Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conference Semi-finals, Here We Come!

Same as last round, I will write about the matchups, who to look for, and of course, pick the winner.

Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks

The good news for the Canucks is that the most difficult part of the road to the playoffs is over.  The bad news is that the next opponents are equally difficult.  All eyes will be on Roberto Luongo and whether he can be the Bobby Lu from games 1 and 7 or if he reverts to the Bobby Lu of games 4 and 5.  All talk about Nashville begins and ends with Shea Weber, but the real star of the series against Anaheim was Jordin Tootoo.  He showed some offensive skill to go along with his ability to fight.

Prediction: Canucks in six

San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has revenge from last year's elimination at the hand of the Sharks in mind.  Jimmy Howard will need to bring his A game if the Wings hope to get over the hump.  For the Sharks, Joe Thornton is still needing to prove that he can come up big when it counts the most.  The game-winner against Los Angeles in game 6 is a good start.

Prediction: Red Wings in seven

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals

Washington had a cakewalk against the Rangers in round one.  Tampa Bay came back from a 3-1 hole to beat Pittsburgh.  Tampa Bay will ride the Dwayne Roloson train for as long as they can.  With a shaky blue line, he has come up big when it counts the most.  Michal Neuvirth will need to be seize control in goal for Washington to have a chance of advancing.

Prediction: Capitals in five

Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Boston survived the series against Montreal.  The Flyers survived Buffalo and their own shaky goaltending situation.  Boston's offense needs to come up big, and it begins with David Krejci.  Remember, when Krejci went down in last year's series against the Flyers, so did the Bruins.  Brian Boucher will have to be better than he was in the Buffalo series.

Prediction: Bruins in six

Football Talk

In the year and two months that I have written this blog, it seems that the one sport that I haven't ever talked about is American football.  It's something of an anomaly, since I talk about pro wrestling once in a while on here, and even bring up the subject of world football from time to time.  Well, I am going to fix that, and being that tonight is the first round of the circus that is the NFL Draft, I figure to try something a little different: some actual live blogging of the events tonight.  So, watch this space, if you care...

The following will be updated as they happen.  The team, the pick, and a one sentence thought about the pick will be the norm here.

The NFL Draft

*Kansas City and Baltimore switched picks

1. Carolina-Cam Newton, QB Auburn
The sexy pick with a lot of risk, but a lot of reward.

2. Denver-Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
Will help a horrible Denver defense.

3. Buffalo-Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
Will plug the middle of the defensive line for a porous Buffalo defense.

4. Cincinnati-A.J. Green, WR Georgia
Will help whoever is QB as a deep threat and great hands.

5. Arizona-Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
Best player in the draft, he will provide Arizona with two good corners along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

6. Cleveland (traded to Atlanta)-Julio Jones, WR Alabama
Should be good opposite Roddy White, and will be another weapon on a Falcons offense that already has Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and White.

7. San Francisco-Aldon Smith, DE Missouri
A major reach, the Niners could have traded down and still got him.

8. Tennessee-Jake Locker, QB Washington
Not as high of a ceiling as Blaine Gabbert, but ran a pro style offense and played well despite subpar team.

9. Dallas-Tyron Smith, OT USC
Dallas needed offensive line help, and Smith should help.

10. Washington (traded to Jacksonville)-Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
Jacksonville has their QB of the future and doesn't have to rush him into the starter's role.

11. Houston-J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin
Houston needed a cornerback, but good depth has Houston picking the best player available and a potential bookend with Mario Williams.

12. Minnesota-Christian Ponder, QB Florida St.
Major reach, but given the uncertainty of the free agency season beginning, the Vikings had to make this choice, and they don't have many other glaring needs.

13. Detroit-Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Needed offensive line help, but Fairley could be a steal here, and playing next to N'Damukong Suh is an added bonus.

14. St. Louis-Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
Pass rusher, will add to the edge and was the best player at this spot, despite not playing last year due to NCAA discipline.

15. Miami-Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida
Miami needed help running the ball, and Pouncey will open holes for whoever is in the backfield.

