GAA, while during the season setting the record for the all-time consecutive scoreless streak at 375 minutes and one second, a record that still holds today. It was a great season, personally, for Lacher-- he got a contract as a free agent from the Boston Bruins.

While his first pro season was hastened to start thanks to the Lockout of 1994, Lacher got his chance in time. After tuning up with a game in Providence, the Lockout ended and Lacher started out in Boston. From the start, he took control of the congested goaltending debacle in Boston, beating out Craig Billington and Vincent Riendeau for the starters role when Lacher went 6-1-0 in his first seven starts. With the play of Jim Carey in Washington, the two were going neck-and-neck for biggest surprise. Yet, even with a hot start-- it started to fade for Lacher as he dealt with a hamstring injury throughout the season. He still played well enough to get the Bruins into the playoffs with a 19-11-2 record and 2.41 GAA for the season. Yet, with the playoffs, Lacher wasn't able to hold off the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, losing in five games, even though he didn't get much help from his teammates in the goal department.

There was a lot of buzz between both Lacher and Carey thanks to their surprising, out-of-nowhere performances for the shortened season. Yet, both had similar falling outs of the NHL. Lacher's was much quicker to fall from grace. Lacher started off the season with plenty of struggles, posting a 1-4-2 in his first eight games, being replaced in one getting a no-decision. While he was able to get back with a 2-1-0 record, it was enough to keep him from getting sent to the AHL's Providence Bruins thanks to another logjam in the Boston net.

The rest of the 1995-96 season was spent split between Providence and the Cleveland Lumberjacks. In Providence, Lacher played eight games going 3-5-0 and while in Cleveland, Lacher did no better at 3-4-1. The 1996-97 season would be Lacher's last professionally as he spent the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the IHL and went 1-8-1 before calling it a careers.

As of 2004, Lacher had moved back to Medicine Hat, Alberta and had settled down with his wife, working for Goodyear as a tire builder. Lacher also coaches a local school and gives advice to his players about how great an experience college hockey is for players. Lacher is quoted to say he has no regrets when it comes to his career.

While Lacher's career was short, he still seems to be a name that is brought up a lot when it comes to one-trick-ponies in the NHL. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but at least he won't be lost amongst the other goalies and players who have came and went from the game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So Long Shanny

The big knock on Brendan Shanahan when he was drafted 13th overall in the OHL draft was that he couldn't skate. He silenced critics when playing with the London Knights with 154 points in 115 games in junior, enough to be drafted 2nd overall by the New Jersey Devils in 1987. And while his first year was a disappointment, the rest of his career was something legends were made of.

After 21 seasons, however, Shanahan put his family first and has decided to hang them up. The only player to score over 600 (656) goals and have over 2,000 (2,498) PIMs in their career, Shanahan could be one of the most underrated goal scorers out there. While he only had one season of over 100 points, he had 12 seasons of 30 + goals, two 50 goal seasons, but somehow always got overshadowed by other stars on the team or was on a team that never got much credit due to the market they were in. He played over 1,500 games for five NHL teams (New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, NY Rangers), as well as the first Canadian Olympic team to win a gold medal in over 50 years.

And while we can talk about the goals he scored, the intimidation he brought to his game, the three Stanley Cups he won; but I think the legacy he built for himself was being part of a lot of the changes to the game during the lockout that were implimented after the work-stoppage was over. The "Shanahan Summit," as it was deemed, took place in Decemeber of 2004 and was headed up by Shanny to think of ideas on how to make the game-play in the league better when it starts back up.

The Summit was unique as it gathered up people from all walks of the hockey life, with GMs, players, and some media types there in order to get a wide array of responses in order to figure out how the ideas would be received. It must have gotten some decent response, as many of those ideas were brought into the NHL. Rules like creating a Competition Committee, streamlining goalie equipment, the "Delay of Game" call for puck going over the boards, shootouts to break ties, more access to media rights holders, and reducing obstruction. While other rules like wider lines and no-touch icing weren't introduced, they were amongst topic. Of course, some of these rules aren't as well received as others, but they were put out there to the forefront and for the most part, they have worked well to make the game better since the work-stoppage.

Above all, his reason to retire makes him a class act. Shanny didn't want to uproot his family and when a team in the area (NY, NJ, Philadelphia) didn't want to sign him up, he decided that it was time to go. For a guy who was in a pretty stable area for most of his career, to put his family first when it was time to go. He had accomplished all he needed to. Three Cups, an Olympic Gold Medal, and ticket punched to the Hall of Fame in a couple of years' time. For Mr. Shanahan, his game, his personality, and his class will all be missed.

"Bett and Bals": Delusion of Grandeur

For those of you who don't know about "Bett and Bals", make sure you read the premise. This is all in good fun and usually used for filler, but hey-- it is what it is, right?? I'm not getting paid for this.....though, if I were....

In any case, the first installment of "B&B" has to do with the recent news out about the NHL, who now owns the Phoenix Coyotes, and the City of Glendale trying to reach a lease agreement on the crazy 30 year lease going on.

