Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Throw Your Hands In The Air.....

.....If you think you're a player!!

Everyone is talking about the players that will be involved in the free agent market, but the teams are going to carry a big load too. At 12:01 AM, you can almost expect the games to be underway and plenty of teams getting some salaries right quick. Especially with the Salary Cap and Floor going up, teams playing it safe will have to get to the 28M quickly in order to no disturb the minions.

Teams like the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild will be two of those teams who will have to get to the floor. The Caps have nine players under contract at 12.9M. Needless to say, they will have to get players signed to get to the 28M figure, so they could be players. The Wild are in a little better shape with 11 guys under contract at 20.3M. Expect plenty of the lower end teams to be some kind of players in the FA market.

On the other side of the spectrum, you'll see a team like the Calgary Flames be in the market for another role defenseman with the departure of Jordan Leopold, as well as a quality back-up goaltender, who should see more than the eight games that Mikkaa Kiprusoff didn't play. Coach Darryl Sutter has said he would look at a play-making center, but with the acquisition of Alex Tanguay, then it wouldn't be a big concern.

The Senators will have to find out where Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara go to see how to deal with one or both of them leaving, but also-- they need to sure up their goaltending. With the status of Dominik Hasek unknown and the shaky disposition some have about Ray Emery, you can only assume that the Sens will be players not by choice, but by pressure on the outside.

I wouldn't be surprised either if teams with new GMs, like the LA Kings, NY Islanders, Boston Bruins, and Pittsburgh Penguins, make a considerable splash on the market. The Kings especially since most the team is a skeleton of their former self. With Pavol Demitra traded away and not a proven goaltender on the roster; new GM Dean Lombardi should be a busy man starting July 1st.

But with all the changes, some things stay the same. The Detroit Red Wings will be in the market for a goalie, whether through the FA market or trade, and may need some players depending on what Nick Lidstrom does. Of course, if he signs for the max, it could be a tough time getting quality guys for the money left. Of course, the NY Rangers could be movers and shakers, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs. The one difference is that the Leafs are going in a completely different direction, which could lead to plenty of new, and younger, faces on the ice.

Of course, you'll have teams who won't be so much players on the market, but in the trade outline. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers, who have plenty of damage control to do; the San Jose Sharks, who could move a goalie; the Anaheim Ducks, could do the same as the Sharks; and the Montreal Canadiens, see the Ducks and Sharks. Add that to trying to keep the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes together, the next few weeks should be interesting ones to say the least.

However, enjoy it because after this week or so-- it will get somewhat dull until September training camps start. At least it'll give some fans to recover from the season and take a step back to hope for the best in '06-'07.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Edmonton's Most Hated

Somewhere, Mike Comrie is smiling. He is smiling because he knows with the developments of this past weekend, he is no long the most hated player in the eyes of Oiler fans. Of course, it could all change soon enough.

If you had heard, Chris Pronger has requested a trade apparently do to him and his wife not feeling comfortable in the Edmonton area. This is not hearsay, this is not rumor-- his agent came out and said it to the Edmonton Sun and the press at large on Saturday.

To the Edmonton fans I've heard from, they are not too impressed by this decision. I think every fan can relate to that, especially if they have been in their town forever. Granted, if it actually is a bad town; some people could see that happening. Regardless, you really shouldn't make that public unless you can deal with the hounding and heckling that will happen in the grand scheme of things.

Now, the thought was that his wife didn't like it there, and that's fine. It's hasn't been the first time this has happened. However, when he agent said that Chris wasn't too fond of Edmonton either, I think that is what put it over the edge, especially since the Oiler faithful know all about players' having their wives or girlfriend decide where they should play, right Petr Nedved??

Now, it's a matter of whether or not Pronger will get traded and to wear. Obviously, this puts Kevin Lowe in the driver's seat because he doesn't have to make a deal right away and pretty much stall on a trade if he really wanted to. Yet, I don't know if he'll do that.

Prolonging the situation can not only hurt the player, but the team chemistry as well. The sooner that Lowe finds a deal he likes, he should go ahead and make it. Getting Pronger out of Edmonton sooner will allow the team to find their needs quicker and more effectively, rather than waiting and then trying to throw together something rushed together, which could hurt the team in the long run.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Vancouver Backdraft

I won't get into my awful, AWFUL picks yet, but I will say that I suck and I won't make it anywhere in this business. However, something where I was a little more accurate, the trophies.

I was actually 6 out of 8 in the Trophies Count that I predicted back in May. Thronton, Ovechkin, and Kiprusoff being my slam dunks. The odd thing was how much Ovechkin won by. Of the 129 first place votes, Ovechkin got 124, with four going to Crosby and one to Lundqvist. Also, Ovechkin was the first rookie to be named to the NHL's First All-Star Team since Ed Belfour did it in 1991. Add that to picking for the Caps and getting to be the cover boy for EA's NHL07, it was a pretty big weekend for Ovechkin.


I'm sure like all of you, the trades were pretty astonishing. Especially when the Kings announced they traded Pavol Demitra for Patrick O'Sullivan and a pick which turned out to be Trevor Lewis in the end. I'm sure it translated over TV, but the shock of that made people scratch their heads in the stands in on the media row.

