Thursday, December 22, 2005

For Whom The Bell Tolls

It was a big week for International Hockey this week with the naming of each Olympic team. All 12 of the nations have brought in the best of the best to compete in these games, in what could turn out to be a two horse race in the end of things. Granted, we're about two months away from the actual games themselves, but why not go ahead and speculate what the rosters could shape up to be in the grand scheme of things. So, come with me on a trip of speculation and other fun stuff, won't you??

Team Canada: Defending Gold Medalist

Like always, it is who doesn't make the team, rather than who does make the team that is the topic of debate. With Canada, however, it is always a good thing to have too much talent. With three internationally solid goalies in net, the Canadians should be good to go. With a well-rounded defensive core who can contribute at both ends of the ice, there will be much needed help for the goalies. Upfront, the Canadians have a balanced attack of scorers and grinders. A good mix of youth and experience should make the Canadians a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Team USA: Defending Silver Medalist

It will be interesting to see how the USA will fair in these Olympic games and many seem to believe that this will be a bad year for the USA Hockey Program. In net, they will not have a goalie who has had Olympic experience, however, two of the three have played in some kind of international competition. Both the defense and forwards for the Americans are a great mix of youth and experience. With many of these players having past Olympic experience, it will give the younger players a chance to learn and grow with these games. As this seems to be the transistion period for USA Hockey, the fact of the matter is that they will be better for putting younger guys on their roster and easing the rough patchs, should they arise.

Team Russia: Defending Bronze Medalist

Though they were the last to announce their team, the Russians will certainly not disappoint. Their goaltending is strong on the international level and should help them out in the long run of things. The defense is a little suspect. With many of them not having great seasons in the NHL, it could cause the Russian Federation some kind of panic, but if they can find their stride, it should soften the blow a little. However, if they do get scored upon a lot, they will score a lot as well. The Russians could have the most potent offense in the tournament with plenty of proven scorers and plenty of young talent to remind other countries they'll be around for a while.

Team Italy: Host Nation

The most interesting part of the Italian team is that nine players are Canadians and some have actually seen some time in the NHL. Goaltending is relatively unknown, but should keep the scoring low. The defense will probably try to keep as many shot away from the goal as possible. The forwards will more than likely help play a trap system and try to get their points on slowing the game down and jumping on chance created by the oppositions mistakes. If they can keep the scoring low, the Italians could pull off some upsets.

Team Czech Republic

The Czechs may not be the most of flashiest teams, but they can get the job done if need be. In Salt Lake City, the lost a hard fought battle to the Russians in the Quarter-Finals. They look to rebound and regain a medal in these Olympiad. Their goaltending includes experience and growing talent. It shouldn't be a problem for them to keep pucks out of the net. Defensively it's hit or miss. The Czech will need to get two-way play out of their forwards in order to be successful. It should be no problem to get some kind of scoring for the Czechs, but the transistion game will be the big thing for the Czechs. If they can accomplish it perfectly, then they should be able to be very successful.

Team Slovokia

Though there are some familar names in the line-up, the Slovaks will have an uphill climb infront of them. Their goaltending is very young and could be the weak spot for the Slovaks in the end. Their defense will be a big, and I mean big, presence. Not only can they lower the boom, but they can also put some puck into the oppositions net. The forwards combine old and new, but it will be up to the younger guys to lead the way. They will get some help from the veterans, but the youngster will have to take the reins and be the leaders on the scoresheet.

Team Sweden

The Swede will be a very powerful team, but their past performances in the Olympics (right, Tommy Salo) and in other International competitions would make many people skeptical. However, under the new reign of Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, it could turn the team around for the better. Their goaltending could be the youngest of all the nations in the tournament. However, even though they are young, they are very sound experience wise. The defense can move the puck and could have great vision, especially when it comes to the bigger ice surface. The forward can dangle and should benefit with the bigger surface, which could make them very dangerous, should they reach the quarter-finals.

Team Finland

The Finns took a big hit once their roster was announced with Miikka Kiprusoff withdrew from the team to take time off to nurse a hip injury. The Finns will have to some how counteract this lose, but they will be hard-pressed to find another goalie the caliber of Kipper. On defense, the Finns are much like the Swedes in that their defense will have great command of vision on the ice. The forwards will be a combo of finesse and grit as they will have a good amount of grinders on their team to balance their scoring threats. They should be able to steal some games, but losing a top caliber goalie like Kipper will hurt them in the long-run.

Team Germany

It would seem that the Germans could be a big sleeper in these Olympics. They have plenty of current and former Sharks prospects who have been able to gel in the minors and up in the NHL, plus they have a goalie who can take a lot of shots and steal games here and there. Their defense is young, but they are a very sound team and not irresponsible on the blue line. Their forwards have a great two-way capability and will be able to help out in their own zone should the defense jump up in the play. If there is one team to watch out for-- it's the Germans.

Team Latvia

Lativa is one of the teams who have some good talent, but lack the NHL power. The Latvians will have two NHLers on their team, one former NHLer, and one ECHLer. However, that former NHL could be the dealbreaker. Arturs Irbe didn't get a chance to play for Latvia in 2002 and will be looking to make his mark in this Olympics. Their defense could be very well off with Sandis Ozolinsh leading the way. The forwards could be the big thing that will be lacking for the Latvians. With not a big name player on the front line, the Latvians could play a trap game and hope to take advantage of slip-ups by the opponents.

Team Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan could be a team which will come out of nowhere to surprise some people. With not many scouts knowing what any of these players could do, they could shock the world like they did not too long ago. Look for them to be the Belarus of these games. Again, the Kazaks will have only two NHLers, but with their unknown team, they could be very potent with many of the players playing on the same club team in Kazakhstan.

Team Switzerland

With the Swiss being neutral in nature, they could play a neutral zone trap-- bad pun, but it's the truth. The goaltending could be the backbone to the team. Martin Gerber will be the starter and finisher for the Swiss. They defense has been overlook in the past, but they should make some noise this tournament by playing tight defense and keeping as many pucks away from the net as humanly possible. The forward line for the Swiss will be something that will need to wait and see about, but should be able to put some goals in the net, if they can keep the play in their attacking zone.

It should be a very interesting Olympics, to say the least. You never know if or who could be the surprise team and what could happen at any given moment. Now, it's just a wait and see approach to the whole thing since there won't be much to watch other than the Olympic hockey, unless you live in a minor league market, in which case, have a ball. For more information about the teams and schedule, check out the IIHF website.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Oh Roberto, Where Art Thou

It's hard to believe that as recent as last season, Florida Panthers' goalie Roberto Luongo was in the running for the Vezina Trophy, given to the top goaltender. What a difference a year off and turmoil off the ice can do to you. Now, it seems that everytime a goalie is called up from the minors, that team is going to be sending their number one to Florida to get Luongo. You usually don't hear about that when it comes to definitive number one goalies, but it seems to be more and more prevelent as the season wears on.

It's hard not to cheer for Luongo either. He's a great goalie who has a lot of skill and upside to his game. The troubling part of this whole ordeal is the fact that he has not be on the greatest of teams. Luongo has never been on a winning NHL team, but is always considered a candidate for the Vezina. How many subpar goalies can say that, right Kevin Weekes?? Luongo's numbers have always been consistent and has kept the Panthers in many games. Up until this year that is.

The beginning of the season wasn't good from the get-go. First, the Panthers took Luongo to arbitration claiming he didn't deserve the money he was getting because he was on a losing team and it didn't seem to get better. Luongo and his agent claimed if it was not for Luongo, the Panthers wouldn't have won the games they did. The Panthers won that battle, and so the bitterness between the Panthers and Luongo begun. Add that to the fact that they defense of the Panthers leaves something to be desired and you're asking for disaster. In a new game where everyone is getting better on both sides of the ice, you're asking for trouble when you don't bolster either in the off-season. But, so goes the Panthers onto their way against the SouthLeast Division.

