November 19, 2010

Beer with Breakfast? Now You Can, with Miller’s Kick-Save Crunch!

Buffalo Sabre, Vezina Trophy-winner, and, yes, even philanthropist Ryan Miller is arguably the best goalie in the game. Granted he’s on a bad team right now, but he can still snag pucks out of the air as if there were no tomorrow, and, as this video shows, he’s even pretty proficient with his stick (who really likes photographers, anyway?)... and, yet, ever the mind-boggling conundrum, no one has ever thought to give him his own cereal. Until now.

"Kick-Save? More like Kick-Ass!"
Thanks to PLB Sports, Miller fans in the Buffalo area  (or fans online at can now enjoy drinking from a frosted mug and looking at his each and every morning, all the while eating spoonfuls of Kick-Save Crunch, which are advertised as: “a honey nut toasted oat cereal” with a portion of the proceeds set to benefit “The Steadfast Foundation, a non-profit foundation started by Miller to support and provide resources to children and their families who are fighting cancer.”

Of course, it’s important to note that PLB Sports is also the mastermind behind Ochocinco’s, the cereal named after the Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver of incredibly the same legal name. That in turn conjures up memories from last September when a simple typo mistakenly directed the well-intentioned, charitable people that bought his cereal to a phone-sex line instead of Feed The Children. A misprint on the box got the prefix of the telephone number to that non-profit organization wrong. As a result, those very same well-intentioned, charitable people were essentially put in a position to supply their credit-card information not to give a donation, but in exchange for another service entirely.

There were clearly several eye-opening details surrounding this story, most notably the inherent lack of due diligence on the part of whoever was responsible for checking the phone number. Clearly an example of someone being caught with their pants down. However, there’s also the fact that Ochocinco has his own cereal?! Needless to say, Miller doesn’t need to be lumped in with him or tarnish his family-friendly image anywhere near the point Ochocinco had his... even before the cereal incident. As such, I’m guessing actually promoting the cereal as a great on-the-side to a morning brew was never a realistic possibility. A shame. No one’s ever really cornered the ever-popular yet grossly undertargeted beer-just-when-you-wake-up segment before.

Assuming all the dots on the “i”s and crosses on the “t”s are checked properly, it’s a safe bet that this clear-cut Honey Nut Cheerios rip-off does stand to do a lot of good for children in need, even if jokes on the money to be donated and just “giving it away” are inevitable well into the foreseeable future. Good on Miller. If only he could coax teammate Thomas Vanek into doing similarly. He doesn’t even need a cereal, just the $4 million or so he doesn’t earn every year and a chequebook.

"How about Million-Dollar Zeros? That could work as a cereal, right?"

The McRib and Mikey Ribs: One Disappears for Long Stretches at a Time, the Other is a Sandwich

"Yeah, I'm a bad-ass. A bad-ass in prison, but still a bad-ass."
Dallas Star Mike Ribeiro has come a long way since his days of being a slimy, immature, and egotistical hockey player that walked around with a sense of entitlement all proud-like, like it was a man-purse back in the 1980s. Sure, it's been just one month - when he got arrested for public intoxication - but people can change!

Proof of that fact came on Thursday night, when Ribeiro shed his early-season skin of being unable to score, potting not only the game-tying goal against the San Jose Sharks last night (the Stars' second goal in 29 seconds), but also the game-winning goal in overtime. He now is on pace for just nine this year (and 76 points overall, with his 14 assists thus far), which would be his lowest goal total since 2002-2003 when he had just five as the immature, physically undevelopped skeletal shell of the player he has become today: a still immature, slightly larger but still skinny-as-hell shell of a player in general.

The Dallas Stars have clearly won the trade that brought him to Texas four years ago. As a Star, he has 289 points in 322 games, including one really awesome year in which he averaged more than a point per game (2007-2008, 83 points in 76 games). In contrast, I'm sure defenseman Janne Niinimaa had at least one really awesome game with the Montreal Canadiens during those 41 games he played for them. I mean those three assists of his could easily have come all in one game, right? Right???

Still, Ribeiro's coming out as a legitimate top-six forward (he had a few decents seasons in Montreal, but none that came close to matching the success he's enjoyed in Dallas) is slightly irrelevant from the Habs' standpoint. If they could have kept the point producer, even taking his inconsistency as part of the package but leaving out all the drama, they would have, but reports were that he was a distraction in the lockerroom and he didn't have the sense of the class needed to deal with the team's more distinguished alumni and ambassadors. As such, he needed to go. 

