Thursday, March 29, 2012

Isles Smartly Sign Grahame...Wait, What??

John Grahame has signed with the Islanders. In 2012.

I'll just let that sink in.

If he plays, the Islanders would have had six goalie play in a game for the the team, one off the NHL record.

The question however that seems to come up is why would the Islanders do it if they have guys like Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson in Bridgeport of the AHL to come up?? Why not give the young guys some time in the NHL??

The point is that this is a stop-gap move. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are in the mix for a division title and a spot in the playoffs in the AHL. To pull up that team's goalie just to sit on the bench in the NHL and MAYBE get some playing time in-- seems a bit ridiculous for the long-run, especially for meaningless games in the NHL, since the Isles have been eliminated.

While it's suspect, especially since it's been a while since John Grahame has been in the NHL (he did play in the KHL and last year in the AHL), it's a smart move to have a guy that's in some kind of game shape, rather than someone that could be just a beer-league guy to sign to an amateur try-out contract or to pluck someone from the AHL or ECHL in order to get them a taste of the show AND maybe stifle the chances of that team to actually make the playoffs or be there for a stretch to get them in the playoffs.

Yet, the biggest question is whether or not John Grahame will get some time in net. Considering there is five games left, considering the Islanders seem to be cursed with goaltending injuries-- you would think he could get some time in there to see if he can actually hack, as well as saving up Al Montoya from possible bad things happening to end the season.

Grahame has been the goalie coach for the USHL Sioux City Musketeers this past season and was 23-19-5 over 48 games in the past two seasons prior with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, so he could be ready to actually get something done. There's two games that I could see Grahame getting without having accusations of the Islanders tanking-- one against Winnipeg and one against Columbus-- as both teams are eliminated from the playoffs. Heck, if Montoya slips and Grahame comes in as a reliever and lights it up tonight; it could be sooner.

In the end, people will say this was an out of left field thing for the Islanders and another sign this is a team with no direction at all. I say it's a smart decision when you take into account that their younger guys will be able to experience meaningful games in the minor leagues rather than gathering dust on a NHL bench.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Darren Jensen

With the NCAA Tournament going on, it's time to take a look at one goalie who was able to win two of them in his four years playing-- for a team who's name cannot be named. He came in like a flash, got the NHL, and then went out in the blink of an eye. This week-- the profile of Darren Jensen

Jensen started his career in the 1977-78 season with the Penticton Vees of the BC Junior League, playing in 29 games and finishing 22-7-0, while going 16-21-1 in 42 games with the Vees in the 1978-79 season.

After two seasons in Junior A, Jensen decided to move to the NCAA ranks with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, going 13-0-1 in the 1979-80 season-- helping North Dakota win the NCAA National Championship. After playing 25 games in the 1980-81 season (no record around), Jensen again went 13-0-1 in 16 appearance, helping the Sioux win another National Championship and being named to the All-Tournament Team that year. Jensen would spend his senior year, playing in 16 games (again, no record) to close out his collegiate career.

When he moved into a pro career, Jensen signed with the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets for the 1983-84 season-- playing 56 games and compiling a 40-12-3 record with four shutouts, then going 2-4 in the playoffs. It was a big year for Jensen, winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy for fewest goals-against, Garry F. Longman Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year, James Gatschene Memorial Trophy for IHL MVP, and was named to the First Team All-Star team.

After his impressive season, Jensen signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after the Hartford Whalers didn't retain his rights. The 1984-85 season, Jensen spent it with the AHL's Hershey Bears, finishing with a 12-20-6 record in 39 games. Jensen would also play in one game with the Flyers, a loss. In the 1985-86 season, Jensen would be starting and ending his season with the Bears-- cumulating with 14 games and an 11-1-1 record and a 5-1 record in the playoffs.

Jensen would be called up under bleak circumstances for the 1985-86 season, as he would replace the late Pelle Lindbergh, playing in the first Flyers' game since his death; as starter Bob Froese pulled his groin in the warm-ups. Jensen would win 5-3 over the Edmonton Oilers and would finish with a 15-9-1 record in 29 games, helping himself and Froese win the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against. However, Jensen would be pushed out of the Flyers fold when the Flyers traded for Chico Resch late in the '85-'86 season.

In the 1986-87 season, Jensen would be back in the AHL with the Hershey Bears as Ron Hextall came up as a rookie and took over for Jensen. With the Bears, Jensen went 26-26-0 in 60 appearances for the Bears.

