November 12, 2010

Fifty-Goal Seasons never Strike Lightning Players Twice unless Their Name Is Stamkos

So, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier is now out, which would kind of matter if the book on him hasn’t been for the past two years.

I believe it’s entitled Great Unfulfilled Expectations, an unheralded instant classic that chronicles the main character’s constant run-ins with two primary antagonists: the villainous injury bug, which time and again has slowed and killed any forward momentum mustered in his career, as well as his own past success, which continues to haunt him just as his overbearing 11-year, $85-million contract does management and the team’s fan base.

Brilliant stuff, really, subject to rave reviews. Granted those rave reviews have been written by division rivals and lower-tier players grateful for the inflationary side-effects his nonsense deal has had on their salaries, but any feedback must be good feedback when you’re talking about a player becoming increasingly irrelevant in the landscape of the game today, who’s now been reduced to playing second fiddle to fellow-center and fellow-former-number-one-draft-pick Steven Stamkos, who at the tender age of 19 was able to do what it took Lecavalier eight seasons to accomplish, and that is to score 50 goals in one season.

Admittedly, not too many players get the chance to count themselves among the true elite of the sport who have reached that milestone, and Lecavalier does deserve props for that one season back in 2006-2007, but his point and goal totals have dropped significantly since then, from 108 (52), to 92 (40), to 67 (29), followed by a slight uptick to 70 (24) last season.

I get that Lecavalier is currently the team’s captain and he brings certain “intangibles” to the table, but more and more those intangibles look like him handicapping his team financially for the next decade, thereby preventing them from ever repeating as Stanley Cup champions, which, by the way, they won without him as captain. He had been stripped of it for being too immature.

Of course, it’s hard to make the argument that the Lightning would be more competitive without Lecavalier on the roster, because they still have over $11 million in cap space with him, but as a small-market team the Lightning can ill-afford to throw money away to the first person that comes along, especially with the next person, Stamkos, due for a big raise when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

"I think I just tweaked something stretching... damn. Coach said NOT to over-exert myself."
So, with Lecavalier now out of the line-up after breaking his hand on the most innocuous of plays against the Washington Capitals, it now perhaps opens the door for more ice time to be given to some of the more deserving players on the Lightning’s roster, at least for the next three-to-four weeks, at which point he is set to return and brainwash the coaching staff into thinking he is actually more valuable than say Dominic Moore, another centre on the team that represents one-seventh of Lecavalier’s salary-cap hit.

Moore, who has played four less games due to a groin injury, has just two fewer points. Not only that, but he gets less ice time than Lecavalier. So much so that, when adding up his ice time into 60-minute shifts, he averages 3.60 points per full game. Lecavalier averages 2.07. Even one of the team’s reserve centres in Blair Jones, with just two points, averages 3.56 points per full game, having played just 33:42 this year.

Obviously, putting Jones ahead of Lecavalier on the team’s depth chart is ludicrious, but it is food for thought along with the fact that the league’s leading scorer in Stamkos averages 5.41 points, meaning Vinny has quite a ways to go to catch up to his young understudy, who stopped following in his shoes about the time Barry Melrose stopped coaching the Lightning. Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?

Inevitably, the comparisons between the two have to stop, because it’s like comparing apples and oranges... a zesty orange filled to the brim with vitamin C to keep you healthy, and a rotten apple rife with worms and brown spots after taking one too many tumbles over the years.

Lecavalier isn’t really guilty of much. As of the end of the last season, he has the most points of anyone taken in the 1998 draft, so he came very much as advertised as the best player available that year. Of course, when the team’s owner at the time, Art Williams, declared he would be the Michael Jordan of hockey it raised expectations up to a certain point. For God’s sakes, Lecavalier hasn’t even been the Scottie Pippen of hockey, but the same last name sure does fit.

New Video! GetReal #5

"Puck the Bunnies"... as Opposed to, what?

Here's a little viral video based on the dying breed of hockey "fans" known as puck bunnies care of ukeleleist(?) Tally Deushane. There's some racy lyrics, but nothing regular readers of this blog can't handle, so feel free to press play.

