Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Baseball Preview (or Lack Thereof...)

Is it baseball season already?  It is, yet few would have known that even a week ago.  So, in an effort to get the MLB preview going, I will make one in haste, and say that it will be somewhat predictable, with either the Yankees or Red Sox (or both) making the playoffs.  World Series predictions?  (Homer alert) Rockies over the Red Sox 4-2 to avenge the 2007 meltdown.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Western Conference Champs!

It's always nice when your team wins a division title, but it's even better when the team wins the regular season title, and that's what the Vancouver Canucks did, as of last night.  Beating an always tough Nashville Predators team 3-1 gives the Canucks the conference title.  Next stop: playoffs and the bigger glory that comes with the ultimate reward at the end.  It's not quite playoff time, but can you smell it?  Just watch out for the mouse traps.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fallen Kings

The chances of the Los Angeles Kings making a significant run in the playoffs took a major hit on Saturday, and the video you're about to see speaks for itself.

Yes, the Kings' best player Anze Kopitar went down with what ended up being diagnosed as a broken ankle.  The scheduled healing time is six weeks, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for the Kings, as they jockey for position in the playoffs.  The tone in which the announcers spoke as Kopitar couldn't get up not only speaks about the potential disaster that the Kings could face come playoff time, but it suddenly has Kings fans crossing fingers and rubbing rabbit's feet that things will still be good.  As of right now, Kopitar is scheduled to be be back in mid-May, which would mean that the Kings would have to make Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals, at the very least.  Somehow, I just can't see it happening, which is a shame.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

It's here.  The Final Four has been set, and brackets everywhere are being shredded, baseball season is near (who knew?), and the hockey playoffs are only two weeks away.  The ol' Death Watch is up and running, and already, the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, and Colorado Avalanche have been claimed.  Also, it looks a lot like the Eastern Conference is practically set, as the difference between eighth and ninth place is five points, with those teams having seven games each.  The Western Conference sees seventh place (Anaheim) only four points ahead of the tenth place team (Dallas).  If I had to put money on who would claim the last spots, it would be Anaheim and Chicago, but nothing is set in stone right now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Milk Stout

The last beer is a milk stout from the Ska Brewing Company in Durango, CO.  Even with the milky taste, the name is merely a mask for what truthfully amounts to a rather ordinary beer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good News for the Avs...Finally

This year has been one that the Colorado Avalanche would like to forget.  Coming off of a playoff run last season, it was expected that the kids would take that next step forward.  Instead, it's been growing pains the likes that few other teams have ever, or ever will, experience.  It all began around the All-Star break, and it's been an avalanche (no pun intended) of problems ever since.  Even the most well-intentioned trades (read: Erik Johnson and Jay McClement for Chris Stewart and Brian Elliot for Craig Anderson) have beckfired horribly.  For all of that, it seems that something good has finally happened to the Avs, and the story can be found here.

Yes, the Avs have decided to give their face of the franchise a front office job.  Joe Sakic returns to the team as an executive advisor, meaning that he will have a say in the day-to-day hockey operations.  Having been around since the Quebec Nordiques days, Sakic knows the team's successes and failures, as he's been through it all.  Even if he isn't a locker room presence, he should at least, provide a moral boost to the team.  Even better would be if he can provide some guidance for the likes of Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, kids who haven't fully established themselves in the NHL.

Hop Czar

From the Bridgeport Brewery (notice a small trend?) comes the Hop Czar Imperial IPA.  Of all the beers I had last weekend, this was the one that didn't grab my attention, good or bad.  Sure, it was quite bitter, but it didn't do too much, either.  Disappointing, to say the least.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Dark Truth

From the Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City comes what is unquestionably the strongest stout that I have ever tasted.  The Dark Truth Stout is a part of the Boulevard's Smokestack series, and is not a chug-it-down beer.  Just taking a small sip of the beer brings out a lot of taste...and bitterness, so take your time consuming it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


