Monday, April 30, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Al Smith

While the last name is a common one, the person and career of the AGMs wasn't. From playing with two teams in a single playoffs to getting picked up in two Intra-League Drafts to moving to the WHA to becoming a taxi driver and writer post-playing career; the term "renaissance man" is very valid. This week, the profile of Al Smith.

Smith started his journey with the Toronto Midget Marlboros in the 1961-62 season, also playing time with the Marlboros' Junior A squad. Between the 1962-63 and 1964-65 seasons, Smith played for the Junior B Lakeshore Maroons. Part of the 1964-65 season, Smith went back to the Marlboros' Junior A squad, as well as spending most of the 1965-66 season with the Marlies.

At the end of the 1965-66 season, Smith was called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would play two games (1-0-0). The 1966-67 season would be a while one, playing one game for Toronto (a loss), but spending most of his time with the Victoria Maple Leafs of the Western League. With Victoria, Smith played 56 games and finished with a 24-26-5 record. The playoffs in the WHL were wild for Smith, as he would play for two teams-- neither were the Victoria team he played for in the regular season. Smith played in six contests for the Vancouver Canucks (1-4-0) and one contest for the California Seals (a loss) in that 1967 playoff season.

The 1967-68 season, Smith moved to the Central League's Tulsa Oilers, finishing with a 23-12-5 record in 40 games, then 2-2 in four playoff games. Smith would only play eight games for Tulsa in the 1968-69 season (no record of note), while playing seven games to Toronto (2-2-1), but would spend most of the season in the AHL for the Rochester Americans, compiling a 13-12-7 record in 34 games.

During the 1969 Intra-League Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins claimed Smith from the Leafs. Smith played in 46 games during the 1969-70 season for the Penguins, finishing with a 15-20-8 record. Smith also played three games for the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL that season. In the 1969-70 season, Smith stayed in Pittsburgh for the full campaign, going 9-22-9 in his 46 games.

Smith was claimed in the 1971 Intra-League Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, spending the 1971-72 season with Detroit and finishing with a 18-20-4 record.

The WHA came onto the scene in the 1972 and Smith was selected by the New England Whalers. Not happy with his position in Detroit, Smith joined the Whalers for the 1972-73 season, going 31-19-1, while finishing with a 12-3 playoff record to help the Whalers win the first ever Avco World Trophy, despite the trophy not being completed yet. Smith returned to the Whalers in the 1973-74 season, putting together a 30-21-2 record in 55 games and only a 3-4 playoff record. The 1974-75 season has Smith play in 59 contests and record a 33-21-4 record and 2-4 playoff mark.

The Red Wings traded Smith's rights to the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline in 1975, but Smith wouldn't play for the Sabres until the 1975-76 season; going 9-3-2 in only 14 games. The 1976-77 season saw Smith play only seven games and an 0-3-0 record.

Becoming a free agent, Smith moved back to the WHA and the New England Whalers starting in the 1977-78 season, playing in 55 games and putting up a 30-20-3 record, but an 0-2 playoff record. Smith would win the Ben Hastkin Trophy for WHA Best Goaltender and named to the WHA First All-Star Team. The 1978-79 season would be a little rougher for Smith, playing in only 40 games with a 17-17-5 record and then a 1-2 playoff record.

As the WHA and NHL merged, Smith followed the Whalers to Hartford and would play 30 games in the 1979-80 season, going 11-10-8. Smith also played two games with the AHL's Springfield Indians and would put up a 1-1-0 record.

Smith would be traded to the Colorado Rockies for cash before the 1980-81 season, where Smith would go 9-18-4 record in 37 games with the Rockies. After that season, Smith would retired from the NHL.

Post playing days, Smith went to BC to sell cars and pick fruit as well as trying to sell the Reuters news service to various clients. When he moved back to Toronto, Smith wrote "Confessions to Anne Sexton", which was turned into a small performance piece. Smith also was a taxi driver while he was writing to make ends meet. While working on another piece called "The Tragedy of Lake Tuscarora", Smith fell ill with pancreatic cancer, which he would succumb to in August of 2002.

While he bounced around a lot of places, Smith finally found his niche in the WHA. While he did only play there for five years-- he revitalized a career that may have ended a lot sooner if it wasn't for a new league to help him out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

On the Topic Of....The World Hockey Championships

While the Stanley Cup playoffs are on-going, another big tournament is happening. While it's not the "Holy Grail" of hockey, the World Championships is something that is often overlooked because it doesn't get too much publicity in the North American side of the globe, but this year's tourney holds a lot of weight to it.

Outside of the fact that there will be some bigger name NHLers there than usual, this tournament is the one that will determine which teams will make it into the Olympics and where they will be seeded in Sochi in 2014. Considering that only the top NINE teams will automatically make it into the Olympics out of the 12 nations playing, that'll leave three teams to battle with other 20 that have declared in order to see if they'll get into the Olympic games.

Of course, the fact that this really the professional equivalent of the the NIT tournament that college basketball has really makes this tournament a little dull for some people. Yet, that's only in North America.

The European fans are really nationalistic when it comes to this tournament. It's a big deal for them and they will come out in droves to support their home nations. A lot of European NHLers see the World Championship right up there with the Stanley Cup because they grew up thinking it was the biggest deal out there. That's why a lot of them really want to play in the Olympics, especially the Russians, because it's a big honor to play for the country, more than what the North Americans see it as.

Even so, it should be an interesting World Championship, even while the old guard of the NHLers-- Teemu Selanne, (maybe) Daniel Alfredsson [scratch that], and (maybe) Nicklas Lidstrom-- what it lacks in memorable names will leave the door open for younger players to get noticed and for some of the more underdog nations (like Slovakia) to jump up and surprise some people with their performance. You'll see a lot of teams with young talent, Canada really leading the way with draft-eligible Ryan Murray invited to camp and John Tavares, PK Subban, and others being on the roster already.

Yet, the question remains on whether the players make the tournament good or the tournament makes the players good. The Olympics busted out the likes of Tore Vikingstad and Mats Zuccarello-Aasan come alive from Norway to not only put their names out there-- but the country of Norway on the map for an emerging hockey nation. This is another place for players to really break out against top-level talent and it could make their stock go up and have them get NHL contracts as a result. That's a selling point to watch right there.

Of course, most people won't be able to watch the action from Finland and Sweden with the games being early in the morning and people working or sleeping will make them miss it, but it's always nice to have if you need some break from your work life and won't get caught if you find a feed of the game somewhere.

It may not be the Stanley Cup and it may remember a Mario Kart trophy, but in the end-- it is a meaningful achievement for some players, especially when it comes to actually representing your country.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Predictions For Round Two

So after the 16 overtimes in the first round, a record, the second round really has to bring something special to the table in order to actually top its opening act. While there's plenty of chess-matches out west, the east is very wild in their match-ups, harkening back to the olden days of the Patrick Division. Now, how to pick them-- especially after the 5-3 record in the first round, no exactas either.