It started good for Luongo, getting two shutouts to start the season, but then the slide began. It only has gotten worse as Luongo has been pulled in his last two starts and was sat during a recent game against San Jose. However, you can't really pin the woes of the Panthers strictly on the trials and tribulations on Luongo. If anything, it would be much, much worse if they didn't have him, surprisingly enough.

When you look at the goalie stats, Luongo may not have the wins or GAA, but he does have a lot of the intangibles that you wouldn't expect to have from other. Luongo is second behind Miikka Kiprusoff in minutes played (1,460m 02s), in first by far in saves (796), and has faced the most shots (877) and is well in front of second-place Rick DiPietro (706 shots against). It's not his fault that his team can't put the biscuit in the basket.

In the grand scheme of things, you almost hope for a guy like Roberto Luongo to get traded to a better team. If you look some of the recent big names who have been traded to new places, it seems to have worked out. Dany Heatley is one of the key players of the Senators and their big run this year and since Joe Thornton found his way to San Jose (bad, I know), Thornton and the Sharks have been tearing up the competition with no signs of letting up.

Luongo is one of the good guys in hockey. Even after the whole debacle with GM Mike Keenan and the arbitration deal, Luongo went about it in a professional way and tried to play through it. He's a great player for the game and a great model of how larger goalies should play the game. It's just a shame that the Panthers don't value him enough to make him happy or give him any support. However, if Luongo does get traded-- it's Florida's loss and the other team's huge gain.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When East Meets West

While attending a party with my wife last Saturday, of course you can expect that "Hockey Night in Canada" was on the TV. At this party was Flames TV host Alex Ruiz, who was a friend of the host of the party. We all were talking about the game and hockey as whole, fun time for all. However, one very interesting point arose. While we were chit-chatting about her show and our show-- she posed the question of what we could expect when teams in the Eastern Conference started meeting teams in the Western Conference.

As luck would have it, something exactly like that is coming up in the next few weeks here, so why the hell not talk about it, right?? Let's face it, it's a big deal since each team faces only 5 non-Conference foes a season, once at home and once on the road.

When you look at some of the Western Conference teams, you have a mixed bag. Teams like the Calgary, Minnesota, and Edmonton seem to have defensive first mentality and often win plenty of one goal games in the process. You shift over to the Eastern Conference were you have teams like Ottawa, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and NY Rangers who love to score and really don't care too much about defense, just so long as they outscore the other team in the end.

I'm sure after some of these games are actually played, we'll get a better gauge of the whole situation, but just looking at all of this on paper, I would love to see more inter-Conference match-ups. I understand that the NHL wants to build rivalries, and that's all well and good. However, when you have teams like Ottawa only visiting select cities in the West (luckily, this year it was against the Northwest Division with all the Canadian teams in it), it's slighting the areas that need it. Places like Nashville and Phoenix, who would love to see a high scoring team like Ottawa have to wait a couple years and by then, you don't know if they are going to be the same team they were this year.

Conversely, teams in the West who want to see Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin play, they'll have to wait once every three years to come by. Of course, they can see the darkhorse Dion Phaneuf a lot of times, but since Crosby and Ovechkin are hogging all the rookie headlines; they seem to forget about Phaneuf and all the good he is able to do out there on the ice. It seems to give the shaft to the Western fans, but in the end it's all about create some kind of faux rivalry that may or may not be there.

But anyway-- will the style of play be that much different?? Will the Eastern Conference teams be startled by the actual defense that is being played in the West?? Will the Western Conference teams be force to go balls-to-the-walls on offense and try to find some sort of scoring in their bag of defensive tricks??

Personally, I think in the first few minutes, it could be a chess match between the coaches. They'll feel each other out for the first 4 to 5 shifts, and from there it's all out war. The collision of the Conference should be a dandy to watch and a dandy to be a part of. I think once the NHL sees what it could actually do to the game and attendance, they may have to re-think their idea about limiting the time each Conference meets each other.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Beating Up On The Zebras

The latest trend when it comes to those out there in the NHL Media is to praise the game and tell about how great it is since it has come back from oblivion. That's good-- most of the columnist have a point about it and the game is a better for it. The speed is up, the goal production is up, attendance is up in markets where it needs to be up. However, that's just the media perspective of it. It seems some players, retired and active, don't like the new game and don't see why it is being so hyped up.

First, of course, you had the fiasco with Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn and Mighty Ducks coach Randy Carlyle who were fined for their comments. After that, you had the most penalized man in the NHL's history, Tiger Williams, complaining about how there are too many power plays and how he'd rather watch Pee-Wee hockey. Then finally, this past week, Steve Yzerman was on a tirade saying that this game isn't hockey and that the refs are calling too much.

At least they are all consistant on the fact that the refs are the ones causing the problems by calling so many penalties. However, you have to respect the fact that we're a quarter way into the season and they haven't really stopped calling, what some would call, ticky-tack calls. Plus, I can see the reason everyone is ganging up on the refs, but you also have to realize there is a "higher power" to this all.

When Stephen Walkom first came into power as the new Director of Officiating, it seems he went up to Gary Bettman and Bill Daly and ask what needed to be called and how it should be called. After he got that all straightened out, he relayed that information to his staff and told them they better do it the way they have it mapped out, or else. Of course, the refs, not wanting to get a bus ticket to ref the beer league in Churchill, Manitoba, have been calling it like they should be calling it in the first place.

Granted, I can see what all of the above and others are talking about. It seems that everyone is tenative when it comes to mixing it up in front of the net or along the boards. I can understand the defensemen and goalies when they say there needs to be something done about players in the front of the net, and if there needs to be some pushing and shoving it has to be in front of the net. That being said, the calls that the refs are making are ones that should be called regardless of how big or small it is.

The main goal in calling these penalties is to make the players learn that it's going to be body-on-body or stick-on-stick contact. No more stick-on-body contact, no more free arm gripping to get advantage, nothing. It's finally being called by the book and the refs are doing a fine job in making the calls they should be. The players are the ones that need to learn what is legal and illegal when it comes to the penalties. Sure, if they haven't learned by now, they won't learn, but in the converse to that; they shouldn't be able to bitch and complain when it comes to the calls if they have figured out what they can and cannot do.

Personally, outside of a few minor things that I have seen here and there, the NHL is better off without the clutching-and-grabbing and hooking-and-holding. It makes the game faster, it shows off the talent that these world-class players have, and it shows who should be there and who shouldn't be there. The new rules is slowing become the Darwinism of the NHL and really making it interesting when a 3rd line defense pairing is out there with a 1st line supersquad of forwards. Plus, as mentioned above-- if the players haven't learned 20 games in, they deserved to be called every single time.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

They Must Be Chopped Liver

As I was sitting up in the Saddledome press box during the pre-game skate before the Calgary Hitmen/Prince Albert Raiders game, I decided to take a look into the Hockey Now publication I picked up in the Ed Whalen Press Suite downstairs in the bowels of the 'Dome. As I was looking at the fine, fine publication, I came across something that make me more than a little disturbed.

It wasn't the fact that the "Pump" is back on RBK's new skates, but that it was just saturated with Sidney Crosby as the RBK poster boy. Then I go back and check the press release from RBK and they claim that Crosby is a "hockey hero" and will be starring in a new ad campaign. Once again, not that disturbing, but a little over the top, don't you think??

I know that Crosby does have the skill and all that jazz to be hyped, and so he should. The kid is a good player and deserves all of the hype, but of course-- if you could put me around people who have won Stanley Cups before and could either bury the biscuit or make a tape-to-tape pass while someone is standing in front of a yawning cage, then Jason Bonsignore could have been a 50+ goal scorer in his rookie year and may have actually had a career that lasted more than 79 NHL games.

I think this is all stemming from the fact a majority of the news/sports outlet are having a slurpfest with Crosby and his rookie season. They are ignoring the fact that there are several other rookies out there who could be considered better than Crosby since some don't have all the tools Crosby has around him to get him the points. Point in case, if you swapped Alexander Ovechkin with Sidney Crosby-- how many more points do you think Ovechkin would have with an actual team around him?? Do you think Crosby could get all the points he has now with no team around him?? Do you think Crosby could create plays like Ovechkin has done with the Caps this year??