From the folks at Bridgeport Brewery comes a beer that lives up to its name.  The ESB Ale (that's Extra Special Bitter) is certainly a bitter beer, yet also has something special that can't be described.  It's not the greatest of all that I had over the weekend, but it's worth having just once.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ad Astra Ale

The Free State Ad Astra Ale was the next beer on the list, and I have to say that I had low expectations for it.  It seems that anything that isn't either a stout or something from the Pacific Northwest is disappointing.  The Ad Astra Ale was actually very good, and reminded me of when the River Market Brewery was still around, with its own brewery.  While the Free State Brewery is based out of Lawrence, KS, if it was ever to branch out in Kansas City, I'd be happy to take it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cooke Monster

Remember when I declared Trevor Gillies Public Enemy Number 1 after his hit on Cal Clutterbuck the day he came off of his first suspension?  Hand over that hat and pass the salt because the real Public Enemy Number 1 has reclaimed his throne.  No, I'm not talking about Sean Avery, but rather, I'm talking about Matt Cooke.  Why is Cooke Public Enemy Number 1 again?  Here's Exhibit A:

This was from yesterday's game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers, and you will notice Cooke elbow Ryan McDonagh.  A far more egregious hit than the one Gillies put on Clutterbuck, the NHL acted fairly quick and suspended Cooke for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.  That's ten games plus the four minimum in the first round.  Does the punishment fit the crime?  I don't think so because Cooke has had a more extensive rap sheet than Gillies, which means the suspension itself is only marginally more than the one Gillies got for the Clutterbuck hit.  If I was the Penguins, I would take the suspension a step further and suspend him for the entire playoffs, and it's not for the hit itself, but rather the fact that it began a Rangers rally that went from a 1-1 tie to a 5-2 Rangers win.  Cooke didn't just try to intentionally injure someone, he also cost his team momentum and put them in a hole that they couldn't climb out of, and that's where I think the hit hurts worst.  If the Penguins are wise, they would sit him for the entire playoffs.  They're already in a hole without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, they don't need a self-inflicted headache to derail a potentially long playoff run.

Czech Brew

Ever since Heathen Crusade III and my first encounter with Czech brew, there seems to be some strange connection with me and beer from that country.  The B.B. Burgerbrau is another Czech beer that I tried and seemingly, it was the most disappointing of all that I had over the weekend.  The "original Czech lager," as it was being labeled was not too good.  Then again, it was against a couple of stouts, a couple of IPAs, and an Astral Ale, so the result was likely expected.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Canuck Week concludes with one of the more recent influential players in team history.  He had his number retired this season, and is currently the all-time leading point scorer in team history.  However, Markus Naslund was more than just a point scorer.  He was a leader, a mentor, and a Pearson Trophy winner in 2003.  It didn't seem to be destined that way when he was acquired from Pittsburgh in 1996, when he was considered a throw in for a deal that saw Alek Stojanov go to Pittsburgh.  Years later, it is considered one of the most lopsided deals in league history.  Naslund's career took off in 2000, when he was named captain of the Canucks.  While it wasn't met with much praise from the Vancouver faithful, Naslund would soon prove his worth in not only spearheading the West Coast Express (with linemates Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi), but also serve as a mentor to the Sedin twins, and the latter would serve all well, as Henrik would go on to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophies last season and be named captain this year, while Daniel aims to match Henrik with both an Art Ross and Hart Trophy of his own.

The current Canucks are closing in on the President's Trophy and are poised to make a long run in the playoffs.  It's funny to think that a piece of the groundwork for that run all began with one innocent trade in March of 1996.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Best at What He Does

The sharp wit of Chris Jericho returns with a second book in Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps.  The full title is a reference to the number of matches it took for him to become the first undisputed champion in WWE history, yet the road there isn't all gold, as Jericho writes.