This is the third time in four playoffs these two teams will face off, the Caps winning each series. And while the roles are reversed in terms of seeding, the main players are still the same. Henrik Lundqvist is always going to be the determining factor in most of the Rangers' games, while Alex Ovechkin will be piping mad from the first round and may want to prove the pundits wrong on the world's biggest stage at Madison Square Garden.

With what the Caps showed in Round One, this series could be a grind-fest of a series with things won or lost on the boards. Dale Hunter and John Tortorella could set a record for least amount of time spent on a podium in hopes they don't get fined.

PREDICTION: Capitals in Six. They showed a lot of moxy against the Stanley Cup champions and may have gotten a swagger back enough to take the Rangers for a third time in four years.


Two Atlantic Division foes taking on each other will help with the no love loss in the playoffs thing. However, with Claude Giroux's explosion in Round One and the Flyers getting help from all aspects of the offense, it could make a rough series for Martin Brodeur and the Devils. Yet, the Devils are always up for the challenge, hoping to get more out of Adam Henrique and keep Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk going. With the issues Ilya Bryzgalov has had in the playoffs, one domino may be all that's needed for the Devils.

It could be a tighter game for the Flyers, especially since they know how defensive the Devils can be, so seeing their wide-open game could be just a first-round-mirage, but the rest time could be what they need to adapt.

PREDICTION: Flyers in Five. Despite the long lay-off, the Devils will be tired out and with their goaltending being on the older age scale, it could be a task for them to actually be competitive.



Well, this could be.....a long series. Emotionally and mentally draining. Not so much for fast game play, but for the chess match that will be going along with it all. The battle between Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott will be something that keeps these games to 0-0 for the longest times. This could be a closer series than the Bruins/Capitals and the defense will be something to behold. It will be exciting even without the scoring, I'm sure.

Both squads will need their best players to keep going-- Dustin Brown may not be enough for the Kings, as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter need to get off the snide. The Blues will need to get more from TJ Oshie and David Perron, though Andy McDonald's eight points in five games could be a great start for his Conn Smythe bid.

PREDICTION: Blues in Six. While I like the Kings set-up and how they're able to keep things going-- the fact remains the Blues seem more of a complete team to me and will breakdown the Kings defense better than the Canucks did.


A battle between the last two teams that Jim Balsillie tried to buy, this other Western match-up will be a battle of the dueling goalies-- Pekka Rinne, who is a solid Vezina contender, and Mike Smith, the best statistical goalie since March. While Rinne has the advantage in terms of experience, we have seen that experience doesn't count for much in the playoffs this year.

At the end of the day, the dynamics that the Predators have, especially with Alexander Radulov coming on in a big way, the Coyotes may need to hope their luck from the first round keeps going and that their top players don't have the bumps and bruises they got against the Hawks.

PREDICTION: Predators in Five. With the scoring coming from unlikely sources and goaltending being solid, the Predators are a team that really want to get over the hump they have been dealing with for years.

Thanks For Coming Out, Florida Panthers

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

For a team that was a majority of trades and free agents, the chemistry of the Panthers was something to be seen. It all seemed to come together and while they played in a weak division, they made the most of the chances they were given. Now, they have momentum to build off of.

Goaltending is an interesting topic, as Jose Theodore still has a year left on his contract-- which we all know is the best for Theodore since he always plays well in contract years-- but Jacob Markstrom could be ready to take over the Panthers net. Though, do you give Theodore another look or is it time to move a rookie in net in order to see what happens with the future of the team??

The defense has a nice mix of youth and experience, with the experience tied into contracts for the long-term. Ed Jovanovski is a great teacher for the likes of Erik Gudbranson and Dmitri Kulikov; while Brian Campbell can play the role of middle man when it comes to transition. Campbell is a guy who could make or break a defense and it seems he's working well in Kevin Dineen's system, which bodes well of all involved.

With the Panthers young core of offensive power, it's easy to see how many would be threatened with their ability to score if they wanted to. Tomas Fleischmann had a great comeback year from a serious health condition, while Kris Versteeg helped his cause for a new contract. Especially with Jonathan Huberdeau in the juniors coming through the system, they'll just be getting better. Plus, the well-rounded players in Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim will prove to give the Panthers depth come next season.

All-in-all, the Panthers really burst onto the scene in a big way, but the point for them now is to not fade off into the sunset. They have the motivation and know what it takes to get to the playoffs and win-- which means that they can either be content with what they have or keep going after it. With Kevin Dineen at the helm, you know that the latter is the only option.

Thanks For Coming Out, Ottawa Senators

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

You can't really blame the Senators for going out in the fashion they did. The team that wasn't supposed to do anything this season were the 8th seed and took the top team in the East to a seventh game and lost by only a goal. For a young team without much of an identity, it's a great learning experience.

But was it too much of a learning experience?? Paul MacLean really went crazy with inserting youngsters into the line-up for the Senators in the playoffs. Sure, it was good to have Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg get some NHL time and bring some "fresh" legs (despite both playing a full season prior), trying to mess with chemistry late into a series is something that's usually a deathwish for a coach. It won't hurt MacLean, but it will make some question his motives after this season.

When you look at the youth of the Senators, there's a lot of guys who will be aiming for limit spots. One of the big battles will be the right to back-up Craig Anderson. Both Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop show a lot of promise, but which one will be the guy and will they actually like being in the NHL despite not getting much playoff time??

Defensively, the emergence of Erik Karlsson continues to be a big thing, which is great for the likes of Jared Cowen and Matt Gilroy to see that the young players can be a great contributor. Though, with the old guard still there-- Sergei Gonchar, Filip Kuba, and Chris Phillips-- the transition period won't be as rough; though it's no transition, just one era to another.

All of these things pale in comparison to what's going to happen with Daniel Alfredsson. Many people believe he is beyond-human and could very well play a couple more seasons-- but with the injuries he's had in the past few seasons (concussion, major back surgery), is this this last hurrah for the greatest modern-day Senators ever?? Time will tell and some will be impatient when it comes to waiting.

The Senators really beat all the odds when it came to the playoffs-- getting there and doing as well as they did. They have a bright future so long as the team is treated the proper way in terms of development and continued growth. And, they have a coach with a bitchin' moustache-- which helps.

Thanks For Coming Out, Boston Bruins

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

While it's getting harder and harder to repeat as Stanley Cup champion, you have to wonder if it's getting much harder to actually stay in the first round, as the Bruins become the second straight Cup winner to be bounced in the first round the next season.

The Bruins just ran into a gritty, tough.....Capitals team?? Alright then. The point is that this really was a series that could have went to either team and the Bruins didn't get the right bounce. That said, you have to wonder what kind of bounces were needed when the spark from the key guys weren't there.

When you have Rich Peverley as the leading scorer, you have to shake your head at why the likes of Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, and David Krejci aren't on the top of that list. You could even though Patrice Bergeron on that list, though he did have a wrist injury; which could account for his lack of production. Even so, was the Caps defense that stingy or what was Bruins offense that ineffective?? It really makes you wonder how invaluable having a healthy Nathan Horton in the line-up could mean to a team like Boston.

