Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baltimore Hockey History: A Tie That Binds A Rivalry

With the rumors that the Penguins and Capitals will be the headlining act for the 2011 Winter Classic, it sparks one of the most intense rivalries to date in the NHL. This match-up is just pure, unadulterated hate.....on ICE!! Even in their dark days when both teams stunk, the rivalry was always one people got up for. While, in terms of success; it's been one-sided, there's always something about this game (outside of the superstars on both teams) that people enjoy about it.

While this rivalry ties the two teams together, something that's unrelated to the rivalry that binds these teams is the use of the Baltimore Skipjacks as their minor league affiliate. Of course, at this point-- the rivalry of the parent clubs hadn't escalated to the level it is now, but it is something that I thought was quite a fun fact.

As I go out sequence with this whole thing, the Skipjacks came to be after the Baltimore Clippers namesake was put to rest after the 1980-81 season in the Eastern League and previous years in the American League and the Southern League. The Jacks started in the Atlantic Coast League in the 1981-82 season, the inaugural season for the league. It was quite the gongshow, as all the teams had different numbers of games played. That year, the Jacks played 48 games, second most in the league, and went 22-23-3, finishing in third.

Luckily for the namesake of the organization, the Jacks name got moved to the AHL when the Erie Blades moved down to Charm City. They had primary affiliation with the Pittsburgh Penguins and shared some with the Boston Bruins. The first year for the Jacks in the AHL, which was the 1982-83 season, was one full of fire-power with two players, Mike Gillis (113) and Mitch Lamoureux (107), over 100 points for the year and two others, Rod Schutt (87) and Greg Tebbutt (84), with more than 80 points. The downfall had to be the goaltending, as Roberto Romero's 4.05 GAA was the lowest of the team's four goalies used. The team missed the playoffs in their first season in the AHL.

While that first year was manned by Lou Angotti and the 35-36-9 record wasn't anything too shabby; the Jacks made a coaching change to Gene Ubriaco, who was very close to the Baltimore hockey scene, having played for the Baltimore Clippers in 1967-68 and 1979-80, while coaching in that 1979-80 season and the 1980-81 season for the Clippers. So, Ubriaco took over the helm of the Jacks for the 1983-84 season; who were in their first year as a Penguins only affiliate and Ubriaco was able to improve the team immediately. While the firepower wasn't there in the '83-'84 season as it was in the previous year, the consistency of the team was much better. The goaltending improved with Romero splitting games with Jim Ralph and Vincent Tremblay, which gave the Jacks a lot of variety in net and they were actually able to keep the puck out with none of them having above a 4.00 GAA. Of course, with a change in style, the defensive side made the offensive side struggle, as only one player (Paul Gardner) had over 80 points in the year. The Jacks were playoff bound with their 46-24-10 record, which lead the league with their 102 points; yet they were only able to get to the second round of the playoffs when they were upset by the Rochester Americans. Ubriaco won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award for AHL Coach of the Year.

With that performance, the expectations were high for the Jacks and they didn't disappoint in the 1984-85 season. While they weren't able to match their 1o2 point campaign, they finished second on the Southern Division with a 45-27-8 record. The Jacks were without their previous top scorer, as Paul Gardner was moved to the Binghamton Whalers, where he took the scoring crown. However, the Skipjacks did counter and got their goaltending under control, as Jon Casey was sent to Baltimore by the Minnesota North Stars and took control of the Jacks goaltending over Pens property Michel Dion and Romero. Luckily for the Jacks that Casey was strong, as the offense was very inept again with Tom Roulston leading the team with 70 points. Also notable, Steve Carlson, from the famed Hanson Brothers, had 47 points for the Jacks. Back to Casey-- in his 46 games, he put up a 30-11-4 record with a 2.63 GAA and .908 save percentage. Those numbers were enough for Casey to Hap Holmes Award for Lowest GAA in the AHL and the Baz Bastien Award for Best Goalie in the league. Baltimore also had a then record 16-game winning streak (since broken). The Jacks were able to ride the hot goalie in Casey through the playoffs; getting revenge for their lose against the Americans beating them in five games, while they moved and swept the top-seed Binghamton Whalers in a sweep; before the Jacks ran into another hot goalie by the name of Patrick Roy and his Sherbrooke Canadiens-- as the Canadiens beat the Jacks in the Calder Cup finals in five games.

In the Pens era of the Skipjacks, that would be the highest they would get. The next two years with affiliation were very subpar, even with Ubriaco behind the bench. The scoring was still down, as the 1985-86 season saw Roulston lead the team with 87 points, 23 more than the next guy on the list, while Alain Lemieux lead the 1986-87 team with 97 points-- which was 44 more than the next guy on the list. Both those seasons, the teams were under .500 for their record, though they improved in the '86-'87 season (35-37-8) to the '85-'86 season (28-44-8).

In the 1987-88, the Penguins moved their affiliation from Baltimore and moved it to Muskegon in the IHL. The Skipjacks still stuck around as an independent team for that season with Ubriaco behind the bench. The independent label was definitely there, as the Jacks had a 13-58-9 record with their atrocious goaltending coming back and letting up a league high 434 goals that year, which is still an AHL record to this day. The Jacks also hold the record from that year for longest losing streak at 18 games.

The Washington Capitals saw the chance with an affiliate right up the road from them and acquired the affiliation with the Jacks and placed their players up there. The first year of the affiliation was rough in the 1988-89 season and Terry Murray behind the bench, but it was a vast improvement from their independent year, going 30-46-4, missing the playoffs again. The scoring was back, as Mike Richard lead the team and was fourth in the league with 107 points and got help from Scott McCrory (87 points) and Mike Millar (82).

The 1989-90 had a lot of makings of the Jacks teams previous, with the goaltending getting better and the goal scoring going down. Also, the coaching changed for the Jacks when Terry Murray got called up to the NHL with the Caps and was replaced by Doug MacLean. Richard lead the offense again, but with a 24 point decline (83 points), but the play of Jim Hrivnak (24-19-2; 3.06 GAA) was able to get the Jacks in the playoffs again, but after defeating Adirondack in the first round, the Jacks fell to the dreaded Americans in the second round. MacLean departed for the 1990-91 season, putting Rob Laird in charge of the team and the team did get a little better, though the scoring was spread around with Alfie Turcotte, Steve Maltais, and Tim Taylor being the top-three with 85 points, 79 points, and 67 points, respectively. Hrivnak (20-16-6) was solid again with youngster Olaf Kolzig starting to ply his craft in Baltimore. But it wasn't enough, as the Jacks lost out in the Division Semi-finals to the Binghamton Rangers in six games.

Then started the dark times for the Skipjacks, as their declining attendance started to hurt the wallet of owner Tom Ebright. With the teams struggles on the ice, as well, it didn't help matters. Though the 1991-92 edition had some stellar players like Simon Wheeldon and John Purves leading the offense, the goaltending was the weak point. Hrivnak went up to the big club, which left youngsters Olaf Kolzig and Byron Dafoe get the nods for the Jacks. The Jacks ended up 28-42-10, which made them missed the playoffs.

The attendance and playing woes hit the Jacks again for the 1992-93 season. Ebright said that he was looking to move the team to Portland, Maine if he couldn't get the support from the City Council to help the team out. However, Ebright mentioned bringing an ECHL team to Baltimore to replace the team if he could get the fan support from the Jacks fateful. Even with the pledge from Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles, it wasn't enough to save the Skipjacks; even though Ebright seemed to disregard a council bill that could have helped the team. Ebright was going to move the team from Baltimore to Portland, Maine. Whether or not it affected the team on the ice or not, their 28-40-12 record under new coach Barry Trotz wasn't a light of hope; especially with Dafoe not being the clutch starter as they had hoped (16-20-7). They made the playoffs and pushed the regular season champions Binghamton Rangers to Game Seven before getting ousted.

In a sad kick in the ass, the 1993-94 season saw the Baltimore Skipjacks move to become the Portland Pirates....and the Pirates won the Calder Cup as AHL champions.

Sure, this was a little less about the Penguins/Capitals rivalry like I started-- it's just one of the things that binds those two teams together. Plus, it allows me to bring up a team that most modern Baltimore hockey fans can relate to. I know my grandmother was a big Skipjacks supporter and went to games. I never went to the Jacks games myself, but plenty of my friend (like FOHS's own Jonny P) had their first hockey experience with the Skipjacks at the Baltimore Arena.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Peter Ing

There's a lot to be said about a goalie who thinks a lot. When your teammates in junior hockey nickname you "Confucius," it could be a harmless rib or an enlightening look at things to come. What it did bring for this week's inductee was being an enigma wrapped in a riddle with his style of play. Many couldn't tell if he was abnormally strange or ahead of his time. His short career tenure will tell the tale itself. This week, we present the career of Peter Ing.