In August of 1987, Jensen and Daryl Stanley were traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Wendell Young and a Draft Pick. Jensen would be sent to the AHL's Fredericton Express, going 18-19-4 in 42 games and then 7-5 in 12 playoff games, losing to the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Finals.

Jensen would signed with the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals for the 1988-89 season, playing in only 11 games with a 7-2 record before retiring from playing.

After hockey, Jensen was bouncing around the minor hockey coaching ranks before landing with the Kelowna Rockets as a goalie coach and assistant coach from 2002 to 2004. At last check, Jensen was the goalie coach for the BC Interior Select 1996-birth year team.

Jensen started out with a bang-- coming onto the college scene and winning a National Title and then again two years later. He got into the NHL under some bad circumstances, but played to the best of his abilities when he was up there, but would ultimately be pushed out because of too many goalies in the system. Even so, he has a lot to be proud of and pass along to the next generation.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oh Captain, My Captain

Rogers' Sportsnet is a multi-faceted media contingent, spanning radio, TV, and more recently-- the print world. Their Sportsnet Magazine has a collector's edition out now call "The Captains: Ranking the Greatest Leaders in Hockey History." Yes, like so much Bleacher Report, the fantastic heads at Sportsnet got people together to make the ultimate list of captains all of the NHL and rank them 1 to 30. You can just tell how great subjective lists can be....

Strap in, folks-- it's about to get fun.

Alright, so they start off well enough, picking Montreal Canadiens' Jean Beliveau as the all-time top captain. Can't argue with that-- the statistics that Beliveau put up, the style of play he had, the fact that off the ice he very accommodating to the media and fans; he has to be there at the top spot because of how well-rounded he was both on and off the ice. So far, so good.

Number two on the list: Mark Messier.

The whole thing of lists is that....they'll be very subjective most of the time. This is a case where I think it holds true. Rangers' fans will always bring up 1994 and his guarantee and how he stepped up in the clutch to help bring the Rangers their first cup in 54 years. Fine, I get that and can appreciate that-- but in the history of captains, the fact he is SECOND on the list is somewhat of a head-scratcher. Especially when you at the guys in the third, fourth, and fifth spot (Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, and Steve Yzerman), I don't know how you can say that Messier is above them. Top-five?? Maybe depending on who you talk to. Top-ten?? Sure, I'll give you that if only for winning two Cups as captain.

Phil Esposito, Denis Potvin, Maurice Richard, Bobby Clarke, and Bobby Orr are the others in the top-ten, which, again-- the subjective nature of things and what they were able to do in their era with the team they had an the teams they went up against will always make the question of their positioning debatable.

Here's a shot of who is numbers 11 through 30:

The crazy thing about this is that Sidney Crosby is on this list. Sure, I don't doubt he'd be on a revisited list, but my belief that any active player should not be on the list. If you put Crosby there, why not put Jonathan Toews on that list?? The only other active player is Jarome Iginla-- but no Daniel Alfredsson or Nicklas Lidstrom or Joe Thornton or whoever??

More over, where's guys like Rod Langway, Trevor Linden, Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, or countless others. Dave Bidini, the go-to hockey musician, historian, and noted author, did an entire essay on guys who did get snubbed from this list and you could go on forever. Especially when you cut it off at 30, you know you're going to have omissions and this won't be definitive. In which case, why put it out??

The only good thing about this all is the inclusion of two women captains (Cassie Campbell [27] and Cammi Granato [30]), as well as going very old school with the likes of Eddie Shore, Syl Apps (19), Bill Cook (20), and King Clancy (26); as well as foreign innovators like Boris Mikhailov (17) and Sven Tumba (29), neither of whom played in the NHL at all-- so respect is given there.

This is an edition that's going to spark some chatter and counterpoints to each point make for each captain's position. Even so, there's sometimes where you can go off the wall in a good way or a bad way-- this could have been more of a hinderance than a help.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Rage Against "College Numbers" in the NHL

While many people are doing previews of the NCAA Hockey Tournament, I don't know enough about it to actually fake through it. Other places actually have people paying attention to it and god love 'em because they're good at what they do. However, the tournament allows me to talk about my hatred for the "college number" motif that has made it's way into the professional ranks.

With the new EDGE system the NHL brought in almost five years ago, the biggest things that irked me were the templated design, the unnecessary piping on some jerseys, and most importantly-- the front numbers.

