Thursday, April 28, 2011

The John Druce Award: After One Round

So, one round has come and gone; thus we have to recap the first round of who's the "John Druce" of their team. Of course, John Druce known for picking up the slack for the injured Dino Ciccarelli in the 1990 Playoffs for the Washington Capitals putting up 14 goals and 17 points out of nowhere. Obviously, goals will count for more-- but it's really about the top point getter that you'd never expect.

1. Ryane Clowe, San Jose-- 4g, 3a: Sure, you could say Clowe's performance this season with 20+ goals wouldn't make him a shock, but since he's leading the Sharks in goals and points after one round over Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is a bit of an upset special for the team.
2. Chris Kelly, Boston-- 3g, 3a: For a guy who had two goals in five points in 24 regular season games, Kelly has come through pretty big for the Bruins in the second season. Tied with Nathan Horton in goals and second in points; the impact from Kelly's trade is coming through when it's been most needed.

3. Mike Fisher, Nashville-- 3g, 3a: While his points total will probably go down in a more checking role against the Canucks top line, his contribution in the Ducks series has been pretty solid and shows what he could actually provide, outside of the defensive side of his game.

4. Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver-- 3g, 3a : With the top line being shut down, Burrows came up pretty big for the Canucks. His clutch goal in Game Seven solidified him as a top provider and I'm sure there will be more to come of that, as the first line will be targeted for shutdown against the Predators.

Honorable Mentions: Joel Ward, Nashville; James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia; Joe Pavelski, San Jose

Chronic Prognosticator: Round Two

We've finally got all the Round Two match-ups and to be honest-- the quick turnaround may or may not be good-- depends on how you look at it and how your team is doing after their first round match-up.

Not for nothing, but went a perfect 8-for-8 last round, but only one exacta-- the Flyers pulling out the seventh game dramatics.


(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Prediction: Capitals in Six Games
Why??: While the Caps were 4-1-1 against the Bolts this season, the play of Dwayne Roloson could give them fits, as he shutout the Caps twice this year. However, it seemed the Caps have shaped-up and really adjusted things throughout the season to adapt to the teams they're facing.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins

Prediction: Bruins in Six Games
Why??: This is a revenge series for the Bruins, who collapsed against the Flyers last year. The Flyers goaltending woes will be something to worry about, while the clutch play of Nathan Horton in Boston should help carry the team into the Conference Finals, hopefully.


(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Prediction: Canucks in Seven Games
Why??: The true colors of the Canucks were shown in the Blackhawks series, which could be feasted on by the Predators-- but in the end; the Canucks are the top-dog in the NHL for a reason. The question is whether the Sedins will be noticeable more in this series than they were in the last series.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings

Prediction: Red Wings in Six Games
Why??: While the Red Wings have been off for what feels like a month, odds are it was needed and it should revitalize them and get their injured guys rested and healthy. The Sharks have had a lot of issues with the Kings and if the Wings can get on them early-- it could be a short series for the Sharks.

What's Next 2011: Pittsburgh Penguins

In what started off like a runaway championship season, coupled with a home outdoor game-- a series of unfortunate events came to fruition through the season and karma seemed to catch up to the Pens, who went up 3-1; but losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.

While the loss of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin cannot go unnoticed, the team seemed to step up without them during the regular season and then in the start of the playoffs. While they couldn't catch up to the pace Crosby has, the likes of Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, and the trade deadline acquisition of James Neal was able to keep the Pens afloat, as well as almost taking the Atlantic Division crown. Pascal Dupris even added things to the offensive side while keeping up in his defensive responsibilities. However, there's a lot of question in regards to the likes of Dupris, Kennedy, Max Talbot, and Mike Rupp-- just to name a few; as they are free agents and it's a question of whether GM Ray Shero will keep their services as $55.7M is tied up in 17 players for next season, which-- even if the salary cap goes up, could be hard to juggle in keeping all the character players.

Luckily, the defensive side is all signed for next year-- lead by Kris Letang, who really jumped out of his shell and started to show the offensive side which the Pens sought when they drafted him. The new acquisitions of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin played solidly defensively, while Ben Lovejoy did while while playing the shuttle from press box to playing time, putting up 17 points in 47 games-- which could be a nice in-between from Letang and Martin. Also, Matt Niskanen, who came over with Neal, will also have a full-season to show off and see if he can get an extension with Pittsburgh.

In net, the Flower-- Marc-Andre Fleury-- was solid as always, continuing his solid play with his third straight year of 35+ wins, which was a little more meaningful this season, with many of the top guns out for the year and the goal-support not really there. A lot of fans were trying to campaign for the MVP nomination for Fleury, which would have been great for the team MVP, but overall-- may have been a stretch. Brent Johnson also was solid in his games, which included 13 wins and one KO decision-- which made him a folk hero in Pittsburgh, as did his role in Winter Classic 24/7.

As a whole, the season could have been a lot different if the Crosby and Malkin tandem were in the line-up for the full season; but the role guys shows their valor and showed their worth without their big guys in the line-up; and did a damn good job, as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's Next 2011: Montreal Canadiens

For the team who was the miracle of last year's playoffs, they couldn't get it done this year. It was a different goalie, but one who played as good, if not better, than the one last year, but they ran into their arch-rivals and couldn't seem to solve their Vezina nominated goalie. Now, what is there to do with the Montreal Canadiens.

Starting in net, which was the big story in the off-season, Carey Price did seem to live up to what the critics set out for him. While playing 72 games and winning 38 of them, Price was able to be 8th in save percentage (of goalies who played 25 or more games) and 10th in GAA (25 or more games). With that kind of workhorse ability and consistent play; the Habs look like geniuses in terms of which goalie was the right one to pick. However, they may want to get their back-up some more playing time, as not to burn out they young netminder. Alex Auld did well in his appearances and could probably be re-signed at a low cost.

The defensive story was that of PK Subban, who had solid rookie-campaign point-wise, though his minus-8 leaves something to be desired. Yet, the bigger issue is that only PK Subban and Jaroslav Spacek are under contract as defensement-- James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik, Andrei Markov, and Hal Gill are all UFAs. While Hamrlik will probably be gone and it'll take a big discount for Markov to come back-- Wisniewski will probably be a big focus on getting back into the fold, as he had 30 points and +4 rating in 43 games with the Habs. He brings a lot of intangibles and can log a lot of minutes for the team. Gill could be up in the air because he does bring shot-blocking ability and size....but there's not too much else that makes him overly worth keeping.

As for offense, the Habs came into the playoffs as the lowest scoring team out of the 16 teams that were in the start of the playoffs. They spread out their scoring throughout the depth chart, but at the same time-- didn't have someone who was one to take the reigns. While captain Brian Gionta lead the team, he still had under 30-goals, while they only had three other players with more than 15 goals on the year. Yet, with a lot of RFAs and only six forwards under contract-- who knows what will be done to try and get some secondary or primary scoring when it comes to this team.

They had the big run last season, but just couldn't get it going this year. Even so, the play of certain players, like Price and Subban, could have hushed the harshest of critics; even if it's just for a little while. The Habs will always be under an intense microscope and will never get any relief; but if they can get the right crew assembled-- they'll be able to drown out all the obnoxiousness from the press.

What's Next 2011: Chicago Blackhawks

There were ups, downs, and a glimmer of hope-- but in the end, the defending Stanley Cup champions will not be back-to-back champs. While they had quite the uphill climb, they showed the heart of the champion in coming down from 0-3 in their series to push it to overtime in Game Seven against the top team in the NHL.