"I'd hate Avery with every ounce of my being, but I'm just sooo happy."
For the blissfully unaware, puck bunnies are hockey groupies, the girls that hang around hockey arenas looking to "meet" hockey players, and it doesn't even need to be an NHL arena. You can go to any major junior hockey game, any university one, any ECHL one for crying out loud, and, as sure as Evgeni Malkin is slumping it up with the Pittsburgh Penguins this year, you will find a handful that think the goalie is pretty cute, or at least he looked cute that second he took his mask off and had the water bottle up against his face. It's a foregone conclusion that even Malkin, the Frankenstein's monster that he is, has met his fair share. Case and point would be Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf being romantically linked to Elisha Cuthbert. She looks like her, and he like some bulldozer had a field day on his forehead.

Cuthbert is perhaps the most well-known of her species, but she is the rarest as well, since most puck bunnies reputedly stalk their prey out of the desire to upgrade their social stature. And she of course made it to Hollywood all on her own. But make no mistake... she is a puck bunny proven by her once being blinded by the lustre of the crest off Sean Avery's jersey as well, until she came to her senses and realized he was a misogynist with clear-cut mother issues, because even they have standards. They're not high, but they are at least existent.

Semin Shows Ovechkin how It's Done

I don't think anyone will ever confuse Washington Capitals stars Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin. Despite the fact that both share the same first name, despite each being Russian, and despite each not exactly meeting any one conventional standard of attractiveness. Just taking that last point as an example, one looks like he fell face-first out of his mother's womb 25 years ago and the other fights about as effeminately as  his appearance is androgynous. However, they both can score, seemingly at will, and even taking into account their aforementioned physical shortcomings it is probably safe to assume that they do so about as prolifically off the ice as they do on it. But I digress.

On Thursday, Semin scored a hat trick, providing the margin of victory in his team's 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ovechkin also scored in the game and added two assists, leading to speculation that his spot on the roster is safe for now.

What's perhaps most impressive about Semin's trick is that he scored all three goals in just 15:11, all in the third period. Indeed, Semin continues to disprove my argument that he wouldn't know what the term clutch meant if he was locked in a washroom with diarrhea with nothing to read but the manual to his sports car. Power to him... for making me look foolish and having enough money to own a sports car.

However, as impressive as Semin's accomplishment last night was, the owner of the NHL record for the fastest record is way faster, clocking in at 21 seconds. That record belongs to Chicago Blackhawks great Bill Mosienko, who scored his trick against the New York Rangers on March 23, 1952.

Kinda makes you long for the good old days when hockey fights were fought between tough guys and pansies knew not to, doesn't it?

Subbanator Strikes First, Asks Questions Later

You've probably heard it all by now: P.K. scores on the PP, or some variation of that clever line, after the Montreal Canadiens defenseman scored his first career regular-season goal on Thursday. He did have one last post-season, but everyone knows those don't really count. Despite it being his first goal this year, and despite all the hype leading into it, Subban is very quietly putting together a very solid rookie season, not necessarily one worthy of the Calder Trophy, but a solid one nonetheless.

"I only look this young in photos... and in person."
As it stands now, Carolina Hurricane Jeff Skinner is leading all rookies in scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace, with six goals and nine assists in 16 games. While scoring should never be the only criterion used to determine who should win rookie-of-the-year honours, it's hard not to be impressed with what Skinner has accomplished up to this point, essentially tit-for-tatting teammate Eric Staal, who has the exact same stats. Of course, Staal should never be used as the yardstick to measure success, because it's clear he's never really lived up to the expectations his 100-point season helped to set a few years ago. Still, hats off to Skinner, especially due to his being just 18 years old and three years younger than his next-closest competition, Buffalo Sabre Tyler Ennis, who has 10 points in 17 games.

Here are the up-to-date rookie-scoring-leader stats:
1. Jeff Skinner (CAR) 6,9 - 15
2. Tyler Ennis (BUF) 4,6 - 10
3. Jordan Eberle (EDM) 4,5 - 9
4. John Carlson (WSH) 2,7 - 9
5. Mark Letestu (PIT) 4,4 - 8
6. Kyle Wilson (COL) 4,3 - 7
7. P.K. Subban (MTL) 1,6 - 7
8. Logan Couture (SJS) 5,1 - 6
9. Taylor Hall (EDM) 3,3 - 6
10. Tyler Seguin (BOS) 3,3 - 6

So, for the record, Subban: quietly impressive, Skinner: incredibly impressive, Taylor and Tyler: slightly disappointing considering Skinner's relative dominance, Ennis: still looks like he got out of juvie a few years too early, and Letestu: it was nice while it lasted.

