Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's in a Nameplate??

As many of you who have followed this blog know, I'm kind of a fan of the aesthetics of a hockey team. It's part of why I started the Hockey Team Identity Project with The Girl. Now, you all know about my gripes about front numbers, templated design, and unnecessary piping on the new Reebok Edge systems, as I have voiced my displeasure on The Show and here. However, there's something new that's popping up that's starting to become my top annoyance, and it's really showing through in the new Canadian Hockey League third jerseys coming out.

Mismatched nameplates.

Now, this first came out with the Philadelphia Flyers presenting their third jerseys, which was a homage to their old jerseys in the 1960's and 70's, but they added the touch that wasn't there. Putting a white nameplate with black lettering on the orange jersey. For their Winter Classic jerseys, they put a black nameplate with white lettering on their white jerseys; which has now become their new jersey designs starting this season. While it's something that may not be too bad, considering it hadn't happened in a long while....or ever in the NHL (lack of fact checking makes me say that), it seems that it's gone above and beyond overkill now in the CHL.

The CHL instituted third jersey for this year and so far, there's far too many teams using this new gimmick. The Kootenay Ice (pictured above) is one of the first, while the Kingston Frontnacs and Mississauga St. Michael's Majors have also instituted the contrasting nameplates. All the while the front numbers make an appearance with the Kamloops Blazers' third jerseys; but some teams like the Kelowna Rockets and Tri-City Americans have some kind of sanity when it comes with their new third jerseys.

But with the nameplates, I don't get the whole ordeal. To be honest, I don't think there were many teams who used it when they first instituted the rule of having names on the back of jerseys. It's almost like the ties on the collar, it creates a retro kind of feel, without actually having to deal with the heritage of a team. There's times where it's a neat idea and some times gives the look a very unique feel, but to do it in an overkill way kills any kind of uniqueness that a team could have by doing it.

Maybe, just maybe-- this will be the last of the craze, but at the same time-- I'm sure this could be the beginning of a trend that will rank up there with bad ideas. I understand that people do like the retro feel of some jerseys; but in the end-- to put unnecessary retro themes on teams that aren't really that retro (Kootenay was founded in 1996 when they were in Edmonton). It's to the point where you should almost have an unwritten rule of jerseys and how the make-up of one could be-- like if you've only been around for a decade, make something to not stray too much from the current identity; while a team that's been around for 25 seasons can actually make some retro designs for the years they've attributed into the league...or something.

In any case, I'll be hating this just like all the other stuff the Reebok Edge has given us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Rob Tallas

While the pre-season continues along, we look at this week's AGM as a guy who actually enjoyed the pre-season process because he was able to show off his wears. Undrafted and having to play in the minors, he used the pre-season to get himself into the show, if only for a little while. This week, we look at the career of Rob Tallas.

Tallas first got his feet wet in the BCJHL with the South Surrey Eagles and Penticton Panthers. He would play well enough to get selected by the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds in the 1991-92 season, where he would play 14 games, going 4-7-0 in those matches. Tallas would be sent down to South Surrey that season for 19 games and would sport a 6-12-0 record while down there. After a solid camp, Tallas would get the starter's position in the 1992-93 season, where he would play in 58 games and have a 24-23-3 record on a sub-par club, which would get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Tallas would be back for his overage season during the 1993-94 season, trying to put his best play out there, as he was undrafted. Tallas held steady in his 51 games with a 23-21-3 record for the T-Birds, as well as carrying them to the second round of the playoffs.

After a great junior career despite not much support around him, Tallas was signed by the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers for the 1994-95 season. He would spent most of the season there, playing 36 games, taking home a record of 21-9-3 for his experience. Tallas would get called up to the AHL's Providence Bruins for two game, going 1-0-0 in 82 minutes of play.

The Bruins were impressed with Tallas' performances in the AHL and ECHL, they would sign him before the 1995-96 season. Tallas would be reassigned to Providence, playing in 35 games splitting with Scott Bailey in net and going 12-16-7, while seeing one game in the NHL with Boston with his only game being a win. The 1996-97 season would be a shuttle season for Tallas, starting out in Providence for 24 games (9-14-1), before being called up to Boston as they were going through their goaltending carousel for the year. Tallas would see 28 games with a 8-12-1 record, though his season would come in an end due to an ankle injury. The 1997-98 season would be another shuttle year and one with injury issues. In Providence, Tallas went 1-8-1 in 10 games, while in Boston he would have a 6-3-3 record in 14 games; but Tallas would have to deal with a hamstring injury in January of 1998, which would sideline him for a time. Boston would take a chance on Tallas as a back-up to former AGM Bryon Dafoe for the 1998-99 campaign, and it would do well for Tallas; who would get only 17 games in with a 7-7-2 record. The 1999-2000 would be horrific for Tallas. Not only did he lacerate his finger at the beginning of the season, but he would bomb out in his contract year with a 4-13-4 record in 27 games, even though Dafoe was injured and holding out-- he could not step up.

The Bruins would let Tallas go on the free agent market, where the Chicago Blackhawks would give him an opportunity as a back-up to Jocelyn Thibault for the 2000-01 season. The change of scenary didn't help, as Tallas would only go 2-7-0 in 14 games. It was so bad that he would see a stint with Chicago's affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals (2-2-2 in six games) and Chicago's other hockey team-- the IHL's Wolves, where he had a 0-1-0 record in three games.

The next summer, Tallas was again a free agent and was only able to catch on with the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he would see time behind Sebastien Caron and completely crap the bed in that season with a 6-25-5 record in 38 games. The WBS Pens let him have another shot in the 2002-03 season, where it would get better; though things couldn't have gotten worse. Tallas would end up going 14-11-3, while getting most of the starts in the Pens tiny depth and dealing with shuttling goalies.

Seeing his North American options dry up, Tallas went to the European route starting in the 2003-04 season; signing with the Finnish club HPK Hameenlinna. Tallas would play 22 games with the club, while going 8-8-4 and a 1.99 GAA. After that season, Tallas would hope over the Austria, playing for EC Red Bull Salzburg for 12 games in the 2004-05 season, but would post a 4.41 GAA that spent the end for his playing career. He would hang up the pads mid-way through the season.

After retiring, Tallas continued in the game as a mentor and trainer for younger goaltenders. He currently serves as the goalie coach for the Florida Panthers, as well as a hockey instructor at the Florida Panthers practice facility for the area goalies.

While he did shine in a couple places when it matter, Tallas never seemed to have a great string of luck to put forth something that could have prolonged his career in the NHL more, but he was luckier than some who had much success with the minors, but never got a sniff at winning in the NHL. Though he didn't have the best teams in front of him, Tallas showed he could get a win, even if it meant enduring plenty of losses.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: Pre-Season Antics

It's another Friday and another gimmick from yours truly. This week, we're going to take a look at the lunacy that is the pre-season....oooo, it's crazy. Like I said earlier this week; not a fan of the pre-season and can't get up for it. Especially now, with people getting hysterical about players performing amazingly in the pre-season-- which leads us to this question:

1. What do you think with some of these rookies tearing up the exhibition games thus far??

Two words: Brandon Bochenski. It's great to hear stories like Magnus Paajarvi (SVENSSON!!) and Matt Hendricks with a hat-trick in their first pre-season game, but at the same time-- it's the pre-season. These kind of hysterics is what makes me hate the pre-season. While it can be a prelude to things to come, but at the same time-- could be a beginning of the end for their 15 minutes of fame.

2. So, does the same go with the likes of Carey Price and Dan Ellis for letting up all those goals??

That's also true, especially in the case of Price. While it could be a backlash to the Habs getting rid of Halak, but he is right to say the fans needed to chill out a bit. As far as Dan Ellis, it could all go back to maybe his focus (or lack thereof). If Ellis's focus is still in question by the end of the pre-season, it could be a long month for him and could get him to lose his spot in one fashion or another, maybe to the lovely city of Norfolk to retool. It's far too soon to throw them under the bus, at least until the first month is over.