While a lot of the depth and character players left, the play of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp kept the offensive wheels going, while Marian Hossa provided some solid secondary scoring for the Hawks. While you can't replace guys like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, and others-- Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, and Michael Frolik filled in the roles as best as they can. However, you bet that they're going to just fill in the pieces with the roster because of the salary cap and because they have their big players filled out for the long-term.

Back on the blue-line, Duncan Keith had quite the downturn, having half the goals as he did last year and was down 24 points from last year; although he had a hell of a playoff series against Vancouver. It could be a Norris Trophy season-long hangover, but expect a bounce-back for Keith. His partner in crime, Brent Seabrook had a career-points year; matching his career-high in goals and setting an assists high. His offensive spark came out and picked up the slack for Keith's short-comings. One bad sign was Brian Campbell, who set a post-lockout career-low in points, which at $7.14M a year for the next five years....could be an alarm or just hopeful that it's a small blip on the radar.

Yet the most interesting storyline was the same as last year-- an unknown goalie coming to take an establish goalie's spot. Corey Crawford has been in the Hawks' system for six seasons, finally getting his break and thanks to the shortcomings of Marty Turco, was able to shine for the Hawks and will probably create yet another conundrum, as Crawford is due for a raise as a RFA and it may be too much for the Hawks to afford, as they have 14 contracts at just over $51M, leaving little space for much of a raise. Hopefully something can get done, because Crawford looks like he could be the next big thing for the Hawks netminding woes.

It was a valiant effort for the Cup champions, but it seemed the emotion from the clawing back was what drained them in the end. Coach Joel Quenneville did what he could with the bad hand he was dealt. And they almost pulled it off, which would have been like a Cup victory for them.

What's Next 2011: Buffalo Sabres

While it looked like the they had things in hand and were going to do it for not only a new owner, but for a fallen legend, the Sabres couldn't get the job done and will have to await a full season with the new owner to see if they can actually have a playoff change of fortune.

The story of the team was Ryan Miller, per the usual-- but more over, the play late in the season by back-up Jhonas Enroth, which is a welcome sign. While the goaltending controversy won't be for another couple of year, the play of Enroth will actually give the Sabres some options when it comes to rest Miller and not wear him down as the season rolls forward. Not to say that it was the lack of endurance that sealed Miller's fate, but he hasn't really had a solid back-up in many years and probably has been burning out from the years of overuse.

Offensively, the Sabres were the fourth highest in the East; which you would never know as it is almost scoring by committee. Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes were 30-goal scorers, while both Tyler Ennis and Jason Pominville were 20-goal getters. In all, 12 of the Sabres were in double-digits in goals, which bodes well for the depth of scoring they could possess, especially considering Derek Roy was out most of the season due to his freak leg injury. Should Roy come back as good as he left off, he'll make the Sabres that much more offensively dangerous.

Tyler Myers had a bit of a sophomore slump, but he played well in the new calendar year to try and save a year that could have been lost. Yet, the rest of the defense had plenty of guys you don't often equate to solid performer-- because many don't know their name. Andrej Sekera had a solid bounce-back season with 29 points and a +11 rating, while Steve Montador continued to be consistent on the blue line with a +16 rating. The next big thing could be Mike Weber, who put a good effort when he was in the line-up and was eased into a regular role, thanks to injuries and what-not. If the youngsters continue to mature consistently, then they should round-out the rest of the team and give the Sabres that final piece for a dominant team.

Luckily, the Sabres will have a decent amount of cap-space even after they re-sign their RFAs and with new owner Terry Pegula willing to spend money to put together a winner; odds are they will be big players on the market this summer, which should bring a lot of promise to the Sabres fateful. Things are looking up in Buffalo, but at least for this season-- it's without a Cup championship.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On the Topic Of Playoff Psychology

Is he in the game or the press box?? Will this guy start or will the back-up start?? The psychology of playoff hockey is alive and well, especially late into the series. Yet, at the same time-- does it ever work??

We've seen this kind of carousel before with the whole "upper/lower body injury" gimmick and it seems to have moved onward to trying to make a guessing game out of which goalie or player will start. While it make mess with the opposition, I don't know how well it works as we get into the elimination games.

There's plenty of times where the goalie switch and personnel switch happens in the first couple of games in order for motivate your own team and maybe give them some more jump to the team, as well as throwing a possible wrench in the opposition game plan. However, it seems a bit counterproductive for a team to still be playing this kind of game while the series drags on if it's not injury related. There comes a time where it's no longer a point to get a jump into a team, but starts to become a distraction and maybe shows the lack of confidence in the team, thus bringing the room down if players don't get motivated by it late into a series.

Not only that, but by the time the opposition has got a groove going, the odds are that you could throw any kind of gauntlet into their direction with roster changes and they would still be able to figure it out and overcome it; thus sending the team that made the change in for a loop and then second-guessing the decision making all around. The same thing to spark the team could also be the downfall of the team as well.

We'll see if these late-series gambles actually pay off, but even if it does-- wouldn't the cast of doubt start to linger on. Sure, it worked the first time and maybe a second time-- but if you go to the well too many times, it'll dry up and then you're stuck with nothing.

What's Next 2011: Los Angeles Kings

While trying to build from last year, the Los Angeles Kings looked primed to be the next big team out there to build themselves up from nothing to something big. That will have to wait another year, as they were eliminated by in-state rival San Jose Sharks. It was another case of a team's star player being injured and tampering with a long run in the playoffs.

Said injured player, Anze Kopitar, was again fantastic on both sides of the puck, but due to the unfortunate ankle injury, his season ended earlier than the Kings. Also, Dustin Brown was a solid performer, leading the team in goals. However, one issue could be what's to make of Wayne Simmonds, who didn't seem to have the buzz surrounding him as he did a year ago. While Simmonds only had a 10-point drop off, he didn't seem to have the same flair that got a lot of buzz around him last season. Maybe it was just a sophomore slump, but for many saying that Simmonds is going to be an explosive force for the Kings in their future-- it may be a hit in that progress. That said-- Justin Williams and trade-deadline addition Dustin Penner could help out the Kings for next season.

Defensively, Willie Mitchell was a solid pick-up for the Kings, although he missed 25 games due to injury and once Drew Doughty overcame his slow start, he and Jack Johnson were the offense for the defense. Doughty should be set for a nice raise, as he is a RFA this summer. Yet, another drop-off was Davis Drewiske, who was talked about a lot during last season; but was usurped by Alec Martinez; who is somewhat similar to Drewiske and could actually be one to be the next unknown defenseman who comes up and takes over without a lot of people taking notice.

One interesting note should be what will happen in goal, as Jonathan Quick didn't play horribly in the playoffs or in the season; but you have to wonder if Jonathan Bernier will start to pick-up some more games here and there. Granted Bernier may not be able to take the starting role away from Quick just yet-- he played well enough to get around 30 games in next season-- which depending on the play of both; may give us some interesting controversy or a two-headed monster that is unbeatable.

There are baby-steps in the process of progress, and the Kings are taking their steps. Luckily, with Brayden Schenn on the horizon, the future can only get better and could only take off from here. The question is whether or not all the promise in this team can actually be fulfilled or if this is a mirage of what could have been.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Steve Penney

In the playoff fantasticness, we get to someone who has a Cup ring to his name; but doesn't have his name on the Cup itself. The fact he was injured most of his career was the downfall which left his name off the Cup and left his career as a footnote in hockey history, when it could have been so much more. This week-- the profile of Steve Penney.

Penney's career started off unassuming enough, playing in 36 games with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL in the 1978-79 season, then 31 in the 1979-80, where he would go 9-14-5, which wasn't the best-- but still got him drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 8th Round. Penney took that as motivation with Shawinigan in the 1980-81 season, going 30-25-4 in 62 games, then going 1-4 in five playoff games.

