Friday, December 17, 2010

A Facebook conversation about hockey fights

I have come to a few conclusions watching Penguins Capitals 24/7: 1. NHL encourages fighting (not that I mind, just saying) 2. Crosby looks like a child molester/rapist with a mustache 3. The Penguins have a better coach 4. I hate watching replays of the Caps losing especially when they are highlighting the Penguins 12 game win streak.

NHL doesn't encourage fighting dude. Look at a game from even 10 years ago and then watch this figure skating we have now.

The Caps, with that criminal Ovechikin, cannot lose enough games to suit me. If I want to watch a fight, there's the UFC. A hockey game grinds to a halt when there is a fight. It's usually 2 idiots that don't have any business playing the game in the first place, let alone getting paid for it. Rangers 7 - Caps 0. Perfect!

How long have you watched hockey? When your rangers won the cup you had kocur, kypreos, beukeboom, graves, tikkanen, messier, and jay wells, and mike Keenan was your head coach.

Since I'm sure you don't know who any of them are, they're all tough guys who played mens hockey, not this fairy nonsense you see today. They all fought and played hockey the way it was meant to be played.

Tough, not dirty.

Fighting isn't dirty, it's part of the game and has been for over a hundred years. Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, all those superstars who transcended the sport also took care of business with their fists. Richard was suspended for punching a linesman in the face during a game!

Since you probably aren't aware of who Joey Kocur was, he was one of the top 10 fighters of all time on anyone's lists. One half of the Bruise Brothers, with Probert being the other. etc.

Still stupid. Fighting absolute stops the flow of the game. Don't care who it is or when it's done. Go to a game and see how everything grinds to a halt.

I've been going to games for a very long time, and been watching them since I was a kid. It is a part of the game, as I said, and it actually has been proven to increase the intensity of the game in the following minutes. Some Harvard grad students collected research that stated that in the following five minutes after a fight, there are more goals scored, more shots taken, more bodychecks, fewer stoppages in play, and subjectively more intensity and speed.

I went to 2 games last weekend. One had fight that was just a waste of time. The other was the Rangers v Blue Jackets. No fights. Just 60 minutes of intense hockey. A fantastic game!

And why would I care what somebody @ Harvard thinks?

Oh yeah. Todd Bertuzzi. That fight ended Steve Moore's career. That criminal should have gone to prison. Fighting should have ended right there.

Which game had the useless fight?

You can take those non-conference non-rivalry games all day. I don't want 'em. They're boring, and the teams have no business playing each other to begin with. By the way, if the Blue Jackets played exc...iting hockey, they wouldn't be 27th in the league in attendance, filling only 70.5% of their home arena on average, per game.

Huh? It was a great game! Exciting from start to finish! Only lousy teams and players need a fight to stimulate their game.

I notice how you didn't comment on Bertuzzi. Goons. Punks. Criminals. Never are they called good hockey players.

Last time I make a hockey comment.

What does Moore/Bertuzzi have to do with fighting? It wasn't a fight! It was a cheap shot from behind, and both players had their gloves on! Get your facts right. If Moore HAD fought Bertuzzi, he would still be playing today. Well, he wouldn't cause he sucked as a player, but he wouldn't have gotten cheap shotted.

And Bertuzzi was never called a good hockey player? Are you joking?! You obviously started watching hockey very recently. That year, Bertuzzi finished 34th in the league in points, despite being suspended on March 8th. Had he continued his point/game pace without suspension, he would have been 19th in points. The year before, he scored the 5th most points in the league! The year before that, 3rd!

You obviously don't know what you're talking about, so I'll leave you alone.

Moore was a 4th line grinder, another faceless number in a league that, at the time, had a hundred players just like him.

Guess you never watched Colorado. Bertuzzi was/is a criminal. You should stick with the UFC.

What did he do that was criminal? Hit a guy that he was grabbing at the time, while playing a sport that allows physical contact?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fire Boudreau

This is not a knee jerk reaction to the Caps laying down and losing a game without showing emotion against a division rival. Losing a game to a Thrashers team featuring none other than Dustin Run-The-Goalie Byfuglien, as well as several large forwards, including heavyweight enforcer Eric Boulton, that for some reason, Boudreau scratched Erskine and King against. The Capitals and Thrashers have had bad blood recently. So why not play a bigger, tougher lineup against a huge, top flight scoring team?

The answer lies in Boudreau's style. He is a pacifist coach, one who has decided to let the power play be the enforcer. Here is a guy who has stuck by his plan; a man of conviction. BB has been routinely outcoached in the playoffs, despite entering the last two playoff seasons with by far superior teams to the competition we have been eliminated by. However, at some point, we need to cut our losses and run. A midseason coaching change has proven beneficial in recent memory, and I'm convinced that it would serve the Capitals well.

So who can come in and institute a new system that the players can adapt to, in time for the playoffs? None other than local hero Dale Hunter. Hunter has been coaching in the OHL since 2001, training both of his sons, one of whom is toiling in the ECHL currently. He guided the London Knights to the Memorial Cup in 2005, which shows that he can motivate and nurture his young players' growth, yet demand nothing but the best from them. Hunter also has been suspended twice as a head coach because of players leaving the bench to fight. While some could see this as a sign of poor leadership, I see this as a coach demanding teamwork from his players, and them displaying a tremendous amount of camaraderie and respect for each other to go to great lengths to defend each other - very much unlike the modern Capitals.

Boudreau too had shown that he could lead a youth movement, but that has not translated into the bigs. He found instant success with the Capitals when he was initially promoted, mostly because with the Capitals he found eight Hershey Bears whom he had coached only months earlier. He already had their trust and respect, so he had a head start. Not to take anything away from his successes, because Boudreau has done a great job of molding the current team, but he is not the coach moving forward because of his style.

The team needs a good shakeup, but the core of players have grown together and are committed to winning together. Minor moves, such as ridding the team of streaky deadweight like Fleischmann, make the team better, but aren't enough to really right the ship. Fire the coach, wake everyone up, and play some damn exciting hockey.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fleischmann traded for Scott Hannan

Excellent news out of DC, as the Capitals finally trade one of the softest players in the league for a big, bruising, defense-first defenseman, Scott Hannan. As I stated in a previous post, Fleischmann could very well find himself be trade bait. With the injury to Chris Stewart, the Avalanche were looking for a scorer to replace him, who will be able to slide back in the lineup when the team is healthy. With the Matt Hunwick trade occurring not long before this one, the Avalanche solidified their defense, and now have adequately handled the injury.

Meanwhile, Hannan is a guy with a clearly defined role, who won't be mistaken for an offensive defenseman, that the Caps will be able to rely on to play tough minutes, especially against some of the big scorers they play in the Eastern Conference. 7 of the 10 top scoring players are in the East; even though 3 of them are on the Capitals. Plus, Hannan brings 73 games of playoff experience to a team desperate for a deep run.

This trade works out for both sides - the Capitals lose about $2 million in cap space, but both players are upcoming UFAs, so there is little cause for concern. And now Tyler Sloan can be banished to the minors where he belongs. This still leaves the Capitals with 7 defensemen, though. Hopefully the Capitals recognize the value that a guy like Erskine brings to the table, and rids the team of perennial anti-Norris Tom Poti.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

50 in 50 - Can he do it?

The biggest story of the year thus far has been Steven Stamkos and his relentless quest to be the first man since Nick Lidstrom's rookie year to score 50 goals in his team's first 50 games. Stamkos trained in the off-season with guru Gary Roberts, and regained his chemistry with former Art Ross winner Marty St. Louis. Steve Yzerman took over as GM and soon thereafter hired offensive whiz Guy Boucher, who made an immediate impact - Tampa is 5th in the league in goals scored per game. Yzerman also added Simon Gagne and Brett Clark; the former has been injured, and the latter has scored 7 of his 9 points on the league's 4th best power play.

Why he will do it:
He is surrounded with talent. St. Louis, Stamkos, and Downie achieved incredible chemistry last year - immediately after the trio was put together in late January/early February, Steve Downie went on a 10 game point streak, scoring 5 goals and 8 assists during the run. During this 10 game stretch, the trio combined for 23 goals and 29 assists. Not too shabby. Especially considering Stamkos strung together an 18 game point scoring streak during this time, scoring 17 goals.

Once Lecavalier and Gagne return, the Bolts will have two legit scoring centers (both having scored 50 or more in a single season since the lockout), to go with wingers combining for 9 seasons of 30 of more goals, and 11 more seasons at 20 or more. That's a lot of experience on the wing in Tampa, and a lot of goals. What does this mean for Stamkos? A guy who is very quick with his shots should be able to, at the very least, pick up a few good rebounds in the slot, and easily snap them home.

In addition to the scoring punch up front, Stamkos will be getting help from the blue line. Pavel Kubina and Brett Clark are two defensemen known for their hard slapshots, and Mattias Ohlund, who has not produced well offensively in Tampa, is a good puck mover.

He gets the ice time. Stamkos is averaging 20:46 in ice time per game through the first 21 matches. 4:55 of that is on power play. Half of his league leading 20 goals have come with the man up. Along with the fact that Tampa has the 5th most power play opportunities in the league, is that they make the most of the chances they have. The team is scoring on 23.7% of their power play opportunities, totaling 22 goals. Stamkos gets the ice time, and is the beneficiary of the puck movement on the power play.