The Luongo trade brought much delight to the eyes of Canucks fans, but I was more interested in the statements by the fans who were overly joyed to see Bertuzzi leave town. This is a guy who was defended by these same people for about two years now. Oh, how times change.

The Alex Tanguay/Jordan Leopold trade was an interesting one, mainly for the timing. Many people thought the trade announcement would have been the Hurricanes trading Jack Johnson for the second overall pick, but it was not the case. The Flames addressed their scoring issues and used their defensive depth to get out of a jam. As well, the Avs get a young, solid stay-at-home defenseman in return. With a lack of an AHL affiliate, it hurts the Avs development process.

Don't even get me started on why the Leafs would trade for Andrew Raycroft, especially for Tuukka Rask.


I know, I went three for 30 out of my Mock Draft, but I never said I was an expert. When you look at the first round, it seemed that all the picks were depth moves, which is a nice way to say they were completely off the board.

For instance, Trevor Lewis was probably an early second round pick, but he got swapped up by the Kings at 17th. Not saying it was a bad move, but somewhat head-scratching, especially when there were plenty of great players still out there. Also, three picks beforehand, the Canucks took Michael Grabner with the 14th pick. Whether it's because they thought he wouldn't be around the next pick or if they truly wanted him-- it was just odd.

The Caps went out of the blue to take Semen Varlamov, who was dominant in Russia's third division, but with Leland Irving still out there and closer to home, it raised some eyebrows. Then there's Matthew Corrente, who at a 5'11 defenseman only adds to New Jersey's "Mighty Mouse" Brigade.

All in all, it was great to see these kids' reactions when they got picked and went to the media room. Leland Irving couldn't get the smile off his face for the whole time, which was a thrill to see.

On top of all that, the fans were great. It was good to see most of them stay through the Canucks pick and the first round. Most of the time, when the host team picks, the exodus begins. As well, the fans from Everett, Washington who came to cheer on their kids when they got picked (Irving, Peter Mueller, Ondrej Fiala, and Brady Calla) sent chills up my spine. It was a great show and set the bar from Columbus in '07.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mock-Yeah; Draft-Yeah; Yeah-Yeah

Lame, I know-- but it works out.

So, with the Draft.....oh three days away or so-- it's time to bust out the possible happenings that will happen on Saturday. Granted, after the top pick, it's going to be a crapshoot from there. This isn't the strongest Draft class, but there are plenty of kids who will be able to surprise people out there. To be noted, this is going to be based off the current Draft order that the NHL has right now. The trades up or down could prove a different result, so heed warning.

1. St. Louis-- Erik Johnson (US NTDP): Johnson has the ability to help the Blues forget about losing Chris Pronger down the road.

2. Pittsburgh-- Jordan Staal (Peterborough): Even if the pick is traded, this is where he'll go; Staal is a dynamic player who can fit well into any situation.

3. Chicago-- Phil Kessel (U of Minnesota): If a little excitement can be created for Chicago hockey fans, this kid could be the one to do it.

4. Washington-- Jonathan Toews (U of North Dakota): Toews will be a perfect fit with Ovechkin and should be able to be a key guy in the face-off circle.

5. Boston-- Derrick Brassard (Drummondville): The B's should be happy with his extra year development, as well as with his speed and shot.

6. Columbus-- Ty Wishart (Prince George): With not much of young defenseman, Wishart could be the stallwart they have been looking for.

7. NY Islanders-- Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden): This European center could be a building block for the Islanders future and the mark Neil Smith will leave in his tenure as GM.

8. Phoenix-- Peter Mueller (Everett): If Mueller falls this far, it would be a god-send to the Coyotes, with his size and skill-- he could be part of the upcoming youth movement.

9. Minnesota-- Kyle Okposo (Des Moines): The Wild like local picks and with Okposo's performance in the USHL, it would be a start to get him under the hometown banner.

10. Florida-- Jiri Tlusty (Czech Republic): Though he played on a bad team, Tlusty's heart and determination is what will land him in the Sunshine State.

11. Los Angeles-- Michael Frolik (Czech Republic): Frolik's stock dropped with a bad season, but he should fit in nice with the Kings system.

12. Atlanta-- Nigel Williams (US NTDP): The Thrashers will love this kid's size and tremendous upside, but he won't be great until he fills out his big frame.

13. Toronto-- Bryan Little (Barrie): Though he is small, he will fit in easily with the speed and skill the Leafs should be implimenting in the future.

14. Vancouver-- Chris Stewart (Kingston): With some guys possibly being moved, Stewart will be the power forward that could fill the void which could be left by some.

15. Tampa Bay-- Leland Irving (Everett): A top goalie in the WHL this season, Irving could help out the slumping Tampa goaltending ranks.

16. Montreal-- James Sheppard (Cape Breton): With almost all the tools needed, the Habs will enjoy Sheppard's hard work, dedication, and aggressiveness.

17. Minnesota (from EDM)-- Bob Sanguinetti (Owen Sound): Though he's not physically involved, he'll be an asset on the defensive side of things.