16. Jacksonville (traded to Washington)-Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB Purdue
Needed offensive help, but Kerrigan is a high effort player who will take pressure away from Brian Orakpo in the 3-4 as a linebacker.

17. New England-Nate Solder, OT Colorado
Needed a running back, but Solder will be opening holes for whoever runs the ball and will be allowed to develop behind veteran group.

18. San Diego-Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
Will fill a major need in the middle of the defensive line for the Chargers.

19. NY Giants-Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Surprised he fell this far, the Giants went with the best player at this point, but could have picked an offensive lineman.

20. Tampa Bay-Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
Fills a need on the defensive line and figures to be a major player alongside Gerald McCoy.

21. Kansas City (traded to Cleveland)-Phil Taylor, DT Baylor
On a team that needed help in a lot of places, Taylor could be a central figure on the defensive line.

22. Indianapolis-Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
Offensive line was a mess, and Castonzo figures to be a solution to that problem.

23. Philadelphia-Danny Watkins, G Baylor
Philadelphia needed offensive line help, and Watkins provides just that.

24. New Orleans-Cameron Jordan, DE California
Needed a running back, but the Saints go for a defensive end who was the best available here and won't be rushed into a starting role.

25. Seattle-James Carpenter-G/T Alabama
A reach pick, since there were better options here, but given Seattle's O-line troubles, he could pan out as a guard.

*26. Baltimore-Jimmy Smith, DB Colorado
Baltimore needed secondary help on an otherwise great defense, and Smith will help here.

*27. Atlanta (Traded to Kansas City via Cleveland)-Jon Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh
With O-line depth in the draft, the Chiefs decided to address this need later in favor of a receiver who provides a big target.

28. New England (traded to New Orleans)-Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
Saints get their running back by trading up.

29. Chicago-Gabe Carimi-OT Wisconsin
An ever-revolving door on the offensive line should be eased with Carimi on board.

30. NY Jets-Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple
The Jets need a guy to plug the middle of the D-line, and they get just that with Wilkerson.

31. Pittsburgh-Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio St.
Needed secondary help big time, but the D-line isn't getting any younger, and not enough young talent to fill those voids.

32. Green Bay-Derrick Sherrod, OT Mississippi St.
Despite high-powered offense, the O-line is still a glaring hole, and Sherrod will provide youth on a team needing it at that position.

Flying Through Again


Another year, another playoff appearance: that's the story of the Detroit Red Wings.  Leading the way once again is Nicklas Lidstrom.  The Norris Trophy finalist was the team's second leading point getter behind only Henrik Zetterberg, and played all 82 games of the season.  Obviously, he didn't get the memo that 40 year olds aren't supposed to be playing at this high of a level.  Then again, Teemu Selanne is 40, so perhaps 40 really is the new 30.  Jimmy Howard struggled for a part of the season, yet found his game late in the season.  He's still the goalie of the future (and present), but more consistency is needed if the Wings hope to do more than just make the playoffs every year.  Jakub Kindl was supposed to be more than just a warm body on the blue line.  However, his numbers were somewhat negligible, but given the Red Wings' depth, it's conceivable that Kindl will be an NHL regular in time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Remembering the 2010-11 Blackhawks

Last night, in a hotly contested game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks, the mighty Chicago Blackhawks fell from their Stanley Cup high of last year.  Let us not remember them for bungling the salary cap in the offseason that followed their Stanley Cup year, but remember them for rising to the occasion in spite of such a problem, one that just might creep up again this coming offseason.  Antii Niemi?  He's doing well in San Jose, but Corey Crawford stepped in and did an admirable job.  Dustin Byfuglien?  The Blackhawks could have used his big ass to block the opposing goaltender's vision, but his character remained in Dave Bolland.  Andrew Ladd?  No definitive replacement, but if the unknown kids that surfaced in the playoffs are what I think they are, then the Blackhawks are well off.  Brent Sopel?  Shot blocking defenseman is still a need, but few teams ever have that option.  Ben Eager?  An antagonizing player is also a need, but the Blackhawks can survive without one if needed.

Who knows what the future will hold for the Blackhawks this offseason, but if their seven game series against Vancouver this year is any indication, they'll be a pain in the ass no matter the odds.