Of course, this all started a year before in the 2006-07 season when the Buffalo Sabres brought in their new "buffaslug" design equipped with the front numbers, basically making their design EDGE ready when they were rolled out the next season. With the number on the front right chest area, it just seems a bit too much like amateur hour and very out of place from the traditional hockey design everyone has come to know and love.

Yet, much to my dismay, the 2007-08 roll out of the the EDGE format really brought my blood to a boil. First, the San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Islanders had a total overhaul of their jersey, adding the front number like the Sabres did. However, both the Bolts and Isles have overhauled their design again, removing their front numbers-- while the Sabres went modernized retro, but still have the front numbers.

Then the Dallas Stars went from having a logo on both their jerseys to their away jersey showing the Stars logo, while their home jerseys had "DALLAS" in the front with the number of the player underneath it, which is silly because they're at home, the fans know they're in Dallas. That even manifested itself into their away jersey going to the "DALLAS" design, basically doing away with their logo all together. The Islanders would bring back their front numbers with their awkward black third jersey with "ISLANDERS" on the front with the number underneath. That is what the kids call the "college number," as many teams in the NCAA have that sort of design for their jerseys.

I can understand why the college teams have it because it's a traditional design for their area of hockey, but at the same time-- it shouldn't manifest itself into the professional game. The front number in the NHL prior to all of this went away in the 1947-48 season with the Boston Bruins and really shouldn't have come back at all. Hell, I even understand some minor league teams doing it, but with NHL teams putting it out there makes it look a little off-putting. The same goes with the front helmet numbers, which-- no clue why it was still done, but it seems like an unnecessary aesthetic to put out there for the sake of it.

Yes, I am a bit of an aesthetic nerd and take these things a little bit more extreme than others, but the old adage is "If you want to make a million bucks, you got to look like a million bucks." A good looking jersey will not only have your own fans buying the jersey, but other people buying it because of how sharp it actually looks in the grand scheme of things.

Credit to NHL Uniforms for their vast information and pictures of the jersey timelines. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Wayne Stephenson

Despite being in the shadows for most his NHL, the trek this week's AGM took to get into the NHL was something unique, as he went about playing for his country. With that under his belt, he got international recognition and then moved that onto the NHL game itself. This week, the profile of Wayne Stephenson. 

When Stephenson first stepped onto the scene, he was playing for the Winnipeg Braves in the Manitoba Junior League starting in the 1963-64, going 11-15-3 in 29 games. Returning to the Braves in the 1964-65 season, Stephenson would go 26-12-5 in 43 games, then 4-0 in four playoff games, helping win the league championship.After the season, Stephenson was MJHL MVP, top goalie, and on the first-team all-star squad. Stephenson was picked by the Edmonton Oil Kings to participate in the 1965 Memorial Cup, where he would go 1-4 in five games

Post-junior career, Stephenson chose to join the Canadian National team under the tutelage of Father David Bauer. Stephenson played with the Canadian National team from the 1966-67 season until the 1970-71 season. In that time, Stephenson played in two World Championships (1967, 1969) and one Olympics in 1968, where he would go 2-0-0 in three appearances, helping the Canadians win a Bronze medal. Stephenson also played 15 games for the Winnipeg Nationals in the 1967-68 in the Western Canada Senior League.

For the 1971-72 season, Stephenson would get signed on in January with the St. Louis Blues and spend most of the season in the Central League with the Kansas City Blues, going 5-11-4 in 21 games; then going 0-1-0 in two games with St. Louis. Stephenson spent the entire 1972-73 season with St. Louis, playing in 45 games and finishing with a 18-15-7 record, then going 1-2 in three playoff games. Returning to St. Louis in 1973-74 season, Stephenson went 13-21-5 in 40 games. 

Before the 1974-75 season, Stephenson was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he would be behind Bernie Parent on the depth chart; playing only 12 games and going 7-2-1, then 2-0 in two playoff games, helping the Flyers win the Stanley Cup. In the 1975-76 season, Stephenson got most of the games in for the Flyers, as Parent was injured-- going 40-10-13 in 66 games, then 4-4 in eight playoff games. With Parent back in 1976-77, Stephenson was resigned to the bench again, playing in only 21 games, going 12-3-2 and 4-3 in nine playoff games. Stephenson got more games in during the 1977-78 season, playing in 26 games and finished with a 14-10-1 record. During the 1978-79 season, Parent suffered a career-ending eye injury, resulting in Stephenson seeing more time, compiling a 20-10-5 record in 40 games, then 0-3 in four playoff games that season. 

