Thursday, March 31, 2005

If a Tournament Happens, and no one cares....

Does the tournament really happen??

That's the question I have been posing to some people about the upcoming World Championship in Austria. It seems that the talk of Canada is mainly who isn't going to partcipate in the Worlds as opposed to who is actually going to Austria to play for Canada. Of course, some of the reasons for not going can be excused like in the case of Jarome Iginla and Steve Yzerman, but I'm still skeptical about some of the guys not going like Jose Theodore.

However, that's neither here nor there. The question at hand is does anyone really care that this is going on.

I mean, let's face it. Below the 49th parallel people don't seem to care about it. Amazingly enough, the tournament is not going to be televised in the States and it doesn't seem that there's a wide spread outcry to get it on any network what-so-ever, so using the transistive property, no one in the US cares about the Worlds.

Of course, I know this is not true, but I think the shock that this event isn't going to be the afterthought of the Stanley Cup playoffs like it has been in years-past hasn't set in yet. Usually this event is a sidebar to the nights happenings in the Playoffs and at the end people are like, "Oh, wow-- how amazing is that."

All of this could still be an after effect to what the NHL and NHLPA did to hockey fans by cancelling the season. People probably have moved onto other sources of entertainment and could care less if Canada or Kazakhstan won the Worlds. The grand population wouldn't bat an eye to whoever one. That's a little bothersome, but it's completely understandable. For the most part, the backlash to this could be something that the NHL and NHLPA will look at and realize far too late that they together have destroyed the game many people cherish.

In the end, what happens at the Worlds will not effect people and it will not get the attention that a tournament of this magnitude would usually garner if it were to happen in the Playoffs. Sadly, it's a great tournament and it should prove to be a good event with the North American teams and Team Sweden being in the dumps with the players not playing and the rust that will be on some of the players taking to the ice, someone like Russia or Slovakia could be a surprise of this and make some noise on the international level of things.

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

Monday, March 21, 2005

Don't Believe the Hype-- Hockey is alive and well in Canada

So, last week-- Jeremy Roenick played the role of the crusader mouthpiece as he talked about the upcoming Bobby Hull invitiational that the new WHA is proposing. Now, there are plenty things wrong with this happening when it is happening. First, the "tournament" is during the Memorial Cup. Do you think people will drop everything to watch some NHLers in an OSHL type hockey game over the juniors who are playing for the precious Memorial Cup?? I don't think so. Second, the WHA is saying that they will play in Vancouver and Hamilton for this. However, the problem with Hamilton is that the AHL Bulldogs are in year 7 of a 13 year exclusivity contract with the city of Hamilton and allowing the WHA to play is a breach of contract. Wonder if the WHA knows that little tidbit. Third, JR went on to say that he was the spokesman for two reasons: (1) to get some money into some guys pockets and (2) JR had the testicular fortitude to say: "People are dying to see some hockey in Canada."

Could JR be further from the truth?? I believe not.

If you remember the OSHL, it was a barnstorming league that had NHLPA members playing against each other so that people in Canada would be able to see NHL caliber players on the ice. After seeing that scores resembled that of pond hockey, the league failed horribly and many people have yet to been paid.

But outside of that, people are not missing hockey in Canada. Why, you ask?? It's because they have hockey in Canada. Suffice to report after report in the local fishwrap, there is plenty of hockey in Canada and it's going pretty strong. Whether it be the AHL, ECHL, all the way through the Major Junior ranks and Junior "A" ranks, the game of hockey is alive and very healthy in Canada. In fact, attendance figures couldn't be better in most of the Canadian cities that house NHL teams as well.

Starting in the Major Juniors, attendance for the QMJHL is up 7.15% for the year with many teams up in the double digits in attendance leaps for the year. Though there is not a team in Montreal any more, surrounding areas like Victoriaville (+25.20%) and Drummondville (+28.41%) reaping in the benefits of the Lockout.

The Ontario Hockey League has seen a steady increase of 5% go through the gates this season. Of course, with the London Knights remarkable season, you can bet that had a lot to do with it. As for the teams in NHL cities, Ottawa has always been a good pull from the gate. They increase their attendance 6.81% for the season with the absence of the Senators. However, the most surprising number comes out of Toronto. The St. Michael's Majors has seen a whopping 35% increase in attendance from last season for the year. The Lockout, coupled with the fact the Toronto Roadrunners left for Edmonton, helped the Majors get their people in the building.

