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by admin March 30, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin March 16, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin March 16, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin March 9, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin March 2, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin March 2, 2010

With all the hoopla surrounding the whole head-shot ordeal, we have forgotten about that other danger that is constantly present at each and every NHL game. Just like how H1N1 stole all of the thunder from SARS, the visor debate has been swept away for the new flavour of the month issue.
When you give a bunch of testosterone-filled athletes big sticks and sharp steel blades, danger is an obvious consequence. Buried beneath the hysteria surrounding on-ice hits is an argument about eye protection. Are visors necessary, or just a way for wussies to look cool?
Being from Montreal, this debate always reminds me of that day in the spring of 2006 when Saku Koivu took a stick to the eye, dramatically changing the outcome of the playoff series between the Canadiens and Hurricanes. Up 2-0 in the series against the heavily favoured Hurricanes, the Habs were on pace for a dramatic upset until stick met retina and everything changed. The Habs didn’t win another game and were booted from the playoffs while Koivu lay in a hospital bed unsure if his career was over.

Fast forward to four years later and another scary incident revives the visor debate, when Habs forward Travis Moen took an errant skate to the face in a game against Ottawa. It was a scary incident, one that seemed reminiscent of Richard Zednik’s close call as a Panther. Moen was okay, but he won’t be very photogenic for the next bunch of months. The skate blade caught him right above the eyes, putting a nice gash across his forehead to the tune of 50 stitches. Yes, 50 stitches. That is more sewing than a Boy Scout merit badge convention. Though Koivu wore a visor during his incident, Moen went bare-faced, and it is obvious that if he had he been wearing a visor he wouldn’t have that gruesome fissure across his forehead.
So what else will it take to convince players that visors are a good idea? While clowns like Don Cherry are the wrench in the gears working to change this “weakness” mentality aimed at those who wear visors, the evidence supporting their benefits proves otherwise. The myth that visor wearers are less tough, or as Sean Avery put it, “typical of most French guys in our league… running around and playing tough and not back anything up,” is just nonsense. The desire to preserve a career is not something to complain about, but rather encourage.

Of course the argument then arises that visors obscure vision. This again is a pile of crap. Players who make it to the NHL do so after years of peewee, bantam, junior and midget hockey. All of which require facial protection in the form of full cages or plastic shielding. So is taking off the visor really that liberating?
Henrik Sedin, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Steven Stamkos, Dany Heatley, Brad Richards, Patrick Kane, Marian Gaborik and Ilya Kovalchuk all wear visors, and all are currently averaging over a point a game.
For those still thinking that visors are a nuisance, looking at some of the top players in the league should prove otherwise. Sure Martin St Louis and Joe Thornton go naked, but consider them lucky that they have yet to have a close call. Hey, even Brendan Shanahan changed his attitude after a lengthy career. Visors make sense. Just ask Loui Eriksson, who broke out of a mini scoring drought last month when a tipped pass went off his visor and into the net.
And let’s not forget the fact that they make you look like a futuristic fighter pilot.

Headshots are the hot issue in the NHL right now and they have consumed hockey fans and casual observers. Until the lines are firmly drawn, there will never be a clear-cut answer as to how this should be finally dealt with. Commissioner Gary Bettman keeps reminding me of Ned Flanders’ hippy father who, when confronted about Ned’s terrible behaviour, explains “I’ve tried nothing, and I’m all out of ideas!”Luckily, the NHL seems to be finally making a decision on the subject.

Though I’m not a father myself, I know that one valuable learning tool is experience. Sometimes the best way for a kid to learn a lesson is for him to suffer the consequences. No counting to three, no “this is the last warning,” just a firm belief that if you touch a hot stove once, you’ll never touch it again. When the general manager’s meetings concluded in Boca Raton, Florida last week, it seemed that advancements were finally being made. Though there were no actual rule changes, there was unanimous agreement that: “A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.”