During the summer of 1979, Stephenson was traded to the Washington Capitals, where he would play 56 games in the 1979-80 season, posting an 18-24-10 record. For the 1980-81 season, Stephenson would be back to the Capitals, playing only 20 games with a 4-7-5 record, which would lead to his retirement after the season. 

Post playing career, Stephenson got into the financial industry, working banks in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Cape Cod. However, he would be diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and would pass away on August 22, 2010. 

Though he didn't have one of the most straight tracks to the NHL, he was able to get to the show and succeed as much as he could in his short time there. He had a great team in front of him, which helped showed off what he could do with the right team in front of him. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sea Dogs Shore-ing Up Their Top Spot

Many times in junior hockey, you get an organization that is special. That could go for what the Saint John Sea Dogs have been able to do in these past few seasons. Not only are they the defending Memorial Cup champions, but at the same time-- they are geared up for another run and back-to-back run, all due to the luck of the draw, it would seem.

It all starts from the top, as head coach Gerard Gallant has been amazing behind the bench of the young guys after a stint in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets as head coach and assistant for the Islanders before moving to the QMJHL. He has guided his team to a third straight 100-point season, which has never been done before in the QMJHL. Plus, Gallant becomes the first QMJHL coach to have three straight 50 wins seasons. For a team that has only been around six seasons, the fact they're rolling like they have been is quite the feat, but one that seems to be common in the turnaround rosters of major junior hockey.

Speaking of the roster, they have plenty of top prospects-- especially guys who have gone in the first round-- Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), Charlie Coyle (San Jose), Zack Phillips (Minnesota), and Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal)-- which you would think would be a clash of personalities, but Gallant has made this team function as a cohesive unit and the team has bought into that dynamic. Even with that roster, Danick Gauthier-- who was undrafted in the NHL (signed by Tampa Bay)-- is the leading scorer for the team with 47 goals and 86 points. The fact that only Gauthier and Phillips are in the top-20 in points (and Gauthier being the only Sea Dogs in the top-20 in goals); the team as a whole is well-rounded. The Sea Dogs have eight players in the top-10 in the plus/minus rating, including the top five players being there.

Not only that, but a guy is able to catch themselves and revitalize their young career. Point in case, goaltender Mathieu Corbeil-- who was 7-15-0 with the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2010-11 season, but when he got moved to the Sea Dogs, rattled off a 13-1-0 record to end the season, then this year posting a 37-10-0 record with six shutouts this year and really making the Blue Jackets picking him in the fourth-round a steal at this point, even though it could be the system that helped him out.

We have seen a lot of Major Junior clubs who have called a NHL organization with 16-20 year-olds. That has been said about the Red Deer Rebels in the Western League and London Knights of the Ontario League, so I think the Sea Dogs could be the team that make a name for themselves in the Quebec League. With a solid cast of players and solid coach-- the organization is flourishing. The real test is going to be that turnaround period. The odds of many of these players still being around next season are slim-- even Gallant could get some calls from the NHL about his services-- should really test the guile of the organization and what they can actually do when it's not as easy as it has been.

That said, there's not a reason to rain on the parade of the Sea Dogs. They have almost dominated the QMJHL again and will be gearing up to defend their QMJHL championship and Memorial Cup title, looking for nothing less than to go back-to-back, as they know that this team could be one of the best that the league has seen before.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blue Jackets' Lost Season

Just under a month before the NHL playoffs begin, the first team has been eliminated. Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets were mathematically eliminated from the post-season. The Jackets could win their last 13 games and still end up with 77 points, but the 8th place team now has 78 points. Sad trombone here.

The Jackets season ending in March is fun-- as the season for the team came in like a lion, with all their signings and trading for Jeff Carter; it ended like a lamb-- due to injuries, untimely play, and then trading Carter.

But how do you fix this team?? Is there a chance to even fix a constantly rebuilding squad??

Obviously, the biggest thing is what to do with Rick Nash. He's a guy said he wanted out at the trade deadline to "help" the franchise by getting prospects in return-- code for that he didn't want to go down with the ship. There's going to be a lot of convincing from the ownership to keep him stay. I don't think Scott Howson doesn't get the chance to convince Nash, because it goes beyond that. The ownership needs to be the guys to actually get to Nash and try and change his mind. They have the money and control to tell the GM to do this or do that in order to keep the superstar and franchise face happy.