Of all the Major Juniors, the Western Hockey League has gotten more people in the gates from last year to this year than any other league at 9.68%. That can be thanks to the cities like Calgary (32.92%) and Vancouver (69.49%) getting more and more people interested in the Major Junior game.

All of these debunk the issue of JR saying people are missing hockey in Canada. In fact, I don't think people would come out to the WHA games even if they were given the tickets from some guy on the street just wanting to get rid of them.

We haven't even gotten to the AHL's Roadrunners (averaging 8,884 in 32 games played in Edmonton), but I'll spare you because it's proof positive that JR needs to do a little research before spouting off at the mouth.

Though he may be right that people could miss the NHL caliber of player on the ice, but it seems they don't miss it enough to get out in droves and get tickets for the WHA tourney. I think it'll all take a page out of the Original Stars Hockey League and fail horribly. As much as people miss the NHL, I don't think they miss the players all that much. At least, according to public surveys, people in Canada say that the players are to blame in this labor mess. So what makes the WHA think they would want to see the NHLPAers at all??

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

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Darker Side of Prospects

Well, in my last installment, I talked about the better side of the prospects game. However, with the good-- you eventually have the bad. This is what this portions is all about. I'll give you my takes on the bad prospect groups in the NHL today. How I'll do this is give the team, why they have a horrible prospect group, and then give one bright spot to their class. This is purely objective, but I think most people would tend to agree with this in one aspect or another. So, do-see-do and away we go:

1. Colorado Avalanche: The definition of trying to buy a Cup and unloading young talent to get it. The Avalanche has been the worst for building up a core base for the future and in the end, it's going to wind up biting them in the ass. I have to say something to those who are accustomed to the Avs being in the playoffs year-in and year-out; that could be coming to an end sooner or later because of the lack of youngster they are bringing up.
  • Johnny Boychuk: Here's a first year pro who is developing into the pro they want to bring up into their system. The rugid defenseman from Edmonton is the next coming of Rob Blake into the system. He's got a solid shot, work ethic, and leadership which will be a good tool for the young kids coming into this depleted system. Boychuk is the silver lining in the grey cloud overhanging Denver.
2. New York Islanders: Here's a team that has gone after the best Euro talent in the past three Drafts, but it hasn't been too good for Milbury's Clan. The Islanders have the trend of holding back their prospects until they are sold off for scraps or rush their talent too quickly only for them to fall on their face, get dealt, then become a superstar in the end; ain't that right Zdeno??
  • Jeremy Colliton: The new wave grinder from Prince Albert is going to be a leader on the Islanders when he finally gets on the squad. However, his injury proned body could tell him otherwise. He's an Adam Graves-esque forward who would give up the body to make a play for someone else. The Islanders need to bring him up steadily, though, or else they could see him fall into the footsteps of others who have came before him.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Champs aren't very deep on their current roster on defense, but they have five studs coming up. However, they are very young which will possibly hurt them very much when they get thrown into the fray. Not to mention, the lack of depth in the net for the Bolts could be their Achilles Heel as well. A team is only as good as the goalie that's behind them in most cases. Without a proven, or at least consistant, goalie, these d-men are just swimming up stream for nothing imparticular.
  • Mike Egener: You want a punishing defenseman on the blueline, then Edge is your guy. Egener's got everything that a GM could want in a defenseman: great vision, sturdiness on the blueline, and not afraid to drop the mitts to stand up for his teammates. Egener will be able to be a leader on the Bolts if he can continue to be the outspoken one on the Springfield Falcons and when he gets to the NHL. The Bolts need to make sure they bring him up as soon as possible so they can actually see what he can do with a quality team around him.
There are, of course, some teams I left off that could have been put on here. So here they are:
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Though they have Kyle Wellwood and Carlo Colaiacovo, you would think the Leafs would be able to get some more talent, but they also have the problem of giving up too much for their chance to win a Cup for the here and now. Because of that, they have ruined their farm system to the max.
  • Detroit Red Wings: The issue I have with the Wings is that they have all these lame duck picks that could be dealt away for something better. They have little to nothing in ways of goaltending for the future, and their backline leaves something to be desired.
  • New Jersey Devils: Almost the same thing as the Red Wings. Because they have won so much, they have paid the price. They have nothing in ways of goaltending coming up through the ranks, mainly because of the fact that with Marty Brodeur, you usually don't have much to worry about. That'll come to bite them in the end when Brodeur goes out for his swan song.
So, that's that. This has been my worst list and you can disagree with me in the comments. Next installment, I'll talk a little bit about the misconceptions that people have about Canada and the loss of the NHL season. This, of course, brought upon the comments JR made about the WHA and their possible spring tournament.