Let me remind you, readers, that we’ve heard this all before. In November of 2008, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell released a memo to all NHL teams that addressed this exact issue. The letter read: “Recently, we have had two supplemental discipline incidents involving direct elbow blows to the head. This is a play that we have been trying to remove from our game for a number of years. In one case there was no injury and in the other incident the elbowed player received a concussion. Both players delivering the elbows had never before been involved in supplemental discipline.
We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal. Furthermore, both the history and status of the offender (first time versus repeat) and the nature of the injury caused (if any) will be taken into consideration as they have been in the past. The length of suspensions for illegal blows to the head will be increased if these incidents persist across the League. Taking steps to maintain the safest on-ice environment possible for the players remains our most important priority.”
Is this a case of déjà-vu all over again? I particularly enjoyed the part where it says that they’ve been trying to remove this play from the game “for a number of years.” Even back then they were already “years” into flapping their gums and getting nowhere. The reason you likely forgot about this letter is because it’s quite hard to see through all the smoke the NHL creates by just spinning its tires.

The issue of headhsots is clearly not a new problem, but an old problem with a severe lack of initiative. Campbell has no guideline to dish out any suspensions, nor does he have the balls to look at the epidemic of dangerous hockey and start bringing the axe down. Hard. Matt Cooke may have fell through the cracks of a lenient, hole-filled initiative, but the intentions are there.
The NHL is like that middle-aged guy who keeps talking about how he’s going to get in shape. Meanwhile, he’s sitting on his couch with enough orange Cheetos dust on his fingers to make it look like he strangled Garfield. The movement is there and its been there for years, but it’s now time for this whole thing to actually get some traction. Stop running in place, NHL – that dance went out of style years ago.

Headshots are the hot issue in the NHL right now and they have consumed hockey fans and casual observers. Until the lines are firmly drawn, there will never be a clear-cut answer as to how this should be finally dealt with. Commissioner Gary Bettman keeps reminding me of Ned Flanders’ hippy father who, when confronted about Ned’s terrible behaviour, explains “I’ve tried nothing, and I’m all out of ideas!”Luckily, the NHL seems to be finally making a decision on the subject.

Though I’m not a father myself, I know that one valuable learning tool is experience. Sometimes the best way for a kid to learn a lesson is for him to suffer the consequences. No counting to three, no “this is the last warning,” just a firm belief that if you touch a hot stove once, you’ll never touch it again. When the general manager’s meetings concluded in Boca Raton, Florida last week, it seemed that advancements were finally being made. Though there were no actual rule changes, there was unanimous agreement that: “A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.”

Let me remind you, readers, that we’ve heard this all before. In November of 2008, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell released a memo to all NHL teams that addressed this exact issue. The letter read: “Recently, we have had two supplemental discipline incidents involving direct elbow blows to the head. This is a play that we have been trying to remove from our game for a number of years. In one case there was no injury and in the other incident the elbowed player received a concussion. Both players delivering the elbows had never before been involved in supplemental discipline.
We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal. Furthermore, both the history and status of the offender (first time versus repeat) and the nature of the injury caused (if any) will be taken into consideration as they have been in the past. The length of suspensions for illegal blows to the head will be increased if these incidents persist across the League. Taking steps to maintain the safest on-ice environment possible for the players remains our most important priority.”
Is this a case of déjà-vu all over again? I particularly enjoyed the part where it says that they’ve been trying to remove this play from the game “for a number of years.” Even back then they were already “years” into flapping their gums and getting nowhere. The reason you likely forgot about this letter is because it’s quite hard to see through all the smoke the NHL creates by just spinning its tires.

The issue of headhsots is clearly not a new problem, but an old problem with a severe lack of initiative. Campbell has no guideline to dish out any suspensions, nor does he have the balls to look at the epidemic of dangerous hockey and start bringing the axe down. Hard. Matt Cooke may have fell through the cracks of a lenient, hole-filled initiative, but the intentions are there.
The NHL is like that middle-aged guy who keeps talking about how he’s going to get in shape. Meanwhile, he’s sitting on his couch with enough orange Cheetos dust on his fingers to make it look like he strangled Garfield. The movement is there and its been there for years, but it’s now time for this whole thing to actually get some traction. Stop running in place, NHL – that dance went out of style years ago.

It is Canada’s unofficial holiday. If you missed work, skipped school or cancelled some other engagement, all is forgiven. Hockey fans everywhere know that trade deadline day is the biggest event on the hockey calendar for those who like to see rosters shaken up. Unfortunately though, this year’s version was more of a snooze-fest than anything else.
So much hype surrounded this year’s TDD, but not much even happened. Like going to see Titanic just because there were rumours of nudity, you sit through much of the same nonsense, and when the moment finally arrives, you’re so underwhelmed, even angry, that you regret you wasted all that time. That perfectly describes TDD 2010.