It seems everyone is missing the point when it comes to the Calder Trophy. Sidney Crosby actually hasn't won it yet because it hasn't been given out. Now, the odds are in his favor because of the fact every writer that matters in the vote is buying into the hype. As sick as it is, I almost hope he flops and goes out with injury just to see if all the people covering him will follow his every move in recovery or scurry around not knowing what to do because they are so one-dimensional when it comes to the rookie race right now.

There are some rookies that most of the casual fans might not know. Here's a little list with a blurb about each one next to it:

Alexander Ovechkin: He was going to be the ROTY if there was a season last year, but he doesn't mind being passed over because that only fuels him more.

Dion Phaneuf: Since he's a defenseman, Phaneuf may not get much notice, but players on the ice are taking notice with his hits and play out on the blue line. Oh, yeah, he has 13 points this year so far.

Jeff Carter: After a slow start, Carter is showing he could be a contender in the Calder race. If he can keep pace, he should be a darkhorse in the voting.

Marek Svatos: Though he's been riddled with injury, he has proven he can hack it in the NHL. There's a chance he could dip, but will bounce back quickly.

Thomas Vanek: Though it took him a while to score a goal, the former Golden Gopher has been dishing out the pucks with the greatest of ease.

Alex Steen: Son of a former NHL, he's a rookie on the Leafs many didn't think would be the standout on the Buds rosters. He has proven his worth and gotten confiedence from Coach Quinn keeping him in the everyday lineup.

That's just a brief look at the rookies-- there's always a chance of a darkhorse coming on in the second half of the season and completely blowing away the critics and may steal the show. It has happened before and will probably happen again.

The end result on this is pretty much to say, I'm sick of it. If you want to give attention to the rookies, that's fine-- but when you give it to only one out of the plenty quality rookies out there-- it's a travesty. I'm tired of all the sports networks, sans The Score, slurping on Sidney Crosby like he's Jesus Christ on skates. For instance, Sidney Crosby scores a shootout goal with a little "kick start" move and beats Jose Theodore top-shelf. Everyone is all over his jock. However, a week earlier, Ovechkin does the same move against the Thrashers, but went ahead and put it five-hole on the back-hand, but since he plays in Washington, no one cares.

Just remember to mark November 22nd on your calendar because that's when the "super-rookies" face head-to-head for the first time this year. Then you'll get to see who's the better of the two for round one.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Hall of Fame "Game"

The inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the Class of '05 is over and done. Cam Neely and Valeri Kharlamov were inducted as players and Murray Costello was inducted as a builder of the game. In a class where there weren't many superstars in the mix made it a little easier for the Hall of Fame committee to make their decision. However, they should reveal in the fact they had an easy choice because the next couple of years should be an interesting time for the Hall of Fame committee and should be something that people on the streets and in the press will be debating and talking about for a long time to come.

For the Class of '06, the no-brainer choice is Patrick Roy-- statistically the best goalie in the history of the NHL. After that, it gets all foggy. Mike Ricther is eligible and probably will be a lock in the grand scheme of the game. Richter was the best goalie for USA Hockey in the past decade and ended the Rangers 54-year Stanley Cup drought. Doug Gilmour is eligible and could get in for '06 as well. His 1414 points and Stanley Cup ring will be something that could help him get in, but it's not always a lock. Just ask Glenn Anderson. Also eligible is Pavel Bure. Bure, who has been out of the game for 3 years and gets in under that loophole, could be a stretch for a first ballot Hall of Famer because of the injuries he sustained and could have to wait like Neely did.

Then we move to the Class of '07 with the "Fab Five": Al MacInnis, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Igor Larionov and Scott Stevens. The sad part is that only four can get into the Hall at a time and one or two of these players could get the "snub", which will then get the media and die-hard supporters in the uproar. For my own opinion, I wouldn't be surprised to see Francis or Larionov get the snub. Francis, though a great player, was clumped in a group that really had plenty of depth forwards. The only thing that could save Larionov is the fact he had an outstanding International Career with CSKA Moscow, which many people have been vocal about since it is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame and not the NHL Hall of Fame.

On top of all this, you have the guys who have been eligible and haven't gotten the nod, despite the amazing careers they had. Players like Glenn Anderson, Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Henderson, Rogie Vachon, Ron Hextall, Kevin Lowe, Steve Larmer, Brian Propp, Dale Hunter, and the list goes on and on. There are so many greats who don't get the "props" they deserve and may never get those "props" until they have gone to the great rink in the sky.

Yet, that's not the only thing the HHOF has to worry about, you have International Players who never saw the NHL ice, like Kharlamov, but are more than deserving an induction into the Hall of Fame. Then, even on top of that is the uproar of allowing those from the Women's game into the Hockey Hall of Fame as some have been overlooked for their contribution to the game in the past and some who have helped to build the game to the state it is at now. I don't evny the HOF committee at all.

Of course, people have said that the Hall should expand their inductee from four to five or six in order to appease everyone. That's not always the case, because that would do a disservice to all of those who could have been the fifth or sixth entry and wouldn't have to wait longer. The number of nominee is fine and shouldn't be messed with.

The bottom line to all of this is what did the player or builder have to contribute to the game of hockey. Since it is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame, that should be the only basis to pass the first part of the unwritten test. Then you move onto how they matched up to those in their era and how they changed the face of the game. That's really all that should matter. Whether it be in the NHL, WHA, Swedish Elite League, Russian Superleague, International Play or any facet of Women's Hockey; it should be all about how you contributed to the game itself. Maybe that's one thing that the Hall of Fame committee has overlooked, but they should be looking to get the best players from all the eras and all the leagues into the Hall of Fame and not just those who excelled in the NHL.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

More Views from the Press Box

We continue our look at the ins and outs of the press box from Ray Flowers. ~SW

OK, I broke down and did it, I had my first press box hotdog on Saturday, November 5th, 2005 when the Sharks played the Minnesota Wild (a 3-1 victory for the Wild which you can read about below). I know this might seem to be a rather strange comment to make, but haven’t you ever wondered about those spinning hotdogs at a sporting event? I know I have.

Anyway, game two of my reporting experience for Face Off Hockey Show required less antacid tablets than the first game, which was a pleasing experience, at least for me. I knew where I was going, I knew how to act, now if I can just figure out how to find a way to get my hand-held recorder to pick up the players voice in after game interviews (they talk so softly), everything will be gravy.

My first game I was ready and brought about every piece of equipment I could think of (I kind of looked like someone going on a two week trip to Hawaii, minus the flip-flops). This time I was a more experienced “traveler” and I brought my laptop, a notebook and my trusty recorder. Heck, at least I looked the part this time.

It’s a surreal experience to be a reporter at a place that I have been going to for years as a fan. I look out amongst the crowd and think to myself ‘that was me a year ago, who would of thought I would be reporting now?’ Of course, that thought passes quickly when the action starts. I do have a job to do.

I thought it might be beneficial to list some of the finer points of being a media member reporting on a Sharks event at the Tank.

1- You can wander pretty much anywhere you want within reason. I’m thinking about helping out the food workers in making some killer nachos next time I go.

2. People see you in a tie, and with something hanging from your neck (a press pass), and they think that you are the coolest person they have spoken to since they had that drug induced conversation with Abraham Lincoln in college.

3. Hey, they might serve only hotdogs and pretzels in the Press Box, but free food is free food.

4. You know how you go to a game and some crucial play goes down where you can’t tell if the puck went in the net or not? You look at the jumbotron for a replay but instead they show some guy stuffing popcorn in his mouth because they don’t want to start a riot if the referee made the wrong call. How infuriating is that! Well, in the press box you have a 27-inch TV mere feet from your seat. So now that I know whether or not the referee blew the call another problem arises. I’m a reporter and I can’t yell at him if he did blow the call, it wouldn’t be professional. Damn it.