(Setting: Phoenix condo, overlooking the desert. The living room of Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie is were we're at, with Gary on the phone trying to work something out.)

Gary Bettman: Now listen, listen-- I'm thinking about we end this year, then go on a week-to-week to basis from this point on. Okay, maybe week-to-week is a little much, sure-- but think of the demand of tickets if they don't know whether or not the team is staying or not. What do you mean "What about the arena employees??" Isn't the arena the Arena?? There ya go, just surf there and they're halfway to a new job. Hello?? Hello??

Jim Balsillie: HAHA-- oh Gary, you'll be the death of me.

GB: How much did you hear??

JB: Enough to know that you're never going to sway the city like that. I mean, let's be honest-- as much as you say you want someone in the position to keep the team in Phoenix, odds are they won't be able to make headway with the city in order to get rid of that ridiculous lease they have lined up.

GB: Look, we both know that the era of hockey in Phoenix in the NHL is coming to a head if we can't get something going. The team is winning and has a great array of talent and aside from the die-hards, no one is showing up unless it's a big name team they've seen on ESPN before.

JB: By the way, how's that DirecTV thing coming??

GB: SILENCE!! Listen, once we find a sucker to take this team off our hands, we'll be fine. Even if I have to give it to that place that wanted to play some games in Toon-Town. I don't get it, Phoenix had the Coyotes and Roadrunners playing hockey at the same time and it's not called Toon-Town yet?? How the hell does that happen??

JB: What's the deal with the marketing?? Wasn't this area supposed to be all in support of this?? I had my fair share of people bashing me for my tactics. This is like the third time it's happened.

GB: They caused an outlash because you're a douche. The fact of the matter is that I already have the die-hards' money. I need to get something going. Something needs to click. We've done the cheap tickets gimmick, we've done reduced sales, NOTHING!! It's like this climate can't deal with the idea of hockey.

JB: Shocking. It's not like the sunbelt gimmick you tried to pull is a complete failure-- just look at the ownerships in the other places like Miami, Tampa, Atlanta....they're thriving in your experiment in all of this. It's not like they have ownership issues or attendance issues or anything like that.

GB: But....but Tampa won a Cup. They had a guy who did the "SAW" movies and "Two and a Half Men," how could it go wrong?? The Thrashers have nine guys owning the team.

JB: Nine guys??

GB: Nine guys. And Miami....well, who knows when David Caruso will pop-up and remove his glasses. If we have a "Guaranteed David Caruso Night" for a Panthers game-- oh boy will we have a hot bank for that market. If we can do that 41 games a year-- mo' money, mo' money, mo' money.

JB: Great "In Living Color" reference, grandpa. Here's the issue with all of this, I'm looking at those four markets on my new BlackBerry Bold...

GB: Stop with the plugs....

JB:....and those markets are (scroll, scroll, scroll) 25th (Tampa), 26th (Florida), 28th (Atlanta), and 30th (Phoenix) in attendance figures. And it's not like there's not talent-- the ownerships don't know how to market a team in an area like that. They try once and when it doesn't happen for them, they don't try a different avenue. They think it's a one-shot deal and then flounder, wondering why it didn't work. You have to try different things, pick and your BlackBerry choices.

GB: Oof....but how do you do that?? I mean, even with new owners-- who's to say it'll chance. Hell, we're not doing anything to make them more manageable. The insane part is the people who think movements will do anything. Let's be honest here, odds are this team won't be here in five years unless something miraculous happens. This team is Kansas City bound, hell....maybe we could give this ship to you.

JB: Really??

GB: No, but you got your hopes up didn't you??

(Knock on the door)

GB: It's unlocked, we're trusting like that.

(Door opens to the upstairs neighbor)

Judge Redfield T. Baum: T-BOMBED!!!!!

(Door closes and footsteps run up the stairs)

GB: God, I hate when he does that.

JB: Are you kidding me, that's fantastic. It's the newest hook out there.

GB: Always have to be difficult don't you??

JB: What would this horrific sitcom be without it??

(End Scene)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mark Fitzpatrick

It's time for another installment of the AGMs, with a guy who was dominant in the major junior circuit and had a decent career in the NHL. However, the true tale of the story lies in his comeback from a rare disorder early in his career. Folks, this is the AGM of Mark Fitzpatrick.

While he didn't start playing organized hockey until the age of 10, Fitzpatrick began his junior-A career in Revelstoke of the BCJHL and while his numbers were less than what most people would desire (21 GP, 5.30 GAA, .860 SV%), he made the jump to the AJHL with the Calgary Canucks at the start of the 1984-85 season and then made three appearances as a 15-year-old with the Medicine Hat Tigers. With the Canucks, Fitzpatrick went 18-8-0 with a 3.75 GAA in his 23 appearances. With his short time in Medicine Hat, he went 1-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and also played in on of the Tigers' playoff games.