As Penney turned pro, he went to the IHL's Flint Generals, which he thought would be a short-term assignment. However, after spending the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons there and playing 36 and 48 games respectively; but he didn't seem to be going anywhere fast being tucked away in the minors like that.

Come the 1983-84 season, Penney took one more shot at moving up, but said he was going to be stuck in Flint again, he would quit hockey and go back to delivering beer in Saint Foy, Quebec. Luckily, Penney was mentored by Jacques Plante and was able to play good enough to be placed in the AHL with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. With Nova Scotia, Penney played 27 games going 11-12-4, while getting a call-up to Montreal for four games, losing all four.

Yet, with Jacques Lemaire behind the Habs bench and hating the inconsistency from his current goaltending, Penney got some more chances. That shine in the 1984 Playoffs, where Penney got 15 games in, going 9-6 and cementing his role with the team. Penney would get the starter's role in 1984-85, playing in 54 games while sporting a 26-18-8 record, then going 6-6 in 12 playoff games. Penney got All-Rookie Team honors that year. The 1985-86 season started promising, but he would slip into the back-up role with the Habs as a young upstart named Patrick Roy came busting on the scene, as did a serious knee injury that limited Penney to 18 games (6-8-2). While the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1986, Penney didn't have enough games in to get his name on the Cup, he did have an injury exemption-- but the Habs didn't use it. Penney got a Cup ring and had his picture in the team picture with the trophy-- but not engraved on the Cup. That said-- Penney was deemed expendable thanks to Roy's heroics and his own injury woes.

In August of 1986, Penney was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Brian Hayward, another AGM. The 1986-87 season saw Penney get very limited time in Winnipeg, going 1-4-1 in seven games with the Jets, as other AGM inductees "Pokey and the Bandit" (Pokey Reddick and Daniel Berthiuame) were taking most of the time. Penney also spend '86-'87 with the Sherbrooke Canadiens for four games-- going 1-2-1. More of the same in the 1987-88 season, though Penney played most of his days with the Moncton Hawks, going 9-14-4 in 28 games, then going 2-4-1 in eight games as a call-up from Winnipeg. After that season, Penney hung up his pads and retired.

At last check-in, Penney was working as a sales representative for an eye-glass framing company.

While he rose to stardom and notoriety quickly, injuries and other goaltenders jumping onto the scene hurt Penney's chances as longevity. Many thought he was going to be the next Ken Dryden after his big playoff run; but if nothing else-- the injuries were the reason that Patrick Roy was able to launch into stardom and allowed him to get into games and hone his craft at a young age. I'm sure that Penney doesn't want to be remembered as the guy before Roy started....but it's better than nothing, I suppose.

What's Next 2011: Anaheim Ducks

After the ups and downs of this season, after some injuries and uncertainty, the Anaheim Ducks had their luck come to an end, but luckily for them-- plenty of positives came out of it, though they were the first team with home-ice advantage to go out in the playoffs; which could be a cause of concern-- but nothing needing drastic changing.

The one issue is what's going to happen in net and whether or not Jonas Hiller is going to be able to return to form. As you may remember, Hiller had vertigo-like symptoms after the All-Star Game due to getting hit in the mask with a puck, but luckily the unlikely duo of Dan Ellis and Ray Emery were able to carry the workload and be a solid tandem down the stretch, but it seemed to fall off when the playoffs came. While Ellis is signed next year, Emery is a free agent and has shown he could be a solid insurance policy, all dependent upon what's up with Hiller. Emery is probably groomed to be a 1b goalie, which he may not get in Anaheim; while this may be a mirage for Ellis.

Offensively, there's little doubt that Corey Perry is now a big star, especially this year being the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL. That whole top line of Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan could be in the running for the best lines in the NHL, which works out well with them being signed for the next two years together; they'll have more time to prove how well they can grow. A big question mark is whether or not Teemu Selanne will come back, and after the season he had (31g, 49a) and playoffs he had (6g, 1a)-- he'd almost be a fool not to come back with how well he's played. Though, at the same time-- he may want to go out while the gettin' is good and not tarnish what he built up this past year. That will probably be the biggest issue this off-season, whether or not Teemu will not only sign-- but be able to repeat this year's astonishing performance.

Cam Fowler was a kid who had to grow up on the spot, and while he had a feeling out process and while he still has to work with his defensive game (minus-25 this season) he will get better and better as the season goes along. All the while, Lubomir Visnovsky of all people, had an amazing year with 18 goals and 50 assists, leading all defensemen in the NHL in assists and points, while being second in goals. Added to his plus-18, his all around game was something that will give the Ducks hope and maybe a mentor for Fowler in the absence of Scott Niedermayer on the ice. Also, good for Fowler, was Toni Lydman, who was plus-32 on the year and could give the youngster some pointers.

As a whole, it was a bumpy ride for the start of the season; but at the end of the day-- they rode out the rest of the year; albeit they only lasted a short while. Randy Carlyle may have to re-look at this playoffs as something of a failure, but the season they had and the comeback from a dismal start showed character in a young team.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What's Next 2011: New York Rangers

Unlike last year, the Rangers could not pull out a miracle on the Washington Capitals like happened last year with the Canadiens, making it the second time in three seasons the Rangers have been eliminated by the Capitals. Yet, it's not all bad-- this year they actually made the playoffs. Though the undoing of the team could be the injuries.

The loss of Ryan Callahan for the playoffs could have been the turning point for the team before the series even started, because while he may not have had a complete turnaround for the Rangers, he could have definitely provided an impact. They could have not been in the 8th slot if guys like Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik weren't injured for a decent amount of the year. It's always a "what-if" when it comes to injuries, but it probably couldn't have hurt to have all their guys in the line-up.

Yet, the best part of the Rangers continues to be Henrik Lunqvist, who put his 5th straight 35+ win season and sixth 30+ win season. However, the injury to Martin Biron, who wasn't playing horribly, may have worn down King Henrik; which could be the downfall if they can't get a guy who is able to get some help down the line. Maybe next season, Biron can stay healthy and will be able to help out Lundqvist with the workload, which will help Henrik for the playoff time.

The offense for the team yielded five 20-goal scorers, but out of the East-- only the Canadiens had a worse goals-for total of the playoff teams. Gaborik is a guy who could actually be an offensive force like last season, but he also has to stay healthy-- which has long been a problem for him. A decent story is the young guns coming up through the ranks, like a Derek Stephan and Mats Zuccarello (Aasan), who made a decent impact in their rookie campaigns. The big question is what to do with Chris Drury, who was fighting off an injury this year, but his tenure has never been the best in the Big Apple, which could result in a buy-out for the former Little League World Series champion.

On the blue-line, Marc Staal really showed his true colors and is starting to show his world-class shutdown ability. Being paired with Dan Girardi really helped the Rangers slow down a lot of the offenses, but beyond that-- now much to scream home about for the defense. Matt Gilroy spent a lot of time in press box, while Ryan McDonagh played decently while up on the team, but could be on the bus between Hartford and NYC. Luckily, Bryan McCabe will be off the Rangers.....if they don't do anything stupid like re-signing him.

All in all, it wasn't a total failure in terms of doing better than last year-- but how many more of these subpar performances will it take for John Tortorella to stay behind the bench. While he was able to bring some spark to the Rangers and spirited debates with Larry Brooks of the New York Post.....there's only so much a team could take before you have to cut bait and look elsewhere.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Five: Frantic First Round

It's Friday and we've only got one series that's over with-- huzzah?? Either-- I answer questions no one asked. So-- take that.