After putting up decent numbers in midget hockey with the Markham Waxers and Toronto Marlboros, the OHL came calling when he started his journey to the NHL with the Windsor Spitfires. In the 1986-87 season, Ing played behind former AGM Pat Jablonski and got his bearings about him with a 13-11-3 record as a back-up, before taking over the reigns in 1987-88. As the starter, Ing's play helped the Spitfires through the OHL season with a 30-7-1 record and helping the Spitfires go through the OHL playoffs with ease, sweeping their three match-ups and got them within one win of the Memorial Cup, but lost to Medicine Hat in the finals. His play was well enough off to get him selected 48th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1988 Entry Draft.

The 1988-89 season saw the start of a crazed career, starting off with Windsor before being traded to the London Knights. Ing went 25-18-5 for the season with both teams, but many scouts saw him as an aloof goalie who seemed to not be paying attention to the game. That brought the nickname "Confucius" by his teammate for the deep thought aspect.

Ing started out the 1989-90 season with the London Knights for a handful of games (6-2-0), getting his game back, before moving onto trying to get a spot with the Canadian National Squad. Ing played ten games with the National Team, going 2-2-4, but was beat out by Ed Belfour and Warren Skorodenski for a position on the team. That lead Ing to turn pro, heading to the Maple Leafs and played three games (0-2-1) before being sent to the AHL's Newmarket Saints for the remainder of the season. With the Saints, Ing played 48 games and went a subpar 16-19-12 for his games played. The 1990-91 season saw Ing rise to the top of the Maple Leaf's depth chart in a hurry, as he would usurp Allan Bester's position and beat out Jeff Reese for the role. It didn't mean much, as Ing went 16-29-8 for the season, which could be considered a rebuilding best.

Just before the 1991-92 season started, Ing was traded with Vincent Damphousse, Scott Thornton, and Luke Richardson to Edmonton for Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson, and Craig Berube. Ing's contract was up, too-- so along with being traded, Ing had to deal with getting a new deal with a new GM. He and Glen Sather, Edmonton's GM at the time, didn't see eye-to-eye, which caused a long impasse. Once it was resolved, Ing only played 12 games that season in Edmonton (3-4-0) and played 24 in the AHL with the Cape Breton Oilers (9-10-4). The 1992-93 season saw Ing buried deeper in the minors with the IHL's San Diego Gulls (11-4-1) and Colonial Hockey League's Detroit Falcons (2-1-0), as the Oilers were looking to deal Ing.

An offer the Oilers liked came about as Ing was sent to the Detroit Red Wings for a draft pick and future considerations. The tenure in Detroit wouldn't last long for Ing, as he played only three games for the Wings in the 1993-94 season (1-2-0), while playing only seven games for the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings (3-3-1). The bulk of the '93-'94 season was spent with the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder, were Ing went 16-7-4.

After that season, Ing continued his plight in the IHL in the 1994-95 season playing for the Fort Wayne Komets along with Mike O'Neill and Peter Sidorkiewicz. Ing got the bulk of the playing time, going 15-18-2. Ing returned to the Komets for the 1995-96 season and went 12-16-0 before moving to the Cincinnati Cyclones for only one game, a loss. After that season, Ing called it a career.

After retiring, Ing went into the Casino game for a bit, working for assorted casinos in Las Vegas and then being named Director of Slots Marketing for Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls. Currently, Ing is the CEO of Fan-Tastic Sports, a source for hockey training systems and interactive hockey events. It seems his deep thought got him a decent career after his career.

Even though he was a big guy with reflexes, it seems that Ing was ahead of his time in terms of the style of play he had-- especially with the likes of Olaf Kolzig that came right as his career ended. Though his deep thinking could have caused him some trouble, the happenstances that came off the ice did him as much damage as the aloofness on the ice. At least now, he can help get people to the right places in terms of training to get them to the next level.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

30 and 30

Today, two new AHL affiliations with NHL clubs were announced. The announcing of these affiliations give the NHL and AHL 30 teams in the leagues, with every team having a direct affiliate without having to split-off of another team.

First, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced they wouldn't be with the Syracuse Crunch any longer and move their affiliation to Springfield and the Falcons. The deal is for one year with a one-year option following it. The Falcons were abandoned by the Edmonton Oilers after the Oilers announced they would be moving their affiliate to Oklahoma City. The Jackets will be responsible for all hockey operations, which means coaching, front office, the whole shebang. Of course, the one-year deal could mean that the Springfield team could be relocated after one or two years-- but it remains to be seen.

So, with the Syracuse Crunch not having a NHL team and the Anaheim Ducks not having an AHL affiliate; it was a match made in heaven. The Ducks announced a multi-year deal in affiliation with the Crunch. The Ducks will just have to stock the Crunch with players, as the Crunch are an independently owned franchise, the longest in the AHL.

What was one thought as far-fetched is now reality with every NHL team having an AHL affiliate and don't have to worry about the whole split affiliation and players not getting the time they should or what-have-you. It also gives me a chance to update my list on distance of affiliation.

And that's what's up with that. This all starts in 2010-11.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Changing of the Guard

While it's unfathomable that the scoring leaders will change for the next five years, we are definitely seeing the transition of winners from angles of Norris and Vezina. I'd add the Adams Trophy in there, but with there only five multiple winners of the award (Pat Quinn twice, Scotty Bowman twice, Jacques Demers twice, Jacques Lemaire twice, and Pat Burns thrice), odds are you won't see multiple winners when it comes to the Coach of the Year.

Especially this year, it seems that the race for the Vezina and Norris could be wide-open. Maybe even with names you'd probably never expect to be uttered in terms of individual awards. But all it takes is one good year. Jim Carey can attest to that, for sure.

Starting with the Norris, last year's finalist Mike Green is making a strong case to win it this year. Odds are with his 17 goals, 70 points, and +30 rating, he'll be the front runner. You can never discount the ability of Nicklas Lidstrom, who has had an off-year in Lidstrom terms with only 45 points and a +20 rating, and is really in the twilight of his storied career in the NHL. The resurgence of the Hawks and the stellar play of Duncan Keith in Chicago could have him with Green as the new line of every-year competitors for the Norris. Keith has taken over the role as top dog on the blue line, as well as his ability to control the play in the offensive zone (64 pts. and +20).

While you can throw the Chris Pronger into that group as well, you also could throw a dark horse like Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff into the mix. Ehrhoff already has a career-high in goals and is on pace for a career-high in points. His game has seem to become more consistent while in his first year with Vancouver and his +26 is telling of that, for sure. It's a definitely long-shot, especially with him being in the West Coast; but it's definitely a chance.

As far the Vezina race, the likely suspects of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, as well as Ryan Miller could be in the hunt, but as far as this year-- the unlikely suspects have been coming out in droves this campaign. Starting in Phoenix, where the waiver case Ilya Bryzgalov has flourished into a top-notch goalie. With 39 wins and at the top of the charts in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts-- Bryzgalov could be the shocking upset special, even though he could be considered a front-runner, too. In the same division, Jonathan Quick has been spectacular for the breakout Kings this year. Quick also has 39 wins, tops in minutes played, and has given up the least goals against so far this season.

While there's a case to be made for Craig Anderson in Colorado, his rapid pace from the beginning of the season has slowed down a bit. Odds are with the stories of Quick and Bryzgalov could overtake him for feel-good story candidate.

When it comes to the Adams Award, if there's anyone who can overtake the story of Dave Tippett in Phoenix, they'll be hard-press to even take the award then. The Coyotes have flourished with Tippett at the helm, recording their first 40 win season since the 2001-02 season and their highest win total (46 as of March 23rd) since the franchise was called the Jets and played in the WHA. The inclusion of maybe Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Cory Clouston in Ottawa are just merely formalities when it comes to going against Tippett.

The Norris and Vezina candidates we all came to know and love are fading away, while the new crop is staking their claim right now. We'll always have a wild one-hit wonder in the field every so often, the likelihood of not having the regular candidates every year is a far-fetched idea. We're looking at the new era of the NHL finally coming to completion. Out with the old, in with the new.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Craig Billington

With the revival of the New Jersey Devils green and red theme this past week, there was a gauntlet thrown down by Spector's Hockey Lyle Richardson on Face Off Hockey Show this past week. As I had never (shockingly) done an AGM about a Devils goalie, I was challenged to do so. While there's not many outside of Martin Brodeur in terms of legendary goalies-- I had the field to work from. This week....I chose one who was actually casted aside because of Brodeur coming up. This week, we'll look at the career of Craig Billington.

