Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Canucks' Goal Problems

No, those problems aren't causing the Vancouver Canucks problems for anything other than what to do with Roberto Luongo.  You see, Cory Schneider has been starting the last few games, and no word on whether Luongo is actually injured has surfaced.  So, what's the problem?  Schneider is actually winning those games, having won five straight, including last night's win versus Columbus.  That win has put the Canucks within two points of the Minnesota Wild for first in the Northwest Division, and even though it isn't December until tomorrow, the perpetual question of playing Luongo and his hefty contract is most likely going to loom well into the playoff run.  For now, this seems to be Schneider's team, and Luongo will get his ice time, as the Canucks will likely do what they did last year: distribute the playing time evenly to the point where the team can have two fresh goaltenders.  If nothing else, this year will be interesting for the Canucks fans who have been on a few wild rides over the years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not so Vintage Rangers

Have a good look at the picture above because this is what the New York Rangers will be wearing for the Winter Classic versus the Philadelphia Flyers.  The design is fairly simple, yet leaves the person wanting more.  The Rangers' crest on the front is modified from the usual design, which doesn't bother me too much, and the striping is okay, but could easily have been spruced up a little better.  The lace up collar trend is a little bothersome, but given that the Rangers have had that quirk on all of their jerseys, I tend to give this one a pass over the Flyers' Winter Classic duds that utilize the same thing.  The vintage white on the jersey doesn't quite look as bad, but how it looks on the ice will be the ultimate determining point for me.  In terms of jersey design for the Winter Classic this year, I have to give it to the Rangers over the Flyers, but not by a heck of a lot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mull-ing for a Coach

This is Kirk Muller, a former first round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1984, a Stanley Cup winner for Montreal in 1993, and has also had stops in Toronto (pictured), New York Islanders, Dallas, and Florida.  Now, he can add head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes to his resume as of today.  Admittedly, I clamored for the Hurricanes to fire Paul Maurice and general manager Jim Rutherford a few weeks back, and today, I get half of my wish.  Having said that, Rutherford does deserve some credit for getting a hot commodity in Muller as head coach, stealing him away from Milwaukee of the AHL after a couple of months on the job.  Whether Muller can do what Maurice failed to do most nights remains to be seen and carries considerable risk. However, this is a gamble that Carolina HAD to make, as Muller provides a fresh voice in a locker room that had gotten stale.

Hunting for Coach

Longtime Washington Capitals fans will undoubtedly remember this player in the antiquated rust bucket for being a decent scorer and a tough customer who wore the captain's C during the Capitals' Stanley Cup Finals run of 1998.  Current era Capitals fans can now call this player the new head coach of the team.  This morning, Bruce Boudreau was given his walking papers and it didn't take the Caps long to name a replacement in Dale Hunter.  In the midst of a struggle, both on the ice and a well-publicized rift between Boudreau and star player Alexander Ovechkin, this move was not unexpected.  However, there had also been talks of other teams making this change first, most notably the Columbus Blue Jackets (who are now on a bit of a points streak), Carolina Hurricanes (long overdue, in my opinion), and the New York Islanders (I wouldn't be surprised if it happened before Christmas).  Hunter will bring some credibility as a coach, having been appointed away from the London Knights of the OHL, where he was coaching, and as a former captain, perhaps he will help in the locker room, as well.  Washington is far too good of a team to be in this kind of free fall, and that falls on the head coach.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Living the Dream

