Thursday, March 16, 2017

Becoming Kansas City

The logo you see above is what will be used starting next ECHL season. The Missouri Mavericks announced last week that they will be playing as the Kansas City Mavericks effective next season. While the Mavericks in fact play in the city of Independence, MO, it is considered a part of the Kansas City area, and with their affiliation with the St. Louis Blues playing a role in their success this season, it makes sense on a civic level to change the name. While the Mavericks are also tied to the New York Islanders, with the Jacksonville IceMen and Worcester Railers HC coming in next season, it is possible that they could be losing the Islanders to either team. With three other NHL teams still without an ECHL affiliate, it could mean that the Isles could stay in Kansas City for their ECHL affiliate.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Waiting Game

The NHL Trade deadline, much like its free-agency period cousin, is largely a waiting game that sees some teams that need to make moves wait it out, sometimes too long. With the trade deadline two days away, the dominoes are falling rather slowly, but there are a couple of major ones that fell yesterday and many more that have yet to fall, with the possibility of them not falling at all.

Let's look at the two that did fall, as the Tampa Bay Lightning traded impending free agent Ben Bishop to Los Angeles for Peter Budaj, Erik Cernak, and a swap of draft picks. For Los Angeles, they can ease a recently returning Jonathan Quick back into the starting role with Bishop providing more than capable goaltending and possibly providing a two-headed monster in goal as they push for the playoffs. Budaj will be backing up Andrei Vasilevsky, who proved to be ready for the starting role while Bishop had his own injury issues. Budaj can also step in as needed, as he proved this season while Quick was out with injury. The Lightning also get a defensive prospect in Cernak, as well as some cap space that could be used to re-sign Jonathan Drouin or another of their own players that are set for free-agency after the season.

Later in the day, the Minnesota Wild once again rolled the dice on a mid-season acquisition, as they picked up Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, as well as a fourth round pick this year, from Arizona. A lower end prospect (Grayson Downing), a first round pick this year, next year's second round pick, and a conditional pick in 2019 go the other way. Given that Hanzal is a free agent after this season, this is a gamble, but this year's draft isn't particularly deep, and the Wild are suddenly strong down the middle, as Hanzal joins Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu as their centers. White provides an agitating presence for a team that can use it. The Coyotes get more draft picks, and given that they need a lot of things, it works here, especially since their arena issues remain unsolved at this point in time.

As for the moves yet to be made, there are at least two teams that haven't made trades that probably should, and both are sellers. First, the Colorado Avalanche. They are clearly not going anywhere anytime soon, and there hasn't been much in the way of talk for any of their players, with Jarome Iginla and Matt Duchene being the primary targets. Gabriel Landeskog is a dark horse option, at this point, but until they do something, that rebuild isn't going anywhere and they will be stuck in the basement. The other team that needs to make a move? The Vancouver Canucks. While they aren't out of it yet, they do need to figure out a contingency plan soon, as they aren't getting any younger, and it appears that Jake Virtanen is playing his way out of top young player status, if he hasn't already. Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows appear to be likely targets, but it is possible that Ryan Miller would be given a look at, given that Jacob Markstrom has proven that he can handle the starting duties at the very least until Thatcher Demko is ready for full-time NHL duty.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Groundhog Day, Part Deux

In what can only be described as a remake of Groundhog Day, the Montreal Canadiens have relieved Michel Therrien of the head coaching duties heading into their five-day bye. They have replaced him with Claude Julien. No, this isn't the 2003, when this same move happened the first time. Yes, this is happening again. In what has become an annual swoon for the Canadiens under Therrien's watch, this season finally was the straw that broke the camel's back, and now, the Canadiens are going with another former head coach with the organization. This time, though, Julien brings with him a Stanley Cup from the rival Boston Bruins of 2011.

What can Julien bring this time around? Given that the Bruins were annually mismatched in terms of their lineup the last few seasons, it was a minor miracle that Julien could at worst, get the Bruins within a point or two of a playoff spot at the end of the season. For the Canadiens, the task he'll be given is to get the Canadiens to play with the same determination that his former Bruins squads played with under his watch.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Watched This Game: Live from Nashville

Today's big news centers around the Boston Bruins and their firing of Claude Julien as head coach. However, rather than concentrate on the impending dumpster fire that the Bruins are becoming, I will take a small trip back to the Thursday night tilt between the Edmonton Oilers and the Nashville Predators. Yes, I watched this game...a couple rows behind the visitors' penalty box.