Stars Not Aligned


What began as an overachieving season for the Dallas Stars ended up being a season that, well, most people thought it would be, and now Marc Crawford is out as head coach, despite being in the playoff chase until the last day of the regular season.  You can't blame Brad Richards, since he did exactly what a superstar player is supposed to do: be the offensive leader in most categories.  The question of the offseason: will he remain in Dallas or is he heading elsewhere?  Kari Lehtonen did his part for the Stars, finally managing a healthy season and in the process, finding some level of consistency.  Not since the 2006-07 has Lehtonen been anywhere near his best, and now he looks like the future in net for the Stars, if the talent in the pipeline doesn't outshine him.  James Neal provided some offensive firepower, but struggled in his last few games before being traded to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski.  Neal has been fairly good for Pittsburgh, and though it was a pain for the Stars to trade him, they did shore up their blue line with Goligoski, who will figure into the team's plans as they continue to fix their defensive woes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blue Days in Columbus


Another year, another early round of golf for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Seemingly every year, the Blue Jackets are unable to make any noise in the playoff race.  The perpetual need for a first line center hasn't hindered Rick Nash's ability to score, but it sure would be a nice thing to have, particularly since there is no second option on offense.  Year in and year out, it's been Nash and a bunch of question marks.  Two years ago, Steve Mason looked like the answer in goal.  Now, it seems like he could be destined for backup duty after another subpar year.  Speaking of disappointments, Nikita Filatov was supposed to stick on the Blue Jackets squad this year.  Instead, he spent most of the season in the minors and now, Blue Jackets fans are wondering if he is just another in a long line of first round busts.  And on the subject of busts, there's this:

A jersey so horrible that the schedule for when the team would be wearing them was taken down after a couple of weeks from when it was first introduced and just might be scrapped after this post-season.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Falling Down


This was supposed to be the year that the youth movement of the Colorado Avalanche was supposed to hit a snag.  However, it wasn't supposed to be a "trip over a rock and fall off the cliff" kind of snag.  Finishing only ahead of the Edmonton Oilers in the conference standings was not what the Avs were expecting.  Craig Anderson got hurt early in the season and was ineffective when he came back.  He was traded to Ottawa, where he played fairly well.  The guy he was traded for?  Brian Elliot, which only began the trend of looking really bad in trades for the Avalanche.  Paul Stastny was on the hot seat this year for underperforming, but early in the season, he looked like the Paul Stastny of old.  His numbers fell off just like everyone else's though, when Matt Duchene got hurt.  Brandon Yip was supposed to be a 25 goal scorer this year, but only managed 12 goals, a big step back for him.  That other trade that backfired badly?  Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart went to St. Louis, where both put up good numbers while Erik Johnson has still yet to live up to first pick overall status and Jay McClement is a third liner, at best.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Before the Scalp


The effects of the salary cap purge last offseason almost caused the Chicago Blackhawks to miss the playoffs this year.  They should send a fruit basket and thank you note to Minnesota for saving their playoff lives.  Of course, it wouldn't matter if Jonathan Toews didn't put the team on his back in the stretch run.  There is a reason why he is the captain of the team, and he showed it once again this season.  Marty Turco had all eyes on him as to whether he could be the man in goal.  Instead, it became Corey Crawford's time, and Crawford looks like a decent solution for a Blackhawks team that thought Antii Niemi was going to be the answer last year.  Niklas Hjalmarsson doesn't get the headlines that Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook get, but he's still an important part of the Blackhawks blue line.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

World War Z

From the author who brought you The Zombie Survival Guide comes a collection of stories from the Great Zombie War some time in the future.  Max Brooks writes a great account of the "war" in World War Z. In the future, the zombie epidemic reaches dangerously high levels to the point of the human race almost being wiped out.  The unnamed interviewer in the novel goes across the world to interview different people who have experienced the Great Zombie War and each interviewee offers their own story.  Each story is unique and offers a different perspective of how each country handled the epidemic.  If you're familiar with Studs Terkel's The Good War, this is where World War Z gets a good amount of inspiration to the point of Brooks being labeled "this generation's Studs Terkel" on the back cover of the book.  Since it involves zombies, you can also see a George A. Romero influence, as Brooks slips in some social commentary to the effect that the reader will be aware of it and not be distracted from the overall story.