1. With the first round shaping up as it is, what's the theme of these playoffs thus far??

It was a slow start at first, but it could be the playoffs of the high-scoring and comebacks. Whether or not both will carry on through out the duration still remains to be seen, but the fact we're seeing 6-5, 5-4 games is impressive, as is seeing many teams get too comfortable with a decent lead. The "new" NHL allows the open game and really shouldn't have any team rest on their laurels too much because as we've seen in this playoffs-- they get bit on the ass when all is said and done.

2. While the Hawks have had quite the revival-- they can't actually fully come back, can they??

The past two series have ended at United Center.....and I think the third one will to. The high that the Hawks are on is fantastic, with 12 goals in six periods and really running on emotion-- but I think the Canucks, especially Roberto Luongo, have gotten the message. If nothing else, however, this series really exposed the shortcomings of the Canucks and show they aren't really as unbeatable as many would have thought going into this series or this playoffs. Nothing is impossible, but the Canucks still won't let these dramatics play out into a seventh game.

3. With Tom Glavine trying to get into the NHL ownership game, could he have the name power and selling power to get people into the arena??

If there's a guy who knows the good in the Atlanta area, it has to be Glavine, who plays most of his career in the ATL. Plus, he was a great hockey player in his youth, even drafted in the 1984 NHL Draft by the Kings, ahead of Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. Glavine could be a great mouthpiece and seller for whoever's group he can get into the purchase the Thrashers and help in trying to keep the team in the Atlanta region.

4. With many people knocking on Winnipeg, is it truthful or just misdirected hostility??

I think it's a little from column A, a little from column B. There's a lot of players who may have the same feeling about Winnipeg that they do about the Edmonton area. Whether or not they'll actually follow-through on their threats is another thing, but when you've played in a nice climate area for a while, you're going to hate leaving it and may not actually want to endure the harsh winter weather when you're already enduring the grind of a NHL season. That said, I think there's a lot of hostility against the area that shouldn't be there-- because it's a solid hockey town with a lot of passion and would love to have a team in their area and should be embraced.

5. Speaking of relocation, there looks to be a lot from a lot if the Winnipeg move happens and then WHL moving from Chilliwack to Victoria-- any predictions??

So, the WHL is moving to Victoria, a lot of rumors have the Manitoba Moose moving to Chilliwack if the NHL does go to Winnipeg, then you have to wonder what the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings, who are in the Western Conference Semis-- a game from going to the Finals-- are going to do and if Victoria can actually house two teams properly. We'll have to see what happens, but Silly Season is always an interesting and nerve-racking time for players and fans all the same.


That's that. Hope you enjoyed it and enjoy your Easter Weekend, folks. is the place to send anything you want answered or what-have-you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's Next 2011: Phoenix Coyotes

Didn't know it would be this early, but this is the series in the playoffs were I'll take a look at what possibly could be next for the teams that were just eliminated and what they can do in the off-season and all of that.

The Phoenix Coyotes have a lot of questions off the ice, but that's been very well documented and done to death. They have some issues on ice, as well-- as we've seen after being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

The first thing is going to be what's going to happen with Ilya Bryzgalov. While he did have a stellar regular season, he didn't seem like he could handle the post-season this year very well and will definitely make some teams thing-- the Coyotes included. That said, the main thing is getting Bryz re-signed because he has given the Coyotes great life and the ability to get into the playoffs. One of the questions though is whether or not Bryzgalov would want to re-sign if there's uncertainty about the future of the team in the current locale. He may or may not be willing to move with the team, which could be a stumbling block-- but if they want him bad enough; the team could find a way to sway him.

Another cause of concern could be the offensive output for the team. While they passed around some of the goal-scoring, the fact is they only had one 20-goal scorer and one guy over 60 points. Shane Doan can only do so much and they do have a lot of better guys on the roster to pot some goals, but doesn't seem to happen. If they were able to get Lee Stempniak going again-- they should be able to have a solid secondary scoring besides Doan. Stempniak had 19 goals in 82 games this year with the Coyotes, while he had 14 in 18 games last year; which may be a concern for him and the team. The concern is definitely there for them when it comes to the long-run in terms of points on the board.

Defensively, the Coyotes are solid. Keith Yandle has come out as a solid defenseman and part of the new-breed of offensive defenseman that are in the league right now and will be a great asset to the team moving forward, which should yield a big raise for the RFA this year. While Ed Jovanovski will may not be back unless it's at a discount, he has molded the defensemen into a solid corp and Adrian Aucoin could pick up the role for next season if JovoCop doesn't come back. Though Rostislav Klesla could be an interesting case, going from a plus player in Columbus to a minus in Phoenix-- which may be detrimental to that side of things for the next three years.

However, the biggest question mark is the team's future in their current locale. With all the news and buzz around one way or another-- it's all going to come to a head, probably sooner rather than later. If the NHL draws this out for another couple of months-- it's a shot in the nads to the fans of the Coyotes and fans in Winnipeg for stringing them out for longer than they should have if they know what's going to happen next. It's a delicate process, but it's one that needs to be toppled as soon as possible.

It was another solid year for the Coyotes with another less than desired first-round exit, but in a swifter fashion than last year, but to the same team. They have a lot of promise and with Dave Tippett behind the bench, they'll do great things-- whether it's Arizona or Manitoba.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Disbanding in the Desert" or "Ridding Relocation Rumors"

Is it wrong to think that if the Coyotes in fact move to Winnipeg for next season, as has been widely rumored, that this could be the end of relocation fascination for the next little while?? Are there cities out there that will be as adamant and serious as Winnipeg is to create a stir and "deathwatch" for teams in financial peril??

While you can't exclude the Quebec City flag-wavers, the fact is that unless they get a new facility, there isn't a chance they'd be included in the movement that the Winnipeg area has had in the past three or so years. Of course, we've mentioned Kansas City on this blog for a while, but that's because it has the facility for a team to move right in, but many think it could be the most Northern Sunbelt team out there, with the unknown of the support that could come from the region.

If it all comes to a head and the Coyotes do move, I think teams like the Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, and a few other teams with some issues in terms of making ends meet could breathe a bit easier when it comes to the relocation news. After Winnipeg and Quebec, there's not many other cities making noise to get a team-- which is really a disadvantage to owners looking to sell the team, not only because they don't have many potential investors to buy it from them, as well as not many destinations to threaten to move to.

Yet, we do need a break from all this talk and speculation. At this point, this whole scenario has gone on for the better part of four years and it's like we couldn't take another one of these situations. Of course, I don't know how vehemently a city would try to keep a team in town like the City of Glendale has been when it comes to the Coyotes; though Glendale does own the arena and the vested interest is definitely there because they don't want to lose their tenant. The Panthers could have Broward County put up some fight when it comes to leaving the BankAtlantic Center, but probably not to the point that Glendale has. Maybe it's for the best, though.

This whole Coyotes' mess is something that has been a long time coming, though it's not a definite that we're done with it all. Hopefully, one way or another, it will be ended and soon. It's been ludicrous how long this has taken, how many places it's been supposed to be moving to, and how many owners there have been to save this team. The worse part is that the fans have been dealing with all of the shenanigans and being pained at every twist and turn. If this has been a quick-rip, then it may not be as horrific for them-- but now, it's just too much for them to bear and they have the right to been as pissed off as they have been when it comes to this. Whether it's feeling bullied by outside interests groups or saying everyone is against them, because it's hard to deny either scenario.

Let's just hope if it's coming to an end-- it's soon so we can all go on with our lives and cope with it whatever way a person sees fit.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Joe Daley

While we're in the playoff state of mind in the NHL, we're going to profile a goalie who may have not had any experience in the NHL playoffs, but other leagues-- he was a gem in the second season. Going undrafted and paying his dues, he got to the NHL, even if it was for a short time. This week, a look at the career of Joe Daley.