Another point to that is to see what GMs are out there and see if firing Scott Howson is the biggest point. Let's be honest, he started off to a good start, but hasn't been able to build off the playoff performance they had a few seasons ago. While it looks good on paper for what he has done...the game isn't played on paper, that's just silly. The chemistry didn't seem to be there and the fact there wasn't much of a support system for the younger guys, especially Steve Mason-- who could have used a better veteran back-up to help him out and get him to move along.

There's a lot of problems, but the biggest victory for the Jackets has been their off-ice staff.

Whether it's a bizarre Twitter Q&A or the replacing your Jeff Carter nameplate with a Jack Johnson nameplate, the entire crew off the ice-- from PR to merchandising-- have done all they could to get people to the games, get attention to the team, and maybe garner new fans from everywhere. While the product on the ice hasn't been stellar, they have been doing their damnedest to actually make things work in Columbus.

Whatever needs to happen, the Jackets will have a lot of time to contemplate it all. They should have had a better fate with their off-season acquisitions, but all the glitters isn't gold. The franchise has always had so much promise only to be left in the dust. It doesn't help that they are in the toughest division in the NHL and maybe the move to the East would be great.....and after this season, the pitch for that writes itself.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Eddie Mio

While he may not be notable to most, he was involved in a deal that changed the landscape of hockey and could have also been a guy who was bounced around most between both the WHA and NHL before ever playing a game. This week, the profile of Eddie Mio.

After spending a year with the Junior-A Windsor Spitfires, Mio went the NCAA route, playing with the Colorado College Tigers starting in the 1972-73 season. In his first season, Mio got into 23 games and would finish with a 6-17-0 record, while in his sophomore season; Mio only got into 13 games and compiling a 4-7-2 record. In the 1974 Draft, Mio was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL and the Vancouver Blazers in the WHA, however Mio would stay at Colorado College-- being named to the WCHA Second All-Star team and being named NCAA West First Team All-American. During his senior season of 1975-76, Mio put together a 15-18-1 record in 34 games, being named to the NCAA West First Team All-American squad again, as well as WCHA First All-Star team, as well.

As his rights were bounced around the WHA and NHL, Mio turned pro in the 1976-77 season in the Southern Hockey League with the Tidewater Sharks, playing in 19 games there, as well as playing for the Erie Blades of the North Americal League for 17 games.

Things turned for Mio, as he played with the AHL's Hampton Gulls in the 1977-78 season-- playing for 19 games with a 5-9-0 record. That season, Mio's rights ended up with the WHA Indianapolis Racers, going 6-8-0 in 17 appearances there. In the 1978-79 season, Mio bounced all around-- playing in the Central League with the Dallas Black Hawks for seven games (4-3-0) and then playing in only five games for the Racers (2-2-1) before he would be involved in one of the biggest trade at the time.

In November of 1978, Mio-- along with his best friend Wayne Gretzky and decent associate Peter Driscoll-- were traded to the Edmonton Oilers for $700,000 and future considerations. The rest of the 1978-79 season with the Oilers, Mio went 7-10-0 in 22 appearances.

As the Oilers moved to the NHL, so did Mio-- who had to be reclaimed by his NHL rightsholders (Minnesota North Stars) and the re-reclaimed by the Oilers in a Priority Draft. With the Oilers in 1979-80, Mio played in 34 games and put together a 9-13-5 record. Staying with the Oilers in the 1980-81 season, Mio got more games in (43) and finished up with a 16-15-9 record. The Oiler sent Mio to the Central League's Wichita Wind for the start of the 1981-82 season, in which Mio went 3-8-0 in 11 appearances.

Yet, the Oilers would put Mio on the move again, this time sending him to the New York Rangers in December of 1981 for Lance Nethery. The rest of the 1981-82 season, Mio went 13-6-5 behind the Rangers, then went 4-3 in eight playoff games. Mio stayed in New York for the 1982-83 season, posting a 16-18-6 record in the regular season in 41 games, then a 5-3 playoff record in eight games.

In the summer of 1983, Mio, Eddie Johnstone, and Ron Duguay were traded from the Rangers to the Detroit Red Wings for Willie Huber, Mike Blaisdell and Mark Osborne. Mio spent most of the 1983-84 season with Detroit, finishing with a 7-11-3 record in 24 games, but he also spent time in the AHL with the Adirondack Red Wings, playing four games with a 1-1-2 record. The 1984-85 season saw Mio spent most of the season in Adriondack, playing in 33 contests and ending up with a 19-12-1 record; also spending seven games in Detroit with a 1-3-2 record to show. Mio split the 1985-86 seasons again, playing in 18 games with Detroit (2-7-0) and eight with Adirondack (4-1-3) before calling it a career at the end of the season.