November 11, 2010

Caught On Camera: GetReal #4

Avalanche’s Woes Pile on with Acquisition of Problem Child O’Byrne

"Dude, I'm sorry! You can have your purse back!!!"

With Ryan O’Byrne getting traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the phrase “we hardly knew ye” must ring strangely true for Montreal Canadiens fans, despite his having played four seasons with the team.

That’s because the now-departed blue-liner only appeared in a total of 128 games in the NHL and three this season, having generally played below expectations and fallen below supposed-minor-league-signing Alex Picard on the team’s depth chart. This of course occurred, oh, I don’t know, about three seconds into the season when, prompted by first seeing Picard play in person, head coach Jacques Martin asked the closest person in his general vicinity: “You mean, it’s legal to have a seventh defenseman that can actually play???”

So underwhelming an experience has watching O’Byrne been that it seems strangely fitting that the song “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” (from which the above saying is taken) shares a tune with “The Ants Go Marching One by One”, and thus would serve as an appropriate bid adieu to be played on his way to the airport, onto the plane, and out of town.

Of course, add in the fact that the song is Irish in origin just like O’Byrne and anti-war in nature just like O’Byrne is anti-competitive and one has to wonder how it never caught on as a theme song of sorts for when he skated onto the ice during warm-ups, you know, for those rare occasions he actually made it into the line-up.

For those unfamiliar with him due to his lack of ice time, O’Byrne is best known as the guy who, once upon a time along with then-teammate Tom Kostopoulos, got arrested for stealing a purse, apparently utilizing his underplayed psychic abilities to successfully predict the financial turn for the worse his career would inevitably take just a few years down the road. He also utilized his underplayed scoring abilities to score on his own net on a delayed penalty once, thereby achieving the same folk-hero status as notorious own-goal scorers Steve Smith, Chris Phillips, and Uwe Krupp.

O’Byrne joins a team, whose website currently shows 10 other defensemen listed on the roster (no joke). Granted some of those are AHLers called up due to injury like Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk, but the point is the Avalanche, in practice and not necessarily on paper, are more deep on D than the Habs, which, granted again, is like saying the Quebec Nordiques got the better end of the Patrick Roy trade. There’s a definite case to be made to the contrary, but you will mainly get dirty looks in exchange.

Now, this trade doesn’t approach one-hundredth of the significance of the Roy deal, with only current QMJHLer Leaguer Michael Bournival coming back the other way. However, the Habs do trim almost $1 million off their salary-cap payroll, meaning the Habs might come out ahead if they’re able to do something productive with that space. Meanwhile, Bournival is projected to be a fringe second-liner or above-average third-liner, meaning the Habs are getting something tangible back in return, but they will have to wait a few years to reap those benefits, with Bournival just getting drafted this past summer. 

As for the Avalanche, they had better get ready to melt in the standings from what can only be described as a “Slow”Byrne... if he somehow hasn’t become a press-box regular one month from now.

The 1-0 NHL Game that Shouldn't Have Been

It will go down in the history books as a 1-0 shutout win for the Anaheim Ducks, but it should be noted that the stars were aligning for a much different result. In fact, it was a night of overall absurdities between the New York Islanders and the Ducks. For example:

1) Career back-up Curtis McElhinney, who wasn't even good enough to play five games a year for the Calgary Flames behind Miikka Kiprusoff, somehow got his first career shutout and actually has a better save percentage than starter Jonas Hiller (.924 vs. .918).

2) The Islanders, despite losing just 1-0, probably have the worst overall blue line in the league without Mark Streit back there to give it some actual credibility, and yet they gave up just 14 shots in the game.

3) The Ducks, despite winning 1-0, probably have the second-worst blue line in the league (despite stars-in-the-making Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler being on it), and yet gave up just 27 shots on goal. Their average to date this season is 36.6 shots allowed per game, the second-worst in the league, next to the Atlanta Thrashers (the Islanders have for the record only given up 27.9 shots per game).

4) The Ducks have now won five straight, lending credence to the hypothetical notion that the Ducks are actually a good team.