For the 1985-86 season, Fitzpatrick was ready for the WHL full time and didn't disappoint. He split time with Troy Gamble for playing time, but Fitzpatrick made the most of his chances. His rookie year, he went 26-6-1 with a 2.86 GAA, which set him up to win the Del Wilson Trophy for top goaltender and put him in the perfect position for his next two seasons. The 1986-87 season saw Fitzpatrick being thrown into the starter's role, with Gamble being dealt to Spokane early in the season. Fitzpatrick didn't disappoint, with a 31-11-4 record with four shutouts and a 3.35 GAA. While his regular season was good, it was Fitzpatrick's play in the Playoffs that got him the most acclaim. Fitzpatrick lead the Tigers to their second WHL Championship, their first in 12 years. The Tigers went to the Memorial Cup and kept rolling on the back of Fitzpatrick, who only had a 2.00 GAA in the tournament and led the Tigers to their first Memorial Cup in team history.

The year itself boosted Fitzpatrick's value enough for the Los Angeles Kings to take Fitzpatrick in the second round of the 1987 Draft 27th overall. Fitzpatrick opted to stay in the WHL for another year to build on his stock. He helped out a lot, as Fitzpatrick got 63 games in going 36-15-6 with a 3.23 GAA and nine assists on the season. The Tigers continued to roll through the WHL that season, only needing 16 games in the playoffs to win their 12 to capture a second straight WHL Championship. The song remained the same in the Memorial Cup, with the Tigers dominating again, although Fitzpatrick's GAA was a higher level at 3.64, but it was enough to get the Tigers a second straight Memorial Cup, as well. It was a fantastic end to a out-of-nowhere goaltending prospect.

The 1988-89 season saw Fitzpatrick make the jump to the professional ranks, splitting time at the start with the Los Angeles Kings and New Haven Knighthawks to start with. Fitzpatrick started the first game with the Kings opening night, winning 5-3 in his debut, but was sent to New Haven after that. In the AHL, went 10-5-1 with a 3.31 GAA, while in the NHL with the Kings, Fitzpatrick was 6-7-3 with a 4.01 GAA. Yet, while was considered to be the future of the Kings goaltending, it wasn't good enough when the Kings looked hard.

For that, Fitzpatrick, Wayne McBean, and the every friendly Future Considerations was sent to the New York Islanders for Kelly Hrudey. Fitzpatrick took over the starting role with the Isles at that point, playing in 11 games to round out the season with a disappointing 3-5-2 record and a less than stellar 3.92 GAA for his troubles. The first full season in Long Island during the 1989-90 campaign was a little better, as he got starter's time, but kind of split with Glenn Healy between the pipes. Going 19-19-2 with a 3.39 GAA was helping hope be restored for Fitzpatrick. Sadly, it was short-lived.

Before the start of the 1990-91 campaign, Fitzpatrick was poisoned by an ingredient that was contained in a part of his diet supplement. The amino acid, L-tryptophan, that was in the products he was taking caused him to develop Eosinophilic Myalgia Syndrome, a rare blood disorder caused by L-tryptophan. EMS impared the nerve and muscular systems of the body. Fitzpatrick experience fatigue, shortness of breath, as well as swollen feet, hands, and forearms. While it's incurable now, Fitzpatrick was able to overcome it and started off by playing in the AHL for the Capital District Islanders. He went 3-7-2 there during his stay and was called up to Long Island to play two games, going 1-1-0 during his time.

Fitzpatrick started off the 1991-92 season in the AHL to get his game back and was called by the Islanders in October. However, Fitzpatrick missed 10 games due to a flare-up of his EMS in late October. After he was cleared to play, he went back to the AHL in order to get a rhythm back before being called-up in January to get more time. In the AHL, Fitzpatick went 6-5-1 with a 2.99 GAA, while with the big club, Fitzy was able to get an 11-13-5 record and 3.20 GAA. Fitzpatrick captured the Bill Masterson Trophy for his return to the NHL that season. The 1992-93 season got off to a sub-par start with the Islanders and a 3-7-3 record before he was sidelined with a strained abdominal muscle, which got him back to the AHL to get a little rehab for five games (1-3-1). Yet, when he was bounced back to the big club, Fitzy went 14-8-2 to end out the season to make him a 17-15-5 guy for the year and a so-so 3.46 GAA.

The summer of 1993 was crazy for Fitzpatrick, as along with a first round pick was traded from Long Island to Quebec for Ron Hextall and another first round pick. His tenure as a Nordique was short lived, as he was left unprotected and was picked up by the Florida Panthers in the expansion draft of 1993.

For Fitzpatrick, it was his first time in a while as a back-up, since he was behind the workhorse of John Vanbiesbrouck. The 1993-94 season saw Fitzy make 29 appearance, posting a 12-8-6 record with a 2.73 and .914 SV% for his limited time. The 1994-95 season was more limited due to the lockout, but even so-- Fitzy got 15 games and put up a less than average 6-7-2 record. The 1995-96 season for the Panthers and Fitzy was a solid one, with Fitzy getting 34 games for the season and having a 15-11-3 record and 2.96 GAA, as the team marched all the way into the Stanley Cup finals with their rag-tag bunch of players. Fitzy got some time in those playoffs in relief of Vanbiesbrouck, but they were less than stellar in blowouts. The 1996-97 season was a dicey one, as even though he got 30 appearances, it was mostly in relief of Vanbiesbrouck. Fitzy put up an 8-9-9 record and 2.36 GAA for the year, his last full one with the Panthers.