5. How many times has your bladder told you it needed to make a pit stop, but you couldn’t leave your seat because of the game. Well, in the Press Box there are no lines to contend with so I don’t have to make an agreement with a higher power that if I can just hold out a few minutes longer I’ll name by first kid Moses.

With the frivolities out of they way I thought you might actually like to hear about what happened on the ice. If you do, please read on.


“We weren’t at 100%…we didn’t have the same zip” said coach Ron Wilson after the game. The Sharks lost on Saturday night to the Minnesota Wild 3-1 as Brian Rolston had his first hat trick since Nov. 16, 1996. It was the Sharks first loss in their last 6 games and the first career loss for goalie Nolan Schaefer (5-1) who had become the first Sharks netminder to start his career with 5 consecutive wins. After going 5-1 in their past 6 games, the Sharks pushed their record to 8-6 with 1 OT loss and solidified their position as a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

However, the Sharks find themselves with a bit of a problem, though it is one that every team in the NHL would like to have. The Sharks don’t just have two superb goalies, they have three. In essence, Nolan Schaefer has helped to save the Sharks season with the injuries they have suffered in net to Evgeni Nabakov and Vesa Toskala. Besides starting his career with that amazing 5 game wining streak, Schaefer punctuated the statement that he didn’t want to be sent back to the AHL was a netminder to be reckoned with a scoreless streak of over 143 minutes, just shy of the team record held by Nabakov (145:07). With Toskala back off the IR on Saturday and Nabakov set to come off the list later this week, it would appear that Schaefer will however be sent down to the Barons of the AHL despite his heroics. The Sharks know that they have an ace up their sleeve should anything happen to their top 2 netminders the rest of the way, and it might even open up some trade possibilities come the stretch drive.

The Sharks weren’t the only team with special goaltending on Saturday as the Wild had Dwayne Roloson in net. Roloson, who splits time with Manny Fernandez in net, forms the best goaltending duo in the NHL. With a combined record of 8-6 with a 1.98 GAA and a .938 save percentage (each has played in 8 games), there is no disputing the fact that there was an embarrassment on riches in goal on display at the Tank on Saturday night.

Despite the talent in net, the Sharks felt they could solve Roloson if they followed their game plan. Unfortunately for the Sharks, they didn’t. “You have to be very patient when you play them…most of our shots were low when we should have been shooting high” said coach Wilson.

Despite the loss ending their 5 game winning streak, the Sharks took time to reflect on the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives. Here are some salvos fired by Coach Wilson on two of his other promising rookies (besides Schaefer).

On Marcel Goc who scored the Sharks only goal: “He is always on the right side of the puck.” Wilson also commented that Goc had really improved his skating and was starting to have the look of a player who would have a long and productive NHL career.

On Steve Bernier, playing in just his second NHL game: “He goes hard to the net…[he] deserves his promotion and probably deserves a longer look. For the guys who haven’t played so well it’s a wake-up call.”

So despite the lose the Sharks future looks bright in the net, and don’t forget about the youngsters up front either.

Ray Flowers, a member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA), can be reached with comments and questions at: Don’t forget to check out his website for more NHL analysis and fantasy hockey insights.

Monday, October 31, 2005

My First Game

For this installment of the Blog, we welcome Ray Flowers' piece about his first experience in the Press Booth, as he took in a game between the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. Ray will give you a first hand account on what it is like to be in the Press Booth for one of the 30 NHL member teams. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. ~SW

The NHL is back, and anyone who doesn’t believe that statement wasn’t at the Tank in San Jose on Saturday, October 29th, when a sellout crowd of 17,496 people turned out to see the Sharks third straight win, a 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Flames. And while that is the focus of another piece for the Face Off Hockey Show, this piece will be a discussion of my personal experiences at my first game as a reporter for the show.

The Preparation

New experiences always cause a bit of trepidation for me, and this night was no different. After attending games for years at the Tank in San Jose as a loyal Sharks fan, tonight was different. I was no longer a fan, but a person in between those on the ice and those in the seats, I was a reporter. So I grabbed my notebook, my voice recorder, pulled on my tie and headed to the game for the start of what I hope will be a lifelong journey.

The Arrival

Arriving at the game I found a good parking space an proceeded to the media entrance to the arena. After getting what seemed like a 12 step plan from a Sharks employee on how to find the media room, I made my way to sign in and grab the NHL issued game notes. In the press room there was food, so I sat down and had a small dinner while perusing the notes. Looking up between bites of my fried chicken, I looked over to see Sharks TV broadcasters Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda sitting just a table over laughing and conversing with others. Not that we are equals by any means, but I was there in the same room as those two and other, and no one looked at me funny, except for when I got some ranch dressing on my arm, but that story is for a different time.

The Press Box

After finishing my meal I headed up to find my seat in the press box. If you haven’t been to a press box you should try to get there once in your life. After acclimating myself to the extreme altitude, I could jump and touch the arena roof, I found my seat and began to layout my materials for the game. After that initial set up was complete, I wandered around the box to get the lay of the land. The first thing I found was free food. Now I don’t know about you, but free food is always welcome in these parts. The food took the form of drinks, pretzels and a hot-dog machine that brought back memories of the old movie theater I used to visit as a child (you know, the one that had those stainless steel metal rollers that kept the dogs warm by turning). Fearing a repeat of “the 1982 event”, when I got sick off of a hot-dog at that theater, I passed on the hot-dogs and grabbed a water instead.

The Game

As the game started I fell into the mode I had found myself in many times before, watching the dancing puck move back and forth across the smooth ice, the elegance of the game thrown off only by the jarring hits that sporadically occurred. Despite the lofty position of my seat, I was able to actually get a better view of the game than I had been as a fan because I was able to see the whole ice from a superior angle. As I watched the game, Sharks employees came by every 10 or so minutes with updates of all the action that was taken place this night. I conversed with a few of the other reporters, nice people, and as the game began to wear down I started to wonder about how the post-game interview session would go.

Before I could dwell on that thought for too long however, the Sharks scored two goals in the last 5 minutes of the game to send it to OT. The OT was scoreless, and that led to the first regular season shoot-out in Sharks history. The Sharks ultimately prevailed in the 4th round of the shoot-out when Nihls Ekman scored off of Miikka Kiprusoff with an excellent start and stop move. With that, I was headed to the bowels of the stadium to find the locker room and begin my task of trying to land an interview for the Face Off Hockey Show.

The Maze

I don’t know about you, but when I get involved with a series of doors that all look the same, things get a bit confusing. As I was wandering around trying to find my way, I had a thought. Three very attractive young women walked past me laughing and smiling and I thought to myself ‘they must be either wives or girlfriends of the Sharks, follow them.’ Sure enough they were, an a minute later I was in the Sharks locker room standing 2 feet from Brad Stuart who’s goal had tied the game with 22.4 seconds left.

The Interviews

As I was standing there listening to Brad Stuart answer questions, I was struck by a couple of things. First, I was in the Sharks locker room, a place I had always wanted to visit, and I was standing there listening to an NHL player discuss how his play had brought 17,496 fans out of their seats a mere 30 minutes earlier. Of course, I had a job to do, so that feeling quickly passed.

The next thing I noticed was that Stuart really seemed very humble. In fact, he not only appeared to be humble, he was actually speaking so softly that you almost had to strain to hear him. This was not because the media was making noise, they were all very well behaved, it was because Stuart just wasn’t talking that loud.

Next up was Nils Ekman who had won the game with that shoot-out goal. He too was very reserved and quite, though he did crack a smile when talking about how he tried to catch coach Ron Wilson’s eye during the shoot-out after he had basically not played at all the last 5 minutes of the game.

Coach Wilson then gave about 5 minutes of his time to discuss the game, and he was also very accommodating. In fact, I was surprised by how reserved the players AND the press were. I had pictured, I guess from seeing the paparazzi harassing stars and wild playoff celebrations on TV, that the scene would be one of confusion. Quite the opposite was the case. The media seemed very reserved and all were quite and respectful as each question was asked. No one stepped on anyone’s toes, an all waited patiently for their chance to ask their question.