18. Colorado-- Jonathan Bernier (Lewiston): With lack of goaltending depth, the Avs should try their hand with another Quebec league goalie, but at least they didn't trade with the Habs to get it.

19. Anaheim-- Ryan White (Calgary): A former teammate of current Duck Ryan Getzlaf, White is a Stephane Yelle type player who will do anything to win.

20. San Jose-- Mark Mitera (U of Michigan): Mitera is a tough customer and should help out the hurting defense that the Sharks have seemed to possess.

21. NY Rangers-- Patrik Berglund (Sweden): The Rangers have had luck with Swedes and with his all around skill, should help the Rangers front line in the next 2-3 years.

22. Philadelphia-- Cory Emmerton (Kingston): A tough customer for his size, he should fit well with the Clarke led Flyers.

23. Washington (from NSH)-- Simon Danis-Pepin (U of Maine): The Caps will go off the board to get this hulking force of the blue line, to further their "6'5 or over" rule.

24. Buffalo-- Chris Summers (US NTDP): Though he will attend U of Michigan, the Sabres will love the mobility and defensive responsibility.

25. New Jersey-- Ivan Vishnevsky (Rouyn-Noranda): With his ability to move the puck and to run a power-play, the Devils will mold this kid into a fine defenseman.

26. Calgary-- Codey Burki (Brandon): The Western trend continues, but his ability to find the net will make Burki a prime candidate for the Flames to pick-up.

27. Dallas-- Joe Ryan (Quebec): The Stars will get a kid who is defensively sound and able to clear out in front of the net, however won't take the shot if given it.

28. Ottawa-- Mike Forney (US High School): Forney is an amazing offensive talent, but whether or not he will succeed when challenged at a higher level is the risk that is being taken.

29. Detroit-- Ben Maxwell (Kootenay): Though he had a slump, once he can get his timing and skill honed, he should be able to play well enough to hack it in Hockeytown.

30. St. Louis (from CAR)-- Michael Grabner (Spokane): Grabner played well on a bad team, which should put him as a good fit in St. Louis.

So here's how I look at the first round of the Draft, your results may vary. I'll be keeping track of these while at the Draft on Saturday, so I'll report back Sunday or Monday and talk about how great I was....or how awful it turned out.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So....What's Next??

With the conclusion of the NHL season last night, the question is what's going to happen now in the world of the NHL off-season. To be honest, the next two to three weeks should be the busiest we'll see until training camps. Here's a little rundown of what's going down in the next little while:

June 15th-30th: Teams can buyout any player they feel isn't worth it. Now, there hasn't been many names named, but some people have thrown out Tie Domi, Ed Belfour, and Bill Guerin. Whether or not we'll see as much action as we did last year remains to be seen.

June 22nd: The NHL Awards take place in Vancouver with all the awards being handed out.

June 24th: The NHL Draft, where the class of '07 will be unveiled. More importantly, there could be some trade activity on this day, as well-- so keep your eye peeled or that. We'll probably be doing some blogging, but I'll update on that later.

June 30th: Don't be surprised if some teams trade the rights to some of their UFAs to other teams. This has been done for years, but don't think much of it. This is just for teams who have the UFAs to get some draft picks in return for their departing players.

July 1st: At 12:01AM ET, the Free Agent Market is open for business. It'll will be interesting to see who goes where in this Cap world, but I wouldn't rule out some big time players heading elsewhere.

That's about it for the schedule. Really, after the two hectic weeks, the fact of the matter is that it's a dead pull until early-September when the training camps actually start.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Watch Out-- There's a Hurricane Coming Through

With all due respect to Gregory Helms' former WWE character, that quote is holding true this season. The Carolina Hurricanes won Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals to bring the Cup, as well as the first professional sports title, to Raleigh and the state of North Carolina. For guys like Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley, Bret Hedican, and Doug Weight to get their first Cup was a site to be seen. Especially for Weight, who could barely hold up his should after a clean seperation. The look on the young guys faces like Cam Ward, Eric Staal, and Andrew Ladd showed that the future was now for the Canes.

The Oilers shouldn't hang their heads too long. They put up a tough fight after just getting into the playoffs. They showed a lot of grit and determination to win the Western Conference, but were just three goals short of the Cup. Fernando Pisani showed he could be a big time player, Chris Pronger showed what he could really do in the post-season, and Jussi Markkanen showed he could hold up under pressure.

There's not much else I can say that hasn't been said already. For the Cup to be delivered in that fashion and for Rod Brind'Amour to just yank the Cup away was an amazing site to be seen. Of course, Cuba Gooding, Jr. was in the crowd, so it could have been the extra boost the Canes needed.

Worry not hockey fans, training camps are only nine weeks away.

There Can Only Be One

For the fourth time in five Cup finals, the Stanley Cup will be decided by a Game Seven. Allthe work through 82 regular season games and at least 16 playoff games come down to at least 60 minutes of hard work and grit to get the greatest trophy in all of sports.

With the momentum coming in, the Edmonton Oilers much feel real good. They dashed the hopes of the Hurricanes in Game Five's overtime then laid the smackdown on them in Game Six. Jussi Markkanen has been good, but yet I'm sure the Oilers would want Dwayne Roloson in net just to be sure. Chris Pronger and Fernando Pisani are the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Award for playoff MVP, and the best players on the team are the best players on the ice-- which is a good sign for the Oil.

