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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Brightening Up for Hollywood

The NHL All-Star weekend in Los Angeles is right around the corner, and with the announcement of the full rosters for each division, as well as what the teams will wear, it's time to examine each aspect.

Beginning with the uniforms, the idea that each division will get their own color scheme for the game was a major step up from last year, when there were just two uniform sets. Each uniform set is representative of the host Los Angeles Kings' color schemes over the years, with gold, purple, silver, and black all being represented. The stars around the waist mark the NHL Centennial, as there are ten around while the numbering takes its cues from the NHL All-Star logo for this year's event, as the design within the numbers mirrors that of the logo while the lettering resembles the famous HOLLYWOOD facade. Like last year's event, the NHL logo on the front has reflective elements. Where things do become a bit of a problem is the assigned uniforms, as the Atlantic will have the gold, the Metropolitan will have the white, the Central will have the purple, and the Pacific will have the black. The Central/Pacific matchup will especially be a potential issue, as it is purple and black, though the shoulders are different enough to possibly offset the problem.

As for rosters, the idea of every team having an all-star player will once again be at the firing line, as at least four teams truthfully didn't deserve to have a player representing them. Detroit (Frans Nielsen), Colorado (Nathan MacKinnon), Carolina (Justin Faulk), and Arizona (Mike Smith) would be fair game for this rule. As for those who should have been there and who should not have, one could make the case for Mark Schiefele being there, replacing Jonathan Toews in the Central. You could also make a case for Henrik Lundqvist being there, but it would be impossible to kick either Braden Holtby or Sergei Bobrovsky off. While Smith was a rather questionable pick, seeing as Oliver Ekman-Larsson would have been a better pick if they were going with a Coyote, presuming that Ekman-Larsson would have kicked Cam Fowler off, a case could be made for either Peter Budaj or Cam Talbot, with smart money being on Budaj, especially since he started in the AHL this season, but has kept the Kings within striking distance of a playoff spot in the absence of Jonathan Quick. It would have worked twice as much if there was a John Scott-like angle to be found.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Round and Round We Go

The waiver wire resembled a merry go round yesterday, as two former major junior stars were picked up by other teams through waivers, and in one case, it marked the third time he went on the waiver merry go round.

Ty Rattie and Reid Boucher had storied careers in major junior, with Rattie setting the all-time record for most playoff goals in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, Originally a second round pick of the St. Louis Blues, he was unable to crack the Blues lineup largely because of the depth in front of him, and his time in the Blues' system came to an end when the Carolina Hurricanes claimed him off waivers yesterday. Boucher was a 2011 fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils who scored 62 goals in his final year with the Sarnia Sting. Like Rattie, he was unable to crack the lineup of the Devils. However, Boucher was also unable to rediscover that scoring touch, something that the Devils have been in need of since Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise last played for the Devils. Earlier in the season, Boucher was claimed on waivers by the Nashville Predators. However, his stay there didn't last long, as a month later, he was reclaimed by the Devils a day after the Predators sent him down. Of course, the Devils tried to send him down a day later, only for Vancouver to claim him off waivers.

The waiver wire has proven to be a place of considerable activity, albeit a strange one, as Jaroslav Halak was also placed on waivers a few weeks ago, only for no one to claim him and he has since played for Bridgeport of the AHL.