Saturday, October 27, 2007

Trouble Between the Tunnel

It may be a bit premature, especially considering the fact we’re ten games into the season, but with the best New York team being the Isles, there could be trouble brewing for the other area clubs. However, much has changed in the landscape of both the Rangers and the Devils that the causes for concern could be just a chemistry issue.

First, you look at the Rangers. This is a team who went out and decided they had enough money to basically do what they did before the lockout, which was get the best players’ money could by. In this case, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, both are coming from the free agent frenzy. Yet, at the beginning of this season—only Drury seems to be comfortable enough with the system Tom Renney is running to get some consistency on the score sheet. Gomez has been shuffled around the line-up, which could cause for a lack of production as the comfortability factor is not there.

What should sting even worse is that the Rangers have a league-worst 16 goals-for this young season. With the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Drury, and Gomez; this team should have more than 16 goals in 10 games. It begs the question of how much did Michael Nylander mean to this squad?? Oddly enough, the Rangers have only given up 21 goals, thanks to the work horsemanship of Henrik Lundqvist.

With the struggles early, you have to wonder when or if Jaromir Jagr will become a disturbance to this club, as well as how long before Tom Renney gets shown the door, should the struggles continue.

Moving through the tunnel over to New Jersey and the stink of the sulfur isn’t the only thing that is foul in Jersey. The Devils have gotten off to an awful start, no thanks to nine straight on the road as their new building, the Prudential Center, was finished and Bon Jovi finally stopped squatting on the land.

With new coach Brent Sutter behind the bench, we have been able to see John Madden and Jay Pandolfo flourish in the hard-nose system; yet with the departure of Gomez and Brian Rafalski—the Devils have lost some of their kick.

The kick was seemingly to the groin, as the normally defensive sound Devils haven’t been showing their true defensive form, giving up 34 goals in 10 games. Martin Brodeur appears almost human in net, as he is sporting a 3.30 GAA and .876 SV%.

The offense for the Devils is just as atrocious, with the team being shutout on two occasions already this season. Throughout the 82-game schedule in ’05-’06, the Devils were shutout the same amount. The absence of both Gomez and Rafalski are being shown on each end of the ice, with Gomez’s set-up prowess being missed most; especially by Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta.

Like I said—it’s still early and I don’t want to get all Eric Francis on the Rangers and Devils saying they won’t make the playoffs after 10 games; I’m not a presumptuous ass. However, for these teams to be struggling as badly as they have been, it could make people put their finger on the button—albeit very early.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hartley the First to Go

It's quite ironic, really. To be honest, I was going to write up a piece about who are the candidates to be fired first as head coach in the NHL. In it, I was going to say that Bob Hartley was the most likely to be first, especially given the play of his team as of late. Lo and behold, what gets announced today?? The Thrashers fired Hartley and will replace him for the interim with GM Don Wadell.

The thing about this is that it almost seems like a long time coming. The Thrashers less than stellar appearance in their first playoffs, coupled with the loss of some key players this off-season and the atrocious start to the season they have had so far-- it's a perfect storm for who ever is in the eyepiece of the firing rifle.

However, the fact is that the Thrashers are the only team in the NHL without a single point, they have scored only nine goals in six games, they have given up 27 goals (three above LA for most goals against), and the only real signs of life they have had is against a Devils team who is a shell of its former self.

You can look at Wadell not making a bigger splash in the off-season as an excuse, but when it comes to team motivation and team play, the onus falls onto the coach. Hartley has had a track record of winning and that's why he was brought into the Atlanta dressing room. Hartley did bring a bigger mentality to the locker room and with their playoff appearance, albeit brief, the Thrashers looked like a contender for the future. Yet, they stumbled out of the gates (well, more like fell flat on their face) and haven't been getting the firepower needed out of their big guns. Because of that, Hartley takes the fall.

With the coach gone, the time is now for the Thrashers to take it as a wake up call and get into gear before it's too late. With Wadell behind the bench and doing the duel role for the foreseeable future, it could put a few players on notice who have been dragging ass.

That said, for a bigger picture on what to look for from the Thrashers and what this could all mean-- check out Fire Wagon Hockey for the most honest coverage of the Thrashers I've seen to date.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Too Much, Too Soon??