He has the talent. When Stamkos was drafted first overall, Tampa envisioned the kind of player he has developed into. He ignored the sophomore slump, and more than doubled his point totals from the year before, leading the league in goals as a 19 year old, taking the trophy from two time repeating champ Alexander Ovechkin. The kid is only 20 years old - he has youth and conditioning on his side to make a serious run at 50 in 50. While some players might fade as the season continues, Stamkos only seems to get better. His scoring rate could very well increase as time passes.

Why he won't do it:
He isn't a complete player. It's hard to ignore the fact that Stamkos is only offensively minded. His ice time is limited because he's not that good on the penalty kill. For a team that has referee's best friend Steve Downie, and has been shorthanded 84 times in 21 games (good for 9th most in the league), this is not a good sign. Stamkos only receives on average 48 seconds of penalty kill time per game - down from 1:20 per game last year, when the team was penalized at a marginally higher rate.

Stamkos also is not very good on faceoffs. So far this year, he has won 50.63% of his home faceoffs, by far his best mark in his career to date. He has won fewer than 50% of his faceoffs on the road and at home in each of his other two seasons, including winning only 44.07% of his road faceoffs thus far in the 10-11 season. This may not seem like a significant statistic, but for a guy whose shot is that deadly, a set play off a clean faceoff win can mean a lot. I am not sure where to find the statistics, but it would be interesting to see the goal scoring numbers from Ovechkin/Green/Semin within 5 seconds of a faceoff win. I would wager on it being significant.

He doesn't get the right ice time. Stamkos has only scored one empty net goal so far this year. St. Louis has the only other empty netter for Tampa this year. Guy Boucher has to help out Stamkos if he wants to get 50 in 50. Period. Whenever the opponents pull the goalie, he needs to throw out Stamkos. Not to take the faceoff, but to play on the inside wing to try to make a play at the goal.

He is surrounded with talent. This is a blessing and a curse. The problem with being on such a talented team is that Tampa will find themselves ahead in games often. This can actually work against Stamkos in two ways. First, they will have to tone down the offense so as not to run up the score. Otherwise, the wrong guy will take exception, and 50 in 50 will be less of a priority than learning how to count to 50. Second, the depth players will get more ice time late in games. Obviously, with less ice time, there are fewer opportunities to score.

An interesting observation: when Ovechkin scored 65 goals, he scored 16 goals in his team's final 16 games. The team also went 13-3 to clinch the division and final playoff spot on the last day of the season. Ovechkin turned on when he had to, dominating the competition, and picking up goals at critical times. He wasn't padding his stats, and he wasn't scoring goals just to win an individual trophy. He scored goals to put his team in the playoffs, and Stamkos may be finding himself in a similar position. Tampa should make the playoffs handily this year, but should be competing for the division title, and they will need every single one of Stamkos's goals to do it. He will be counted on to lead his team from the front, and he has shown that he has little problem doing so. Look for him to kick it into high gear when it counts.

The prediction:
He won't get 50 in 50, but he will be knocking on 65's door come season's end. Stamkos is durable enough to take a beating over the season, and his opportunities will come, but more people will catch on and someone will figure out a way to stop him. Part of the game today is video, something that obviously wasn't as prevalent in the 80s, so game planning against individuals has become routine. Sooner or later, someone will slow him down, and he will cool off. Stamkos is talented enough to keep the debate open, but as Stamkos begins to play tougher teams (i.e. not Atlanta, Toronto, and the Islanders), his numbers will have to go down.

He will have a brilliant season, and he may score 50 in 50, but it won't be this year. Sorry folks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flyers Extend Claude Giroux - 3 Yr 11.25m

Quiz Question: What's My Name Clarke?

Possibly the only Flyer who shows up every game, Claude Giroux, will not get a whiff of restricted free agency at the end of this season. In one of the BEST moves of the rather erratic Paul Holmgren's GM tenure, 'Roo will be locked in with a 3 year, 11.25 million USD contract. And, he deserves every single penny. I have no idea how he's not managing to squeeze a few more bucks out of Homer, but I don't really care. I'll take the man who Gagne referred to as having Forsberg-like vision and skill for the 3.75 million cap friendly number please. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thoughts to improve overtime

Darren Dreger is now discussing the topics that the GMs will discuss at the annual meetings, so I find it appropriate to chip in a few thoughts.

The overtime debate has been beaten to death. The fact of the matter is that the shootout is bad for the game. It is nothing more than a gimmick to get airtime on ESPN, which while it makes sense from a marketing standpoint, is contrary to the idea of growing the sport. So how do we change it?

What about eliminating the shootout altogether, and only awarding points for winning games? Two points for a regulation win, one for an overtime win, and none otherwise. I bet we'd see some offense in OT then.

I love the idea of a long line change, but at the same time, this helps the defense in the event of a power play - Gary Bettman's favorite portion of a hockey game. What about something drastic, such as only allowing the attacking team change lines during stoppages? Obviously this would only apply during in-zone faceoffs. Or something as subtle as starting overtime in the same zone that regulation ended in?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Do you want your team's star player to fight? has an interesting article opening a discussion about whether or not it is good for fans to see their team's star player fight. This was in response to Crosby's fight with Matt Niskanen last night. Funny that Datsyuk's fight with Perry, or Malkin's fight with Nash didn't get this kind of press, but I guess that's the nature of the beast.

Some interesting stats regarding Crosby fighting. In the ten days after each of his fights, his team's record was as follows: 8-1-1 following the Ference fight, 4-5-1 following the MacLean fight, 7-3 following the Ballard fight (including 4-3 in the playoffs), 5-5 following the Zidlicky fight. That's a combined record of 24-14-2, or 50 out of a possible 80 points, for 62.5%. That equates to a season total of 102.5 points. The 40 game sample represents a higher points/season average for the team, which has averaged 93 points/season during Crosby's 5 years. Discounting his rookie season, when he did not fight, the team has averaged 101.75 points/season. Not a huge improvement, but noticeable. Even more interesting is that the Penguins went on to win the Cup in the year Crosby fought two different Panthers.

It is an easy argument to state that missing a player the magnitude of Crosby harms the team during the game, as they are without their best player for at least 5 minutes. And it is a very valid point as well. However, the fact that the leader is doing the dirty work, taking the matter into his own hands and trying to fix the team's woes seems to wake the rest of the team up. This is the key, this is what makes a leader great.

The ability to ignore shortsightedness.

Crosby stepped in to fight Ballard after Ballard crushed Malkin into the boards, sending him flipping over himself. He wasn't just mad that his linemate and friend was hit in dramatic fashion. He wanted to show to his team that everyone needs to step in to protect each other if they want to win. That he was not bigger than the team, that he too could be the guy to dive into the corners for the puck, block shots, take his lumps. The team responded very well.

Bob McKenzie seems to think it was simple frustration for Crosby, who has no fights in the third period of any game in the NHL. Pretty bad timing to take yourself out of the game if it's simply frustration, eh?

Yes, I'm sure Crosby was frustrated, but that was not the purpose of his fight. It was to send a message to his team, take a stand, and bring himself back down to the level of the Rupp's, Adams', Asham's. The role players.

We will see how the Penguins respond.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The NHL has repeatedly made moves to lessen the intensity of rivalries, probably in large part due to Todd Bertuzzi. But the fact of the matter is, rivalries in sports, particularly hockey, is strongly tied to violence. So when Danny Briere received a three game suspension for this crosscheck to the face of Nielson - after the referees already ruined what could have been an exciting affair consisting of much hated Dan Carcillo fighting Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, among other attractions - the league made it clear that developing rivalries in ways other than forcing teams to run up the score by penalizing players for so much as looking at each other was just not in their plans. Why is three games so significant? Because the third game is against the New York Islanders.

It's easy to point out that Briere is a repeat offender, having been suspended for high sticking Brian Leetch in 2006. However, I agree with Briere's sentiment that his suspension should not by any means be longer than Hjalmarsson's. I don't like the guy, and I don't think highly of him, but Briere is not a dirty player. Gutless, sure, but dirty? I disagree. So what is the purpose of suspending him for three games? Shane Doan got 3 games under the new blindside hit rule. Or what Evgeny Artyuhkin got for slew-footing last year, or what Tuomo Ruutu got for boarding Darcy Tucker and sending him to the hospital, or what Mike Green got for a nasty elbow to Frolik's head last year, and so on. Briere doesn't even injure a guy, and per his account (and what I have come to agree with based on replays), doesn't even make contact with his stick, and gets suspended just as long. I believe Briere was trying to defend himself, as he is a gutless coward and uses his stick to do that, but I would not in a million years believe he was trying to hurt a guy with his stick like that [Ovechkin retribution excluded].

For the sake of building rivalries, let him play against the Isles (better yet, no suspension at all). Let the Islanders handle it. If they thought it was so dirty, let them deal with it. It seemed to me that the main problem the Islanders had was with Carcillo's actions - decking Nielsen from behind and then trying to fight DiPietro. Either way, Briere's suspension takes some of the heat off of the rematch. He was the source of controversy, got play on Sportscenter, and now is missing 3 games because of an incorrect perception from a man notorious for erring in situations like these.