Billington started off with the London Diamonds in Junior B and registered a decent 3.41 GAA in his 23 games, which got him noticed by the OHL's Belleville Bulls, where he was drafted and took the jump to the OHL. Starting off in the 1983-84 season, Billington got the bulk of the starts in a crowded Belleville crease. In 44 games, Billington put up a 20-19-0 record for the Bulls and would really set his pace for his junior career. While it wasn't much, Billington caught the eye of NHL scouts and the New Jersey Devils drafted him 23rd overall in the 1984 NHL Draft.

The 1984-85 season showed how Billington excelled in his junior years, this time helping pace the Bulls with a 26-19-0 record. Yet, the season was much more for Billington, who was selected to the Canadian Junior Team that year for the WJC held in Finland. Billington was stellar in his five games, going 3-0-2 and aiding the Canadian to the Gold Medal, upsetting the powerful Soviets. Billington was named best goaltender in the tournament, as well. Billington started the 1985-86 season with the Devils, playing behind Chico Resch and Alain Chevrier. Billington played in five games, going 3-0-0 with the Devils before being sent back to Belleville in order to get ready for another appearance in the WJC. For those few Belleville games, Billington went 2-1-0. Onto the 1986 WJC, this time being played on home ice in Hamilton. Billington was on again, going 4-1-0 with a 2.80 GAA, but it was in a Silver Medal effort for the Canadians. Billington returned to New Jersey, but did not fair well; rounding out his season with a 1-9-1 record and 4-9-1 overall.

The 1986-87 season saw Billington be demoted to the AHL's Maine Mariners in order to get some more seasoning to him, which worked rather well. In his 20 games, Billington compiled a 9-7-2 record, gaining him a call-up to New Jersey in the new calendar year. Billington continued his struggles behind Chevrier, going 4-13-2. The Devils management was not convinced of Billington's abilities, thus sending him to play for the Utica Devils in the AHL for the entire 1987-88 season, which wasn't as bad as his tenure in Jersey, but a 22-27-8 record wasn't the desired return the Devils were looking for. It was another year in Utica for Billington, as he got better with a 17-18-6 for the 1988-89 season, as well as a 1-1-0 record in his three appearances in New Jersey. Better news for Billington in the 1989-90 season, as his tenure with Utica was even more improved with a 20-13-1 record.

Rather than toil in the minors again, Billington took a year off from the Devils organization for the 1990-91 season, playing for the Canadain National Team in the meantime. With the National Team, Billington went a solid 17-14-2 with a respectable 3.15 GAA. It allowed Billington to play in the World Hockey Championships, though he didn't get much time and only had one tie to his record for the tournament in three games played, but gained a silver medal for his collection.

Billington returned to the Devils organization for the 1991-92 season to back-up Chris Terreri and it seemed like the time in the AHL and for the National Team helped, as the Billington has his best season yet, going 13-7-1 record behind Terreri. The good record helped him split starts with Terreri in the 1992-93 season, playing in 42 games and sporting a 21-16-4 record. However, with a young netminder by the name of Martin Brodeur coming through the system, Billington's value was at it's peak in order to deal him, which is what they did.

In June of 1993, Billington, Troy Mallette, and a 4th Round Pick were traded from New Jersey to the Ottawa Senators for Peter Sidorkiewicz and Mike Peluso. The 1993-94 season saw Billington thrown into the Ottawa starting role, which wasn't a good thing considering how terrible they were back then. It showed in his performance, as he went 11-41-4 in his 63 games played. Billington lead the lead in losses and goals against (254). The shortened 1995 season, Billington played nine games in Ottawa, going 0-6-2 before he got a bit of a reprieve.

At the trade deadline, the Senators traded Billington to the Boston Bruins for an eighth-round pick. Billington was to back-up Bill Ranford and he did a solid job, going 5-1-0 in his eight appearances. Billington stayed with the Bruins for the 1995-96 season, against backing up Ranford, but with mixed results. In his 27 appearances, a 10-13-3 record was all he had to show for it.

The summer of 1996 was an odd one for Billington. He remained unsigned until just before training camp, when the Florida Panthers signed him as a free agent. However, before he could ever play a regular season games, the Colorado Avalanche picked him up from the Waiver Draft and used him to back-up Patrick Roy. Coming off a Stanley Cup, the Avalanche needed a solid back-up if Roy were to go down. The 1996-97 season saw Billington play 23 games and went 11-8-2 and had a solid 2.65 GAA and a .909 save percentage, while the 1997-98 season was every better stats-wie, outside of record mind you, as in 23 games he put up an 8-7-4 record with a 2.32 GAA and .923 save percentage. It was converse for the 1998-99 season, as Billington's record improved (11-8-1) but his numbers went down (2.86 GAA, .894 save percentage).

While his time with the Avs was great, he was traded by Colorado to the Washington Capitals for future considerations in the summer of 1999. Billington would be behind another workhorse in Olaf Kolzig. Billington didn't have the best years in Washington, starting off the 1999-2000 season, with only 13 appearances, going 3-6-1 for the year. It didn't get much better in the 2000-01 season, with a 3-5-2 record in only 12 appearances. Yet again in the 2001-02 season, Billington got more starts, but not much more of a solid record going 4-5-2 in 17 games, though his shining moment as a Capital happened on December 22nd, 2001, as the Caps were playing the Penguins. Billy Tibbetts had bumped Kolzig and the two got into it. Then Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg was inching out to start something and began to chirp at the Capitals bench. Billington, taking exception to it, taunted the "Moose" by putting up moose antlers with his glove and blocker. Epic win.

After only five games in the 2002-03 season, Billington called it a career on January 7th, 2003 and was immediately hired as the goalie coach for the Colorado Avalanche. Billington still is currently with the team, going from goalie coach to Director of Player Development and now onto the VP of Hockey Operations and Assistant GM of the Avalanche.

While he got off to a rocky pro start, the fact Billington was able to rediscover his game, whether it be taking a hiatus or getting a change of scenery. With his year observing the game, it's only fitting he's not overseeing the Avalanche in their rebuilding seasons and could be credited with some of their success this season, too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fly-By-Net in Philly

Oh, Philadelphia. What hockey deity did you upset in the last decade to give you the issues in net that you've had?? Even though it seems other teams seem to be have a revolving door in net (as I stated before with the Nashville Predators), but when other teams have some sort of plan in place; the Flyers just seem to be flying by the seat of their pants.

This year, for example, they parted way with their '08-'09 tandem of Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki and went with returning for the third-time back-up Brian Boucher and took a risk with the returning from the KHL Ray Emery. The Emery project seemed to be getting off to a good start, going 10-3-1 in his first 14 games, but when he got sidelined with a hip injury, the Flyers turned to Boucher for a bit, who struggled with a 4-8-0 record, the Flyers took Carolina Hurricane cast-off Michael Leighton off waivers and Leighton shined with the Flyers going 16-5-2 in Emery's absence. While Emery went 5-3-0 before being put out for the season, things looked nice with Leighton playing. That's when the house of cards came falling down, as Michael Leighton is out 8-10 weeks with a high ankle sprain. That would put Leighton's return at mid-May at the earliest. This leaved Boucher and unproven pro and pride of Silver Spring, Maryland Jeremy Duchesne as the goalies for the Flyers. A team that many thought would make a move for a goalie at the deadline, never did.

Though, when you think Philadelphia-- many things jump to mind. Cheesesteaks, rowdy fans, and goalie issues. Since the lockout, Robert Esche, Antero Niittymaki, Martin Biron, Martin Houle, Emery, Boucher, and Leighton (twice) have been in net for the Flyers. If you even trace back before the lockout until the 1999-2000 season; add Jeff Hackett, Sean Burke, Neil Little, Roman Cechmanek, Boucher again, Maxime Ouellet, and John Vanbiesbrouck. That's 13 goalies in ten seasons. While it's not out of control in terms of size, it is a little suspect how none of them could really stick around for the long-term. While you can say it's a matter of not having a consistent team around them or the pressure on being the franchise keeper could be factors, yet at the same time; you'd think you throw enough stuff against the wall, there's something that's bound to stick. You can even say that since Ron Hextall, there hasn't be a goalie who has been capable to carry the Flyers banner-- and he stopped being a starter after the 1998-99 season.

