Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ending of an Era, Possibly in More Ways Than One

If you have been living under a rock or haven't been paying attention, Mario Lemieux retired for a second and probably final time. While everyone everywhere is raving about Lemieux's career and how great it has been, this is not one of those articles. I will say that regardless of whether you loved him or hated him, Lemieux had great skill and will be remembered as one of the best players in the late 80's/early 90's until his health hit a slide. However, this time-- Lemieux's retirement could mean the ending of hockey in Pittsburgh.

I know it's a bit presumptuous for me to say something like that when it has all be done before, but this time-- it could actually hold some truth to it. Right now, the exit of Lemieux almost clearly shows he has gotten all the money he could from when the previous ownership screwed him over. Plus, this all comes on the heels of Lemieux announcing he was looking for a new owner and would be stepping down as CEO when that happens. If something like wouldn't sound off warning bells, I don't know what could.

Let's face it, right now the Pens are still losing money and were projected to lose money even if they made it past the first two rounds of the playoffs. Now with an 11-29-3 record, being last in the Eastern Conference and only two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues for worst in the league-- you can bet that the loss of money will be plentiful. The question is now...what is next??

You could argue that the City of Pittsburgh and Commonwealth of Pennslyvania could see that a team was in peril and some how, I don't know, throw the lottery to have a casino and give the Penguins the permission to build one with an arena build beside it. That all seems well and good, but we all know how the governmental game works and sometimes it's not always as it seems. So, let's say that the Penguins don't get the arena and are forced to move away ("The Penguins don't get the arena and are forced to move away"), where could they be headed??

The first place is Kansas City. KC has a new arena being build for 2007 without even having a tenant for it. They could have been jumping the gun building the arena for a NHL or NBA team when they haven't been promised one, but they are on the ball. If it's not KC, then Houston has a nice building in the Toyota Center which is already hockey ready with the AHL's Houston Aeros already playing there and drawing just under 5,000 a night. Of course, with that number, you wonder if people will turn out, and stay, for a NHL squad. There's always the chance it could happen, but you always have to look out for that.

Another city that has been under the radar is apparently Oklahoma City. OKC isn't really known for their professional sports so much, but with the NBA's Hornets playing there, it could spark some interest in more professional teams. Plus, it seems hockey is pretty solid there with the CHL's OKC Blazers drawing just over 7,600 people a night for their team, which ranks 3rd in all of minor league hockey in average attendance just after Manchester and Wilkes-Barre, both in the AHL. Though it could be an outside/dark horse option-- you can't rule anything out.

Of course, you also have Winnipeg and Portland (OR), both of whom have been making some noise in the past 5 years or so. Winnipeg is of course hardcore with the city being located above the 49th parallel. However, with the new MTS Center only holding 15,015 for hockey, many skeptics will deem it too small for NHL hockey. With Portland, they have been very vocal about getting a team to the Pacific Northwest. Though it would create a great geographic rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, that is Junior Hockey Country with the WHL having five teams in the Pacific Northwest, all with staying power. Putting a NHL team there and removing a WHL team could be opening Pandora's Box.

The bottom line in all this is that the Penguins, wherever they go, will need to have facilities that are not only hockey friendly, but also state of the art. Though the Mellon Arena could be considered the last of a dying breed of arenas, it could also be considered an s---hole and worthy of being torn down ASAP. Hopefully for the Penguins and city of Pittsburgh, the Penguins will get the gambling license and get their hot, wet slots that they have been holding out for. However, if that doesn't happen like it should-- then it's would be wise to start looking for "Name the Team" contest for the new relocate Penguins.

A thanks to Hans Hornstein and his Attendo Meter for providing all the attendance information that was used here in this blog.

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

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Look Back At The First Half

Since the NHL doesn't count games as a halfway point for the league, January 9th is the date which is officially the half-way point of the '05-'06 season. It's been quite a year with the game actually coming back (and prospering), the shakeup on rosters, and the scoring being up 1.2 goals per game. It's been a fun year for the fans and for media alike. What I'm going to attempt to do now is break down the surprises, the disappointments, and give out some first-half awards, why not??


-The Buffalo Sabres don't have a goal scorer on their roster, they have some inexperience in net, but somehow they are up in the chase for the Stanley Cup. The two headed monster in goal with Martin Biron and Ryan Miller makes the Sabres a threat to begin with, but when you look at the team, they almost remind you of the '98-'99 team that went to the Stanley Cup. They have gritty players who can put the puck in the net, and they are able to win low scoring affairs with ease.

-Forget about Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for a second. You'll see that the Rookie Class in the NHL is amazing. Marek Svatos, Dion Phaneuf, Andrej Meszaros, Mike Richards, and Petr Prucha are doing what they need to do and contributing to their respective teams where needed. In net, Ryan Miller, Antero Niittymaki, and Henrik Lundqvist are taking over their respective #1 jobs from the incumbents that were there before.

-The refs are actually being consistent with their calls. Because of the lack of hooking and holding, we are seeing more and more amazing goals on the even strength chances. Because of that, we are getting more and more highlight reel plays and it is getting hockey somewhat into the minds of the people who may not normally watch the game.


-First and foremost, who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be as bad as they are now?? With the talent they picked up in the off-season, you would almost think they would be either in the playoffs or pretty damn close. Of course, because of the underachievement, the Pens are seemingly battling for the #1 Overall Pick in the '06 Draft.

-Sergei Fedorov was suppose to flourish with the new rules, but with injuries and now on a new team, it's unknown whether or not Fedorov will ever regain his old form like he was in the Red Wings dynasty. He has been getting better as of late with Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev on his line, but it is going to be another story for the second half.

-There seems to be no love for OLN in the TV Market. Seeing some games that have been simulcasted up here on TSN, I can see why some people may not like the OLN. Of course, that's not to say they won't get better with time, but there's a point where that company line cannot be used anymore. Of course, the intermission staff is dreadful, so I've heard, but what can you do when you throw something together in 3 months??


Hart Trophy (MVP): Eric Staal (Carolina): If you take out Staal from the Hurricanes, they are pretty much dead in the water. Staal has become the quiet leader and is making all those around him better. He's a household name in the Raleigh area and it can only help the Canes in the long-run.

Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman): Wade Redden (Ottawa): Remember kids, it's about defensive play, not offensive play. Redden is a great puck moving defenseman and he is very responsible in his own zone. He commands leadership on the back line and will continue to be a dominant defenseman for the next few years.

Orr Trophy (Top Offensive Defenseman): Bryan McCabe (Toronto): This should be a new award seeing as how all the d-men want to be scorers, but this is well deserved. McCabe had to overcome wearing the Gorton's Fisherman jersey on Long Island to become the best scoring defenseman in the NHL this year. He has all the tools to be the first defenseman to lead the Maple Leafs in points in their history.

Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie): Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary): Kipper has come back from a break out season to still prove that he is one of the top goalies out there in the league. With his six shutouts this year, he not only leads the NHL and has broken the single season record for Flames goalies with that mark as well.

Calder Trophy (Top Rookie): Alexander Ovechkin (Washington): I don't care about all the hype everyone else is getting-- if you take out Ovechkin from the Caps, they are nothing. If you take the other rookies from their teams, they probably won't be as missed as Ovechkin would be with the Caps. He is their franchise future and he plays an amazingly even game.

So that is that for now, but keep on the look out for the second half of the season and what could happen there. However, throughout the year, make sure to tune in Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday at 9 PM ET, but if you miss it-- not to worry. Just download the FOHS Podcast and take the hockey and hilarity with you along the way.

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