3. How about these neutral sites games, like in Winnipeg and Rochester??

The Winnipeg game seems to be tradition and almost is a bit of a tease for those fans who are clamoring for the NHL. With all the speculation, it's something for fans to show how much they'd support NHL hockey. It didn't hurt that they had the Cup champs going there with hometown boy Jonathan Toews there, but still the 14,000+ showed for a meaningless game; they'd be out there to support whomever.

As far as places like Rochester and other minor league cities, that's the perfect display for exhibition games. It's mostly because of the fact that many of these pre-season games have the guys who will play in those cities during the season, but the sprinkle of possible NHLers playing in that game would be an added attraction. If anything, I believe that the pre-season games should be played in the affiliate cities until the last home game in the pre-season schedule so that the home fans can see the roster before the real season starts-- like an advanced screening for a movie or something.

4. Should there be any concern for all the injuries happening??

You're bound to get injuries, but the broken finger for Chris Drury and broken leg for Filip Kuba are a little disheartening, but it gives the chance for other to step up their game and maybe prove their worth to the NHL brass and maybe be the part of the shuttle crew going to and from the NHL this season. The only good thing about injuries is that it gives some other players a chance with the top group, while the downside is that it completely screws up some depth charts and maybe some cap scenarios here and there. That said, once we start seeing a slue of groin and other muscle ailments is when you have to wonder about over and under conditioning issues.

5. The Canadian Hockey League all started this week. How does that make you feel??

Considering that I'm in the same city as the WHL offices and the WHL champion Calgary Hitmen, it's a good time for me. Plus, it's good, affordable hockey for people to go out and enjoy. Plus, it's like a pre-pre-season game, all season, because these are the players of the future and plenty of reason to keep an eye on these youngsters. Especially those who have been drafted, many people can track them as they grow and develop. It's good for everyone to have real hockey action before the NHL starts, just to wet your appetite.


And that's that for this week. Once again, if you have any questions or recommendations for the F5, email me at will at Scotty.Wazz@Gmail.com and you too can have you name in parenthesis and what not. Plus, you can say-- "I did my part and now I can sit back and reap the rewards."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Reality of the Reality Situation

It's being reported that HBO is going to put a "Hard Knocks" type of docu-drama (via Wyshynski) together about the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, leading up to the Winter Classic at Heinz Field on New Year's Day. Shockingly, this may not sit well with some, but others could eat it up.

The thing about the fans of the NHL is that they're a confusing bunch. They want a lot of coverage for the NHL in the mainstream. However, the participants that are picked for the mainstream coverage are overused in sporting what the game is about, thus making fans unhappy. They want their cake and to eat it, as well. The problem is that it's not going to work that way in the real world of entertainment and exposure.

While Puck the Media's Steve Lepore is right in saying that it's an overused narrative that may not create a personality beyond what has been shown to us thus far, the fact remains that it's the NHL being put out to a potential big audience with two of the most recognizable names playing the game today. The NHL wants to market their product to outliers and what better way to do it than to display Ovechkin and Crosby to the mainstream. Sadly, it hasn't been able to catch on using NBC or other avenues, so maybe one last kick in the can with HBO will do it.

More over, you cannot base a series and hour long shows to just Crosby and Ovechkin. That's a given because they are already known up and down by most people. What this does, to me, is give the producers a chance to give more insight to the other players that surround the teams. People can learn more about Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, M-A Fleury, and John Carlson than they every would without doing the research themselves or hope that one of them surpass the other two for popularity. You're going to learn more about the players, the coaches, the drama in the locker room should a team get down, the joy of wins coming from unlikely heroes. You have plenty of story lines, like the Penguins heading into their new digs, the Caps young defense and goaltending, the Penguins new faces and both teams need for depth scoring. While Ovechkin and Crosby will be main-focused, there are going to be other outlets for players to learn about.

And yes, I will admit the Ovechkin/Crosby story line does get stale-- how could it not when the NHL has been running with it, but it's still going to be one of the better rivalries to be out there for this coming season and season's to come-- so you're going to have to get used to it. I'm sure the same would have went with Gretzky and Lemieux had they played in the same Conference when they were in their primes. Which is just it-- the uniqueness of this "feud" is that these teams already have a deep resentment for each other because of the playoff meetings in the 90s with some of more memorable overtime games; but add to it two of the best players in the NHL and it's going to be amped up more. I can't really think of two players of this caliber battling it out and meeting each other in the regular season with this much frequency in the past. I'm sure I'll be corrected, but still.

There's always going to be teams that are going to be overused in trying to promote the game. Why?? Because more often than not, they get the biggest draw because they're more recognizable. The vicious cycle is that other teams that aren't as popular won't get shown, which could get them more popularity. At the same time, this isn't communism, so everyone won't get their fair share of TV time. How many times in the 90's did we have to hear about the Avalanche, Flyers, and Red Wings playing on National Hockey Night?? They brought in the most viewers, which is what the NHL is aiming for. Maybe this series will capture a great feat of one of the opposing teams, which someone will catch while watching and turn them onto that player or team-- it could happen.

There's been a push for a reality series for a while by some and now it seems to be coming true if all falls into place. Sure, it's going to be teams who are pushed to the max now, but it's a start. If this series does well, who knows what doors it could open up to other teams. Love them or hate them, you have to keep an open mind because it's for the greater good of the sport. If you expect hockey to grow out of the niche status (maybe not by much, but still); then people will have to support it when it keeps throwing the same people in the national spotlight time after time. Abandoning the show or games because it's not your team is not the way the sport will grow. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Connecticut Whale?? More Like Connecticut Fail

This announcement was made on Monday, and we all know I've got breaking news covered like a jimmy hat, but the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL was sold to Howard Baldwin, founder of the Hartford Whalers, and the team will change it's name from the Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale starting in the mid-season "between US Thanksgiving and Christmas" with a new logo and jerseys on February 19th, 2011.

Now, the first thing that is annoying to me is the fact that they aren't committing to the whole "Whalers" theme like people want them to. Whether it's a logistics thing or if it's a reason to keep the name reserved should the Hartford area get a NHL team in the future; I can see why they may not want to go all-in with it; but with that a while away-- why not put the Whalers name to it?? Even if it's the Connecticut Whalers, you may as well get the most out of the Whalers fever and not let the NHL and the OHL's Plymouth Whalers get all the bank because of it. The Whale...I don't know, doesn't have the pizazz of other names out there. However, the headlines of a team when they lose, like the classic "Fail Whale Last Night" and "Beached Whale" if they lose to the Norfolk Admirals; would be epic.

However, the second thing is the real thing that bugs me. Why are they waiting until the season is almost done to roll out a new identity?? While I'm sure it's too close to the season to get everything ready for the identity to roll out for the 2010-11 campaign, but why not wait until the next season rather than flip the script mid-to-late season?? They want to make the bank, sure, but you really should do it immediately before the season starts, and let's face it-- a month isn't too quick for everything to be switched up, I'm sure. To do it that late in the season, while great for PR purposes if people get disinterested in the team, just seems like a silly move and ruins the Wolf Pack identity that just gets killed swiftly like that.

While it's great to have the heritage and following that the Hartford Whalers have, you almost wouldn't want the history of that name and team to be diminished with nothing less than a NHL team. The close proximity to the name may tarnish the name that many hold dear to their hearts and could cool the fandom that the Whalers have created since they left Hartford in 1996. I understand why the fans would want the Whalers to come back, but this may be an issue of flying too close to the sun with paper wings....or something. The point is that while there's heat on the Whalers now because they have merchandise freedom now, you can only milk the cash cow for so long before it all goes to hell.