The second autobiography picks up where the WWE debut in 1999 left off and covers a lot of ground between that point and his return to the WWE in 2007.  Just like his first book A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex, Jericho's wit and ability to make the reader laugh, cry, and anything else he commands is evident.  The book picks through things such as his early run in the WWE and struggling to find an identity, and the time away from WWE for a couple of years.  Jericho goes into great detail about some of the most important things in his life, such as being on the ice with his father for a celebrity hockey game, being undisputed champion and finding out that staying on top is much harder than getting there, and his tours with his band Fozzy.  Getting through parts of the book (i.e. Chris Benoit) was a difficult task, but you certainly get the idea that it was equally difficult for Jericho to talk about some of those same parts, and that's what separates him from most wrestling autobiographies: the ability to get the reader to see the events through his eyes.  A definite must read.


When one thinks of the bizarre Flying V jerseys of the 80's, one name seems to be linked to them: Stan Smyl. Known as "Steamer," Smyl was a third round pick of the Canucks in 1978.  A small player by NHL standards, Smyl would join the Canucks as they were breaking in the Flying V jerseys.  At 5'8", Smyl played larger than his size and was one of the hardest workers on the team, earning the respect of teammates and fans alike.  He would be named captain after the Canucks' 1982 Stanley Cup run and would be captain until 1990, when he relinquished it to a rotating trio of Trevor Linden, Doug Lidster, and Dan Quinn for the 1990-91 season, with Linden taking the C for himself the following year.  Smyl retired after the 1990-91 season, and would see his number 12 retired soon after.  Smyl was not just the face of a team for a few seasons, but also a jersey that is widely considered one of the strangest in pro sports, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mr. Vancouver

Ask any Canuck fan in Vancouver who they loved watching play and I can guarantee you that on many lists, the name Trevor Linden would appear.  No, he wasn't the gritty captain that Stan Smyl was, nor was he the super-talented goal scorer that Pavel Bure was, heck, he wasn't even the steady engine of offense that Markus Naslund was when the West Coast Express was all the rage in Vancouver.  What Linden was to Vancouver was a player who gave everything to the Vancouver fans and in return, was received like one of their own.

Drafted in the first round in 1988 by Vancouver, Linden's highest goal total was 33, which was accomplished three times in his career.  However, it wasn't the offensive numbers that gained him the respect of the Vancouver faithful, but his leadership abilities.  Named one of the captains in the 1990-91 season, he would eventually gain sole possession of the role a year later, a role he would have until Mark Messier joined the team in 1997.  That would also mark the beginning of the end of his first run as a Canuck and a struggle to make it through stops with the New York Islanders, Washington, and Montreal.  In 2001, he would rejoin the Canucks in a trade, and though his offensive peak was way behind him, the leadership qualities and the love of the fans were still there.  Linden also was instrumental in Markus Naslund's development as captain, furthering both players' legacies with the Canucks.  He would retire after the 2007-08 season, and soon after, his number 16 would be retired.  Linden wasn't the most gifted Canuck ever, but he gave an honest effort and was a great locker room presence for Naslund, who would in turn, help the Sedins become great players on and off the ice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The First Captain

While coming down from the insanity of St. Patrick's Day and the Canucks claiming their third straight Northwest Division title last night, it only seems fitting to pay homage to the first Canucks team, especially since this is the 40th year of the team's existence in the NHL.  So, who gets the nod?  Why, the first captain of the Canucks, of course.  His name?  Orland Kurtenbach.  A veteran who joined the Canucks in the expansion draft in 1970, he had spent time with Boston, Toronto, and the New York Rangers, as well as playing for the Canucks when they were in the WHL.  Though Kurtenbach didn't add much to the score sheet, his leadership helped guide the Canucks through their growing pains that many expansion teams face.  He would play with the Canucks in the NHL for the first four seasons before retiring.  His impact on the team was recognized this year, as he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.  He also participated in the team's home opener pre-game ceremonies this year to celebrate 40 years in the NHL, which included a passing of the captain's C to Henrik Sedin.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Russian Rocket