Defensively, there's not much to say except that when you have Joe Corvo and Greg Zanon out there on the ice at any given moment, you have fans holding their breath, despite Corvo somehow being a +3 for the series. That said, the force of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg was enough to keep Alex Ovechkin off the ice for long haul, but wasn't enough to help keep the pucks out of the net for the Bs.

Speaking of keeping the pucks out of the net, Tim Thomas is apparently on the bad list for Bruins fans, because of the fact he didn't take the team to another Stanley Cup. And while Tuukka Rask could be ready to go for the starter's spot, do the Bruins actually keep Thomas or maybe see what they can get for him?? Thomas's NMC/NTC expires on July 1st and he could actually get moved during the summer; but he could be retained because of the experience he brings to the entire crew.

In the end, there's not much to be down about for Bruins fans, because while they're at a low point now, they still have the high point of last season-- which is more than other fan bases can say. While it's disappointing, at least the Red Sox and Celtics are still going strong....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thanks For Coming Out, Chicago Blackhawks

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

If there's a bright spot to Game Six is that at least it didn't go into overtime. 

Yet, the Chicago Blackhawks exit in the first round again with their goaltending being put into question and their scorers not being able to solve a solid goalie. However, the big thing to it all was the undisciplined nature that threw the Hawks the most. If nothing else, the play of Andrew Shaw hitting Mike Smith set a tone which included the thuggery of Raffi Torres taking out Marian Hossa-- which the Hawks could have used for these games-- especially at home.

That said, if you lose in front of your home crowd three times, odds are you aren't going to go far anyway.

Corey Crawford looked very indecisive at times, not seeing many shots and the ones he did see went right past him. Ray Emery could have been a little switch-up/wake-up call for the team, but the moustache of Joel Quenneville seemed to have known better when he's between yelling at the referees. Though, Crawford is there for a couple more years and maybe this is going to be motivation for him to get better as he went through last year as an unknown and then established himself later on. 

While the Hawks did have their scoring spread around, the fact remains that they couldn't get their top guys the ability to score, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane did all they could, but couldn't find a way. Though they could have used Marian Hossa, I doubt he was going to be much of a factor if the other top guys couldn't score. 

The blueline scoring was almost as unseen as the forwards, but Johnny Oduya came to play....or something. The fact Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook couldn't get going is a bit alarming, but at the same time-- no one on the Hawks seemed to pick up the motivation in order to shut the door of the Desert Dogs. 

All-in-all, a one possible dynasty is out in the first round again, searching for what went wrong and what to do to adjust. When you run into a hot goalie, though, sometimes you just have to take the loss and hope next time you're able to crack him faster. And maybe Vince Vaughn could come out for a game...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thanks For Coming Out, Vancouver Canucks

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something)  

After the miracle run from last season, things were looking up for the Canucks with their President Trophy win for their season. They were going against the Los Angeles Kings, who were the least scoring playoff team out there in the playoffs, and it looked like a good tune-up for the march.

Boy, was that a bad assumption.

On the hot seat again was Roberto Luongo, who was replaced after Game Two and let Cory Schneider take the reigns and pretty much steal his spot. Schneider played one less game and let up three fewer goals than Luongo did. With Bobby-Lu having almost another decade on his contract and Schneider being a RFA this summer-- the Canucks will have a lot of questions in the cage.

Though, you can't pin it all on goaltending. Only Kevin Bieksa, Aaron Rome, and Chris Tanev were no minuses in the five game series, though they were an even rating overall and Rome only played one game. A goalie is only as good as the team in front of him, which didn't seem to be good enough for Luongo to actually achieve what he needed to do.

Offensively, the Canucks did miss the presence of Daniel Sedin, but they weren't able to actually pick up the slack like they could have done. The Kings defense was able to stop whatever offense they may have tried to create. Many thought it was a non-effort, but at the same time-- could have run into a tough team. Even so, you would think the role guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows would be able to pick up the slack and be the folk-hero players they became.

It's almost as if this was a team that actually wasn't properly prepared and thought that they were the top-seed overall in the league that they'd have a cake-walk throughout the first round. The team themselves will have to re-examine themselves after knowing the highs of last season's run and now the lows of this season's short run. There's going to be questions abound and then trying to actually get stuff better rather than keeping the status quo will be the true task.

Absurd Goalie Monday, Garry Bauman

From stand-out to stand-in to stand-up man, this week's AGM went through the usual turn most AGMs on here have done. However, in the end-- he taught the youth that came after him nothing about pucks and sticks and more applied knowledge that may occur in everyday life. This week, the profile of Garry Bauman.

Starting out his trek, Bauman played the Saskatchewan Junior League for the Prince Albert Mintos, playing 80 games over the 1958-59 and 1959-60 seasons. After not going the Major Junior route, Bauman moved onto the NCAA system, playing for the Michigan Tech Huskies starting in the 1961-62 season, where he would go 24-1-0 in 25 games, helping the Huskies win the NCAA National Championship. Bauman also earned NCAA West First-Team All-American honors, NCAA All-Tournament Team, and WCHA First All-Star Team honors. After a big start to his career, Bauman hoped to keep up the amazing play, but would fall short in the 1962-63 season, finishing with a 16-9-1 record, while ending out his college career with a 12-12-0 record in 24 games in the 1963-64 season. Bauman's save percentage (.916) and longest winning-streak (16 wins) still stand as record for Michigan Tech.

After college, Bauman signed with the Montreal Canadiens, who placed him in the Central League's Omaha Knights for the 1964-65 season, where he would attain a 22-16-5 record in 43 games, as well as going 2-4 in six playoff matches. The 1965-66 season saw Bauman move up to the AHL with the Quebec Aces, getting ample playing time with 52 appearances and a 36-11-4 record to show for it, going 2-4 in the playoffs again. Bauman played most of the 1966-67 season with the Aces, going 21-15-4 in 40 appearances, but would also get time with the Canadiens, going 1-1-0 in his two games there.

However, the best part about Bauman's call up is that he was afforded the chance to play in the All-Star Game that season, which was held for the first time mid-season since the original All-Star Game, which was to benefit Ace Bailey. Also, the previous Stanley Cup champions played a team of stars from other teams, which meant that Bauman got to play. Though it was only for 20 minutes, he stopped all 10 shots he faced. He and his goaltending partner Charlie Hodge are the only goalies to record a shutout in an All-Star Game.

Over the summer, six more expansion teams came into the NHL. Bauman was picked up in the Expansion Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, where he would play in the 1967-68 season, going a dismal 4-13-5 in 26 games, while also seeing time in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, losing two games in only three appearances. The 1968-69 season wasn't as stellar for Bauman either, as he would only play seven times for the North Stars (0-2-1), before being sent to the Central League's Memphis South Stars-- playing in six games there.