The Carolina Hurricanes need to shake off the lack of urgency they have right now in order to win the Cup. After being taken to the woodshed, there's going to have to be some changes. One change will be to flip the switch on Rod Brind'Amour to get him to play like he is known to play. The return of Erik Cole can only do so much and I'm second-guessing if it was a good move or not. As much as Cole is going to bring some hype, a guy like Chad LaRose who was grinding it out all playoffs gets the shaft. The one thing the Canes can count on is Cam Ward. Ward was the best player on the Canes side of the rink, which is a good sign for the Canes, if only they gave him some support around the net.

Some fast facts for you folks out there:

-Home teams are 11-2 in Game Sevens with the last road win coming in 1971
-The record of teams who were down 1-3 and pushed it to a Game Seven is 1-4 in the Game Seven with the last win happening in 1942 and the last occurance happening in 1994
-The last overtime Game Seven was in 1950 when the Red Wings beat the Rangers in two OTs
-If the Oilers win, it would be the first time a Canadian team has won it since 1993
-If the 'Canes win, the curse of the Whalers, if there is one, will be lifted

It should be a good game, all-in-all, and I don't see either team coming out flat. There's the Canes who don't want to play the role of the goat, while the Oilers want to keep their momentum going and bring the Cup back to Canada. The RBC Center should be rocking tonight as Lord Stanley's Cup will be brought out tonight regardless of who wins. For the majority in attendance, the consensus will be the Canes winning it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Seventh Cup Heaven

Sadly, unless otherwise noted, Jessica Biel won't be in Raleigh for Monday's game. Of course, with the NHL trying to get celebrities in the seats, I wouldn't rule anything out.

Now, I'm not sure if it was Beckett Magazine predicting the Canes victorious in the Cup finals or the momentum coming back home to stave off elimination, but the Oilers looked like a vicious team out on the ice in Game Six. They had the intensity turned way up and really looked great. If not for penalty troubles, the Canes could have hung with the Oilers, but that's not always the case. All the best players for the Oilers were the best players on the ice. From Chris Pronger to Fernando Pisani to Ryan Smyth were all out there on a mission.

The Canes didn't seem to want to come out and play like they are known for. Even the re-emergence of Erik Cole into the line-up didn't really boost things, though Cole looked fairly well in his '06 playoff debut. Yet, when you have seven shots through two periods, you're not going to win many games unless the goalie is a complete sieve in net. I don't think Doug Weight's absences helped the team's morale, but they had to move past that. However, Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, and Rod Brind'Amour were all invisible on the ice. The good thing for Carolina is that the last time they lost two games in a row, they won seven in a row after that. It's not much, but if they blow a 3-1 series lead, I'd be surprised if this team is the same next year.

The good thing is that coming out of a lockout, it'll take one game to decide it all for the Cup. The question is, will anyone outside the hockey niche fans watch the game to decide it all??

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hershey Bears Win Calder Cup; Tie All-Time Record

If having young wunderkin Alexander Ovechkin exceed expectation wasn't enough, the Washington Capitals got some great news Wednesday night when their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears took out the Milwaukee Admirals in Game Six to win the Calder Cup for the 9th time in team history. This is the first year the Caps have had their prospects in Hershey and it seemed to pay dividens.

Young guns like Kris Beech, Eric Fehr, and Tomas Fleischmann were the main guys on the scoresheet for the Bears, while defenseman like Mike Green, Lawrence Nycholat, and Louis Robitaille held down the fort infront of Frederic Cassivi. Role players like Dave Steckel and Graham Mink helped out the younger players on the Bears, as the team atmosphere was alive and well. The Bears also had 14 players on the Game Six roster who had been up with the Capitals at one point in time during the season.

Full marks to the Admirals, though, who are the primary affiliate to the Nashville Predators. Goaltender Pekka Rinne, though shaky in Game Six, showed that he's ready for the big time next year and will get the chance with Chris Mason not getting re-signed. Darren Haydar and Simon Gamache led the way for scoring on the Admirals side, while youngsters Shea Weber and Kevin Kline led the way on the blue line.

The Bears tie the old Cleveland Barons (1936-72) win nine Calder Cup trophies to their name, with the Bears last one coming in 1997 while affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers. Quite a difference three years make, however, as the Bears were out of the playoffs in '03-'04 and '04-'05 while affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche. Now, with the new young crop coming in from Washington, the Bears have plenty to build off of to continue the success.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Six Times The Fun

Some would say that the Game Five win for the Oilers would make the series interesting. I can see where that would into play, with Doug Weight's future uncertain and the team reeling from an OT loss. Yet, I don't see something like that happening.

Though the Oilers got off the snide on the power play, as well as getting their game back, the Canes are a resilient team. They were able to bounce back after a tough double-overtime loss to the Canadiens on home ice, as well as coming through in a tightly contested Game Seven against the Sabres. Add that to the Oilers somewhat seemingly running out of gas, to use the phrase, the Canes could use this game as further motivation to win the Cup in Edmonton.