While Johan Backlund does show promise, who's to say how long it will take in terms of making him the starter for the Flyers. Outside of Backlund, there doesn't seem to be much around the corner. Duchesne is very unproven, Michael Teslak is starting to come on his own in the ECHL, but is a ways away, Jakub Kovar is in the Czech Republic, while Major Junior goalie Nicola Riopel played very well with Moncton, but had his issues in Adirondack early in the season. The transition for most of these guys will be rough and may never come at all.

Though, it can't be put on them. Philly is a demanding city and the front office knows that. Odds are, these young guys will toil a while in the minors or juniors and never get the chance to make the club because the Flyers are serial free-agent goalie signers. Odds are they will never have the chance and maybe ruin some of these guys leaving them in the minors longer than they need to and risk have them going overseas or have them bolt in free agency. But that's life in the City of Brotherly Love. There's never seen to be any net gains, but more net congestion.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Lack of Downie Uproar

In the midst of the suspension to Alex Ovechkin, which is something well-deserved because it was a touch from behind, the thing that is going overlooked is something that happened later that day and could have been more serious.

If you haven't seen the "hit" Tampa's Steve Downie put on Sidney Crosby, you can check it out here from this clip. The thing that's with this, there is MUCH more intent to injure a player than Ovechkin's hit was and there was a deliberate targeting of a player while the play was across the ice. As my friend Kim pointed out, if there was ever an example of deliberately attempting to injure a player-- that play was it. Thankfully, Crosby's leg didn't snap like Joe Theismann's but the fact it could have been much worse than it was is the point.

As of right now as I post this, there has been no report about Colin Campbell wanting to meet with Downie to talk with him, no indication that the hit was even something on the NHL's radar; which is should be since it involved their promotional focal point both on and off the ice in Crosby. While only a two minute call was given to Downie, it doesn't mean his penalty after the fact cannot be worse. What's even more interesting is this comes a week after everyone was praising Downie and his play on the ice and how much he's improved. Interesting how things can change in an instant.

The thing is that we've seen this blatant inconsistency from the NHL and even the severity of the injury and the name has nothing to do with it, as we've seen in the past week where Matt Cooke gets nothing for ending Marc Savard's season and thensome and got nothing out of it. Both Cooke and Ovechkin are past offenders, but it seems that it really how Colin Campbell is feeling from hearing to hearing.

Odds are, we won't see anything happen to Downie, especially if nothing has been said now. It's not like Downie has been a multiple offender, but much of his play has been questionable at best. It's stuff like what Downie has been pulling that makes discussion of rule changes happen. It's one thing to go after a head deliberately, you almost have to put the legs into the same boat as well-- especially when it comes to a player who relies on his legs like Crosby for agility and finesse for his game. That's why there's so much uproar on knee-on-knee hits because it's a dangerous play and could do much more damage in the long-run than meets the eye.

Until the NHL gets a little more streamlined about their discipline, everyone has the right to mock their stances from one ruling to another. The Downie incident is much more severe than what Ovechkin did and as of now, he is getting nothing. Ovechkin should have be sat for what he did to Brian Campbell and Steve Downie should sit for what he did to Crosby. If the NHL wants to send a message and curtail anything that happens in the future-- this is the time to do it before it's much too late.

UPDATE: 03.16.10, 11:20 AM-- Steve Downie has been fined $1,000 for the hit. The system works!!!

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mario Gosselin

While there are many common names in hockey (lest we forget about the two Petr Sykoras in the NHL at the same time), this one name is shared by a NASCAR Truck Series driver and at the head of a Quebec Governmental Position. While that is nothing more than a "factoid," it links up to this AGM as trying to find research on him is rather you see from the intro. Yet, this guy has plenty of history behind him, like playing for two now-defunct teams and having two teams still established. Whether it's a kiss-of-death or not-- another "factoid." This week, we welcome Mario Gosselin to the AGM ranks.

Starting off in the midget ranks, Gosselin played for Montreal East in AAA, going 19-8-6 for them in the 1979-80 season. It was good enough for him to get the nod from the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. His style was acrobatic and quick reflexes as an underager, which garnered him 21 games in his first year with a 4-9-0 record and got him bypassed in the 1981 Draft. With more time, Gosselin set his role with the Cataractes playing 60 games in 1981-82 with a 33-25-2 record, while going an even 7-7 in the 14 playoff games. That attention, along with his second-team All-Star nod, finally got Gosselin drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1982 Draft. Gosselin went one more year with Shawinigan, playing 46 games and going a stellar 32-9-1, which was enough to get him on the First-Team QMJHL All-Star squad at season's end.

While the jump to the NHL seemed to be the next step, back in those days; professionals couldn't participate in the Olympics, so teams had national teams specifically for the Games. Gosselin was select to be a part of the Games and was pulling duty alongside of Darren Eliot and Wendell Young, for which Gosselin became the go-to goalie for the National Team. Pre-Olympics, Gosselin played 36 games, but almost didn't get to go to the Olympics because he signed a professional contract. The IOC had a dispute with the Canadian team, but got resolved before the Games. It was something that sparked Gosselin, who was the starter for the Canadians and got the underdog Canadians to win their first four games. Gosselin became the stand-out of the tournament and got him the nickname "Goose" which was coined by coach Dave King. Even though the Canadians lost the three games in the medal round, Gosselin was said to be the story for the Canadians.

After the Olympics, Gosselin went to the Nordiques to the end of the 1983-84 season going 2-0-0 with one shutout in his three appearances. The 1984-85 season brought about Gosselin's first full season, but he had to battle it out in a three way dance with Dan Bouchard and Richard Sevigny for time in the Nords net. Gosselin got the majority of starts in the end with a 19-11-3 record in his 35 games, as well as getting 17 games in the playoff run with the Nords, going 9-8. The 1985-86 season saw Gosselin batting for time with Sevigny and Clint Malarchuk, which also saw Gosselin being sent to the AHL's Fredericton Express for five games (2-2-1), while he got 31 games and getting a 14-14-1 record. That season, Gosselin was picked to play and started in the 1986 All-Star Game and got a no-decision for the Prince of Wales Conference in a 4-3 overtime win and only allowing one goal in his 31 minutes of play. The 1986-87 season saw Gosselin settle into the back-up role behind Malarchuk, playing 30 games goalie 13-11-1, but really shined in the playoffs. When Malarchuk faltered, Gosselin got in to play 11 games and went 7-4 in those games.

At the 1987-88 season, Malarchuk departed to the Caps in a trade which included a draft pick that would turn out to be Joe Sakic, and that gave Gosselin the starting job in Quebec. The Nords, however, didn't have the firepower they once had and Gosselin went 20-28-4 in his 54 games of the season, with the Nords missing the playoffs. The workload took its toll for the 1988-89 season, as Gosselin saw himself take some stints in the AHL with the Halifax Citadels for three games (3-0-0), thanks to the emergence of young Ron Tugnutt and newly acquired Bob Mason. However, Gosselin did play in 39 games, though he only went 11-19-3.

With a logjam in net, Gosselin was deemed expendable and we let go as a free agent. Gosselin was picked up by the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 1989. Gosselin battled with Ron Scott in order to back-up Kelly Hrudey, but Gosselin got the best of Scott in the regular season, with 26 games, even though he went 7-11-1. One of his losses, though, was a peculiar one. You see, on November 30th, 1989; Gosselin replaced Kelly Hrudey when the score was 6-5 against the Edmonton Oilers due to an injury to Hrudey. Gosselin was pulled in favor off an extra-attacker and the Oilers scored into the empty-net. Gosselin got back in and the Kings scored a late-marker making the final 7-6. Gosselin was hung with the loss because he was the goalie of record when the Oilers scored their game-winner, even though he wasn't in net. He was the only goalie to lose a regulation game without giving up a goal.

The 1990-91 season saw Gosselin demoted to the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners after the Kings got Daniel Berthiaume in the off-season. In his first full non-NHL season, Gosselin went 24-15-4 with the Roadrunners. It was his last season in the Kings organization.

The summer of 1991 saw the Hartford Whalers pick up Gosselin for depth. First, in the 1991-92 season, the Whalers placed Gosselin in the AHL with the Springfield Indians. With the Indians, Gosselin went 28-11-5 in his season. During the training camp before the 1992-93 season, Gosselin suffered a serious back injury, which could have ended his career. Gosselin battles and rehabbed his back in order salvage half of the season. He played for Spingfield for 23 games going 8-7-7, while being called up to the Whalers towards the end of the season for 16 games going 5-9-1. After being extended to another contract, the 1993-94 season would be Gosselin's last. Injuries to his knees forced him out of the game after seven games in Hartford (0-4-0) and two in Springfield (2-0-0) before calling it a career.