I'm sure in retrospect, Bob Gainey would have liked to get more for him than a glorified pylon in the defensive zone with a fancy-sounding name, but that's in the past, as is his position as general manager of the Habs. Here's hoping Ribeiro takes a page out of his book, is able to keep the past in the past, and has finally grown up after all this time... since mid-October.

Seen Stamkos, Lately?

Is it fair to call Thursday night's five-point performance by the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (who got a hat trick, among the five) an explosion, when it seems like his entire start to the season has been an explosion out of the gate? Forget the fact that he now has 19 goals in 19 games this season. Hell, forget the fact that, dating back to late in his rookie season, he has scored 79 goals in 114 games, a 0.69 goal-per-game pace that would give him 57 in an 82-game season... which, coincidentally, is the same pace he set late in that rookie season, when, from March 17, 2009 onward, he netted nine in that year's final 13 games.

"Why would I know anything about hockey? I don't even know anything about hair."
Maybe it's just me, but I'm prepared to go out on a very long limb and say former Lightning head coach Barry Melrose, who limited Stamkos's minutes that year and said after getting fired in November after compiling a 5-7-4 record: "Right now he's just not strong enough physically to play against defensemen who are 6'3" or 6'4" that can skate as good as him" didn't know what he was talking about. Of course, an 82-103-21 coaching record before he took over the reins behind the Lightning bench to start the year might have also served as a good indication of that fact, but what are you going to do, Oren Koules and Len Barrie? Look back to see how successful the candidates to fill your team's head-coaching vacancy have been in the past?

For the record, Stamkos only had four points in those 16 games under Melrose and then went on to score 42 points in 63 games the rest of the way. And, now? Well, 35 points in 19 games. Need I say more? Probably not, but what the hell? Stamkos has arrived, is here to stay, and Melrose, may he never come back.

November 18, 2010

Things Aren’t Looking so Hot in Calgary

The Calgary Flames seem to be in the headlines these days for all the wrong reasons.

Reason #1: They’re playing an inconsistent brand of hockey (which is just a polite way of saying they suck)

Reason #2: The team’s supposed superstar captain is on pace for his worst season since 1997-1998, when he was still a bright-eyed sophomore, blind to just how fast being the only great player on a team can age you horribly

Reason #3: The general manager’s son gets arrested, prompting a debate as to whether or not it would be nepotic of him to keep him on the team as opposed to sending him down to the AHL, thus prompting an even larger, more interesting debate on whether or not it was nepotic of him to even draft his son in the first place

Reason #4: Said son gets outright traded to the Carolina Hurricanes along with Ian White for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos and then gets placed on waivers, meaning maybe he really was never actually good enough to make the Flames

Reason #5: One of the team’s top (loose term) free-agent signings loses his composure when he finds out that he isn’t the one getting traded off the inconsistent (sucky) team (apparently holding out for the chance to eventually become a Flame three times in his career). He then takes it out on Phoenix Coyote Wojtek Wolski’s face on Thursday, prompting a three-game suspension

Obviously, in regard to the last reason, Olli Jokinen was given a five-minute major on the play in question, along with a game misconduct and a look of confusion from all in attendance. That is likely due to how the cross-check to the face took place between plays, with seemingly no provocation on Wolski’s part, and because no one has ever seen the dude “play” with such emotion before. Maybe he should just imagine the puck is Wolski’s face from now on.

Probably a nod to that unnatural ability of his to keep his emotions in check (and absent from his game completely), Jokinen had never been suspended before Thursday when the NHL’s powers that be reigned down on him like only they could on a first-time offender guilty of a by-and-large mild incident... or any player guilty of so much as slashing Boston Bruin Gregory Campbell.

"Aaaahhh! I'm useless without my stick! Well, less useless!"
The three games does seem pretty steep superficially, but when one takes into account the clear pre-meditation on Jokinen’s part, a one-game ban would have been a realistic expectation leading up to the league’s decision. As such, three will hardly nail him to the cross. In any case there is a silver lining that Jokinen can take away from all this, that when he was actually a superstar in this league, he would have been forced to forfeit a whole lot more. Granted he was also making a lot more money then, but you take the good news wherever you can find it, especially with the Flames in such dire straits right now.