Doesn't the league want to build anticipated matchups, especially involving teams that otherwise get little to no positive attention such as the Islanders? It makes no sense to send a boat out with no sails, which is exactly what the NHL is doing by taking away a critical part of sports matchups - ill will towards the opponent.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rick Rypien vs the Fan vs the NHL

Pow, Right in the Kisser

So the verdict is in, and Rypien gets six games. According to the practically canon code of conduct of the NHL, in chart form below, this seems about right. Normally I'd cite a bunch of other suspensions, and take shots at the NHL's impartial dispersal of supplementary discipline, but what's the point at this stage anyway.

Needs No Introduction

It is rather interesting that the stadium crew did have a hand in this all happening, as the tunnel cover was not in place, but that certainly does not excuse such an egregious error in judgement. It is worth bearing in mind that there were failures in several layers, not just the fan (fan behavior will be a post for another day, I'm sure) and not just Rypien. At least the NHL suspended Rypien, because the No Fun League let Giants RB Jacobs' helmet flying into the stands incident go unpunished and somehow swept it under the rug all together. While the NHL is still a second-rate league at best to the NFL, at least the NHL did something.

I'll close with this: What exactly did the fan say to piss Rypien off that much?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Villains are good for the NHL

This NHL season has gotten off to a great start, with a ton of exciting surprises. The Islanders, Leafs, Predators, Avalanche, and Stars are leading their divisions, with the Leafs and Stars both starting 4-0. The Capitals are 3rd in the league with 5 fights through 5 games, and the Red Wings are 10th in the league with 3 fights through 5 games. We have seen some shocking upsets in the fight category, most notably Engelland dropping Orr with a huge right hand, TKOing the #1 contender. Steve Macintyre obviously made the most headlines with his crushing KO of Raitis Ivanans, who has yet to play in a game since that opening night embarrassment.

However, despite the great stories we have seen, there is still this dark cloud getting in the way of the sun in hockeyland. Michael Cammalleri, frustrated by Nino Niederreiter doing his job (throwing bodychecks, being annoying), decided to slash the kid from behind, injuring him in the process, instead of being a man and handling it with his fists, earning himself a one-game suspension to start the year. James Wisniewski, in an incredibly hilarious moment of misjudgment, decided to show his true feelings for Sean Avery, resulting in a two-game suspension. Sean Avery, never to be outdone, decided to slash Mike Komisarek from behind, then again after Komisarek turned around, when the referees were engaged in a scrum on the other end of the ice. Patrick Kaleta, the classy player he is, attempted a headbutt, earning himself a nice fine.

Why is this good for the NHL?

Because it brings attention. Guys hate the Matt Cookes, the Patrick Kaletas, the Sean Averys of the league, just as they hated the Esa Tikkanens, Ulf Samuelssons, Matthew Barnabys of the game back when the average American could name at least five NHL players. Hockey is on Sportscenter now, even if it's us watching Matt Cooke do his darndest to injure a player who is unaware of his presence. Of course, we could do without the injuries, but the dirty plays and annoying habits of these pests gets our sport on national television. Even if it is in the 48th minute of Sportscenter, sandwiched between bowling and Not Top 10. It's better than nothing.

It also brings passion. Guys running around like clowns because Bettman decided to let them do whatever they want under the umbrella of the instigator makes players like Alex Ovechkin square off with Steve Downie. Or Pavel Datsyuk to fight (and beat) Corey Perry. While I love a good heavyweight fight, there is nothing I love more than seeing skill guys get pissed off and take matters into their own hands. I love having enforcers on the team, but I am not a fan of the pretty superstar turning to his big brother to handle his light work. That's unhockey.

So go on Carcillo. Go beat up more Marion Gaboriks. Because it makes the sport relevant, and makes for damn good hockey.


In other news, here's an excellent Mike Richards interview:

I thought penguins had good balance on ice. Guess not.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The NHL's Big Problem (One of them anyway)

The Canadian Judge Punishes Craig Anderson For A Terrible Dive

At the tail end of the Avalanche at Flyers game, when Colorado was flopping at sight of anything orange to "draw" a penalty, the unthinkable happened. The NHL actually called an unsportsmanlike conduct - DIVING penalty. Yes, diving. Now goaltender interference was also called, but it's a start. Here's to hoping that the NHL cracks down on this sissy embellishment trend, and even further, maybe make diving a double-minor. Technically, calling a 2-minute minor for being a bitch isn't family friendly, so, a 4-min double-minor for diving sounds reasonable when an opposing penalty is called, and just 2-min minor when there is no opposing penalty. Yes, make the diving player's team KILL a penalty instead of MANUFACTURE a power play. That will stop embellishment in its tracks, as there will be a severe risk to go with the potential 'reward'. The league's long-term success or failure depends on the NHL cleaning up the on ice product, and this bush league soccer faking-death crap has got to go. Who knows what Bettman will do next...

Bruce Boudreau, what are you thinking?

This offseason, the Caps traded for DJ King, obviously to protect the young guys who kept getting run. However, for some reason, he has not played yet.

The Thrashers, a division rival, and the Capitals have had a few good battles over the years, including in 2006 when Erskine, Brashear, and Bradley fought Hossa, Vishnevsky, and DeVries, after a deliberate cheapshot by Andy Sutton. Atlanta beefed up this summer, bringing in Byfuglien and Eager, but scratched Boulton presumably because King was scratched. This could have made for a pretty entertaining show, and maybe the Caps would have had a better chance to win had they come out swinging to start the season - instead they looked flat.

Next up, the Devils, a tough team with speed and a lot of talent. There were some late fireworks, capped off with PLLL going at Marcus Johansson. Sure, it's easy to say that Leblond had no business going at a non-fighting rookie, but it's smart to say that the rookie had no business being on the ice at the time. Especially when the Caps have the last line change.

When Leblond gets on the ice, after the three fights in rapid succession, Erskine needs to immediately be sent out also. Throw in the remaining "tough" players: Laich, Chimera, Knuble, Schultz. Maybe put Erskine on the wing and play Carlson on defense with Schultz. Give the team the best chance to stick together and protect each other. There is no excuse for putting the "next big thing" in harm's way, just to prove a point, or calm the game down a notch. The fans were loving it, the Devils weren't done and obviously weren't going to be stopping, and by putting out Johansson, Boudreau was setting a bad example and showing his glaring flaws as a head coach.

Then, against Ottawa, a team with Matt Carkner and Chris Neil, two guys who don't make their paychecks doling out tape to tape passes, King is still benched. After both Ottawa goals, King could have stepped in and taken either player off the ice for 5 minutes. Carkner, who was fourth among Senators defense in ice time, and is the only physical presence on that blue line, would more than likely oblige, and the Capitals would be better off.

The Capitals did not seem calm tonight, and were significantly outshot through regulation. The hometown team did terribly in the faceoff dot, which stalled any momentum the two regulation goals scored did provide. Two excellent justifications for a fight. Calm the team down, and build some momentum.

Boudreau obviously does not want King to protect the team, and now apparently he does not want to use him to build momentum. What will he use him for? An extra body for practice? An injury fill-in? What are you thinking, Boudreau? Do you want to keep your job? I would bet that another bad playoff push and you're done, so you might want to get your ducks in a row now and try to show other teams that you can effectively use all of the weapons at your disposal, because I hope you won't be behind the bench here much longer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Niemi to the Caps?

I am an avid hockey fight fan. In fact, I have been registered to one of the biggest hockey fight forums on the internet today,

On this site, someone foolishly suggested that the Capitals sign Antti Niemi, the now unrestricted free agent who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. I am entirely against this decision for a multitude of reasons.

For starters, Niemi will be 27 years old before the season begins. Varlamov and Neuvirth are both 22. Both of the Capitals current goaltenders offer five more years of NHL play, assuming all three retire at the same time. Plus, Varlamov and Niemi can be talked about in the same conversation in terms of skill, despite the age difference. Which leads one to believe that Varlamov will become a much better goaltender than our Finnish friend.

Niemi made his NHL debut last season, posting a 1-1-1 record in 3 starts, along with a 3.40 GAA and .864 save percent. He backed those numbers up with a 26-7-4 record in 39 games played this year, posting a 2.25 GAA and .912 save percent. The number to focus on is 70.2%, which represents the percentage of total points that Niemi was good for this year, 59, out of a possible 84.

Varlamov too made his NHL debut last season, posting a 4-0-1 record in 6 games played, to go with a 2.37 GAA and a .918 save percent. This season, he finished with a 15-4-6 record in 26 games played, along with a 2.55 GAA and .909 save percent. The magic number for Varlamov is 70.3% - Varlamov achieved a total of 45 out of a possible 64 points.

Also of note: Niemi posted .427 saves per minute played this season, compared to Varlamov, who posted .470 saves per minute. Considering both the Capitals and Blackhawks have a very respectable puck possession offense, finishing the season #1 and #3, respectively, this is a very telling stat. The Blackhawks as a team finished tops in the league with only 25.1 shots allowed per game; the Capitals were 18th, allowing 30.9 per game.