After taking a year off from hockey, Bauman returned to his native Alberta, playing for the Calgary Stampeders of the Alberta Senior League. He would play there for two season (1970-71 and 1971-72) before retiring for good.

With his hockey career done, Bauman went into teaching, at the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks, Alberta. He stayed there until his retirement in 1999. He taught math and sciences at the school. However, cancer would claim Bauman's life in 2006, but the memory of his good deeds off the ice will live on.

His career was short, but left a lasting memory in some circles. While going on a scholarship to college to having a cup of coffee in the NHL, moving onto teaching children how achieve their academic best-- Bauman would probably remember more fondly onto the off-ice side than any achievements on the ice.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thanks For Coming Out, Pittsburgh Penguins

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

This is what happens when you pick a team with a tough first-round match-up to win the Stanley Cup-- right every expert under the sun?? The Pittsburgh Penguins are gone just like that. Their goaltending looking porous, their offense being hit-and-miss, the defense playing like pylons, and the tempers of the team getting much out of hand, throwing them off their game.

Starting from the goaltending, Marc-Andre Fleury looked more like an Oreo McFlurry out there on the ice, getting peppered and scored on at will most nights. While he was able to hold the Flyers to only five goals over games Four and Five, the fact he let in 21 in his other four appearances doesn't make him look like that Stanley Cup winning goalie everyone raved so much about.

Granted, he didn't get much help from his blueline, as his defense got walked around and abused more often than not. Though the plus/minus won't show it, the defense for the Penguins was horrific at best. Even with Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek back there, it didn't do much to stop the onslaught.

The only bright spot for the Pens could be the fact the offense scored their share, with eight players at or above a point-per-game clip and the superstars being the superstars when called upon. Yet, it's not much condolence for the NHL that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are out, as they are part of the premier team the NHL seems to enjoy showing off on a national stage, but it should also allow some other teams to get press....unless Crosby does something crazy like retire.

Even so, the fact that most of the hockey world is ecstatic for the the elimination of the Penguins so early will give many people the enjoyability of watching hockey once again without having to hear about what Sidney Crosby is having for an off-day meal and how good the Pens were in that four-minute clip of not letting in a goal. The hockey world can breathe again and enjoy learning new players that may have gotten lost in the fold because of the Western Pennsylvania contingency

Thanks For Coming Out, San Jose Sharks

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

There was a time where every year, people thought the San Jose Sharks had what it needed to win the Stanley Cup. And it's not just there, there's been plenty others before them. Even so, the Sharks again have underachieved this season, falling short of their goal and look ahead to a long summer in the Bay.

With this latest early exit, the clock has to be ticking for Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan. Wilson, for sure, will be on the hot seat, as he has been with the team for years and while coming close to the Finals a couple of times-- never reached it. His message to ownership may be getting stale, which could mean a regime change for the Sharks.

This is also a team that has too much money wrapped up in too few players, having over $55M wrapped up in only 14 players. While some of their young guns are RFA in the summer, the odds of the Sharks trying to move Patrick Marleau will be high this off-season. Sure, Marleau does have a no-movement clause, but you have to wonder if there's going to be much convincing needed for him to maybe lift it and move elsewhere. Joe Thornton won't go anywhere and it seems Martin Havlat has been poisonous with moving every off-season, which could mean teams aren't going to fall for it anymore....but a sucker is born every minute.

Even with goaltender Antti Niemi back there, the Sharks weren't able to summon the magic he had back in the 2010 playoffs. Even still, Niemi played a decent regular season-- helping a pretty mediocre 7th spot, while also making sure he was the main guy by pretty much running Antero Niittymaki out of town. This is Niemi's team and he really doesn't have anyone to blame but himself if there are short-comings in net.

At the end of the day, the Sharks are just being the Sharks. Much like other teams with high expectations in the pre-season, the results are less than to be desired. This is a season to forget for the Sharks and could start their possible downfall, but a new man at the helm could possible end this tailspin and right this ship.

Thanks For Coming Out, Detroit Red Wings

(While many have their obtiuaries for teams eliminated.....I'll do the same thing, but in a different/same way as others. How is that going to happen?? Well, I don't know until I do them.This all meant in good fun and to really make you think....or something) 

This is what happens when you go to the well too many times against a team you have beaten so easily in playoffs past. You lose to the team who had a better goalie, younger defense, and timely scorers. It's odds how the top guys on your team in scoring didn't even make much of a peep in the post-season.

Yet, the biggest thing that will trouble the Red Wings this off-season is not another early exit-- it's the question of whether or not the captain of the team will make his triumphant exit or not. It's safe to say the Nicklas Lidstrom has done it all for his team and for his country and for hockey in general. The long he draws out his career, the longer and harder it'll be for Red Wings fans to deal with life without him on the ice. It's almost time to maybe give him a little nudge when it comes to retirement and maybe even a swift kick in order to get other guys in there to ease the transition. Sure, Lidstrom could still play-- but would he want to??

Another topic is what to do with Jimmy Howard. It was another uneasy playoff for him, as he went out quickly and maybe make people wonder about if he can do it in the second-season. The regular season side of things is fine for him, but when all is said and done-- is it really a great season if you make a early exit from when it really matters??

Sure, the Red Wings have the talent, but you almost wonder if the team is as dynamic as some think they actually are. Granted, Pavel Datsyuk missed some time with injuries and the scoring was spread around-- but when you can't get much out of your role guys in the playoffs and have more defensive liabilities than attributes playing key minutes (Todd Bertuzzi and Justin Abdelkader)-- it's a bad sign. Heck, Tomas Holmstrom averaged only nine minutes a game and still was top-three in scoring.

It'll be gut-check time for this team in the summer. The first team to be eliminated and the first team who will have fans questioning coach Mike Babcock and his moves, as well as the players on the team. That all said, there's many more out there who couldn't be happier and know it couldn't have happened to a better team.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On the Topic Of...Jim Hughson's Bias

At one point in time, a lot of people enjoyed Jim Hughson and his call of hockey games. He was the voice of EA's NHL franchise for years and many people noticed him outside of that platform because of it. Even still, his good games outweigh the bad games he has had. Yet, somewhere along the way, people started to hate on him and his bias.

Of course, this is something that is going to be a topic for debate when he is one of the main guys on the main programs of Canadian hockey telecasts. The more and more you hear him, the more and more people will be worn out by him. That said, it seems that more people are upset when Hughson does the Vancouver Canucks games over other games he gets on there.

Yet, you look at where Hughson came from to be on CBC-- it's obvious why he has the bias for the Canucks that he has. You see, Hughson used to be the radio voice of the Canucks and then Rogers Sportsnet's Canucks play-by-play announcer from 1998 until 2005 when he left for CBC. Even at CBC, he was part of the late-game team, which would mean more Canucks games for him to call. Hughson even worked with the Canucks in the early '80s before leaving to be the Toronto Maple Leafs' broadcaster and then to TSN.