In the end, it'll be interesting to see how this will all take. Sure, you have a lot of fans who are used to the Wolf Pack identity, but it would probably be killed by the fans very quickly; which could be a shame for those who actually enjoyed that for the team. You can bet you'll have a lot of Hartford Whalers garb in the stands to start.....probably more than usual, of course. And while the Whalers are the trendy logo now, how long before it's over-saturated and unbearable?? Only time will tell, now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pre-Season Means Pre-Excitement

The NHL pre-season starts tonight and for most people, this is the start of the season and everyone is so excited. It's interesting enough for TSN to broadcast the Senators and Maple Leafs game tonight. It seems like it's all coming together, even though we all know Pierre McGuire needs that extra practice being loud, annoying, and awkwardly close to players and his fellow commentators.

Maybe it's because I'm cynical, maybe it's because I'm so into the ACTUAL season, maybe I'm not as big of a hockey fan as I thought I was; but I can't get up for pre-season. Nothing about the pre-season gets me all hot and bothered and ready for the season to begin. Even in the off-season, I never had a hockey withdraw or wanting October to show up quicker than the Earth can spin.

While I get people wanting hockey to start and all of that, I just don't get how people are getting antsy over the pre-season and training camps and all of that. I'm glad to see people go out to training camps and getting some information out there and supporting their team, but there's something that makes me not get too excited to see fringe players battle it out for a roster spot or their location on the AHL depth charts.

If nothing else, you have to appreciate the spirit of the fans who actually care enough to go out there to the rinks, even for rookie camps (guilty, but with reason). However, it seems that the pure volume of updates from everywhere is what drags down my spirit and what drags down my excitement for hockey to actually come back. I'll be glad when it comes back for real, but it's a matter of patience for it to come back. No amount of intrasquad games, rookie games, and fringe games will ever get me as excited as the real thing.

It's probably just me, mostly because I am a cynical fellow and I probably will drag myself to the Saddledome to see some camp activity, but I still won't be all in for the excitement level as some people, which is fine for them. For me, there's times I need a breakaway from hockey and into some other interests. God love you if you are hyped up for it all, because it's that kind of passion that could leech onto others who don't have it. Yet, be careful because it could be the same passion you have that become a bit overwhelming for some and drives them away.

While the "IsItOctoberYet" hashtag on Twitter is annoying in July, it's a bit more fitting now. It's close and you can almost taste it and it does create anxiousness for the season-- but mostly because it's time to cut through all the crap and actually get down to it. It seems this summer has been the longest off-season on record, but for some-- it's good. I'm ready for the regular season to start so the off-season silliness is over with.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Michel Plasse

There are few times were the AGM can be listed amongst the "firsts" of something, but this week's AGM did something in the minors before the any NHL goalie had a sniff of it. Plus, this AGM has been on three teams that now no longer exist, which could be a record in this category. In any case, this week, we look at the career of Michel Plasse.

Plasse started out his venture to the NHL with the Junior A Drummondville Rangers. He would play in Drummondville from 1965 until 1968, getting the Rangers to a Memorial Cup play-down in the 1967-68 season, though they would lose in the Quebec Finals to Verdun.

Plasse was picked first overall in the 1968 NHL Amateur Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, but would start out his pro career with the IHL's Cleveland Barons for the 1968-69 season going 2-4-0 in his seven games of action. For the 1969-70 season, Plasse would go south to the Jacksonville Rockets of the Eastern Hockey League, where he would play 61 games with a 4.87 GAA to show for it in the regular season, while getting swept in four games and sporting an 8.75 GAA in those four games. The Canadiens loaned out Plasse to the Kansas City Blues of the Central Hockey League for the 1970-71 season, where he would actually get a dubious distinction during his 16-game tenure there.

On February 21, 1971, Plasse would cement himself in the history books. While playing against Oklahoma City, Plasse would intercept a pass across the crease, batting the puck down the ice, where it could go into an open-net. Plasse became the first goalie in modern era history to be credited with a goal. Billy Smith of the New York Islanders would be the first NHLer to be credited with a goal in the NHL while Ron Hextall would be the first to shoot and score in the NHL.

Someone saw something in Plasse, as he was trade from Montreal to the St. Louis Blues for a cash prize. While he would see mostly back-up duty to Ernie Wakely, he would play one game during the 1970-71 season and get a win during it.

Plasse would be traded by St. Louis back to Montreal for cash...again. However, Plasse would be headed to the AHL and the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. Plasse would finally come into his own during the 1971-72 season. Plasse would play 36 games behind Wayne Thomas and would go 17-13-4, but would get the call for most of the Calder Cup Playoffs, going 12-3-0 in those playoffs, though the Voyageurs would lose in the Calder Cup finals in five games.

Plasse would get the call up to the Montreal Canadiens for the 1972-73 season, seeing 17 games in his first season behind Ken Dryden and would go 11-2-3 and get a Stanley Cup ring despite not seeing any game time. Plasse would play second fiddle again to Dryden, playing 15 games in the 1973-74 season, going 7-4-2.

Plasse was left unprotected by the Canadiens for the 1974 Expansion Draft, which lead him to be claimed by the Kansas City Scouts. The 1974-75 season was a mixed bag for Plasse, who would get 24 games of action in and would go 4-16-3 for his troubles with the expansion team before getting a bit of a reprieve.

Plasse would be on the move again, as the Scouts would trade Plasse to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Denis Herron and Jean-Guy Lagace in January of 1975. Plasse would play 20 games behind former AGM Gary Inness and improve to a 9-5-4 record. Plasse would stay in Pittsburgh for the 1975-76 season playing 55 games in a starting role for the Penguins, going 24-19-10 and getting the Penguins to the playoffs-- where they would be outed in three games with Plasse going 1-2. Plasse would also play with the Hershey Bears for five games in the 1975-76 season, losing four of the five games there.

In some bizarre turn of events, there was a condition to the trade to Pittsburgh for Plasse, as he was return to the Kansas City Scouts as Herron re-signed with Pittsburgh in the summer of 1976. The Scouts, however, would move and become the Colorado Rockies for the 1976-77 season. Plasse would be the starter for the Rockies, playing 55 games for the still terrible team going 12-29-10 with the Rockies for the season. Plasse would only player 20 games (3-12-8) for the Rockies in the 1977-78 season, as Doug Favell would step up. Plasse would also be sent to the AHL and the Hampton Gulls for two games, going 0-1-1. Plasse would get more time in the 1978-79 season with the Rockies, playing 41 games, but the record was more of the same for the horrid Rockies, with Plasse ending with a 9-29-2 record. Also, Plasse would spend time with the Philadelphia Firebirds AHL team, playing seven games, going 0-6-1. Plasse would start the 1979-80 season with the Rockies, but after six games (0-3-2), he would be sent to the Fort Worth Texans of the Central League. Plasse went 9-13-3 in 32 games with the Texans, but would have a decent post-season, going 8-5 in the 14 games he played in.

Plasse would sign on with the Quebec Nordiques for the 1980-81 season, seeing 33 games as a starter before getting replaced by Dan Bouchard. Plasse would go 10-14-9 in his 33 games. At the start of the 1981-82 season, Plasse would start with the Nordiques, but would only play eight games (2-3-1) before being traded.

Plasse was traded to the Hartford Whalers for John Garrett in January of 1982 and would be sent down to the AHL's Binghamton Whalers. He would play eight games for Binghamton, going 3-3-1 before deciding to retire from the game.

Plasse didn't seem to be a part of the game much after retiring. Sadly, Plasse would pass away due to a heart attack on December 30, 2006. He was only 58.