Surprisingly, Niemi's playoff numbers are not as good as Varlamov's, except for the obvious, win percent. Niemi is 16-6 in 22 playoff games; Varlamov is a mere 10-9 in 19 games, spread over the last two seasons. However, Niemi has a 2.63 GAA and .910 save percent, with two shutouts, while Varlamov has a 2.49 GAA and .915 save percent, also with two shutouts. Niemi has made .488 saves per minute in his playoff career, while Varlamov has made .490 per minute. Which leads me to believe that Varlamov, despite having an obviously worse defense (the 'Hawks had the best defense squad I can remember since the Blake/Bourque/Foote led Avalanche), has played better, if not more consistently.

Niemi is a good but not great goalie who played behind a phenomenal team and rode them to the Cup. Not to say he did not contribute his fair share - he was awesome against San Jose. However, he is still unproven in the NHL, having only played a combined 64 regular season and playoff games. If the Capitals were to bring in a goalie to make a run for the Cup, despite not having all the rest of the tools, they would seek a proven winner - not a kid with half a season of experience.

Varlamov has shone on the international stage, winning silver at the 2010 World Championships, and silver at both the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships, starting in both 2007 and 2010. Varlamov has also won two consecutive Calder Cups, as a member of the Hershey Bears. He has yet to have a chance to dominate in the NHL, but has a good chance to do so, entering the season as the starter, albeit in split fashion. One would figure that Varlamov will start around 55-60 games, with Neuvirth getting the rest.

Furthermore, the Capitals have around $5.3 million in cap room, not counting the possible addition of Marcus Johansson, who will count for $900k should he play. Neuvirtg accounts for $821k, which is basically a wash with the Swedish import. Niemi figures to make around $3 million this upcoming season, if he can find a suitor. That would leave the Capitals with roughly $1.4 million to work with. One would figure that with the addition of DJ King, injuries will be less frequent, however with a team full of small forwards, they are inevitable. Plus, the team is not ready for a deep playoff run as is, so a deadline deal is possible, if not probable. If Niemi was signed, the Capitals would not have the flexibility they desire .

It would be fiscally irresponsible for the Capitals to pursue Niemi. He would not improve the team's current goaltending situation, and would stunt the development of the current crew. Plus, the Capitals have made a commitment to stick to the plan, which involves developing talent, and not making a shot at the Cup. Since Varlamov has much more upside than Niemi, it would be only for a "win the Cup now" chance that the Caps would even look at Niemi.

What do you think?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Caps Beef Up! Part 2!

The Hershey Bears announced today that they have come to terms with three players: Ashton Rome, Joel Rechlicz, and Todd Ford. All three are signed to AHL contracts.

Rechlicz, also known as Recker, is not a true heavyweight, but can step in if needed to match up with the top guys. He is, however, an energy guy who is great on the forecheck, and is not a defensive liability. Playing for a very bad New York Islanders team for a total of 23 games between 08-09 and 09-10, Recker only registered a -3. That translates to a -11 over a full season, which is not good by any means, but for a guy who does not get shifts with goal scorers, it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Overall, a good depth signing. I doubt he will dress for the Caps at any point, but he will at least make Hershey a bit more exciting. Losing Sugar was a bad move, but at least they replaced him with someone they plan on playing more.


In other news, GMGM made public comments regarding the King trade.

McPhee mentioned King in the same breath as Kocur, which is one of the highest honors a fighter can get. King, in McPhee's eyes, is a player who, "brings grit but looks like he could be a reliable player." McPhee went on to say describe the three categories of fighters as, "The second group are fighters who can play a little bit. The third and most desirable are players who can fight a little bit if they have to." King falls between two and three, in his eyes.

McPhee also said that King will be on the Capitals roster, competing for fourth line minutes. He apparently plans on dressing 13 forwards, or more likely 7 defensemen, and rotating King in the lineup against the tougher teams. Thankfully, almost everyone in the East has a heavy, so King should get a lot of games.

As I said earlier, SDR was not ready to play for the Capitals this year, so the Caps got rid of him. The point of drafting prospects is to have flexibility in the roster. If the team is comfortable with the lineup at present, they can trade prospects to plug any gaps. SDR might become an impact player in the future, and he might not, but King is an impact player now. We lost a seventh round draftee to fill our biggest hole. Fair trade.

Read the whole article here. Great read from one of my favorite hockey writers.

Andrew Ladd, two-time Cup Winner, avoids arbitration

Andrew Ladd won the Stanley Cup in his rookie year with Carolina (05-06). He then won it again this past year with Chicago. After the Cup win, Chicago famously dismantled their roster, sending contributors Ladd, Byfuglien, Eager, and Sopel to Atlanta for scraps and prospects.

Ladd, now 24 years old, with 53 playoff games under his belt, is with his third NHL team, and entering his sixth season in the bigs. Atlanta is a team that has beefed up considerably this offseason, and promises to make an impact in the soft Southeast Division. Ladd, one of the few players in the game today that can even be compared to a power forward, signed a one year deal that is worth a mere $2.35 million, or only $135k more than middle-of-the-road Eric Fehr.

This is a player who is perennially underrated despite always being on a team that suddenly becomes a winner. No, he is not the main reason why these teams win, but there is something to be said for a player whose teams are better when he plays for them.

Carolina finished 03-04 with 76 points. They followed this up by registering 112 points and winning the Cup in Ladd's first year. Chicago acquired Ladd well into the 07-08 season, a year they finished with 88 points. The Hawks followed up these performances with 104 and 112 points (and a Cup), respectively.

This kid is a winner. Just watch. Atlanta may not be winning a Cup anytime soon, but look to Ladd to net 26+ goals and be a cog in turning around a team that should not even exist in the first place.

Take note.


Ramblings about Burke, coming up in a bit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Caps Beef Up!

The Washington Capitals have acquired enforcer D.J. King from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for prospect Stefan Della Rovere.


I do not know much about Stefan Della Rovere, other than what I read in the article posted on TSN's website. Tarik El-Bashir's followers seem to love the guy though, raving about him as a power forward or the next Sean Avery. Which further proves the Capitals fans lack of hockey knowledge. The two player types [power forward and agitator] are completely different in every way except that they both throw a lot of body checks.

Hockey's Future says he is known for "his chippy, bordering on dirty, play". HF also lists him as a likely fourth-liner. He captained his OHL team to the Conference Final, but he also was 20 years old, something that should be a telling sign. Not to take anything away from his accomplishments, but he was playing against much younger competition.

No big loss here, folks. The next Patrick Kaleta just slipped through our hands. He was years away from the Capitals at best, if he even had a chance at cracking the NHL roster. If anything, the Bears lost a third/fourth liner.

King brings something the Capitals so desperately need: toughness. Bruce Boudreau's Capitals are horribly soft and small, with no concept of team toughness. When Matt Bradley, the toughest regular on the roster, has a fight record worse than Mike Tyson's punching bag. Since joining the Caps in 05-06, Bradley has won a whopping 7 out of his 37 fights.

He is not a bad fighter, but he is fighting way out of his weight class (Bradley is listed at 6'2" 200 lbs). He has losses to Bissonnette, Josh Gratton, Tim Jackman, and huge losses to Steve Montador, Dan Carcillo, Milan Lucic, Aaron Voros, et al. He is carrying the load for a team that prides itself on using the power play to be its enforcer. When Cam Janssen clobbered Bradley, Quintin Laing stepped in to fight him. When Carcillo clobbered Bradley, no one stepped in, except to pound in 3 power play goals.

So King will step in and contribute the much needed protection the Capitals stars need. Sure, he has a history with injuries. He is a hockey player, everyone gets hurt from time to time. The injuries are in the past - if the team doctors thought they would be a concern they would not have traded for him, period. So we have an enforcer who is arguably a top 10 heavyweight when healthy. The SouthLeast Division has no one tough, but the Atlantic is stocked: Shelley, Boogaard, Godard, Clarkson, PLLL, Yabo, Carcillo, etc.

A big argument coming from the Rock the Red camp is that he will take up a "much needed roster spot" from a fringe NHL prospect who chips in the occasional shootout goal, or whatever. King will have a lower cap hit than them, and even though he will only get three or four shifts, his shifts will be passionate and meaningful. I fail to see how the other people competing for the fourth liner are much more productive.

The Capitals have suffered for too long without an enforcer, and it showed last year. There was no semblance of toughness, and the team suffered unnecessary injuries as a result. King will help immensely, even though he is not the only answer. I would love to see a guy like Asham come in also, to mix it up on the fourth line. But for now, I will take this signing and be pleased.

Maxime "Crybaby" Talbot Cries to the Media reports that Maxime Talbot blasted Alex Ovechkin to the media yesterday as part of a promotion for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. Talbot stated that he hated Ovechkin, among other disparaging remarks.

This is coming from a guy who has scored fewer career goals (44, in 306 games) than Ovechkin has in each of his 5 NHL seasons (lowest total being 46 in 06-07). This 8th round pick who suddenly develops a loud mouth and achieves cult status in Pittsburgh because of Game 7 heroics (proving that even a blind squirrel can find a nut), feels the need to rip into someone 5 seasons into a Hall of Fame career, instead of shutting his mouth like the role player he is. This is a guy, who has had one great game in his career, and other than that has barely been a speck on the radar, going after someone who has been lauded as a superstar since before he was drafted.