Zombie parodies in books is reaching out of control levels, but for those who only seek the best, World War Z should be one of the first books to pick up.

Monday, April 18, 2011

R.I.P. Thrashers Third Jersey

Some good news for the hockey eyes of the world: the Atlanta Thrashers have officially shelved their third jerseys.  Though it was rumored to be on the chopping block a few months back, today is the day when those rumors are true.  The news was first broken by Blueland Blog, and has since been confirmed by Birdwatchers Anonymous and Ice Ethics.  Although I would have liked to have seen the Thrashers give their current home jerseys the Ol' Yeller treatment, I cannot say that it was the wrong decision to shelve the third jerseys.  By itself, the jerseys weren't quite the eyesores that the home jerseys were, but the front of the jerseys hardly scream out "hockey team."  When you're ripping off ideas from quite possibly the most boring jerseys in the league (Dallas Stars, I'm looking at you), then you have no hope of succeeding with that jersey.  Throw in the socks, as modeled by Dustin Byfuglien in the picture above, and this was a trainwreck that mercifully, has been put to bed.  The Thrashers will not go with a third jersey next season, so Thrashers fans will only have to deal with one eyesore instead of two.

Almost a Tropical Storm


The Carolina Hurricanes did just about everything right in an overachieving season except beat Tampa Bay on the last day of their season.  With that win, they would have been facing the Washington Capitals instead of the New York Rangers.  Seemingly every year, it's always about whether Carolina can put it all together.  Cam Ward certainly did his part, despite a blue line that was overmatched most nights.  So did Eric Staal, who actually got help, but not from Anton Babchuk, who was traded early in the season to Calgary.  Instead, it was rookie Jeff Skinner, who stepped from the stage in the 2010 Draft to be Carolina's most marketable player right now.  Carolina has enough offense to make a push next year, but they clearly need a makeover on the blue line.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board


This season was practically a tale of two seasons for the Calgary Flames, who were destined for a lottery pick at the time of GM Darryl Sutter's resignation.  When Jay Feaster took over in the interim, it seemed that the Flames were making their charge to the playoffs.  Unfortunately, the charge fell short, and the Flames are home again for the playoffs.

Jarome Iginla compiled 86 points, which are a norm for him, and on many nights, he was the only true option on offense.  One of those who was supposed to be an offensive option was Olli Jokinen.  54 points is a few more than his 50 from last season, but the Flames were expecting more from him.  Another Flames castoff that returned, Alex Tanguay, put up better numbers than him.  Ian White was traded twice, once to Carolina, where his impact was negligible, and then to San Jose, where he became an integral part of the Sharks blue line.

Goaltending is not a problem as long as Miika Kiprusoff is on his game, and like the rest of the Flames early in the season, that wasn't often.  So, it was no coincidence that Kiprusoff's game resulted in the Flames' game being raised, as well.  The major key will be finding a backup capable of 15-20 games, as Henrik Karlsson didn't do too much.  Offensively, a second option would be a great help for Iginla, particularly the center position.  The blue line should be better than it is, but when the best player is Mark Giordano, that speaks of the underachieving aspect of Jay Bouwmeester.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Charging Hard into the Playoffs


Buffalo's charge into the playoffs can be largely attributed to Ryan Miller.  While it isn't exactly a stretch to say Miller was important to Buffalo's chances of making the playoffs, it was a matter of getting hot late in the season that saw them go from out of the playoffs a couple of months ago to a seventh seed at the end of the season.  Early on, it looked like the sophmore jinx would claim Tyler Myers, as he struggled to find his game. Late in the season, just like all of the other Sabres, Myers found his game and got back to even on the +/- rating.  Tyler Ennis was expected to be the breakthrough player, and he did not disappoint.  49 points for the diminutive Ennis is a decent showing for a team that seems to need offense every year.