Them giving up White is proof of just how bad things have gotten. They had to downgrade their defense one quarter of the year into the season when the playoffs are still a possibility. Sure, Babchuk may have two more points (8 vs. 6), but it’s clear that White is the better defender, arguably with greater offensive upside. So, really, it is a pretty bad trade that reeks of desperation. And that’s not just desperation born out of the need to cut ties with Brett Sutter, but desperation born out of the team’s financial irresponsibility.

"I want to come home."
Jokinen, Matt Stajan, Jay Bouwmeester, Ales Kotalik, Cory Sarich, and even Daymond Langkow, his neck injury aside, all represent inflated contracts Sutter has signed or taken on in the recent past. And with Jarome Iginla not getting any younger, not only is the Flames’ window of success in the league growing smaller with each passing day, but so is Sutter’s grasp of what it takes to build a winner. Sutter’s success in 2003-2004 was legendary, him taking a team that had gone seven seasons without a playoff appearance straight to the Stanley Cup finals. But it is now seven years later and the team has regressed considerably.

Sutter giving his son a chance in the NHL (when he probably didn’t deserve one) was maybe his way of trying to live vicariously through him. Maybe it’s time to consider that his trading him was his way of saying that he wants out too. One can hardly blame him if that’s the case... that is if he wasn’t mostly to blame for how bad things are now. And they’re plenty bad.

Evidence that Steve Downie Has Taken Mattias Ritola under His Wing in Tampa

Either Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson hit Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mattias Ritola soooo hard on November 4th that the latter truly thought he was getting him back yesterday night with his best impression of former WWE superstar Rikishi Phatu (the hit, actually on New York Islander Matt Moulson, can be seen here); That, or his sense of timing is naturally that bad, thereby explaining just how he has turned out to be the first Swedish-born Detroit Red Wings draft pick to not pan out with the team, ever. I mean, c'mon, even Jonathan Ericsson, who was taken last in his draft year, LAST, has become an NHL regular. What's that say about you, Ritola? I'd be afraid of you hitting me from behind for telling it like it is, but the fact is I'm thousands of miles away... and you'd probably just end up getting some guy who didn't even look like me back instead.

Moulson ended up being okay, but a suspension should be handed out for the simple reason that the check was illegal on all counts: He left his feet, he hit Moulson from behind, and, if you look close enough, you can also see Ritola's elbow hit Moulson's head as well. That right there is the trifecta of stupidity, surpassed only by that time Steve Downie charged Dean McAmmond, left his feet, and launched himself right into his victim's head a few years ago. The end results were vastly different, probably mainly due to Ritola weighing just 192 pounds, and Downie already having earned a reputation of being a dirty player by the time he got around to concussing McAmmond (clearly knowing what he was doing at the time). At just 23 years of age, there's still time for Ritola to hone his craft. God knows he's got the perfect teammate to help him out.

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Halak Makes Big Boo-Boo en Route to Rout by Red Wings

Saint Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak has lost his mojo. He's lost four-straight games, having allowed 19 goals, and getting the hook in one of them. And he didn't help matters when he made the misplay of the year on Wednesday night, scoring on himself, thereby giving Detroit Red Wing Drew Miller his first goal of the year. That's the bad news (okay, the really bad news). The slightly good news is this: maybe Miller can hook him up with his brother out of gratitude, get him to give Halak some tips, because nothing else seems to be working right now.

His stickwork? Clearly sloppy. His lateral mobility? He looks like he's slipping and sliding in KY jelly. His glove hand? Wonky to the point that he'd have more success grabbing and holding onto Carey Price's jock, which is saying something considering it was just last week that Halak was making the Montreal Canadiens goalie look like the prodigal son up north, only with the slight twist that after trading Halak the Habs had to take in Price for lack of another crazy-enough person to suit 'em up and let people take turns hitting him with vulcanized rubber (because, really, isn't that just what all goalies are, bat-crazy?). And, finally, Halak's once-icy-veined composure? Well, when you're being lit up to the point that he's been, it's just logical to assume the heat, at least from the goal light, will start getting to you. So the goalie who once withstood the pressure of an entire hockey-mad city at the most intense time of year now is just not cutting it.

Get well, Halak, because a world in which Price is outplaying you is one in which we can't make fun of him anymore. I don't think anyone wants that.

November 17, 2010

P.K. Subban Needs an Attitude Check like Mike Richards Needs a Reality One

"Cocky? Me??? Man, Richards needs to know his place and get ready for Primetime just like everyone else."
Does anyone else get the sense that the Philadelphia Flyers are just an oversized bunch of sore losers, especially after the Montreal Canadiens shut them out on Tuesday night?