After hockey, Mio got into the player agent game working with IMG Agency and representing players such at Sergei Fedorov, Brent Johnson, and Joe Thornton. When he was with the Oilers, his bond with Wayne Gretzky was strong, so much so that Gretzky made him best man, as well as giving him a position with the Phoenix Coyotes when Gretzky owned part of the team. Mio also tried to run for Mayor of Windsor Ontario in 2010, but dropped out of the race before elections

While he was able to stay in hockey in one way or another, it just seemed that Mio never really got the chance to sustain his play for more than a year or so. Even with that, he made his mark on the WHA and NHL, as well as the college ranks. Plus, he was able to get a great friendship with one of the most notable hockey players to strap on skates.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Otter-ly Deplorable

(Yes, I do pun headlines. Deal.)

While he may not make the AGM ranks, Connor Crisp was thrown into a situation he probably never thought he'd be in; emergency back-up. A center by trade, Crisp went from the press box to the goal crease in a span of 20 minutes. You can read the great write-up by Neate Sager at Buzzing the Net for all the details, but it's interesting how this all came to be and why it will may not happen again.

First and foremost-- props to Crisp for man-ing up and taking on the task of doing this. Second, props to the Ice Dogs for not celebrating goals and then giving Crisp his props at the end.

The problem I have isn't with the Ice Dogs putting up 13 goals in all of this, because they aren't going to let up because it's major junior and every game is supposed to matter. You could tell the players were pissed off as anyone from having to face against a returning-from-injury forward having to be put into net, as it is a brotherhood out there at the end of the day.

My problem is with the Erie Otters' management and how they actually didn't call up someone who had experience in net, even if they are from the Junior A ranks or minor-midget ranks to just sit and be a back-up. You shouldn't have to throw a player, who has been injured most of the season, into a situation like that-- even though the Otters are going to be last in the OHL this year.

Otters' GM Sherry Bassin had this to say:
"Late last night, our backup goaltender (Devin Williams) failed a concussion test. I looked at our alternatives; one of our goaltenders (Adam Wood) was playing in the Ontario Junior C Championships, the other (Corey Foster) in the Midget Ontario Championships. I studied our alternatives based on the 2000 or so games I've been involved in. This turned out to be a bad decision. I accept full responsibility and apologize publicly for the embarrassment to the league and the sport of hockey that I love. I have deep respect for our league and sport."
Though he did take blame for this, you have to figure that the OHL will have more to say about this. It's one thing to have not enough skaters to actually field a solid team, but it's another thing to only bring one legitimate goaltender with you on a road-trip. Even as a last place team, you need to have some dignity for the game. This isn't your local beer league where you can do this and have guys yuk it up. A lot of these guys  want to have a future in hockey on a higher level and display their skill-- which won't fully happen against a forward going into goal.

While this is a fun story, you have to bet that not only the OHL, but the entire Canadian Hockey League will have a new rule to actually carry two ACTUAL goalies suited up for their games. Honestly, the team shouldn't have been allowed to play when there was no back-up on the bench or out there for warm-ups. Yet, since there's no rule against it-- they let it happen.

The OHL got some decent press because of this story, it was for the wrong reason in the end. After you get past the great story of Crisp actually getting in there, it makes it a sideshow that could and should have been prevented. Especially since Crisp is coming back from a serious shoulder injury, which could have gotten re-aggravated in this little stunt. Then it would have been much, much worse.

By the way, Crisp saved 32 of 45 shots in his 58 minutes of action, which will probably be his last between the pipes.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Rick Heinz

This week's AGM is more renowned for what he has done off the ice rather than his time on it. From what he learned on the ice, he has created one of the more successful schools and camps when it comes to excelling the future of goaltenders in North America. Even so, the time he spent playing afforded him the chance to push forward with his mentoring. This week, the profile of Rick Heinz.