This gentleman you see in the picture is Paul Deutsch.  Don't feel bad if you're a Minnesota Wild fan and don't recognize him, though.  Until Wednesday, no one outside of the Wild organization heard of him, so why was Wednesday important for him?  The regular starting goaltender Nicklas Backstrom left the team for personal reasons (for a few days, obviously), so that left Josh Harding to be the starter.  To fill the void, the Wild called up Matt Hackett from their AHL affiliate in Houston to back him up.  Seeing as this is Thanksgiving weekend, travel was going to be tricky, and given that NHL rules prohibit the Wild from signing a player with professional experience as an emergency, that was where the 51-year old Deutsch came in.  Signed to an amateur tryout deal, Deutsch didn't get to actually suit up for the game, as Hackett got to the arena in time.  For Deutsch, he now has one heck of a story to tell to his friends and family, and it also provided a handy excuse for not being able to make his recreational hockey game that night.  On top of that, he's even got his own player bio on the Wild roster page (though how long it will stay up there remains to be seen).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Time to Give Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, which means many will likely gathering around a table, eating turkey, stuffing, dressing, and all of the other good stuff that comes with it.  So, who in hockey should be giving thanks this day?

  • Mike Smith should give thanks to the Phoenix Coyotes and their defensive system.
  • Tampa Bay is thankful for structure, a General Manager that knows a thing or two about team building, and a coach that can effectively employ a frustrating alignment.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins for getting their best player in Sidney Crosby back in time for the holidays.
  • Fashion in the NHL is thankful for the New York Rangers.
  • Comedians (or wannabes) for the New York Islanders and their "alternate" jerseys.
  • The city of Edmonton for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Now, anything is possible.

And this blogger is thankful for friends, family, a wonderful playoff run following the Canucks, and good music.  Happy Thanksgiving, and go stuff yourself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Survive or Be Eaten

Okay, so there's a sudden zombie outbreak and you need to know how to survive one.  Where do you turn?  Max Brooks thinks he has the answer, and in The Zombie Survival Guide, many of those answers are truly good ones.  In this book, he gives tips on what to do and what not to do, as well as thinking about survival from a realistic point of view (e.g. automatic rapid-fire weapons work less effectively than a shotgun).  From weapons to knowing your transportation and terrain, Brooks leaves no stone unturned, and he even gives examples of zombie attacks, which in turn, is an effective lead in to the follow up book World War Z.  A highly recommended read (both of them).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The title is exactly just how long it took for Sidney Crosby to officially announce his return after almost a year away from dealing with concussion issues.  The face of the NHL since the lockout of 2005, he has also become the face of the concussion debate in the NHL.  For one night at least, he was the brightest star, as he notched two goals and two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins disposed of the the New York Islanders (their struggles are a piece for another day) 5-0.  Obviously, Crosby won't have such an easy time like he did last night, but it is clear that he is truly is healthy and ready to go.  He took a few good hits and didn't show any signs of being worse for wear, and any rust that came with the long layoff was shaken off after scoring his first goal at 5:24 of the first period.  The NHL (minus the Flyers fans) missed Crosby, and looking at the game last night, Crosby missed being out on the ice.  Welcome back, Sid, and please stay away from my Canucks until the Stanley Cup Finals.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Classic: Flyers Edition

While writing the piece about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this morning, it didn't dawn on me that a) Sidney Crosby was making his season debut tonight, and b) the Philadelphia Flyers were unveiling their Winter Classic jerseys today.  The Crosby debut will be covered tomorrow, since I would like to be able to talk about whether he can contribute this season without fear of another concussion.  Right now, it's about the Flyers and their not-so secret design.  As you can see, the overall design doesn't deviate much from the Flyers' other designs, which is to say that the Flyers could have thought of something completely different.  The major difference here is their more frequent use of black on an orange jersey as opposed to their all-black oddities of the late 90's to 2008.  Having said that, Flyers fans should be okay with this design, and certainly, the sock designs that inspired the striping is a nice change of pace that is subtle enough to go unnoticed by the casual fan.

Now, when are the Rangers going to unveil their Winter Classic duds?  It's a little more than a month away, and the longer they wait, the more money that will be lost from sales.

The Nuge (Hopkins)

This fresh-faced kid you see here is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Five months ago, he went from lighting it up with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League to the first overall draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers.  Almost a month ago, it was debated as to whether the Oilers would send him back to the Rebels before he hit the magical 10 game mark that would set the entry level contract into motion.  As of this writing, he is tied for the team lead with 19 points.  The player he's tied with?  Ryan Smyth, a fan favorite that recently returned to the Oilers the same day Nugent-Hopkins was drafted.