Currently, Gosselin resides in Quebec where he spends his time with his family and teaches at the Energie Hockey School in Quebec.

While he played on some really good team and some really bad teams-- Gosselin did what he could to make himself look better and carry his team along with him. Though, it's telling how your career is going when you get collared for a loss and didn't even let up a goal. Gosselin could have gone further if he didn't have the injuries he suffered, which really hampered what he could have done.

Thanks to the Unofficial Mario Gosselin Page for help in researching the career of the Goose.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly in the AHL's Specialty Jerseys

While cruising through the AHL website, I came across their "Week in Pictures" and decided to look at Week 23, which is the latest week. Now, I get that minor league teams like their gimmick jerseys and promotions, but it almost seems like this is going too far. It's brought to you by the Binghamton Senators and it's....well, you can take a look-see.

I don't know if they got really sloppy with the Mickey D's Shamrock Shakes when they were bringing over the jerseys and socks, but oy vey-- who thought this was going to be a good idea. While I will say they cover most of the colors of the rainbow, it's poorly executed and really should be retired never to be seen again. Not only are the jerseys and socks hideous, but the fact there's that white stripe down the front of the sock really bugs the hell out of me. Always has, always will.

Now, on the flip side, the best representation of promotional jerseys were the San Antonio Rampage. Teams in all level have been doing plenty of things to honor the Military, but mostly with warm-up jerseys and stuff like that-- at least in the NHL. However, the jerseys that the Rampage put out for their Military Appreciate Night could trump all.

The Rampage do a great job representing all branches of the Military in their crest, with the Rampage logo in the middle of them all. Also on the front, was a nice subtle name-tag, replicating the uniform worn by the men and women of the Armed Forces. The nameplate on the back is a white font on a black background, much like the Philadelphia Flyers' white-retros.

There's plenty of hits and misses when it comes to the minor league jerseys and this displays one of each. Granted, I bet that there's going to be a lot more St. Patrick's Day jerseys in the same template of the B-Sens, especially since that's how most holiday jerseys have worked in the past. So, be on the lookout for those, mostly because they could be as horrific as that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hockey Songs Extrava-Danza

There has been some kind of influx in the past few weeks of specialty music items in terms of goal songs or event music, which I have recently come to my attention. The first is the Washington Capitals goal song and the IIHF having a song for the World Championships in Germany this year.

First, the Caps goal song, which local DC area artist Sandbox Kings won during a contest in conjunction with DC101 and Elliot in the Morning show. Now, the Caps have had plenty of post-goal songs after the legendary siren; like Blur's "Song 2" and of course, Gary Glitter's "Rock N' Roll Part 2." Yet, while those are very close to sports in every facet; this new "Rock the Red" goes in an odder direction. The song, which you can find on the band's MySpace doesn't seem to fit that same mold as the previous two. In fact, I would go to say that it would be better placed for a video montage before the Caps hit the ice for each period, but not after a goal. The reviews, at least those close group of people I know, have been bad. They did not seem to like it for a goal song and while I'm not in the area, rumors say they aren't even using it anymore-- again, no clue if that's true or not. It's a shame, because I'm sure these guys wanted it to be a staple. That's business, I suppose.

Secondly, the IIHF commissioning a song for the World Championships in Germany. The song is called "Stuck on Replay" by the band Scooter. The IIHF's presser said that they have 25 million recordings solds, 23 top-ten hits, and over 80 gold and platinum records across the world-- yet, this is the first time I've heard of them. The video is littered with compliated clips from past World Championships, but the song is the techno/sing-along genre we almost expect when it comes to the German musical scene. While the verse does bring a little more up-tempo feel to it, the chorus slows way down and allows for the fans to join in....which I'm sure will go over as good as the Hockey Canada/Pepsi cheer from this year's World Juniors.

The most iconic of made up songs could be a very unofficial song in Calgary as the Flames made their amazing playoff run in 2004. It was made by local Top-40 station Vibe 98.5 called "In Da Dome" and it does a decent amount of parody and....ridiculousness. The production is definitely amazing and it's as good as it can be for a song about a hockey team can be. It got a lot of airplay in Calgary and soon went around the world. They did their job with it, so it had to be deemed a success.

There hasn't been many hockey song in the mainstream. You have the obvious "Fifty Mission Cap" by The Tragically Hip about Bill Barilko's disappearance and all of that. Then you have the dedicated hockey band The Zambonis, which such underground hits like "Bob Marley and the Hartford Whalers." Other than that, I can't think of many hockey related song, outside of a small mention of them. I just wish there was more of a market for it....especially in Canada, you'd think there'd be more.

So, what say you-- does your team have a specialty song for themselves or is there some kind of unofficial song out there about the team, a parody of a pop-song, if you will?? Put it in the comments, then.

Also, check out Hockey Music for some of the most used/overused songs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Bett and Bals" : Moyes Money, Moyes Money, Moyes Money

This drama with the Coyotes doesn't seem to be ending. This time, the NHL is suing former owner Jerry Moyes for a breach of contract for the way he went about going into bankruptcy and trying to sell the Coyotes. There's a lot of money involved in the suit against Moyes, including the fees for the NHL's legal team, the operating losses for this year, as well as paying Wayne Gretzky. Considering both Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie were involved, it seems like perfect timing to bring back this whole gem. Enjoy....or not.

We'll see scene with Balsillie sitting on the couch, feet up on the table as Bettman is frantically running between the kitchen and living room on his cell phone to his legal team.

Gary Bettman: Okay, so we've got the operating losses covered, Gretzky there anyway we can sue him to pay the Brooklyn Brawler for the naming rights?? Well, I don't know if he was directly involved, but I don't think Barry Horowitz was in mind when they had it all going for them. Just look into it and get back to me-- we're going to get him where he's hurting...literally. Bye.

Jim Balsillie: The funny thing about this is you think that he has the money for this whole fiasco, Gar. There's a reason he was filing for bankruptcy, you know that right??

GB: What are you trying to say?? He broke the contract and went against the way we do business and now we're going to show him the NHL means business.

JB: Do business how?? Find any kind of jobber to run a team and then pass the buck when they fail?? I can't see to see what happens when this jabroni in Tampa realizes he doesn't have much going for him down there and wants to ditch them off again. That's what's going to happen, you and I both know this.

GB: You don't know that, because if knew things like you thought you did-- you'd be owning a team in some suburb of Toronto right now, right?? Listen, when you own a team, you have a certain responsibility to keep your nose clean.

JB: Like Bruce McNall and Boots Del Biaggio did for their teams??

GB: Hey now-- we knew what they were doing and....

JB: And still let Del Biaggio back into the league. It's a craptastic way to do business.

GB: But for every one of those guys, we have 20 or more guys who aren't under indictment. Plus, our owners are honest people when it comes to their dealings-- they'll never curtail the rules when it comes to our league.

JB: Hmmm, like Jeremy Jacobs signing Joe Thornton to a huge rookie deal and Craig Leipold selling his team to who YOU wanted to if he was able to become the owner of the Minnesota Wild??

GB: Exactly. Wait...

JB: The fact remains, this situation wouldn't be an issue if you let him sell the team to me. He would have gotten the money he lost, everyone would have been paid, YOU would have had those legal fees to pay off, and we'd be getting on with like.

GB: Maybe so, but the fact remains that people aren't fans of you and your rebel ways, Jim. Come on, you know you don't have the BoG's ear. Who's to say it'd be over for you, him, or us had we let this go through. I know I'm 90% sure we would be tied up in court together and probably be splitting hotel costs in order to save some cash. It's not like selling the team to you would be a magical fix as you thought it would be.

JB: Sure, the City of Glendale would have been on our asses, but that's why we put in conditions in the sale about if we don't reach expectations, we have the ability to pull the team out of their current home and go somewhere that they are wanted and will bring in profit. I know me getting the team wouldn't be the cure to the headache, but when you work WITH ME rather than against me; we'd be in a better place-- that much I'm sure.

GB: Why work with you when no one wanted you. You're 0-for-3 in teams, two of your own short-sightedness and jumping the gun on many things, while the other we kind of blocked you from. You did have the BoG's ear, then you tried selling season tickets to a non-existed relocated team. Working with you hasn't done the trick, so why should we trust working with you now.

JB: You work with me because if you actually want money to be spend by someone other than the league and not have GMs up in arms about your trade deadline movement, regardless of how small it really was, then you'll look for someone willing to deal with the albatross that is this team. You put conditions in the sale in terms of relocating the team, I would have been able to work within that and then it's up to everyone involved to market this team and make them a success so we wouldn't have to worry about the conditions.