We are just over a week into the season, but the questions seem to be coming up about certain topics; coaching, free agents on the market, who's going to be in net-- however, the one question I'll pose to you today is dealing with the possibility of some teams doing too much, too early; which could effect their play later on in the season.

First, the Calgary Flames. Obviously, Mike Keenan has been know to play his best players all the time to get them the ice time to make a difference. That's all well and good, but there has been a noticable difference in the Flames this season than in season's past. Granted, they don't have the best track record when it comes to October, but it seems that they are playing much sloppier than usual.

One example is Dion Phaneuf, who in his third year is logging almost 30 minutes a game. Sure, he's a great young defenseman, but you have to wonder if he's ready for that big of a responsibility yet. As the games drag on, he seems to be getting more and more fatigued and let's more and more get by him; pucks, men, the game.

Jarome Iginla could be another example if he had great October's to begin with. With the exception of last season, Iginla has never had the best track record in the first month of the season.

With the Flames on a big downswing and have to play from behind all year thus far, they will need to get something going in one way or another in order to keep the fans happy and their playoff hopes bright.

Staying in the West, the Cup champion Ducks won their first game since their England Adventure on Wednesday against the Bruins. However, with the exception of their shootout lose to the Wings, the Ducks have not looked like the most recent champions of the league.

The big question with the Ducks is how much does this have to do with the absence of Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, and the injured J-S Giguere?? All three played a big part in the success of the Ducks last season and have left a fairly big hole. It doesn't help either that Mathieu Schneider is out and that Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't been as good as the Ducks would have hoped.

The good things for the Ducks is that now they have some rest after coming back to North America, especially after playing three games in four days when the got back from London, as well as the emergence of Jonas Hiller as a competent back-up, which could great controversy when Giguere finally does get healthy. Not to mention Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Francois Beauchemin have all emerged as great scoring threats, though one of those names is not like the others.

Now, I know two truths-- it's early in the season and that these athlete's are well-conditioned and should be able to deal with all the twist and turns thrown out there. Yet, it does still make for great discussion and some controversy in the early going.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Another Day, Another Doubtful Deal

We thought this was over. We thought that they had finally had a deal. At long last, the fate of the Nashville Predators was determined and it was going to be sold to a group of local investors in order to stay in Nashville for a time being.


It seems that according to the Tennessean, one of the investors doubt that the deal will go through; as some of the alterations that the group want to make to the deal with the City of Nashville doesn't sit well with the city council. David Freeman said that the nine changes the group proposed was rejected by city council and really puts this deal in doubt.

Some of the changes included an option to let the Predators leave Nashville if the season attendance dips under 14,000 on average and if the group loses $20 US. Also, the changes includes the team taking almost all state and local taxes from the arena for hockey and other arena events. Other revisions included the city putting up a new source of revenue stream for the arena make "Fun Zones" to kill excessive utility cost. I don't know how one goes with the other, but hey.

Now, here's the thing-- and this is just me-- it seems that the only way the Predators will ever get sold is that if the City and current owner Craig Leipold comes to the realization that one of the clauses for a new owner is the option to move the team if there is no support from the city. It will be hard to give that up, especially when so much time and money was put into it in one way or another-- but it's real. No new investor wants to come in and accept that they will have to take a monetary loss and be handcuffed by the fact they must keep the team in a place the doesn't/won't support it.

It would have been a good idea to get the local investors into the fold, however the fact they want a clause to get out if there's no support is probably showing their true colors. Sure, it's an insurance policy, but when you have the locals starting to question the loyalty of the fans; something is wrong. It could be underestimating the fan or it could show that those investing probably wouldn't do much to promote their own team on their own business side, but something is rotten there when you want all those clauses.

I don't know if the Preds will ever get sold and if they do-- odds are they'll be headed to either Kansas City or somewhere in Canada. To counteract that, the fans need to do their parts. It's hard to put the onus on the people supporting the team, but that seems to be the bottom line. It could seem like a hard sell, but that's why they needed the local investors to help pump up the team. With that dead-- it seem all but assured that the Predators tenure in Nashville is almost as extinct at the sabertooth tiger on their uniforms.