It makes you wonder why CBC would do something like that-- getting a specific teams former primary announcer to be part of the telecasts. They had to know that Hughson would still feel some kind of vested interested in the club that helped him get to that point and know that he would almost sound like he was calling a home game rather than a national telecast.

Plus, it's quite the take-off from the Hockey Night in Canada practice, who don't usually have play-by-play guys come from a specific teams. With Hughson rah-rahing the Canucks for the past couple of playoff seasons, you have to wonder if it's fair for him to that heat when he used to be the Canucks' guy for the longest time. If anything, the heat should be on CBC, especially with them knowing that others out there would be able to do the same job, just as well, but with little to no bias. Of course, when they lost Chris Cuthbert to TSN; they had to do something drastic and it seemed that Hughson was the answer.

And while you could make up excuses until the cows come home, the fact remains that CBC, Hockey Night in Canada, and Hughson are going have many fans up in arms with the games they do as one entity. Especially when you have to have nationalistic pride when it comes to Canadian teams on the Canadian broadcaster-- there's a fine line between supporting the team from the country and sounding like a homer.

Even with all of that, I don't expect Hughson to change or for CBC to want him to change. Hughson still is a solid announcer, even with the bias he has. CBC knows they will need someone to be the premier guy and with Hughson's notoriety; he's going to be their guy for years to come. Therefore, if you like CBC's broadcast, but hate Hughson-- there's a couple options: 1. Turn down the TV sound and listen to music, 2. Go to the CBC website and listen to the Punjabi broadcast or 3. Go to the NBC family of networks and hope that you don't get tired of Doc Emrick.  

Absurd Goalie Monday: Bernie Wolfe

While we usually do players with unusually short careers, this week's AGM is very unusually short. Coming from utter obscurity to splitting duties for one of the worse teams in the league to retiring to trying to be signed again for an expansion draft to financial planner. With the revelation that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is now a certified financial planner, this guy could add him him to his stable if need be. This week, the profile of Bernie Wolfe.

Playing for Sir George Williams Univeristy in the Quebec University Athletic Association, Wolfe would garner First-Team All-Star honors in the 1971-72 season and 1973-74 season, while earning First-Team All-Star honors for all of the Canaidan Interuniversity Athletic Union in the 1973-74 season

Wolfe moved onto the pro ranks, being signed by the expansion Washington Capitals in October of 1974, but would be playing in the North American League for the Maine Nordiques, going 19-17-1 in 40 games. At the tail-end of the 1974-75 season, Wolfe would be called up to the Richmond Robins of the AHL, finishing with a 6-7-2 record in 17 games, the going 3-4 in the playoffs.

The 1975-76 season saw Wolfe play only three games in Richmond (2-0-0) before getting a call up to the Capitals, where he would play 40 games and compile a 5-23-7 record on the hapless Caps. A viral infection hampered the start of Wolfe's 1976-77 season, but when he was better-- Wolfe only went 7-15-9 in 37 appearances.

Wolfe would start the 1977-78 season with the AHL's Hershey Bears, winning all three games he appeared in. He would get the call-up to the Caps and would appear in 25 games for Washington, but only record a dismal 4-14-4 record. The 1978-79 season, Wolfe took one last kick at the can for the Caps, but after going 4-9-1 in 18 games-- Wolfe decided to move on from his hockey career and into something else.

The good thing about Wolfe is that he planned out his future well. He started his own financial planning practice in the Washington DC area and earned his Certified Financial Planner designation in 1981. As he continues to run Bernard R. Wolfe and Associates in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Wolfe has been able to create a very successful life after hockey. His firm was recognized by the Washingtonian Magazine in 2009 and 2010 as one of the top financial firms in the area, which was voted amongst his peers.

An interesting note, however, is that Wolfe had a short, short "comeback." The Capitals had to release one of their goalies for the 1992 Expansion Draft, but didn't feel like it. They scrambled to find a dispensable goalie in order to keep the ones they had. The Caps tried to sign Wolfe, but the NHL had denied it as Wolfe had been retired for over a decade at that point. One of the owners of the expansion teams, Phil Esposito of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had this great quote about Wolfe, saying: "I didn't just pay $50 million for Bernie Wolfe. He wasn't any good when I played against him." The Caps then signed Steve Weeks just to release him.

While he only played 120 games, Wolfe had the wherewithal to actually keep his mind going and look to the future beyond hockey. Lucky for him, it worked out amazingly and he's got himself a stellar life going for himself now. Maybe he could teach Chara a thing or two when he needs a helping hand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quick and Dirty Playoff Picks: Round One

I could bore you with all the breakdowns, analysis, and other crap that some have come up with for their predictions-- but it's be silly and really not my style. So, short, sweet, and down to it-- that's how I roll.


Prediction: Rangers in Six
Reason: While the Sens have been a Cinderella in the East, the Rangers have the goaltending and intangibles. That said, I expect the Sens to steal a game at home, but the Rangers will be too much.

Prediction: Bruins in Six
Reason: The Caps have struggled all year and you can't really bet against the Cup champs, even if Tim Thomas is in Barack Obama's house. Plus, the Caps goalie duo is an injured Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby with Dany Sabourin in the wings.

Prediction: Devils in Five
Reason: The Panthers hobbled down the stretch and their goaltending is a little suspect at best. The Devils will have too much offense for the Panthers to handle.

Prediction: Flyers in Seven
Reason: The Flyers will beat and bang the Pens into submission, even with the stars the Pens have-- the Flyers physicality will be the story of this series.


Prediction: Canucks in Six
Reason: One of the better goaltending match-ups in the first round, the Kings don't have the offense to help out Jonathan Quick. Roberto Luongo may get a little shaky, but will bounce back.

Prediction: Blues in Six
Reason: Defensively, the Blues are solid and should be able to take away any offense the Sharks could bring up. If they can get to Antti Niemi, all the better.

Prediction: Blackhawks in Five
Reason: The Hawks will be back healthy and since they played in one of the competitive divisions in the league-- should be battle tested. Mike Smith may have peaked with his solid play too early.

Prediction: Predators in Six
Reason: The Preds are not only due, but probably one of the more complete teams they've had. They have the tools, the confidence, now to get over the Wings hurdle.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Bett and Bals": Move Hitting the Eye Like a Big Pizza Guy

In the wake of Boston Pizza CEO Jim Treliving's possible tongue-in-cheek implication (skip to the nine minute mark) he could be kicking the tires for the Phoenix Coyotes (which his son is the assistant GM for), it's time to get the take on the two bobbleheads of this blog. Especially considering that the City of Glendale is able to be on "Ghost Town" watch, it could take a Canadian pizza guy to save the day.

(Gary Bettman sits on the couch as the Jim Balsillie comes in from the kitchen)

Gary Bettman: I mean, look-- they got these new all-meat wings with 18 flavors.

Jim Balsillie: Aren't all wing meat?? And who needs that much flavor??

GB: The point is this, they won't make any bones about their wings or their possible bid.

