Thursday, December 28, 2006

Around the Rink 12.28.06

It looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins will hold their own destiny in the hands of Mario Lemieux. Lemieux took the team off the market last Thursday, which you would have known if you weren't living under a rock. The drama for the Penguins continue as Lemieux said he would explore other options, including relocation. However, Mario said that if the City of Pittsburgh would buy a new arena, the odds are better that the Pens will stay in Pittsburgh.

With some sightings of Mario in Kansas City and in Houston this past week, one has to wonder when the announcement of whether they are staying or going will come. You have to figure that if the City of Pittsburgh doesn't break ground soon on an arena project; then the Penguins will learn to fly, especially away from Pittsburgh.

In other news, Jim Balsillie is still interested, but I doubt that he's a player right now in this game.

If you're an Ottawa Senator center; take cover because you're probably next. First, Jason Spezza sustains a knee injury that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, now Mike Fisher has a MCL injury that will keep him out for the time being. It's not what the Ottawa Senators needed to hear, especially with the season they have been having.

The big question now is whether or not the Sens will make a trade for an affordable center. Looking at the depth chart, they have Chris Kelly, Dean McAmmond, Antoine Vermette, and Josh Hennessy. Not the big names you would expect on a team like the Sens. Keep an eye on John Muckler and what he may do next.

Does it strike anyone else as odd that Don Cherry and Kelly Hrudey are too upset that Rory Fitzpatrick could be starting the All-Star Game?? Especially for Cherry, who was in the running for "Greatest Canadian", when many though he shouldn't have been. Maybe they forgot to have a sense of humor about it, maybe they forgot it's a glorified shinny game. The issue is they are too obsessed with this whole thing that it's making them look foolish and bitter.

Memo to Mr. Cherry and Mr. Hrudey-- lighten up. If the All-Star Game was supposed to be a great big thing, if it was supposed to be who the NHL wanted in there-- then the NHL would pick the All-Star team. This is what you get with fan balloting; movements like this to get someone in. When it's left up to a popularity contest; then why would you even worry about something as meaningless as this. And to Kelly Hrudey-- get over yourself. Don Cherry worked very hard to get the respect he gets. You're just some jobber to mold Scott Oake into the next Ron MacLean minus the puns. You sit there, be the token goalie analysis, and stop acting like everyone cares about what you're saying.

The NHL has talked about re-alignment, dropping the divisions from six to four; which would make the divisions uneven, which would spark the debate of expansion (or even contraction) coming into play to even them out.

I'll rant on this tomorrow when I get the nog out of my head, but it will include what I would re-align the divisions in every scenario (ie: Pens moving; Pens not moving).

Hope everyone had a good holiday. If you missed anything on the show, check out the FOHS site, the FOHS Podcast, the FOHS Message Boards, and if you're bored, the FOHS MySpace.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Penguins Crap Out

The future of the Penguins in Pittsburgh was dealt a severe blow, as the Isle of Capri lost its bid to gain the only slots license in Pittsburgh; thus giving the Penguins a new arena. The winning bidder, PITG Gaming, has said they would provide $7M a year for 30 years towards a new arena; but the city, county, taxpayers, and Penguins would have to contribute as well in order to make it work.

After the announcement was made, both the Penguins brass and NHL were very pessimistic about the Penguins future in Pittsburgh. Commissoner Gary Bettman said that they would support the Penguins in whatever they decide to do, while the Penguins stated that they'll exhaust every option. TSN's Bob McKenzie said that it could be another four to six weeks before the real decision comes down to really see what's happening.

So right now, it comes down to who will be the person to save the Penguins. Obviously, the names come out of the woodworks; like Mark Cuban, Frank D'Angelo, etc. The real question is whether or not the Penguins would be a viable option for Pittsburgh. If there's a more lucrative deal to be had somewhere else, why wouldn't an owner want to go where the money's at?? If somewhere like Kansas City, Winnipeg, Houston, or wherever will give a better deal-- then you know that someone would want to head out there.

We'll see how this all pans out, but right now-- it doesn't look good for Penguins fans.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Around the Rink 12.18.06

The Pittsburgh Penguins are up for another bidding war. It seems that Frank D'Angelo, owner of Steelback Brewery, is looking to purchase the team and keep them in Pittsburgh. D'Angelo has said that if the Isle of Capri doesn't win the Wednesday bid, his group would build an arena with their own money and use the Steelback name for the arena name and sell Steelback beer in the arena. Our buddy James Mirtle doesn't seem too happy about it.

Also interested is Mark Cuban, who's bid failed two owners ago, and former prospective owner Jim Balsillie, who seems to be still in the running even though he pulled his bid this past weekend. However, Mario Lemieux said that Balsillie pulled out during a crucial time, which was a breach of contract with the Penguins; so he's keeping Balsillie's deposit and has said any deal with Balsillie is dead.

The vote will come down on Wednesday whether or not the Isle of Capri will get the slots license, which will bring a new arena to Pittsburgh. If the IoC can get the license, it'll probably ease a lot of minds of prospective owners. If not....we'll see what happens.

Alexei Zhitnik is on the move, as he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers from the New York Islanders for Freddy Meyer IV. Neither defenseman have been doin that well for their respective teams, which mades this trade even odder.

However, you would think that the Flyers would want to keep their young prospects in check, rather than get older. Yet, it seems that they are going the opposite way. Of course, the reasoning is just due to all of the injuries and lack of production on the blue line; Zhitnik was a prime, yet expensive choice. We'll see if this pays off in the grand scheme of things, but I doubt it'll have any help at all.

What has happened to the New York Rangers?? Within a span of two games, they have given up 15 goals. Henrik Lundqvist was left in for eight goals in Saturday's loss to Toronto and Kevin Weekes was in for the other seven. They only scored three goals in that span as well, which doesn't make sense considering who they have on their team.

Now, if the Rangers are going to revert back to their old form of not caring and letting teams walk all over them; I wouldn't be surprised to see some guys being moved before the end of the season hits. It has started already, with Sandis Ozolinsh being placed on waivers today. Though I have plenty of respect for Tom Renney and his crew; they need to do something quick before it's too late.

The dream of having every NHL have an AHL affiliate seems to be one step closer to become a reality. This weekend, the Colorado Avalance announced that they will have their primary affiliate with the incoming Cleveland hockey team that starts in 2007-08 AHL season. A name for the team has yet to be announced.

With the deal as it is, there are only two teams without a primary affiliate, the Florida Panthers (two teams) and Edmonton Oilers (five teams). The Avalanche haven't had their own affiliate since 2004-05 when they were with the Hershey Bears. Some people discount how important it is to have a primary affiliate, especially when it comes to developing players. It's much easier to get a kid into the line-up who knows the system from the AHL team, as opposed to using someone else's primary affiliate, who may have a different system than what you're trying to impose.

That's all for now, but make sure to check out the FOHS site, FOHS Podcast, the FOHS Message Boards powered by, and the FOHS MySpace, if you're not already on it. And if you are-- tell all your friends.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another Sale Bites the Dust For the Pens

Just when it looked like things were turning around for the Pittsburgh Penguins and stability was within site....there's a swerve. The swerve this time is with potential owner Jim Balsillie, or should I say, former potential owner. According the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Balsillie has withdrew his bid to become the new owner of the Penguins; thus putting the team out on the market again. Apparently, Balsillie and the NHL couldn't reach a deal in the last minute of the consent process, thus leading Balsillie to withdraw his bid.

According to TSN's Sources, the NHL tabled the consent that Balsillie would have to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh, regardless of the circumstances. Though it's not technically dead, Balsillie and the NHL are not talking. There have been ideas of trying to eliminate the wording so Balsillie is free to do what he wants; but everything right now is in limbo.

Obviously, this isn't going to sit well with Mario Lemieux's camp, who thought this was all sign, sealed, and delivered. However, the one stumbling block that would keep anyone for seriously pursuing the team is the whole deal with gaming licenses and the new arena. Gary Bettman, understandably, would want to keep the team where they are at, so he wouldn't be facing an outcry like Winnipeg and Quebec City had. Yet in terms of reality, you can't force a market if there isn't one to be had.

The Penguins are a talented team and are one or two signings away from being a big time contender, yet there seems to be no buyers out there due to the constraints that are put in place before the sale even happens. I'm sure Balsillie didn't think much of the plan when he tabled his purchase, nor did Sam Fingold who tabled a price beforehand. Sad to say, but it seems like the lame-duck ownership, as well as the City of Pittsburgh have the Penguins held hostage. Should someone not meet their demands; the team won't be sold. Pretty craptastic business management if you ask me.