Exhibit A: Scott Hartnell accusing Maxim Lapierre of choking him in a scrum, little over a year after he himself was accused of bitting Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang under similar circumstances (see tail-end of vid). We’re not saying it didn’t happen, but choose your battles. Especially since trying to get Lapierre to admit something like that happened would be like pulling teeth, but let’s not give him any ideas for the next scrum, with the teams renewing their hostilities next Monday.

Exhibit B: Chris Pronger falling off the puck-stealing-addiction wagon, only to be caught by Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. I can only imagine what that would have looked like, two vertically challenged Habs running after a 6’6” giant like Chris Pronger in the Bell Centre hallways asking as politely as possible for the game puck back. Yes, I can only imagine, and yet I can’t stop laughing.

Exhibit C: Captain Mike Richards mouthing off to anyone who will listen, telling reporter Shaun Starr from the local Team 990 radio station in regard to P.K. Subban:

“He’s a guy that’s come in the league and hasn’t earned respect [just like me]

“It’s just frustrating [NOT losing 3-0 to a much smaller team, right after which I am making these seemingly out-of-frustration comments, but rather] to see a young guy like that come in here and... think that he’s better than a lot of people. 

“You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot [like running goalies and making it look like it was an accident, see above video; or knocking guys out like I did David Booth last season]

“You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that [you need three, four years under your belt, tops; then you can behave like an ass as much as you want].”

Please note that Richards didn’t actually say those things in parentheses. They were added in to illustrate a point. Indeed, a day after Richards was the subject of much praise on these pages for his penalty-killing efforts against the Ottawa Senators, I’m taking him to task for his hypocritical tirade last night. Richards may be a leader, but last night he was only showing his team and whoever else was watching how to be an idiot by example.

One example of many took place midway through the third period when he took a few extra shots at Andrei Kostitsyn, who promptly gave him one right back only to see Richards change before his eyes into an insane-asylum escapee in need of a good sedative. P.K. Subban stepped in to help out his teammate, and all of a sudden he’s a disrespectful pissant? Sorry, your highness. We didn’t realize that you were king of the universe and that the league charter specifically laid out that everyone is allowed to take garbage from you and not dish it back out.

Subban may be cocky, but you need some measure of arrogance to have a successful career. Just look in the mirror Mike; you’re a 25-year-old, talking like you’re 35, but acting like you’re 15. If that’s not cockiness, I don’t know what is. And, for the record, Subban is four years younger than you and clearly has way more class. He may be brash, but he’s not the one talking smack to the media about you behind your back.

"Yep, looking classy... to make up for my huge lack of class."
No one will ever confuse Subban for let’s say former Hab Saku Koivu, whose actual leadership skills (take note Mike) were equalled only by his sense of modesty. Subban’s got skills, and he isn’t afraid of letting people know it or of people thinking less of him for it, as this tweet today from local reporter Arpon Basu will surely prove:

“Asked Subban today if his spin-o-rama could be construed as cockiness. ‘Well, then Bobby Orr was the cockiest player in NHL history.’”

Somehow Subban is able to both make the greatest comeback ever AND seem like a delusional schizo for comparing himself to Orr! How does he do it? Who knows? Just one of his many skills, it looks like. He’s got charisma, and that’s why we love him.

The bottom line is Richards doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he’s going to complain about how Subban carries himself. He has more pressing things to worry about like how he’s going to go about getting in Carey Price’s kitchen next Monday, hopefully without having to run him.

Now We all Know Why Maxim Lapierre Rarely Fights

For the record, Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre has been in 11 fights over his five-plus years in the NHL. That would make his fights less frequent than phone calls home from a deadbeat dad, making sure to check in on his kids every so often. Are we saying that Lapierre is worse than a beer-swilling, welfare-cheque-cashing loser that doesn't know right from wrong enough to drop in and see his kids beyond the pre-requisite visits on Christmas and birthdays? As much as we'd like to in light of all the chirping he does, the fact of the matter is he fought Philadelphia Flyer Darroll Powe in an effort to stick up for his fallen teammate in Jeff Halpern, who got checked hard into the boards just before. Of course, the key word there is "effort" as in try, as in failed... miserably. Baby steps, though. Maybe next time he'll even land a punch.

Remember that Brad Richards Trade to the Stars a Few Years ago? How's it Working out for the Lightning?