JB: That's a terrible pun, but they really haven't made a bid. Treliving is a guy who was put on the spot by a guy who turned VJ to intellectual CBC host. Honestly, how can you trust a guy saying something on a late-night, public broadcasting show that own a company that has a city that's never once been connected to pizza.

GB: But it's hope, Jim-boy. We haven't has much of that since the last guy ditched us for St. which he couldn't follow through on that either.

JB: I mean clam chowder, sure-- but pizza?? They had a Boston cheesesteak at one point, that totally doesn't make sense.

GB: Even if it's from a guy who may or may not be serious because his kid's job is involved-- it's something we haven't had public for a while. Granted, we could have some nepotism going on-- but that worked out in Colorado, right??

JB: Hell, I could even see if lobster or seafood in general; but pizza??

GB: FOCUS, 'Sillie. We have a chance to turn this thing around. They've got two franchises down there already, we've got a Canadian tie-in without actually moving the team to Canada and have me looking miserable as I hand over the keys.

JB: While that may be, who's to say that they can come up with all these gimmicks to keep generating money to keep the team in town?? If you relocate the team, you cut ties to the anchor that has drained the city of money and screws over that whole revenue sharing thing you have in place for some teams. Heck, the other team in town is thinking of suing the city-- it's a mess and do you really want to clean it up??

GB: If I sell the team in time and hurry up the transition, it's not my problem anymore. Let the crazy pizza guy do it for himself. Maybe have 17 stores around the arena or something, I don't know. I'd rather not move this team, but if I can't get my money one way or another-- we've got to ship them somewhere.

JB: Yet, this has been a five-year plan in to almost a decade. Or at least it feels that way. It's past the point of mockery, it's past the point of hilarity, it's to the point of sadness and wanting it to end-- like SNL at times.

GB: They got Russ Tyler on there now-- he's good.

JB: Fair enough. The crazy part of this is it seems you're trying to make a point and it's not working. Atlanta moved like a thief in the night and still the Coyotes are just there waiting for something. Do you think people care anymore?? Everyone just wants this to be done because we're tired of this, it's run its course and now-- time to crap or get off the pot.

(Bettman's computer goes off, "You've Got  Mail")

JB: (Looking confused) Who uses AOL anymore??

GB: Shut it-- see, this person loves the Coyotes and enjoys the efforts. Huh, there's even an attachment....

Judge Redfield T. Baum: (Through the computer) T-BOMB!!!!!!!!

GB: GAH POP-UPS!!!! (Falls over off the couch)

JB: And there you have it.....we still find a way.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Yves Belanger

There's times that goalies in these AGMs have a great minor league career and have a renaissance in their career during their minor league tenures and parlay it to some success in the NHL. This isn't one of them, as the time in the NHL for this week's AGM wouldn't be the best and wouldn't have the steam he had in the minor leagues. This week's profile is of the career of Yves Belanger.

Belanger started with the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Castors starting in the 1969-70 season, playing 50 games and recording a 20-25-2 record. During the 1970-71 season, Belanger went 22-17-0 in 49 appearances, while going 2-5 in nine playoff games. Belanger spent one more season with Sherbrooke in the 1971-72 campaign, sporting a 19-19-0 record in 43 games.

After his final junior year, Belanger was signed by the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders, but went to their affiliate, the Syracuse Blazers of the Eastern League, where he would play 38 games. He would winning five by shutout, and would help the Blazers in the final Walker Cup of the fledgling league. During awards time, Belanger won the George L. Davis, Jr. Trophy for fewest goals against and got First Team All-Star honors. In the 1973-74 season, Belanger moved to the AHL's Jacksonville Barons and would put up a 17-27-4 record in 54 games.

In a twist of events, the Crusaders traded Belanger to the NHL's St. Louis Blues for cash before the 1974-75 season. Belanger played only 11 games for the Blues that season, going 6-3-2; but would spend most of the season with the Central League's Denver Spurs for 36 games, compiling a 19-13-3 record in 36 games. The 1975-76 season placed Belanger with the Blues, finishing with 11-17-1 record in 31 games, as well as spending 10 games with the AHL's Providence Reds for 10 games, going 3-4-3 and then losing both his playoff appearances. Belanger honed his craft in the Central League for the 1976-77 season with the Kansas City Blues, playing in 31 games and posting a 21-4-4 record-- allowing Belanger to get the Terry Sawchuk Trophy for fewest goals against and First Team All-Star honors. That season, Belanger also played in St. Louis, going 2-0-0 in three games. The 1977-78 season, Belanger started off with St. Louis, losing all three of the games he played before being moved.

Belanger, with Bob MacMillian, Dick Redmond, and a draft pick, were sent to the Atlanta Flames for Phil Myre, Curt Bennett, and Barry Gibbs. With the Flames, Belanger only played 17 games and finished with a 7-8-0 record. That season, he would also spend time with the Central League's Salt Lake Golden Eagles for nine games and finish with a 5-3-0 record. The 1978-79 season saw Belanger in the AHL with the Philadelphia Firebirds, where he would play 22 games and finish with a 4-14-1 record, while playing five games in Atlanta with a 1-2-0 record to show for it.

Before the 1979-80 season, Belanger signed with the Boston Bruins, where he would play only eight games and have a 2-0-3 record. Most of that season would be spent with the Binghamton Dusters of the AHL, where Belanger would sport a 7-13-1 record in his 22 appearances.

From the 1980-81 season, Belanger would go to the Maritimes of Canada, playing in amateur leagues through out Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The teams would include the Charlottetown Islanders, Cap Pele Caps, and Charlottetown GJs before retiring after the 1983-84 season. However, Belanger would make his return with the Charlottetown Islanders in the 1986-87 season prior to retiring for good.

While he had small time success in smaller markets, Belanger didn't seem to crack the NHL with much gusto. Though the minor leagues did help Belanger, it didn't seem to carry over into his call-ups to the big time. However, he did know when to say when and settled down in the amateur leagues to stay somewhat competitive, even if it's not high stakes.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Prop Betting Round One

For many people-- the drinking games have been the ones people on the blogosphere and Twitterverse go crazy about. While I enjoy that, I also enjoy faking like I know how to bet on things and can actually foresee the future. That said, when it comes to these bets-- it's all fake and I have no inside lead; it's a silly gimmick and post. Get over it. So....away we go.

-Over/Under Three and a Half (3.5) mentions during game broadcasts of Tim Thomas blowing off the President when the Bruins go to Washington DC: We all know the famous story of Tim Thomas not going to the White House because of his own political standpoint, but with the Bruins taking on the Capitals-- you can bet that someone will make the note when the Caps are the home squad.

-Moneyline of +1000 if President Barack Obama shows up to a Caps Playoff game: Despite living down the road from the Verizon Center, President Obama hasn't been to a Caps game, despite numerous calls for him to try to get to one. Maybe, as a gimmick, the POTUS could get down to see his local team and maybe stop by the locker rooms afterwords....