So, we get back into the fun, fun speculation on what's going to happen next for the Penguins. Who's going to be the big guns to swoop in and save the team. Mario isn't going to do it, who knows what Mark Cuban could be thinking, and we never know-- maybe the NHL will have a change of heart and realize that if there's not a market in Pittsburgh, it's just best to let it go.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Around the Rink 12.08.06

Mark December 20th down on your calendar Pens fans. That's the day it will be decided whether or not Isle of Capri will win the slots license and saving the Penguins in one fell swoop. New prospective owner Jim Balsillie met with the Board of Governors to give an update, but a vote on the transfer of ownership of the Penguins will take place this next week.

The big issue, aside from transfet, is the Isle of Capri bid. If that wins, then they will build a new arena; thus saving the Penguins from moving. If they don't win, the question of whether the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh is re-visited. During the meeting with Balsillie, the conversation was pretty much having to do with exhausting every resource out there before even thinking about moving the team. The saga continues.

Also, if Isle of Capri fails and the city's plan "B" falls through; look for Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario (Balsillie's home) to be a frontrunner in getting a new team.

The Board of Governors couldn't come to an agreement on what the schedule and playoff format should be in the upcoming season. Of course, we all know that this problem won't go away just because a consensus isn't reached at this caucus. You can bet this will be brought up again and again and again until something is done about it to benefit all teams involved.

Also at the BoG meeting, it was revealed that the Salary Cap will be raised again, possibly up to $46-$47.5M for next season. Though attendance is down, ticket prices are up, new sponsors and deals are being made, and merchendising is up. All of that, along with linkage, boost the Cap number. The thing that I want to know is how much teams will scurry if the Cap takes a drastic turn the other way.

My AHL rant wasn't real worth of it's own post or to be published...but here's the long and the short of it. I was looking at the Hockey News and flipping through the pages and I saw the San Jose Sharks uniform. When I looked at the article that containted the picture, it was an AHL article and it was the Worcester Sharks uniform-- an exact ripoff of the parent club's uniform.

I'm not a big fan of cloning minor league teams to fit the parent club. Teams like the Houston Aeros and Bridgeport Sound Tigers have recently changed their uniforms to fit their parent club, but had pretty decent uniforms to start off with. I don't see the need or reasoning to have these drastic changes when they are not needed. Luckily, there are teams out there like the Hershey Bears, Chicago Wolves, and Rochester Americans who have kept their own identity through all their years in the league.

Now, I'm all for having some kind of idenitifiable patch or something to let people know that they are affiliated with said teams. However, to completely redo a team's logo, jerseys, and identity is just not needed and more often than not, draws the ire of fans of the team.

That's all for now, but make sure you check out the FOHS Message Board for all the fun stuff that goes on there, and if you missed a show, check out the FOHS Podcast to catch up on whatever you missed out on.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Around the Rink 12.03.06

The question du jour is whether or not Alex Ovechkin deserves a suspension from his hit on Daniel Briere. For those who missed it, during the second period, Briere dumped the puck in and went for a chance. As he was turning to the bench, Ovechkin hit Briere in the lower back with an elbow and it sent Briere head first into the player's gate. That brought out a melee, which saw Ovechkin, Adam Muir, and Paul Gaustad all ejected. The NHL doesn't seem like they will suspend Ovechkin.

Now, while Briere returned to play the rest of the game; the NHL should have at least made it one or two games to send a message. There has been far too many incidents which is showing that the NHL is almost under martial law. Too many instances of dirty hits have gone on without any repremand. If the NHL want so to get some respect, then they need to do something to get more respect into the game.

The Edmonton Oilers got bad news when it was learned that Ryan Smyth is out indefinitely with a fractured thumb. Smyth sustained the injury Saturday night when he bent his thumb back when trying to check Rostislav Klesla in a 4-0 Edmonton loss. The Oilers are already without Ales Hemsky, who is still about a week away from returning from his shoulder injury.

The injuries are taking it's toll and it seems the Oilers are playing tired. Dwayne Roloson hasn't finished his last two games and there has been little to no scoring for the Oilers. You almost have to wonder if the high from the magical run to the playoffs is wearing off.

The NHL Board of Governors will be meeting this week. The one thing that will be up for debate, again, is the unbalanced schedule; something that couldn't be decided when the GM met a little while back. Also on the agenda is the playoff bracketing, which would see the NHL go to an NCAA-tournament ideal, where there is set bracketing regardless of upsets.

Now, the schedules; I've gone over that. However, I'm still kind of on the fence about the bracketing. Will it work?? Possibly. Will it create less confusion?? You bet. I really can't think of any con side, though if a team makes it to the second round, loses in the round, and wouldn't have had played that team in the old standard; there could be plenty of bitching and complaining about it. We'll see how it all pans out.

Can the NHL just give Evgeni Malkin the Calder now, because it seems it's going that way anyway. Malkin was given the Rookie of the Month for a second straight month. While impressive, there's guys like Anze Kopitar and Paul Stasny who deserve a look at the award too.

Granted, this could be traced back to the fact that both Stasny and Kopitar play in the West and aren't seen as often; which is traced back to the schedule. Yet, if the NHL really wants to give Malkin the Rookie of the Year-- just do it now so the charade can be done with and we can all move on with our lives.

That's all for now. I'm sure that I'll have that little AHL rant done sooner or later, but we'll see. Until then, check out the FOHS site, FOHS Podcast, and FOHS Message Board to hold you over until then.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Around the Rink 11.30.06

Some interesting news out of Pittsburgh, as John LeClair was placed on waivers today. LeClair has seven points in 21 games, has been demoted to the fourth line, and has since his minutes shrink. Whether or not a team will pick him up with his $1.5M contract remains to be seen.

However, you almost wondered when something like this would happen. Unlike Mark Recchi, LeClair doesn't have a dynamic upside as an older player. Especially considering the work done to his back, the fact he has lasted this long is amazing. Though he can bring veteran leadership to the team, right now his salary and place on the roster is just clogging it up for one of the young guns to come up and take their hack with a very young and fairly good hockey club.

The NHL announced that during the All-Star weekend in January, the NHL will would roll out their new uniform designs. The league said that the uniforms would be streamlined and had the players in mind. The uniforms have been designed over the past two years and will be used starting next season. The uniforms will supposedly allow the players joints to move more freely.

As long as they aren't like the "all-in-one" jersey that rolled out for the GMs, then this could be a good idea. If it's anything like the Olympic Nike Swift jerseys; then it could be better for everyone involved once people get used to it. If it is anything drastically could be a horrible disaster.

So, we had issues with Alexei Kaigorodov a few weeks back not reporting to Binghamton of the AHL when Ottawa sent him there; now we have Enver Lisin not reporting to San Antonio after Phoenix assigned him there. In both cases, the players have returned to Russia.

You have to think that something isn't right when they get hear they are getting sent down. Obviously, they could make more money in Russia then they could in the AHL; but they can't get the call up and the PT in the NHL...if they are in Russia. The AHL, for all it's worth, is the best developmental tool for these types of players. I'm not saying that their decision wasn't driven by one thing or another; I'm suggesting that they should have given the AHL a try, just for a little bit, then decide from there.

TSN will make some kind of history by doing a whole broadcast from ice level. Last season, NBC and TSN tried out having their analyst in the little space, between the benches that is usually reserved for photographers. Now, TSN will do a whole broadcast with the play-by-play man and analyst in that little space on the ice.

Personally, I don't know if this is a good idea or disaster waiting to happen. The fact that it's Chris Cuthbert and Glenn Healy, I feel a little safer, yet I'm still skeptical. Not only will they have to deal with cursing hockey players, but I'm sure the players will have side bets to see who hits them first. Unless they get a plexiglass front, I don't see this being the innovative thing TSN is hoping for.

The Calgary Flames will be retiring Mike Vernon's #30 in February. Vernon helped lead the Flames to the 1989 Stanley Cup, as Vernon had 16 wins, including three shutouts on way to a Stanley Cup championship. In 1997, Vernon won another Cup with the Detroit Red Wings and won the Conn Smythe Award for Playoff MVP.

The thing is not Vernon getting his number retired, he derserved it. The issue I have is why Al MacInnis' #2 is not retired before Vernon. MacInnis was the Smythe winner in 1989 and was a big part of why the Flames were there in the first place. I'm sure he'll get his day, but Big Al should be up in the Saddledome rafters.

That's it for now. My little post about the AHL will be out soon. Until then, check out the FOHS main site, the FOHS Podcast, and FOHS Message Board.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Around the Rink 11.27.06

Another one bites the dust, as the Chicago Blackhawks fired Trent Yawney as their head coach and promoted Denis Savard as head coach. The Hawks have won only three of their last 15 games and GM Dale Tallon said the team needed a more "up-tempo style." Yawney went 33-55-15 in his tenure as Hawks coach. Savard has been the assistant coach for the Hawks since 1996-97.