I just cannot understand why this guy:

thinks he can talk trash about anyone in the league.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Not so Fast, Kovy

Like I said in an earlier post, Iyla Kovalchuk's contract circumvents the salary cap rules, as the NHL earlier today deemed the contract invalid.

Why now? Why not for Zetterberg, Luongo, Franzen, Hossa, Keith, Savard, Briere, Richards, Pronger, or Lecavalier? All of these guys have the same style of absurd contract, designed specifically to cheat the system. Why, suddenly, when it is a Russian?

Ooh, conspiracy.


In other news, Chicago GM Stan Bowman publicly stated today that Patrick Sharp is not going anywhere. This goes against my earlier idea that Sharp should be traded to the Capitals. Damn.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Philly Trades Gagne to Lightning

To TB:

Matt Walker
2011 4th round pick

A good trade for both sides, as Philly clears much needed cap space ($3.55 million), in getting rid of a real heart and soul player. The problem now is that Philly has six NHL defenseman getting paid $1.7 million or more next year, with five of them making $3.2 or more. 7th defenseman Sean O'Donnell is set to make $1.3 million, and I doubt he would report to an AHL team at this point in his career. He was signed to be a depth defenseman, playing in the NHL, so this makes the Flyers potentially overstaffed. Not a bad problem to have, eh?

Walker is a physical defenseman who will fit right into Philly's system. He is not special with the puck, but will make a good enough first pass to let the Flyers centers take over. He will not be a liability either.

Philly is left with 23 players on the roster, counting Bartulis and Cote, so it can probably be assumed that Asham is on his way out. I am not a fan of Powe, but I am sure he will be still be resigned, since he is only 25. Assuming he makes a nominal upgrade to the $500k he made last year, and that Cote's salary gets buried in the minors, the team will have just over $1 million in cap space to operate next season. That of course includes Bartulis' salary, and one has to figure he will play for Adirondack this year.

Tampa gets a great left winger in Simon Gagne, who is still one of the best two-way players in the game. He is only 30, so he has some time in front of him, and now plays for one of the best up and coming teams in the league. Lecavalier lost the best set-up man he had in Marty St. Louis to Stamkos' line, but now has another Olympic teammate to replace his spot on the top line.

Tampa Bay has scoring depth, with two wingers having 40+ goal seasons post lockout. Ryan Malone has scored 20+ in five of the last six campaigns, dating back to 03-04. Downie scored 22 goals this year, and figures to at least match that with an entire season playing on a scoring line. And of course, the Lightning have two centers with 50+ goal campaigns post lockout. Not a bad top six.

Adding Brett Clark and Pavel Kubina to the blue line figured to make at least one defenseman expendable, and Walker was the slowest guy back there, as well as the easiest to move.

It is rare that you see a trade that is beneficial to all parties involved, but this one looks to be good for everybody, including the players being traded.

And Philly gets even tougher. That division is looking nasty.

Iyla Kovalchuk, NBA Player?

The Iyla Kovalchuk free agency saga has finally come to a close [finally!]. He signed a ridiculous 17 year deal worth $102 million dollars, not nearly as much as Ovechkin's $124 million dollar deal, but he will be paid $11.5 million dollars for five consecutive seasons, making him easily the top paid player in the game.

The final six years of Kovalchuk's contract will pay him a total of $4.05 million dollars, significantly lowering his cap hit. He is set to make $97.95 million in the first eleven years, which would represent a cap hit of $8.9 million dollars. However, adding in the final six years, and his cap hit is lowered dramatically to $6 million, almost a $3 million dollar difference.

What does this mean? The Devils have a $9 million dollar athlete, and they are paying him accordingly, but they are only losing $6 million against the cap. They are circumventing the rules, and the league is allowing it. And we thought Zetterberg's and Franzen's deals were ridiculous.

The salary cap was instituted to provide parity, something I disagree with for reasons that will be discussed soon, but this is a blatant violation of this idea. The New York Rangers, for example, are owned by Cablevision, a multi-billion dollar company, worth $9.383 billion dollars. The Nashville Predators, by comparison, are not owned by the fifth largest cable provider in the US. So, the Rangers can afford to take the risk of paying an athlete an obscene amount of money over a long term deal, such as Kovalchuk's, and dumbing it down with a few years of pittance. Whereas a small market team like Nashville cannot afford to do so. Even if a smaller team can afford to pay a guy like Kovalchuk an average of $6 million dollars per year, they cannot afford to pay him a whopping $11.5 million per year for years 3-7. So there is never going to be any competition between a big market team and a little one, much like the pre-lockout days.

Kovalchuk will, for five years, receive more than Jagr made in the deal that caused the lockout.

This deal will cause a huge backlash. We saw a little bit of foreshadowing with a few of the "lifetime deals", like Keith, DiPietro, Hossa, and Ovechkin, but nothing like what we will be seeing when the CBA expires next summer.

Kovalchuk is without a doubt a phenomenal player, but will never be discussed as the best player in the league, even at his position. He is a perennial all-star, and will probably be a Hall of Famer when he retires, but is he even worth this kind of money? Maybe; we have not seen a UFA of his caliber in as long as I can remember. So Kovalchuk is now the precedent, and we will see some more ridiculous deals to follow, whether it be Doughty getting a deal that trumps Keith's, or if good but not great players like Semin getting paid more than Crosby or Malkin.

Kovalchuk has shown the world that he is all about the melodrama. This whole hostage situation was very "un-hockey" of him. He is acting more like an NBA player than an NHLer. You have a history of players like Sakic and Yzerman deflecting praise for their whole careers (and they both had been there and done that, unlike Mr. Kovy). Now Kovalchuk follows in LeBron James' footsteps. Wrong path, Comrade.

But it made headlines at least, right? I saw a hockey player not named Crosby or Ovechkin on Sportscenter, even if it was in the 25th minute.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Debate About Defense

The Washington Capitals have made their mistakes in the past. Prior to the lockout, they acquired Jaromir Jagr, marking an unprecedented commitment to winning for the team. They signed the former Penguins winger to a landmark contract, which was one of the major reasons the lockout occurred. The team then sought to surround Jagr with other talented players, bringing in Michael Nylander, Sergei Berezin, and most notably, fellow countryman and Olympic Gold Medal winning teammate Robert Lang.

The payroll was higher than ever, and so were the expectations.

The team never gelled, the hook and hold aspect was too much to overcome, and the team collapsed. Then began the firesale.

The team added draft picks that became Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, and John Carlson, and they also traded for Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina.

A young defense corps was established, or so we thought.

The defensive roster from last season included:

-Brian Pothier, who while serving as an inspiration, is not a good defenseman. He is a good skater who handles the puck well and makes a good first pass out of the zone, but that is it. He is physically inept, even before he got destroyed with yet another unavenged hit on a Capital.

-Tom Poti, a defenseman who was drafted and lauded for his offensive play in college, and who had decent success as a point man for the Rangers and Oilers, signed a large deal worth $14 million to play for the Capitals second pair, and to serve as a top penalty killer. No idea what the thinking is on this one.

-Tyler Sloan, who is just awful, and was embarrassed by Rene Bourque in his first career game. This is a defenseman who, at every level in his hockey career since Midget, has posted well over 1 PIM per game, prior to joining the pacifist Capitals. What happened? No one knows. But it is not winning us playoff games.

-Mike Green, a top notch skating defenseman who does his best to imitate Scott Niedermayer, less the defensive aspects of the game. He is good at defense by virtue of his ability to prevent the other team from having the puck, but is a third pairing defenseman once they do get it. Green was also famously blasted from behind by David Koci, partly because the Capitals are used to making dangerous plays with no fear because "it leads to more powerplays". The only good thing to come from this hit was Erskine's instinctive reaction to fight Koci. "You've got to stand up for your teammate," Erskine said. Lesson learned.

-Milan Jurcina, a great hitter with a booming shot, who unfortunately does not use his shot nearly enough. He is huge, and not that mobile, but for a guy who racks up the hits as he does, he should get into a fight or two. Maybe he will with the Islanders in the rough and tough Atlantic Division.

-Shaone Morrisonn, one of two true stay-at-home defenseman who was a regular for the team. He is also one of the few Capitals who was willing to stand up against a real fighter, getting mixed up with Colton Orr twice, losing both fights (obviously). It is good to show heart against one of the league's toughest, but why should the best defensive defenseman on the roster be the one doing this?

-John Erskine, one of my favorite Capitals, the other true stay-at-home defenseman. Shows a lot of heart and grit on every shift, and has an exciting fighting style that has caught up to him with a ton of injury time in the last three seasons. He is a shell of his former self, and like Todd Fedoruk, should not be handling the load against top heavies. Maybe the middleweights like Aaron Asham, Sean Avery, and Milan Lucic. Defensively sound, but his skating could improve.