GB: Maybe we'll be do business in the future, but I don't know if we can trust what you say. You can say one thing and do another-- we've known that for a while now. We'll see what happens with Florida, maybe you could do something in Miami or Atlanta or another one of these great Sunbelt teams. I mean, you could make them work there and actually make me look like a genius.

JB: (under breath) I'll get right on that....

GB: Now, I've had too much water and excitement and now I have to piss. (Walks to the bathroom, hears water running) Dammit, Jim-- you can't have the fountain going when you're not in here. What are we, made of money?? I'm suing a bankrupt guy, so that shows you how much I had. Wait-- the showers're here, I'm here....(pulls back shower curtain)...

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

GB: OHJEEBUS!! (Falls into hallway)

JB: Who didn't see that one coming, really?? You'd think by now, you'd put two and two together.

GB: I come up with Maui for that the answer??

JB: Good sweet Lord.....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Which Way To Playoff Futility??

I brought up a question in the Yahoo Puck Daddy Chat about whether or not it's better to clinch a playoff spot early and rest up the players who will be crucial to the playoff run or if it's better to clinch on the very last day and have the playoff mentality of do-or-die already instilled into their persona going into the mission for 16 wins. You could go either way with this topic, as it really brings out a lot of chin scratching and the like to it.

I'll start out with the guys who are the last to reach the party. The good thing about already scratching and crawling to the final playoff spot is that the players from top to bottom already know how much sacrifice they'll have to put in order to get to the ultimate goal. They have the "in the trenches" feeling to them already so they'll be able to know how important the games mean. Granted, that kind of fighting going into the playoffs could wear down the team, both physically and mentally, and really ruin a decent playoff run. Albeit, that's a seemingly nice cop-out ideal, but if they can push to six or seven games in the process; both teams are going to be drained coming out it. That's the trials and tribulations of the playoffs. Frankly, if you do all that scratching and crawling and not make the playoffs would be harder to take than making and getting ousted in the first round. Of course, I'm not playing, so I have no right to say one way or another.

On the flip side, the team that clinches early won't have the automatic pressure and feeling they could be on the outside looking in when they wake up in the morning and look online. They can go through the motions and actually try to fix all the loose ends they have in their game, if any. You can always use practice (so to speak) at game speed and use different people in different situations, just to see what they are made of and what guys can do in different situation. Plus, if the guys need rest, then they'll be able to go through the marathon of the playoffs. Conversely, if they let their guard slip a little bit, they could get out of their groove that got them to the point to clinch so early and be proned to an early exit and endure the questions of underachieving, isn't that right San Jose Sharks?? Sure, the competitive nature runs deep in some teams, but the fact we've seen a lot of upsets and surprising teams in the recent playoffs, you can never really let your guard down. Even if you lose one spot in the standings, it could spell disaster and upset for those in the higher ranks.

It really depends on how you look at it and what kind of mentality you have. There's going to be different opinions on each, while at the same time-- you can have both sides of it all; much like I'm doing here. Even with it, I'm still trying to figure out with is better. I guess it depends on what the make-up of the team is, what the expectations of each team is, and the motivating factors going for it. While you may not think it, some incentive could go a long way to win Lord Stanley's Cup.

So, have at it-- let me know what your take is on it and which way you think is better when going into the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Conundrums and Confusion in Columbus

There was so much promise heading into the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history, extending their franchise player to an eight-year contract in the summer, and finding a goalie that looked to be good enough to finally solve their inconsistency between the pipes.

Amazing what a couple of months can do.

After being routed by the Los Angeles Kings, in which they lost Rick Nash to the dreaded "lower body injury," it seems that the Jackets are back to their old ways. They've already been through one coach this year, with Ken Hitchcock being tossed to the wayside; but they seemed to claw back some, only to falter more. They are currently on a five game skid and have mostly been beaten due to the opponents coming back to get the win. There has been little turnover from the team last season, which could tell you that they were playing out of their heads last season or the lack of movement while other teams got better is the cause of their downfall.

Is there a reason why the Jackets haven't loosened the purse-strings and actually trying to attract some name players to the team in order to build it up to the year-in, year-out contender they want to become. There's a lot of draw for forwards, as they would probably be playing alongside of Rick Nash, while defensemen will probably be the top guys out there. The plight of the small-market team will probably continue, but you'd want to hope that a team like this could garner some bigger free-agent attention than what they've been getting. That isn't to say, however, you won't have some duds (see Foote, Adam); but there's enough money for the Jackets to try and lure some bigger profile player to their team.

Another problem that should be monitored is the play of Steve Mason. While you could chalk it up to a sophomore slump, the fact his GAA is up almost a goal per game from last year (3.16 from 2.29); it could show to be more than just a regular slump. You hope Mason isn't in the same realm of Blaine Lacher and/or Jim Carey, but unless he can show some improvement next season; it could be that way. His total of 61 games, 33 wins, and 10 shutouts last season show that it may have been a case of a new goalie not being able to be figured out, but if it's a small change in style; that needs to be addressed for next season.

Then you look at Rick Nash, and while he wants to be loyal to the team that gave him a fine career; you have to wonder if he's regretting his decision to an extension, especially considering the team hasn't done much to give him any kind of support. While the addition of Kristian Huselius does something to add secondary scoring-- but when you don't have much for primary scoring outside of Nash, there's not really a secondary scoring tag there-- is it??

Whatever happens next with the Blue Jackets, fans better hope this is just a hiccup and not something that will be a trend anymore. They had all the momentum, even with being swept by the eventual Western Champs, but seemed to lose it in the three month span between the end of the season and start of camp. They got rid of the coach and it still didn't get better. So where do you place the blame next-- the players or the GM?? My bets on the latter. It'd be wise for Scott Howson to actually start getting a winning group together or else he could be next. As for the team, they should realize they may not be getting help from their management and learn how to grind it out together and play a "us against the world" gimmick in order to get their mojo back they had in '08-'09.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Rick Tabaracci

When dealing with this week's AGM, I found out that his nickname matched his quickness and aggressiveness when in the crease. Also, it seemed that he was such a catch that he'd often go back to some of his former teams for a second tour of duty with them....or at least two of the teams he played with that happened. In either case, whether he was used as either a starter or as a back-up; he was game either way. This week, we talk about the career of Rick Tabaracci.

Tabaracci started off his career in the MTJHL in 1985-86 with the Markham Waxers. His played 40 games and when a decent 19-11-3, though his 5.18 GAA wasn't something to be proud of. However, he moved onward to the major junior ranks with the Cornwall Royals in the OHL for the 1986-87 season; yet it was a rough start with a 23-32-3 record in 59 games. It was enough, however, for the young Tabaracci to get drafted 26th overall in the 1987 Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a motivating factor for Tabaracci, as his second year in Cornwall, Tabaracci went 33-18-6 and lead the OHL with three shutouts on the season. It garnered Tabaracci OHL First All-Star status and a chance to play in the IHL after the season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Tabaracci got no-decision in his only appearance in relief during the IHL playoffs.

The 1988-89 season saw Tabaracci starting off with the Penguins and playing the back-up role to Wendell Young, even seeing time replacing Young in October of '89, but was sent back down to the OHL after that. Going back, even with some pro experience, wasn't as good for Tabaracci in the season, as he went 24-20-5 for the season, but helped carry the Royals to the OHL semi-finals, before losing the Peterborough Petes. The future was bright for Tabaracci, but the Penguins saw him as disposal. In the summer if 1989, the Penguins traded Tabaracci, along with Randy Cunneyworth and Dave McLlwain to the Winnipeg Jets for Andrew Bain, Jim Kyte, and Randy Gilhen.

The 1989-90 season with a new club, Tabaracci split his time in the minors with the AHL's Moncton Hawks and the IHL Fort Wayne Komets. In 27 games with Moncton, Tabaracci went 10-15-2, while he went 8-9-1 in 22 games with the Komets. The 1990-91 season saw Tabaracci starting the season in Winnipeg as a back-up to Bob Essensa, which started out well before Tabaracci pulled a hamstring and was sent back to Moncton to rehab it. It was disappointing at both sides, going 4-9-4 in Winnipeg and 4-5-2 in Moncton. The 1991-92 season saw Tabaracci start out with Winnipeg, but after going 1-3-1 to start the season, he was sent down to Moncton. He was called up and went 1-3-0 in December before getting sent back down for another stint before returning in February. As a whole, the 1991-92 yielded a 6-7-3 record in Winnipeg, with a 10-11-1 record in Moncton. Tabaracci was the goalie of choice for the Jets' playoffs, which only last seven games, Tabaracci going 3-4. The 1992-93 season saw the injury bug rear its ugly head again, with back spasms plaguing Tabaracci. It caused Tabaracci to split time again between Winnipeg and Moncton, going 5-10-0 in Winnipeg and 2-1-2 in Moncton before the Trade Deadline in 1993.