The Hawks have been buggered with injuries to the likes of Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, and Nikolai Khabibulin, which put them in a hole after an otherwise fantastic start to the season. Yet, something like this couldn't be ignored. The Hawks have plenty of talent, but it's a matter of getting people to buy into system; which seems like what happen to Yawney.

Granted, many fans wish Bill Wirtz could somehow get out of the organziation; but it's wishful thinking.

You have to hate it for Tomas Vokoun. First, he lost the last part of his season to a severe blood clot, came back and got shelled at the start, then has come around as of late. Yet, after a 6-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks, Vokoun tore a ligament in his finger on his blocker hand. On Sunday, the Preds said that Vokoun would be out at least two weeks and as many as six weeks.

The good thing for the Preds is that Chris Mason has been doing great as the back-up and should be able to hold down the fort while Vokoun is on the shelf. Plus, the Preds are tied for second in goals in the Western Conference, behind the Anaheim Ducks and tied with the San Jose Sharks.

If there is one game to watch on Tuesday, it's going to be the Anaheim Ducks heading into Edmonton to face the Oilers. It's going to be a crazy crowd as Chris Pronger returns to his former team's home barn; where he helped lead the Oilers to the Cup Finals. Of course, this past summer the turmoil between Pronger and the fans happened which makes this game such an event.

Though Oiler fans do have a gripe with Pronger and the way he left, the way they went about it probably was fairly stupid. The good thing is that Pronger is a focused player and the jeers will more than likely not phase Pronger on the ice. The best thing Pronger can hope for is a big win for the Ducks and to put up some points in the victory.

Alexei Yashin was having a great start to his season with 28 points in his 22 games. It looked like Yashin was loving the game again. Now, the New York Islanders and Yashin will have to wait to see what happens next, as the captain of the Isles will miss the next two to four weeks as Yashin sustained a sprained knee in a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

Yashin has been critized by the media for giving owner Charles Wang bad tips in order to make the team more friendly to Yashin. Yet, the Isles are one of the more surprising teams in the NHL this season, as they are second in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. The loss of Yashin is a big hit, but with plenty of role players stepping up; the pain should be eased a little.

That's all for now. Be on the lookout for something in the next couple of days concerning clones in hockey. Until then, check out the FOHS Site, the FOHS Podcast, and the FOHS Message Board for all the fun.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Around the Rink 11.23.06

The Columbus Blue Jackets did the inevitable and named Ken Hitchcock their new head coach. Hitchcock signed a three year deal with the Jackets to make the deal official. The hope for many is that Hitchcock will actually be able to make the team play a complete game, rather than thinking offense and hope the defense will come later.

Granted, this isn't the upgrade Hitchcock may have wanted, but it's coaching in the NHL; so he'll take it. The task for Hitchcock now is the actually get the room to listen to him. What this move also does is allow Doug MacLean to keep his job, though many Jackets' fans want him out of there. We'll see if this changes the team or blows up in their faces.

The "lame duck" GM in Toronto has a reprise. John Ferguson Jr. found out that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the Leafs, will pick up Ferguson's option for another year. It's not the extension that many believe he would get; but it at least means he'll be there next season as well.

There's many around the GTA that think Ferguson should have been fired, with all the bad contract decisions he has made. Of course, with the Leafs off to a decent start; those sentiments have changed. Yet, one thing that is certain in Toronto-- you win, they love you; you lose-- you're out of town.

There was an interesting article about how Georges Laraque is worried about the role of enforcers in the new NHL. Laraque states that within two years, the enforcer role will be extinct. Laraque notes that more and more teams are ditching the fighters because the league isn't geared towards fighters.

It's a good article to read and big Georges is right. A lot of the younger guys are going to have to adapt or else be left behind. In the junior leagues, every team has a designated fighter pretty much, but they'll have to craft a good balance between the rough stuff and being a good stick-handler/scorer as an aside.

Laraque has found that touch this year, Chris Neil found it last year into this year, while others still need some work before they can think their job is safe.

A couple entries back, I talked about how idiotic the fan balloting is for All-Star Games. Before the ballot came out, I mentioned on the show to write-in myself and Marc. However, since it's online, you can't actually WRITE in your vote. In absence of that, some fans have thought of something better. is an online movement to get Vancouver Canuck defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick on the All-Star team as a write-in candidate. So, I implore you to go check out the site and Vote for Rory.

That's it for now, there's more stuff in the works, so keep checking the blog, the FOHS site, the FOHS Podcast and FOHS Message Board.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Rail Cam Debate

On Monday night, Versus (formerly OLN) tried out their newest innovation to bring to a telecast, the rail cam. You may remember the rail cam from Heritage Classic, which saw a camera follow the play from end-to-end; much like a hockey video game would.

After all was said and done, there were plenty of various opinions. The main one was that the camera was too bulky and obstructing the view of not only the regular camera views, but also those of the fans in the stands. Sean-O said that even though it's a great shot, it shouldn't be used as a main shot, which is what VSOLN seems to be using. Others had varied opinions from wanting it taken out after one game to people actually wanting to see more of it.

If you have seen it, take a quick look at clip one and clip two from VSOLN by way of YouTube.

Personally, I didn't see the game in real-time, only getting clips. I'd like to see more as it progresses through the season, but I don't think the execution is there just yet. The idea is there, the action of setting it up and actually using it is there; but the execution could have been a whole lot better. It'll be interesting to see what VSOLN will do with this, but unless they can execute it properly; it'll be crap.

I think one of the problems that VSOLN has that CBC and the Heritage Classic didn't was the camera angles of the hard cameras. The good thing about having a hockey game on a football field was the area around the rink to use as hard camera positioned. Plus, with the stands starting 100 feet back, the rail cam didn't effect much even thought it was bulky. If VSOLN can find a way to compact their rail cam and use their hard camera angles better; then this could be a the best thing since sliced bread.

This is almost like the end-zone cam that is used during the power-plays to help out the actual viewing pleasure of most fans, both hard-core and casual alike.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the rail-cam, so hit us up at the FOHS Email or in the comments' section on the blog.

Around the Rink 11.21.06

It seems that the race for the Columbus Blue Jackets' coach is down to Ken Hitchcock and Andy Murray. Now, either one of these choices right now would be good to whip the team into shape. Whether or not it creates a mutiny in the room is a different story. The Jackets really haven't had a hard-nosed coach, per se, but with either Murray or Hitchcock coming into the fold, that's going to change real quickly.

The main thing that needs to change is scoring, or the lack there of. Rick Nash leads the team with six goals on the year and are currently last in the NHL in goals for with 40. Something needs to kick-start the talent on this team and a coaching chance should be good for what ails them.

Speaking of Hitchcock, his former team, the Philadelphia Flyers, announced that they have extended the contract of new coach John Stevens. Stevens won a Calder Cup with the Philly Phantoms two seasons ago and the hope is that Stevens can try to salvage any part of this season for the Flyers.

Granted, we're only 20 games in, but let's not kid anyone in thinking that the Flyers will make a dramatic comeback. They only have one regular who is not a minus and that's Randy Robitaille who is an even rating; and that's discounting Todd Fedoruk because he hasn't played a game yet in Philly. We'll see where this takes them, but with Stevens knowing his job is safe for now, it could open up a whole lot of chances.

Marc Denis is in full free-fall mode, much to the dismay of many Tampa fans. Denis hasn't won since October 26th, has let in at least six goals in two of his last three starts, and could have his position plucked from him by Johan Holmqvist. Denis was brought in to stop the bleeding for the Bolts in net, which hasn't happened.

You know, I sat here in the summer talking about how underrated Denis was and he's not making me look good at all. Is it because the Bolts miss Pavel Kubina that much?? Is it because they don't have many stay-at-home defensemen?? Is Denis just that bad?? Personally, I couldn't tell you; but it doesn't look good in any light when it hits the bottom line.

Some WHL news as Dustin Slade, one of the top goalies in the WHL, quit the Vancouver Giants to persue a pro career. Apparently, Slade was unhappy with sharing time with Tyler Sexsmith in net, which led Slade to talk to coach Don Hay about it and ultimately leaving the team. The Giants had moved two players, both overagers, to keep Slade on the roster.

News flash to Slade, welcome to life as a goalie. There's going to be situations whereas you have to see what the other kid is going to do and then split the games if need be. If you're winning, that shouldn't be an issue; though I see where a competitor would want to play every game. Bottom line, you're name is not Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, or Olaf Kolzig. You're going to have to come to the realization that you're not going to get every start because someone is equal to the task.

I guess in the end, sitting on the bench in the ECHL or some other minor league making a bit of change is better than playing for a small stipen in the WHL.