-Jeff Schultz, the towering enigma. Has all the size in the world, but refuses to use it. He posted a huge +50 rating this season, but he did not have the top defensive assignments, and often played with Ovechkin's line. Definitely a benefactor of the system, but is sound positionally, albeit afraid of physical play. If Schultz could develop a mean streak, he would be a top notch defenseman, in the style of Pronger, although obviously not as gifted.

No one else played enough to be considered, even though there are two glaring omissions who are sure to be regulars next year.

Morrisonn, Pothier, and Jurcina are gone. That leaves Green, Erskine, Schultz, Sloan, and Poti, along with the additions of Carlson and Alzner. Erskine and Sloan are the 6/7 defensemen, although I would bet that Sloan's ability to be equally putrid on the left wing also will make him get the nod more often.

The Capitals lost in the playoffs in 08-09 because they were unable to stop the Penguins in the slot, specifically Sidney Crosby. This year, they just had no heart whatsoever, expecting to coast on through, relying on six powerplays per game to power their offense. Both times, the team failed, and both times, the team failed to address the issues the following offseason.

Boudreau pompously [and incorrectly] asserted, "A lot of people were pretty negative about the way it ended and everything. But we did lead the league. So there's not a lot of holes."

Yet, this team with few holes burned out in seven games to the Mite-y Canadiens.

Now, the Capitals have a ton of cap space, and McPhee has indicated that he will address any issues that arise at the trade deadline again, and he has the picks and prospects to pony up for a defenseman. But there were a few guys available that would help the team moving forward. Tom Poti is not the veteran answer, even if he is great in the locker room.

Assuming no deadline deals are made, we will not make it to the Conference Final. So we shall look at next offseason's UFA market, including the cap space afforded by Poti's expiration.

Bieksa, Marc Stuart, O'Brien are young semi-long term (4 years) options, and McCabe and Brewer are cheaper alternatives who will command far less than they are earning now. There are some interesting potential RFAs, including Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty from the Kings, Shea Weber from the Predators, Zack Bogosian from the "rival" Thrashers, and Josh Gorges from the Canadiens (way to stick it to 'em for knocking us out this year!). All of them would cost at least a 1st and a 3rd, but are well worth it, especially if that first is 30th overall. There are also some depth options, like Hal Gill, Sami Salo, Craig Rivet, Steve Montador, and Brent Sopel, but they will probably command too much money to be considered for even a one year deal.

So what happens? We probably stand pat, knowing that there are options out there that will take us to the next level.

Your optimistic blogger

Friday, July 16, 2010

Slow news day for the Eastern Conference

Andrei Markov is now a Canadian citizen. That is breaking news.

A bunch of nobodies got signed, including Tim Conboy (who I like in fact, but he is a tweener playing for a coach who has gone soft), Lundmark, O'Marra, Thompson, Zigomanis, and others. Yawn.

Oh, and Mikko Koivo signed a 7 year extension for way too much money. What else is new?

Capitals take a page out of the losing handbook

Capitals signed former Cap Brian Willsie to a one-year deal. This move [hopefully] brings the veteran winger back to the team with which he started his uneventful career, the Hershey Bears.

It is easy to argue that Willsie had great chemistry when he played for the Caps before, noting his career season in 05-06. However, he played for a team that was downright awful, but had a rookie Alexander Ovechkin dragging along Matt Pettinger to an uncharacteristic 20 goal season, a number he has yet to match, even in the AHL.

Other Capitals having career best seasons that year: Dainius Zubrus, Ben Clymer, Brian Sutherby, Bryan Muir, and Chris Clark - though he went on to have an even better season the following campaign.

The 6'1" 202 pound winger, who plays much smaller than his petite frame would suggest, is the latest addition to the chinadoll collection known as the Washington Capitals.

Yet again, the Capitals get beat in the playoffs, and fail to realize why they lost. They actually go out and find more players who will help them lose next year. Incredible.

Still frustrated,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two Agitators Resigned

Philadelphia resigns Dan Carcillo for a one year deal in the 1 million dollar price range, and per RDS, Montreal resigns Maxim Lapierre for a reported $900k.

Good for both teams to lock up two guys that most teams would love to have. The agitator is considered more successful by the amount of people that hate him, and these are clearly two of the most hated men in the league, by players, coaches, officiating staff, and league officials.

In other news:

-Darryl Sydor retires. Sydor was a real warrior, classy player and individual, and veteran of 155 playoff games, winning two Stanley Cups. He will forever be remembered for displaying what the Stanley Cup is all about:

Probably retired a few years too late, but had a great career. Potential Hall of Famer.

-Jared Boll resigns for 2 years with a cap hit of $725k. Once again, the Blue Jackets avoid arbitration.

Good signing for them. Boll is a great fourth liner who has the ability to play the third line, and with some potential to make that a regular position for him.

'Hawks Match Hjalmarsson's Offer

The Sharks, being the team that lost in the WCF to eventual Cup winner Chicago, are a spiteful team. They found a good young defenseman in Niklas Hjalmarsson, a potential "replacement" to Rob Blake, and sent him an offer for a huge pay raise. All the while hoping that either the 'Hawks let him go, or are pressed to get rid of yet another Stanley Cup winning piece of their puzzle.

Then the Blackhawks decided to match the offer, keeping young Niklas on the team for four more years at a cap hit of $3.5 million. Leaving them with $113,410 left, and 15 players on the roster. Antti Niemi, obviously, is the biggest name left unsigned, which means more money will have to be moved. Thankfully for Chicago's sake, Niemi filed for arbitration, so no one else will be shooting him an offer, further complicating the situation in the Windy City.

So who's expendable? The 'Hawks made it clear they do not want to move their young core, with the exceptions of Byfuglien, Versteeg, and Ladd. But they only drafted Buff, so I guess that made the other two highly expendable.

Obviously, Huet is expendable. But what about Patrick Sharp?

The Capitals admittedly have a hole at the second line center position, but seem content to stand pat. Per Capgeek, the Capitals have 19 players signed with $8.55 million in cap space. Of the expected NHL roster, only Tomas Fleischmann is unsigned. And Marcus Johansson's cap hit is not factored in, but that is less than a million. So the Caps have the cap space, and the need, but no desire?

McPhee would rather try one of the young guys at the position. The team really loves undersized Mathieu Perreault, who, while I am not a fan of his style or what he brings, does have some promise. But he is undersized, not a strong skater - although he is quick - and they need size down the middle. Everyone knows the Capitals desperately need someone willing to go in the corners and retrieve the puck, and play in front of the goal. Perreault does not answer this need.

And since the Caps are insistent on not getting that type of player anyway, why not find a second line center who plays their game, and will be a significant improvement over anyone else in the organization? Sharp is now a Cup winner, and has scored 20 or more goals in each of the last four seasons, including a 36 goal outburst in 07-08. He also scored a point per game in the playoffs, including goals in each of the last three games of the Cup Final.

He has the speed the Capitals covet, has versatility (he is listed at Left Wing, but is known to play Center), and he wins 51% of his faceoffs. He will be 29 this year, and will be unrestricted after the 11-12 season, which is exactly what the Caps need - a short term deal, something that seemed impossible in the free agent market.

So what do you say? We know he looks good in red...

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Minor Proposal

During the annual GM meetings, one of the secondary issues (behind head shots, of course), was the idea that shootouts are occurring entirely too frequently. According to the AP, "In the first season of shootouts, 51.6 percent of overtime games went to a shootout, the lowest number in the five seasons of the tiebreaker. The percentage rose to a record-high 61.1 last season."

Since these ideas are just now being kicked around by the league, they are probably at least a year from being changed in any way. So this gives us, the vocal fans, the opportunity to voice our opinions.

Two of the ideas being kicked around include extending the overtime period, splitting between 4-on-4 and 3-on-3. However, a current rule that I feel is being overlooked is this:

The overtime period will be commenced immediately following a one (1) minute rest period during which the players will remain on the ice. The teams will not change ends for the overtime period.

Teams changing ends to favor the offense instead of the defense seems like a very reasonable and possibly significant change. The current overtime period is designed to favor the home team defensively, so that the team does not have the long change - however, in the case of a power play or any prolonged in-zone offense, the offense has the long change. If the sides were to be switched, it could allow for an easier time getting scorers on the ice, as well as "punishing" the defense - both of which would seem to encourage more goal scoring.

This is a simple rule change that would cost no money to implement, and could easily be tested in the minor leagues next season. What do you think?

EA Sports NHL 11 Trailer released

The NHL season is over, and that can only mean one thing: time for the next-gen video game trailers to be released.

Last year's model was a great game, with only a few improvements over the previous season. This year promises to add junior hockey to the game (not sure if this is only playable in BAP Mode or in all modes), which is a pretty cool touch. Of course, there will be new and better checking and deking animations, and one particularly cool sounding feature: total user control, in which we see several Hawks players kicking pucks to their sticks or making diving desperation plays.

There are a plethora of new stick animations, including broken sticks, passing a stick to a teammate, getting a new stick from the bench, and playing without a stick. This sounds cool, but I hope there is a slider bar for this feature, because I feel stick breaking will occur with too high of a frequency. Also, I wonder if there will be broken sticks from shots only, or also from slashes.