Daley started his trek by playing in the Saskatchewan junior leagues with the Weyburn Red Wings, but had an inawespicous start in the 1961-62 season going 17-29-7 in 53 games. Also, he would play in the EPHL with the Sudbury Wolves for a game, a loss. Daley returned to Weyburn in the 1962-63 season with better results during his 51 games, going 28-17-6 with three shutouts to boot.

In the 1963-64 season, Daley made the jump to the pro ranks, playing with the Eastern League's Johnstown Jets and held his own, going 40-22-4 in 66 games with the Jets, then going 5-5 in ten playoff games; all while winning Rookie of the Year honors. Daley was able to get a call from the Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL for two games (1-1-0) and the Cincinnati Wings of the CPHL, losing the only game he played in there. Daley would stay in Johnstown for the 1964-65 season, going 41-31-0 in 72 games, but only going 2-3 in five playoff games.

Daley would be signed by the Detroit Red Wings before the 1965-66 season and sent to the CPHL's Memphis Wings, where he would play 68 games with a 25-31-12 for the Wings. Daley would also play that season for eight games in the Western League's San Francisco Seals (5-2-1). The 1966-67 season saw Daley back in Memphis for 50 games, sporting a 23-21-5 record in the regular season and 3-4 in the post-season, while also playing with the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets going 11-1-3 in only 16 games.

Due to the NHL expansion, Daley was picked up off waivers by the newly formed Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming the first member of the Penguins. However, the 1967-68 season has Daley play with the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL, where he would go 23-25-8 in 56 games. However, Daley would get his time in the 1968-69 season, playing behind Les Binkley in Pittsburgh and playing 29 games with a 10-13-3 record in his first season in the NHL. The 1969-70 season had Daley in Pittsburgh for nine games, going 1-5-3 before being sent to the Clippers for the rest of the season, playing in 34 games (no record provided) with a 3.44 GAA in the process and 1-4 record in five playoff games.

Daley was made available for the 1970 Intra-League Draft, where he became the first player rostered of the Buffalo Sabres, as that draft took place before the Expansion Draft happened. Daley played the 1970-71 season in Buffalo behind Roger Crozier, playing in 38 games with a 12-16-8 record. However, that wasn't enough to keep him there for long.

The Sabres put Daley on waivers, where he was picked up by the Detroit Red Wings. Back with the Wings, Daley would play in 29 games and go 11-10-5 behind Al Smith in the 1971-72 season. He would later be claimed in the AHL reserve draft by the Cincinnati Swords, but Daley decided to go on a different path.

Daley was picked by the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA player draft and would find his way into the WHA for some more job security. Daley would play behind Ernie Wakely for 29 games, going 17-10-1, then going 5-2 in seven playoff games, as the Jets would lose in the Avco Cup final. Daley would split time with Wakely in the 1973-74 season, playing in 41 games and going 19-20-1, while he would get the starting gig in the 1974-75 season, playing 51 games with a 23-21-4 record by season's end. Daley would be the backstop for the powerhouse Jets team in the 1975-76 season, going 41-17-1 in 62 games with five shutouts, then going 10-1 in 12 playoff appearances to help the Jets win the Avco Cup. That year, Daley would be a WHA First Team All-Star.

Back in Winnipeg for the 1976-77 season, Daley kept going in playing 65 games for the Jets, going 39-23-2 over the season, then 11-9 in 20 playoff games, where the Jets would lose in the Avco Cup Finals. The 1977-78 season saw Daley's time dwindle with the acquisition of former AGM Gary Bromley, as Daley would only see 37 games and going 21-11-1, as well as posting a 4-1 playoff record in five games, helping the Jets to yet another Avco Cup. Daley would be the back-up to Markus Mattsson in 1978-79, playing in only 23 games with a 7-11-3 record, but not registering a decision in three playoffs games-- another playoffs where the Jets would take home the Avco Cup; the last team to do so.

Daley would retired after that season, leaving the WHA as the all-time winning goalie (regular season and playoffs), tied with the single-season shutout mark (5 in 1975-76), and three Avco Cup-- all with the Jets.

After his playing career, Daley coached the Pentincton Knights in the 1981-82 season, but would relocate to Winnipeg to open up "Joe Daley Sports Cards," which is one of the bigger outlets for cards and memorabilia.

While he didn't make too much of a mark in the NHL, Daley was one of the guys who enjoyed the WHA coming along because it game him a chance to shine and actually play. Lucky for him, he had some great teams in front of him and showed how successful he could be in the right circumstances.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Five: One Game Down Per Series

It's Friday, the First Round has started. There's not much else to say about it.....and that happens.

1. After just one game, which is going to be the series to look at based on that one??

After all the series have been through one game, the Sharks/Kings match-up could be a solid one, if only because Jonathan Quick seems to have gotten his groove back and took up a barrage of shot-- though who knows if he can keep it up. Also the Bruins/Habs match-up should be a solid one, like it always is. But the issue is that with one game, you really can't tell how teams will react, because the team that lost could switch it up enough to win Game Two, which change a dynamic in a series.

2. Is there a chance for a big upset that's not a 4/5 match-up??

The Habs/Bruins series has an upset special written all over it, which could mean Claude Julien's job. Carey Price was solid in Game One and the Americans on the Habs-- Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez-- took control of the first game and the defense shut down the Bruins' offense. I still also think that the Sharks/Kings and Capitals/Rangers series could have some upset tendencies, but the top seed will come out after some adjustments.

3. Even with things going, the Winnipeg situation doesn't go away-- but with a lot of places saying the move from Phoenix back to Winnipeg is done; can the fans and team regain the desire??

I definitely think there's going to be some bummed out people, but that's the way business happens. Hard to have intensity when your fate for next year is being decided without your control and when the season hasn't even finished for you. Also, with papers telling Red Wings fans not to wear their team's colors so the area doesn't come off bad, like they can't sell out a playoff game-- it's a dire situation. At the same time, they had a lot of time to make this team work in that area and if they can't make it work for one reason or another....what other option do you have. You can only watch something suffer for so long before you have to put the issue to bed.

4. With the Draft lottery-- why can't the winner actually get the first overall pick?? Why the limit silliness??

It's the oddest thing because I've been questioned about this and I think it's dumb for the team that does win the lottery not to get the first pick. If you're going to do it like that-- why even have the lottery?? Why not have it so that the worst team gets the first pick outright in order to actually stop this dramatic crap that doesn't work in the end. The Devils should have the first overall pick this draft-- not the Oilers.

5. John Druce Award?? Really??

Hey, if Mark Messier can get a leadership award-- why can't John Druce have the unsuspecting playoff performer award?? While the Conn Smythe, at times, rewards the surprise performers, often they go unnoticed. Plus, more hardware is always something good that the NHL wants to do-- why not go for it?? It gives John Druce some time in the limelight each year, too.


That's that. Any suggestions, is the place to send it all to. Enjoy the weekend playoff action, folks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tracking the John Druce Award

For the hardcore Capitals fan, the legend of John Druce is one that is forever embedded into the minds of people who are looking for the unlikeliest of people to dominate and take over the scoring while the star players are hurt or slumping. The John Druce story is still one many remember when it comes to the playoffs.

For those unfamiliar with the story, during the Capitals 1990 playoff run; top scorer Dino Ciccarelli was knocked out due to a knee injury and John Druce was the guy on the Caps who stepped up and really took over the workload potting 14 goals and three assists in 15 games before the Caps bowed out to the Boston Bruins in the Prince of Wales Conference Finals. Druce was never able to get the magic back, scoring only three more playoff goals in 38 more playoff games.