While he had his moments in the sun, Plasse was only as good as the team in front of him, which didn't seem to be the case in most of his travels. However, he didn't seem to give up, even when the going was tough. He played to the utmost of his ability and when he was on, he was on. Plus, he was the first goalie to score a goal in the modern era, which no one can take away from his legacy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five: Moving and Shaking Organizations

Checking out of the weekend?? Don't go anywhere before the F5 hits. This week, I'm glad that the Columbus Blue Jackets' troubles happened this week, especially since someone sent in a question about relocation and expansion. Let's get right to it.

1. What comes first, expansion or franchise relocation to Canada?? (From Justin W.)

With those being the two options, I think relocation as a no-brainer. The relocation to Canada is the smart idea as it would bring in more revenue to the league, thus raising the cap numbers and allowing more owners to spend. However, the downside is like what we have in Phoenix where there's a lease there with the city and it's near impossible to get out of. With all the legal debates and stuff, the relocating owner would definitely have a lot on their plate to break out of leases and agreements they have with the place they're trying to get out of.

Expansion is the option that is a last resort and would probably only be used in order to feed the demand of owners an prospective locations; which really isn't there right now. It's not like the early to mid 90s when hockey was the hot sports and everyone wanted a piece of it; we're in different times and it's not feasible to have other teams to worry about when it comes to financial stability.

2. Wouldn't expansion also dilute the talent out there??

Yes and no. Obviously, you're going to see a lot of guys you'd never thought would be NHL regulars get into the league. At the same time it would create more jobs, which the NHLPA would love to have for it's players, and maybe give more options for guys thinking about going over to Europe to play. The biggest thing it would impact is more jobs for goalies who are on the fringe and more teams for superstar forwards to victimize, as the defense for the expansion team will probably not be so good. And who knows, you could have guys who get an everyday spot on the expansion squad and turns out to be part of the elite; who would never have gotten a chance anywhere else because of the numbers game.

3. What places would be ripe for expansion/relocation??

You obviously have places like Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Quebec City-- the ones that create the most buzz. Yet, I think that Kansas City would get a look if they can find some solid ownership. They already have an arena there, they have decent size media outlets to deal with (31st in radio, 32nd in TV), and would have a decent amount of rivalry build in with possible the Blues if they were to move there. While it may not be the sexiest option, the Kansas City hockey history not as memorable as some other places-- it's something that really could do well and if they get a good team, actually keep the people in the stands after the buzz is gone.

You could probably mention Las Vegas, but I don't think it'd be plausible since it is a tourist town and you probably wouldn't get many residence turn out every game to make it work there. The good thing about Vegas is you could put the payroll on a hand of blackjack and double your revenue like that....or lose it all.

4. What about contraction, is that a valid option??

I think it's a definite last resort if you can't sell a team, but it's be a fight from some other owners and definitely from the NHLPA, who would have their players lose jobs. That said-- it's something that would probably kill off some of the teams that don't pull their weight for revenue and drag down the earning power for the NHL. Some owners would enjoy it, the others not so much. The reason is because once you actually start contracting teams, where does it stop before you're back down to single-digits.

5. Which team should be the first to go if there is contraction??

This could get some angry responses (or not), but I don't think the Coyotes are the ones who should be the first to go if there is a reduction-- they'd be my first candidate to move. Personally, I think the Florida Panthers may be the best bet to get contracted. While they did have a good team, they also don't get the butts in the seats and it's not really their fault. If anything, they are a victim to their enviroment. Miami loves teams when they win, ignores them when they lose. Most of Florida is like that, actually-- but Sunrise takes the cake it seems. The Marlins and Heat couldn't get people into the stand when they were awful, but when they win-- you can't find a ticket. I think the fact they're going to be putting a tarp over the cheap seats (albeit with advertisements to counteract the losses) shows that this is a team in trouble if they don't start doing something with their on-ice product.


If you have an idea or question for the F5, like Justin did, then all you have to do is email me at Scotty.Wazz@Gmail.com and pitch it away. Odds are I will use it in the next installment of the F5, mostly due to my own issues with coming up with something worth rambling on about.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Now You "C" Them, Now You Don't

Personally, I can't remember who said it; but someone on the Twitter made a comment about if NHL teams didn't have a captain on their roster, would anyone notice?? This was in direct response to the craziness that broke today that La Presse knows that Brian Gionta will be named the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens, the second American to have the honor. That has not been confirmed by the Canadiens themselves, but it's probably going to come out in the next little while here.

Now, the comment made by someone I'm following was interesting and something that is very thought provoking, especially considering that there have been many teams without a captain for a while and didn't seem to be in any hurry to have a captain. The Canucks, Thrashers, Oilers, Sharks, and Ducks are looking for a captain, the Wild and Blue Jackets had rotating captaincy for the longest time before they settled on one person just recently to carry the letter. The Maple Leafs went without a captain for years because they didn't see anyone with the ability to do that until Dion Phaneuf came along. With that out there, what kind of importance or is there any importance to the captaincy anymore??

The captains role used to be about having a veteran presence on the team to be the leader of the team and be able to motive players, especially the younger ones, into playing as a cohesive unit. There's seve teams with captains who are going to be 25-and-under at the start of the season: Dustin Brown, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, and Shea Weber. Granted, Staal and Brown will turn 26 within the first two months of the season; but still the point is that the younger guys are getting more respect over the veterans; which makes you wonder if it means something due to older vets getting overlook for the same position.

Plus, the topic of alternate captains is getting out of hand, too. It seems the ridiculousness of having everyone on the team have an alternate captaincy is more absurd than the question of who's going to be the next captain. It used to be that you have only two alternates, but now you see three and four guys have the "A" stitched to the front of their jerseys-- the Blue Jackets having six alternates, many of which switch on and off between home and road games. It's almost crazy the amount of people who actually have these letters on there.

On top of all of this, the fact almost anyone can chirp at the officials nowadays; the role of the captain seems very diminished from what it once was. Even so, the fact you have plenty of leaders in the locker room and on the ice that don't have anything attached to the front of the jersey; what's the true need for a captain to be identified?? There are so many teams with veterans on the ice who know what to do already, they shouldn't be discounted for not having a letter on their jersey and I doubt they're getting motivated by the young captains because they are probably giving the young kids advice on how to be a leader and what to do in certain situations.

Therein lies the rub, you have the captains getting advice from a veteran. If you're the captain, shouldn't you be the one who is the go-to guy with advice rather than getting advice. You can't believe that Mike Richards or Sidney Crosby knew everything that there is to know about leading a team, so they went to their many veteran teammates for help. It's hard to have a respect factor of the captaincy when the supposed leader is being taught how to be led. It's not a knock on Richards or Crosby because they should have gone to the veterans for advice, but it's a knock on the organizations for giving the captaincy to the youngsters, when they aren't going anywhere and should be given the time to learn the league before bestowing the official leadership on him. Another topic is that of having official leadership over unofficial leadership-- but I think the point is there in my rambling.

In the end, odds are we'll still see captains out there and we'll still have debates on who should and shouldn't be given that honor. Debates will rage on when someone gets stripped of the captaincy and then gets traded, but in the end-- it's a topic that really shouldn't matter. Yes, they are technically the leader of the team officially, but the captains are really just figureheads. If not for the tradition of hockey having it, it could have probably been obsolete by now. I mean, hockey the only sport with the big tradition of captaincy, as many other sports have just started recognizing it, like the NFL and some MLB teams. Does it really matters who's captain?? Probably not, which is why it's starting to really become as relevant as cassette tapes and VHS. The best players will always be the spotlighted guys and be the most talked about players regardless of if they have a letter or not and you'll always have guys who are going to be considered leaders of the team even if they have a letter or not.

However, the best players aren't often captain material either; but that's another rambling rant for another time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Bett and Bals": C-Bust??