The new faceoff engine looks cool too. We see Getzlaf pushing Pavelski off the puck, and Stamkos kicking the puck between Backstrom's legs to take a quick shot.

Disallowed goals sounds good in theory, but will be likely occur too frequently.

Here is the video for those who have not seen it yet:

Sounds cool.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Hero of a Bygone Era

Bob Probert's sudden death on July 5th shocked the hockey world. Probert represented more than a tough guy on skates though, to most people who actually know a thing or two about the sport. However, the role that he famously filled and relished is quickly waning in the post-lockout game.

Probert was the best fighter of all time in the National Hockey League. Probably, in all of hockey. But he did more than fight, as do the vast majority of hockey fighters.

The main role of an enforcer is to protect his players on the ice. There are many ways to achieve this, most often fighting is the only associated method. However, intimidation through body checking, trash talking, and dirty play, along with physically breaking up altercations involving non-fighters are all in the enforcer's toolbox.

So when an enforcer like Probert comes along, one who can do all of the above, and also score goals, it is something special.

This is a man who, at Steve Yzerman's retirement ceremony, received more cheers than anyone but Steve Yzerman and Konstantinov. And there were some impressive Red Wings alumni there. Like Jacques Demers and Scottie Bowman.

This is a man who was one of the first teammates that Yzerman thanked at this same ceremony, and again, received an ovation that made the speaker pause.

This is a man who, at his memorial, Yzerman yet again praised him highly, "Bob was one of the single biggest reasons for the rebirth of the Detroit Red Wings back in the 1980s."

So what is it that an enforcer does? A real enforcer lays his heart on the line for the team, the players, the coaches, the fans, and the city. A real enforcer does not have to fight 30 times a year, but will always be the first one to stand in for a teammate. And a good one will win more than he loses.

Guys like Derek Boogaard and Colton Orr are hated by the league, and receive unfair treatment from officials. Most notably, Boogaard received a penalty in a game several years back for skating in front of the opponents bench during a stoppage in play, because he did not want his legs to cramp. These are guys who are fan favorites wherever they play, are locker room leaders, and effectively extend the careers of the players they protect. But the league hates fighting, so they are going the way of the dodo.

All in a vain attempt to grow the sport in markets where a snowstorm is considered a natural disaster.

So what have we learned from all of this? To remember the good times the sport has brought all of us. To do our best to hold on to the sport that we love, even if it is a shell of its former self.

And most importantly, to appreciate the great ones that come along, for their time is short. Thanks Bob. You will be missed.

Three cheers for Mike Fisher

I know this is not breaking news, but Mike Fisher married Carrie Underwood this Saturday at a secret ceremony.

The former Ms. Underwood's new legal name is Carrie Fisher.

Play on, playa.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free Agency News To Go

-Steve Eminger is on the move again. The former first round pick (12th overall, 2002) was traded for Aaron Voros and Ryan Hillier. Thanks again to Philly for sending us the pick that became John Carlson and for taking Eminger off our hands!

-Boston resigned Mark Stuart for one year. Here is a guy you know exactly what to expect from - strong defense and physical play, and nothing else. A good third pair defenseman.

-Edmonton signed Ben Ondrus to a one year deal. Pat Quinn's hand seems to have influenced this signing greatly. He is not a good hockey player, is not big, and will not have much of an impact on the team, but he is a good depth forward and is set to replace the Ryan Stone's on the roster. But he will probably play a lot in the AHL, since he is a fringe player at best.

-NY Rangers signed Dan Girardi to a one year deal. Good signing for this marathon man - he has never missed a game since he debuted with the Rangers midway through 2006.

Zherdev signs with Flyers

[I had this blog post typed and ready to go, but due to compatibility issues involving IE and Blogspot, I was unable to post until after this story broke press. I am now on Firefox!]

Reportedly, Zherdev is signing a one year deal with Philly. What does this mean for the team moving forward, and does this spell an end to the Gagne era?

Simon Gagne was one of the most dynamic players of the past decade- when healthy. He is a terrific two-way player with brilliant speed and a strong finish. However, his career has been marred by injuries. Two concussions, several groin injuries, and a major shoulder injury, and he is only 30. Here is a guy who, now entering his 11th professional season, has played exactly half of his career in both the pre and post lockout league. He was effective in the trap, but much better when he has the open ice in the new league.

Plus, Gagne has great chemistry with captain and linemate Mike Richards. And for the better part of the decade, he has been the face of the franchise. Since Keith Primeau's departure, Gagne has taken over as the most familiar name on the team, and for good reason.

So what does Zherdev's deal mean for Gagne? Gagne was reportedly being shopped earlier in the week, but he publically denied these claims. There has have been some degree of truth in the rumors, or else he would not have said a thing. But now that the team has brought in a young, talented, scoring switch winger, does this mean Gagne is out the door, for real this time?

GM Holmgren said earlier in the season that a NTC will not stop him from getting rid of players. Gagne has a NTC, but he doesn't necessarily have to be traded. The Flyers could unwisely waive Gagne and let another team (probably the Islanders) pick him up for half of his salary. However, if a trade does not emerge, this appears to be the next best option.

But since Gagne has a reasonable cap hit ($5.25 million), and will be a UFA next summer, it seems unlikely that several trade offers would not emerge. There are a few teams with the cap room, and the noted desire to add a scoring winger to the lineup. I think the Isles and Devils are out of the question - trading a star player to a rival is not the Flyers way - but the Kings and Oilers, among others, seem like possible suitors.

The NHL is badly drama starved when Simon Gagne makes headlines for this long.


In other news, the Capitals defense corps will be sponsored this season by Charmin.

It's the softest!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Caps sign Schultz, Fehr, and Gordon

On the 29th, I posted that the Caps qualified nine players. Of these, three have since been resigned. First up was Boyd Gordon, who signed a one year deal worth $800,000.

Gordon is a good signing, like I said, and comes at a steep bargain. On any other team, he would be a third liner, but the Caps have Steckel and Laich in front of him, so he is relegated to fourth line center/right wing duty. A highly effective checking center, Gordon is amazing in the faceoff circle, and is well known for taking few penalties (66 PIM in 303 GP). $800k is a pleasant surprise.

Next was Jeff Schultz, the gentle giant. He signed a four year deal worth $11 million. I was predicting in the $2 million per season price range, but seeing all of the big time pay raises above average defensemen got this offseason, I should have shot for a higher number. This is a good price range and a good length for a guy that needs to learn to spell "bodycheck".

Today was the surprise pay raise afforded to Eric Fehr. He signed a two year deal worth $4.4 million. Fehr gets fourth line minutes but second/third line pay. Odd. I wonder how much he would have gotten in arbitration.

No wonder the Caps issued a stand pat order in the offseason. They are planning to overpay complimentary players instead of bringing in the elements that they need. Oh well, at least we can look forward to a full season of Green getting run from behind by the big bad East.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good Riddance

Dear fans,
Jonathan Cheechoo's balloon contract was finally bought out. What a grotesque waste of money.

I remember hearing, about a decade ago, that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals if it played next to Mario Lemieux. Apparently the same can be said about Joe Thornton. If Cheechoo can cheat the Sharks out of $3.5 million per year, then I think I could earn at least the veteran's minimum.

Your [still] draft eligible blogger.

What should the Caps do?

Why did the Caps lose in the playoffs the last three years? A few reasons. They rely too heavily on the power play. They suck along the boards. They get frustrated too easily when things don't go their way. They do not block shots. They do not play in front of the net at either end. They do not hit, fight, or play physically, at all. They flop around on the ice, looking at the refs, instead of looking to just play the damn game.

So how do we fix this? We mix up the roster a bit. The returning forwards we have are Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, Laich, Chimera, Steckel, and Bradley. All of them except Semin have some grit - Backstrom is not that strong on his skates, but he is smooth like Datsyuk. And even he showed some emotion last year in the infamous Pittsburgh game, something that is pretty rare for the smooth operator he has become.

I expect Fehr, Fleischmann, and Gordon to be back next year. That leaves one roster spot (not counting the 100 combined games that Bradley, Gordon, Semin, and Fleischmann will miss). I liked the addition of Eric Belanger, but he seems to be out the door. Marcus Johansson will be competing for a roster spot, but it does not make much sense to bring in a top prospect to anchor the third or fourth line when he has top line talent.

Some bargains the Caps should pursue: Colby Armstrong, Rob Niedermayer (both UFAs), or Dan Carcillo, Ben Eager, and Andrew Ladd (RFAs). Of these, Ladd would be the best pick up. He has played in 53 playoff games, and won 2 Stanley Cups, and he is only 24 years old. A great combination of grit, size, leadership, durability, and poise, he would make for a great bargain - I see him making around $2 million next year, certainly within the Caps budget. The question is, are the Caps willing to part with a 2nd rounder as compensation? They should be, especially for this winner.

I would love for the Caps to add a gritty enforcer, maybe a guy like Zenon Konopka. Zman was amazing in the faceoff dot, has served as a captain in the AHL, and despite leading the league by a large margin in penalty minutes, did so with respectable and clean play. He only had two instigator penalties - something he takes pride in doing is defending his teammates without setting them back. But we know how the Caps feel about having a fighter. They would rather flop around like a Ghanaian when any contact is made, hoping for an penalty, instead of pressing the matter and having a highly effective deterrent on the roster. We can always hope.