On March 22nd of 1993, the Jets traded Tabaracci to the Washington Capitals for former AGM Jim Hrivnak. Tabaracci was used as a back-up for Don Beaupre and went 3-2-0 in his six games with the team. Tabaracci also got the call in the playoffs, going 1-3 in the games he played in for the Caps. The 1993-94 started out even more ominously with Tabaracci tearing some knee ligaments in training camp, which made him start the season out with the Portland Pirates to rehab it. Tabaracci went 3-0-0 in his Portland stint and was moved up to the Caps roster at the end of October and stood back-up for the year playing in 32 games and going 13-14-2, while going 0-2 in his playoff appearances. With the lockout of 1994-95 saw Tabaracci play with the Chicago Wolves of the IHL while the NHL was dark, going 1-1-0 in his games there, while going 1-3-2 with the Caps. Again, the Trade Deadline came and Tabaracci was on the move again.

On April 7th 1995, Tabaracci was dealt to Calgary for a fifth round pick because of a logjam in net for Washington. Tabaracci would play in five games for Calgary and go 2-0-1 for the Flames. In 1995-96, Tabaracci got a good break with the Flames, as he was able to split time with another former AGM, Trevor Kidd; and get 43 games in. Tabaracci shined in his games, going 19-16-3 and getting two games in the playoffs, going 0-2 in those games. However, with another logjam in net, Tabaracci had to fight for time in the 1996-97 season in Calgary. Tabaracci played seven games in Calgary that year, going 2-4-0 before getting shoved out of the equation.

In November of 1996, the Flames traded Tabaracci to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Aaron Gavey. Tabaracci was thrown right into the starter's role in Tampa, playing a total of 55 games for the Bolts and going 20-25-6 with four shutouts as the starter. It was short lived as the Bolts traded Tabaracci back to Calgary in the summer for a fourth round pick. The 1997-98 season would be another split season for Tabaracci in Calgary, splitting time with Dwayne Roloson. Tabaracci got 43 games going 13-22-6 for the season for a dismal transitional Flames team. But, what better way to solve that, but another trade. This time, the Flames traded Tabaracci BACK to the Capitals for future considerations. The 1998-99 season saw Tabaracci take a backseat to Olaf Kolzig and have a horrific 4-12-3 record; but it could have been the best 4-12-3 record ever, as Tabaracci had a 2.51 GAA and .906 save percentage-- which were some of the best numbers of his life.

The 1999-2000 season was a travel-filled one for Tabaracci. He couldn't get onto a team until November when the Atlanta Thrashers picked him up as a free agent, after he played one game with the Canadian national team (one loss). The Thrashers played Tabaracci for one game (one loss) before trading Tabaracci to Colorado for Shean Donavan. The Avalanche only played Tabaracci two games (0-1-0), as Tabaracci kicked around the IHL with the Cleveland Lumberjacks (5-5-0), Orlando Solar Bears (11-6-4), and Utah Grizzlies (4-4-3). The 2000-01 season saw Tabaracci stay in the IHL ranks with the Grizzlies backing up Mike Bales, going 14-13-1, but with a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage on the year. It was Tabaracci's last at the pro level, as he retired after then.

During his career, Tabaracci was very involved the community and continued to contribute to the Calgary area after his retirement with the Rick Tabaracci Community Golf Tournament, which ended after this past summer. While no one knows his exact whereabouts now, there has been word he settled down in Salt Lake City, Utah to own his own business. While injuries and happenstance took it's toll, Tabaracci did all he could and even when his record showed worse than desired results, he didn't seem to be completely out of it and kept his teams in it. He did was he could and quietly bowed out when he knew it was time. Teams wanted him because of his character, hence why he was re-acquired a couple of times.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Awkwardess of Hanging Around

As we see the smoke clear from the trade deadline and the new acquisitions don their new duds, more and more reports are coming out about trades that didn't happen and players who were so sure that they were going to be moved and then didn't; you have to wonder if there's any kind of awkwardness in the room or resentment from some guys in the long-run for not asking to be moved at all.

For instance, Brian Burke came out after the deadline was done and mentioned that Tomas Kaberle had three teams he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause for. While speculation about the teams will go on and could be obvious, the fact Burke and Kaberle went back and forth about either Kaberle would be moved during the day could have put some weird vibes in the Leafs room, although most of the faces have changed and probably wouldn't have too many issues with the whole thing as some other teams would. If it were another team with a tighter bond, the awkwardness of this guy wanting out and not getting it could have been disaster for chemistry.

Moving onto reports out of Minnesota about Owen Nolan willing to be traded to two teams, San Jose and Washington, if GM Chuck Fletcher got the call from either team. This issue is a bit different, as Nolan said he believes the Wild has a chance at the playoffs; but Fletcher was willing to give Nolan the option because he hasn't won a Cup and Fletcher wanted to give him the chance to have his moment. For a team like the Wild who is still trying to find their identity, I don't think many people would be against Nolan leaving-- especially with what's he put into the league and knowing he doesn't have much time left to play on a contender.

Even though the two names above wanted out-- what about the guys who were pretty much rumored out the door, but stuck around. Especially in the goalie department where the likes of Cristobal Huet, Martin Biron, and Dwyane Roloson were rumored to be moving, but just a matter to where. In the Biron and Roloson case, the news of Rick DiPietro being done for the year, their plans got changed. But with Huet, how much could you prove to a team that seemed willing to dump you at the drop of a hat. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was in the news because of the fans not accepting him anymore and him losing some playing time to Tuukka Rask, and while there were rumors of him getting dealt, nothing happened. Thomas was then quoted of saying he hopes he can play well enough to shove all the negativity up the arse of the media and fans who doubt him. Nicely played.

Plus, as mentioned on the show; there was something posted on Twitter about a Caps forward, with his number in the teens, having his bag outside the Caps locker room in Buffalo because he was being dealt. That cause rumors about about two players-- Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann-- being moved for something big. In the end, it was a false alarm as neither were moved. At the same time, how could you go back into the room and have to look around and feel sane with the idea of thinking the team was going to move you somewhere else-- the uneasiness of the whole ordeal would be a little much and with a team on a stretch run and wanting to get to the Cup Final; that could disrupt some chemistry. Or it could cause the rumored traded player to show his team he's worth it and prove to other teams they could have had him if they had offered the right price. Or not-- I don't know-- I wish I knew how these things go.

As it all clears out, we see more and more stories come out of this nature. It's always an interesting thing about guys not going places when they were 95% out the door. How that effects chemistry with the team and how that effects relations between the player, his agent, and the upper management is always something that brings interesting subplots to what will happen to it during the summer or other contract negotiations that happen in the future. Though, in this profession, you have to have a short memory, especially when it comes to trades, contracts, etc. It's only business.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Trade Deadline 2010: Will Cause Drowiness

Even with the record of 30 trades made in the day. Even with the record 53 players getting plane tickets elsewhere. Even with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames actually trading with each other....the NHL Trade Deadline of 2010 will be one that has very little excitement to it and very little shocking moments to it.

To that end though, there weren't many blockbusters to be made, actually. With the salary cap being as it is, odds are that things weren't going to come as a huge shock and big names wouldn't be changing addresses. In fact, the biggest name dealt was moved about a month before the deadline came to be, Ilya Kovalchuk. That shows you what the deadline day brought to us.

Yet, one of the more talked about moves was the Phoenix Coyotes trading Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter to the Colorado Avalanche for Wojtek Wolski. The idea of a scenary change helping both Mueller and Wolski is in effect-- especially for Mueller, who had troubles in finding his niche with Dave Tippett behind the Phoenix bench. Wolski was the second leading scorer on the Avalanche and seemed to be coming on his own, but one reason or another-- the Avs thought he was disposable. A move to a young Coyotes squad could help Wolski continue to excel and stand-out. Porter had been pretty solid in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage, but who knows if/when he'll crack the Avs roster.

Another shock was the lack of goalie movements, especially with the rumors surrounding the New York Islanders and their trio of goalies, but I guess with Rick DiPietro shutting it down again; not an option. Also, questions about the Flyers and Blackhawks goaltending was called into question, but neither team made a move. The only big goalie deal was Calgary sending Curtis McElhinney to Anaheim for Vesa Toskala; reuniting two former Sharks goalies Toskala and Miikka Kiprusoff. As well, Justin Pogge on the move again, this time heading to Carolina from Anaheim.