Not so hot, considering Jussi Jokinen no longer plays for Tampa Bay, ditto for Jeff Halpern, and goalie Mike Smith will likely be relegated to a back-up role before this season is all said and done (a .869 save perecentage and a 3.63 goals-against average through nine games will do that... or buy you a one-way ticket to the ECHL where you just might end up being good enough to become a goaltending coach to teach your charges what not to do in order to actually make it).

In any case, like I need to say it, that trade worked out pretty well for the Stars (who also gave up a fourth-round pick; no word yet on whether Kyle Bigos will turn out to be the superstar that will make the Stars regret the day they ever tangled with Oren Koules). Richards? He now has 50 goals and 121 assists in 164 games with Dallas. That includes his 200th career goal, which came last night against the Anaheim Ducks.

So, why bring up the trade now? Well, Richards's career milestone aside, now's as good a time as any to bring up the fact that he's due to become a free agent next off-season. With the team's ownership situation pretty up in the air (remind you of any one team in particular?), the Stars should probably look into not making the same mistakes the Lightning did way back when, i.e.

1) Not treating your team like you're in a fantasy league

2) Not give out big-money contracts like the world is ending and it won't even matter in a few years anyway.

3) And, mainly, not trading away your actual best player for nothing more than a few temporary band-aids to cover up your own incompetence.

I guess another reason to bring up the trade two-and-a-half years later: it's always cool to slam the Lightning and their past troubles, especially when it looks like the organization is on its way up again. Okay, maybe not, but Koules and Len Barrie were just that bad as owners.

November 16, 2010

Well, At least He’s Better than Mike Milbury... but, hey, Isn't Everyone?

The before: "He told me that if I didn't become gm he would beat me up. Wouldn't you take him seriously???"
Goaltender Garth Snow arguably had one good year in the NHL. It’s ironic on so many levels that it was his first as a general manager.

Snow was actually named the NHL’s Executive of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2006-2007, a season that saw the Islanders get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, but get in all the same, thanks in part to several moves made by Snow.

For example, he traded for Richard Zednik and even acquired Ryan Smyth in that infamous deal that saw the Edmonton Oilers acquire Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson, and a first-round pick in 2007. Nilsson was bought out this summer and O’Marra has yet to make good on all the hype that projects him to be a third-liner at best in the NHL (oh, but what a third-liner!). Even signing Rick DiPietro to that insane 15-year deal at the start of the season seemed like it had worked out, with the goalie posting a solid 32-19-9 record that year.

Add in the acquisitions of Viktor Kozlov (before he realized the KHL was where “it” was at; no word yet on what “it” is... possibly rampant prostitution and corruption), Richard Park (the heart of Seoul), and Mike Dunham (clearly to take over Snow’s place as the team’s go-to, over-the-hill benchwarmer... until Wade Dubielewicz replaced him as the team’s token journeyman back-up) and Snow actually turned that team into a legitimate (playoff) contender that was able to sneak into the post-season with a shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils. 

Granted the Islanders had a 2-0 lead late in the third period in that game, gave up the game-tying goal with one second left, but that was when the Devils were actually good, you see. All in all, it was an impressive feat... that is, until they ran into the Buffalo Sabres in the first round and promptly packed their bags en route to three seasons of futility.

Add in the concussion DiPietro suffered with a handful of games left in the regular season that year (before returning for game two of the first-round series), which triggered the wave of injuries that would soon define his career, and all the success Snow enjoyed that year was all for naught. But it was the decision to fire Ted Nolan as head coach back in 2008 and hire Scott Gordon that brings it all full-circle.

Nolan may not have been hired by Snow, but Snow did hand him his walking papers when the two reportedly got into a disagreement over the direction of the team. Nolan wanted to try to win then, while Snow wanted him to give more ice time to the team’s younger players, prompting Snow to reach out to Gordon.

Fast forward two years later and Gordon, whose team is mired in a 10-game losing streak, has gotten the axe as well, for, one has to assume, doing what he was told in the first place: try to develop the team’s young talent.

It really isn’t his fault the team is a few years away from competing. It’s not his fault the team’s best defenseman in Mark Streit got injured before the start of the year, and that Kyle Okposo, one of the team’s best goal scorers, followed suit right after that. It’s also not his fault that the team’s defensive corps is made up of a bunch of AHLers, with the exception of James Wisniewski, who sometimes does act like he is in the AHL (we’ll also give you Mark Eaton and Radek Martinek, but that’s it). It’s certainly not his fault that the goaltending tandem of which he was made the beneficiary comprises one guy who has 911 on his speed dial for injury concerns and another who does in case his aging heart gives out.