All the names that were allegedly locks to be dealt remain with their respective teams, and they are likely doing as much head-scratching as everyone else. Here are my picks (in no particular order) for biggest non-movement surprises of TDD 2010:
1) Marty Turco: This seemed like a no-brainer until a few days before the deadline. Speculation of Dallas moving the veteran goaltender with tons of playoff experience was running wild. His contract was expiring, so Dallas would need a young goalie to replace the grizzled vet. When they dealt for young goalie Kari Lehtonen, a Turco trade seemed imminent. Then it fell apart. Suddenly, back-up Alex Auld was waived and claimed by the Rangers, and the Stars’ goaltending situation become confusing. Turco was a commodity, but one that the Stars no longer wanted. Since teams like Philadelphia, Washington and Ottawa could have used the help, the trade potential was ripe. The trade likely never happened either because the asking price was too high or Dallas might have convinced Turco to re-sign at a diminished role as a mentor to the young Lehtonen. I rate this non-move as not terrible, if it was done for the right reasons. However, he still should have been dealt to Philly.

2) Ray Whitney: Once Ilya Kovalchuk was taken off the market before the Olympic break, you could practically hear Carolina licking its chops in anticipation for a heated bidding war for their prized forward. Though he’s a grizzled 37, Ray Whitney is still an offensive force with experience and leadership qualities as well as an ideal rental for a playoff contender. Think of how effective Bill Guerin was for the Penguins when they won the Cup – Whitney is that, but better. The fact that he is on the wrong side of 35 could mean that the terrible Hurricanes are trying to rebuild, and he was their the bargaining chip. Rumours of him going to Pittsburgh died once Alexei Ponikarovsky landed there, but the word was Boston was desperate for a scorer. The day passed, and Carolina dealt many players, but Whitney was still a Hurricane at 3 p.m. Even though they kept him, Carolina really had no reason to. Smart money would say that this was an issue where the asking price far exceeded what people wanted to offer. I’m thinking the asking price was along the lines of two early rounds and a top young player/prospect. In the cap age, that is a heck of a lot to give up for just one player. Verdict: Very bad move, he should have gone to Boston. Will they re-sign him? Perhaps, but with the other moves Carolina made, they are looking at a three or four year plan. Ray Whitney will be well into retirement before the fruits of that labour finally blossom.

3) Scott Niedermayer: If a contending team were to land Niedermayer at the deadline, their playoff chances would instantly jump. I know what you’re thinking, yes he wanted to stay in Anaheim, and yes, Anaheim wants to keep him, but the reality is that Anaheim isn’t doing too well and they’re slated to lose both Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. They’ll need to re-stock somewhere, and their best bet was to deal the guy who I thought might’ve been the best “available” player on TDD. The guy captained a Stanley Cup team, an Olympic gold-medal winning team and he still has game. He is a leader, a winner and he clearly knows how to perform when it counts. When I think of places for Niedermayer to go, the one obvious spot was Washington. If I was the general manager of Washington, I would’ve make a hard push to acquire Scott. With tradable guys like Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and even Tomas Fleischmann, the price seemed right for Anaheim. With the addition of Niedermayer and his abilities on the power play, the already strong Caps would become Stanley Cup favourites. So why didn’t this deal happen? I’m sure it was tossed around, but with both Anaheim and Niedermayer not yet ready to part ways, the price must have been astronomical. Once Washington acquired the cheaper Joe Corvo to do exactly what Niedermayer would’ve done, the chances of Niedermayer landing in Washington dropped to zero. But should Anaheim still have dealt him? I think so. Emotions aside, there were grounds for some good dealing. Keeping him seems like the proper thing to do, but it is hard to keep such a valuable asset on a mediocre team who will only get worse. Besides, hasn’t he already retired once?