The Sharks staff even went as far as to go and find Patrick Marleau for myself an another reporter so that he could answer a few questions for us after all the other reporters had left to work on their stories. This was especially noteworthy since Marleau had already left the interview area. The Sharks representatives found him for us, he spoke with us for about 3 minutes, said thanks, and disappeared back into the depths of the Sharks locker room.

The Night

As I walked to my car after the whole evening’s festivities I found myself grateful. The game had been a spirited one where a goal was scored in the last 30 seconds which ultimately led to a Sharks victory in a shoot-out. The Sharks staff, and the other members of the media, were more than accommodating to this rookie reporter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that was brought home to me that the players are just normal guys doing their job. Sure they get paid a lot of money and have fame beyond anything they ever dreamed of as a child, but when I stood there with the questions being asked, they talked to us all just like they would if you were a friend (minus the colorful metaphors of course).

So in the end my first experience as a reporter was extremely rewarding, and I would like to thank the staff at the Face Off Hockey Show for making a long time dream of mine a reality.

Ray Flowers, a member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA), can be reached with comments and questions at: Don’t forget to check out his website for more NHL analysis and fantasy hockey insights.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wish You Were Here

Obviously you have heard the NHL's touting the increase in the attendance figures at the beginning of the season. For the most part that is true, there are plenty of people showing up to the games. In fact, as of the October 30th, there are 11 teams out of 30 who have at least 100% capacity in their building this year. Sure, all of them (save two) are in markets where there would be a sellout every night, but that's neither here nor there.

Obviously, you expect Toronto, Montreal, and Minnesota to have the biggest attendance, as there are waiting list for season tickets. Vancouver and Colorado have impressive numbers for teams that may or may not be that good, depending on how you look at things. Calgary is actually overselling the Saddledome, as they have been at 112% capacity in their 4 home games. Also, Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Detroit are all in the top tier of attendance. The surprising teams are San Jose and Tampa who aren't usually known as hockey cities, but thanks to strong seasons in the recent past, the Sharks and Bolts are doing just fine with people in the seats.

Yet, that's not the thing I'm baffled about-- it's about the teams who aren't getting anyone in their buildings.

First off is the Nashville, who are only pulling in an average of 14,000+ in their home games. The Predators started the season 8-0, they signed a big name player in the way of Paul Kariya, and they are coming off their first playoff appearance and are hoping to get better and better. Right now, they are second in a tough Central Division, but none of the people in Nashville seem to care one way or the other.

Believe it or not, the Carolina Hurricanes are the best team in the Eastern Conference. With their young, talented team; the 'Canes are one of the more exciting teams to watch. Eric Staal and Cam Ward have given a boost to an otherwise dead team. Dead is the key word when it comes to describe the seats of the RBC Center in Raleigh. Each night, the Canes play in front of the 14,626 on a good night, when at other times it is much, much less.

Then you move a little North and find the Buffalo Sabres. A few years removed from an ownership change, the Sabres are coming off a great '03-'04 campaign which saw them barely miss out on the playoffs while finishing over .500. Yet, with just over 75% watching the Sabres on a given night, the Sabres could do a lot better when they have a team that could actually compete well in the new look NHL.

For me, it's just surprising that teams that are actually playing very well could be playing at home in front of such a small crowd. It's also disturbing to see that people are speculating on where some of these teams could be relocated to if they don't get more butts in the seats. It's almost sicking that some people are just preying on some teams waiting for them to fail so their city can reap the benefits. However, that's the nature of the beast.

It's even worse when you have two teams that have already had some moving issues of their own. For a few years during transistion, the Sabres didn't know whether or not they would playing in Buffalo or moving to someplace like Hamilton or Winnipeg. The Hurricanes have already moved once from Hartford to Raleigh, plus grumblings of owner Peter Karmanos looking to find some new ownership for the Canes. Plus, you have some people claiming that the Predators are looking to move to Kansas City as soon as the new Sprint Center is finished in 2007.

After the heartbreak that cities like Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Hartford had to endure when they lost their teams, you would have hoped that some of this mess would be over. In the new landscape of the NHL, you would hope that the owners would be able to keep teams financially stable. Even with that promise out there, you still see teams out there who you don't think are able to standing on both of their feet if they continue to falter in the attendance column, which could led to the inevitible choice of the team packing up and moving away. The only way to counteract that is to get people to actually go out and support their local team. Like Joni Mitchell said, "You don't know what you’ve got ‘til its gone" and for some cities, you can never get it back again.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

To See or Not To See....Is It Really a Question??

It's only two weeks into the season, but the debate is on about whether visors should be mandatory for players in the NHL. In 14 days, Mats Sundin, Mike Ricci, and now Kris Draper have all been victims to pucks in the face, which could have probably been avoided if the players had visors on their helmets.

Now, these are not isolated instances. I think we all remember when Marian Hossa got his stick up on Bryan Berard taking out his eye and almost his career. We remember with Stevie Y got a puck deflected from Rhett Warrener's skate into his face breaking his orbital bone, and of course Pavol Demitra getting run errently into the boards crushing his face. However, it seems that the message still isn't getting through to all of the players out there.

According to a poll given to a dozen or so NHLers, many of them didn't like the idea of a mandatory visor rule. Of course, I don't know whether or not the idea of "grandfathering" the rule in, but it seems that a flat out mandatory rule is out of the question. There are some players out there, like Daniel Alfredsson, who are pushing for the mandatory visors because of the higher risk out there now. However, teams like the LA Kings have already shot down the visor rule.

If you look around the world, most, if not all, European leagues make visors mandatory to use. You saw that with many of the NHLers last year, yet they still didn't get the message. Dany Heatley got hit in the eye while his visor was resting on the top of his forehead. All of the junior leagues make their players wear visors and the NCAA makes all their players wear either full cages or full visors. Some minor leagues, like the UHL and ECHL, have also tried out the rules for mandatory visors as well.

With most of the new talent coming from the Major Juniors, they are already use to the visors. If the NHL were to grandfather in the rule, the players coming in would already be use to the visors, so the transistion wouldn't be as hard if you try to make an elderstateman in the NHL do it. For more information, check out the links below to see the different views on the subject.

It's almost insane not to make the rule mandatory with a "grandfather" rule in effect. When you look around at how much more frequent these injuries are happening, the NHLPA should wake up to the fact that it would be for the betterment of the players coming into the league if such a rule existed. Granted, this probably won't come to much fanfare, but the truth of the matter is that the NHL needs something to protect it's players from things that are avoidable. The visor rule could do just that.

The one really big determining factor is with the insurance. By putting a visor rule into effect, the insurance cost would be going down and players could save on that fact. Not to mention Workmen's compensation will also have something to say about avoidable situations. Whether it happens sooner or latter, the visor rule is almost inevitable.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Who Says This Isn't Better??

It's been a week, have you had enough time to take it all in and just enjoy the new NHL?? The fast pace, the penalties being called as they should, goals, goals, and more goals?? Amazingly enough, there are people out there who hate the new game. Once I find a list of names-- we're all going to get them-- Who's coming with me??

All that aside, there are plenty of storylines coming out of the first week. In true fashion of the show-- I'll put out a list of what the hell is going on.


-The Rookies. Forget about just Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for a minute, because we all know they will be compared to each other. Look at guys like Brent Seabrook in Chicago, who has been an amazing playmaker on the Hawks' blueline; look at someone like Thomas Vanek, who is helping the surprising Sabres become one of the sleeper teams in this young season. You can go on and on about Zach Parise in New Jersey and Dion Phaneuf in Calgary, but the point is that it is not going to be a two horse race. If Crosby and Ovechkin aren't careful, they'll lose out on the Calder Trophy.

-The Fans. In some places, you wouldn't know that there had been a work stoppage. The NHL's attendance is up 6.2% in the first eight days, compared to the same eight days in 2003. Granted, it's just a week or so in, but any upside the NHL can take out of it, they will.