Ask me who my favorite Canuck of all time is, and I would tell you that Pavel Bure is my favorite of all time.  In the 90's, no Canuck electrified the Vancouver faithful like the Russian Rocket.  Sure, the Canucks of the 90's had the likes of Kirk McLean, Gino Odjick, and Trevor Linden, but the one player who truly put Vancouver on the map was Bure.  He had joined the Canucks for the 1991-92 season, and immediately showed his goal scoring prowess and speed, hence the nickname.  That year, he would go on to win the Calder Trophy, and for the next two years, he would post back to back 60 goal seasons.  The 1993-94 season would see the Canucks make the Stanley Cup Finals, with Bure playing a significant role in the team getting past the Flames in the first round.  Though the Canucks fell one game short of the Stanley Cup, Bure looked like he was going to be the next breakout superstar.  However, a knee injury in the 1995-96 season would sideline him for most of the season, and would be the first of three knee injuries that would eventually force him into retirement.  A falling out with upper management marred his time in Vancouver and would eventually force his trade to Florida, where he scored back to back 50 goal seasons.  He would finish his career as a New York Ranger and would serve as general manager of the Russian National Team in the 2006 Olympic Games.  While he hasn't been inducted into the Hall of Fame (to this point) and while it is unknown where he stands with the Canucks faithful today, his offensive numbers when he was healthy, as well as his speed, are as much a part of Canucks history as anything that defines the team.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The One

Mention the 1994 Canucks team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals and tell me what comes to mind?  Is it Pavel Bure and his combination of speed and goal scoring ability?  How about Trevor Linden and gutting it out to play Game 7 of the Finals versus the Rangers?  What of Greg Adams and the goal that sent the Canucks to the Finals?  All of those are good answers, but none of that would be seen on the national stage if not for a save by Kirk McLean in the first round versus the Flames.  That save in the overtime of Game 7 sparked the team to its best run since 1982, and was the highlight of what was a solid career for McLean in a Canucks uniform.  Traded to the Canucks from New Jersey along with another playoff hero in Adams, McLean would go on to not only be the goalie of note in the Stanley Cup run, but also hold the team record for games played, wins, and shutouts (the last has since been surpassed by Roberto Luongo), as well as playoff records in those same three categories.  This year, he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor, where he shares that distinction alongside Orland Kurtenbach, Thomas Gradin, and Harold Snepsts.

And here is that save (Flames fans may want to look away):

Monday, March 14, 2011


Since the writing ideas have been coming slow for me in the weeks leading up to the playoff run, and why wouldn't it with the Canucks all but wrapping up a top three spot, in an effort to generate ideas and to show some Canuck love, this week will be dedicated to the seven most influential Canucks in team history.  When I do specific players is in no way, an indication of how much of an influence they have on me or the team.

Today's Canuck is actually being honored tonight in the Canucks game versus the Minnesota Wild with a spot in the team's Ring of Honor.  Harold Snepsts wasn't a superstar on the blue line, but the combination of passion and intensity were what got the Canucks fans in the 70's and 80's behind him, not to mention, a mustache that could rival any porn star's.  His willingness to stand up for teammates earned him the "Haaaarold" chants in opposing arenas, as well as the Pacific Coliseum, where the Canucks called home.  He had two stints with Vancouver, but in each one, his style of play earned admirers and tonight, it all comes full circle as he joins Orland Kurtenbach, Kirk McLean, and Thomas Gradin in the team's Ring of Honor.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Richard Martin 1951-2011

Sad news for Buffalo Sabres fans, as one third of the French Connection line in the 1970's died this morning.  Richard Martin passed away after suffering a heart attack while driving at the age of 59.  Martin joined the Sabres in 1971, when he was drafted in the first round.  He would be a part of the Sabres' French Connection when Martin was on a line with Gilbert Perreault (the first draft pick in Sabres' history) and Rene Robert (acquired in the middle of the 1971-72 season) and together, the trio would post impressive offensive numbers, and while Perreault got most of the press, Robert and Martin each contributed their fair share.  How important was the trio to Sabres history?  In 1995, Martin and Robert's jerseys were retired together with Perreault's, even though Perreault had his number retired five years earlier.  In the last two weeks, the trio were reunited in an effort by new Sabres owner Terry Pegula to involve the Sabres alumni more into the team's activites.  Martin's life came to an end too soon, but his legacy lives on, both with the Sabres and the NHL.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What to Do About Zdeno?