Thankfully for the Blue Jackets, this knocks out two gimmicks for the week. This time, it's the "Bett and Bals." As you may or may not have heard, the Columbus Blue Jackets are down just about 25% in their season tickets sold so far, with about a month until the season starts. Of course, this will raise the question of relocation, contraction, and of course why expanded to that market. Luckily, we'll have fake figureheads to actually explain it and go on from there. Enjoy....or not.

We start with Gary storming in the door in a huff, tripping over the steps and flying into the arm rest of the couch where Jim is sitting

Jim Balsillie: (Looking over to Bettman) Something wrong, Gary??

Gary Bettman: Ouch.....no, just my world coming down on top of me. Not only do the Coyotes have a deadline coming up, now.....now....the Jackets are looking to be ruined.

JB: Just take it to Leo the dry cleaner; he'll be able to stitch up and clean anything.

GB: Not that, stupid. Did you hear about the Blue Jackets?? People don't want to see them. Columbus is the capital of the damn city, you'd think they'd have people flocking there to see them and take into the pride. It's a city of insurance.

JB: Well, there's never any insurance when it comes to a sports team.

GB: Punny, but get serious. It's enough problems that I have the Coyotes' heat on me, now this?? What's going on?? What the hell happened to all of this. It seems that I have one good team and one bad team-- I mean the Avalanche moved from Canada and are good, the Wild are doing fantastic-- what the hell is going on with this?? They need to get on the same page.

JB: It may be the capital, but it's also a college town. You think college kids (a) have the money to actually plunk down the cash for season tickets and (2) care about hockey when there's Buckeyes sports around?? The theory is great that you think there's a market already instilled there, but when you don't win-- these things seem to fall apart in your hand.

GB: Tell me more, Captain Obvious. Listen, you think I don't know this, but the thing of it all is that hockey there does have some kind of heat; what the hell is wrong with the whole ordeal that this team, who has some decent young stars, aren't able to get more butts in the seats?? Sure, winning is one thing, but when you don't seem to have a solid front office in effect-- what can I do??

JB: You know my Blackberry is always on, you can give me a buzz. Columbus is close enough to Canada for me to annex the state to make it part of Southern Ontario.

GB: You can't actually do that, can you??

JB: The more you don't know.....but anyway-- sure, the youth movement is nice; but how is this team marketable?? This team does have Rick Nash and Steve Mason amongst others, yet they don't actually get any air time for other areas to actually know about them. Therefore, the appeal of the isn't going to be the hottest, especially to the home audience. They may see them on TV and get them excited, which leads them get him out to the area. Part of that has to be onto you for not actually giving them any air time.

GB: It's a vicious cycle for TV. We have to get ratings, so you put the teams out there people will recognize and that people will have an interest in because they have fans spread across the nation like that. That leaves the teams that need the exposure out because they aren't the "sexy" thing for TV. Yet, they're the teams that need the exposure, but the network isn't going to buy it because their numbers go down and then we'll get crap for it. We can't win, one way or another.

JB: It's quite the dilemma, but sometimes you actually need to take a stand. You either have to stand up for your league and your team-- maybe build up a following for teams by putting the "unsexy" teams on TV. If not, you may need to contract in order to limit this situations happening, but I know you'd lose money there, too. I don't envy you in this-- but like I said; you know where to get me.

GB: Unfortunately. Oh man, I need a drink; anything in the fridge??

JB: Yeah, I just put something cold in there.

GB: Good, I could use it. (Walks to the fridge) You know, I'll be glad when this is over and I can get back to the easy stuff....like the CBA. Maybe start a new NHL clothing brand, "No Fehr" and sit back to hear the laughs.

JB: Yeah-- really good and something you want to make in order to have a partnership.

GB: Hey, I didn't say it was golden, just throwing ideas out there. Alright, what's in here?? (Opens fridge door)

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


JB + JRTB: Huh?!?

GB: I mean......

JB: Just fade out....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mark LaForest

While the theme of these AGMs are usually lost potential for goalies, this one is a story of a guy who had to deal with a lot of bad NHL teams, but a lot of great minor league teams. Each task, he took in stride; though-- happy to just be there in the show after going undrafted in the first place. Plus, he took all the time in the minor in stride. This week, we take a look at the career of Mark LaForest.

Laforest's first foray into the goaltending fraternity started in the Ontario Junior B ranks with the Welland Cougars, playing 23 games with a 5.56 GAA. That was able to take him into the OHL, playing with the Niagara Falls Flyers for the 1981-82 season. LaForest was part of a large goaltending contingent in Niagara, getting in 24 games-- the most of the five goalies used-- and went 10-13-1 in those games. LaForest moved with the team to North Bay and would see a lot more time in net, playing 54 games in the 1982-83 season with a solid 34-17-1 with a 3.73 GAA, but then went 4-4 in the eight playoff games.

After going undrafted, LaForest was signed by the Detroit Red Wings and would head to the IHL to start the 1983-84 season. LaForest would start with the Kalamazoo Wings and play for 13 games with a 4-5-2 record before getting a call up to the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings with a 3-3-1 record for his seven games of action. For the 1984-85 season, LaForest would play first back with Adirondack for 11 games with a 2-3-1 record, but would move to the ACHL's Mohawk Valley Stars for eight games at the end of the season. The 1985-86 season would be a changer for LaForest, who would start with Adirondack again, but only for 19 regular season games (13-5-1, 2.99 GAA) before getting a call up to Detroit to play for the Wings. LaForest would get 28 games in on a horrific Wings team, going 4-21-0; but at least have that for experience. LaForest was sent back to Adirondack in time for the AHL playoffs, where he went 12-5 to help Adirondack win the Calder Cup. LaForest won the Baz Bastien Award for Outstanding Goaltender award for the year in the AHL. LaForest would be back in Adirondack for the 1986-87, playing 37 games and going 26-8-2 with a 2.83 GAA and .911 save percentage. LaForest would get a mid-season call-up with Detroit, playing five games with a 2-1-0 record.

In June of 1987, LaForest was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a second round pick in the 1987 Draft. LaForest would start the 1987-88 season with the Flyers, playing four games before being sent to the AHL for the Hershey Bears for five games, going 2-1-2 in that time. LaForest would get called-up mid-season to Philadelpha and play 17 more games with a total record of 5-9-2; as well as getting two games of playoff time in, going 1-0 in his games. At the start of the 1988-89 season, LaForest would catch on with the Flyers for the first part, going 5-7-2 in 17 games before being sent down to Hershey, where he would go 2-0-0 in three regular season game and then 7-5 in 12 playoffs games.

In September of 1989, LaForest was traded from the Flyers to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 6th and 7th Round Pick in the 1991 Draft. LaForest caught on with the Maple Leafs as a back-up to Allan Bester and former AGM Jeff Reese. LaForest got into a bit of injury trouble after injuring some knee ligaments slipping on some eyes outside of his house. He got sent to the AHL's Newmarket Saints for some rehab (6-4-0) before being called back up to Toronto to end the season with a 9-14-0 record in 27 games.

LaForest would be on the move again in June of 1990, as he and Tie Domi would get traded from Toronto to the New York Rangers for Greg Johnston. LaForest would be on AHL duty with the Binghamton Rangers for the 1990-91 season, splitting time with Sam St. Laurent. LaForest would go 25-14-2 in his 45 games, though he only went 3-4 in his nine playoff games. Even so, LaForest won the Bastien Award again for that season and named to the AHL's second All-Star team. LaForest would be back in Binghamton in the 1991-92 season, taking most of the time over Boris Rousson with 43 games played and a 25-15-3 record to show for it.