-Odds of 7/1 that the Vancouver Canucks will start Roberto Luongo for all of round one's games: The knock on Bobby Lu is that he can't take the pressure that well and is not going to be able to stay stable-- as been shown in past performances. The Canucks are blessed to have two solid keepers, so it's not that bad-- but for a guy who has about a decade left on his contract-- it's a bit troubling.

-Over/Under 10.5 mentions of how the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes are a high seed despite lower points totals: This has happened in the Southeast Division in the past, but this year the Pacific is in the fun as well. Many of the knowledgeable fans will know (and hate) this whole ordeal, but you can bet that some broadcasters will want to look smart and try to inform the viewer constantly.

-Odds of 1/3 that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers series has the most average PIMs per game than any other series: The fact these cross-state rivals just plain don't like each other is clear-- but with their match-up a weekend ago, it'll show that this series will be a brutal one and have the most hatred thrown across it.

-Moneyline of +150 of accusations of Sidney Crosby being a whiner by the Flyers: Craig Berube's comments coupled with what Mike Milbury, John Tortorella, and Don Cherry had said-- it's almost quick money to think that something will come up with this series.

-Over/Under Two and a Half (2.5) Shutouts for the St. Louis Blues: Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been lights out for the Blues and one the main reasons they're the 2nd seed in the West. Especially with playoff season being the season of goalies-- you can bet that tandem will be on their mark, whoever is playing in net.

-Over/Under Six and a Half (6.5) Games of the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings series: The last two playoff meetings between these two teams went six games, with Detroit being the victors in both of those. With this being a solid 4/5 match-up, you can bet it'll be another barnburner for sure.

If you have anything else you want to throw in, go to the comments and make it happen. I'm sure I'll have some kind of preview before the series' start.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hockey in Hoffman Estates Derailed Again

While the spirit of hockey has come back in the Chicagoland area, the fact that some professional leagues try to make a third team work hasn't provided the turn-out some would have thought. For the second time in five season, Craig Drecktrah had to cease operations of a third professional team in the Chicago area. First it was the Chicago Hounds of the old UHL and today, the Chicago Express of the ECHL. Both teams played only one season.

The Express were a team who averaged last in the league for attendance, averaging just over 2,500 in the 8,632 seat Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Also, the Express would have a hard time to actually get 1,000 people into the arena during their week-night games. Drecktrah seemed to have the same issue with the Hounds, mostly for the fact that the Sears Centre management wanted to give the team primarily weekday dates rather than the weekend, which would set the team up for failure for the most part due to work and school and such.

However, with this being the second straight hockey team to fail in that arena and area; it makes you question if it's the arena or the fact there's a lot of teams in the area. Albeit, the Blackhawks are 30 minutes away from Hoffman Estates and the Wolves, based in Rosemont, are 20 minutes away; there could be too many options for hockey fans to choose from and stretch their dollar on. While many hockey fans would love to see as many teams around them as possible, the ability to spend that much on three teams in professional leagues in such a small area. The perk for it all is that it was three different leagues, three different affiliations, and many different teams coming in-- which the variety is great, but again-- as affordable as minor league hockey can be, hard to have loyalty to one side of things or another.

More over than the fans is that you have to actually wonder how viable big metropolitan areas are for multiple hockey teams. Especially in Chicago, where the Wolves would often beat out the attendance of the Blackhawks in the mid-2000s, but trying to force a third team in there just seems to be a set-up for failure right from the start. Heck, the most hardened hockey fans would have issues trying to support all their hockey teams. For a time, the Toronto area had an issue with the NHL and AHL with the Toronto Roadrunners in the 2003-04 season (they would move to Edmonton for the 2004-05 season) and then when the Marlies came to play with the 2005-06, but the Marlies have seemed to have gotten more interest in them and fended for themselves pretty well.

If a Canadian city has difficulties with maintaining two pro hockey teams, is there a hockey city in the US that can handle two or more professional teams within a 30-mile span of each other. The New York City area has their allegiances drawn, Boston would probably have their own team's pride that they might not be able to deal with another team, even in a minor league format. So far, the Chicago area seems to be a two-team town and any third team would be hard-pressed to not only find an arena to work with them, but also garner the attention to take away from the two top teams and make themselves profitable.

While it stinks for those loyalist to the Express for that one season, it's hard for them to not be without a team, even though it was for just a season. Plus, it's hard to build a fanbase for a team when they actually only have one season to get fans into the building and make the numbers work. That said, some times the diluting of a sport in a centralized location may be a great idea in theory, but the execution never yield the desired results. You can blame the owner, the arena, the lack of attention overall-- but no matter how you slice it-- whoever is to blame doesn't matter, as it leaves a black-eye on the team, league, and area for not being able to sustain a team in a locale for more than just a season.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Woes in Washington For the Best??

For the Washington Capitals, this is another test for this team-- trying to get the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and hope that they have enough steam to make a respectable first round showing should they get in. However, there's really one thing that is needed for the Caps in order for them to learn from this season.

Not make the playoffs.

There's really no way around it, the Caps need to not make the playoffs for them to actually get a wake-up call. Firing Bruce Boudreau and hiring Caps' legend Dale Hunter wasn't enough of a wake-up call. Losing their top center didn't do much in order for them to step-up and become the cohesive team unit to be able to win games with just a gritty performance. Heck, they can't even show up for games that they have against the team they're fighting with for that last spot (losing 5-1 to the Sabres last week) and then keeping a non-playoff team into a game, allowing them to win in the last minute (4-2 loss to Tampa).

If the Caps were to make the playoffs, it would be a bad reinforcement for the team, as they would be rewarded for putting up a "good enough" effort and basically back-door their way into the playoffs, which is great on one side of things-- but it will not give the team the motivation at all to actually put forth an effort because they got by enough to make the playoffs-- so if that's good enough, that's what they'll stick by.

Maybe what Matt Bradley said over the summer was correct, as the performance of the Caps this year hasn't really dismissed his comments about the culture of the team being very nonchalant and the team not being prepared for practices in the right way. While many would say Bradley was just a scorned player not asked to be back-- this year is something that is proving his comments to be plausible--as if many didn't see that during the Caps/Pens 24/7 Series on HBO.

To miss the playoffs may force the hand of owner Ted Leonsis to change the landscape of the team-- maybe resulting in the man who built this team, George McPhee, and overhauling the whole team logic. When push comes to shove-- the high hopes being dashed without a playoff appearance could be the straw that breaks the camel's back and would be a wake-up call for the entire organization.

As a Caps fan for a long time, it's hard to want your team to not make the playoffs when they're this close and this deep into the battle for the last spot; but after the quick start, there really hasn't been much to call home about in terms of the season. Alex Ovechkin hasn't been himself, Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth have been very streaky, and the team itself doesn't have the swagger it once had just a few seasons ago.