That said, full marks to the Oilers for their win tonight. They were able to get on the board real quick, 16 seconds to be exact, and they got a power-play goal, which has been the albatross around their neck for the duration of this series. There's not much you can say about Fernando Pisani either. He's become a big scoring threat and could command a nice little raise when he hits the free agent market this summer.

This was also a breakout game for Eric Staal. The attention that was given to his lack of scoring, his game today (2g, 1a) will still be overshadowed by the Pisani goal. Staal is starting to heat up, which could cause some problems for the Oilers defense for the duration of the series.

I said on my write-up on this blog and on my article, I don't see this going a full seven-games. The article I said it would be six game or less. If there's a team who has been cooler or calmer in Rexall Place, it's the Hurricanes. For whoever wins, I don't know if anything can top the first period in Game Five.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Devil You Now Know

The New Jersey Devils announced a new head coach this day. Many thought it would be former Devil and current assistant John MacLean. However, in Lou Lamoriello fashion, he went a little off the board. Lamoriello announced former Canadien bench boss Claude Julien as the Devils new head coach.

It's amazing how Julien was under the radar for some clubs. Frankly, I'll be the first to say I completely forget he was out there on the open market. When you have coaches like Marc Crawford and Andy Murray who were more recently canned, you almost lose sight of a guy like Julien. Julien did somewhat well in Montreal, but Bob Gainey didn't think he could be a long-term answer to the Habs, so he let him go.

The last time I think I saw Julien was during TSN's Trade Deadline coverage when he was on a panel with Keith Jones and Dave Andreychuk.

Now, I'm sure there's some dismay in the MacLean camp, but this shouldn't make him bitter towards the club at all. He's been in the assistant coaching game for three years now and I'm sure he would mention that he may not have been ready if he was thrown into the mix. Though he would have been a great coach in the long-run, Lamoriello probably saw he wasn't quite there.

There's going to be plenty of chances for MacLean down the road, so he'll have his day in the sun. Now, it's Julien's time to get the Devils working and getting them back to Stanley Cup glory.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Russia, Testing, and Playoffs

I would talk about Game Three, but I'll let you check out James Mirtle or Captain Bosh for that one. There's only so much you can say before it gets very diluted and you start hearing the same thing over and over.

There is one issue I'd love to talk about and that's the NHL revelation that out of the 1,406 players tested through the year, none of them came up with a positive drug test, and if you listen hard enough you can hear Gary Bettman doing his victory dance in-front of a Dick Pound picture. Of course, this is great news for the NHL who wanted to show they have a clean thing going, but of course there are going to be some cynics in the mix, but it won't deter them.

The one thing hanging over the head of the NHL's testing is that they don't do it in the off-season when the training and condition is probably going to be the hardest for guys to stay in game shape and all that. I don't think it would be the worst thing, but I also see where the NHL is coming from, in the fact that as long as they are clean through the season then there's no harm, no foul.

What will happen in the future?? Who knows, but at least for the first year, the NHL is coming up with a clean slate.

The next thing I wanted to touch on is the possible Russian Ice Hockey Federation and NHL contract, which basically will end the bickering between NHL clubs with Russian prospects and the Russian clubs who want probably more than market value for that player. Not surprising, as Vladislav Tretiak is now head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation after years of being an NHL goaltending coach for the Chicago Blackhawks.

More importantly, this could bring back the NHL/RHL Super Series that happened in the early 90's.

The Super Series don't only allow NHL fans see how their team stacks up against a Russian club team, but it also gives the NHL front offices and chance to see how good those guys are. Because of some of the Super Series games, it allowed players like Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov to come over and play in the NHL.

Whenever teams can evaluate themselves against some of the best players not in the NHL, it's a great test and show for players, coaches, and fans alike.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just About Halfway Home

After Game Three, the whole buzz was about how the Edmonton Oilers are now back in the series. That irks me. First off, outside of the Game Two debacle, they have been a pretty solid team. They haven't played up to their par, of course, but that's a lot to ask of a hard-nose team like the Oilers. Sometime, they will have to get weaker with the style of play.

The thing that gets me is if the Carolina Hurricanes get a split and go up going back to Edmonton, the Oilers are right back out of it, making it the quickest time a team as good from back to out in a matter of days. That's what bothered me about the playoffs, it seems that whenever a team goes down two and then wins a game, they are back in it. It's not often the case, but it's a cliche that's thrown around a bit to much for my liking. Now, if the Oilers split, they are back in it for me. I've said one win does not a series make, especially when you would have hoped that the Oilers would pull at least one win off in their own amped barn.

Game Three had it share of weirdness, Mick McGeough tripping again on the opening faceoff then frantically calling off the Ethan Moreau goal since it seemed no one else knew were the puck was, then the third goal, which could have gone either way with the goal or a penalty being called. All in all, it probably has been the best game to watch this series.

What needs to be done for Game Four?? Well, the Oilers need to take this win in stride. They got the job done, but it wasn't as convincing as they hoped for, especially since they were feeding off the crowd. They did what they needed to do and went back to playing their style of hockey. They don't need to believe the hype that they've already won Game Four, but they can't overcommit and make some mistakes that could cost them.