The 1997-98 season saw a logjam in net for the Panthers, with Vanbiesbrouck, Fitzpatrick, and Kevin Weekes up with the big club to start. While Fitzpatrick was solid to start off with, it wasn't good enough as he was put to the IHL with Fort Wayne before being traded, along with Jody Hull, to Tampa Bay for Dino Ciccarelli and Jeff Norton. Fitzpatrick was thrown into the starter's mix in the gongshow that was the Lightning, playing the bulk of the last 34 games and going a dismal 7-24-1 with a 3.16 GAA . It was his last in Tampa, as he was traded in the summer to Chicago for Michal Sykora.

In Chicago, Fitzpatrick was backing-up Jocelyn Thibault and did respectable when called upon with a 6-8-6 record in 27 appearances, with a 2.74 GAA and though with a decent set of numbers, he could be a starter again. When he was signed by the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 1999, it could have been his chance to challenge Arturs Irbe. However, Fitzy didn't have a good camp and was beat out by Eric Fichaud for the back-up role. That put Fitzy in Cincinnati to play in the IHL for the Cyclones, where we went 11-11-1 in his time there before being called up by Carolina to appear in three games, going 0-2-0. It would be his last season in the NHL, as Fitzpatrick played in the IHL for the Detroit Vipers in the 2000-01 season, but only appeared in nine games with a 4-4-0 record and 2.60 GAA and .919 SV%.

Fitzy got one last hack at the NHL when the Vancouver Canucks tried out many veteran goalies in a back-up role. Fitzpatrick had a good camp, but the Canucks claimed Martin Brochu in the waiver draft and played the role of back up to Dan Cloutier, thus ending Fitzpatrick's career as a player.

Fitzpatrick's story is one of big success early with a lot of promise to the future, but thanks to a serious of unfortunate events, he couldn't get back into his winning ways. However, he didn't let the illness get him down and played to his best every time he stepped onto the ice. While the end could have been a lot better for Fitzpatrick, the experience was probably one that is unforgettable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Definition of "Meh"

As speculated months ago from my post about the Death of Creativity, the Colorado Avalanche unveiled their third jerseys and it was the same design as was speculated. Very meh and very underwhelming considering the leaks that came out and the lack of disagreement upon the leaks. It almost made this unveiling something we were waiting to get over with.

Another "meh" looking design is the next slated third jersey coming out, which is the Florida Panthers on the 23rd of this month. The Panthers are putting out strategic leaks, including the new crest on the jersey, as well as someone from the CCSLC posting a picture of part of the new third. And I have to say, I'm a bit underwhelmed by this, as well. I mean, the Panthers already have a navy jersey, and templated at that. You'd think with their old school red jerseys when they first busted onto the scene, they'd revert back to that color. It almost doesn't make sense to have two navy jerseys-- kind of like the Bruins having a black third jerseys with their black home jerseys. Same with the Predators this year and their navy third jerseys. Usually a third jersey is something completely different from the regular sets.

The entire third jerseys unveiled this year isn't that radical at all. They are kind of going through the motions and are just putting out something just to make some kind of cash. The Wild's thirds are very meh, with the green-- and the Predators jerseys are nothing ground breaking. Maybe it's the Edge system that's handcuffing the teams, but when you look at the Blues thirds and all the retro jerseys that are around; they are able to make something look decent and profitable. It goes back to the creativity issue and why some teams are lacking it. Maybe make some of these designs from CCSLC or other boards a look and a chance. You never know how much of a hit these designs could actually be, because most people seem to like it when it's posted out in public.

Yet, in the end-- it's a cash grab-- let's be honest. Even if the minority of people aren't down with it, there's going to be a majority of people slapping some cash down in order to get into the trend of the new jersey buying. Sunrise, sunset.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Thoughts on the Allan Walsh/Twitter Trouble

Now that we've all had a chance to breathe from Saturday night's Twitter debate (which is code for me being fashionably late), I'll throw my two-cents in and wonder what's going on over there with Allan Walsh and all that.

If you hadn't heard, Allan Walsh posted on his Twitter page a questionable stat about Carey Price. This would be all well and good just in passing, but for Walsh-- he has a vested interest. His client is Jaroslav Halak, who is battling Price for time in the net in Montreal. So, while the stat in itself, that Price is 10W-25L in his last 35, it seems to be definitely uncalled for. Walsh said it was tongue-in-cheek, but the damage was done as it caught on with CBC's Hockey Night In Canada between games one and two, thus being taken to task by the crew there-- especially Kelly Hrudey.

Of course, the ethical implications are in play in this-- because not only does it make him look bad, but it makes the target and pressure on his client to succeed in a market like Montreal that much bigger. While there would be heat in any market, you can't argue that this is making bigger news considering it has to do with Montreal and not, say, Florida. With Twitter being the immediate news source nowadays, it definitely a place where you should pick your spots and watch what you say.