The Islanders, when one sums it up, are a bad team. They have promise, but they are bad right now. No coach will fix that... unless you manage to hire a witch or wizard of something, but how realistic is that? Halloween has passed and few are readily available. And, unless Jack Capuano has some deep dark secret and a cauldron in his basement, his hiring will only lead to more failure.

Snow has made a few good moves this season, picking up Michael Grabner off waivers, for instance, and even prying Wisniewski away from the Anaheim Ducks for a mere third-round pick (which does lead one to believe magic of some sort was involved somehow), but it’s his axing of Gordon that is front and center, and so it should be. Snow hired him and, with his departure, Snow just looks like a huge hypocrite.
The after: "Four years??? It feels like 40!!!"
It’s hard to tell how much of what Snow actually does is ordered from eccentric owner Charles Wang, but more and more it’s Snow that is seen as the face of the organization, especially with it sinking into more and more dysfunction. Anyone can draft John Tavares, but few can build a team around him. The last time I checked, that was the gm’s department and not the coach’s.

Mike Richards: Philadelphia Flyer or Specially Trained Penalty-Killing Machine?

Probably lost in all the drama on Monday, hell, probably lost in all the other goals being scored against the Ottawa Senators (5-1 losers), Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards hit a notable career milestone by passing Rick MacLeish as the fifth-most-prolific shorthanded-goal scorer in Flyers history. Considering Richards is only 25 and he's scored 22, it's quite an accomplishment and makes it all the more likely he will eventually pass Bobby Clarke for the team record of 32. As for catching Wayne Gretzky, who has 73, Richards still has a ways to go.

Still, it's clear that Richards has discovered the three-pronged key to success when it comes to scoring shorties:

Trick #1: Have mad skills.

Trick #2: Lull your opponent into a false sense of security by having a teammate take a stupid penalty. It helps if you have a stupid teammate, like Daniel Carcillo, on your side for this one. Carcillo injured his knee, checking the boards last night, by the way.

Trick #3: Maneuver yourself in such a way to be drafted into the same division as the New York Islanders.

The rest is just luck.

The Hit that Epitomizes the Devils' Season so far: the Whole Team Has Been Turned Ass-Backwards

Here's the story of two different teams. Meet the New Jersey Devils: Too small, too slow, too easy to push around, blessed with scoring forwards that can't score, and crippled by the contract of a would-be superstar that has essentially kept them from playing their game. Meet the Boston Bruins: their over-the-hill, overpaid goalie is outplaying every other one in the league, including the Devils', they've got four lines they can roll out like it's nobody's business, their best player isn't even healthy, along with one other top-six forward, and, oh, yeah, their insurance policy in their back pocket for those times something doesn't go their way: they've got the seemingly nepotic and overzealous (let's not forget foul-mouthed) senior vice president's son on their roster. Are we all acquainted? Good. Now, Mattias Tedenby, meet Mark Stuart. Play nice, you two.

To Be a Goal or not to Be a Goal: Video Replay Nearly Disallows Two Goals on Same Shift in Sharks-Kings Game

A crazy couple of minutes at the HP Pavilion on Monday night saw the San Jose Sharks take a 4-1 lead in the second period when Torrey Mitchell scored, cleanly beating goalie Jonathan Bernier; the only problem: Devin Setoguchi had possibly scored a goal a few moments earlier; the only problem there: Los Angeles King Ryan Smyth had possibly scored just before... all on the same whistle! Gotta love the NHL and the new motto it's apparently rolled out to promote its efficient use of video replays: "Video replays: Because being there live just isn't good enough anymore." It would explain the low attendance across the board.

Before you judge, know that it does beat out the other proposed slogan for the league as a whole: "The NHL: Colin Campbell's personal playhouse"... I don't think that story will ever get old.

In any case, Smyth's goal counted, but it was all for nought, with the Sharks taking the game 6-3. In some circles, they could probably argue that the score could have been 8-2... "San Jose: True dynasties dominate in the regular season and don't get hung up on the small things, like actually winning championships." That last one could probably use some work.