5) Teemu Selanne, getting to the point that he should not only be thinking about retirement but retirement homes, assisted on Saku Koivu's game-winning goal, giving him a share of the team's scoring lead with 18 points in 17 games. Forget the Finnish Flash, the dude should be nicknamed Ponce de Leon for clearly having discovered the fountain of youth.

6) After reading through all reports of the game, Roloson seems to have actually made it through at least one game without suffering a collision with an opposing skates and then losing his mind.

Makes you kind of wonder about this topsy-turvy world in which we live, doesn't it?

There Was no Way Buffalo Was Going to Lose This Game... Unless, of Course, the Shootout Didn't Go as Planned

That's right, the Buffalo Sabres needed a shootout to dispatch the incredibly bad New Jersey Devils in head coach Lindy Ruff's 1000th game behind the bench. It could have been worse. They could have lost. Hell, Ruff could not have even made it to his 1000th game - all with the Sabres - if many of the team's fans had their way. But he did (becoming the 18th coach to accomplish the feat in the process), and his team won, albeit in less-than-impressive fashion. Good thing less-than-impressive does not necessarily translate into less-than-dramatic, with the Sabres scoring twice in 13 seconds, to pull ahead 2-1 in the game's second period. Of course that was before Ilya Kovalchuk didn't even get a shot away in his chance to tie the aforementioned shootout.

The team record for the two fastest goals, which is actually an NHL record shared with four other teams, is four seconds, scored on October 17, 1974 when both Lee Fogolin and Don Luce scored against the California Golden Seals, whose reputation as perennial losers in the league (and the ones that gave up the right to draft Guy Lafleur) may end up holding up better in the long run than that of the Devils when all is said and done. For the record, the Seals were in existence for nine seasons. The Devils have just less than 15 years left on Kovalchuk's contract, meaning plenty of time to turn a once-proud dynasty (or as close as a team could come to being a dynasty in the NHL) into a laughingstock. Kovalchuk's already leading the charge in that respect.

November 10, 2010

The NHL’s All-Star Festivities Need a Good Visit to a Strip Club

"It's All-Star Weekend. I have to look the part: apparently that of a blind, elderly snowbird missing his seeing-eye dog and raising his arms in frustration."

To borrow from NHL analyst Bob McKenzie, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig, albeit a slightly prettier one.

Now, when he spoke those words (or some version of them) on Tuesday night on television, he wasn’t revealing some sordid secret about his double life as a bestiality enthusiast, nor was he referring to the unethical testing of cosmetics on animals. No, he was talking about the NHL’s latest attempt to dress up the league’s all-star game in more attractive apparel.

As announced on Wednesday, the game, to be hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, will undergo a dramatic change, whereby captains voted by the players will select their teams through a draft-like process. At a time like this, the all-star game’s more memorable moments should be reflected upon. I’ll give you a moment to think back to your own personal favourite moments...


Well, that was a waste of a line.

For myself, maybe two incidents spark the greatest reaction: Owen Nolan “calling” his shot against Dominik Hasek in the 1997 game, which, while fun to watch, isn’t nearly that impressive as it should be humiliating for Hasek. What did you think he was going to do, Dom? Go five-hole? I get that Babe Ruth and North American culture as a whole is completely lost on you and you like to live in your own little world, but did you really think Nolan was pointing at the vendor 10 aisles up, looking to get his “food on” and reserve a bag of popcorn for after the game?

And then there was the game two seasons ago in which Montreal fans felt the need to stuff the ballot boxes to try and get six Canadiens voted into the starting line-up, which resulted in defenseman Mike Komisarek, with an incredible 11 total points that season, playing alongside teammates Andrei Markov, Carey Price, and Alexei Kovalev. Probably more shocking was that Kovalev took home most-valuable-players honours with two goals, an assist, and the shootout winner.

Clearly the puzzle wrapped in an enigma and shrouded in mystery that is Kovalev is finally solved: get him to play in a game that doesn’t actually count, and he tears it up. Because that’s what the all-star game amounts to: a nothing game that usually attracts two types of people: the casual hockey fan that is attracted to bright, shiny objects like the goal light going off time and again, and the rich who enjoy seeing their kind get richer when the MVP goes home with a new car for which they could pay using their last game cheque.