So, while we're only one game into the playoffs-- we could turn this into a multi-weekly look....if for nothing else but to make this a complete theme-day blog and to have gimmicks run wild. You knew what you were getting into, folks.

In any case, you look at night one, and Mike Fisher could be a candidate; but it also brings up the question on who you can actually consider a superstar when it comes per team?? Fisher is a well-known player, but could he consider a star on his team from his on-ice performance?? I'm going with no, so he's in this debate. Another guy is Brooks Orpik, who has two assists for the Penguins-- leading the team in points. We've got two front-runners now, so it's time for the other series' to start and other guys to actually step-up.

So, that's what's up. Really have no way to finish this.......ummmm......bye.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chronic Prognosticator: Round One

Alright-- we've got the match-ups, we've got the buzz; now time for the typical picks. It's definitely something that's hack, but it's a given for most places. I'm no exception on this one. Have to be part of the herd on this one.


(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

Prediction: Capitals in Six Games
Why??: The Caps are good and while they have some kind of question of goaltending-- all around, I think they are better than the Rangers. Plus, they have been preparing all year for these playoffs and now it'll truly show if the system change was worth it.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Prediction: Flyers in Seven Games
Why??: Ryan Miller can only carry the Sabres so far, but the Flyers are going to be in tough without Chris Pronger. The fact remains that the Flyers are second-seed for a reason and they won't want to fail after a great run last year.

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

Prediction: Bruins in Six Games
Why??: Tim Thomas has been sturdy and will be the guy to keep the Bs in it this year. Plus, the added feeling of trying to get Mark Recchi another Cup ring before he retires may fuel the emotional side of the Bruins-- added to the Bs/Habs match-up we've come to know and love (or loathe).

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Prediction: Lightning in Six Games
Why??: While they have a rookie coach, the Bolts have a key guys who have been to the trenches when it comes to the playoffs, including Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, couples with the ageless Dwayne Roloson-- who has pulled a couple rabbits out of his hat in Minnesota and Edmonton before.


(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks

Prediction: Canucks in Five Games
Why??: While the Hawks have had the Canucks' number in the past two playoffs-- the Hawks don't seem to be the same team, while the Sedins and Roberto Luongo will be wanting revenge for the past year failure. A lot of pressure on the Canucks, so they'll want to prove the critics wrong.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings

Prediction: Sharks in Five Games
Why??: Without Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, the Kings are going to be hard-pressed to deal with the playoffs in terms of scoring. Plus, it appears that Antti Niemi is back in his form that got him a Cup ring last year, added to the offense that Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Logan Couture will probably provide.

(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Prediction: Red Wings in Six Games
Why??: The rematch from last year's first round probably won't go the full seven, but should be a solid one. I expect Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to step their game up, while Jimmy Howard will have to silence his critics somehow-- a long playoff run will do that. The offense for the Coyotes could be questioned, too-- as they only had one 20-goal scorer.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Prediction: Predators in Seven Games
Why??: While the Ducks have been on a hot streak, Pekka Rinne will be the guy to kill the Ducks, like so much Nintendo. Corey Perry will be the main guy on the Ducks, but expect Shea Weber to shut him down from the start.

That's how it is from me-- quick and dirty. No need to break it down scientifically because when have playoffs ever been scientific?? It's a bunch of lucky bounces, fate happens, and we saw that last year because the top-seeds in the East got eliminated last year in the first round-- you can't explain that. It starts for real on Wednesday-- so enjoy it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Steve Shields

As we sit here looking at the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Finals, we look at one former Michigan goalie jumpstarted Michigan's 21 straight tournament appearances, and made it to two Frozen Fours, but never got to the final game. Then he was able to make it into the show and had a steady career, including three fights with fellow goalies (Steve Passmore, Sean Burke, and Garth Snow). Even so, he's been coast-to-coast and took his technological skills in his new career. This week, a look at Steve Shields.

Shields started off with the North Bay Trappers and St. Mary Trappers of Junior A leagues in Ontario before committing to the University of Michigan. Starting in the 1990-91 campaign, Shields would jump into starter's role, playing in 37 games with a 26-6-3 record, which was enough for him to get drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1991 Draft. In his sophomore campaign in 1991-92, Shields went 27-7-2 in 37 games with a 2.84 GAA, helping Michigan to the Frozen Four, but losing in OT in their match-up. During his Junior year, Shields was more than capable to carry the 39 game workload, going 30-6-2 with two shutouts and a 2.22 GAA, getting the Wolverines to the Frozen Four again, but failing to advance past the four. Shields was named CCHA First Team All-Star and NCAA-West Second Team All-Star squad. For his senior season, Shields went 28-6-1 in 36 games while helping Michigan to the CCHA championship, their first ever. Shields again took home CCHA First Team All-Star and NCAA-West Second Team All-Star honors. Shields would leave school with the NCAA record for most wins (111), but it was broken by another Wolverine, Marty Turco (127).

After college, Shields would start his pro career in both Rochester of the AHL and South Carolina of the ECHL. While in Rochester, Shields played 13 games, sporting a 3-8-0 record; while in South Carolina he went 11-5-2 in 21 games, with two shutouts. The 1995-96 season would see Shields step up in Rochester, going 20-17-2 in 43 games; while also getting two games up in Buffalo, going 1-0-0. In the playoffs, Rochester and Shields would dominate, as he would go 15-3, as Rochester won the Calder Cup. Shields would start off the 1996-97 season with Rochester, playing 23 games with a 14-6-2 record before getting the recall from Buffalo to end the season, where he would go 3-8-2 in 13 regular season games, but then go 4-6 in 10 playoff games. Shields would be up with the Sabres for the 1997-98 season, playing in 16 games with a 3-6-4 record, while spending a game in Rochester, which was a losing effort.

During the 1998 Entry Draft, Shields and a pick were traded to the San Jose Sharks for former AGM Kay Whitmore and a pick. The 1998-99 season saw Shields play behind Mike Vernon, playing 37 games with a solid 15-11-8 record, 2.22 GAA and .921 save percentage. That performance allowed the Sharks to get rid of Vernon in the 1999-2000 season and Shields took the starting role, playing in 67 games, with a 27-30-8 then going 5-7 in the playoffs. The 2000-01 season was one of injury for Shields, as he would go down to an ankle injury early-- opening the door for Evgeni Nabokov to take over the starting role. Shields got his time in, playing 21 games and going 6-8-5 before going down with an injury with his shoulder ligaments. With Nabokov gaining stardom and the wealth of prospect goalies in their system, Shields would be the odd-man out.

During the trade deadline of 2001 and days before his shoulder injury-- Shields and Jeff Friesen were traded to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for Teemu Selanne. While he didn't play with the Ducks in 2000-01, he came back for the 2001-02 season playing along J-S Giguere, but wouldn't fare well, going 9-20-2 in 33 games.

During the 2002 Draft, Shields was traded to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick, where he would be a part of a carousel of goalies, but would get the most game-time out of five keepers to play that year with a 12-13-9 record in 36 games.

Before the start of the 2003-04 season, Shields would be traded to the Florida Panthers for future considerations. Shields would only play 16 games behind Roberto Luongo with a 3-6-1 record.

Shields didn't play anywhere during the lockout season of 2004-05, but would return after the season started in 2005-06-- signing with the Atlanta Thrashers. Shields would go 1-2-1 in five games and would have played four games in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, finishing with a 2-2-0 record.