November 15, 2010

Marky Markov and the Habs' Funky Short-on-Defensemen Situation

Everything was going so right for the Montreal Canadiens... the team was winning, Scott Gomez finally put himself on pace for a seven-goal season, and even everyone’s favourite whipping boy in Carey Price was stringing together a few performances worthy of the NHL’s first star of the week (which he got awarded on Monday). And then this.

Now comes news that Andrei Markov will be out anywhere from one game to three months to the end of time, which, if you haven’t seen the movie, is apparently in just two years’ time (and the Toronto Maple Leafs were sooo close to winning it all again!).

Now, Markov hasn’t been the team’s best defenseman in a good, long while (that distinction probably belongs to Josh Gorges), especially with the recent rash of lower-body injuries, but he is its most talented, and to lose him for three months would be a huge blow to a team that has gotten a lot of heads shaking so far this year (shaking as if saying: “No. NO! There’s no way in hell this run of luck will continue all-season long for this team of dwarves! There’s just no way!”).

However many non-believers are shaking their heads, the Habs have found themselves in a very difficult predicament. I’m not going to get into how they traded away Ryan O’Byrne last week, because let’s face it: implying O’Byrne could come in cold and even carry Markov’s jock is like saying Brent Gretzky could have put on his brother’s jersey way back when and no one would have been able to tell the difference. O’Byrne’s size (6’5”, 234 pounds) is not a factor, because the two are very different players. One is a good all-around defenseman, unfortunately entering the twilight of his career a few years too early, while the other is barely worth the amount of money it takes to put his name on the back of a jersey.

As such, rumours have been swirling that the Habs are in the market for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. While I would have been the first to discredit these rumours last week with the Habs boasting an unflashy, but solid top-six, I will also be one of the first to admit that things have changed drastically. So, the Canadiens are in a position where they need a defenseman, any defenseman... sorry, any capable defenseman (to exclude O’Byrne), to take Markov’s place, and if Bieksa is that guy (not even close, but for the sake of the argument let’s assume he is), so be it.

It’s no secret that the Canucks have a surplus of defenseman with an otherwise top-pairing guy like Keith Ballard being a healthy scratch last week (ironically against Montreal). Of course, Ballard hasn’t been good enough thanks to recent surgery and will reportedly sit again tonight for the fourth-straight game on Monday. This again changes things, with the Canucks perhaps no longer willing to let Bieksa go.

If that is the case, other possible avenues are in short supply, with Marc-Andre Bergeron representing the most viable option, with him having signed last year for $750,000 and the Habs now having over $1.5 million in cap space. Of course, this is a less-than-ideal scenario with Bergeron being a one-trick pony that has been so ineffective at selling his services on the street corner that he probably couldn’t give it away at this point. But it is something. And then there’s Mathieu Schneider, who at this point is like Bergeron but with even less mobility... clearly a free-agent purchase aimed towards the fickle consumer in your life who has a fetish for golden-agers... and not the Habs, who are searching for a way to replace arguably their best player.
"It's alright dude (patting him on head). You'll get one soon."

So, where does that leave the Habs? Either putting their season squarely on the shoulders of Carey Price, which is a bad idea, or making an ill-advised trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Sheldon Souray, which is a worse bad idea. But, as for the salary going the other way, I do hear Gomez will still probably end up with fewer goals this season than the injured AHLer. Bottom line: I wouldn’t want to be Pierre Gauthier right now (but, really, when have I ever?). Good luck, dude.

The Goal Savard Scored after Gregory Campbell Got Called for High-Sticking on Feb. 24, 2007

The video of the infraction in question is unfortunately hidden away in the infinite annals of the internet, but here is the goal Boston Bruin Marc Savard scored to apparently add insult to injury to a high-sticking call made against then-Florida Panther Gregory Campbell on February 24, 2007. If you pay attention to the background noise, you can hear the penalty being announced. While it's not much, it does serve as proof (along with actual game reports still easily accessible on the NHL's website) that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell's son got a high-sticking penalty during the game in question, which has led to quite the internet buzz on Monday calling for his resignation or outright dismissal.

While it's still sinking in that Campbell could be so petty as to hold a grudge against a player he once coached 13 years ago with the New York Rangers (Savard), all the alleged evidence seems to be pointing that way. Add in the fact that Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cooke got away suspensionless last March for his hit on that same player, and it doesn't look any better, especially seeing as the league could have handed out additional discipline for intent to injure if they deemed it necessary.

Regarding supplementary discipline, according to league rules (rule 28.1), the NHL may "investigate any incident that occurs... and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game... whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee."