The defense seems pretty much set: Green, Carlson, Poti, Schultz, Alzner, Erskine/Sloan/FA. There are a ton of third pair veterans available, for low salaries, but there is one in particular I am interested in - Shane O'Brien. He is young, physical, and if he could be kept in check, would make a great second/third pair dman. He has attitude problems, but that leads to passionate play, something the Caps have badly been lacking since the pre-Jagr days. If Boudreau is such a great coach, he should have no problem reeling him in and getting the most of him, right?

The goalies are set. Maybe look at the bargain bin for a backup (Emery?), but the future is in net now, and Varlamov and Neuvirth need all the experience they can get right now.

All this cap space, and for what? Use it.

Capitals Qualify Nine Players

"Two days after the completion of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and three days before the start of the league’s free agent shopping season, the Washington Capitals got back to business on Monday. The Caps issued qualifying contract offers to nine players for the 2010-11 season.

The list of players qualified is as follows: Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Gordon, Boyd Gordon, Patrick McNeill, Zach Miskovic and Jeff Schultz."

-Mike Vogel

I do not know much about the Hershey boys (Beagle, Bourque, A. Gordon, McNeill, Miskovic), but they have been together for a bit and have great chemistry. Do any of them have the talent to crack a top three line for the Caps? Probably not any time soon. Do any of them have anything to offer as a fourth liner? Definitely not. Qualify them and keep them buried in the minors, and use as trade bait come March.

The others, well they are a mixed bag. Fehr has come a long way, at long last. He was the 18th overall pick seven years ago, which sounds like a long time, but he is only 24 years old. However, he did not play more than 23 games in an NHL season before he turned 23, which is typical of power forwards. Herein lies the problem. He's not a power forward. Just because he lowers his shoulder and shoots from less than 12 feet away does not make him the next coming of Neely. He is not physical (less than one hit per game, and less than one blocked shot every third game), and other than his surprisingly clutch scoring, does not bring much to the table.

Why do I say clutch? Of his 21 goals scored in the regular season, 11 of them came with the score tied, and another 6 of them came while the Caps were losing.

Fehr is due for a 5% pay raise, however, he will need a 25% raise to garner the Caps any sort of compensation. Is he worth a million dollars? Not right now. This leaves our hands tied - sign him and use him as a trade chip in March.

Fleischmann is one of the streakiest players in the league, right up there in the company of Kovalev and Afinogenov. He too had a career year, posting over 50 points and shooting a very respectable 19%, especially given his paranoia of blue paint. Flash is one of the fastest Caps, and provides great versatility in his ability to not only play passive hockey at center, but also at left wing. And he is a great Swayze impersonator in April.

However, he can skate, plays well with his teammates, and has a good shot. And, like Fehr, over half of his goals came with the score tied. Does this equate to earning a roster spot next year? Maybe. The Caps have a bunch of cap room, but after the bungling of the cap two seasons ago, I am sure they will be much more cautious. Fleischmann comes at a steep bargain; he will probably not earn enough to justify letting him walk to receive the compensation. Maybe he will be trade bait, but I see the Caps keeping him for a few more years.

I will leave you with one telling stat: +24 in 47 wins, -15 in 22 losses.

Boyd Gordon. For years, one of my favorite Caps. His tireless work ethic is unmatched among most of the Caps forwards, in the defensive zone at least. He is also a very clean player - just 33 minor penalties in over 300 NHL games played. Very reminiscent of a younger Jay Pandolfo. However, that is about the limit of his game, and in recent years, injuries have become a serious concern. Sign him for another one year deal - he is a good piece of the puzzle, and comes at a great bargain.

Jeff Schultz. What an enigma. The guy has size for days, but never uses it. Imagine if Hal Gill had a kid with Mother Theresa. That's Schultz. He had an absolute monster year though, and will get a huge pay raise, whether it be from the Caps, or from another team. I expect to see someone else offer Schultz a fat offer sheet, a la Bobby Clarke/Ryan Kesler. Maybe even Philly - they are in the market for a depth defenseman, and Schultz would make a great third pair dman for the Flyers.

This would be a great time to lock him up long term. Not 10 years, but a nice 4-5 year deal in the $2 million per year price range is appropriate. Why not more? There is something to be said about a defenseman who gets benched in the playoffs two straight years.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Watch MLL Games Online - Free

Turns out ESPN isn't all bad, or at least the trey isn't. Streaming free sports, yes please.

MLL Online

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Coach for the NJ Devils

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker

According to the NJ Devils website, John MacLean is now the head coach of the NJ Devils. Nothing fancy to write about here, it's still one of the most boring organizations in the NHL.

PS: To the pricks on the internet, I know it's John McClane in Die Hard. Close enough.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Two players resigned

Holmstrom resigns for 2 years/3.75 million.

Holmstrom is a veteran warrior, winning four Stanley Cups, and appearing in 164 career playoff games. He's definitely in the twilight of his career, but he's still a force in front of the net (13 of his 25 goals in the regular season were on the power play), and his 82 points in 121 games played during the last two seasons makes for a very respectable .677 points per game, after the age of 35 no less. Homer has also been a plus player in every season since 2001-02, when Detroit won the Cup, so his responsible play can not be questioned. Durability is obviously a concern for a 37 year old player, but even more so for a man who makes his living in front of the net. H0lmstrom has had groin and knee problems in recent years, and missed considerable time last year with a broken foot.

All things considered, he's a relative bargain. His cap hit of 1.875 puts him in the same company as guys like Moreau, Avery, Fedotenko, Guerin, and Neil. While Holmstrom can't be expected to continue at this scoring pace much longer, this two year deal symbolizes what may be the end of an era for Detroit.

Shawn Thornton resigns for 2 years/1.625 million.

I know most NHL "fans" hate fighting, but it has its place. Thornton is one of those guys who gives his heart to his team, his city, and his fans. In a city like Boston, which has a reputation of being blue collar and down to Earth, Thornton fits right in. He's certainly paid his dues - 605 AHL games before Burke's Stanley Cup winning Ducks gave him a shot in 06-07. This hard path has given him much needed mental toughness to be the impact player he has become. While he won't do much in the way of scoring (28 points in 211 games with the Bruins), he brings a lot more to the table as a fourth line enforcer. He is well respected throughout the league, doesn't take dumb penalties (141 PIM this year, including 105 from fight majors), and gives a sense of protection to his teammates.

This signing may not look like much, but it's a sign that Boston understands what type of player allowed them to upset Buffalo. Hopefully Boston can add a few guys to compliment Lucic and Thornton - maybe a Shane O'Brien or Garnet Exelby - to round out a tough roster in one of the most physical conferences in the league.

I'm back, kinda

Sorry for not posting recently. I was busy (17 days in a row working), then went on vacation. During this vacation, I broke my laptop and my hand. I had a lot of interesting things to post about, but they have all lost their thunder, so we'll have to start anew.

With the next post.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cheating Sons of Bitches

If Only You Knew The Power of the Dark Side

Turns out that the Canadiens thought it would be funny to leave a little extra in front of the visiting locker room before the game today. Sand and dirt to be specific. Their crack team of stadium quality control didn't cover the floor until halfway through the third period. If you were wondering why every Flyer had skate problems today, that's why. Fucking scumbag team resorting to bush league tactics to slow Philly down. Darth Pronger is not going to like that one bit.

It would be nice to see the Habs organization fined and stripped of a draft pick. We'll see if they ever do that 'Slapshot' crap again.

- rare tip of the hat to NBC for reporting info regarding the dirty floor

There's No Hockey In The Summer

Renamed Again: Chesapeake Bayhawks

Although primarily a hockey blog, this doesn't mean we can't mention other sports - especially ones that barely conflict with the NHL. In the ever inept style of the NHL's version of Napoleon, Gary Bettman (for those asleep at the wheel) to this day has managed to make sure hockey is still not on ESPN. Surprisingly, lacrosse is one of the sports filling decent spots on weekends. MLL, Major League Lacrosse, takes up a lot of the summer - where there is no NHL to watch.

If you don't know who the Chesapeake Bayhawks are, don't feel bad. They were previously Baltimore and Washington (DC), playing now in Annapolis MD at the Navy Memorial Stadium. As all of you should know by now, I'm a homer through and through for my teams - but I do pay respect. As a UM grad, I still pulled for Joe Walters (the slowest player on the planet, but everything still hits net) last year when he was on Toronto.

MLL players, similar to several players in the NHL, have heart. Case in point, Brett Queener (Toronto Nationals goaltender) is absolutely the fucking man. Last season, played the championship with a BROKEN HAND and won. Take that Kari Lehtonen (both: making a championship game and toughness). Queener is the scary-type of goalie, who will try to start a rush, and keep the other team on their toes.

My team is the Bayhawks, and you should get in on it. Unless you're rooting for Philly, Montreal or Chicago, you've got nothing better to do anyway. Yes, it's over San Jose, unless the Sharks learn how to do the heimlich on themselves with the back of a chair. Don't count on it.