Yet, at the same time, this is not the first time someone related to Walsh has been in the cross-hairs of the Twitter-verse, as the kids say. Walsh's client, Martin Havlat, made his falling out with the Chicago Blackhawks somewhat public after the team didn't offer him a contract. That made the first wave of NHLers airing their grievances on the social networking mainstream.

This begs the question-- is this all happenstances that the biggest issues when it comes to problems between players and their teams are with Walsh and his clientele or is this strategic planning by Walsh and his clique to go into business for themselves?? While I'm sure there's a bit of coincidence, you never really know because of the fact both people who have made the mainstream hockey media when it comes to the Twitter front have been linked to Walsh. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Makes you think.

If it is calculated, then it's bloody genius in some instance because of the fact we're talking about it and making a big deal about it. However, the doubled-edge sword thing is in effect because of the fact teams may be hesitant to deal with Walsh and his clients, knowing what he is capable of saying or doing. Plus, who'd want to be teammates with guys like that-- who's agent will slap down negative stats to a teammate and create awkward issues in the locker room??

This is either extremely brilliant to bring light to situations that are development and what other journalist would say in time or it's extremely stupid by making awkward situations and creating enemies amongst teammates and front office personnel alike. While the latter is more often than not the likely response, you have to say the buzz about each player was out there in a big way at the times of the happenings. Also-- shows the power of the social networking sites in this day-in-age.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jacques Cloutier

Many of the past AGMs have gone onto the coaching realm of the game, but never has one gone into that role early into their playing career. In any case, the fact he got that experience early foreshadowed his career after hockey, we present to you Jacques Cloutier as this week's AGM.

Cloutier started his career in Major Junior as a 16-year-old with Trois-Rivieres in the QMJHL. While his 16-year-old season only saw him play 24 games, it led the way for his next two seasons, which got him to two Memorial Cups. For his second year in Major Junior in 1977-78, Cloutier played in 71 games, going an amazing 46-17-7 with a 3.48 GAA during that season. It help lead the Draveurs to the Memorial Cup, but they lost in the semi-final round. It was only the start for Cloutier's legend, when he played 72 games in 1978-79 with an even better 58-8-6 and a 3.14 GAA, which was enough to capture the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy for best goaltender in the QMJHL. The Draveurs got into the Memorial Cup again, but again-- they lost the semi-final round.

The combined record of 104-25-13 was enough to get Cloutier drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1979 Draft in the third round. Though he was drafted, Cloutier spend one more year in Trois-Riviere, but it wasn't as memorable with Cloutier going 27-20-7 to close out his junior career.

His first year in pro hockey was spent with the Rochester Americans, the Sabres AHL affiliate. Cloutier was thrown right into the starter's role for the 1980-81 season, playing 66 games and going an even .500 with a 27-27-6 record. The 1981-82 season saw Cloutier spend most his time in Rochester, but make appearances with the Sabres. For the Amerks, Cloutier went 14-7-2 in his 23 games, while in five games with the Sabres, Cloutier had a 5-1-0 record, which spelt good things for him in the future, so it would seem. However, in January 1982, Cloutier suffered a broken collarbone he had to work through throughout the season. The 1982-83 season saw another split in time with the Amerks and Sabres, but the Sabres was where he spent most his time backing up Bob Sauve. With the Sabres, in 25 games, Cloutier went 10-7-6 while with the Amerks, Cloutier was still stellar with a 7-3-1 record. Cloutier was able to play in the Calder Cup playoffs for the Amerks, in which he was able to get the Amerks to the Finals and help them win the Calder Cup in a sweep.

Even with the great outings, the 1983-84 season saw Cloutier spend the entire season with the Amerks, not seeing one-spot with the Sabres. Cloutier was subpar for his standards, going only 26-22-1, but sporting a 3.83 GAA. Cloutier's play was able to settle down in the playoffs, helping the Amerks get to the Calder Cup Final again, losing to the Maine Mariners this time.

It was quite a season in the 1984-85 season, as Clouter spent a majority of time in Rochester, but got a call-up and start in November of 1984, tying the Hartford Whalers in his only appearance. Cloutier only saw 14 games in Rochester (10-2-1), but torn some ligaments in his knee in December. However, as I alluded in the beginning, Cloutier was put into an assistant coach role for Rochester after his injury.

Cloutier had one more year of split time between Rochester and Buffalo, as he was still recovering for his injury. The story was a bit off-kilter, with Cloutier playing very well in his 14 games with Rochester (10-2-2), but during his 15 games with Buffalo, Cloutier had a dismal 5-9-1 record, but a solid 3.37 GAA. In the 1986-87 season, Cloutier spent his season in Buffalo backing-up Tom Barrasso, though both were able to get close to split time. The season should be a forgotten one, with Cloutier going only 11-19-5 in his worst pro season to date. The 1987-88 season had Barrasso taking a majority of starts and had Cloutier fight off youngster Daren Puppa for some playing time. Cloutier saw only 20 games with a 4-8-2 record and 4.72 GAA.