4) Dan Hamhuis: This one was a surprise mainly because of all the hot rumours circulating that a deal was almost in place. Philly was in hard on this guy, and the deal just never surfaced. This alleged “done-deal” simply never got done.
5) Tomas Kaberle: Leafs GM Brian Burke has a knack for doing the unthinkable. First, he shocked everyone by adding Dion Phaneuf. Then he managed to ditch two huge salaries by trading away Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had managed to convince Kaberle to waive his no-trade-clause. Kaberle actually came very close to waiving it if Burke were to negotiate with three specific teams. Those teams remain a secret, but my feeling is that they were Washington, New Jersey or San Jose. Nothing happened, and the debate about the Toronto no-trade clause disaster rages on.
All in all, TDD 2010 was not the frenzy we hoped for. It may have been the largest ever TDD in terms of quantity, but it lacked some serious quality.

The hype that surrounded this year’s Olympic hockey tournament was huge, and I’m confident enough to say that it delivered. Upsets, close calls, Cinderella teams, and millions upon millions of people, both die-hard fans and curious on-lookers, drove this little hockey contest into the stratosphere. Can such a tremendous and titanic competition on the international scale be shot down by a guy in a suit who barely breaks five feet? It can, and it possibly will.

Gary Bettman isn’t a stupid man. As a man at the top rung of a business (yes, a business), Bettman has to look out for the well-being of his enterprise. Though you may see him and proclaim that Satan is a balding midget in a cheap suit, you have to give him credit. The lock-out was his answer to a bitter feud. Picture the lock-out as a vaccination for hepatitis. Sure, it hurts now, but it’ll save you from a prolonged, ugly degradation that will start with alienation, and end with a yucky, humiliating death. Dramatic, I know, but I’m trying to drive the point home. He did what he had to do, and the results down the line were good. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were like the lollipops at the end of the whole ordeal that makes it all seem like it was a great idea. All-in-all, it was the right move.

The problem now, however, is that Bettman is getting a little witch-doctor crazy. After the immensely positive reviews, reception and exposure of hockey at the Olympic games, Bettman is still toying with keeping the NHL out of it. This is about as dumb as buying sushi at a gas station. If Bettman decides that his league will not make arrangements or allow players to participate in the Olympics, he is damaging the league, the Olympics and the sport in its entirety. That’s a lot of power for a guy who buys his pants in the kids section of Sears.
Let’s face the known fact that the NHL is the world’s highest tier of hockey. Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and the Swedish Elite League have nothing on the NHL. Bettman is a prime promoter of this fact. He fires that same salvo every time there is any mention of the KHL being a threat to the NHL, yet the latter is on a completely different level. If you want some proof, look no further than the amount of NHL talent that made it to the Olympic rosters. Sure, teams like Germany and Norway didn’t have much, but that is why they all got smoked by the vastly superior power-house teams who were comprised of the pros in the NHL. Why oh why, then, would Bettman waste this grandiose spectacle to showcase a game he claims he is trying to promote and expand? It just doesn’t make any sense.

It seems as though Bettman is a guy who likes to take two baby steps forward, and one Olympic step back. He is trying to promote hockey, boost revenue and gain fans, yet he won’t relocate struggling teams to Canadian cities that are dying to house them. He is trying to expand the NHL by kicking off more and more regular seasons in European countries, yet when it comes to the ultimate international stage, he decides to bite his thumb and give the ol’ snub. Gary, you sick bastard, why must you torment us?
It’s not like the Olympics were a total bust, either. For Bettman, they unfolded like a dream. The best possible outcome occurred. The United States, the country that Bettman envisions the future of the NHL to be, and the land he is so desperately trying to conquer, was in the Olympic final with a perfect record. Canada, the hands-down favourite, the easy-money, the hockey cash-cow was their opponent. The rival KHL Russian team didn’t even make a medal round. How can it get any better? This is a ratings and publicity bonanza. A perfect storm of scenarios that all point to reasons why the NHL and the Olympics should be waking up next to each other.

How will this story likely end? Well, there are two possibilities. One is that Bettman stands pat, continues to be an idiot and declares the NHL and the Olympics to no longer be partners. Russians who want to play for their country in 2014, on home soil I might add, will sign new contracts accordingly, freeing themselves up to sign KHL contracts for the Olympic year. Players like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, all of whom will be under huge contracts, have already stated they will defy any rule that prohibits them from competing. There go the lollipops. The U.S. and Canada will lose their dominance and the Olympics will be littered with KHLers. The tournament will lose viewership due to the lack of star-power and it will also lose credibility due to the fact that the tournament is no longer the best of the best.
The other possibility? Gary Bettman gets his head out of his ass and realizes that pissing on the Olympic flame doesn’t make it go away, it just makes an awful stink.