With trade talks heating up, you better stay tuned to the Face Off Hockey Show blog, the Face Off Hockey Show, the FOHS Podcast, and the FOHS Message Board so you don't miss a single deal.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Around the Rink 11.14.06

The second coaching victim of the season happened, but this one wasn't a big surprise. The Columbus Blue Jackets fired Gerard Gallant and are expected to name assistant coach Gary Agnew the interim head coach. Gallant coached 142 games for Columbus, but went 56-76-10 in his tenure.

Gallant's name has always been around when it comes to coaching changes, but many thought it would be much, much earlier than this. The Blue Jackets have plenty of talent. All that is missing is a coach who can be a motivator and mentor for the youngsters, something that Gallant couldn't do.

Brian Burke and the Anaheim Ducks made three deals today and freed up $800k in cap space. Whether or not it brings more trades is to be determined. The Ducks traded off Stanislav Chistov to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick in '07 ot '08; dealt Todd Fedoruk to the Philadelphia Flyers for a fourth-round pick in '07; and acquired George Parros from the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round pick in '07.

Like I said, many believe that this is a start to moving Ilya Bryzgalov. I don't know if that would be the best wise move. J-S Giguere has been playing great; but you never know when he could get injured or start to fade. We'll keep tabs on this, but knowing Brian Burke...anything can and usually does happen.

The NHL announced that they would be giving out a new weekly award to the player that displays leadership on and off the ice. The award will be named after Mark Messier.

Props to Mark Messier for getting this named after him, but come on-- don't we have enough trophies and awards?? I don't even know how you can give this out on a weekly basis, especially since it's really arbitrary on who gets it. Make it a monthly or yearly thing, but not weekly. And enough with the trophies. Unless there's going to be a Wayne Gretzky trophy for most assists in the season; just stop. I don't want to talk about who could win the Alexandre Daigle Award for biggest flop.

The Hall of Fame Inductions of Patrick Roy, Dick Duff, Herb Brooks, and Harley Hotchkiss is tonight. Of course, with this sparks debate on who is next to go into the Hall and who could be first ballots and who won't.

As much as I would love to go into it, our buddy Lyle Richardson has one of the best takes on the whole situation.

That's it for now, but as always, check out Face Off Hockey Show, the FOHS Podcast, and the FOHS Message Boards.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Around the Rink 11.11.06

The Anaheim Ducks have been as good as advertised this season. However, a night after setting the record for most games without a regulation loss, a 6-0 thumping of Vancouver, the Ducks got shutout by Calgary 3-0.

We all knew this couldn't last (unless it was NHL94 against the computer with the offsides off), but the Ducks are showing the league they can be "mighty" without it being in their name. J-S Giguere has gotten back to his '02-'03 form, the pair of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer is just completely dominant, and the diversity of forwards scoring is pretty amazing. It looks like the Ducks ditched Disney just in time.

Speaking of the Flames, they seem to have hit their stride. Tony Amonte is finally earning his contract, Jarome Iginla is looking like a man on a serious mission, while Miikka Kiprusoff has been solid night-in and always. It seems that after October, the Flames flip a switch and they get back on the right track again.

Amazingly enough, about 10 games in; people in Calgary were writing the team off. One Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun even went so far as saying the Flames wouldn't make the playoffs, regardless the fact that there were 72 games to play. They aren't back at .500 and it may be too early to jump back on the bandwagon for some; but you can't write off a team with this much talent on it and with such high expectations.

What has happened to the Buffalo Sabres?? They have been winning games, but the fact that they have given up at least four goals in the last five games could be cause for concern. Are they crashing down to Earth after the quick high?? Have teams just figured them out and what weaknesses they have?? I don't have the answer, but for a team to get a great start out of the gate and then start stumbling is scary.

The Sabres are good, I'm not saying otherwise; but something has to be done. Whether it's getting on the defense or goaltending that's the answer; then something needs to be done. The tandem of Martin Biron and Ryan Miller could be, on paper, the best tandem in the league; but they sure as hell aren't showing it lately.

Are the Ottawa Senators going to be the bi-polar team of this year?? Here's another team, like the Flames, who shouldn't be this bad with the team they have. The one thing I have seen out of them is that they are missing something. I can't pinpoint it, but there's something in their game that is stiffling the confidence of the team and is why they have blown so many leads this year.

Frankly, the combination of Zdeno Chara leaving, Martin Gerber flopping, and overconfidence is what is hassling the team. If you put all three of those together, you have a recipie for disaster in Canada's capital. Is it too late to turn it around?? No, but if something doesn't happen soon, you can bet that there will be some movement one way or the other.

The Phoenix Coyotes can't catch a break. First, they lose their leading scorer, Mike Comrie, to foot surgery; today, they announced that Shane Doan and Nick Boynton will be out a while.

Right now, they can only hope that Wayne Gretzky straps up the skates again and plays the Reggie Dunlop role on the team; because (to be brutally honest) that's the only way this team will be relevant this season.

The NHL leaked out the players on the NHL All-Star Ballot for this January. There's really not many surprises on here with all your favorites out there.

However, this has been brought up on the show many times; fan voting is idiotic. That's not a knock on any of you reading this, but it's the truth. People are going to pick their favorite player regardless of how good a year they are having.

You know-- listen into the show or replay Podcast for November 8th, because I have a hairbrain scheme that just could work to straighten this all out.

That's all for now, but as always; check out Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday at 9 PM ET for all the fun; especially this coming Wednesday. Can't make the show?? Then check out the FOHS Podcast for all you missed and go by the FOHS Message Boards to post about the show and all the fun stuff happening.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Around the Rink 11.08.06

The Toronto Maple Leafs got a hit today when they found out that Captain Mats Sundin will be out three to four weeks with ligament tear in his right elbow. Sundin had 19 points (8g, 11a), which leads the Leafs for the season thus far.

With the Leafs doing so well, it's probably the worse case scenario to have Sundin out for a long period of time. We'll see the true resolve of the team to see if they can bounce back from this news or not.

Speaking of injuries, doesn't it seem like there are more injuries than last season?? Maybe it's me, but it seems everyday there's a new crop of injury news coming around. Yet, it's not the normal "day-to-day" groin pull that happened last season; but it's a lot of serious stuff. There's plenty of ankle injuries this year with Martin Havlat, Chris Higgins, and Jeff Carter. Of course, plenty of back issues has been out there and some "upper-body" stuff, but it just seems like there plenty of them.

I'm sure I'm crazy; but still.

The Vancouver Canucks announced that Luc Bourdon has been sent back to the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats. Bourdon had no points in his nine games with the Canucks and would have had his contract kick in if he played one more game.

Bourdon is a good defenseman is a hulking presence, but he's not ready for the NHL just yet. He'll have his time to grow and we'll probably see him in the AHL at the end of his junior season. In this instance, I really applaud the AHL for making a 20-year-old age limit for incoming players. It allows more players to get time in juniors and mature before making the big jump.

The NHL GMs concluded their meetings yesterday. The one thing many thought would be possibly changed, the schedule, wasn't changed or thought of during the meeting. I'm sure that the conflict won't go away, but it won't be resolved any time soon. You see, the Western Conference teams want to have more games against the Eastern Conference for the young guns to be seen once a year. The Eastern teams want to keep travel cost downs.

The East, of course, is all up and down the Atlantic seaboard, which had all 15 teams in close quarters. The West is spread out from part of the Eastern Time Zone to the Pacific Time Zone, so travel isn't a big deal for them. So, like always, I'll have to come up with a solution:

-One game, home and away, against other conference teams (30 total)
-Five games each against Divisional teams (20 total)
-Three games against each team outside your division, but in your conference (30 total)

That's 80 games for the year. Though it takes away a home game for each team, it always takes away a travel date. Plus, fewer games aren't the worst thing and could actually make the Finals end in May. Food for thought.

Remember to listen into Face Off Hockey Show live tonight at 9 PM ET. If you can't catch it live, make sure you check out the FOHS Podcast to catch all you lost and to log into the FOHS Message Board to talk about the show and to just shoot the bull.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Around the Rink 11.06.06

The news is getting worse for the Phoenix Coyotes. After a come-from-behind victory on Saturday night over the LA Kings; it was announced today that leading scorer Mike Comrie will be out for a month with a broken foot. The injury occured on Friday night after Comrie took a shot to the foot. Comrie lead the team with 11 points.

I mean-- it's bad enough that the Coyotes are struggling out of the gate, but to have your leading scorer injured in the process is a slap in the face. They better hope that Shane Doan's back problems are behind him so he can try and pick up the slack.