At the start of the 1988-89 season, Cloutier was returned to Rochester, where played 11 games, and going a horrific 2-7-0, but was called up in November after Barrasso was traded to Pittsburgh. Cloutier split time with Puppa and host of other goalies that season, finishing with 36 games played and a 15-14-0 record, getting his GAA down to 3.83.

Before the start of the 1989-90 season, Cloutier was the odd-man out in the goaltending carousel for the Sabres, as he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks for the ever popular Future Considerations.

While in Chicago, Cloutier was able to get a majority of the games over Alain Chevier with 43. In those games, Cloutier had a respectable 18-15-2 record, but another logjam was forthcoming for the Blackhawks as with the Sabres. In the 1990-91 season, Cloutier only played 10 games with Chicago (2-3-0), but with Ed Belfour, Jim Waite, Dominik Hasek, and Greg Millen filtering through the system, Cloutier was an odd-man out again. In January of 1991, Cloutier was traded to the Quebec Nordiques for forward Tony McKegney

When he got to Quebec, Cloutier was the back-up to Ron Tugnutt and saw only 15 games with a 3-8-2 record to show for it. It was a logjam in Quebec as well, with Tugnutt, Cloutier, Stephane Fiset, Scott Gordon, and John Tanner all available. The 1991-92 season saw all the goalies, san Gordon, come back and get time with the Nords. Cloutier was thankful to get 26 games in, but only was able to get a 6-14-3 record for his troubles. His shaky time in net made the Nords go out and get Ron Hextall to be starter for the 1992-93 season and Fiset was able to get the back-up job. Even with that, Cloutier was kept on the roster and not get sent down to the AHL. Cloutier only saw three games that year and went 0-2-1. Cloutier was again caught in a logjam with the Nords, as Hextall left-- but Fiset get the starting role and rookie Jocelyn Thibault getting the back-up position. Cloutier was again on the roster, but only saw 14 games in the season and had a 3-2-0 record to close out the year. It turned out to be Cloutier's last season in the NHL.

Immediately after his retirement, Cloutier was onto a coaching role in 1994-95 season as a goalie coach for the Quebec Nordiques and assistant coach of the Nords' AHL affiliate Cornwall Aces. He kept his assistant coaching role in Cornwall for part of the 1995-96 season, but was called upon by the Colorado Avalanche (after they moved from Quebec) to be the goalie coach, and then assistant coach after Jacques Martin moved on to the Ottawa Senators head coaching role. It lucked out for Cloutier, who was behind the bench when the Avs won the Cup in 1996. Cloutier would stay in the assistant coaching role with the Avs until June of 2009 when Joe Sacco came in and cleaned house. Cloutier was also able to get another ring when the Avs won the Cup again in 2001.

His leadership and a twist of fate was able to get Cloutier some coaching time, even when he was still playing. He's had plenty of experiences in his career in playing and coaching, mostly ending with a logjam forcing him out in one way or another. At least he was able to get some hardware to show off his success before he was forced out. It's another story, though, of a goalie being great in juniors and the minors; but circumstances stop them from being great in the NHL.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Defending the Barber-Pole

The man with an amazing Andre the Giant impression, Greg Wyshynski, and his crew over at Yahoo's Puck Daddy unveiled the first of their "Best and Worst of the Decade" session with the best and worst jerseys. It was a tough task, as I don't think there has been more changes in jersey style, design, and fabrics as it has been in the past 10 years. Yet, I have to disagree with the Montreal Canadiens' barber-pole jerseys as the worst in the last decade. I'm not going to say it's the best, but hardly the worst; especially considering the Predators' mustards were not included, nor were the Coyotes' green jerseys-- though I liked the greens for a small time. Lest we forget the Canucks' gradient thirds or Penguins robo-penguin, either.

But, like I said-- plenty of jerseys in the past 10 years, and I don't even Wysh for not tapping on all of the jerseys that have been thrown out to the public for the decade.

However, if you want to talk about the whole retro movement when it comes to the culture of sports-- fact of the matter is that nothing says more retro than the barber-pole jersey when it comes to hockey. For the most part, the barber-pole was the template at the time. Most of the original teams used a form of the barber-pole design, with the original Ottawa Senators using them in the inaugural season of the NHL in 1917-18, with the Hamilton Tigers adding to it in 1920-21. In 1925-26, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Wanderers developed a form of the barber-pole, with moderations here and there-- whether it be just on the sleeps or thicker lines and broken up patterns. By the 1927-28 season, the Senators, Bruins, Montreal Maroons, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Cougars, and Toronto Maple Leafs had a variation of the barber-pole in their motif. Not as wild as the New York Americans, who were basically wearing the United States flag as a jersey.

Through the 20s and 30s, the jersey style stayed in tact, with many teams trying it out and many keeping it for quite a while. However, but the 1938-39 season, the Chicago Blackhawks were pretty much the last to have a barber-pole jersey in the traditional sense of the style. The Hawks then retired their barber-pole at the end of the 1954-55 season. The style had laided dormant for many years, until the NHL's 75th anniversary, when the Hawks, Bruins, Red Wings and All-Star jerseys all had a retro barber-pole design to them, even if the ASG ones only had them in the arms. Even in the junior ranks, the Ottawa 67's used the barber-pole for numerous amount of years in the OHL, as did the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the QMJHL.

