Saturday, September 29, 2007

London Calling

The first game in the NHL this season is in the books. It was the first time an NHL regular season game was played in Europe and while it was a while before the worked the kinks out, the game went off pretty much without a hitch. Here's some observations from the first game that I saw.

-It was a little surprising to see that Jonathan Bernier got the start for the Kings, but he put on a great show for the Kings in the 4-1 win. Jason LaBarbera seems to have been usurped again from the starting gig. There's going to be a lot of questions if Labarbera can't get his game in tack, like the mojo that he's only an AHL caliber goalie. As for Bernier, should he stay up the whole season and play like he did today-- I wouldn't be surprised to see him win the Calder.

-The Ducks are without Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, and Dustin Penner; but they looked very sluggish on the offensive side of things. They did outshoot the Kings 27-21, but they didn't seem to have too many quality chances. Randy Carlyle is going to have to change some things around with the lines and get the fire lit under guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf; both of whom are supposed to pick up the slack and get something going in the absence of the big names.

-I think all fantasy owners and Kings fans can rest easy about Mike Cammalleri. I think many were wondering what would happen after he got his arbitration ruling of 2-years $6.7M. With two goals and an amazing game-- Cammalleri is showing he is worth the money.

-Look out for Anze Kopitar this season. I have my doubts that he'll have a sophomore slump, especially the power game he had today and the fact he won the MVP of that oddball Red Bull tournament in Austria; Kopitar is looking to turn some heads and get some pub about himself out there.

-A good turnout to the O2 arena, with plenty of jerseys in the crowd from all around. Thank goodness for London being a flight hub. It was definitely interesting to see the wide variety of NHL jerseys and European jerseys. I think CBC said that all but one team in the British Elite League was represented in the crowd. Considering all the other things going on in England (rugby and premier league) it was pretty nice to see those in the crowd.

-The ice was odd, wasn't it. The smaller neutral zone, the higher boards-- it was an interesting scene on TV and I'm sure just as odd on the ice. Just imagine someone like Andy McDonald trying to hope the boards and then looking like he was in pee-wee hockey struggling to get over the boards.

-The Ducks really need to get rid of the wordmark for the logo. Not only is it a piece of crap, but on the new jerseys, the logo looks incredible small on the jerseys. Why not just use the webbed-footed "D" like what's on the wordmark for the logo?? I know, it's too simple, but yikes.

That's it for game one, only 1,200+ to go.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Storylines Galore

We're days away from the new NHL season and of course, you're going to have storylines. Here are some, team-by-team, of what you could ponder while watching them on the ice this season.

ANAHEIM: What can the Champs do for an encore?? With Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer out, it'll be interesting to see how much Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger can step up. Also, how much of a factor will Todd Bertuzzi play this season??

ATLANTA: A brief appearance has set high-hopes for the Hot-lanta fateful. With defense still the lingering question, the Thrashers need to hope Kari Lehtonen is all that he is cracked up to be. The Thrashers should also be hoping for some scoring outside of their top line.

BOSTON: Will Manny Fernandez flourish or falter?? After leaving a defense-first team like Minnesota to a team with the 2nd worst plus/minus in the league (-328, behind Philadelphia), Manny will have to be on his game. Look for Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron to be big players once again for the Bs.

BUFFALO: Thomas Vanek is under the microscope this year, not only with his salary, but also with the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. The consistency of Maxim Afinogenov will also be at the forefront since he is now a marquee player for Buffalo.

CALGARY: What will Mike Keenan do?? How Keenan works with the likes of Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff will be the determining factor when it comes to the success of the Flames. Should they gel well together, then things should be fine for the "C" of Red.

CAROLINA: Retooled from last year's disappointment, the Hurricanes will be looking for some answers on whether or not Cam Ward and Eric Staal can carry the team. The health of the defense should be something to look for as it was the downfall of last year's edition of the Canes.

CHICAGO: The youth movement is alive and well with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at the head of the Hawks class. Martin Havlat should have an explosive long as he stays healthy, and Brent Seabrook should be the stallwart defenseman from now until he leaves Chicago.

COLORADO: After coming close to the playoffs last season, the Avalanche have retooled on defense and upfront to add more grit and possibly get them over the hump and get back into the playoffs. Now, what to do with Jose Theodore??

COLUMBUS: Could this be the year for the Jackets?? They weren't big players in the free agent market, Nikolai Zherdev seems to be playing himself out of a spot, and the goaltending still resembles that of an AHL team. The onus will be on Rick Nash and David Vyborny to be the leaders on the ice, on the scoresheet and in the room.

DALLAS: Scoring needs to be the big thing that the Stars worry about this season. Their defense seems to be in order, Marty Turco has been solid, but the forwards will be the ones that have to step it up. Mike Modano will be under the gun to get back to his old ways, while Brendan Morrow needs to look to stay healthy.