-The Underdogs. Who would have thought a team like the Buffalo Sabres could take a rag-tag bunch of young players and make so much noise. Thanks to the play of new #1 goalie Ryan Miller, captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, plus the rest of the no-name Sabres, they are out to a 4-1-0 start. Here's hoping that the Sabres have finally gotten some stability. In the West, the Nashville Predators remain the only unbeaten team in the NHL. Picking up Paul Kariya in the off-season has paid some dividens, but having a core bunch of guys playing together for years is showing how much chemistry can be created in Music City, USA.

-The Senators. Is there anything that can stop this team?? You want to talk about chemistry, the Sens have done that and thensome. Jason Spezza is primed to hve a breajout season, Daniel Alfredsson is rolling putting the pucks in the net, and Dominik Hasek is looking like the "Dominator" of old. Ray Emery is there just in case Hasek were to go down. There are several outlets picking the Sens to go to the Cup finals and this time, they could prove them right.


-The Blues. For a team that has been in the playoffs for 24 consecutive seasons, this is not looking like a team who will even get a sniff at the playoffs. The youth of this team could be the downfall, but when you put a 6-3 lead and cannot hold it, then you know you have problems somewhere. Patrick Lalime has been letting up some soft goals and the big name players have yet to be seen in the Gateway to the West.

-Chronic Injuries. You know you have been without the NHL for a while when the IR show nothing but groin injuries. Most guys who have suffered said injuries have been out of competitive action for a long time and didn't condition well. It'll prove to be a long season if this injury keeps showing up-- and many players may have to get plenty of two-way bus tickets to go back and forth from the Show to the minors.

-The Naysayers. I don't know how some people are still out there who doesn't think the game is for the better. Sure, it probably shouldn't have taken 18 months to get this settled, but when it did come back, from the first night, the NHL has impressed me by actually being a better product out there. The game flows better, faster pace, and a little more exciting than it was when it left us. I just wish some Newspaper Writers and Internerd "Pundits" would just shut up and enjoy the effin' game because it's better than what we have seen in the past decade.

-The Commercials. Come on-- if I wanted to see "Gladiator.......ON ICE!!", I'll watch my copy of "Mystery, Alaska."


-The Flames. Talk about an undisciplined team. As much as I'm a "mark" for the Flames, they have been a huge disappointment. When you give up 13 goals when you're a man-down, there is something glaringly wrong with that. I'm sure that the Flames will bounce back, but the question is will it be too late when it happens??

-The Hooligans. We're only a week into the season and people are already chucking stuff on the ice. First, it was Boston hurling the mini-Stanley Cups on the ice when the Bruins lost with 11.1 left in the Third on Opening Night. Then, the Bolts fans just start hurling cups and debris on the ice when their team is called for obvious penatlies. As much I know the passion of the fans, the fact of that matter is that in no way should people hurl stuff on the ice. Let's get real people-- there's no place for that, unless you at a seafood place and you chuck your empty sea creature on the ground.

-Lack of Ice Girls. Now, where's the marketing in that?? The Ice Girls are the thing that will keep the guys interested in the game when there's nothing going on at ice level. However, there are still some teams that are late to pull the trigger on the new hotness. If they don't act fact, they'll be too late to cash in.

So that's the way I'm seeing the first week of the NHL. We'll have plenty more on here since the NHL is actually going on now and you can bet that we'll have plenty to talk about when it all goes down. Hell, as early as Monday, we'll debate the use of visors in the NHL and what should the players do when it comes to wearing one against not wearing one. So keep it tuned in here and every Wednesday Night at 9 PM ET for Face Off Hockey Show. You know you want it.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

NHL Preview: Part Three

We’re now at the end of the preview period of things. It’s down to the last two divisions in the Southeast and the Pacific Division. The basic premise is still there and everything like that. We should get through this rather promptly.


Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers are coming into the season with some good off-season pick-ups by getting Bobby Holik from the free agent market and acquiring Marian Hossa and Greg deVries from the Senators. On top of that, the Thrashers signed Peter Bondra as insurance, in case Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t re-sign in time. The forwards outside of that should be great role players. Guys like Marc Savard and Patrik Stefan are out for break-out seasons if they are able to listen to Bob Hartley’s plan.

The blue line is a silent bunch with a lot of youth grit Jaroslav Modry will anchor this crew as the Thrashers try to mold Braydon Coburn and Garnet Exelby into all-star caliber defensemen. The ability to have Niclas Havelid on the back line to carry the puck more into the offensive zone will help the Thrashers in the long run.

Kari Lehtonen will be tested as the #1 starter this year. With a very successful stint in the AHL, it seems Lehtonen is ready for the big time. Having a veteran like Mike Dunham behind Lehtonen allows the Thrashers to give Lehtonen the playing time, knowing that if the rookie were to falter, there would be someone there to pick up the pieces.

Carolina Hurricanes: If ever there was a team that could have a big issue getting wins, it could be the Hurricanes. They made little dents into the free agency market, getting Cory Stillman and Ray Whitney into the line-up. Eric Staal will have to have a huge breakout season to help lick the wounds in Carolina. The ageless Rod Brind’Amour and Erik Cole will be around to help the scoring, but after that—all bets are off.

The back-line is going to be another question mark. Getting Oleg Tverdovsky and Mike Commodore in the span of the past off-seasons will help a little bit, but not enough to allow them make a push as they did in 2002. Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican will be the stalwarts on the backline; and they’ll have plenty to do in order to get respect from the rest of the league.

The goaltending will be the huge question mark. There is no veteran presence in between the pipes. With Martin Gerber slated as the #1 goalie, the Canes will have an uphill battle to keep the pucks out of the net. Cam Ward is coming off a stellar season in Lowell, but he will still be a few more years away from getting those numbers in the NHL.

Florida Panthers: There’s going to be a strong veteran presence in the locker room this year. With the addition of Martin Gelinas, Gary Roberts, and Joe Nieuwendyk, the Panthers should have great teachers for the young guns. With the speed they have in Nathan Horton, Kristian Huselius, and Anthony Stewart; the Panthers should have a great mix of grit, speed, and experience.

The blue line will have the same mix of youth and experience. With Jay Bouwmeester advancing his development, along with Mike Van Ryn—the youth of the Panthers defense is bright. Sean Hill and Eric Cairns will bring a veteran voice and rugged play back in the blue line.

Roberto Luongo should be expected to see a lot of rubber in this season, just because he plays for the Panthers. Now, if he and the front office could settle their squabbling and worry about the on-ice task that would be even better. If not, Jamie McLennan will be able to carry the load as he did in Calgary last season when Miikka Kiprusoff went down.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The title defense finally begins for the Lightning. They have pretty much the same team and they did in ’03-’04. The question is can they do it again?? They have the horses upfront to do it, but they will have to repeat what they did by scoring at will and making the game look easy. It’s time for Vincent Lecavalier to have a breakout season instead of relying on others to carry the load. Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards will be solid again up front with Fredrik Modin and Vaclav Prospal adding markers here and there.

The top defensemen of Pavel Kubina and Dan Boyle should be able to contribute as well and help abundantly on the power play. If Darryl Sydor can get his offensive form back, he should be a force to be reckoned with as well. However, the best part about this blue-line is although they have the scoring touch, they don’t often let the puck get past them. That could change with the new rules, but I doubt something like that will happen.

Now, the goalie debate will be on for the Bolts this season. With Nikolai Khabibulin heading to Chicago, John Grahame was supposed to be in the spotlight. However, the Bolts went out and got Sean Burke just in case. Grahame should be able to get the starting role as Burke will probably allow him to see what he can do and then get his time when needed.

Washington Capitals: Starting from scratch will be the theme for this year’s Capitals line-up. After gutting the team for the past five season, the Caps are taking the “wait and see” approach to the salary cap. Alexander Ovechkin will be the cornerstone to the offense this year. Without much punch in the forward position, the Caps will rely on the superstar Russian to take the brunt of the workload. Alexander Semin and Dainius Zubrus will add to the scoring, but outside of that—the youth will be a factor.