I've ranted about this on the show, but I think I'll take it hear were I can elaborate more. I don't like the "Three Stars" awards in place of the Offensive/Defensive award. I understand what the NHL is trying to do and it's cute. However, my fear is that one of these weeks; there will be three forwards and no defensive representation. I know that the NHL would find some way to get a defenseman or goalie in; but that's just a fear I have.

It seems like it's always an offensive and defensive as #1 and #2 for the week and the third was picked out of a hat containing five or six names just to fill out the void left. As much as the NHL wants to change; don't change it for the sake of change. The Offensive/Defensive was a better option because it was a tougher pick amongst a pool where as thee Three Stars could be luck of the draw.

Now, Oilers fan; please just breeze past this because I'm going to talk about Friday night's game. If you don't want to deal with the heartache; just move along.

If you haven't seen what happened at the end of the Oilers/Stars game on Friday night; here's video courtesy of YouTube. As you can see, the Oilers scored....but only after Mick McGeough had whistled the play down on what he thought was a hand pass. For the defense of McGeough; with Horcoff's bottom-hand all the way down the stick; it's easy to assume that could have happened. However, for the Oiler's defense; he was on the other side of the ice and was blocked by everyone else on the ice. That would have tied the game, but it ended in a loss for Edmonton.

The comments that took place after where Oiler's coach Craig MacTavish called the call "retarded" got him fined $10k. The NHL wants to be a fan-friendly industry, why fine someone for saying something everyone in Rexall Place and pretty much everywhere else (sans those who root for Dallas) was thinking and probably said when they saw the call. Look, it could be in bad taste; but when you grant the media access to a coach or player after something like that happened 5 minutes before the sworm, expect emotions to run over.

Senators' rookie Alexei Kaigodorov was suspened by the team after he refused to go to the AHL. Kaigodorov had said that if the Senators sent him down, he would go back to Russia the play for Magnitogorsk. That seems like it's going to happen.

The odd thing about this is that Kaigodorov and the Senators were not dinged when it came to the Russian league accusing the NHL of stealing players. Did the Russian league not care about the Sens?? Did they not care about Kaigodorov?? It's possible, but the more likely scenario is probably what Kaigodorov did when he actually gave in his two-week notice; he stayed with the team for those two weeks. He didn't bolt the minute the Sens came calling; he gave his two-week notice, he stayed with the team while waiting for those two weeks, and then he went over to North America. I'm sure had the others done something like that; there wouldn't be a huge mess like there is right now.

Now, I understand why Evgeni Malkin was named Rookie of the Month. He was a house of fire coming in and hasn't disappointed. However, the thing I'm concerned about is this becoming like the whole Sidney Crosby thing last year where he's given the Calder in October; but is blown out come June when the actual award happens.

Granted, the rookie class of this year hasn't had the pizzazz last year's had; but there's plenty of talent. Though, East Coast bias could play into it as guys like Matt Carle and Anze Kopitar are in California, where I think the law is that all hockey games must start at 7:30 local time to completely screw the East Coast papers.

All I'm saying is that Malkin would have won the Rookie of the Month sooner rather than later; why not award a rookie who played all the games and didn't just steal the scene like Malkin did. Plus, remember Sean-O's rookie theorem: There will be a rookie coming out of the blue in the second half to win the award.

By the way, anyone who wants the Philadelphia Flyers' GM job; I think all you have to do is contact the Flyers' office and say you rocked in the dynasty mode in NHL07 and you should be given an offer. That's how it seems, since Ed Snider really wants someone other than Paul Holmgren in charge. They even went behind Holmgren's back to offer the job to Colin Campbell, though he rejected it.

I'm not a fan of the Flyers' by any means, but you would think that someone like Snider would have the decency to sit Holmgren down and tell him straight up that the job may be right for him, but he's not right for the job. It's that simple, and though Holmgren may not like it-- he'll respect the organization a lot more because of that.

On a final note, it seems that the NHL Network could be heading south. While looking that Job Postings on; I found this little job tidbit. It seems that Comcast (most likely since they are the primary rights holder) is gearing up to carry the NHL Network. It's been in Canada for a couple of years now and seems to be desired amongst the hockey faithful in the US.

Whether or not enough people will buy into it will be told in time, but those who want the NHL Network; contact your cable or satellite provider or the NHL.

For the time being, here's a look at the NHL Network in Canada and what they are offering and the always reliable Wikipedia entry about the NHL Network in the US.

That's it for now. I promise, I'll take better care of updating. I know I've said it before; but this time, I kinda mean it....maybe. In any case, check out Face Off Hockey Show Wednesday Nights at 9 PM ET or always on at the FOHS Podcast site. If all else fails, check the FOHS Message Boards to gab about all there is to gab about.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Around the Rink 10.30.06

The Pittsburgh Penguins made the right decision today, saying that Jordan Staal would stay up on the Penguins squad for the entire '06-'07 campaign. Staal has recorded four goals and an assist, with three of the goals coming shorthanded. It may not look impressive in the start, but having a kid that young be so lethal on the PK could help out the Penguins.

Now, as much as my hatred for the Penguins is; I have to think Ray Shero is doing the right thing. Even though both Staal and Evgeni Malkin's contracts will come up at the same time, odds are that Staal won't command as much money as Malkin will, ultimately relieving the Pens of tough decisions. We'll see if this will be good for Staal or not as the season goes on.

Someone turn the lights out a Arena when they leave. The Phoenix Coyotes have been horrendous. They did sign face-off specialist Yanic Perreault to a 1-year deal worth $700k. Perreault is coming of abdomen surgery. While training, Perreault injured himself and required surgery.

Granted, this is a one year thing, but Perreault is really only good in the circle. Outside of it, he's a regular role player. The Coyotes have enough veteran centermen in Jeremy Roenick and Steven Reinprecht, that Perreault really isn't needed. Of course, they would need speed too, and Perreault definitely is lacking that.

There are teams who I don't understand what's going on with them. The Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers are two of them, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are another team that often leaves me scratching my head.

The Jackets, I thought, could have a shot a making the playoffs. Yet, for some unknown reason, they are having issues trying to get some wins out on the ice there. The fact they play once a week could hurt too, but they have talent. They shouldn't be out there not scoring or putting up shots. Against the LA Kings, the Jackets had only 14 shots on goal the whole game. They won 2-0, but for a team with Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, David Vyborny, and Sergei Fedorov, they should be able to muster more that 14 shots; not matter how stingy the defense is.

The ship needs to be righted for the Jackets and quick. A team with that fire power should have more than 19 goals for the season.

I hate that I don't have Center Ice because watching Alex Ovechkin in Hockey Night in Canada was fun. A lot of people are freaking out wondering what's happened, but he's only one point behind where he was last season after 11 games. Ovechkin will get the wheels going again, but he needs something to spark him. I think the Western Canadian road trip did him well and should help him get things started.

Let's be honest, he's a dynamic player and the fact he doesn't leave the Eastern Time Zone the rest of the season. That can only be an asset for a guy who needs is the face of a team. AO will be just fine.

Make sure to check out Face Off Hockey Show each Wednesday at 9 PM ET or if you miss out, check out the Podcast. If you're bored, swing by the Message Board and check out all the neat stuff there.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Around the Rink 10.24.06

It really must suck to be the Chicago Blackhawks right now. They get off to a blistering start, and in one fell swoop during the weekend, fate rears its ugly head. Martin Havlat, who was leading the team with seven goals and 13 points, is out at least two weeks with a sprained knee; Nikolai Khabibulin, who was in a bounce back season, is out at least two weeks with a broken finger; and Michael Handzus, who had three goals and five assists on the top line, is done for the year with a torn MCL and ACL.

You almost had to suspect something was going to go wrong, especially when things for the Blackhawks were doing so well. Havlat's injury history is coming back to haunt him and I suspect that it'll happen again sometime during the season. Should be interesting how the Hawks actually handle this with their stars out; so we'll see what they are truly made of.

Was it any surprise about how quick the clean-out in Philly happened?? First, the firing of Ken Hitchcock and then the resignation of Bobby Clarke almost came as a surprise to some, but plenty in Philly were waiting for someone to get canned. Of course, the thought process was that Clarke would get the hook before Hitchcock, but they both went out at the same time. Now, Paul Holmgren is the interim GM and John Stevens is interim head coach.

Since Ron Hextall left, the big problem for the Flyers was the goaltending. They could never find a solid #1 starter to carry the team throughout the season and in the playoffs. Once that issue is addressed, as well as more mobile defenseman in the line-up, then things should fall into place for the Flyers.

News Flash: The Buffalo Sabres are good. They are on the verge of matching the record of the 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs by starting 10-0-0. Not even a Janne Niinimaa promise for the Habs to win can stop the Sabres. But is this a much different team than what we saw last season??