Buffalo needed all of its stretch run to make the playoffs this year, and it's a good thing that momentum counts for a lot, since Buffalo is the trendy pick to pull off an upset in the first round this year.  However, just like every other year, Buffalo will go as Ryan Miller goes, only now, Miller has to get them past the first round this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Motivated by Revenge


Last year's choke job only served to anger the Boston Bruins for this season, and when you consider that Tuukka Rask lost his starting job to a lights out Tim Thomas, you know Boston wants to make amends.  Rask was supposed to be the number one goaltender this year, but took a step back.  It wasn't much, but when Thomas did his impersonation of late-90's Dominik Hasek, he was on the end of the bench for a good part of the season.  Zdeno Chara was expected to bounce back from an injury plagued 2009-10 season, and certainly, he did that, posting 14-30-44 and that translated into an All-Star appearance this year.  Everyone had high expectations for Tyler Seguin this year.  Everyone except the Bruins, that is.  A third line player for most of the season, the Bruins did everything to keep Seguin from trying to do too much.  I predicted 50 points for him this year, and he produced less than half of that (22).  Still, Seguin will be a great player as long as he learns from the veterans on the team.

No team had more to prove this season than Boston, and they played like it.  Thomas will almost certainly win the Vezina Trophy, and Milan Lucic and David Krejci put up their best numbers since their respective rookie years.  Nathan Horton contributed 26 goals, which is his norm.  Anything short of a Stanley Cup this year is unacceptable for Boston, and that is the price you pay for raising expectations, even after a grand failure.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kansas City Thrashers?


The Atlanta Thrashsers' season began with a major bang, and ended with a whimper.  Nik Antropov was supposed to be the big point producer on the team, but fell way short of expectations to the point of being in coach Craig Ramsey's doghouse.  On the other end of the spectrum, Dustin Byfuglien came in with a lot of hype and a transition to the blue line.  For a while, he really was the best player on the Thrashers team before teammate Tobias Enstrom (his defensive pairing mate) got hurt mid-season.  Byfuglien figures to benefit from Enstrom's presence again next season.  Bryan Little was supposed to return to 30-goal territory; he ended up with 18 goals.  Respectable, but hardly the numbers expected of him, though 30 assists isn't a shabby number.  He will, however, have to step up his game next season.

Offense for the Thrashers was a major problem, which was to be expected when Ilya Kocalchuk was traded last season.  The blue line outside of Byfuglien and Enstrom needs a major defensive presence, something that mid-season acquisition Mark Stuart could fill.  Chris Mason was a bust as a goalie, losing out to Ondrej Pavalec.  Pavalec's season started with a health scare, but ended with some rather respectable numbers.  He still needs to find consistency, but he would also benefit from a better defense.  This season could in fact, be the last for the Thrashers in Atlanta, as rumors of the team's move gain ground, particularly in the wake of finishing 27th in attendance.  As I said before, and I will keep saying it, Kansas City would be happy to have the Thrashers here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Last of the Nordiques

In the midst of everything playoffs and self-analysis, I completely overlooked a bit of news that is fairly significant.  Sunday was the last game for Adam Foote, who spent much of his career in the Quebec/Colorado organization.  While having nowhere near the name recognition of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, or even Milan Hejduk, Foote was a rock on the Avalanche blue line during much of his career.  He could occasionally drop the gloves, and provided leadership later in his career.  Just as important is the fact that he is the last player on the old Nordiques team of 1995 (the last year they were in Quebec) to have been left in the NHL, though there are a few ex-Nords in other leagues.  Foote was a warrior whose contributions allowed for the skill players to focus on their strengths.

Playoff Time!

Since the NHL playoffs being tomorrow, now figures to be the time to do an analysis of each series and to pick a winner in each one.  Let's go.