As many who have watched hockey on Tuesday night know already, there was a hit by Boston's Zdeno Chara on Montreal's Max Pacioretty.  I won't put a link to the hit, since even that turned my stomach after seeing it...and you know it's serious when I show my limits.  Chara was given a penalty and ejected for the hit, which left Pacioretty unconscious for a few minutes and with a concussion and broken vertebrae (according to a source close to the Canadiens).  However, Chara was not given any additional suspension or fine for the hit, as it wasn't deemed an intent to injure.  Looking at the hit itself, it clearly looks worse in slow motion, but if I was in charge, I would at the very least, give Chara a couple of games off, intent or not.  I say this because it did leave a player injured and there is a need to at the very least, keep the rulings consistent as far as injuries go.  Do I understand why the NHL hasn't gone further with the punishment?  Yes.  They also looked at Chara's track record, which until that point, was rather clean.  Clearly, the hit was an unfortunate incident, but there does have to be some other form of punishment for Chara.  I'm not saying rest of the season or anything too severe, just a game or two.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Týr Interview from August 2008

In an effort to archive interviews from former publications, I will repost them in their entirety (or as much as I can, and likely without much re-editing) here, and give some background on the interview.  Today, it is the Týr interview with Heri Joensen from August 2008 that was posted originally on Living For Metal.  

Metal music has a funny of finding people from around the world.  Take Týr for instance; they are from one of the most unlikely places to find metal bands in the Faroe Islands.  Granted, they are a territory of Denmark, but few people probably knew the islands existed until Týr came along.  As for the band itself, they don’t need much of an introduction, as albums such as Eric the Red and Ragnarok do the talking for them.  If you still haven’t heard the band yet, the new album Land should be worth picking up.  If you have heard of the band, then you probably caught them on the Pagan Fest USA tour that occured during the spring.  Heri Joensen took the time to talk to Living For Metal about all things Týr, from the new album to some historical bits related to the band and the music.

Peter Santellan: What is the meaning behind the band name and how does it fit with the band’s sound?

Heri Joensen: The band name was inspired by the Old Norse god Týr, who was the bravest of the gods. Another thing that lead us onto that name in particular, and our logo in fact, was the Black Sabbath album of the same name. I'm not sure how that fits with our sound, though. I suppose many people expect something a bit more extreme before they hear us, but I don't think that has anything to do with the meaning behind our band name. I think it's maybe more the fact that other Viking and Pagan Metal bands play a more extreme form of metal. I'm not sure that I can answer the last part of your question. When people have heard our music and seen our logo, and heard the story about it, they connect the two, and maybe it will seem to fit with the sound no matter what.

PS: When the band started, what were some of the things you wanted to accomplish and do you think you’re coming along in achieving such goals?

HJ: I wanted to represent Norse Mythology and the Faeroese and Scandinavian folk traditions dating back to the Vikings, and in doing that, I simply wanted to become a professional musician. It looks as though my dream came true.

PS: How did the deal with Napalm Records come about and how are the relations to this point?

HJ: Napalm Records heard of us through a Booking Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. We are very satisfied with the cooperation between Napalm Records and our band.

PS: Recently, the new album Land came out.  While not as conceptual as Ragnarok, the songs still cover subjects near and dear to the band.  To touch on that idea, I will mention a few songs and you may explain what each one means.  First, Gandkvædi Tróndar and how the poet J.H.O. Djurhuus influenced the band, if any.

HJ: Gandkvæði Tróndar is a very heathen poem. Being a great adversary of Christianity, it warms my heart to see that there was opposition in Viking times, with Tróndur í Gøtu, as well as in modern litterature, as when J.H.O. Djurhuus, my lyrical idol, writes about Tróndur; and I feel that torch has been passed on to me, and I intend to carry it on.