DETROIT: With Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk becoming the new scorers for the Wings and Nicklas Lidstrom being the franchise defenseman, the one question is whether or not the goaltending can be as solid as it was last season.

EDMONTON: It can't get any worse of the Oilers, even with their top defenseman, Joni Pitkanen and Sheldon Souray, being a combined -53 last season. Dustin Penner will now have to earn the fans' respect after being poached from the Ducks, while the consistency of Dwayne Roloson will be looked at heavily and could create tension should he not perform.

FLORIDA: With Tomas Vokoun between the pipes, the Panthers can rest easier when it comes to the last-line. However, the youth of Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, and Greg Campbell will need to help out Olli Jokinen in sharing the scoring load.

LOS ANGELES: With Dan Cloutier now a distant thought in New Hampshire, the Kings now have to hope that Mike Cammalleri and Anze Kopitar's performances last season were no myth. The good thing for the Kings is that they may have the most underrated defense in the West with the additions of Brad Stuart and Tom Preissing.

MINNESOTA: Niklas Backstrom is now the main man in the State of Hockey, but now he has to live up to his Jennings Trophy performance last season. Brian Rolston and Mikko Koivu will have to be able to duplicate their amazing seasons last year should Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra come up lame.

MONTREAL: The big debate will be when will Carey Price become the #1 goalie?? With such high expectations set for Price, it's only a matter of time before the Habs fanatics call for the head of Huet, Halek, and Gainey if the goaltending becomes a big question for Montreal.

NASHVILLE: The summer of uncertainty has left the Predators a shadow of their former selves. With Steve Sullivan out for at least three months, JP Dumont and Alex Radulov will have to be the strength of the right side. Chris Mason should be able to continue his ability to surprise those who doubt him.

NEW JERSEY: Never underestimate a Martin Brodeur team. However, without Scott Gomez, the production of the Devils offense will be a big question, especially considering they were the lowest scoring playoff team last season in the NHL. Defense will be suspect too, with the departure of Brian Rafalski.

NY ISLANDERS: After a shocking playoff last season, the Isles will look to build with Ted Nolan behind the bench. Rick DiPietro will need to step up moreso in order to justify his 15-year deal (year 2, if you're scoring at home), while newcomers Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin will be the top-production for the Isles.

NY RANGERS: With a loaded offense, especially with adding Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers shouldn't have to worry about scoring. The back-end will be the big question with a young defense looking to protect Henrik Lundqvist in net.

OTTAWA: Can the Eastern Champs do it again. They have most everyone back from last season, but the true question is what can Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, and Jason Spezza do while in their contract seasons. The wrist of Ray Emery and play of Martin Gerber will also be question in the early part of the season.

PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers can only get better, and with Daniel Briere having $10M to be happy about, it's time for him to put up or face the wrath of Flyer fans. Martin Biron should be looking in his rear-view as Antero Niittymaki is healthy and looking to regain his spot as #1. The addition of Kimmo Timonen should also provide a two-way defenseman that will help the transition with the first pass.

PHOENIX: With a jumble in goal, the Coyotes will need to find something hang their hat on. Shane Doan will need a lot of help up-front, Ed Jovanovski will have to be the anchor on defense, and Wayne Gretzky will need to motivate his team somehow or risk fans calling for his coaching demise.

PITTSBURGH: Even with a brief five-game playoff appearance, many are saying the Pens are Cup contenders. Though they have the outline for a great playoff team, the question of whether they have the desire or defense to do so will be the main one asked amongst the hockey world.

SAN JOSE: They've locked up Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, they made little change to their club, the big questions for the team by the Bay is whether Evgeni Nabokov can stay strong as the #1 and if Jonathan Cheechoo can regain some scoring touch.

ST. LOUIS: The Blues have improved by adding Paul Kariya to the front, but the big story will be whether or not Erik Johnson can live up to his #1 Overall status. Manny Legace should be better and healthier from last season, but should face many shots with a suspect defense.

TAMPA BAY: With two of the quietest 100-point scorers in Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, scoring shouldn't be a problem until you reach the second line. Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist will be on the hot-seat, especially with Karri Ramo breathing down their necks.

TORONTO: Andrew Raycroft will be pushed by newly acquired Vesa Toskala and should Raycroft start to slip-- you know Torontonians will be looking for Toskala to be in the pipes to be the savior of the squad. Also, whether or not Mats Sundin can be lured into another contract after this season will be something to watch as well.

VANCOUVER: Now that they have know where they play since it's on their jerseys, the Canucks will have to find someone to be able to play with the Sedins, all the while trying to spark the scoring touch of Markus Naslund. With Roberto Luongo holding down the fort, stopping goals will be no problem.