If the league is so intent on putting the all-star game in new duds, dress it up completely differently, how about getting it to try on the emperor’s new clothes, strip down, and reveal it for what it really is: a marketing stunt that isn’t aimed at the game’s actual fans, but one hoping to attract new ones. Considering the plight of the sport in a market like Atlanta, for example, where the game was played just the previous year, I think it’s safe to assume it’s not working out too hot. Or, for an apt simile, about as hot as the sport is in the Sun Belt states.

Now, I’m not saying the league should get rid of the game altogether, because it adds a healthy dose of credibility, but reinventing it doesn’t do a world of good when the inventor is starting off with the same spare parts each and every time. The breakaway challenge has been a dud, oozing about as much excitement as the latest Meryl Streep action thriller. The North America versus the World games, billed as this era’s cold wars, were exactly that... a lot of hype for nothing. And the off-year for the event last season for the Olympics was like a breath of fresh air, just like moving from Beijing to Vancouver was.

Still, let’s call a spade a spade here. The game barely adds any value to the league and changing it every so often takes away from that aforementioned credibility, to the point that outsiders might be prompted to ask: just what exactly is so wrong with the way that it was before? In word, “everything”, but it will always be “everything” no matter how it is played, but those potential fans don’t need to know that.

Wouldn’t you rather keep living the lie that it’s a very entertaining weekend that even its participants can’t wait for every year? Like a prom-date invitation accepted out of pity that you just can’t wait to be over, the players often treat being named to the game like jury duty. It’s something you have to do that you normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole... kinda like a pig wearing make-up. You just don’t know where it’s been, or who it’s been with...

... For the record, I actually like McKenzie, so please don’t take anything said in this piece as a sign of disrespect. I said he wasn’t revealing some deep dark secret about his double life as a bestiality enthusiast.

Alberts Takes Two Penalties, Leaves His Mark on Game, Darche's Face

There were many possible storylines that could have potentially shaped the Montreal Canadiens' 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

For example, on the Canadiens' side of things, you had the fact that Montreal's $8-million-man Scott Gomez was mired in a slump and on pace for 18 points this season, or $444,444.44 per point, for all you math whizzes out there. So bad had it gotten that Maxim Lapierre was put on Gomez's line yesterday to help get him going, with head coach Jacques Martin clearly trying to employ the old "Do you want to turn out like him? Do you?" approach as a way of hitting home and sparking an epiphany of sorts deep within his oversized paper weight.

You also had the newly formed PhD line of Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern, and Mathieu Darche, which was aptly named not only for the three members' initials but also because it takes a doctorate to understand just how the three have been able to develop scoring chemistry with one another when one member is a career minor-leaguer, another would be well on his way to becoming one were it not for the fact that there appears to be a shortage of lanky, lazy, and inconsistent scoring wingers in Montreal, and a third whose days of scoring at an other-wordly pace of 0.50 points per game are well behind him.

As for the Canucks, they were looking for their seventh-straight win, goalie Roberto Luongo was returning home, and head coach Alain Vigneault was in search of his 300th career win against the team that first hired him.

As it happens, Gomez didn't get a point, neither did Lapierre (big surprise on both fronts), the PhD line was held off the scoresheet for the second-straight game, thereby restoring some sense of normalcy to the line-up, the Canucks and Vigneault lost, and Luongo got outshone by former-Jaroslav Halak-understudy Carey Price. Did I leave anything out?

Oh, and it was the least likely of culprits, Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts, that actually had the biggest impact on the game, making this hit on Darche and later taking another dumb penalty that allowed the Canadiens to actually leapfrog over the New Jersey Devils for the honour of not having the league's worst power play. That's right, the Habs now have scored an amazing four times on 51 opportunities to move ahead of the 3-for-46 Devils. Way to go Alberts. Is it too late to get Shane O'Brien back from the Nashville Predators?

