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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Watched This Game: The Great Midwest Outdoors

Another Winter Classic is in the books, and while the surrounding hype wasn't quite matched by the game itself, it is fair to say that the city of St. Louis did well in paying attention to detail when it came to putting on a show. Yes, I watched this game.

  • It looks more like the Outdoor Fog Bowl.
  • Also, due to sound being off (thankfully), there will be no commentary on in-between entertainment.
  • The national anthem was performed on trumpet by Spencer Ludwig, which was not only done well, but also a tribute to St. Louis' musical history.
  • Pet Peeve #1: For those at home, the last line of "Star Spangled Banner" is "Home of the BRAVE," not home of the BLUES or CHIEFS.
  • The ceremonial puck drop was done by the Hulls, Bobby and Brett. It took them a minute to get the pucks, since someone forgot to supply them with one heading to the ice. I think this may have been planned, given the propensity of both Hulls to put on a show in their playing days.
  • That didn't take long, as Michal Kempny's shot from the blue line deflects off of Jake Allen's glove and into the net to put the Blackhawks up 1-0.
  • Pet Peeve #2: the ref cam. Was that really necessary?
  • The Walking Penis Pierre McGuire is interviewing Ken Hitchcock, and for some reason, Hitchcock appears to be auditioning for role in the remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Alex Pietrangelo will feel shame for two minutes, as he got nicked for slashing.
  • Brian Campbell tried to delay the game, but only gets two minutes in the box for his troubles.
  • After one period, it's Blackhawks 1, Bules 0. No, that's not a typo, I'm just taking another shot at the Seattle Sounders supporters, as they once misspelled "blue" as "bule" on one of their banners.

  • Back to the actual hockey action, Panarin will be sitting two minutes and feel shame for holding.
  • The Blues don't score on the power play, but they do tie it up, thanks to a Jay Bouwmeester pass from the corner that Patrik Berglund tips past Corey Crawford.
  • Robby Fabbri boarded, so he will be sitting for two minutes.
  • Shortly after Chicago kills off the penalty, Ryan Hartman goes off for interference, and despite it carrying over into the third period, the game remains even at one once the penalty ends.
  • Hartman didn't last long out of the box, as this time, slashing is how he gets nicked. Meanwhile, Niklas Hjalmarsson was seen limping off the ice. Fortunately, he didn't miss a shift and was just fine.
  • Ryan Reaves heads off for interference.
  • A Vladimir Tarasenko pass finds a bank shot off of Niklas Hjalmarsson's stick, which ends up in the back of the Chicago net to put the Blues up 2-1.
  • Tarasenko strikes again. This time, he didn't need luck to score this time, putting the Blues up 3-1.
  • What would life had been like for the Ottawa Senators had they kept their first round pick from 2010? The pick they surrendered? It went to the Blues, who took Tarasenko that year.
  • Alex Steen puts a ribbon on the game with an empty net goal, and that is how the 2017 Winter Classic ends: Blues winning 4-1.
The conditions for the game weren't perfect, but the Blues found ways to go around it to send their fans home happy. The wisest move the Blues made was extending Tarasenko, as he is definitely their best goal scoring option. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

I Watched (and Listened to) This Game: Happy 100th

Photo credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
With the calendar year turning to 2017, that means the NHL, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs turn 100, both having been established in 1917. So, what does one do to celebrate this occasion? Hand the Leafs their very own outdoor game and against an Original 6 rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Yes, I watched, and as you will read on, later listened to, this game known as the Centennial Classic.