Left unprotected for the Expansion Draft, LaForest was claimed by the Ottawa Senators in the 1992 Draft. LaForest would stay in the AHL with the New Haven Senators to start off the 1992-93. He would play in 30 games with New Haven, sporting a 10-18-1 record. LaForest would also play 10 games in the Colonial Hockey League for the Brantford Smoke with a 5-3-1 record for his time there. The 1993-94 season saw LaForest on an island all his own-- Prince Edward Island, where the Senators took their affiliation. LaForest would get 43 games in for lowly PEI with an 9-25-5 record. Due to his loyalty or lack of other options, LaForest got a call up late in the season by Ottawa, playing in five games with an 0-2-0 record.

Without a team to sign him, LaForest signed with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL for the 1994-95 season. LaForest continued to play well in the minors, with a 19-13-7 record in the regular season and a 7-4 record in the playoffs. LaForest would stay in Milwaukee for the 1995-96 season, improving his game from the previous year. LaForest was able to get 53 games of action and come home with a 26-20-7 record and only a 2-3 playoff record. LaForest went back to the Binghamton Rangers for the 1996-97 season, but only for nine games with a 0-4-1 record. After being let go, LaForest would head to the Colonial League again with the Utica Blizzard for six games with a 1-2-2 record. With no other suitors, LaForest hung up his pads after the season.

LaForest's last known whereabouts was in Niagara Falls working for the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resorts. Though his record in the NHL wasn't what he thought it would be, considering that he did so well in the minors. Even so, LaForest looks back fondly on his career, mostly the Calder Cup championship season. Oddly enough, he follows the formula for the AGM somewhat, but giving the circumstances he was put in-- he could have done a lot more; though it doesn't seem like he regrets it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Damien Bischoff and Hypocrisy

Damien Cox is hockey's Eric Bischoff.

There's no way around it. He's a self-promoter, bringing things back from the dead when it doesn't go the way he wants it to go and never heeds his own advice. However, he will do the exact deed that he condemns when it suits his fancy.

In a world where Twitter is king, Cox went to the masses with his distaste for Ted Leonsis's when Leonsis called him out for his mis-fact of Alex Ovechkin's deal. Cox went on a rant about the book he was writing with Gare Joyce about Ovechkin and saying Leonsis was getting sour-grapes over one thing or another-- I couldn't follow it because it was as scattered brained as Cox himself. Then, before I went to work on Saturday night-- Cox goes on another tirade about Leonsis after Teddy Puckgame went on and called out the mainstream media (one can assume singling out Cox) and telling them to respect the blogosphere and Twitter because it's the next big thing....today. Cox went on a rant about how Leonsis has to hire bloggers to be in the press box and that the book of Joyce and Cox isn't the fluff piece Leonsis wanted and other crap about Caps fans and the organization.

First off, why would anyone get Cox and Joyce to do a book when you could just hire someone a little more closer to the situation than those two?? It's one thing to want a "fluff" piece, but apparently, the Caps fans have been upset with the overly Canadian approach to the book that was taken and pretty much used to dismiss Ovechkin and say he's not as good as Crosby. I haven't read it because I can't deal with Cox; who basically fetches water for Dave Hodge on TSN's The Reporters and thinks he's the big deal in a dying media. Second, the funny thing about all of this is that Cox is using the media he said is "low-rent" to convey his message. It's a bit off that he would do that, rather than write a column about it for the daily-- maybe even stop the presses for this hot scoop.

Even funnier is that Cox claims that Leonsis will block him from the Caps press box and that's not right; then he blocks people on Twitter who call him out on the same thing and who don't agree with his opinion. Got to love the hypocrisy that Cox puts out there; proving that he is not better than the man he is putting down...like he was up on that level anyway.

That said, say what you will about Cox and his tactics-- he's getting the Caps fans riled up in hopes that it'll move units of his book. If nothing else, he's promoting something other than idiocy in his tweets and actually getting the attention from the core he wanted to. Controversy creates cash, as one Eric Bischoff once said and then penned. Even if they do get it in order to burn it; he's still moving product. You have to somewhat respect him getting his name even more out there, even if it's for the wrong reason and with no message that is sensical enough to warrant a serious response.....or not.

However, good on Ted Leonsis to stick up for his organization and defend his assets. While Cox may be digging himself a hole he can't get out of (we can only be so lucky, though), Leonsis is pretty much inviting Cox to take him on head-to-head. I'd love to see Cox go to Washington when the Leafs are in town and have a meeting with Leonsis and settle this thing once and for all. Let's see if Cox is as strong as he is on Twitter and let's see of Leonsis will stick up for his team as strongly as he does in his blog.

This is what happens when new media collides.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Five: Looking Ahead

Since I'm very close to having theme days everyday, like so much radio morning zoo; I might as well bookend the work week with a gimmick. Of course, we'll see how this goes and if it's well liked; keep it moving. In any case, the Friday Five was an old "survey" that seemed to take LiveJournal by storm in the early 00's. May as well do something like that in the early '10s and see if it has legs.

The premise-- five questions are asked and answered. Simple concept, simple idea, simple blogger. It's all pretty much current events for the questioning, though if something interesting jump into the fray; we'll go from there.

1. How many of the top-5 drafted at the 2010 Draft will actually play past 10 games this year??

Last year, we had four of the five top picks play all season, with Brayden Schenn playing only one game in an emergency role. 2008 had all but Alex Pietrangelo play past ten games, while Pietrangelo was sent back to junior last year, too. With this class, I can see Taylor Hall sticking and maybe Tyler Seguin, but after that-- I don't know how quick the other three will go. Erik Gudbranson has the size, but I don't know if Florida will rush him into the line-up for a year; with the Portland duo of Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter being wild cards-- especially as they play for teams who could intermingle a young player into the line-up and get them to develop with the other youngsters and grow with the team. However, a solid pick-- I'd go with three of the five, Johansen and Gudbranson staying in juniors.

2. Staying with rookies, who's going to take the Calder Trophy race by storm??

If you believe in the "Sean-O Rookie Theorem," then none of the top candidates will even get a whiff at the Calder and a second-half surprise player will swoop in and get the hardware. Plus, it's actually a solid year for rookies, especially those who played in the late games last year and during the playoffs-- particularly PK Subban and John Carlson. That said, it's going to take a lot for Taylor Hall NOT to win the Calder. The kid is a dynamic player that the Oilers are building around and is a two-time Memorial Cup MVP. He's a stud and should be making a solid impact to the Oilers roster.

3. There's at least five outdoor games slated this year, with Canadian juniors (two WHL and one AJHL) and the two NHL games. How long before the gimmick goes stale??

While there's no truth to the rumor that Henry Winkler will be at the AJHL game to jump over Joe Thornton, it is getting a little too out of hand. I know people say that it's a great idea and always sells; but at the same time-- it's diluted. This was originally there for a nice appeal game every once a while, then turned into an annual thing-- which is fine, it's a bit special. But when everyone is going to the cash cow, the utter is bound to get chaffed and not produce anymore milk.

4. Where's the best location for the next outdoor game being announced this year??

Sure, it's jumped the shark, but I love gimmicks....as you can tell. The next game HAS TO BE the ECHL announcing that the Idaho Steelheads will play on the SmurfTurf of Boise State. That's like two gimmicks-in-one, which will be gimmick overload for me and I will have to make the journey there to see such a thing. At this point, why won't the ECHL do this-- it'd be fantastic. Though, you can bet the AHL and ECHL will jump on it like the Sugar Hill Gang soon enough.

5. With camps coming up, who is the biggest guy on the bubble right now with their team and in limbo between the NHL and AHL....or lower??

Obviously, you have the guys like Jonathan Cheechoo and Marcus Nilson getting try-out invites; they're definitely on the bubble in terms of staying into hockey. However, guys who are under contract; you have to wonder if Angelo Esposito can come back from a run of bad luck to crack the Thrashers roster, especially with them loading up on the Blackhawks cast-offs. Also, you have to believe that Fabian Brunnstrom of the Dallas Stars could looking at going between Dallas and Cedar Park, Texas if he doesn't have a good camp. After all the hype, Brunnstrom has fallen short after his first 10 game explosion with the Stars. Could be down to Cheechoo and Brunnstrom, which will be an interesting battle.