What makes Nugent-Hopkins special?  Well, for one thing, guys like Smyth, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle will have their numbers increased because RNH (I'm getting tired of typing out the last name, so I'll shorten it to what you see for the rest of this article) has the ability to get the puck to the guys that can score, as the 5-assist game against the Blackhawks on Saturday proves.  More impressive than that is that RNH looks like a more complete player than Hall, who was the first overall pick in the previous NHL Entry Draft.  Yes, RNH will hit a wall at some point this season, and yes, he can stand to fill out a 6'1" frame (he's 175 lbs. at the moment), but RNH has helped to reignite the passion of Oilers fans everywhere.  The best news of all?  He's got guys like Smyth and Shawn Horcoff to guide him along, as both know what it means to be representing the Oilers.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Time for Winds of Change?

This guy you see in the snazzy suit and tie is Paul Maurice, and he is the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.  How long he remains as head coach is something that will be determined in the next few days.  Currently, if the New York Islanders didn't stink up the joint, the Hurricanes would be in last place in the Eastern Conference, and there are rumors that Maurice could be the guy to take the fall.  Like the Columbus Blue Jackets situation, all blame should not go on the head coach, but on the higher ups in the organization.  However, Maurice has had two stints as head coach in the Hurricanes organization, only making the playoffs in three of those season (1999, 2002, and 2009).  In normal situations, this would be enough to get a coach fired, let alone twice, but given that the General Manager is Jim Rutherford, who has been the GM since the Hartford Whalers days, you begin to see why this is more than just a coaching problem.  The entire organization is suffering, and it is showing up on the ice, as Eric Staal hasn't lived up to the big contract he signed a few years back, Tomas Kaberle has not been anywhere near his former self since leaving Toronto, and Cam Ward hasn't been lights out.  Is it time for a change?  Yes, but who will implement it if the owner is too stubborn and is living off of the few successes that the franchise has had?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Islanders in Black

Remember when the New York Islanders saw the prototypes for their third jerseys get leaked out?  Now, do you remember your first reaction?  I certainly do, and my reaction now is a lot different from "Dear fucking Christ, no!" to "It's not so bad, but the Isles could have done so much better."  Yesterday was the official unveiling of the much maligned third jerseys by the Islanders, and as you can see, there is the number below the "ISLANDERS" word mark.  As for the name plate, there are no actual pictures, but thanks to, there is visual proof of the back of the jerseys, and I have to say that I'm happy that they didn't go for the Philadelphia Flyers style of name plate.  Would I go out and buy the Islanders' third jersey?  No, but I would not put it on the same level of ridicule as the Atlanta Thrashers' third jerseys or any of the Dallas Stars jerseys they have right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Broadway Hat: Fashion Forward Thinking

The guy you see in this snazzy hat is Ryan Callahan, but it isn't Callahan that this piece is about, but rather the hat that he is wearing.  This season, the hat, known as the Broadway Hat, is worn by the Rangers player that does the most in every Rangers victory.  The origins of this hat?

Following the Rangers' first victory of the season, Henrik Lundqvist was seen sporting a black fedora for post-game interviews. Asked about the hat, Lundqvist said: "(Brad Richards) gave it to me. Someone bought it in Europe, and it's going to be our winning hat this year! We call it the Broadway Hat! Someone has to wear it after each win, and today was my turn. I am going to try and wear this hat every game. That's going to be my goal!" Check out all the different Rangers who have earned the hat to date this season.