New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
No team was better in the second half than the Capitals, who overtook the Lightning in the last month of the season to win the division.  However, Mike Green must show up in the playoffs this year or it could be Bruce Boudreau who takes the fall for the Caps' failures.  The Rangers almost didn't make the playoffs thanks to their stinker against Atlanta in their next to last game of the season.  However, they won their last game and got help from the Lightning.  The Rangers need a healthy Marian Gaborik, since their best player (not named Henrik Lundqvist) Ryan Callahan is out for the playoffs.
Prediction: Capitals in five

Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia's goaltending is in disarray right now.  Sound familiar?  The difference here could very well be Chris Pronger, if he's healthy.  He's a big game player who plays a lot of important minutes on the blue line.  Buffalo rode a hot streak to make the playoffs when as of February, it seemed impossible.  Ryan Miller is the reason why, and given the Sabres' struggles to find consistent offense, Miller just might have to be that guy again.
Prediction: Flyers in seven

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
The hatred is back, and this series looks like it will be one to watch.  If you've followed the two teams' matchups this season, then you know about fight night in Boston back in February, or the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, so neither team is lacking for motivation.  Carey Price and Tim Thomas will have to step up big for either team to advance.
Prediction: Boston in six

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay fell off during the stretch, going from a potential top three seed to a fifth seed.  Pittsburgh fell off primarily due to injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  It will be interesting to see how Steven Stamkos does in his first playoffs.  Crosby is also worth watching, if only to see if he can be the Crosby of old or if the concussions have taken away from his game.
Prediction: Lightning in seven


Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks
Chicago has owned the Canucks the last two postseasons, but things have changed dramatically since last season.  Dustin Byfuglien is in Atlanta, and no one is sure who will be that big body in front of the crease.  Not having the likes of Andrew Ladd also hurts because he could be counted on to provide secondary scoring.  Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg have to step up if Chicago hopes to have any chance of defending their championship.  Despite injuires, Vancouver hasn't been slowed down by it.  All eyes are on Roberto Luongo to see if he can finally take that step forward.  Vancouver will miss Manny Malhotra, but they are too balanced to be taken down by the Blackhawks this year.
Prediction: Canucks in six

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
Any hopes for the Kings to make a deep run in the playoffs are practically gone with Anze Kopitar out for the playoffs.  Dustin Penner has to be the guy on offense if Los Angeles even hopes for advancement.  San Jose is a number two seed despite down years from Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley.  Guess what?  Those two still have to step up in the playoffs because any failures on the Sharks' part will have fans pointing the fingers at those two.
Prediction: Sharks in four

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Rematch from last season's first round, Phoenix is a defense first team who will struggle on offense.  However, having Ilya Bryzgalov in net makes everything work.  Keith Yandle was the leading point producer in the regular season, and he will be counted upon to do the same in the postseason.  Detroit has everything except goaltending.  Jimmy Howard was rather inconsistent in the regular season, and it remains to be seen if he can be the guy in net in the postseason.
Prediction: Red Wings in seven

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators
Quite possibly the most boring matchup in the playoffs, if only because the Nashville Predators are in it.  All kidding aside, this looks like an MMA fight with many holds being exchanged, with the Ducks relying on its suddenly hot offense against the stout as usual defense of the Predators.  Interesting for the Ducks will be seeing how the likes of Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa handle the playoff pressures on the blue line.  The Predators need offense, and Patric Hornqvist must be that guy to do it.
Prediction: Ducks in six

Monday, April 11, 2011

Staying Afloat

In an effort to see where I stand as a predictor of things, I will take a look back at what I wrote about each team before the season, and what really happened.  Since I have the summer to think about everything that happened, the playoff teams will have some editing to do.


Ryan Getzlaf was my player that drove the team.  As captain, he certainly did that, but he was overshadowed by Jonas Hiller and Corey Perry.  Okay, hands up, who thought Perry was hitting 50 goals this year?  Put your hand down, liar.  Brendan Mikkleson was my player that needed to step up.  However, he was claimed by Calgary on waivers and had little to no impact there.  Luca Sbisa was my player primed for a breakthrough, but he was overtaken by fellow rookie Cam Fowler.  Sbisa is still the future, but he won't be alone in carrying the blue line in the future.  Lubomir Visnovsky may be getting older, but he had his best offensive season yet.  Anaheim answered its blue line problems this year, and it only figures to get better in the coming seasons.  Its front line looks solid, if top heavy, and its goaltending will always keep them in the playoff race, provided Hiller stays healthy.