PS: How about Ocean?

HJ: Ocean is a song about the Viking expansion westwards in the 800's, about what could have made them undertake the journey in the first place and what thoughts might have gone through the heads of those people, what hardship they might have been facing and what choices they had.

PS: The inclusion of the last track Hail to the Hammer is a bit of a surprise, since it originally appeared on How Far to Asgaard and has also appeared on the re-issue of Eric the Red.  Is this a gateway for new fans to listen to some of the older material or is there any other reason?

HJ: All the older versions that we have of Hail To The Hammer feature the old singer, Pól Arni Holm, and the recordings are not top quality either. Since this song has become so popular, it's practically our signature song by now, we thought it wouldn't make it worse to have a good recording of that song, so we re-recorded it.

PS: Recently, Týr had completed the Pagan Fest tour in the United States.  Obviously, this was the band’s first tour in North America.  How did you feel and are there any potential plans to come back in the future?

HJ: There are specific, but undisclosed, plans to return early next year, yes.

PS: Any other plans for tours in support of Land?

HJ: Yes, we are currently on a festival tour all over Europe, and in October, we will set out on a headlining tour all over Europe, together with Hollenthon, Svartsot and Alestorm.

PS: Are there any words of wisdom for the fans?


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wrestle Talk

I haven't talked about pro wrestling in a while, and because I feel that the hockey talk isn't coming as natural to me right now, I figure to sneak this little part in, so if you don't want to read about pro wrestling, do not read this piece.  (waits a minute) Still here?  Okay, here we go.

I'll get to WWE and its nostalgia run in a bit, but first, Total Nonstop Action "Wrestling."  Note that I refuse to use the acronym and that I also put the word wrestling in quotes.  Heck, you could do the same with the latter for WWE, but that's not the big issue there.  In case you haven't figured it out, that is my biggest complaint about the Total Nonstop product.  Too much talk and the people doing the talking: people who stopped being relevant around, oh, about five years ago, perhaps longer.  The long running complaint about that wrestling company is that it doesn't put over young talent.  The real complaint that should be used is that it doesn't put over its homegrown talent, you know, the ones that have been with the company for a long time.  Looking at the company's most recent champions, they have been WWE cast offs.  The same can be said for those with the most air time: those who don't need the spotlight.

The WWE lead in to Wrestlemania has been a nostalgia laden one, as stars from the last decade or so have been filing onto the company's programming.  Though I think it is overkill, I think it's good for WWE to at least, make Wrestlemania mean something again.  Let's face it, the last two Wrestlemanias were quite lackluster and were void of anything large, except for the amount of boredom that it produced.  However, for all of the attempts to make the biggest show of all relevant, they haven't really made the WWE title mean something again.  Even with trying to make its champion relevant, he's still a secondary thought to the casual wrestling fan.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Superstars and Fighting

I wasn't going to debate this topic, but there has been a ground swell of people giving their takes on the Taylor Hall fight that caused a high ankle sprain that ended his season.  To give a recap of what happened, in a Thursday game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hall got into a fight with the Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett.  In the fight, he fell awkwardly, causing the injury.  Looking at the fight itself, one has to wonder why Hall would take on someone who has 133 PIM.  Granted, it's not Jared Boll, the Jackets' primary enforcer, but anytime someone has a high PIM like Dorsett does, it should be a warning sign that you should leave that fight to someone whose primary job is to stick up for teammates.  Hall, by no means, should be considered a soft player, but he should pick his battles instead of going head first into them.  In time, he will learn this, but for now, he will have the rest of the season to think about it.  He's not going to be Gordie Howe or Jarome Iginla, players who are big enough to handle their own problems, but he shouldn't be too gun shy, either.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Playoff Race Horses

One of these days, there won't be any drama as to who makes the NHL playoffs.  One of these days isn't happening this year, though, especially the Western Conference, where only three points separate the fifth seed from the eleventh seed.  The fourth seed isn't exactly safe, either, as it's only two points ahead of the fifth seed.  I'd handicap all of the teams in this race, but my head is still recovering from the trade deadline, and I'm still picking up the brain bits that exploded all over the room.  One thing's for sure, there's no rest for the wicked.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Don't Look Now, But...