So, that's it for the Friday Five this week and we'll see what kind of reception it gets. If you have some questions for the F5, as the kids are calling it, email me at Scotty.Wazz@gmail.com with your questions and we'll see if we can work it in here and again.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Taking the Jersey Off Someone's Back

Tim Sassone has a great take about the possibility of taking the #7 out of circulation for the Chicago Blackhawks in order to honor hometown boy, Chris Chelios. Of course, the points are there for Chelios to have such an honor happen, but I think the one thing that I wonder about is if it should happen while someone who is forging his own path, Brent Seabrook, is donning the number.

Of course, Chicago is the only place where Chelios wore #7 (even with the Wolves in the AHL) because he wore #24 in his other stops in the NHL trail. Considering how Chelios ended his tenure in Chicago, is it going to be a good thing for the Hawks to bury the hatchet and leave the old regime behind them by retiring Chelios' number?? That debate will probably rage on for a while until a decision is made one way or another and will probably continue to rage on after a decision is made.

It's one to have a player who is a rank-and-file type give up their number in order to honor one of the greats the team has produced, but it's not like Seabrook is a slouch and he has worn that number since his time in juniors with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. While I don't think that Seabrook would put up much of a fight, it makes you wonder if the kid wants to change up his identity like that or if he'd like to change his number in order to get out of the shadow of Chelios and give him a send off.

If my memory serves me correctly (Iron Chef tribute there), Ray Bourque changing from #7 to #77 so the Bruins could honor Phil Esposito is the last major issue when it came to jersey numbers of two stellar players having a number clash. I'm sure there's been a bit of an issue when it came to some players dealing with numbers possibly being retired-- like in Montreal and Toronto; but often the numbers that are going to be retired are, for the most part, unofficially taken out of circulation because of the assumption that the number will be hanging from the rafter sooner rather than later.

Personally, I don't like the idea of having a fairly established guy give up his number because the team finally decided to give the rightful due to an older player. You'd think that a team would know right away that they would retire a number of a player in their organization. Maybe not "Colorado Avalanche/Ray Bourque" quick, but you'd usually have an idea if you're going to honor a number. Plus, you look at a situation like Montreal, where they've had multiple players have the same number, turn out to be meaningful to the team history, and then retire the number with multiple players attached to it. Hell, the Blackhawks split the #3 with Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote. Even with the Maple Leafs, they honor numbers and give the correct due to the players who made an impact with their team; but don't take it out of circulation, which I think is ingenious.

While this era of the NHL will yield us plenty of retired numbers and debate about retired numbers, maybe the Maple Leafs idea is ahead of the curve and something that teams should definitely implement in their own schemes of jersey retirement. This way, you won't have a situation like there where two solid players, one retired and one current, have the same number and then you have to try and bribe the current wearer to give it up for someone who was on the outs with the organization at one point.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Twitiocy on Parade

There's a reason why I don't follow many pro athlete's on Twitter...and Dan Ellis proved that to me last night during his debacle last night, which is documented well on the Amazing Greg Wyshynski's page and on Sens Town, who has a very detailed account of what happened.

Long and the short of it, Ellis was referring to Reggie Bush referring to the NFL CBA and Ellis mistakenly decided to parlay that to his own life and career. First off, you can't compare the money coming in from the NFL to the NHL, so that's where Ellis should have just stopped sympathizing since he knows not of the NFL players and junk like that. Second, you KNOW when you're going to talk about losing money in this economy and in your profile; you won't get any slack-- especially after bragging about getting a Jaguar.

All of this comes on the heel of another jobber, Paul Bissonnette, comes back to Twitter in some kind of triumphant, Family Guy/Futurama revival to those who actually follow him. Of course, you know of his forte about leaving Twitter when he made a pretty shaky comment about the Ilya Kovalchuk contract. Since coming back, he's been talking about the homeless and all that other stuff; which-- if you enjoy that with the occasional shock-value humor, by all means enjoy. I'm not down for the fact I don't find him interesting or entertaining; but to each their own.

This display, coupled with the Martin Havlat episode we've seen in the past, is probably the reason why having this kind of access to the players isn't as fancy as it's cracked up to be. Aside from the fact they really don't have too much fascinating to say, gems like Ellis's comes up and really put out some kind of uproar. Sure, there's guys like Mike Commodore and Mike McKenna, who really don't do too much shocking on Twitter, but do provide some decent "tweeting" when they do it; Commodore about horse-racing and other assorted things, while McKenna actually is pretty solid on open-wheel racing and about the goaltending science during his season. They provide some kind of entertainment, without having to try all that hard to do it.

There's many who talk about media training, but you can bet that now social media will be apart of that now, if it isn't already. It should especially be for hockey players, who seem to put themselves out there a lot more and get a lot more heat for doing so in the process. I mean, when's the last time Martin Havlat had a tweet about his goings on?? The answer is February 16th. That shows that either he (a) has nothing to say or (b) doesn't really care too much about putting himself out there. If it's B, then by all means-- don't do it. You aren't going to look any better if you put yourself out there online over putting yourself out there in-person.

Sure, this will soon blow over; but the damage done and the disconnect that has happened because of it will not be soon forgotten, especially by those with long memories and long caring. You have to wonder what kind of heckling (if any) will be done and have kind of damage control that the Tampa PR will have to do in order to get things right; especially if there's people who are up and arms, trying to cancel season tickets to the Bolts due to this. That's the people who you have to mostly feel sorry for, the ones who have to clean up the mess left by someone who thought it was right to say what they did, but forgot that it's being broadcasted to the world.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Corey Schwab

With news this week of a signing, this week's AGM will have a lot to do in order to make sure that said signing can live up to the hype he got. Granted, for this AGM, he's got titles in the top-two North American hockey leagues and knows how be at the top of his game; but also knows how to bounce back from a less than desired result. This week, we'll key in on the career of Corey Schwab.

Schwab's career started with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL in the 1988-89 season. As a rookie, Schwab had to play behind workhorse Danny Lorenz and saw Schwab get 10 games (mostly in relief) in with a 2-2-0 record. Schwab was able to get some more time for his draft year in the 1989-90 season and saw 27 gamed with a 15-2-1 record, which could have been a sign of things to come. However, Schwab was in a talent-rich draft year, which saw him go in the 10th round of the Draft to the New Jersey Devils; who drafted a young Martin Brodeur in the first round the same year. Schwab didn't disappoint in the 1990-91 season, where he was able to get some time as a starter, playing 58 games, going 32-18-3; but he went 1-5 in his six playoff appearances.

In the 1991-92 season, Schwab went pro, playing with the Utica Devils to start off with, fighting for time with Doug Dadswell and Chad Erickson. Schwab went 9-12-1 while in Utica and would be sent to the IHL's Cincinnati Cyclones for eight regular season games (6-0-1) and nine playoff games (6-3). Schwab started in Cincinnati to kick off the 1992-93 season, playing three games (1-2-0) before being called up to Utica. In Utica, Schwab teams with Brodeur, but got the bulk of the workload, playing 40 games; going 18-16-5 for the year. The Devils moved affiliates to Albany with the River Rats, to which Schwab played the 1993-94 season. He would get 51 games, going 27-21-3, but only went 1-4 in the five playoff games he played. For the 1994-95 season, Schwab teamed up with rookie Mike Dunham and would take the AHL by storm. Schwab played 45 regular season games and went 25-10-9 and went 6-1 in seven playoff games, helping lead the River Rats to the Calder Cup. Schwab and Dunham won the Jack Butterfield Trophy for co-playoff MVPs, as well as the Hap Holmes Trophy for fewest goals-against, and was named to the second All-Star team.

