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.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Around the Rink 09.05.06

It took a while, but the Pittsburgh Penguins finally signed Evgeni Malkin to a entry level contract. So pretty much, we just wait to see if Metallurg or the Russian Federation will do anything about it. However, it seems they have been less and less vocal about it.

Is it good that this saga is over?? Sure, due to the allowance of everyone in the NHL to get on with their lives and start focusing on hockey. However, it's almost too quiet from overseas and that could be the calm before the storm. We'll keep an eye on this, but for some crazy reason-- this isn't over; not by a long shot. There's still something up the Russians' sleeves.

Another Russian is coming over from the Motherland, as the Calgary Flames announced that Andrei Taratukhin has signed on with the Flames after spending last season with Lokomotiv of the Russian Elite League.

The former second round pick in the 2001 entry draft put up nine goals and 15 assists last season with 85 PIMs. Taratukhin should be used in a depth role, but could possibly bust out if given the right chance.

The man with the worst luck in the world, Peter Forsberg, was back out on the ice today. Forsberg was testing out his surgically repaired ankle. Of course, Forsberg was slated to have surgery on both ankles, but only needed to have it on one. Though he was out there earlier than he expected, he still could tell if it made a difference or not.

Though he was limited to 60 games, Forsberg helped Simon Gagne get his scoring touch and helped the Flyers to a 35-16-9 record when he was in the line-up. Forsberg is a very valuable asset to the team, but if he is rushed into playing before he's ready-- it could be a bad start to the Flyers season.

The Montreal Canadiens are still concerned when it comes to Saku Koivu and his eye injury. Yesterday, at an annual charity golf event, Koivu showed up with his eye still partial shut from the high stick from Justin Williams in the playoffs last season.

Koivu is heading back into the doctor's to see how much his vision has been effected, but it seems Koivu is chomping at the bit to get back onto the ice and test it out during real action. Koivu has also said that he will switch his visor to a bigger size in order to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. Koivu has been skating for two weeks in Finland to help his conditioning.

Once Koivu gets into the game situations, the Habs can see how far along he is. If he is unable to be effective on the ice, then there could be an issue of what to do next with him. The upside to all of this was the ability to get someone like Sergei Samsonov in the line-up to help out on the scoring if Koivu is out for a period of time.

That's all for today, but be sure to listen tomorrow night (Wednesday for those who forgot what day it is) at 9 PM ET for all the fun and excitement that is Face Off Hockey Show. Can't make it live?? Well, check out our Podcast for all the things you missed out on.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Iron Mike Down for the Count......For Now

For some reason, which as of right now is unknown, the Florida Panthers are in for a regime change. Mike Keenan today stepped down as the Panthers' GM and apparently, Jacques Martin will take over the duties to become the GM/Coach of the Cats.

Keenan had been the GM of the Panthers since May of 2004, which technically means he only had one year of job experience for the Panthers. However, he has been in the Panthers organization since December of 2001 when he replaced Duane Sutter.

The thing that strikes me as odd is the timing of this whole announcement. With the moves that have been made in the summer, you would have expected this to happen later or even earlier, so Martin or whomever, can get their team adjusted. Plus, the replacement of Jacques Martin is something that's strikes me as really interesting.

Not to bag on Martin for anything, but taking over the duel role of GM and coach is something that is difficult for the experienced GM or coach, but to have someone who has little experience in the position will be a sight to be seen. Of course, with the limited availability of good GMs out there, as well as the little time between now and the start of the season, it could be a good placeholder for now. Plus, Martin can see who he likes and dislikes from the bench, then go to the office and move accordingly.

Yet, still the surprise of this announcement still gets me. Right now, the question is why did Keenan did this?? Is there another job out there for him?? Is he worn out by what's going on in South Florida?? Was he fed up with who was in charge in Florida and wanted to get out on his own terms before he was put out on the curb??

I'm sure in the next couple of weeks, the answers and reasoning will come out and we'll get a clearer picture. Right now, there's just a lot of disbelief and surprise that this whole think has happened.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Around the Rink 09.02.06

It seems that the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to call Nikolai Zherdev on his claim that he's willing to go to Russia to play if his contract demands are not met. GM Doug MacLean hasn't spoken to Zherdev or his agent since Zherdev rejected a two-year contract worth about $3.8M. It seems the Zherdev camp is looking for a longer term deal and probably more cash.

It's a shame that Zherdev has so much untapped talent, but it seems that he's dead set on getting what he wants or else he'll head back home to play in the Russian Super League. Of course, with Fredrik Modin being acquired the pain of Zherdev not being there is lessened.

Jeremy Roenick is at it again. This time JR is complaining that the Phoenix Coyotes aren't getting enough TV time, especially since Wayne Gretzky is the coach and part-owner of the team. The Coyotes will be seen on national TV only once on Versus, and that's not until late March.

As much as people may hate JR, I have to agree with him. I can understand that the NHL wants people to watch by putting team on there that casual watcher will recognize; but how do they expect to grow the game if they just show the Red Wings, Flyers, Avalanche, Penguins, and Rangers?? Especially when there's plenty of teams out there with exciting players, it's a shame the talent isn't being exposed as much as it should.

The Edmonton Oilers are sleeping in a plenty of beds when it comes to AHL affiliates this coming season. The Oilers will have five teams as their affiliates for '06-'07, splitting with the teams who used the teams as a primary role. On the list are the Iowa Stars and Hamiliton Bulldogs, whom the Oilers used last season, while new to the list are the Milwaukee Admirals, Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins, and Grand Rapids Griffins.

More than likely, the deal will have the Oilers be able to put a maximum of five players on each of the teams. The Oilers old AHL team, the Edmonton Roadrunners, suspended operations before the '05-'06 season after spending on season in Toronton and one in Edmonton.
Some other news of interest for you all:

-Steve Yzerman's #19 will be retired on January 2nd. Yzerman spent his entire career in Motown and it is a truly deserving honor for one of the greatest captains in the game.

-The Atlanta Thrashers announced that they will use their baby blue, former alternates, as their home uniform this season. The Thrashers debuted their baby blues in '03-'04.

-New St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts is ready to get back on the winning track. Not only has he allowed Larry Pleau to open the checkbook and get bigger names in the line-up, but he's ready to get the team back into the playoffs and get over on the hiccup of last year.

Remember, training camps open on September 13th and we'll be there to cover the happenings and undoings during that time. So keep checking in and listening up and you'll be fine.