  • 30 minute delay as the teams wait out a sun glare issue.
  • Ceremonies before the game push the actual start time back to around 2:50 PM CST. The first 28 of the top 100 players were announced, with that group being represented by their family members. Five more were announced, and they made their way out on their own.
  • Because of the channel flipping, I only caught the end of "O Canada," and it sounded a little rushed.
  • Nothing really doing in the first period, as both teams were rather tentative, although Nazem Kadri drove to the net on one play and drew a penalty on Brendan Smith.
  • No score after one. Also, no comment on intermission entertainment, having learned from the debacles of the Winter Classics past.
  • Switching over to radio, and the I Listened to This Game portion, 
  • Detroit actually had the better chances late in the first period, and they continued their momentum, drawing a penalty on William Nylander for holding the stick.
  • They don't score on the power play, but Anthony Mantha puts the team on the board. If Detroit were wise, they'd give him top six forward minutes, as he's a goal scorer and Detroit needs scoring badly.
  • Connor Brown goes off for hooking, and the Leafs are down a man again. Again, the Wings don't capitalize.
  • Nick Jensen (no, not the Vancouver Canucks draft bust) gets too grabby, and is sent off. However, the Leafs' power play is abruptly halted, as they are caught with too many men on the ice, and Mitch Marner takes one for the team.
  • In between the calls, Jake Gardiner nearly ties it up, but gets gonged by the post. Detroit heads into the final frame with a 1-0 lead.
  • The beginning of the third period sees Uncle Leo Komarov head to the net and tip in a shot to tie things up and that also wakes up a Toronto crowd that was last seen awake during the baseball playoffs.
  • We get a fight, as Steve Ott and Matt Martin have a disagreement and drop gloves. Decision goes to Martin.
  • Marner puts the Leafs ahead after carrying the puck from the corner to roof one past Jared Coreau. Those Patrick Kane comparisons aren't off.
  • It's raining goals, as Connor Brown doubles the Leafs lead, and a short time later, Auston Matthews makes it 4-1.
  • Detroit answers back, as Jonathan Ericksson cuts the lead down to two. A JVR mistake leads to a Dylan Larkin goal that puts the Wings back within one.
  • A furious finish sees Mantha tie up the game with 1.1 second left, though there was a wait, as the play was under review.
  • Free hockey, as overtime commences and both teams trade chances, but fail to score.
  • Before the shootout could happen, Matthews comes through to score the game winner for Toronto. He was on the wrong end of overtime matches in both his debut and the first game against fellow 2016 draftee Patrik Laine, but this may very well be to him what the Winter Classic in Buffalo was to Sidney Crosby.
The game got off to an excruciatingly slow start, but from the third period on, it was one of the more exciting tilts of the season. The Leafs need to figure out how not to blow three goal leads in the third period, and that will come with experience, but there is much to like here with the roster as constituted. As for the Wings, they have a lot of work to do, as the only guy who stood out was Mantha, who needs to be a top six forward. Remember, he was drafted to be a goal scorer, and the Wings would be wise to put him in a spot that best suits his skill set. That means letting him learn on the job in the NHL, as he's been more than ready this season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Home Improvement

This is PNC Arena, home to the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season, the arena was also home to the worst drawing NHL crowd, as they drew just over 12,000 people on average, a full thousand less than the next worst team in the Arizona Coyotes. On Monday, it was also home to a postponed game that wiped out the Hurricanes' match-up with the Detroit Red Wings. The reason? According to NHL.com, the following was discovered:

The Hurricanes discovered a broken seal on the main compressor that runs the ice chiller at 6 p.m. ET, resulting in the ice temperature rising from the game-time standard of 21 degrees to about 30 degrees, president Don Waddell said. They initially postponed warmups by 30 minutes to fix the seal, which was leaking Freon, but the temperature did not drop quickly enough to allow the game to be played.
In case you're asking the last home game prior to Monday, it was two days prior, when the Hurricanes beat the Sabres in a shootout. As for the problems of the ice, this is something that the people who maintain the arena should have been on top of, seeing as the Hurricanes are the only pro sports tenant in the arena.  On any level of hockey, this is poor in terms of teams not doing due diligence to ensure that both teams are playing on a surface that is safe enough, but given that this was an NHL team who failed here, it not only shows a lack of preparation on their part, as well as the arena maintenance crew, but also puts those who traveled into Raleigh from other places out of money and possibly a chance to root on their team.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Take it Outdoors

Now, that all of the teams participating in the outdoor games have their uniforms sorted out, it would be fair to assess each one, beginning with the Centennial Classic.

The designs you see for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings are what they will be wearing for the Centennial Classic at BMO Field, home to both Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts. The Maple Leafs went with elements of their past incarnations for their uniform design. The stripe that runs through the middle was previously on the Pats sweaters while the Arenas' T will be found on the breezers. Meanwhile, the Red Wings kept it rather simple, with only a silver stripe on the arms that also features the years they won the Stanley Cup. Though Toronto has the better sweater design, both teams earn high marks for going in different directions when it comes to the collar.

Up next is the Winter Classic match between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks slated for January 2 at Busch Stadium. Of the teams participating in the outdoor games, the Blues have the best looking sweaters, edging out Toronto for that distinction. It's as close to a throwback as it gets, as much of the design was inspired by the team's first years in the NHL. If the Blues' design was the best, then the Blackhawks would be on the opposite spectrum. Clearly, playing in as many outdoor games as they have has shown that the idea well has run dry for them. If there was ever a case for limiting how many outdoor games you can play in a specific time period, you can point to the Blackhawks for that.

Last up is the Stadium Series, and the participants in that matchup are the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins unveiled their look a few weeks ago, and certainly, going gold was a wise decision, as was the idea of having the triangle encircle the captaincy or alternate designation. The patch on the left is a nod to the team's four Stanley Cups, and the side numbers are on the shoulders. The sweater loses points for the numbering, though, as it rips off the World Cup North American team template.

A few days ago, the Flyers unveiled their design, and going black on their sweaters isn't the worst idea, but having black numbers and lettering is a bad idea, even with the orange nameplate and white outlining on the numbers. The Flyers would have been better served with white numbering and lettering.