WASHINGTON: What will Alex Ovechkin do?? With the new faces of countryman Viktor Kozlov, set-up men Michael Nylander and Nicklas Backstrom, and many underestimating him-- it's all setting up for AO to put on a super-hero like performance in the US capitol. Now, if the Caps can get him under contract, all thoughts will be eased. Don't be surprised if Olaf Kolzig has a suprising season.

So that's that-- some things you can look forward to according to Wazz. If you have some storylines you think we at the Show could look at-- shoot us an email.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Tale of Two Games

There's quite the buzz around some games this season. Obviously, the first games in London, England is one of them and more recently; the just announced "Winter Classic" that'll take place on New Year's Day.

I'll start off talk about the London game first. As I've mentioned it before, to have a game outside of the US is a great job for the NHL in expanding the game on a global scale. England and Great Britian is a budding hockey network. The Elite League in Britian does need some more talent, and by having this NHL game; it could create more interest of the game at the grass roots level and could compel more people to support their team and the game as a whole.

We'll see how well this goes over attendance wise and viewership wise, but I think in the grand scheme of things-- it could open up more chances to have regular season games overseas. If there's an owner with a vested interest, it may create a better chance of more games like this happening in the very near future.

Moving onto the "Winter Classic", it'll be interesting to see what happens with this. Now, I like the idea of having an outdoor game. The Heritage Classic was an amazing feat and showed that something like this could be a good ordeal for the game. Yet, somehow-- the scheduling of this event is very suspect.

Of course, New Year's is traditionally the time for Bowl Games and the NHL is hoping that this gimmick game in Buffalo will create more buzz for the sport and increase in the ratings. For some reason, I don't think they thought this cunning plan all the way through. The game is a 1 PM ET start, and depending on how you spent the night before and what Bowl games are on the may or may not get viewership for the game. Sure, it showcases the NHL sweetheart teams in Pittsburgh and Buffalo; but I don't think you'd be able to create a buzz big enough to surpass the juggernaut of college football.

Secondly, though Buffalo does get cold in the the winter months, who's to say that this won't be the warmest winter on record for Buffalo?? If that's the case and it's 50F on New Year's, that not only will make the ice really craptastic, but it would put the players at risk for injuries-- and I'm sure the NHL wouldn't want that (especially with Crosby on the ice).

Finally in my complaints, I just hope this doesn't happen every year. Yes, the outdoor game is a good idea and should be used in the future. That said, if the NHL starts to do it every year, there's a slight possibility that it could lose it's luster and may leave some teams left out if they don't get a shot at the "Winter Classic." I can just see Florida and Tampa Bay looking to get an outdoor game. It'll be the first roller hockey game in the NHL history.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Confessions of a Fantasy Hockey Junkie


"Hello, my name is Wazz and I'm a fantasy hockey junkie. It all started back in 2001 when I started college. I started with one team, then two-- now I have five teams this year. In fact, I've started websites with back-stories and updates for my fantasy hockey team...and it's affiliates."

That's how it would go if there were support groups for my condition, but it is that bad. I do get a little psycho with my fantasy hockey with research, buying books, and all that jazz-- but it's all in good fun. With the new season coming up, the new fantasy hockey season starts-- which includes that of the FOHSHL, which has the biggest league ever with 56 teams heading into the season.

I don't think I'm alone either, as many people (obviously in Canada) take part in some office pools. The fantasy sports industry as a whole is a big money business with pay leagues, draft guides, office pools, and so on. It's an industry that been booming for a while and probably won't let up anytime soon. It let's people get away from their real lives and focus on being the armchair GM and coach that they usually are when watching the games and tracking their players.

However, it's something that may be a little obsessive, but like The Hockey News draft guide states-- most fantasy hockey owners could be smarter than NHL GMs. In theory that could be correct in some aspects.

Let's be honest, when you play a fantasy sport-- you have to be on top of your shit if you don't want to get murdered and humiliated. It also goes on to say that fantasy owners would work better under a cap than some NHL GMs and would recognize better value along with some players. Granted, the risk of your job isn't quite as high and the demand from fans and beating up by the press isn't there-- but it is certainly something that would be interesting to see.

I think the one thing that could be used as a defense is that if a back-up goalie could be a GM and succeed (for the most part), then anyone can do it. I don't think we're far away from seeing someone go from armchair GM to assistant GM, especially in hockey. Hockey fans are probably the most knowledgeable fan base out there. They know their team, the other teams, and what players could boom and bust at any moment. If there is one league to take a chance on a person as their GM who used to play fantasy game for a living-- it could be hockey.

It would be quite the litmus test to see how one fantasy owner would fare as a GM for an NHL team. It may not happen anytime soon, but it certainly would be a great sociological study. I, in all my humbleness, would like to be the first volunteer for this study; my references are available upon request at my email,