While most of the retros are brought back because of how hideously classic they are (Canucks' flying V, Pens' baby blues, Flyers' mismatched nameplates, Cooperalls), I believe the barber-poles are more tradition than tacky. They bring the game back to a simpler time when you didn't need the flash and dash to sell jerseys, you just needed the team colors and maybe a logo. Most the time, the logos were only letters and it couldn't be simpler than that. I know that many have called for the Ottawa Senators to change their third jersey look to incorporate the shoulder patch logo in a mini-barber-pole design. We all know Pascal Leclaire is into the barber-pole, as his pads definitely say.

If you haven't already-- check out, where I got all the hotlinks and historical rundown from it all. Great site for jersey and logo freaks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Putting the Jackets On To Leave??

Interesting story coming out of the Columbus Dispatch, where a story is saying that if a new financial model cannot be found to help out the Blue Jackets, there's a distinct possibility that they could leave Columbus. According to this report, the current ownership and the City Chamber is looking to find a model that will help the Jackets' with the $5M in rent they pay a year, as well as the $4M a year they lose in operational costs. The ownership apparently wants to have this settled, or at lease something done by the end of the calendar year.

I could be wrong, but this is the first time the Blue Jackets' name have come up in terms of moving from their area. The area they are in is a very snazzy one, with a lot of establishments nearby. The arena itself is beautiful, as is the practice facility next store; but in these tough times, no one seems to be immune to having to deal with financial hardships of that sort. Though, you have to wonder, considering the city voted not to give public money to building the arena, if they'll do anything of sort to really help out the team and keep them in the city for the long-term. Although, now that the arena is making money with concerts and stuff of that ilk; so who knows.

To an extent, I almost look at the Blue Jackets as the Atlanta Thrashers of the North; a team that has the talent to be great, but can never get to that next plateau due to not having depth in their system. Now, another comparison is going to be whether or not the team will be in the same city in the next five to ten years from now.

Granted, there's a lot of economic issues and numbers being thrown around and I'm sure that there's much smarter people within the area who could tell you more and tell you if it's just propaganda to get more money out of the city; but it's now out there from the doing of the city and not just rumors and guessing.

Yet, even with this out there now-- could this spell the return of everyone's buddy Jim Balsillie in terms of trying to buy the franchise and creating a hoopla around it again. Of course, the NHL is kind of pre-occupied with the Coyotes and all, so who knows how they will address this. The question is whether or not if this whole thing goes down, if the NHL will seek someone to keep the team in Columbus, even if a system in Columbus won't work. How much will the NHL push to keep a team in a city when the city even says they won't help out on?? The different issue with Phoenix is that the City of Glendale is actually trying to help keep the team in the area, which is probably why the NHL is pushing so hard to pull out all the stops to keep the Coyotes in the area.

While this is still developing, we can only wonder what kinds of twist and turns this whole saga will take now. If the NHL didn't have enough headaches with other kinds of speculations with other teams, now they have to deal with this. While Columbus has the ability to be a big time team, the attendance continues not to be there; which doesn't help the cause for the future. The Jackets are regularly at the bottom third of the league for attendance, hovering around 85% capacity for their troubles. It's a wonder if something can't be reached in terms of relief, whether that number will increase in support or decrease in depression. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

History and the Search

There have been many times in the recent past where I have wondered about writing a book. Of course, we have the book about my own issues "There Are So Many People Up Here", but I have often thought about doing a research book about the history of hockey in my home city, Baltimore.

Of course, that would require me to do work, and as I've stated here before-- I'm lazy. Yet, even with that-- the heritage of hockey in Baltimore is pretty interesting. I mean, teams in Baltimore started in 1932 and there was always a professional team based out of Baltimore until 1997, with the exception of 1978. That's a nice long run for a city who really looked at football and baseball as a top priority. Baltimore was the place of the first competitive hockey game between Johns Hopkins University and Yale University, which ended in a 2-2 tie. Baltimore was also home to the first artificial ice rink in 1894, though there is no truth to the rumor that the surface is the same surface that used in the First Mariner Arena today.

While this is quite a task, I'd love to be involved in doing something like this, but sadly-- the internet can only do so much. With many of the history of the city and the game being unregistered, I wonder where I would actually begin my search, who could I go to, where would I go to get such information if the Internets is tangling me up??

In addition, it makes me wonder if hockey could work in Baltimore again. There's plenty of people who are hockey starved in the Baltimore area and may not feel like traveling to Washington, DC and paying the major league prices. Granted, the last few ventures failed in the Baltimore area, mostly caused to the Baltimore Blast running the arena and giving the Bandits craptastic dates. It's the nature of the beast, I suppose. Fact of the matter is that Baltimore will need a new arena for a team to come around and they'll need to have someone who's willing to keep a team there for the long haul.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. The task at hand is where to find history about Baltimore hockey and if anyone would be interested in hearing a vast history of this city and it's teams. I think some people feel that way about their cities who may be under appreciated hockey towns who may have only housed minor league, but still have a rich, rich heritage. These stories need to be told because you have to get this out to the masses and show that there are plenty of places that may not be the "norm" for a hockey team, but the people come out and support the team regardless of the team or league out there.