The answer, yes-- yes it is. While the main cogs remain, they are better. The scoring of the Sabres is coming in bunches and they are making the most of their speed, grit, and all-around play, and it's taking them to the top. Ryan Miller is having a Vezina-esque season; and yes I realize we're nine games into the season, but that's how I roll.

In some more injury news, Marian Gaborik is out with a groin injury......again. The Wild will keep Gaborik out for 10-14 days, as not to injure it more-so. With Gaborik's history of a wonky groin, it's better to keep him out and not try to push the injury to much, so they loss him for an extended period of time.

Ethan Moreau could have the worst luck. At the end of the Oilers/Red Wings game, Moreau hit Danny Markov and it looked like they were going to duel, but Moreau pulled up lame when the gloves were dropped. Upon review, when Moreau slapped Markov's helmet; he dislocated his shoulder. Big issue is that it could require surgery and Moreau could miss out on the rest of the regular season. What a way to lose a year.

One of the St. Louis Blues big free agent signings, Jay McKee, will be out up to six weeks after he had surgery on his hand. McKee got hurt, ironically enough, doing what he does best, blocking shots.

That's time for now, but make sure to check out Face Off Hockey Show this Wednesday at 9 PM ET or always on the Podcast. Plus, if you have something to say, say it on our Message Board powered by

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Around the Rink 10.19.06

It's been a while since the last update, but we're back to bring you some of the ins and outs of the hockey world, no matter how inane they may be.

The buzz is still around the Philadelphia Flyers after they got trounced 9-1 by the Buffalo Sabres. The day after, they waived Nolan Baumgartner, Petr Nedved, and Niko Dimitrokos to call up Ben Eager, Alexandre Picard, and Stefan Ruzicka. Nedved, and Dimitrokos cleared waivers and will head across the street to the Philly Phantoms of the AHL, while Baumgartner cleared, but stayed with the Flyers.

Owner Ed Snider still said there's work to be done....and will get done. The main thing about the whole 9-1 game is that the Flyers actually outshot the Sabres 38-37. It seemed like everything the Sabres put on net went in. Even with Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje, there's really no well rounded defenseman, outside of Joni Pitkanen; who's defensive zone coverage is suspect at best.

It's hard for Flyer fans who actually thought this could be a starting point to turn things around, but it seems that it turned out the be the beginning of a nightmare.

The Sabres, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars are the only unbeaten teams in the NHL. Now, the Stars may not be a surprise, but the Wild and Sabres could be. Granted, the Sabres went to the East final, you wonder what the lockerroom would be like after the summer. The Wild are playing amazingly well and putting in plenty of goals, something where they were lacking.

If this trend can continue, you definitely should be on the lookout when it comes to April and beyond. These teams, Sabres and Wild, could be the finalist for the Cup; which would be scary for some, but great for these hockey markets.

Evgeni Malkin made his NHL debut and was the only source of offense for the Pittsburgh Penguins after he poked in a loose puck between Martin Brodeur's legs last night. Of course, the off-ice issues continue with Metallurg suing the Penguins and the NHL trying to get compensation for the loss of the Russian superstar.

Now, many feel this suit and the suits against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are bunk; but we'll see how this all plays out. For some reason, with these Russian teams hiring American counsel for these suits, I don't think they would file unless they felt that something good could come out of it for their side of things. As always, we'll stay tuned for this.

Don't you think it odd that the minute that Rick DiPietro leaves the crease for the New York Islanders, they get better in front of back-up Mike Dunham?? Dunham is on a tear with a 2-0-1 record and 1.72 GAA. Sad part about this is, Ted Nolan won't pay the hot goalie even if he is leading the teams to victory.

With DiPietro coming back from a groin injury, the woes are going to continue if Deeps can't pick-up the play. I just hope that Nolan realizes who is better if Deeps struggles and Dunham keeps up the torrid pace. Plus, DiPietro will have 14 more seasons to right the ship of the Islanders.


That's all for now, but be sure to check out Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday at 9 PM ET or anytime you want on the Podcast. Also, be sure to check out FHM's Fantasy Hockey Column every weekday with yours truly doing his part to make your team better. Plus, be sure to stop by the FOHS Message Boards for all the fun stuff happening there.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NHL Bizarro World

Before I start-- I know, we're only three games or so into the season and I know this trend has a good chance of not continuing, but it's still fascinating, so we'll talk about it.

The fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, and Atlanta Thrashers are all the tops of there divisions right now proves that parity is a good thing. I think of those three teams, the Blue Jackets' climb is the most spectacular.

While the Wild have been to the playoffs and the Thrashers have been in the hunt showed that those two teams are going to be in the thick of it in the end, especially with the Wild playing in one of, if not the, toughest divisions in the league. The Jackets have never sniffed the post-season and have often been the laughingstock of the league. Who's laughing now??

The Jackets have all their great young stars (Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev) healthy and putting up points, their prodigy goalie Pascal Leclaire is proving he's a #1 in the NHL, and they don't even have their top center in the line-up. The scarier part is that they have a youngster in Gilbert Brule who isn't even playing and they are still getting points on the board. If their healthy last; they could be a threat in the Central Division.

Conversely, teams like the Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators have been sucking on ice. Granted, the Flames started out like this last season and went on to win the Northwest Division; but still, they have only scored 4 goals in three games. So much for that new look offense they were betting on.

The Sens and Preds are two elite teams that just don't seem to be clicking as they would hope. The Preds have scoring, but their goaltending hasn't been up to par, while the Sens aren't getting offense in key times and the goaltending right now is suspect at best. I guess missing Zdeno Chara really is a big thing in the grand scheme of things.

Like I said, it's still early and there's 70+ games left to play to decide it; but to have elite teams falter and formerly craptastic teams suceed (at least for the time being) only gives more appeal to the NHL and it's new look.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Opening Nights Thoughts

With all the teams playing their first games so far, it's easy to pick out some stories that are going to be looked at all season. Of course, right now-- it's a matter of how you look at it all, but here's some thing that I'm going to take a look at for the first part of the season.

-I'm sure those who care about the Islanders are under a suicide watch, especially after Rick DiPietro let up 6 goals in under 30 minutes of the Isles 6-3 loss to the Coyotes. Just to think, we're not even a month into the new contract and already it's a huge diasaster.

-If there is a darkhorse for the Rookie of the Year, it could be Anze Kopitar. Kopitar is the first Slovenian to play in the NHL and in his first game, he put up two goals in the 4-3 loss against Anaheim. Kopitar turned some heads in camp and really created a buzz for himself when the time came.

-Dany Heatley showed that someone can succeed when they get a change of scenary. Todd Bertuzzi is proving that theory right again this year. Big Bert put up four points (1g, 3a) in his first home game in Miami. It seems that he's put a lot of his past behind him and he's advancing through it all.

-Are the Buffalo Sabres really for real?? Well, they are certainly proving their critics that last season was no fluke. They have come back in both their wins to win in a shootout. However, the question is now, could they actually win in regulation and have the lead for some time.

-Something I have to say about Thursday night's opener for the Edmonton Oilers is the class they displayed. Instead of getting both teams out on the ice and doing the whole Western Conference banner ceremony, they waited until after warm-ups and unveiled it just for the fans. Very classy move from the team.

We're just about a week into the season and we've already have had some instant classic. Just imagine on how much more we can get for the rest of the season.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nothing Like Opening Night

I have to say that this opening night was pretty decent, even though it only had three games scheduled. Granted, it'd be hard to top last season's 15 game opening night, but what can you do. The Carolina Hurricanes raised their three banners for the Stanley Cup, SE Division, and Eastern Conference; but they came up short losing to Buffalo in a shootout. Like Marc said on the show tonight, it's hard to tell if the Sabres are the Predators or Penguins in their new uniforms.

The Toronto Maple Leafs saluted three of their own. Hap Day, Red Kelly, and Borje Salming were honored in a pre-game ceremony. Now, I'm all for retirement of numbers, but make it reasonable on time. There's no doubt these players should be honored, but let's try not to take 45 minutes to do the thing, on opening night no less. Suffice to say that the Ottawa Senators weren't hurt, as they beat the Maple Leafs 4-1. Andrew Raycroft, though he made 33 saves, didn't look all that sharp. Patrick Eaves is earning his first line status putting up a goal and assist in the win.

The most exciting game had to be the last one. The Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars looked like a lopsided one when the Avs scored 2 PPGs in a matter of a minute. However, the third was all Stars with former Captain Mike Modano and rookie Loui Eriksson scoring. In OT, after killing penalty, Marty Turco made an INSANE outlet pass to Darryl Sydor who was coming out of the box, and Sydor went roof-daddy on Jose Theodore (who looked solid through the game) and the game was over.

It was little on games, but high on excitement, that's for sure.