The Canes need to take the anger on the third goal and translate that into a strong game Monday night. Cam Ward was amazing in net again and has been the guy keeping the Canes in the series. The Canes did well against the rabid fans in Edmonton, which some teams have had issues with. Right now, the Canes need to use their speed and play like they did in the last 22 minutes of Game One and all of Game Two to have success in Game Four.

The one gripe about the game is that the NBC Affiliate in Seattle didn't show the game. Now, granted, CBC has had the best camera work and Don Cherry, but I can't stand another minute of Bob Cole and Harry Neale in the booth. It's almost like Statler and Waldorf, but much less funny and blinder. God love 'em for what they have done, but right now-- I think CBC needs to take them out to pasture and let them go about their days. Hopefully, the Spokane NBC Affiliate will have the game on Monday night, or else it's going to be WWE and The Score for me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Long Island Overhaul

As was broke on the Show last night, the New York Islanders officially announced Neil Smith as their new GM, Ted Nolan as their new head coach, as well as Pat LaFontaine as senior advisor to owner Charles Wang. LaFontaine joins Bryan Trottier as another former Islander in the front office, as Trottier was named the executive director of player development last week.

It took a long time for the Islanders to name their new GM and coach, with many wondering if they were holding out for Peter Laviolette. However, once Peter Karmonos said he would keep Laviolette at all cost, the Isles worked quickly to get both Smith and Nolan into Long Island. Both have proven track records of winning, with Smith helping to bring the Rangers their first Cup in 54 years and Nolan winning the Jack Adams Award in his first year.

For Nolan, the controversy that has followed him kept him out of hockey for eight years, finally re-surfacing with the Moncton Wildcats this season. Due to a tiff with Dominik Hasek and then GM John Muckler, Nolan was booted after Muckler was fired in lieu of Darcy Reiger. Since then, no one would take a chance on Nolan. Now, he has his chance to redeem himself for that. Yet, it won't come easy since it wasn't Smith's decision to hire him, but Charles Wang's decision. We'll see how that all comes about, but Pierre McGuire thinks it could cause some problems.

Smith will get a chance to come back to the Islanders after starting his front office career as a scout for the Islanders. Even though Smith was the one responsible for building the team to win the Cup in '94, he was also the one to start the signing of high-price, low-reward talent in his tenure before he was fired in 2000 for Glen Sather. However, the one thing that Smith has going is his eye for talent. In a time where young talented players are going to be crucial to a team's make-up, Smith should be able to regain his glory days he enjoyed with the other New York team.

As for Trottier and LaFontaine, I don't know what to think. After a failed head coaching attempt, Trottier is just looking to bounce back it seems and you may as go back to where your home is. As for LaFontaine, it's a chance for him to see if he wants to go deeper into the hockey operation side of things, but for a guy who didn't know if he wanted to be into the off-ice side, it may just be a feeling out stage. As well, it doesn't hurt to have some former legends to help boost the team's buzz.

If anything, this will be the first step away from the Mike Milbury era of things in the Islanders organization. With all that Milbury has done wrong, it's hard to see what he did right...though there wasn't much done for the good side of things. The Isles need something to help revitalize their tarished accomplishments. With a possible new arena in the balance, the team will have have some pretty big performances in order to sway the idea of putting a lot of money into a sinking ship.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

One Game Does Not A Series Make

The phrase still holds true today. However, the end result means a little more of a challenge to the Edmonton Oilers and their Cup hopes. Granted, the game itself showed the resolve of the Carolina Hurricanes, made a folk hero out of Cam Ward in Raleigh, and showed that the Oilers really don't like to hold onto big leads.

Yet, the 2-goal performance of Ray Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour, the amazing saves Cam Ward made in the third period, even the first successful penalty shot in the Cup Finals by Chris Pronger will all be overshadowed by one thing, the injury that put Dwayne Roloson out of the Cup Finals.

If you haven't seen it, with about five minutes left to play in the third, Andrew Ladd was coming out of the corner, trying to cut across and score, much like Ales Hemsky did for the fourth Oiler goal. On this instance, Marc-Andre Bergeron met Andrew Ladd when he was just outside the crease area. The hit was a nice, clean hit which sent Ladd flying....right on top of the leg of Dwayne Roloson. The force also caused Roloson's upper body to go flying back....with his leg staying in the same place, causing Roloson to stay down for a while.

Jarret Stoll said to the media that he thought Roloson was stalling to slow the game down because he has been known to do that. If only Stoll was right, then I wouldn't have heard the collective "OH NOES!!" of Edmonton as soon as this happened. Now, I'm not a doctor (yet), but it almost looked like it could be ligament or cartilidge damage to Roloson, which is something you really don't wanna mess around with.

Saying the injury to Roloson was devastating really is an understatement. He's the reason the Oilers have been able to get so far into the Playoffs and really was a front runner for Conn Smythe win or lose. Now, it's up to either Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen, or both to shoulder the load for the rest of the series.