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

Monday, March 07, 2005

Prospects, Prospects, Prospects

Well, I did the Draft outlook a week ago and with The Hockey News putting out their top-50 Prospects and Organizational rankings. That kind of re-sparked my interest in doing something like that. So, I've decided to give the "Scotty Wazz Top Three" of prospects. I will give my top three teams with my top three prospects and then go from there. So without any further ado:

1. Atlanta Thrashers: Here is a team who you bet was destined for some kind of greatness. Sure they haven't had the best go about things, but they have been able to build up a powerful amount of prospects on the farm and in the junior system to help mature the next of their flock. So now, the top three Thrashers:
  • Kari Lehtonen: Are you surprised?? In the past few seasons, Lehtonen has adjusted well tot he ups and downs of the North American pro game. There was little doubt when he came over from Finland that he would be the real deal. However, the problem when he was drafted was whether or not he would be lost in the Thrashers vast amount of goaltending at the time. Obviously, he proved he wouldn't be the runt of the litter.
  • Braydon Coburn: Here's the next big leader of the team. He can score, he can hit, he can all around play the game. His development in Lethbridge has been second to none and he will be able to show the NHL that he is the real deal in the long run.
  • Jim Slater: Slater is an old soul in the prospect list, but he will be an essential part of the Thrashers to come. He is gritty guy who will play on the checking line, but he would be able to chalk up 20 goal season if he gets the chance to.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Now say what you will about the history of the Sabres, but they have a variable farm of studs in their system. The future looks bright with stable ownership and amazing players coming up through the ranks. The Sabres have to be careful not to fall into the trap of instant success in trying to get a big name player by giving up some of their prospects because it'll turn out for the worse rather than for the better.
  • Ryan Miller: You know this kid comes from good stock and it shouldn't be a shock to see him in the lead. He has played amazingly for the Rochester Americans in the AHL and should make a run for the #1 job in the NHL when they get back to playing and my bet is that he could get the job outright.
  • Clarke MacArthur: An unknown for a long time, finally got out into the open in the WJC. MacArthur is a scrapper and will not be afraid to get into the face of anyone. He has the scoring touch without losing any of his "mucking-and-grinding" persona that he had when he came into the "Hat" a few years back.
  • Thomas Vanek: He's a 21 year old leading his team in scoring in the AHL. He has been a vocal part on the ice and one of the reasons why the Rochester Americans are doing so well this season in the AHL. He's shown he is the real deal and will put that to the test as he will be playing in the World Championships for Austria and try to show his talent on a world scale.
3. Washington Capitals: This was a tough choice whether I would include them here or in my worse list. Based on talent alone, they belong on my best list. However, ever since David Poile left, the player management has gone down the crapper. George McPhee hasn't done anything to warrant any kind of party or kinds words. He took a once proud, consistantly-in-the-playoffs Capitals and turned them into a crapshoot year after year.
  • Alexander Ovechkin: Whether the Caps can get him over is another story, but in the grand scheme of things, he is the all-around player. His numbers may not tell the tale (13 goals, 10 assist in 53 games), but that's really high for the stingy European Hockey. HE also showed his toughness by knocking out Sergei Gonchar earlier this year with a hard shoulder.
  • Maxime Ouellet: The prime jewel in the Adam Oates to Philly trade, Ouellet has had a tough time in Portland this season because of the injuries to the defense there. He's a goalie who like the consistant game play, and he hasn't been able to find a good consistant stretch where he could really flaunt his ability to play.
  • Tomas Fleischmann: An acquisition during the Caps' firesale last season from Detroit is a great skater and has great hands. The only downside to his game is his unselfish play. He would rather get the assist than get the goal. However, he needs to realize he could get an assist if he shot the puck and someone got the rebound. Heck, who knows, he could even tickle the twine himself on a shot. He has tremendous upside and just needs to get a handle on the fact that good things happen when you shoot.
There's a lot of teams I could have put there, but here are some honorable mentions:

  • Calgary Flames: Dion Phaneuf is a monster, but the problem is that all the other guys they have are very unproven and need sometime to develop
  • Philadelphia Flyers: They have great young talent, but the problem is they usually sell off their stock for a marquee name.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Though they are are stacked at the top, their depth is lacking. That will turn out to kill them later down the line and could end somewhere outside of the Steel City.
So there you have it. My top three teams their top three players. If you disagree, go ahead and comment and tell me where I went wrong. Next edition will include the Worst Three teams. That'll prove to be a very interesting one to say the least.

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