For a team that is based out of New York, this hat is about as appropriate as it gets.  They're not the first team to introduce apparel to be worn after every victory (the gold jacket from the Bruins last playoff season and the hard hat that the Calgary Flames passed around during their Stanley Cup Final run in 2004), but fashion forward suits the Rangers perfectly.  Now, when will we see Sean Avery sport this hat?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fashioning the "C"

This player you see in the picture above is the new captain of the Colorado Avalanche.  With a tailspin looming, the Avalanche have finally decided to name Milan Hejduk the captain with Paul Stastny as one alternate captain and a rotating group of players as the second alternate captain.  Hejduk makes a lot of sense as captain, as he is the longest tenured player on the Avs, and will have along the way, learned from the previous Avs captains Joe Sakic and Adam Foote.  When asked about wearing the C, Hejduk has hopes for combining the best from his predecessors, taking the on-ice leadership that Sakic possessed and the speaking up when he has to like Foote did in their respective times as captain.  This appointment now leaves the Florida Panthers as the only team without a permanent captain, as they are currently employing four alternate captains.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Howe and Howe

Tonight, four players who had distinguished careers in the NHL (and WHA, in one case) will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  The main person that I would like to talk about today is the son of Mr. Hockey.  It took Mark Howe 13 years (that's the years since his first year of eligibility) to finally get the call from the Hall, but he will be inducted and not only will he be around to enjoy it, so will his father Gordie, who was the face of the Detroit Red Wings (the last team Mark played for before retiring), as well as the holder of the record for most goals in a career (before Wayne Gretzky broke it in 1994).  Mark began his professional career in Houston of the WHA, but would be in a Whalers uniform by the time the league folded.  The Hartford Whalers were his first team in the NHL (and Gordie's last NHL team, ironically) and though he struggled to find his niche early on, it would be with the Philadelphia Flyers that he would find his game and position, as he moved from left wing to become one of the more underrated defensemen in the league.  He would eventually finish his career in 1995 with Detroit.

Mark Howe never won the Norris Trophy, a product of playing in the same era as Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey, among others, and reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times, falling short in all three.  As a current scout for the Red Wings, he has four Stanley Cup rings to his name, a credit to his mental acumen in his playing days.  It took a while for Mark Howe to get to the Hall of Fame, but there is no chance that he would have traded the Howe name for anything in the world.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Father Hockey

Today's piece should offer the readers a little insight on religion, and how it can at times be a gathering point for all walks of life, including sports.  For the Toronto Maple Leafs, before James Reimer opened up about his faith, there was another Toronto Maple Leaf that opened up about his faith, and even acted upon that, becoming a Father in the Catholic religion.  That man was Les Costello, who played for only a couple of years in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in 1948.  In 1950, he left the game of hockey for seminary studies.  Those studies paid off, as he would be ordained as a Father in 1957.  In 1963, he helped to found the Flying Fathers, a hockey team consisting of a group of Catholic priests.  As of 2005, this group was still active, raising money for charities and in its time, even became a phenomenon in that it made tours of North America.  Costello died in 2002 a week after taking a puck to the head and falling back to the ice, hitting his head.

Costello only played two seasons in the NHL, but his legacy was best exemplified in his hometown of Timmins, ON, where his funeral had to be moved to McIntyre Arena to accommodate the large gathering of people.  And here's something you may not know: the Flying Fathers were indirectly responsible for Wayne Gretzky meeting his future wife Janet, as the proposed idea was a part of Gretzky's trek through Hollywood long before his trade to Los Angeles in 1988.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sucked into the Tube

From the mind of David Cronenberg, the guy that brought you Scanners, comes a techno-fear inducing movie in Videodrome.  The 1983 movie centers around the head of a television station Max Renn that puts on sleazy programming.  One day, with some help from one of his employees, he finds something called Videodrome, which broadcasts torture victims in what appears to be a clay colored room.  The reality of the Videodrome is something far sinister, as Renn finds out.  After the disappearance of his girlfriend (Deborah Harry, yes that Deborah Harry of Blondie fame), Renn tries to find answers about the mysterious station, and soon, changes to his physical being begin to emerge, including a development of a vagina-like VCR in his midsection.