One more kick in the can for Shields in the 2006-07 season, signing as a free agent with the AHL's Houston Aeros, but would only play one game in relief, letting up three goals on nine shots in that appearance. After that, Shields would hang-up the pads.

After his pro career was over, Shields would continue to play in the Northeast with amateur teams as a forward. Currently, Shields has gotten his hands into the technology and coaching segment, helping to start up, a remote coaching site for a mass of teams and coaches.

While there was a lot of promise, Shields never got a good shake with solid teams to solidify what he could have done with some teams. When he got on later in his career, he got stuck behind other goalies who had a step up on him in the system or was on a team that was in a rebuild and didn't have the parts to help him out. That said, the college career from Shields was one that will be remember and could be credited to jumpstarting that program again.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Five: Weekend Finale

It's the last weekend of the regular season, and while there are still some teams in the hunt for the second season, there are many who know their fate and go about preparing their game for the playoffs or preparing their swing for the course.

1. The Senators announced that Bryan Murray has signed a three-year extension to stay on as GM. What does this mean for the team as a whole??

It's something that was definitely unexpected and you could probably bet that maybe Cory Clouston could get another year done behind the bench; but other than that-- you would think they would want to move into another direction with the team. While Murray is probably not the best option, you could see something like what the Flames did and sign a former GM to be the heir-apparent to the GM position, but I doubt owner Eugene Melnyk will do that, as it would seem to undermine his front office. For all the people saying that it would be a huge overhaul for the Sens, looks like they were disappointed once again.

2. The consolation of some players is the World Championships. While it may not mean a lot to the casual fan, how much is it worth paying attention to??

Obviously, a lot of the hardcore patriotic fans will follow their country and enjoy the game play-- but odds are, if you're team is in the Stanley Cup playoffs; you won't pay much attention to it all. And to be honest, it's not a horrific thing not to pay attention, as the games will air somewhat early (Slovakia is ahead by seven hours on Eastern time)-- but you should keep an eye out for it as the Cup Playoffs start to dwindle down the teams. There's a lot of NHLers who are out of it that'll attend, so you could have a lot of those fans watching-- but I doubt they'll lose sleep if they miss a game or seven.

3. The Draft Lottery is being held on Tuesday. Is there a chance that it's not going to go to the Edmonton Oilers??

They have a 48% in the lottery to get the first pick, but it would be the first time since the 1995 and 1996 Drafts that a team would have back-to-back 1st Overall Picks. This could be a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to how you look at it. The Oilers haven't been much for talent and to be honest-- it could be a rush for a young player to automatically get into the line-up from juniors; but at the same time-- best to get them in the games early and let them adapt naturally rather than baby them through the motions.

4. What does the play of Jhonas Enroth bring to the Sabres and what could it mean for Ryan Miller??

What this could finally mean is that the Sabres don't have to overwork Miller. Enroth probably won't make a play for a #1 or even 1b spot, but it gives the Sabres another solid option and are able to give Miller a rest every now and again because they have a solid guy who could come in and actually perform well, especially in the clutch. Enroth will get another deal, as he is a RFA this summer, but I don't think he'll challenge for Miller's spot right now....but in a couple years, maybe.

5. Will there be any big surprise to come out of this weekend??

I don't think so. There won't be a big time comeback or dramatic finish-- because I think some of those seeds are out of steam by now and probably couldn't pull one more rabbit out of their hat. If there's one thing that could happen is that this is going to be the most dramatic Hurricanes/Rangers games outside of any playoff situation there could be. The "win and you're in" scenario is something that's enticing, but probably not going to be enough to really rally the troops to watch a game, especially if you're team is already in.


That's it this week and we're getting around to playoff time and who knows if this thing will keep going in the playoffs-- we'll see what the first round brings and go on from there. If you have topics, is the place to be dialin'.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Baltimore's Exhibition A Jumping Point??

It was speculated by the Baltimore Sun and confirmed by Washington Post's DC Sports Bog; the Washington Capitals will play an exhibition game in Baltimore's First Mariner Arena, mostly likely against the Nashville Predators, whose coach-- Barry Trotz-- is a former Baltimore Skipjacks' coach. This is also coming on the heels of the Bog talking about how Baltimore fans are supporting the Caps in Baltimore bars-- with a picture of some of my former teammates there.

I've documented the history of Baltimore hockey and why the city probably won't be a site for NHL relocation if they get a new arena-- but if there is a solid turnout, could this be wishful thinking about a minor league club down the line??

Short answer, no. Long answer, still no; but with a "but."

First and foremost, if this game pans out like the Caps think it will with a Baltimore crowd, then it could set wheels in motion for the Baltimore area to get a new arena, as First Mariner has been there in downtown since 1962. There has been talks about there being a new arena built in the Canton area, but it has since moved to the downtown core, extending from the Convention Center-- but could cost $1BILLION dollars for the 18,500 seat arena. That's quite a lot of butts to fit into an arena for a minor league game, but it'd probably be used mostly for concerts and other events, like wrestling. Even so, an upgraded place could be a nice attraction to some minor league teams having issues in their current area.

Yet, even if there is an interest team-- the Baltimore Blast own the city when it comes to indoor excitement. The indoor soccer team would probably want to command most of the weekend dates, which would hamstring any hockey team wanting to go there due to the fact that weekday games aren't that much of a draw. Since the indoor soccer season goes from November to March, it'd be hard to have hockey and soccer get primo dates. If they are able to work it out together-- it may work, but who knows with everyone wanting the entertainment dollar for themselves. The Blast are one of the reasons why the Baltimore Bandits didn't last too long.

In the end, I don't know if hockey will work in Baltimore for the long-term, but it could be something that should be looked at. If there's a lot of people getting into the Caps from the Baltimore area, why not have a team locally to be closer and cheaper for some families who may not be able to afford trekking down to DC and deal with the NHL prices. Time will tell, but this could be a jumping off point for a hockey future in Baltimore.

(It should be noted that I hope there's some kind of Baltimore Skipjacks tribute, or else it would be unjust to play there. And Maryland goalie Matt Mitchell jokingly said he would give up his pads to a Caps goalie in order to be close to "the show.")

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Lost City of Kansas City

To paraphrase Scott Levy: "What about us?? What about Kansas City??"

Lost in all the of the uproar of Winnipeg and Quebec City being the destination for the next team on the move in the NHL is Kansas City, Missouri. While the Sprint Center laying in the downtown core collecting dust when it's not arena football season, that city could be a solid location for a NHL team to come and enjoy the state of the art arena and in a city that has a somewhat solid location and is readily recognizable to the casual person.

Granted, the thought of this situation not being any better than the situation a team could be coming out of, as well as the rampant fan-base not being as on top of things like the Canadian counterparts, but it's just odd how they were very high in the bidding when it came to Nashville, Pittsburgh, recently with the Islanders, and mentioned when the Phoenix Coyotes' thing was still new; but now-- they've gone silent. There really hasn't had been much, if any, talk from Paul McGannon and his NHL 21 contingency about the recent developments on the relocating franchises.

Yet, it falls back on whether placing a team in another market that doesn't have the hockey heat as a Canadian site or another US market will always be one that looms over the Kansas City bid, though McGannon and his team are passionate in getting a team into the Sprint Center. Granted, it's an area that's close to the area airport (15 miles) has five Interstate and three US highways going into town, and is 31st in media according to Nielsen ratings system. More over, there's a lot of corporate backing possibilities with it being the home city of not only Sprint, but H&R Block, Applebee's Russell Stover's Candies, and Hallmark-- so it won't be without takers in terms of getting some kind of backing to the team. But...does that mean it'll bring in the people.