Derek Boogaard: Gun not Goon for Hire

Don't look now, but New York Rangers superstar Derek Boogaard (he's a superstar in his own way) is on pace for career-highs in goals and points following this blast last night against the Washington Capitals. It would seem the ever-versatile forward can not only punch, uppercut, jab, cut open, hit, and concuss opponents. Now he can add snipe to his repertoire as well. Granted those aforementioned highs are projected to be six goals and 12 points this year, and no one is really expecting him to not go another five seasons between goals, but in its own way yesterday was special... like the Northern Lights, or, perhaps more accurately, Halley's Comet, which occur every three-quarters of a century. I guess now we know why general manager Glen Sather reached out to Boogaard, because it sure as hell wasn't for his penalties-in-minutes totals, which are now up to a meagre 21 in 13 games. We also know why the Capitals are not known for their defense, as well as why Tyler Sloan is really only now, at the age of 29, getting a full-time shot in the NHL. The bright side of this? He now has a story to tell his grandkids one day, being one of the few to allow Boogaard, now with four career markers, to get the best of them on the ice without him using his fists.

November 9, 2010

Paul Holmgren is no Bob Barker, both Literally and Figuratively

"Crazily, we decided to keep the smaller of the three. More crazily? It's worked out for the best."
The Philadelphia Flyers continued their dangerous game of The Price is Right on Monday, making Claude Giroux the latest contestant in their continual attempts to get as close to the salary cap as possible without going over. Makes you kind of wish Bob Barker was around to beat some sense into general manager Paul Holmgren.

In all seriousness, Holmgren has done a decent job in general of making the Flyers contenders. People forget that it was only 2006-2007 when the Flyers finished last overall in the league by a pretty huge margin with 56 points (and still missed out on Patrick Kane). The very next season, they made it to the Eastern Conference final, serving as proof of some sort that Holmgren knows what he’s doing. Flash forward several years, and it’s become readily apparent that the Flyers have been so successful not necessarily due to Holmgren but shockingly in spite of some of the moves he’s made.

How’s he doing it? Luck? Sorcery? Deal with the Devil? Crystal ball? Through blackmail when rival general managers refuse to play ball upon receiving sexual favours from him in exchange for a thrown game here and there? Your guess is as good as mine, but I will say I’m leaning towards the last one, because luck doesn’t exist (the Devil does; he just clearly has better things to worry about, like getting his team out of the dumps above all else).

Here’s a guy (Holmgren, not the Devil) that reached out to Ray Emery to solve the Flyers’ goaltending problem in net... Ray Emery, the emotional train wreck of a goaltender that wasn’t even good enough to man the crease for the Ottawa Senators! The Ottawa Senators! Whose idea of a number-one goaltender is Damian Rhodes!

Of course, Emery gets injured and the Flyers turn to former waiver-wire trash Michael Leighton as the team’s saviour, and somehow that turns into a miracle, up until the point that he lets in perhaps the softest Stanley Cup-winning goal in history.

“Don’t worry, buddy, how’s a two-year, multi-million-dollar contract sound as a reward? Awesome, but, wait, what’s that? You’re injured to start the year? No, prob, we’ve got this unknown goaltender by the name of Bob Tverdovsky, or something like that. He must be Oleg’s brother. He’ll manage just fine until you’re good to go.”

Now Sergei Bobrovsky’s stellar start to the season (8-2-1) aside, it should be readily apparent that Holmgren has more lives than a cat equipped with body armour, or he’s just in really good with the man upstairs. And now comes Giroux’s three-year contract extension, to the tune of $11.25 million, which will come into effect next year. This means that he will become a very rich man, thanks mainly to one solid stretch of playoff hockey over the course of his inconsistent career (which admittedly has led him atop the Flyers scoring ranks early this season as well with 14 points in 15 games).

Logic would dictate that Holmgren should have perhaps waited at least a few months for Giroux’s point-per-game ratio to inevitably tank, thereby getting him somewhat cheaper, but all in all it seems as if Giroux is here to stay, so the deal can’t be bad-mouthed all that much. Conversely, you have the fact that the team’s payroll for next year is already above $50 million ($52,893,096) with just 18 players under contract.

So, seeing as the salary cap has gone up from $39 million to $59.4 million in five seasons, figure Holmgren has about $10 million with which to sign five players, including Daniel Carcillo, Ville Leino, and Jeff Carter among others (Nikolay Zherdev has been left off this list for the very simple reason that the only way he stays in Philly is if he gets on board and starts giving out the aforementioned sexual favours in Holmgren’s proxy).