The Toronto Maple Leafs are making their move towards the playoffs.  In the past, this would have been the time where I badmouth the Leafs for incompetency.  Not this year, though.  So, why the sudden change in heart?  Let's begin with last year on that fateful day of January 31.  The Leafs unloaded onto the Calgary Flames Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, and Niklas Hagman and got in return Fredrik Sjostrom, Dion Phaneuf, and Keith Aulie.  Even before the offseason, people were already proclaiming the Leafs winners, and it was easy to see why.  Now, only Stajan and Hagman are still with the Flames, and neither one is prominently figuring into the team's recent push for the playoffs.  Meanwhile, while the Leafs haven't gotten what they wanted out of Phaneuf, who had missed some games due to injury, he is still a central figure in the team's long terms plans, as is Aulie, who was called up recently in the wake of the Francois Beauchemin trade last month.

Other trades that have given the Maple Leafs hope include the Tomas Kaberle trade to Boston and the aforementioned Beauchemin trade.  Also, the emergence of James Reimer in goal has boosted the team considerably, though there is caution to be taken, as it could end up like Felix Potvin, who you will remember as the goalie who backstopped Toronto to consecutive Conference Finals in 1993 and 1994 before a precipitous drop in production a couple of years later.  Phil Kessel is playing like Phil Kessel, but the real surprise is the breakthrough seasons of Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.  The former looks like a 30 goal scorer who could easily hit 40 with a better team while the latter has been clutch this season, with at least three (from what I see) game-winning goals.  Leafs fans should be excited about this team, now and in the future, especially if they can get a productive player for their second or third line.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Yesterday was the trade deadline, and I think it's safe to say that there were some winners and losers in the push to get better.  So, for the sake of argument, I will pick three winners and three losers from the trade period and give an explanation as to why they are where they are.


Los Angeles Kings:  Criticized for not going bold last year, the Kings did a lot better than Fredrik Modin this year, going after Dustin Penner.  The price may be steep, giving up prospect Colton Teubert, a first round pick in 2011, and a third round pick in 2012, but the Kings could afford to give up Teubert, since they are stocked on the blue line.  Penner offers scoring on the wings, and if he plays to his size, a legitimate power forward.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite being in the playoff race, they were sellers in this market.  Why are the Leafs winners?  Well, they didn't go for the temptation of sacrificing the future for a playoff spot this year.  Gone are Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kaberle, and Francois Beauchemin, but the Leafs now have draft picks that they could potentially flip for prospects or players in the offseason.  Being in the playoff chase is just one more sign that the Leafs are going in the right direction.

Washington Capitals:  One of their biggest needs was a second line center, and they got that in Jason Arnott.  He provides a presence on the second line and offers leadership qualities that should help the locker room.  Acquiring Dennis Wideman from Florida was a bonus, since the Caps didn't give up any significant pieces to get him, as was getting Marco Sturm off of waivers.


Nashville Predators: A team that perpetually needs offensive help didn't get any in this trade period outside of Mike Fisher.  Now, the Preds will have to rely on their defense to carry the day, which will be a tall task, given that most of the teams competing for the last playoffs spots did something to improve themselves.

Colorado Avalanche: You have to feel sorry for this team, with all of its good intentions in trading Craig Anderson, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Stewart for Brian Elliot, Erik Johnson, and Jay McClement, only to have those deals backfire in the immediate future.  Maybe it works for them in the long term, but for right now, they are just treading water at this point.

Chicago Blackhawks: Yes, they acquired blue line help in Chris Campolli, but was it really necessary for them to sign Brent Seabrook to a five-year extension? For all of the problems that the Blackhawks have with the salary cap, they did not need to make this deal.  Now, they will pay for it even more in the offseason.