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.