Now, there's nothing to say that either Conklin or Markkanen won't be able to have an amazing performance; but the reason Roloson was traded for was because of the sub-par play of both of them. Add that to the momentum that Hurricanes can take away from that amazing 4-goal third period and the miscue of Conklin and Jason Smith behind the net resulting in the game-winner; it's definitely an uphill battle for the Oilers.

All that said, the Oilers are the one team that could strive in a situation like this. Of course, not they will have to get into the game a little more and not blow another big lead to succeed, but this series isn't over by any means. Granted, the odds probably have shifted a little more to favor the Hurricanes, but how much does Vegas know, huh?? This also is a chance for Markkanen and Conklin to show off their stuff and be the hero in this series, which could push the Oilers to the Stanley Cup-- odder things have happened.

One game does not a series make, but the fallout of that one game could pace the rest of the series.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Time Has Come

It took a couple of days of waiting before I could bring myself to actually write about the Cup Finals. With the long wait inbetween, it was pretty pointless to do something about it then just sit and wait....and wait....and wait. For a more in-depth breakdown, I should have something on on Monday. That should have all the breakdown of each sides of things and then there you go.

However, we get to the nuts and bolts here. You have your basic David and Goliath scenario, one of the top ranked teams in the East against an out of nowhere compeititor in the West. Of course, we shouldn't be so surprises, because for the past three seasons (this one included) the West has had lower rank seeds represent them in Western portion of the Cup. The East, it has always been the higher seed in the same time span. So far, the two top seeds have won out in a seven game thriller of a series. Will that trend continue?? I for one think not.

Both teams seem to have all the nuts and bolts in place. The Oilers have had great goaltending, great defensive play, and unlikely scoring heroes. The play of the team has gotten the city into an uproar, though it has gone completely overboard at time. Aside from that whole other rant, the Oilers are proving that a team that almost moved in 1997, until 35 owners came to be the knights in shining armor, can compete in this new NHL. Without the difference in payroll anymore, the Oilers were allow to get plenty of big names without worrying about breaking the bank. There is no doubt that the acquisitions of Mike Peca and Chris Pronger in the off-season, with Sergei Samsonov and Dwayne Roloson at the deadline have helped the team, though all four had mediorce regular season.

The Oilers will have to fight the demons of the long-layoff and the curse of "Dora the Explorer" which could alter Game Six, if it gets to that point. Craig MacTavish has been under the gun all season, but it's safe to assume that he'll be back behind the bench once again for the Oilers next season. The big pressure will be on guys like Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll. Horcoff has been one of the hot hands, and he'll have to keep that up in order to have some depth to scoring; all the while, Stoll was shutout in the last series with a -5 rating. Stoll's face-off prowess can only take him so far.

The Hurricanes have had the surprising goaltending of rookie Cam Ward, while finally getting their veteran players into the mix, as well as getting plenty of depth in their scoring. Imagine if Erik Cole was able to play, how much of a difference that would have made to the depth of the team upfront. Yet, the guys like Doug Weight, Cory Stillman, and Rod "the Bod" Brind'Amour have been holding it down. Eric Staal has to be huge in this series. He'll be pitted against Pronger, but that doesn't need to be a concern. For as much noise as Staal has put up, he has been pretty quiet in the last three games in the Conference Finals. He's a young kid and probably knows that something like this may not come around again, but he just needs to play his game and then he'll know he'll be able to succeed.

The defense for the Canes are a no-name type of defenseman, however they have plenty of experience. Glen Wesley, Niclas Wallin, and Frantisek Kaberle have been through this before in the 2002 run that the Canes had. Oleg Tverdovsky has been through a Cup Final with the Devils in 2003, where they Devils won the Cup over the Mighty Ducks. Bret Hedican went to the Cup Finals way back in 1994 with the Vancouver Canucks, where they lost the thrilling seven-game series to the Rangers; while even more recently Mike Commodore was on the big run that the Calgary Flames made in the last NHL season, which gave him his notoriety for one of the best playoffs beards and hairdos in the history of the NHL. Though they may not be the everyday name people would be accustom to, they have the experience on these high pressure situations. That should come in handy when it comes to protecting young Cam Ward.

It should be a great series, with each game being closely contested. Yet, like I said earlier, I don't see this going a full seven games. Something about this season, with the excitement back, then the excitement for the playoffs, there has to be a let down somewhere in the armor of the NHL's plan. Sure, the complaints about the small market series are rolling in, but to me, that makes the series all the more desirable because it will not only expose the teams to the nation, but proves Gary Bettman's theory that the small market teams will be able to compete with the new infrastructure in the NHL. If there's a short series, then that could be the only bad thing to come out of it.

Regardless of how it goes, it's much better than last year where there was no Stanley Cup presented and thoses had to find other ways to cope with that. Just enjoy the games and whomever you're rooting for, do it safely and do it smart.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Great TV Debate

As I was sifting through how to make my MP3 Drugs Larger (friggin' spam), I did come across an interesting little tidbit from my Google News Alert. Granted, some of the stuff that is sent either has little relevance of nothing to do with hockey at all. However, this article from the Buffalo News raised both my eyebrows.