As far as where I thought they would be, they finished fourth when I said they would finish 11th.  Certainly, the breakthrough year Perry had was not accounted for, and neither was Cam Fowler's emergence straight from the draft.  Teemu Selanne was, well, Teemu Selanne, which is remarkable for a 40 year old.

Playoff Time!

Last night, the playoffs were decided on the last game of the season, as the Minnesota Wild eliminated the Dallas Stars from playoff contention.  That result gave the Chicago Blackhawks the eighth playoff spot despite failing to clinch earlier in the day due to a loss against Detroit.  Before getting to the heart of the matter (meaning predictions and analysis of each playoff battle), I will give myself a grade for each of the previews from earlier in the season.  Both will be in separate pieces, since I want to give each one its own time.  For now, here are the matchups for round one of the playoffs:


New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks
Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vomit on a Stick

If you were to ask me which NHL team makes the worst choices when it comes to jerseys, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you it's the Atlanta Thrashers.  Sure, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars are close, but in their respective histories, they have had some really good designs (more on those as I get to those teams).  Atlanta, it just simply hasn't happened since their inception in 1999.  Yes, their inaugural jerseys were actually not that bad looking, but the dark jerseys had quite possibly the worst logo idea for the front of their jersey.  It's actually the shoulder patch in a perfect world, but it was inexplicably made the primary logo for the dark jerseys.  Sadly, it's not the worst idea for a jersey...

Yes, the sky blue vomit that the Thrashers call a jersey made their debut in the 2003-04 season, and were made the home jerseys in the 2006-07 season.  Why this jersey is still in existence is beyond me, even with the Reebok Edge design (which is marginally better, though it doesn't even change my opinion).  The things that made the road whites unique were changed with the Reebok design, making it worse.  And then there's the third jersey, which on paper, isn't so bad, but in practice, it just doesn't do anything for the imagination.  Here's a question, do you know anyone who owns a home or alternate Thrashers jersey?  No?  Didn't think so.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

*Cue the Sad News Music

The regular season ends this week, and these two things I know to be true as of today: the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be making the playoffs...again, and the Calgary Flames are all but done as far as making the playoffs go.  The Maple Leafs not making the playoffs isn't exactly news, but what is news is that this season was quite possibly the best that the Leafs have had since the lockout.  They were eliminated earlier in the week when the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres just simply wouldn't lose.  If there is a silver lining in all of this, the Leafs look ready to be contenders for years to come.  Now, a lot of that will depend on whether James Reimer is the next Johnny Bower or the next Vesa Toskala.  The surest sign that Toronto is on their way up: despite being in striking range for a playoff spot at the trade deadline, they stuck to their plan of gaining assets to build toward the future instead of mortgaging it in favor of a possible one and done this year.

Yesterday's scoreboard watching for the Flames was particularly painful, as the two teams that had to lose, the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, just simply refused to cooperate.  It's not official, but it might as well be, as the Flames only have one game left and all Chicago or Anaheim have to do in their remaining games is to reach overtime once.  The Flames will be entering the postseason golfing with many questions to answer, which includes the future of the GM position.  They would be wise to add to their farm systems because it's in dire need of fresh blood.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Swoop Effect

Just so I don't put a set time limit on what I do as far comparing each of the team's pre-RBK Edge designs to their current designs, I won't be doing the "30 in 30" deal, since there are other things to get to that need attention, like the NHL playoffs, which are coming soon.  Having said that, let's start with the first team.

When the RBK Edge jerseys were introduced, the Anaheim Ducks were a year removed from losing the "mighty" in their name.  The design of their original jerseys since being just the Ducks is quite similar to the current set of jerseys with the exceptions being the collar and the adjusting the swoop designs to fit within the confines of the RBK jerseys.  A third jersey was introduced this year, which had the webbed D as the primary logo and more orange in its jersey.  Ultimately, I would like for the Ducks to adopt the webbed D as its primary logo and the wordy "DUCKS" logo that is there now to be on the alternate jersey.  I've never been a fan of the collar that the Ducks (or any other team that uses it) use in general, as it just looks out of place.  Not horrible looking, but not too great, either.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scott Columbus R.I.P.