Well, it appears the Pittsburgh Penguins have been sold....again. Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion; maker of the Blackberry, has reportedly purchased the team for between $160M and $175M. This is after Sam Fingold's bid to buy the team fell through.

The interesting part is that it seems that Balsillie has a vested interest in the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. Reports have said that Balsillie is willing to pump a whole lot of money to renovate the Coliseum. However, with the partner that is the Isle of Capri to build a new arena should they get a slots license. We'll see how far that goes.

Wherever they end up, the Pens will have a good young core that people would want to see. Fact of the matter is that wherever they end up, they'll get the utmost attention.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Around the Rink 10.02.06

Trades dominate the talk, as the New Jersey Devils traded away one of their albatrosses. The Devils traded Vladimir Malakhov and his $3.6M contract to the San Jose Sharks for Alexander Korolyuk and Jim Fahey. Oddly enough, I found an article today from Sport-Express in Russia, where Malakhov said he is happy to be retired. Also, Korolyuk is lost for the season, as he has played in the Russian League already.

I don't know how he does it, but Lou Lamoriello finds a way to get out of jams, quick. With this move and the possible move that sees Alexander Mogilny's salary wrote off to injury, Sweet Lou has possibly gotten his cap number from somewhere at $46M to $38M in one fell swoop. Not only that-- they get a young defenseman like Fahey, who will in time, be a solid defender.

More defensemen were on the move, as the Carolina Hurricanes traded the rights to Jack Johnson and Oleg Tverdovsky to the Los Angeles Kings for Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger. Johnson had been persued by the Canes to leave college early three times, but did not budge.

You'll hear differing opinions, but this a deal that helps both teams. In the short term, the Canes get rid of the $2.5M contract of Tverdovsky, and get a solid d-man in Tim Gleason out of it. With Frantisek Kaberle out for up to 6 months, the help will be truly needed. For the long term, the Kings could have won out with Jack Johnson, should he turn into the player everyone assumes he'll be. This is a trade where we'll have to wait and see.

In a trade that is odd to so many people, the Montreal Canadiens traded Mike Ribeiro to the Dallas Stars for Janne Niinimaa. Niinimaa was the 8th defenseman for the Stars, while Ribeiro is the 2nd line center for the Habs.

There are some Hab fans that are happy, but why give up a 2nd line center for a guy who will probably be in the press booth more than he's on the ice?? I don't see why you may give up so much for so little, but I guess that's why I'm not a GM in the league.

That's it for now, remember to check out Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday night at 9 PM ET. If you can't make it live, you can always check out our Podcast for anything you may have missed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Around the Rink 09.28.06

After weeks of bickering back and forth, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nikolai Zherdev reached an agreement of terms to a new contract. In the deal, Zherdev will receive $1.75M this season, $2.5M next season, and $3.25 in the last season. Zherdev is going to join the team right away and should be in the line-up for opening night.

With Zherdev now in the mix, it should give the Jackets a pretty solid top-6, even without Sergei Fedorov in the line-up. Expect to see Rick Nash, Gilbert Brule, and Zherdev to be the top line right now with the possibility of Fredrik Modin, David Vyborny, and Anson Carter to be the second line with Fedorov out.

The Philadelphia Flyers will have to start out the season without Antero Niittymaki. Niittymaki is out with a torn labrum in his hip. It was first thought to require surgery, it seems that if Niittymaki took cortisone shots, he could delay the surgery until the off-season. Whether or not the Flyers want to risk it is another story.

With Robert Esche still in the mix, it could be possible for the Flyers to hope for the best with the vet in net. The Flyers haven't had a real solid goaltending since Ron Hextall lead the team to the Stanley Cup in 1997 and it seemed that Niittymaki could have been that goalie if he had stayed healthy. With little experience in the minors, the Flyers could be on the market if something good doesn't come out of Esche's first few games.

In other goaltending news, Dan Cloutier signed a two-year extension with the Los Angeles Kings. The two-year extension for the 30-year-old is worth $6.2M over those two seasons. Cloutier would have become a free agent in the off-season if he hadn't signed.

There's plenty of people out there wondering if this is the right things for the Kings, especially considering Cloutier's history of injury in the past few years. The upside is that the Kings will have a solid #1 goalie for the next two season. If Cloutier can be healthy (which is unlikely given the Kings history), then it could be the best thing for the Kings. Not to knock on Mathieu Garon or Jason Labarbera, but I personally would like an experienced starter in my line-up over some youngsters.

It seems that some of the money is spent for Cloutier, as he has stepped into the 1990's by getting an actual goalie mask.

We're less than a week away before the drop of the puck for the '06-'07 NHL season, and we're already in mid-season form. Check out Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday night at 9 PM ET. If you can check us out live, you can always get us on the Podcast to take the show where you go.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Around the Rink 09.20.06

By now, you have heard about the Evgeni Malkin situation. Malkin went down with a seperated shoulder and will have a second opinion of his status this coming week. The result could be a couple weeks to a couple months to the whole season, depending on how severe it is and how much the Penguins want to risk his services.

Somehow, my belief is that the Pens will get as many second opinions as needed to get the answer they want. If it comes to down to Dr. Nick Riviera giving the thumbs-up, they'll do that. If Malkin is deemed out for an extended period of time, you have to figure that this whole adventure he has been on would seem all for nought.

The New York Rangers and Florida Panthers played in Puerto Rico this evening with the Rangers winning 3-2. James Mirtle said that the pans of the crowd showed less than desired results. Of course, in a place where the sport is foreign, you wouldn't expect much out of there.

There's a time in every plan to expand the game where you just have to look and figure that hockey and hot weather don't really mix that well, especially that close to the Equator.

Tie Domi retired from the NHL, but fear not-- he'll be in the TSN broadcast team for this season. Domi's retirement pretty much ushers out another heavyweight fighter. With all the rule changes, the role of players like Domi have taken a backseat to that of finesse players and skilled guys. You can see guys like Chris Neil and Brian McGrattan having to switch up their games because of the rule changes and to have a job from year to year.

Domi was a big player in a small frame. I know one thing though, fans behind the penalty box in Philadelphia will feel a lot safer now.

I know you can tell a lot from the pre-season, but the Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers have really impressed me. The Predators are in their old run and gun style, while the Thrashers seem to get it done high scoring or low scoring. The Predators have been playing fairly elite style hockey in the past couple of season and this could be the climax of all those years of underachieving. I can't leave out the Boston Bruins, either. Their undefeated record shows they could be a force in the Northeast.

After a quickstart, the Blue Jackets have started to fade a little bit. Maybe the loss of Sergei Fedorov hurt them, but I'm sure the AHL roster they have been putting out hasn't helped either. The defending champion Carolina Hurricanes haven't looked overly impressive either, but like I said, good or bad-- you can't really predict anything coming from the pre-season.

Be sure to check out Face Off Hockey Show at a special Monday Show on the 25th, and returning to Wednesday nights on October 4th. However, if you miss any of the action, you can check out the Podcast for all your FOHS needs.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Around the Rink 09.18.06

The Pittsburgh Penguins are up for sale again-- apparently. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sam Fingold was unable to reach an agreement on terms with the previous ownership. Right now, it seems that the CEO of Research in Motion, Jim Balsillie, is the lead bidder-- though the Balsillie camp denies the rumors. If you don't know about Research in Motion, it's the company that invented the BlackBerry.

Balsillie was in the inital running to get the Penguins in the first place, but with the deal with the Isle of Capri, it blocked the attempt that Balsillie would have to move the team closer to his Waterloo, Ontario home.

In other Penguins' news, coach Michel Therrien has announced that there will be no captain for the team this year, but there will be a slue of alternate captains on the ice, all which have yet to be named.

On the surface, it's a good thing, since many reports have pegged Sidney Crosby as the next captain for this season-- but Crosby at 19 may be still too wet behind the ears. However, not to have a captain with guys like John Leclair and Mark Recchi is pretty outlandish. Best of luck to the Pens trying to find a clear-cut leader out of their roster.

The Philadelphia Flyers re-signed coach Ken Hitchcock to a three-year deal. Since Hitchcock took over in 2002, he has compiled a record of 130-77-39. It didn't take too long for GM Bob Clarke and Hitchcock to make a deal, as Hitchcock has enjoyed his tenure in Philly and will do so for three more seasons.

In a bizzare incident, former NHL coach Kevin Constantine will be suspended for four games in the WHL after an incident involve his team, the Everett Silvertips. After a 5-0 pre-season tournament loss, Constantine made his players stay in full gear for the post-game meal and the trip back to Everett, a total of five hours.

We'll have more on the Show Wednesday night, but it is an interesting situation. You wonder why someone would do this, but it does show the old-school nature of Constantine. Of course, it shows that he could go off at a moments notice as well, but still.