Even so, will the people show up for a hockey team in the area?? Sure, the corporations will be there, but is the area hot enough for hockey?? They'll have to deal with the Chiefs during the fall months, but is there a lack of interest in the Royals or college teams for people to clamor to the rink for a game?? That will be the biggest concern, even if there weren't other suitors for relocation. The CHL's Missouri Mavericks, who play in Independence, Missouri-- 13 miles East of downtown KC-- do have a decent amount of heat, as they are 2nd in the CHL in average attendance with 5,406 in a 5,760 venue. However, the ticket prices is drastically less in the CHL than in the NHL, which could be a deterrent to some hockey fans who follow the Mavericks. Then it boils down to is risk worth the reward??

I'm not saying that the Kansas City relocation play is good idea over Winnipeg or Quebec City; but I'm saying it's another alternative if a team doesn't want to move into Canada. They have the building, they could have the backing, but whether the fans will show up is the big unknown and in the end-- could be the deal-breaker should KC be in the fight for relocation. It's just amazing how they have really fallen off the radar in all of this mess.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Dan Blackburn

It's been a crazed week personally with my real job, so we'll do an AGM who's career was short and somewhat sweet. Much like the others, known as a sure thing-- picked in the top-10 of the 2001 NHL Draft, but then because of maybe being rushed too much and maybe a pre-existing condition-- he was in the game for only a short time. However, when he did try to garner a comeback he became inventive and memorable. This week, the AGM profile of Dan Blackburn.

Born in Montreal, but raised in Western Canada, Blackburn came onto the scene with the Junior "A" Bow Valley Eagles of the AJHL. In his first season in 1997-98, he only saw 20 games and finished with a 9-6-1 record. He returned for another season in 1998-99, where he would play in 38 games, but finish with a subpar 7-19-6 record, then going 0-2 in the playoffs.

Blackburn moved up to the WHL in the 1999-2000 season with the Kootenay Ice, where he would outplay veteran BJ Boxma in camp to take over the starting job. With such an opportunity and a solid team in front of him, Blackburn seized the day and went 34-8-7 in 50 games for the Ice, then going 16-5 in the playoffs, to help the Ice win the WHL and head to the Memorial Cup. However, Kootenay lost all three games in the round-robin; but it didn't take away from Blackburn's season; one in which he took home WHL Rookie of the Year honors and Playoff MVP honors. While it was hard to top a rookie season like that, Blackburn came back to the Ice for the 2000-01 season, playing in 51 games and sporting a 33-14-2 record, however he wouldn't have the same playoff magic-- only going 7-4 in 11 games. That as it was, Blackburn was named WHL Goaltender of the Year and WHL East First Team All-Star.

With his credentials at an all-time high, Blackburn was a blue-chip prospect in the 2000 NHL Draft, where the New York Rangers picked him 10th overall. Heir apparent to Mike Richter's spot, Blackburn was placed on the team's roster in his rookie season, backing up Richter in 31 games with a 12-16-0 record. He would also see time with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL, going 2-1-1 in four games there. Blackburn would be back in 2001-02, as there was a goaltending carousel in New York due to Richter sustaining a concussion. Blackburn would play in 32 games, going a dismal 8-16-4. That's when it seemed the good times ended, in more ways than one.

Before the start of the 2003-04 season, Blackburn went down with a shoulder injury. While it wasn't seen as much at first, as it lingered-- Blackburn's prognosis became worse and worse, as a nerve in his shoulder continued to give him issues. Exploratory surgery was done in order to see if they could cure the problem, but they could not. Blackburn was not able to rotated his left shoulder properly because of the damage in his shoulder.

The 2004-05 was one that was a lockout season for the NHL and gave Blackburn more time to see if there were any other options he could use in order to play in the NHL again. While playing with the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings, Blackburn tried using a system where he would use two blockers instead of one. While he had the normal blocker on one side, the blocker on what would be his catching side was designed as such to protect the back of his hand from shots, as he couldn't rotate his shoulder to make a normal glove save. The underside of the odd-blocker was a modified catching glove as he would usually wear if he wasn't injured. Blackburn played only 12 games with Victoria, going 3-9-0.

While he tried to make an attempt to come back with the Rangers in 2005-06, he was in danger of ruining his $6M insurance payout-- plus he strained his MCL while in training camp. Blackburn hung up the pads at only age 22.

It wasn't all bad for Blackburn, he went to Arizona State University for a semester and then started with the Goaltender Development Institute in Dallas, Texas. Currently, Blackburn is the President of GDI and also does work with the Junior "A" Texas Brahmas.

While he didn't have a long career, he did have a promising one and many wonder what could have been. Yet, Blackburn doesn't dwell on it and has taken this move in stride-- not holding resentment or bitterness towards one thing or another. He has moved on with his life and seems to be in a good head space. Yet, at the same time....what if....

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Five: Fools Akimbo

The work got started early last night, though it proved that people will do anything to nail people's gullibility. Even put a template up resembling a solid newspaper look and getting people to bite. There's not fooling in the F5, because it's always crap.

1. Many people bit on the April Fools' gag of Mario Lemieux saying Matt Cooke is gone from the Penguins. Does that mean it's not so far-fetched??

The gag was really perfectly done, as the template was done very professionally. Yet, the fact many people believed it and didn't see it coming (the joke or announcement) shows that it may not be as far-fetched as some people would believe. Granted, Cooke has two more years on his contract at $1.8M cap-hit and a buyout could be rough, while trying to get rid of him maybe difficult as well. At the same time, if Cooke cleaned up his act-- he could actually be a valuable trading chip; but unlikely we'll come down to that.

2. Staying on that-- how much are people making of the Sidney Crosby traveling with the team??

It's definitely a good step for people who think the NHL or Penguins can't survive without him; though both are pretty well-off since his injury. But it is a big step and since he's the biggest name to ever get a concussion in the NHL-- people will knit-pick every detail. Sure, he's looked good when he was on the ice by himself and in no-contact situations. It's one thing to be okay in a beer-league situation, but when he gets there in a game situation we'll see if he can have the same vision in traffic situations. There's a lot of news that's given and maybe too much-- but still, it should be given considering the plight and steps NHL and their member teams are taking to learn more about concussions.

3. More remarkable, though-- Daymond Langkow coming back after many thought he may have to retire. This may not help the Flames this year, but what about next year??

If Langkow can actually do something these last few games with the Flames, odds are he could be dangled out there to other teams to clear his $4.5M cap hit for next year. But, the story of Langkow is an interesting one, especially considering he had spinal cord damage after taking a shot to the back of the neck last March. Even with a set-back this summer, him coming back is a great story and up there with other guys who have suffered possible career-ending injuries.

4. The Canucks have won the President's Trophy, which many think is a curse. Are they right in saying that??

The thing that's working on the side of the Canucks is the fact the last four President's Trophy winners were out of the Western Conference. Of course, no team who had over 120 points when winning the President's Trophy has ever won the Cup and the Canucks can top out at 121, so there's that. Plus, the fact the there's already pressure for the Canucks past underachieving Playoff performances-- there's going to be a large microscope for the Canucks.

5. Flat out-- who wins the Hart Trophy??

It has to be either Corey Perry or Tim Thomas; my nod going to Perry. The Sedins kind of cancel each other out and Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos cancel each other out since they're on the same team and you can't have two guys valuable to their team and win the Hart. Perry I think gets it because of the fact he's a big part in the resurgence of the Ducks from the start to the finish. While I don't slight Thomas, my thought is that the Vezina is the MVP for goalies and may not get the nod for Hart consideration.


That's another F-5 done. Great. Any topics or suggestions should be directed to and if not-- you'll get my questions and my answers. Huzzah!!