As for now-- time to figure out how to get this ball rolling and how to get the historical records needed to make this dream.....still a dream, but maybe a step closer to reality. Doubtful, at least the idea out there for someone to feed off of.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Andy Brown

With all the hoopla going around with Jacques Plante's 50th anniversary for putting on a mask for the first time in Modern History (November 1st, 1959), we have to go to the guy who was the LAST to not wear a mask for the sake of not wearing it. This week, we turn to the man who never needed to save face, Andy Brown.

While his start was something of a low-key entrance, playing in the OHA with the Guelph Royals and Brampton 7-Ups in the 1962-63 season, playing 40 games in total with a 5.29 GAA combined in that season. Brown took an unexpected year off before returning to the ice in Newfoundland, playing with the Gander Flyers in the senior league. It was a shaky year for Brown, as he went 5-13-0 with a 5.84 GAA. However, getting back into the groove sparked his confidence for the next step.

In the 1964-65 season, Brown went to play with the Johnstown Jets in the Eastern Hockey League, playing 70 games that season with a 39-29-2 record and a solid 3.61 GAA. It was good enough for him to get sort of an audition with the AHL's Baltimore Clippers, where he played 14 minutes and allowed three goals. It wasn't much, but it was something for Brown to get his foot into the door. Brown remained in the EHL for the 1965-66 season with the Long Island Ducks going 23-19-3 with a 3.07 GAA before going back to the Johnstown for one game in a losing cause. Staying in Johnstown for the 1966-67 season, Brown saw 72 games for his troubles with a 38-25-9 record and a solid 3.79 GAA.

The play in the EHL was good enough for Brown to get a shot with the Clippers in the AHL for the 1967-68 season. Brown played in 41 games that year and held his own in the higher league with a 16-19-3 recored on the year. Two more seasons were spent in the AHL for the Clippers, with the 1970-71 season being his best, playing 52 games and going 28-13-8 and a fantastic 2.86 GAA for the year. It was good enough for Brown to take yet another step.

In the 1971-72 season, Brown was claimed by the Detroit Red Wings in the inter-league draft, thus making him a part of the Red Wings clan. Brown played for the Fort Worth Wings in the CHL (9-4-3; 3.25 GAA) and the Tidewater Red Wings in the AHL (4-16-1; 4.04 GAA) before being called up to the Red Wings roster to start 10 games for the Wings. Those 10 games saw Brown go 4-5-1 with a 3.96 GAA and on his way to some obscure moment in time. However, Brown was playing during the heated NHL/WHA rivalry for players, in which Brown was picked by the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA Draft in February of 1972, which is why he could have been called up to make sure he didn't jump ship. Brown started the season with the Fort Worth Wings in the 1972-73 season, before being called up for seven games to play with Detroit; a 2-1-2 record followed.

However, in February of 1973, Brown was traded to Pittsburgh for a draft choice and cash.

Brown played nine games at the end of the '72-'73 season behind Jim Rutherford going 3-4-2 in that time. The next season, Brown got more time, leading the games played by then end of the season with 36 games posting up a 13-16-4 record and breaking the single-season record for most PIMs by a goalie with 60, which has since been broken.

On April 7th 1974 against the Atlanta Flames, Brown lossed the game 6-3, but would become the last goalie in the NHL to play without a goalie mask on. It was his last NHL game, but not his last game in the pros.

During the summer of 1974, Brown's WHA rights were traded from Minnesota to the Indianapolis Racers, where Brown would land for the next three seasons. The 1974-75 season would be rough for Brown and the Racers, as he set the single-season record for losses with 35, finishing the year at 15-35-0 and 4.15 GAA in 52 games. The 1975-76 season saw less time for Brown, as he only got 24 games behind Michel Dion. Brown was able to get a little better with a 9-11-2 record, getting his GAA down to 3.60. With a logjam in net for the 1976-77 season, allowed Brown to get only 10 games due to spinal surgery, with a 1-4-1 record and 3.63 GAA. It would be the last for Brown, who still refused to put on the mask.

Brown had hobbies he did during the year of playing, which helped him transition from hockey to everyday life easier, like racing cars. Brown had once wanted to race the Indy 500, but he never got to that point. He did work on cars and kept them in top-notch shape, plus he raced near his hometown in Hamilton, Ontario-- often taking the checkered flag at those local events. After his retirement, Brown stayed in Indiana to raise horses.

Though he took his fair share of shots, Brown always said that he couldn't see right when he wore a mask. He did wear one in practices, but due to him not being able to see, he never wore it during the games. Yet, Brown took his bumps and bruises with pride and always seemed to deal with it gracefully. He will always be a part of history, as he was the last man standing without the mask. Here's to you, Mr. Brown.