Some sad news in the metal music world, as Scott Columbus, one time drummer for Manowar, has passed away at the age of 54.  The cause of his death has not been confirmed as of press time, but this post will be updated once the details come out.  As for Columbus, regardless of how you feel about Manowar, and there are certainly strong opinions on either side of the fence, Columbus was in one of the more influential bands in metal music.  Though he wasn't in the spotlight like Eric Adams or Joey DiMaio, Columbus did offer his own contributions to the band that proved to be on par with the other members of Manowar.  Columbus leaves behind a legacy that to this day, continues to hail and kill.

NHL Uniforms

When trying to come up with ideas on which looks on the ice are horrible, one of my favorite sites to go is NHL Uniforms.  It has the most comprehensive databases for each team, past and present, and goes into detail as to what each team wore during specific time periods, as well as offer a season by season look of what each team wore that season, from the jerseys, to the socks and breezers, even the patches worn for that season, be it for being host to an All-Star Game or marking an anniversary for being around for so many years.  It's useful for those who wish to customize a jersey to a specific season and would like to know how to replicate that particular year perfectly.

It is this website that I will be using in assessing each of the current teams' usage of the Reebok Edge design that was introduced in 2007.  A few years have passed, and I think the time is right to see how it's worked for all of the teams so far.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mandi Schwartz

It's never easy to deal with death, and certainly, cancer makes it even tougher to deal with it.  Yesterday, cancer claimed yet another person, as Yale hockey player Mandi Schwartz succumbed to the the disease.  However, let us not remember her for the way she died, but the way she lived and the legacy that she leaves behind.  A hockey player on the women's team with Yale, her story inspired Mandi's Heroes, which organized a day of prayer for Mandi in January.  The school also organized The Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registry Drive, which will be a part of the nationwide Get in the Game, Save a Life campaign for the Be the Match registry, and it will be held on April 21.  Schwartz wasn't the only hockey player in her family, as her brothers Jaden and Rylan played for Colorado College, and Jaden was a first round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2010.  If you would like to help with the Be the Match campaign, click here for more info.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Winnipeg Gets a Retraction

As you could tell from yesterday's piece, I decided to have a little fun with the Winnipeg Jets returning to the NHL rumors that always seem to be floating around.  Now, for why I picked on the Florida Panthers, in case there's all of their 10 or 15 fans ready to write complaint letters to me (I kid about the numbers).  The decade since they've made the playoffs is fact.  That one is something that anyone who follows the NHL to a fair degree knows.  As for attendance figures, they're 22nd as of this writing.  That the team has ranked no higher than 19th since the lockout in attendance figures, which was in fact, the year after the lockout of 2004-05, speaks to the team's inability to field even one playoff run.  Not helping matters is that the Panthers have to compete with the Miami nightlife for people.  Naturally, this kind of thing runs through all of the Miami pro sports, so it's not necessarily an isolated problem.  However, the Panthers don't even have a superstar player to hang their advertising strategy on.  In a sense, what I'm trying to say here is that Florida isn't worse than the Coyotes, but trying to fight for attention in a city where there's so much to do made it an opportunity for me to think about pulling off the jokes.  And if there are any people in Miami who read yesterday's piece, I'd like to apologize for that, and don't take it too personal.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Winnipeg Gets the Jets Back

In a shocking development this morning, according to sources, the Florida Panthers have officially announced that they would be moving to Winnipeg at the end of this season and will be called the Winnipeg Jets.  Since 1996, Winnipeg has been without an NHL team and even though the team has been trying to find funds for a new arena, it was the Panthers' inability to draw a respectable house combined with the team's inability to even make the playoffs in the past decade that forced NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's hand.  Who exactly will own the ex-Panthers/soon-to-be Winnipeg Jets team is unclear, but hockey fans across Canada are rejoicing at the news.  Fans in Miami were unavailable for comment, as they were too busy working on their tans or recovering from their hangovers from the night before.