The Match penalty Cooke should have gotten for "deliberately [attempting] to injure... an opponent in any manner" (rule 21.1) kind of makes the case against Campbell that much worse. At the time of the incident, the lack of a suspension was chalked up to incompetence on the part of the league, but in light of the discovery by blogger Tyler Dellow from mc79hockey (the site may be too overloaded right now) it has to be said that maybe foul play was afoot. Take a look at the video from last season during which Campbell explains his motivation for not handing down a ban of any length to Cooke and his bald-headed, gremlin-like exterior looks that much more villainous.

What's sad about this whole mess is that the league finds itself in a position where it must hope that people look back to the end of last season and pray the general consensus is that Campbell was just inept in failing to hand out a suspension to Savard, because the alternative is soooo much worse for everyone involved.

Campbell should not be fired for this incident, because there really is not enough evidence in the supposed emails he sent Stephen Walkom (who, interestingly enough, was behind the huge Colton Orr non-call last month against the Toronto Maple Leafs) to crucify him. He can successfully deny that his feelings towards his son and towards Savard did not come into play when he was making his decision on the Cooke hit eight months ago, because there are no emails chronicling his thought process then.

However, truth be told, Campbell likely should have been fired countless times beforehand for the clear double standards and inconsistent rulings he has allowed to live on during his tenure as a league executive. As much as I hate to admit it, Campbell may very well be bulletproof, and all the Bruins can do right now is be thankful his son plays on their team.

With Goaltending like This, Who Needs Goalies?

Memo to all NHL teams: cut-out goalies can be purchased at your local sporting-goods stores at the very reasonable price of approximately 1/100,000 of what you're paying your actual ones. That, and they don't talk back as much when they feel like they're not starting enough.

On Sunday, quite a few general managers might have felt like making such an investment, with a total of 30 goals scored in just four games, which translates into 3.75 allowed per team. Admittedly, New York Ranger Marian Gaborik and Edmonton Oiler Nikolai Khabibulin did their part in inflating those statistics, with the former actually doing his job after pulling a Houdini of late, and the latter showing his age... apparently the same as the actual Berlin Wall, complete with the all the cracks you would come to expect from something that's 49 years old... and got torn down two decades ago.

Still, as far as I can tell, of the eight Khabibulin allowed, none were as bad as the one above by the Minnesota Wild's Cal Clutterbuck on the Tampa Bay Lightning's Dan Ellis, or Washington Capital Alexander Ovechkin's on Atlanta Thrasher Chris Mason, who actually put it in his own net (below).

So, the Wild's Niklas Backstrom gets credit for providing the only real credible performance of the night, with just one goal allowed (37 saves) against the Bolts. But Chuck Fletcher had probably take note of the memo above for playoff time (if the Wild get that far). Jose Theodore is your back-up after all.

The Legend of Sean Avery Continues to Grow

New York Ranger Sean Avery is becoming a little more every day like that monster under children's beds, a story kids grow up believing that scares them straight, a myth that grows and grows in their minds unless nipped in the bud at a very young age. That is in fact how some kids never seem to get over being afraid of the dark, or Vogue magazine interns with little actual fashion sense.

In any case, the latest addition to that legend came on Sunday and it goes a little something like this: "Whenever you lay your head down at night to close your eyes and go to sleep,  as sure as the night sky is black, he will attack from under your bed and feast on your soul, then his to keep."

Edmonton Oiler Ladislav Smid now knows firsthand just how real the stories are, that the troll in question has little to no actual honour after he reportedly laid him out with a cheapshot in Sunday's 8-2 Rangers' win in New York. The real ironic part is that the initial hit that set Smid off, got him looking for a fight, was actually a relatively clean one on Colin Fraser, meaning Avery shouldn't have had to fight and no one would have thought any less of him afterwards (at least in theory, anyway; everyone probably assumed the amount of  respect for him was already as low as possible). However, with the incident going down as it did, with Avery clocking Smid as he looked away, allegedly after telling him numerous times to "wait", Avery has sunk even lower. How low, you may ask. Let's just say his being brain-dead must not be a coincidence and be a direct result of drowning in depths of water not yet explored by humans.

It's not as if Smid is a super-heavyweight either. He is 6'3" and (just barely) over 200 pounds, but he has also just been in a handful of fights. Avery has been in over 50, so he most definitely had the edge experience-wise. Of course, after yesterday, maybe someone should review the tapes and see just how many he actually fought cleanly.