Brendan Witt is going to be the old guard on the blue-line; however, how long he will be in DC is another question. The Caps are going to rely on the size factor. Getting towering defensemen like Mathieu Biron and Ivan Majesky to help compliment Jeff Schultz’s size—the Caps will have at least that in their favor. Steve Eminger should make the team and be a playmaker on the backline if he can stay healthy all season.

The workhorse will be Olaf Kolzig in net. He’ll get at least 60 starts if he stays healthy, but he probably won’t have the wins for the Caps. He’ll see a lot of pucks and should have a great save percentage, but if you just going on wins, he’ll be hard-pressed to get those. Should Kolzig go down, Maxime Ouellet will be there to show his stuff.


Anaheim Mighty Ducks: The Ducks made a splash in this off-season. Not only did they get new ownership, a new GM, but they got both a new and old face to show off the new team philosophy. Scott Niedermayer was a huge pickup in getting the Ducks more respect. Niedermayer will anchor the defense alongside Sandis Ozolinsh and Keith Carney. This should help the Ducks get some meaningful help for their goaltending.

In addition, the Ducks got back Teemu Selanne from free agency. Selanne will be one of the few options the Ducks have to put the biscuit in the basket. Sergei Fedorov and Petr Sykora will be the other options for the Ducks. Newcomers Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will be getting a lot of time for the new look Ducks, as they will be the future of this team leading into the next decade.

The person who should be most effected by the goalie pad reduction should be J-S Giguere. If he wants to be an elite goalie in this league—Giguere will have to show that he actually has skill and didn’t just rely on his oversized pads. There’s not much to help him out either as this will be Ilya Bryzgalov’s first real taste at the NHL limelight.

Dallas Stars: Not much has changed in the lone-star state. They’ll still have Bill Guerin and Mike Modano up front with Jason Arnott and Jere Lehtinen helping on the second line. Though there may not be the scoring punch as the other teams, there’s enough grinding forwards to help muck it up in the corners. If need be, there can be plenty of player contributing.

On the blue line, Sergei Zubov is back and will be he voice-of-reason for the defense. Having new guys like Stephane Robidas, Martin Skoula, and Trevor Daley put into the mix should help the diversity of play. The Stars lost a lot in the means of experience, but are going a different route all together.

Marty Turco will be the man back in net for the Stars. His ability to outsmart shooters could be his advantage this year. He should get plenty of wins for the Stars and if not, Johan Hedberg is ready to take some of the pressure off of Turco’s back.

Los Angeles Kings: Los Angeles has a new outspoken star in Jeremy Roenick. The Kings hope Roenick can get the Kings back into the playoffs. With assistance from Pavol Demitra, Alexander Frolov, and Craig Conroy, that dream can become a reality. However, the Kings will have to hope that their young guys are able to contribute as well. Dustin Brown, Mike Cammalleri, and Noah Clarke will be deep on the depth chart, but could contribute if called upon.

The Kings have a solid defense, which will help them. With all of the top four defensemen staying in LA, the chemistry should be there. Mattias Norstrom and Lubomir Visnovsky will be the top line and should put up some nice power play numbers if given the chance to shoot more often. Having rugged defensemen like Aaron Miller and Nathan Dempsey onboard will help balance out the load on the blue line.

Mathieu Garon is hoping that his season last year in Manchester will translate into instant success in LA. This will be his first season to be a starter after a couple seasons backing up Jose Theodore in Montreal. Along with Garon, Jason LaBarbera will hope that his time in Hartford and in the AHL will translate into pushing for the #1 spot into the season.

Phoenix Coyotes: Wayne Gretzky is the new bench boss in town and he has a nice arsenal to help him get plenty of wins this season. With Mike Comrie, Petr Nedved, and Shane Doan all ready to play—the Great One should get plenty of scoring. Add Ladislav Nagy, Mike Johnson, and the ageless Brett Hull, and the top six for the Desert Dogs are looking very nice.

The defense for the Coyotes will have very few holes in it—if they are able to stay healthy. Derek Morris and David Tanabe should be the top line, but guys like Paul Mara, Sean O’Donnell, and Denis Gauthier could be shuffled around along with Cale Hulse. The pressure to perform could come from Keith Ballard, Rick Berry, and Brad Ference; who are looking for a spot on the big league club at the start of the season.

There’s a new top dog in Phoenix. Curtis Joseph turned down offers from the Penguins and Red Wings to go to Phoenix. A new surrounding and knowing that he could have the #1 job for the majority of the time, should calm down the nerves of Joseph. Joseph had a difficult time of playing well with the threat of Dominik Hasek hanging over his head. Backing up CuJo will be Brian Boucher, but youngster David LeNeveu is going to make a push in order to get a taste of the NHL experience.

San Jose Sharks: There’s a lot of fans of the Sharks who have been asking me about why the Sharks didn’t go out on the market to pick-up some veteran leadership and scoring punch. Personally—I don’t see why they needed to. The Sharks have a great team without getting someone outside the organization. If Marco Sturm can stay healthy; he can be deadly with the puck. Patrick Marleau is turning into a great on-ice leader, Jonathan Cheechoo is adjusting from the AHL to the NHL very nicely, and they have stacks and stacks of talent that they molded through the Draft.

The forward line is not the only one who has talent. The rear guards on San Jose have talent that is proving their worth and showing what they can do. Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan can bring the punishment, while Brad Stuart is the quarterback on that team and can pass tape-to-tape with the best of them.

In net, Evgeni Nabokov will be the incumbent #1 with Vesa Toskala as the back up. Nabokov had a great year last year leading the Sharks to a Pacific Division title and will have to be on his game again to repeat that performance. He should be getting the majority of the starts and should be getting several wins this year, so he’s a good bet on any team.

So that’s all she wrote. That’s the end of the preview. Be on the lookout for the Fantasy Rankings brought to you by the boys at “Face Off Hockey Show”, as we try to break down the positions and do our best to make your fantasy team reign supreme.

Remember, if you agree, disagree, or want to check my psychological background when it comes to these previews, please email the Show with anything you have to ask.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

NHL Preview: Part Two

Well—with the training camps not too far away, we continue our look at the divisional settings in the new look NHL. This week, we’ll go up North and take on the Northeast and Northwest. Both division should be highly contested with the possibly of a majority of the division getting into the playoffs.


Boston Bruins: With only four players under contract when the new CBA was signed, you could expect the Bruins to be one of the smarter teams out there when it came to planning for the new look NHL. They have made some noise in the free agent market by getting Alexei Zhamnov, Shawn McEachern, and Brian Leetch to help get a veteran presence in the locker room.

However, the big thing that the Bruins did was to get their superstars under contract. By getting the likes of Glen Murray, Joe Thornton, and Sergei Samsonov under contract for the long-term; they Bruins will have their building blocks for seasons to come and they don’t have to worry about losing them early in their careers. Not only that, but they can also won’t have to worry about getting them signed when trying to get Patrice Bergeron re-signed in a couple of seasons.

Between the pipes, Andrew Raycroft has proven he could be a quality number one goalie. With the defensive corps the likes of Hal Gill, Leetch, Jiri Slegr, and Ian Moran, you have a mix of scoring ability and positional play.

Buffalo Sabres: With the recent problems with getting revenue into the Sabres franchise, it is obvious that the Sabres will be at the lower limit of the salary cap. The team did not make much noise in the off-season, but did gain a veteran voice in Teppo Numminen to help guide and mold a very young team.

The upside for the Sabres is that they actually have a good team at a young age. Both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere helped the Sabres save some kind of face last season, but they’ll have to do a lot more work to do the same this year. However, lucky enough for them; they’ll have help in the way of Derek Roy, Ales Kotalik, and Tomas Vanek, all young talent who have proven they belong on the big squad. The back line of defense is a young, but they’ll be able to learn from Numminen and grow together as a squad, hopefully helping Buffalo in the future.