The Capitals were busy adding the grit upfront with Scott Walker and Eric Belanger and some help on the blue-line with Joe Corvo and re-welcoming Milan Jurcina. While many will say the Caps were the "winners" of the deadline, the fact remains they were the only real contender who did anything worth noting. Therefore, by default they seemed to come out on top. While these four do prove an upgrade, the Caps didn't address their suspect goaltending and lack of a shutdown defenseman. These moves were needed, but at the same time-- may not get them that silver chalice.

To be honest, that's really all there was to talk about. It shows that there was so much build-up for a day that usually exciting for all involved, but to be honest-- total letdown. The fans and watchers could all be considered "losers" in this deadline, but what can you do-- right?? Sometimes you'll have a big party, others you'll be the only one in the conference room waiting for others to show up. The sad thing is that it didn't really get Twitter buzzing completely; other than people complaining about how boring things are.

Maybe next year.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Deadline Expectations

With the Trade Deadline about 24 hours away, you can bet teams will be hustling and bustling trying to get their teams set for the last part of the season and into the playoff run. Of course, some teams will be doing more than others; then the hindsight will set-in minutes after the deadline lapses. Here's some of the things I think may or may not happen as planned, as some are serious and some not. You can pick out which is which.

-Edmonton has already started to blow up their team with dealing Denis Grebeshkov to the Nashville Predators. While the Oilers have a lot to give up, the asking price may be a little too much for some teams. Plus, with all the injuries they've had, who knows how many teams will be chomping at the bit to deal with Edmonton and then realize they were sold a lemon.

-There's a lot of talk around the Toronto Maple Leafs and some of their players. While they shed some dead-weight in Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake, many wonder what Brian Burke did to con the Anaheim Ducks into that. Because of it, the GMs are unsure about dealing with Burke due to his Jedi mind-tricks or blackmailing photos he may possess.

-While there's not much to improve, the Washington Capitals could look for more help in the blueline, maybe a Steve Staios type player; mostly to help along the young guys. Some grit wouldn't hurt, but odds are they won't be able to get their dream acquisition, 1984 Rod Langway, mostly due to time travel and cloning not being readily available.

-Realizing they really don't have much after Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins loaded up on another defenseman in getting Jordan Leopold from the Florida Panthers. This way, they'll be able to dress 18 defensemen and hope the two forwards can come up big for them.

-The Florida Panthers started their fire sale with the Leopold move and you can almost assume that other big names will be moving before 3 PM Wednesday. With all the names being throwing out in terms of who's being moved out, it seems to be the first time the Panthers have been really relevant since the Jay Bouwmeester sweepstakes and before then-- the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

-Figuring that they're okay with what they've got-- the Carolina Hurricanes will stand pat and not move anyone. Even though many players are begging to get out of Carolina, GM Jim Rutherford made his decision on whether to trade a player using Jo Dee Messina's "Heads Carolina, Tails California" and a two-headed coin.

The one thing that will be agreed upon is that there will probably be a lot of moves of role players and minor league deals-- and maybe some few bigger names thrown into the mix-- but it will be active with a lot of speculation of the sort. Also, plenty of mis-announce trades that are said to be done, but never happen.

As for me, we'll be doing a wrap-up on Face Off Hockey Show Wednesday night and I'll be on the panel of Hockey Independent's trade deadline live chat/blog going on over there. Be sure to check both out, because they'll be fantastic.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jim Carey

While he came out of nowhere to the top in a flash, his career ended just as quick. There's a time where he didn't want to play anymore and just be done with it all, but like many AGM's you have to wonder where it went wrong. He'll forever be immortal to Caps fans, as well as the NHL world; plus he can get confused with someone more successful, in the process. He's also on the FOHS Wall of Fame.....or at least his Starting Line-up is. This week-- we look at Jim Carey.

Coming out of Dorchester, Massachusetts; Carey really got the eyes on him playing in high school for Catholic Memorial, as he went 48-2-0 in his his three years there from 1989-90 until 1991-92, with 12 shutouts to his name. It was good enough for Carey to get Drafted in the 1992 Draft by the Washington Capitals in the second round, 32nd overall.

Even though he was drafted, Carey had decided to go to the school route by heading to the University of Wisconsin to get some time in there. Starting in the 1992-93 season, Carey got plenty of time with the Badgers in net-- as he played 25 games in his freshman year and going 15-8-1, enough to prove his guile. His first-year play got him some solid merits-- like being the WCHA's Rookie of the Year, named to the WCHA All-Rookie team, and the WCHA 2nd All-Star team. Carey parlayed that into more time in his sophomore year, getting 39 games in and going 24-13-1 for the year. With all his work done, the 1994-95 season saw Carey make the leap from the amateur ranks to the pro ranks.

With the lockout, that meant that Carey had to start his career with the Portland Pirates, the Caps farm team at the time. With the Pirates, Carey showed his stuff and shocked a lot of people in the AHL, playing 55 games and going 30-14-11 with six shutouts and a 2.76 GAA. The Caps were so impressed that they called up Carey in March of 1995 and went 18-6-3 for the season, displaying the classic case of the unknown goalie stumping the league. However, his rookie year in the AHL, Carey was able to get the Red Garrett Award for AHL top-rookie and Baz Bastien Award for top-goalie in the league.

With those accolades, the Caps spent no time to promote Carey to the starter's role. In the 1995-96 season, he did not disappoint. Carey played in 71 games for the Caps, went 35-24-9 with a 2.26 GAA and .906 save percentage. Those numbers were good enough for Carey to capture the Vezina Trophy, becoming one of the most unlikely winners of the award. Things were riding high for Carey, as he was a cult hit in the DC area. With the rise of comedian Jim Carrey in the entertainment industry-- the nicknames were readily available. The fans started to call him the Net Detective, as well as Ace, an homage to the Jim Carrey movie; "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective." He was on cloud nine, but like most AGMs-- it all came crashing down in an instant.

The 1996-97 had a lot of buzz for Carey, but he got off to a slow start for the Caps. While his GAA was 2.75, his record in Washington didn't compliment that, as he was 17-18-3. The Caps needed to do something, so the Caps decided to deal him on trade deadline day. They found a buyer in the Boston Bruins. The Bruins were interested because of Carey's credentials and the fact he grew up in the Boston area. Sadly, with the trade-- the Bruins forgot to get his confidence with it. From the trade until the rest of the season, Carey played in 19 games for Boston and went a disappointing 5-13-0.

When Pat Burns got the head coaching gig for the Bruins, Carey was usurped by another former Caps goalie-- Byron Dafore. Carey was sent down to Providence in the AHL to help him get his game back for the 1997-98 season, but it didn't seem to help much. In the AHL, Carey went 2-7-1 in his ten games; though the ten games in Boston yielded a 3-2-1 record. That showed that there is a possibility for a return to greatness, but it wasn't to be in Boston, it would seem.

The 1998-99 season saw Carey start with Providence again, but he looked real good again. In his 30 games in the AHL that year-- Carey put up a 17-8-3 record. It was good, but not good enough for the Bruins, who released him on March 1st. However, it was a matter of hours before he was picked up again, as the St. Louis Blues took a chance on him. Yet, Carey only played four games for the Blues (1-2-0) before being sent down to the IHL's Cincinnati Cyclones. That's where it all ended, as Carey only played two games, going 1-0-1 before falling to a serious inner-ear concussion. Carey didn't finished the season and faded away from hockey.

In a July 2000 article in the Washington Times, many had wondered what happened with Carey. He wasn't interview personally, but former agent Brian Lawton did talk and told about how Carey wasn't like most of young, rich athletes:
"Jim made $800,000 or $900,000 the year he won the Vezina and then he signed a four-year, $11 million contract. And Jim has done so well with his investments that he doesn't have to work. He's working on his business degree at the University of Tampa and looking to get involved in the financial world. It's disappointing that Jim didn't persevere because he still had a lot to give to the sport. Despite everything that had happened, 24 was too young to leave hockey."
Carey was said to be able to get in shape in no time, but he never wanted to. Right now, Carey is the CEO and President of OptiMED Billing Solutions, which is a medical billing company in Sarasota, Florida.

While it seemed that Carey could transition, it seemed that he could only do that on his own terms and with his qualifications. When he would get traded or released or demoted, Carey never reacted well; thinking he was in the wrong and never could get his confidence back. When he was about to get it fully back-- Carey would be on the move again and he'd have to start all over. While he seems to have found his calling now, it's fitting he's the CEO. He can call his own shots and do what he needed to in order to succeed, without anyone telling him otherwise.