The 1995-96 season had Schwab start off with a groin injury, but then played five games (3-2-0) in Albany, before getting called up to be the back-up to Martin Brodeur in New Jersey. Schwab got 10 games in (mostly relief), going 0-3-0. It seemed like that performance wasn't enough, as Schwab was dealt in the summer of 1996 to the Tampa Bay Lightning for former AGM Jeff Reese and two draft picks in the 1996 Draft.

Schwab was in the right place at the right time, as another former AGM, Daren Puppa, was out with an injury and yet another former AGM, Rick Tabaracci, was the starter. Schwab was able to get some back-up time, playing in 31 games and going 11-12-1 in his tenure on a mediorce Lightning team. Puppa came back from injury and was dueling with Schwab for playing time in the 1997-98 season. However, on December 31, 1997; Schwab broke his ankle and put him out for the season, playing in only 16 games with a 2-9-1 record. Fully recover for the 1998-99 campaign, started off with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL, going 1-6-1 in eight games. Schwab got called-up to Tampa and pulled platoon duty with Puppa and then Bill Ranford. Schwab got 40 games in and had a record of 8-25-3 record on a dismal Bolts team.

Schwab got a bit of a reprieve as he was claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 Expansion Draft, but would only spend 16 games (9-4-2) with their IHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks for a draft pick. Schwab played six games, going 2-1-1 for the Canucks, but spent most of the 1999-2000 season with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. With the Crunch, Schwab had a 7-5-0 record in 12 games. Schwab would spend the 2000-01 season with the Canucks IHL affiliate, Kansas City Blades. As the starter, Schwab played 50 games with a 22-24-1 record.

After signing with Toronto for the 2001-02 season, Schwab was to back-up Curtis Joseph, but got a fair amount of time in. Playing 30 games, Schwab went 12-10-5. Though some wanted him back as a sturdy back-up, the Leafs allowed him to walk.

The Devils got back Schwab by free agency and he saw very limited time in the 2002-03 season behind Brodeur. With only 11 games to his name, Schwab went 5-3-1 with a solid 1.47 GAA and .933 save percentage for the trap-happy Devils. Schwab was able to get two playoff games in, both in relief of Brodeur and one in the Cup Finals, as the Devils won the Stanley Cup and got Schwab a ring for his troubles. It was good, because the 2003-04 season was not kind to Schwab. He was only able to play in three games (2-0-1) due to a groin injury that saw him miss 55 games that season. After the 2004-05 lockout, Schwab retired from hockey.

Schwab has stayed in the NHL in a coaching role, first with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2005 until 2008 and now with the San Jose Sharks, where he will be the goalie coach to two new acquisitions-- Antero Niittymaki and most recently, Antii Niemi.

During his career, Schwab had a lot more downs than ups, but was able to do his best when dealing with goaltending carousels and other guys trying to pick up his spot. Of course, he also had to deal with many injuries and sub-par teams. Even so, he does have two championships to his name, which has to count for something.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The End of Confusion.....For Now

It's finally done. It only took two months, two contracts, and two drawn-out debates between the NHL and NHLPA for the biggest free agent to his the market to have a team...and it's still the same team that he ended the 2009-10 campaign with. However, even though Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a Devil; the biggest news could be the end of these kind of contracts that lead to questions about circumvention....we think.

If you're to listen to the likes of Darren Dreger, the deal Kovalchuk got and deals like Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, and Marian Hossa has (where it's a long-term deal with declining salary in the latter years) will be the last of their kind. Whether or not you take that as a reassuring bit of news or not is up to your own discretion. People will always make a fuss about any kind of long-term deal, actually.

It all started with the Rick DiPietro contract right after the lockout. It had nothing to do with the money at first, it was the absurdity of a 15-year deal for a goalie who hadn't proven much in his few years in the league leading up to that point. It's compounded now that DiPietro's injury history has been the downfall of that contract. After that, you saw the same long-term deals given more often to players after their entry level contract was up. The likes of Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Duncan Keith, and Nicklas Backstrom got long-term, high money deals after their first deal-- though Backstrom and Ovechkin are the only two who has their contract money raised later into the deal, but still-- it seems the long-term contract is the way to go.

However, is it the best way?? With all of those deals over 10-years, who knows what the future actually holds. I mean, it's one thing to give the money out that freely for the term, but to actually predict what could happen in year seven or eight of the deal is insane. While it could turn out to be a great deal should the player keep up the pace they've set for themselves, it could also be disappointing should they not be able to produce in the years they are actually getting the big money, right Daniel Briere?? Then, you have the side of the player being disappointed in his latter years when he's actually doing well and only making a million bucks; but he could also slack off during those years since he already got the bulk of his money. It's a crapshoot, for sure-- but aren't all contracts.

The next debate about contracts will probably be the ability to restructure the contract of a player during their tenure. Especially with these long-term deals becoming more and more prominent, the idea is definitely one that should be taken a look at. Give it an option where during a contract term, the team can open it up once and the player can open it up once; but it can only happen after the second year of the term has been complete it. It is another way for owners to be saved from themselves, but maybe it's something where they can actually be smarter and maybe player agents will be smarter and putting out a smaller term with a same cap-hit, but giving their player options after that deal and giving them more bargaining power when the contract is up because their player can actually get a new deal later for a decent amount of money.

These are all some crazy ideas for the sake of crazy ideas. In the end, it may not as crazy as once though, but time will only tell how this will happen. As far as we know now, this will not happen again, hopefully. That's not to say we won't have someone a few years down the road try this same stunt with the new CBA being in effect; because odds are we will have someone test the boundaries off the hop to see how strong the NHL will stand. Even so, if the NHL is doing this with a high-profile player like Kovalchuk and an ally like Lou Lamoriello; odds are the message has been received loud and clear to teams about trying to make a deal like this again.

Or not.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Sharks Are Pro-Antii Niemi" or "Faith No More For Greiss"

Nick Kypreos was the first to break it, but it seems Antii Niemi is now a member of the San Jose Sharks, reportedly agreeing to a one-year, $2M deal that'll see him duel with fellow countryman Antero Niittymaki for time in the crease and to see how many "i's" they can put into their names.

Now, the thing with this is two-fold. Why would the Sharks be stocking up on goalies, especially for a one-year deal?? Do they lack that much faith in Thomas Greiss as a back-up that they're making him stay in the AHL for another season?? While it could be that, maybe they've lost faith in Greiss and are waiting for Alex Stalock or Tyson Sexsmith to grab the ball and run with it as the back-up to Niittymaki next season.

Plus, how does it feel to be Niittymaki right now?? You go from being the top guy and being able to not have to challenge for any starts to fighting game-by-game, practice-by-practice to get some playing time. Granted, it seems that when in a battle, Niittymaki really shines-- much like he did when dueling with Mike Smith for time in the Tampa net and during his tenure in Philadelphia, when he was healthy.

As for Niemi, I'm sure he's happy he doesn't have to go back to Finland or elsewhere to pick up his playing career and he gets to stay in the Western Conference, where he'll face his old team more than once in the season. Of course, we'll see what he's made out of during the season, just to see whether or not he was a fluke who played behind a great team or if he can hold his own should the team in front of him comes up short.

If nothing else, for the Sharks; this could give them a nice little two-headed monster in net should everything pan out as they hope. Also, it renews the hope that the Sharks have in Finnish goaltenders, as we've seen in the past with Vesa Toskala, Miikka Kiprusoff, and who could forget Jarmo Myllys. I mean, yes, only Kiprusoff has taken off to great heights, but still. The Sharks love the obscure Germans and Finns in net. Hopefully, this will get them to the next level and not make them wish they had re-signed Evgeni Nabokov.