The Sabres do have an interesting situation in net. It seems they’ll have a logjam at who will be staying. Ryan Miller had an amazing season in Rochester last year and could push to be the #1 or #1a goalie. Martin Biron will be under the spotlight and will have one-year to prove that he belongs long-term for the Sabres. Mika Noronen is the quiet one that could make the most noise trying to save his job and stay on the team. It will be a dogfight for #1 spot, but you can bet that regardless of who wins, they’ll have to stand on their head to get things done.

Montreal Canadiens: There should be nothing new about the Habs come this season. They have pretty much the same core of players they had at the end of last season. With the pick-up of Mathieu Dandenault to help bolster the defense, the Habs should be in the running for another playoff run next season.

Up front, Alexei Kovalev will have to actually play during the regular season and not wait until it is too late to get his scoring streak. Saku Koivu will be back and should be good with having another year off to get all his wits about him. Add Radek Bonk and Mike Ribeiro to the fold, you can bet the Habs should be pretty set up front.

Jose Theodore should be getting most of the work this year. Cristobel Huet should get some work here and there, but since he’ll still be trying to adapt to the workload in the NHL, Theodore will be the workhorse for the team. The only thing that Theodore will have to worry about is not slipping back into his old habit of alternating good and bad years. To be an elite goalie, he’ll have to consistently have quality seasons for the Habs.

Ottawa Senators: One of the more interesting things about the Senators in the new CBA is trying to make sure that they have their key players under contract for years to come. One of those shoes fell, when the Senators traded away Marian Hossa to Atlanta for Dany Heatley. The debate goes on about who got the better of the deal, but both players will be key for their respective teams.

Outside of the lost of Hossa, the Sens are the team they have been in the past few seasons. You can expect Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara to get about the same ice time they have in the past years. The defense will be as strong as it has been in the past and the offense should benefit from the new rules to open up the game. If they can score 262 with a lot of clutching and grabbing, you can bet they’ll match or exceed that mark this year.

The one question mark is between the pipes. The Sens will go as far as Dominik Hasek’s health. There’s no doubt that Hasek could help the team out for the better, but the stat that he’s played only 14 games in 3 years; that could be the one that alarms Sens fans most. Plus, even though they have a great crop of young talent in net, none of them seems ready to carry the workload and pressure of being a full-time NHLer.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs could be the most interesting team to watch for the fact that they have two guys on the team who probably couldn’t comb their hair for the threat of going back on the IR. The signings of both Jason Allison and Eric Lindros were something that had some pundits scratching their heads; but you can bet that if they do actually contribute, it will come at a low cost to the team, as they both will be at no more than $1.55M against the cap each.

All that aside, the addition of Jeff O’Neill could help the Leafs up front, as they lost Alexander Mogilny to New Jersey. The other players look oddly familiar as the Leafs have tried to keep the team together as much as possible. The one thing that could be a distraction is the spat between Owen Nolan and Leafs management over Nolan’s contract. The team will be rather strong on the blue-line with Bryan McCabe, Ken Klee, and Tomas Kaberle taking the brunt of the load.

In the net, the Leafs almost have the same situation as their Provincial rivals in Ottawa; they’ll only go as far as Ed Belfour’s health. Now, the 40-year old Belfour should have some left in the tank, but the main concern is how he’ll be able to comeback from back surgery in the last off-season. Like the Sens, the Leafs don’t have anyone ready to take the workload if Belfour were to go down.


Calgary Flames: The Flames will be hard pressed not to follow in the footsteps of the one-hit wonders like the Carolina Hurricanes and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. However, with the players they in their system, it’ll be hard to believe they will be like the previous runners-up of the Stanley Cup. Getting players like Tony Amonte and Darren McCarty this off-season at bargain-basement prices will help Jarome Iginla shine once again in Cowtown.

The defense for the Flames should be very strong. With Jordan Leopold, Andrew Ference, and Robyn Regehr all back to the Flames, along with the addition of Roman Hamrlik, plus the rising prospect that is Dion Phaneuf—the Flames should be very strong along the blue line this coming season.

In net, the Flames only hope that Miikka Kiprusoff can rekindle the magic he had during last season’s playoff run. Much like many teams, there’s not much experience in the back-up position. The Flames have Brent Krahn in their system and acquired Phillipe Sauve from Colorado in the summer. Both have had minimal to no success in the NHL, but hope to turn that around, should something happen to Kiprusoff.

Colorado Avalanche: The landscape has been unkind to the Colorado Avalanche. They lost players like Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg to the free agency market and have gotten very little back on the market themselves. Though they picked up utility players like Pierre Turgeon and Patrice Brisebois, they will still miss the play of two original Avalanche players.

However, lucky for the Avs, they have players like Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, and Joe Sakic to provide the offense while Rob Blake and top prospect John-Michael Liles will help garner the blue line. If anything will be the downfall for the Avs, it will be the lack of depth on the blue-line. Losing someone like Foote hurts the landscape of a team’s blue-line and makes the void hard to fill.

In net, David Aebischer will have to prove himself even more this year than last year. Though the Swiss native posted a 32-win season, he did have some great talent in front of him. He should be thoroughly tested with the new wide-open NHL. He’ll get a lot of time in the net too because both Peter Budaj and Tom Lawson lack NHL experience.

Edmonton Oilers: If there is a team who loves the new landscape, it’s the Oilers. They were able to pick up Chris Pronger and Mike Peca, a feat that would not have happened under the old system. The fans of Edmonton are very excited about the new season and they have a right to be. When you go from almost losing a team to getting a premier defenseman and forward—you can’t help but like the odds.

The causalities of the trades were Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, Doug Lynch, and Mike York; all who have promising careers ahead of them. Yet, even with those losses, the Oilers have been able to keep the likes of Jani Rita, Raffi Torres, Ales Hemsky, and Shawn Horcoff from getting away from them. Along with Jason Smith, Radek Dvorak, and Ethan Moreau; the Oilers have a great mix of young and experienced in their line-up.

Between the pipes, Ty Conklin did pretty well in his rookie season; but there is going to be a better set of defenders in front of him to help fend off some of the attack. But if Conklin is unable to get the job done, the Oilers will have Jussi Markkanen to help push the sophomore along should the road get bumpy.

Minnesota Wild: The youth movement is obviously the way the Wild front office wants to go, as they did not even make a dent in the off-season when it came to pick ups. Their biggest move was picking up tough guy Andrei Nazarov. However, looking at the crop of talent that the Wild have been able to accumulate over the years—I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to make some noise in the future.

As for the present, it should be interesting to see if Alexandre Daigle can keep his game the way it is. The Former 1st Overall Draft Pick lead the Wild in goals and points in ’03-’04; but not having Marian Gaborik for the first part of the season didn’t hurt his cause either. But how well will Gaborik do this year?? The Wild hopes he’ll regain his form and get the lead out for the season. If not, they know that Brian Rolston will whip him into shape and push him to become the star he knows he is.

With Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson making the same amount of money—the 1a and 1b tags will be on them once again—but for some reason I think Roloson will be able to over take the #1 position outright.

Vancouver Canucks: The biggest pick-up for the Canucks has been the reinstatement of Todd Bertuzzi into the NHL. That will help reform their top line of Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison and hopefully let that line rack up the points they did before the work stoppage.

The Canucks were able to get some key role players into their line-up via free agency. Anson Carter was picked up from Los Angeles and will probably play with the Sedin twins, which not only helps their stock, but Carter’s as well. Richard Park was picked up from Minnesota and will be a key player on the third of fourth line as a grinder or role player on the penalty kill.

Defense and goaltending should be fairly solid. Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, and Sami Salo will be anchoring the corps, which Dan Cloutier will be getting most the work in net with Alex Auld and Brent Johnson battling for the back-up role. If the Canucks want to show they can be a dominate team year after year—this is the year to start doing it.

So that’s another two divisions down with two more to go next week. Remember, if you agree, disagree, or want to check my psychological background when it comes to these previews, please email the Show with anything you have to ask. Next week, we end out with the Southeast and Pacific Division.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!