Heinz's started his trek playing in Junior "B" with the Windsor Royals and Junior "A" with the Chatham Maroons before taking the NCAA route, playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth starting in the 1974-75 season, going 6-11-2 in 20 appearances. In his sophomore season in 1975-76, Heinz went 14-20-0 in 34 games on what many described as a terrible team, attributing Heinz's play to the success the school had on the ice. Heinz saw 23 games of action in 1976-77, finishing with a 6-15-2 record; while he finished his collegiate career in the 1977-78 season with a 13-18-1 record in 33 games.

After college, Heinz went to the IHL to play for the Port Huron Flags in the 1978-79 season, playing 54 regular season games and six playoff games before getting signed by the St. Louis Blues in April of 1979. Also in that season, Heinz played for the Blues' Central League's affiliate, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, losing his only appearance.

Heinz got a full season with Salt Lake in the 1979-80 season, compiling a 22-11-5 record in 39 games, then 1-3 in five playoff games, while Salt Lake won the Central League title. Back in Salt Lake for the 1980-81 season; Heinz went 19-14-3 in 36 games, then going 10-4 in the playoffs; helping Salt Lake win back-to-back titles. Also in '80-'81, Heinz played four games with the Blues, going 2-1-1 in his tenure there. Heinz would against split most of the 1981-82 season between Salt Lake for 19 games (14-3-2) and the Blues for nine (2-5-0) before being on the move.

In March of 1982, Heinz, Tony Currie, and Jim Nill were traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Glen Hanlon. Heinz played only three games with the Canucks, going 2-1-0 in that span.

Crazily enough, in June 1982, Heinz was traded back to the Blues for cash. In the 1982-83 season, Heinz split again between Salt Lake and St. Louis; going 9-8-0 in Salt Lake, while going 1-5-1 while in St. Louis. As the permanent back-up for the 1983-84 season, Heinz played in 22 games for the Blues and finished with a 7-7-3 record. However in the 1984-85 season, Heinz would play the majority of the season with the IHL's Peoria Rivermen, going 24-12-4 in 43 games; then going 6-4 in 10 playoff games. Heinz was able to get the James Norris Memorial Trophy for fewest goals against in the IHL. Also, Heinz played in two games for the Blues, but only in relief appearances and no record recorded.

As a free agent, Heinz would play the 1985-86 in Salt Lake, but in the IHL this time around. In his 52 games, Heinz finished with a 22-20-0 record, then 1-4 in five playoff games, while also playing one game in the AHL with the Binghamton Whalers, which was a loss. The 1986-87 season would have Heinz go 29-20-0 in 51 games with Salt Lake, then going 12-4 in the playoffs, helping the Golden Eagles win the Turner Cup the season. Heinz would go out on top and retire after the championship.

After his career, Heinz went on to start his own goalie school, which manifest itself into an all around hockey school that has taught many college and minor pro goaltenders and NHL skaters. His schools have helped the likes of Marc Savard, Doug Gilmour, and Sean Avery. It is a school that is known all around the world despite having only eight camps in North America throughout the summer.

Though his hardships of not being able to get a solid spot in the NHL, Heinz forged his path in the minors-- taking home many individual awards and three league championships with Salt Lake. He even wrote a book about the hardships of pro hockey. Plus, his knowledge and journey has helped him make a big name for himself for younger players and guys who want to advance their hockey skills.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Where Will Wilson Land??

With his firing, Ron Wilson becomes the belle of the coaching ball and there's plenty of upcoming suitors that will be going after his services. Yet the big onus could be on putting him into the right position in order to have success with any team. Even with that, the playoff success is one that is another question-- especially for a team who may or may not want to actually want to advance further than they have. Wilson has been to the Cup Finals once and Conference Finals once, but other than that-- if his team makes the playoffs, it all ends after round two; which for some teams, won't be enough.

One place that has been under fire for coaching has been the Washington Capitals, a team that Wilson has coached before and took to the Stanley Cup. While Dale Hunter is still learning the ropes as a NHL coach, the demand from the fans and upper management may not fit what Hunter has to offer-- even if given a full off-season to get a game plan going. I tweeted a tongue-in-cheek line about the Caps bringing an old coach back; but apparently-- a buddy of mine at the 5-0 Caps loss to the Devils, said that there was a "We Want Wilson" chant in the Verizon Center.

Now, I don't know if it was in frustration or in jest from the many fans who remember Wilson's tenure-- or just hatred of Hunter's tenure-- but a return to Washington may not be a bad idea in the front, but the playoff issues are of a concern. That said, if Wilson would let the stars of the team be as free-wheeling as they were before the huge system change under Bruce Boudreau-- the odds of being successful could very well be fantastic for the Caps. However, that also buries Hunter and his legacy in DC, making everyone in the situation look horrible.