"The jersey must be cursed, 'cuz both will be former Flyers pretty soon."
This situation could clearly have been avoided and, with each passing contract handed out, the end result is less and less pretty. Maybe Giroux’s contract was unavoidable, but the Flyers are still without a big-name goaltender (unless you count the one with the actual big name), Chris Pronger is set to man the team’s blue line until he’s a brittle old man (although he may already be considered brittle), and one of the team’s top goal scorers is set to get offer sheets aplenty come July 1. As such, the writing is likely on the bathroom wall regarding Carter’s departure from Philly... right beside Holmgren’s phone number for a good time.

The Ugliest Hockey Jersey of All-Time?

Saskatoon Blades Marek Viedensky (left) and Darian Dziurzynski show off their jerseys, made to look like denim and to be worn on Friday as a one-night only promotion. Thank God.

Top 10 Reasons Why Hockey Jerseys Should not Be Made out of Denim:
#10: Why would you need pockets to play hockey? To hold the jock sweat of opposing players?
#9: Only the presumed beer in your water bottle should weigh you down and not your jersey.
#8: For that classic look of casual apathy a hockey player is supposed to convey.
#7: The last time I checked, hockey wasn't NASCAR.
#6: Teams will start needing to employ sewing-capable equipment managers for those times buttons fall off.
#5: It's a slippery slope. The next thing you know they'll be wearing trucker hats instead of helmets, shades instead of visors, boots instead of skates, and square-dancing instead of playing hockey. I for one am not prepared to see Derek Boogaard hoedown instead of beat someone mercilessly.
#4: There's obviously some kind of throwback element here, obviously to the times hockey players wore denim, but some things should stay in the past: Pauly Shore, hair metal, parachute pants, etc.
#3: Please don't make them wear parachute pants next.
#2: Teams don't need fans mistaking the hockey game for a rodeo, and, out West especially, getting up, and leaving when the bull never arrives.
#1: They go a little too well with the cut-off shorts players already wear.

Some other nominees for the ugliest hockey jersey ever worn and thought to be fashionable:
For some reason, ugly jerseys seem to originate out West, with the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks all displaying their marketing departments' lack of brilliance. I can somewhat understand the Kings and Canucks ones, because they're retro, but the Ducks??? Talk about cross-promotion gone wrong. That animated series from the '90s was not exactly something to look back on fondly. The jersey is something to burn.

Zetterberg Does it All as Coyotes Crumble to One-Man Wrecking Crew

Not only does Detroit Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg draw the penalty, but he also scores the game-winning goal on a nice deflection in front on the delayed call, as the Wings beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in overtime on Monday. It's almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit would have scored on the four-on-three advantage, but all that means is Zetterberg could have easily given up the puck and given his team two full minutes of shooting-gallery action instead of helping to set up his own goal. As fun as shooting shot-blocking, diving Coyotes in the shins sounds, I'm sure Zetterberg and the Wings will take the win, while the Coyotes will have to go back to the drawing board.

November 8, 2010

The Do’s and Doan’s of Building a Contender: Why the Phoenix Coyotes are Mired in a Slump

It used to be that Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan was a fantasy hound. He struck the perfect balance between contributing the odd point and making the odd trip to the penalty box, with the odd alleged slur aimed at French Canadians added in for good measure. But no longer. Now the only slurs he’s uttering are solely in karma’s direction.

Doan recently found himself on the receiving end of an awkward collision with Dallas Star Nicklas Grossman, sustaining a lower-body injury last Friday with the hit. As a result, he’s been put on the shelf for what is being called an extended period of time. This after he nearly sidelined Anaheim Duck Dan Sexton with an illegal hit last month and broke Cam Fowler’s nose in the same game. 

Meanwhile, his Coyotes have lost more than their captain, going 4-5-4 in the team’s first 13 games this season. Last year after the same amount of games they were 9-4 en route to a franchise-record 107-point season. So, without further ado, a simple do’s and Doan’s list to be used as a reference guide for head coach Dave Tippett and general manager Don Maloney:

Do play your best players. I don’t think anyone knows exactly why Wojtek Wolski was a healthy scratch for two games, except for his obvious goal-scoring drought that has somehow made its way through the entire roster like a new strand of the Black Plague. I mean, Ed Jovanovski’s a good guy, but not who you want leading your team in scoring. Truth be told, Wolski does have six points in his last six games, with his two games out of the line-up coming smack-dab in the middle. So, the next best guess regarding his benching: Wolski spit in his coffee and instead of snickering behind Tippett’s back, he was all in-your-face about it. Smooth, Wojtek.