The pre-season has started and we'll be with you every step of the way. Just make sure you tune into Face Off Hockey Show this Wednesday night or catch the show on Podcast to make sure you're up to date with all the news and happenings in the pre-season.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Around the Rink 09.15.06

The Evgeni Malkin saga continues. Today, a Russian Tribunal ruled that the Russian center is unable to play for any team outside of Metallurg. The NHL responded that they would be open to talk about anything. New York lawyer Alexander Berkovich, who is representing Metallurg, says two options could be trying to uphold the tribunal ruling due to a 1958 treaty were the US and Russia are both signees or to sue the NHL and Penguins for some compensation.

Whether or not this will bring something or not, but we'll have to wait and see. The fact that Metallurg have some kind of US representation may help them out in the short-term. This is something that will probably string out for a while, so sit back and relax.

Couple of injuries in training camps already. First, the Boston Bruins sent home Alex Zhamnov because he reportedly failed his physical. Zhamnov was a big acquisition who really didn't make a splash in Boston in his first year. Zhamnov is still owed just ove $8M, but that should be covered by insurance.

Cam Barker of the Blackhawks fractured his ankle and will be lost for four-to-six weeks. Barker fractured the same ankle last season while playing in Medicine Hat. Barker was part of the past two Canadian World Junior squads, both who won gold.

Finally, Steve Konowalchuk will have to undergo more test on his heart. The veteran forward's EKG test revealed some abnormalities and will require more testing. Konowalchuk missed most of last season with an injured wrist.

Keith Primeau announced his retirement yesterday. Primeau's bouts with post-concussion syndrome forced him to retire at 34 years old. Primeau spent 15 season in the NHL with Philadelphia, Hartford, Detroit, and Carolina. Primeau finished with 266 goals and 619 points. Primeau will be most remembered for his heroics in the playoffs, especially in the 2004 playoff drive.

The Flyers announced that in lieu of Primeau retirement, Peter Forsberg will be the new captain with Simon Gagne and Derian Hatcher as the alternates. Forsberg will be the captain for the first time in his career after being an alternate in both Colorado and Philly.

The NHL announced a couple new rule changes. First off, the maximum amount of the curve has been increased from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch. This rule is meant to give the shooters a little more zip to their shot and hopefully limit the amount of time shooters get caught with illegal curves for the shootout.

Speaking of the shootout, the home team will now have the choice to shoot first or last in the shootout. I don't think this could be implimented many times, but it's nice to know that there's an option there.

Camps are in session and for all the latest news and fun, check out the Face Off Hockey Show message boards and tune into the Face Off Hockey Show live or on Podcast each and every week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

15-Years to Life

If you haven't heard about New York Islander goalie Rick DiPietro signing a 15-year deal worth $67.5M; then you're probably better off. Much like the firing of Neil Smith as the GM to hire former back-up Garth Snow-- the Isles continue to be the laughingstock of the NHL.

I can understand that the Islanders would like to re-sign their young stars, but there's something wrong with this. DiPietro is a great young talent and still could become a star, yet his inconsistency in his tenure in the NHL thus far has been something of a disappointment for a former #1 overall draft pick.

Someone like Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby could get a deal like this and the respective teams would be applauded for doing such a thing, especially when it comes to getting the players through their prime, but someone like DiPietro could have gone for a lot less, both in price and in tenure. Though with the lack of depth in the Islanders system, maybe this is an ordeal where they wanted to make sure they had a goalie for the next decade and a half.

Often I wonder if the NHL should put something in the league constitution to save owners from themselves. This would right now only apply to Isles owner Charles Wang, especially considering the 10-year deal that he gave to Alexei Yashin before this deal. Of course, this could also work for the old-school owners like Bill Wirtz who seems to want to destroy the home market rather than build it up. It would not only help the team, but keep owner under control.

It's a shame for an Islanders franchise who has four Stanley Cups and has had plenty of hall-of-famers, but now it seems that there are two things going down in Long Island: the ship and some iced teas.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Around the Rink 09.12.06

Simon Gagne and the Philadelphia Flyers have seemingly found a common ground as the winger signed a new five-year deal worth $5.25M a season. Both Gagne and the Flyers have been a little bit apart at the beginning of the month, but it seems the cooler heads prevailed and Gagne will be in camp.

With Gagne signed, Forsberg skating again, it seems that the Flyers could be a solid team. However, like it has been in the past couple of season, goaltending will be the real issue. Yet, if there are goals to be scored, then it could work out. Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki will have to be on their best to get the job done in net.

The Nashville Predators rewarded one of the original Preds by signing goaltender Tomas Vokoun to a four-year extension worth $22.8M to keep the goalie in the Music City until the 2010-11 season. Vokoun was picked up by the Predators in the expansion draft in 1998 when the Montreal Canadiens left him unprotected.

There is no doubt that Vokoun is the biggest reason that the Predators are where they are today. He's a workhorse and really can get the job done. You could see that the Preds were struggling when Vokoun bowed out with blood clots late last season.

In this weekend's Vancouver Province, there was an interesting write-up by Tony Gallagher about Todd Bertuzzi's tenure in Vancouver and what led to the fall-out. Bertuzzi talks about what was going on in the lockerroom, his relationship with former Canucks bench boss Marc Crawford, and how it all came crashing down.

I don't know if what Bertuzzi said was true, but I don't know if something like this should be brought out into the open. It almost seems like he's diverting the cause of failure to other parties other than himself. You all can form an opinion for yourselves, but for me-- it wasn't my cup of tea.

Apparently there is a market for goaltender's autobiographies. Well, I say this because Martin Brodeur is putting out his autobiography "Brodeur: Beyond the Crease." In it, Brodeur talks about the happenings on and off the ice, including the Todd Bertuzzi incident, seperatism, and soft drink preferences.

I don't know if it'll be a best-seller, but I'm sure that it'll be an interesting read regardless of the quality of Brodeur book-writing skills. I think the most interesting part while reading some of the shots given out by the CP is what it's like to being his own agent. Brodeur has always been quotable, which should continue after this book is out on the market.

That's all for now, but listen into Face Off Hockey Show this Wednesday night at 9 PM ET or if you can't catch us live, be sure to check out the Podcast to get everything you missed.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Around the Rink 09.08.06

Two teams locked up their young goaltenders for the next couple of years. First, on Thursday, Kari Lehtonen and the Atlanta Thrashers agreed to a new two-year pact. In 38 games last season, Lehtonen compiled a 20-15-0 record with a 2.94 GAA. Lehtonen was hampered with a groin issue last year, but should be able to bounce back and play up to his caliber.

The Anaheim Ducks re-signed Ilya Bryzgalov for three more years after his stellar performance in the playoffs last season. The big question is whether or not Bryzgalov will be the starter, back-up, or split time with J-S Giguere for the season.

The Buffalo Sabres locked up Ryan Miller for three more seasons on Friday. After a broken thumb kept him out for the middle part of the season, Miller came back and was able to cap off a 30-win season as well as help the Sabres get to the Eastern Conference finals.

These goalies are crucial in their organization, but Miller could be more valuable of the two. Miller has turned the Sabres franchise around and has given the Sabres a top-notch goalie for the first time since Dominik Hasek left.

A few days are Mike Keenan being pushed out, things are getting clearer about what happened. At first, former Panthers GM Rick Dudley came out to say that owner Alan Cohen was a huge fan of Jacques Martin, which definitely answered questions about why Keenan was disposed of so quickly.

The next day, Jacques Martin came out to say that the relationship between himself and Mike Keenan was just fine and that there was no turmoil between the two. Martin says that he doesn't know why Keenan resigned so suddenly.

Keenan has yet to come out to say why he resigned.

The issue of captaincy has been hot and heavy this week. First off, Alexander Ovechkin denied the Washington Capitals captaincy due to the fact that Ovechkin still is learning the english language and doesn't think he'll be able to be communicate with the team if need be. It's a mature move by Ovechkin, who knows that this will be his team sooner or later and it not afraid to wait.

Vancouver Canucks' captain Markus Naslund is unsure if he'll be the captain with all the new faces both on the ice and behind the bench. With someone new behind the bench, they may think that Naslund isn't the right fit to lead the team. It should be interesting to see what happens in Vancouver, but it could go one of two ways. Which way is still to be determined.

Finally, in a somewhat surprising move, the Tampa Bay Lightning named Tim Taylor as their captain. The "Toolman" will have forwards Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier as his alternates. Though Taylor isn't as flashy as the others, coach John Tortorella believes that the experience will help the team in the long-run.

Training camps are going to get underway in about a week. There are many questions that will be answers and more problems that will be compounded if something were to go down unexpectedly. However, for all the latest, tune into Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday and always on the Podcast.