In the article, columnist Alan Pergament wrote about how the networks needed the Sabres to win in order to raise ratings. In it, Pergament gives off the numbers for Game Six and Seven and states that the Buffalo audience accounted for 30% of the audience for OLN. Even with all that, this is what struck me as a little....sour grapes-ish, maybe:

During the Carolina series, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he wasn't concerned that two small markets would be playing in the finals. "This is about quality players, quality teams on the ice, not about market," he said.

Of course, he had to say that. But NHL leaders are aware that the only areas that really care about the playoffs are in the markets that are still playing. That's why OLN benefited as much as Adelphia when a deal was made during the playoffs to carry the games on basic cable here. The bigger the market the better the ratings. Even if every household in Buffalo were tuned in, it wouldn't make a 1 rating nationally.

Buffalo still likely will finish in the top two nationally in the ratings even without the Sabres. It wouldn't be a total shock if ratings here for the finals were still higher than those in Raleigh.

Of course, I'll say that Raleigh isn't that big of a hockey hotbed. I'm sure some fans will tell you the same thing-- yet they are learning. This was a great year for the Canes and it really hasn't been much overshadowing the achievements. I can understand why teams like the Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators can be the whipping boys of the NHL when it comes to knowledge of the game with their fans and low ratings; but couldn't it be ignorance of thoses who claim to be fans of the game as a whole??

Some people look down their nose to unusual markets, and sometimes they are right. Even so, what makes them superior to those in the markets?? Some, at least, are making an attempt to learn the game and take it in to expand their sports lexicon. The more that beat writers in "elite" hockey cities beat down the unusual markets, the less and less involved the fans will be. In the end, it doesn't help the "elite" teams at all. If anything, it hurts the game as whole to people who may not have been brought up with it, but are open-minded enough to learn more about it and try to understand to the best of their ability.

This may come off as a fluff piece, but there comes a time when you have to realize that it's better for the game if people just stop bashing what they perceive to be negative and accentuate the positive for the greater good of the game. The more people know about the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers, the more likely it is to see people come out and watch them when they are in their town.

Friday, June 02, 2006

If It Ain't One Thing...

I'm sure everyone has had a chance to stew over the game last night. Of course, the Hurricanes got back into the Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-2 win over the Sabres. The game-winning goal is one that will have the NHL's competition committee look at possibly changing some things going into next season.

If you missed the game, the Sabres were knotted up with the Canes, when Brian Campbell tried to get the puck out of the zone by throwing it high off the glass, however, the puck cleared the glass entirely; resulting in a delay of game, then into a Rod Brind'Amour power play goal, which was the eventual game winner. Granted, the puck sat in the same spot for what seemed like an eternity, but that's a problem for the coaches of the Sabres to re-evaulate in the summer. Yet, the question at hand is whether or not the delay of game rule should be altered for next season.

Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey and Fox Sports said on our show that this rule would result in a goal which could cost a team, not only a game, but a series as well. That's what happened on Thursday night. Of course, the point is very valid. You can't have tired defensemen or forwards flipping the puck over the glass to get a whistle to change up. That said, you have to wonder if the two-minute penalty is the way to go. On the postgame, Glenn Healy said that there should only be a penalty if the puck is deliberately thrown over the glass. It's all well and good, but anyone who has played the game will tell you that sometimes you don't know what's going to happen when the puck goes off your blade.

Probably one of the most interesting things said was that the team shouldn't be able to change lines once something like that happens. Much like the icing, most of the time the reason is to get a change of get off the ice. It seems good in theory, but I'd like to take it a bit further. If you take that portion into effect, a logical thing is to give a warning out to that player, then if it happens from the same player-- two minutes in the box. It's the best of both worlds and then you could gauge whether or not the player is doing it deliberately or not. It's a good rule to have, but maybe looking at it and reworking it wouldn't be too awful in hindsight.

At least Brett Hull's foot wasn't in the crease.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Where's a Horseshoe When You Need It??

That's the question that the Sabres are asking themselves right now before Game Seven. Now, I'm sure they are not looking for Lucky the former mascot of the Kentucky Thoroughblades, but just for some kind of luck and help on their defensive unit. Especially now when the worst case scenario has happened.

It was announced today that Jay McKee is still in Buffalo tending to a seriously infected cut on his shin, which he attained during the 2nd Round match-up against the Ottawa Senators. Apparently, while blocking a shot, McKee's shin got cut which led to the infection.

You add this to the injuries to Dmitri Kalinin, Henrik Tallinder, and Teppo Numminen; it's spelling doom for the Sabres' hopes at the Cup. Sadly, Jeff Jillson, Nathan Paetsch, and Rory Fitzpatrick are not yet up to snuff when it comes to playoff hockey. They're great young defenseman, but you can't top the shot blocking and leadership that McKee and the others bring to the table. Plus, that's another big minute defenseman that the Sabres will somehow have to replace. Even with all that, if there's a team that can pull off a daunting task, it's the Sabres.

However, for some reason, I think the Cup finals would be a better match-up for the Hurricanes did win. I would have two fairly healthy teams playing against each other tooth and nail, rather than have it one-sided due to injuries or otherwise. Granted, that would ruin the playoff pool the family is in, since we have J-P Dumont and Thomas Vanek left, but we're in 7th place out of 8th, so I don't think those two could do much anyway.