For a team that was in the discussion for the Stanley Cup Finals, for a team that was supposed to have their core of players ready to create some kind of dynasty, for all the hype and all the publicity that the superstars have gotten-- it has crash and burned in a Hindenburg-esque fashion. While they can still make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and face the only team they've beaten in the playoffs since the 2006-07; they could have the motivation to be the underdogs and shock the world.....but with the way things are going, it won't happen any time soon.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Earl Robertson

While nowadays you have a lot of goalie who go through the trenches to get to the NHL, back in the day, it was really a task to go coast-to-coast. Starting in the middle of the continent and then going out west before vaulting east-- this week's AGM was the true road warrior and came from utter obscurity to the top of the mountain and back again. This week, the profile of Earl Robertson.

In 1925, Robertson started his long journey with the Regina Falcons of the Saskatchewan Junior League, playing in eight games and compiling a 4-3-0 record, which going 0-2 in the playoffs, and 0-2 again in the Memorial Cup Finals. The 1926-27 had Robertson stay in Regina, playing six games with a 4-2-0 record, as well as losing his only playoff games. Robertson moved to Vancouver to their Senior League playing for the Vancouver Monarchs in the 1927-28 season, finishing with a 4-2-2 record in eight games, while also going 1-2-1 in four Allan Cup games.

Finally getting out of the amateur ranks, Robertson joined the Pacific Coast League in the 1928-29 season for the Victoria Cubs, compiling a 7-21-6 record for 34 games. Robertson played 31 games in the 1929-30 season and another 10 games for the Tacoma Tigers in the 1930-31 season; but no records are available for those years. Also in the 1930-31 season, Robertson went to the California Pro League, playing and winning his one game with the Oakland Sheiks. Staying in the California League in the 1931-32 season, but playing for the Hollywood Stars; Robertson went 20-7-4 in 31 games before moving along again. Robertson joined the Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Canadian/Northwest Leagues for the 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons for a total of 60 games, compiling 10 shut-outs, but no win-loss records are available.

After dealing out west, Robertson moved to the Windsor Bulldogs of the International League for the 1934-35 season, playing in 40 games and finishing with a 14-19-7 record; while in the 1935-36 season, Robertson improved himself with an 18-19-11 record with the Bulldogs, as well as an 0-2-0 record with the Rochester Cardinals of the IHL that same season.

In a world of inter-league trades, the Bulldogs traded Robertson to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings for cash before the 1936-37 season, to which the Red Wings would sent Robertson back to the IHL and the Pittsburgh Hornets-- where he would go 14-15-0 in 29 games. However, Robertson's shining moment would come in the 1937 Stanley Cup Finals, where he was called into duty to fill in for the injured Normie Smith. Robertson went 4-2 in the playoffs, helping the Red Wings to their second-straight Stanley Cup championship. Robertson also holds the distinction of stopping the first penalty shot given in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Though, the celebration was short lived, as Robertson was on the move again-- this time to the New York Americans for John Doran and cash. Robertson got thrown into the starting role for the Americans in the 1937-38 season, playing in 48 games and compiling a 19-18-11 record and 3-3 in six playoff games, while the 1938-39 season yielded a 17-18-10 record in 46 games. The 1939-40 season was a dismal one for Robertson, going 15-29-4 in 48 games, while going 1-2 in three playoff matches.

Robertson came to a cross-roads starting in the 1940-41 season, playing in 36 games for the Americans and going 6-22-8, before he was sent to the AHL's Springfield Indians, posting a 4-5-2 record in 11 games and 1-2 in the playoffs. While the Americans moved to Brooklyn in the 1941-42 season, Robertson didn't spend much time there-- playing only 12 games in the NHL (3-8-1) before settling in at the AHL level with Springfield, finishing there with a 24-14-3 record in 41 games down there, then 2-1 in three playoff games.

After sitting out the 1942-43 season, Robertson played the 1943-44 season with the Edmonton Vics of the Senior Leagues, though Robertson would only play in exhibition games and three Allan Cup games, where he would lose all three before retiring for good. Robertson passed on in 1979 at the age of 67. In 2008, Robertson was inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

It was a long strange trip for Robertson, showing him every aspect of hockey life and pretty much every part of the globe in a time where hockey wasn't as popular as it is today. When he finally made the show, Robertson had the highest high-- but then suffered struggling seasons afterwords and then flamed out it would seem. Even so, all the travels didn't deter Robertson from his dream, which he got and did what few could-- a Stanley Cup.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Why Does Brent Sutter Hate His Job??

With his season on the line, with little margin for error-- Brent Sutter went into Vancouver's Rogers Arena knowing that he needed to win-out to even had a chance. Who else would he turn to but his only hope in net-- Henrik Karlsson.

Wait, what??

Sure, in the end, Karlsson was solid and they did pick up a point in the overtime loss; the fact remains that this is a continuation of the follies that has happened during Brent Sutter's tenure as the Calgary Flames head coach. Sutter has been behind the Flames bench for three seasons, each of which he did not qualify for the second-season. With not playing the starting, franchise goalie in a must-win game, combined with a few weeks ago not putting in his top scorers in the shootout-- you have to wonder if Sutter is doing this all on purpose or not. While a lapse in judgement is possible, the fact remains that some of these decisions are head-scratchers and makes many wonder if he was possessed or not when making these moves.

While some "experienced" scribes believed that Sutter may deserve a contract extension because of the team's second half surge (then going on TV that same week and say he could be going to Edmonton to coach there); the results when all is said and done, Sutter shouldn't be behind the Flames bench. I don't know who should, but I know that Sutter probably isn't the guy if he can't get anything out of this team for three seasons. Plus, he isn't GM Jay Feaster's guy-- which could make a bumpy ride for Sutter when he eventually goes out the door.

It's quite interesting on how Sutter was able to succeed (relatively speaking) with the New Jersey Devils, but when he moved closer to home and with family-- and possibly a better forward roster-- Sutter hasn't been able to get much of anything out of the the Flames or when he's far too late to make up the ground lost. The awful part about this is that Sutter can't play the game, which doesn't help the slumps and injuries that have happened-- but at the same time; there's plenty of points that the team left out there and since you can't fire the players or grill them all the time, you have to look higher-- which is Sutter.

The start of this tenure seemed like a match made in hockey heaven-- the brothers Sutter combining to give the Flames a spark and bring back the mucking-and-grinding glory that propelled the team to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. Coming back to his home Province and only 90 minutes south of where he built a Major Junior empire with the Red Deer Rebels, bringing along players like Cam Ward and Dion Phaneuf-- Brent would be the guy to help the veterans stay hungry and develop the youngsters to be like the seasoned vets.

Even so, it ended in the brothers not talking, then Darryl getting fired, then just a downward spiral from that point forward. The players should be held accountable, but the fact that Brent couldn't get the motivation needed for the crucial time of the year, it says more about the leadership behind the bench rather than those on the ice.

In a mere couple games, this whole dream could become a nightmare that many fans would want to forget. So much promise, so much miss opportunities. So much for "Every Game Matters," eh Flames??