  • The seats, as pricey as they are, provide a superb view of the action and the people at the games are nice with some developing traditions that are similar to a footy match.
  • Other than the second period, there was no scoring, and both goals were provided by the home team. Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen scored for the Preds and Pekka Rinne was on his game tonight in goal en route to the shutout win.
  • A fight broke out between Patrick Maroon and Cody McLeod, with McLeod eventually getting the better of the fight. That trade, however small it may look, has had a sizable impact on the team, and the win ignited the team moving forward in the game.
Overall, the game went well for the home fans, and the experience at Bridgestone Arena was really good. I would go back to another Preds game if given the chance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Sooner, the Better?

The St. Louis Blues haven't been setting the world on fire lately, and now, they teeter on the brink of the playoff picture. Their contingency plan that was to begin next season will be taking place a few months early, as Ken Hitchcock was relieved of his duties this morning after suffering yet another defeat at home, a 5-3 loss to Winnipeg, to be specific. Mike Yeo was brought on as an assistant coach prior to this season and was tabbed as Hitchcock's eventual successor beginning next season. Next season evidently becomes February 1, as Yeo will be charged with righting a ship that had high expectations, yet has fallen a little short thus far. Ironically, Yeo's former team, the Minnesota Wild, leads the Central Division.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Guy Like Me

It had been a long, strange year for John Howard Scott, who was suddenly thrusted into the spotlight around this time last year, when he was voted into the NHL All-Star game by fans, only to be traded a few days later and the subsequent chain of  events that followed that would ultimately see him be in the All-Star Game that year and win the game's MVP honors. His autobiography, A Guy Like Me, written with the help of Brian Cazeneuve, tells of a big kid at heart who simply wanted to enjoy the game he loved.

From his early days to his struggle with being the tall guy in pee-wee hockey, he tells of a guy who truly is like any other person, right down to their struggles. His time at Michigan Tech, which had obstacles both on the ice (the team was never any good while he was there) and off the ice (he served time for DWI), is documented, as well as how his relationship with his now-wife evolved from the awkward beginnings to where it is now, are covered. Also included is his relationship with former teammate Derek Boogaard and how he had wished he could have done more, coaches who he loved playing for, and of course, the drama leading up to his All-Star turn. Scott may be retired now, as he announced it a couple months ago, but the mark he left on the game, however small it may be ultimately, won't soon be forgotten.

One of things that makes A Guy Like Me a great read is that everything you read is truly from the heart of Scott. Despite never being comfortable in the spotlight, the reader always got the sense that no matter the situation, he manages to get through, and throughout the book, he gives thanks to his wife. Another positive of the book is that he offers a side of some of hockey's more notorious villains (that does depend on which team or teams you root for) that most fans never get to see, and while he doesn't completely throw a few people under the bus, he does address a few of those critics in a respectful manner. The book may not be as detailed as some would like, but it is one of the most honest autobiographies one will read.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Axe Falls

The New York Islanders became the second team this season to change head coaches, as Jack Capuano was the latest casualty after the Isles were unable to build upon their first playoff series win last season. A miserable special teams was largely seen as the culprit of the team's troubles and ultimately, Capuano's undoing. However, it may have been his time to go, as seemingly, he's reached the ceiling of his coaching capabilities.

Having been the Isles' head coach since the 2010-11 season, when he took over a month into the season, he led the team to playoff berths in three of the five full seasons in which he was coach, as well as a playoff series win last season, their first since 1993. However, the Isles teams were largely overshadowed on a regular basis by the likes of Washington, Pittsburgh, and the New York Rangers. The ever-constant goalie carousel, which currently sits with Thomas Greiss and J.F. Berube as the goalies, also figured into his legacy. Even with John Tavares, finding consistent offense was a constant challenge, though he did routinely hit paydirt with quite possibly the best fourth line in the league until this season. Doug Weight takes over on an interim basis.