If not DC, then the other option would possibly be Columbus and the Blue Jackets. While Todd Richards has done a respectable job in the interim as coach, the ability to seize someone like Wilson and help him guide a team like the Blue Jackets may be fantastic for the organization and possible coax Rick Nash to want to stay. Though, Columbus may not be the best fit for Wilson and he may not want to actually be in that market with so many question attached to their future and ability to get players onto the team via free agency.

Two Canadian teams that could go after Wilson may be Montreal and Edmonton. The thing that hinders Wilson for the Canadiens is his possible lack of French, which would make people rise-up in an uproar, despite being the best candidate for the job. Edmonton may be a little more realistic, as Tom Renney could be on his last legs there. The fact that Wilson would inherit a great young core of forwards, he may fit in well with the pick-up of some defensive assets. One final destination could be the New York Islanders, but it seems Charles Wang and Garth Snow could be keen on keeping Jack Capuano behind the bench for the long-term.

While the reality of the situation is that maybe two of these teams would be very interested in having Wilson as a coach, odds are he may not be out on the open market for long. With his coaching abilities and decent track record overall, added to his technological advances behind the bench-- it could be great for a younger team that is on the cusp. Yet, with his inability to get the Maple Leafs over the hump could show that a once great coach could have let the game pass him by and he may not be a fit for any team, regardless of the history that he has.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

On the Topic Of European Hockey Fans

As I have been enthralled with the career travels of Marty Turco this year, I've been putting myself in a position to watch more European hockey, mostly Austrian. Thanks to my buddy Anthony Russell over at Banners on the Wall, I've been able to get the streaming feed. While I haven't been able to understand much of what the commentators are saying (proving that those Rosetta Stone programs will do nothing for me); the atmosphere is something that translates all over the place.

The European hockey fans are those who are actually much more into the game than their North American counterpoints. Most of them are standing up during play, the have percussion instruments and organized chants to keep the energy up, they know what to do in order to get their team going and to maybe distract the other teams. I would say they are a combination of European soccer (or football, as they call it) fans and college basketball student sections-- totally into it regardless of the score or who they are playing, as well as to know the sport on a higher level than casual.

When it comes to the North American fan-- the passion is there, you can see it on Twitter and blogs-- but the actual game atmosphere seems to fall short. I don't know what there is about fans and being as reserved as they are; but with the passion many carry for the game, I am surprised about how little that translates to the live experience. Has the game become "too corporate" that the real fans can't be rowdy as they want to be?? Does the music being at an ungodly level during stoppages kill the fans habits?? Or is it just not accepted across the board from their peers that if fans start to do something out of the ordinary-- they'll be shunned and ridiculed?? Hell, even dance teams-- which are universally shunned in NHL arenas-- are very rampant in European arenas. The common defense is that if fans need to be hyped up like that, they shouldn't be there. Well, I haven't heard much hype in NHL arenas, dance team/ice girls or not.

Regardless of the case, the joy of watching European sports is the passion of it all. Most of these cities don't have much else aside from these teams, so the hysteria could be due to a strong hometown pride to it all; but even so-- would you think that many North American fans would be proud of their teams as much?? I know a lot of minor league fans have a stark pride with their area and would defend their team to the death, as well as tracking former players who made it big and taking credit for it-- which in part they should, because they saw them from a younger age and saw them evolve.  That is a case for the European squads, who have their players who are mostly from the country they play in, take to the fans and the pride. Even the North American players who come over get entrenched in the culture and area and embrace the fans and their passion for the team-- hoping not to let them down.

I should say all North American fans are quiet-- as the US College Hockey scene does have the same atmosphere as the basketball or football counterparts at time. The student sections often have a lot of high energy during the game, as well as marching bands there to give things more of an unique feel to the game to their professional counterparts.

In the end, it's not to say that the North American fans are bad in what they do, as there are a bunch of crazies in every arena trying to hype up the rest of the crowd-- sometimes to no avail, but it just seems that the game would be so much more entertaining in the stands if you had a variety of things going on in the stands while paying attention to the game action. It would also give more of a home-ice advantage to the teams if they had their own drum corps there to hype up the crowd and team. More players may want to play in that kind of atmosphere; but it could also shy some away when it came to trades or free agency.

No clue what the point of this whole thing was.....but.....that goes for most of this blog, huh??