"Easy as spitting in your coach's coffee... I mean pie! Spitting in your coach's pie!"

Doan sign Eric Belanger and make him your number-one center. Too late, apparently. While Belanger is a healthy addition to any line-up, he should only be signed for depth purposes only. Belanger excels as a third-liner and can really only be expected to put up lower-tier top-six numbers, if that. The defensive aspect of his game is his strong suit and that should be embraced, not taken as a sign that he’s ready to step up and become a late-blooming French-Canadian Sidney Crosby.

Do examine your goaltending options. Ilya Bryzgalov has been decent in nets and cannot legitimately be considered a one-year wonder after his spectacular 2009-2010, but the team’s depth chart in goal is surprisingly thin. As it stands now, his being the best use of money by the name of Ilya in the NHL isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. With Vancouver Canuck Cory Schneider potentially available, maybe it’s time to think further down the line. Maybe it would be wise to consider actually challenging Bryzgalov to maintain his ever-softening grip on the number-one spot. Sure, Jason LaBarbera isn’t scaring anyone, but, put another way, neither is Al Montoya as your next viable option.

Doan trade for Marc Savard, no matter how in need your team is of a first-line center. Considering the logjam the Boston Bruins currently have at forward, it would be wise to wait until Savard actually gets healthy, at which point you should still be able to catch them desperate enough for cap relief to get him relatively cheaply. The rumours may not be true, but sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire. And if the ones concerning Keith Yandle going back the other way are even remotely true, Maloney may end up being burned at the stake.

Do finally ease Kyle Turris into the line-up. Admittedly, Turris has been playing lately, but Tippett’s generosity has been inconsistent with his ice-time varying from a low of just over six minutes to a high of just under 18. I thought the Coyotes were trying to groom a first-liner, not an actual desert dog through behavioural conditioning. He’s been through enough already, missing out on being a Chicago Blackhawk being at the top of the list had Dale Tallon not guessed right with Patrick Kane three years ago.

"If this isn't a license to get crazy on the ice, I don't know what is."
Doan dole out illegal hits and then pretend you don’t know how you got suspended by the league. That has a nasty way of catching up to you and your teammates.

Obviously it’s still early in the season and a lot can change, but improvement can’t come soon enough. They take to the ice against the Detroit Red Wings, and, considering they were the team that eliminated Phoenix last post-season, it would make for a fitting time for the Coyotes to actually start living up to their potential. Maybe they did play over their heads last season, but, as Doan can attest to, hunting those of opponents is no way to get back on the winning track.

Just Like Duck Hunt, Hunting Ducks Blessed with AK-47s that Shoot Back

Paul Mara gave the Anaheim Ducks' faithful something to cheer about on Sunday during a season of defensive injuries, lapses, and general woes. It's somewhat fitting, or some weird form of vindication, for one of the team's less-prolific d-men to get the 5-4 winning goal in dramatic fashion on Sunday, with him scoring with less than two seconds left against the Nashville Predators. The two teams actually alternated scoring all the nine goals in the game, with forever-young Teemu Selanne scoring the first just 52 seconds in. Selanne, with two points, now shares the team-lead with 17 points. Mara, surprisingly, now has one goal and one point on the season. Considering his ever-decreasing point totals over his career, I half-expected him to have regressed into negative figures by now, but good for him.

Meanwhile, the Ducks have given up the third-most goals in the league with 50, which would be really, really depressing were it not for the fact that the Atlanta Thrashers and Chicago Blackhawks are the two teams that have given up 51. Then again, the New York Islanders have also given up 50, and few people are giving them much of a chance to make the playoffs, so read into that stat whatever you will.

Striking Oil in the Same Place Twice in 14 Seconds

I don't think the commentators gave the Oilers enough credit on the second goal of the two they scored in 14 seconds on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Sure, defenseman Duncan Keith got his stick on the pass from Penner to Gagner, but it was still relatively pretty to watch, and it just goes to show that good things do happen when you go to the net. That being the case, I'm sure Sheldon Souray hasn't been to a net in a while... Coincidentally, the fastest two goals in Oilers history apparently took place last year, on November 24, when Souray and Ales Hemsky scored seven second apart against the Phoenix Coyotes, apparently in one of the two games Souray didn't miss to injury.