The hype that surrounded this year’s Olympic hockey tournament was huge, and I’m confident enough to say that it delivered. Upsets, close calls, Cinderella teams, and millions upon millions of people, both die-hard fans and curious on-lookers, drove this little hockey contest into the stratosphere. Can such a tremendous and titanic competition on the international scale be shot down by a guy in a suit who barely breaks five feet? It can, and it possibly will.

Gary Bettman isn’t a stupid man. As a man at the top rung of a business (yes, a business), Bettman has to look out for the well-being of his enterprise. Though you may see him and proclaim that Satan is a balding midget in a cheap suit, you have to give him credit. The lock-out was his answer to a bitter feud. Picture the lock-out as a vaccination for hepatitis. Sure, it hurts now, but it’ll save you from a prolonged, ugly degradation that will start with alienation, and end with a yucky, humiliating death. Dramatic, I know, but I’m trying to drive the point home. He did what he had to do, and the results down the line were good. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were like the lollipops at the end of the whole ordeal that makes it all seem like it was a great idea. All-in-all, it was the right move.

The problem now, however, is that Bettman is getting a little witch-doctor crazy. After the immensely positive reviews, reception and exposure of hockey at the Olympic games, Bettman is still toying with keeping the NHL out of it. This is about as dumb as buying sushi at a gas station. If Bettman decides that his league will not make arrangements or allow players to participate in the Olympics, he is damaging the league, the Olympics and the sport in its entirety. That’s a lot of power for a guy who buys his pants in the kids section of Sears.
Let’s face the known fact that the NHL is the world’s highest tier of hockey. Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and the Swedish Elite League have nothing on the NHL. Bettman is a prime promoter of this fact. He fires that same salvo every time there is any mention of the KHL being a threat to the NHL, yet the latter is on a completely different level. If you want some proof, look no further than the amount of NHL talent that made it to the Olympic rosters. Sure, teams like Germany and Norway didn’t have much, but that is why they all got smoked by the vastly superior power-house teams who were comprised of the pros in the NHL. Why oh why, then, would Bettman waste this grandiose spectacle to showcase a game he claims he is trying to promote and expand? It just doesn’t make any sense.

It seems as though Bettman is a guy who likes to take two baby steps forward, and one Olympic step back. He is trying to promote hockey, boost revenue and gain fans, yet he won’t relocate struggling teams to Canadian cities that are dying to house them. He is trying to expand the NHL by kicking off more and more regular seasons in European countries, yet when it comes to the ultimate international stage, he decides to bite his thumb and give the ol’ snub. Gary, you sick bastard, why must you torment us?
It’s not like the Olympics were a total bust, either. For Bettman, they unfolded like a dream. The best possible outcome occurred. The United States, the country that Bettman envisions the future of the NHL to be, and the land he is so desperately trying to conquer, was in the Olympic final with a perfect record. Canada, the hands-down favourite, the easy-money, the hockey cash-cow was their opponent. The rival KHL Russian team didn’t even make a medal round. How can it get any better? This is a ratings and publicity bonanza. A perfect storm of scenarios that all point to reasons why the NHL and the Olympics should be waking up next to each other.

How will this story likely end? Well, there are two possibilities. One is that Bettman stands pat, continues to be an idiot and declares the NHL and the Olympics to no longer be partners. Russians who want to play for their country in 2014, on home soil I might add, will sign new contracts accordingly, freeing themselves up to sign KHL contracts for the Olympic year. Players like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, all of whom will be under huge contracts, have already stated they will defy any rule that prohibits them from competing. There go the lollipops. The U.S. and Canada will lose their dominance and the Olympics will be littered with KHLers. The tournament will lose viewership due to the lack of star-power and it will also lose credibility due to the fact that the tournament is no longer the best of the best.
The other possibility? Gary Bettman gets his head out of his ass and realizes that pissing on the Olympic flame doesn’t make it go away, it just makes an awful stink.