The movie itself was ahead of its time when it comes to special effects, and the social commentary within the movie isn't too strong, yet will make you think twice about technology, and television in particular.  This movie isn't for everyone, but it is definitely one of those movies that once you get it, you get it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smokin' Joe

Frazier-Ali: that rivalry says it all about the golden days of boxing.  There were three of those fights, and Frazier took home a 15th round KO in 1971 in what was, and still is dubbed the "Fight of the Century."  Yesterday, Frazier died after a brief bout with liver cancer at the age of 67, and like everything else in life, he fought to the bitter end.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hitching in St. Louis

Yesterday, I talked about the potential fallout from the Columbus Blue Jackets' struggles early in the season.  Well, if they are indeed going to go after a new coach, it will not be Ken Hitchcock.  This morning, it was announced that the St. Louis Blues have fired Davis Payne and named Hitchcock to replace him.  This comes as a surprise, but not in the way that you would expect.  Currently, the Blues have 12 points, which isn't so bad compared to the Blue Jackets.  However, the Blues' struggles are not necessarily in the standings as much as they are in the consistency of their play.  Consider that in the recent week or so of the season, they played well against the Canucks (both games within nine days of one another) in both games, yet had a wretched game against the Oilers on October 30.  Payne's dismissal comes as the Blues are trying to instill some veteran leadership into the locker room, which explains Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner being signed in the off-season and now, Hitchcock being named the head coach.  The young players on the team do have the talent to succeed, but have never truly had the veterans to help harness that talent.  Now, there is no excuse.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rough Times in Ohio

The Seattle Seahawks lost again today, and well before this loss, it was obvious that the Seahawks managment screwed up by signing Travaris Jackson in the offseason.  Of course, this was obvious to everyone except the people making the roster decisions.  So, what does this have to do with hockey, you ask?  Well, there's a team that is in a similar predicament in the Columbus Blue Jackets, who can't buy a win to save their lives.  Before you say anything, I'm not talking about Jeff Carter or James Wisniewski, as neither have really been on the ice long enough to make a difference yet.  No, I'm talking about the decision to make Steve Mason the starting goaltender (even though it was obvious that he wasn't the answer in goal) and not have a veteran back him up.  Mason, as you will remember, won the Calder Trophy in 2009.  The next two seasons, he had some really wretched years in which the backup Mathieu Garon outplayed him.  Garon is in Tampa, backing up Dwayne Roloson while management decided to keep Mason as a starter, despite bad numbers.  The back ups this year?  Curtis Sanford and Mark Dekanich.  Neither have had recent NHL experience as anything other than a back up, and only Sanford has had extensive NHL experience, but not very many games since backing up Roberto Luongo in 2009.  The 9-2 whipping at the hands of the Flyers last night is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the Blue Jackets' problems in goal, and yes, not all of the blame for the Blue Jackets' struggles in their existence can be place on the goaltender, as the blue line hasn't been much better and there hasn't been a true first line center on the team (we're waiting on Carter and Ryan Johansen to develop this year, so don't send complaint letters).  However, bad goaltending is bad goaltending, and clearly, Mason has not proven to be the answer in goal for Columbus the last two plus seasons.  Coaching may take the fall soon, but there is no doubt that the General Manager and starting goaltender could be out the door by the end of the season, as well.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrating a Birthday in Style

When you turned 29 (if you haven't, pretend for the sake of argument), what did you get for that birthday?  If you're Pekka Rinne, a 7 year, $49 million extension and a shutout were his gifts.  Yesterday, he received a big birthday present in the extension that would keep him in Nashville until past his 36th birthday.  Last night, he gave the Predators immediate returns with a shutout.  Rinne's signing is not only a sign that Nashville believes they have solved their revolving door in goal, but it also ups the ante for the Predators' two defensemen who could be leaving after the season: Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.  Both players are as much of a cornerstone as Rinne, and the commitment to Rinne is a clear sign that Nashville is willing to spend, at least, for one other player (or both, in a perfect world).  Signing goalies to long term deals can be a tricky slope, but Nashville believes in Rinne, and now, they have the contract to prove it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Flattus Maximus

Flattus Maximus of GWAR had a few people portray him, but one person was most commonly associated with the Flattus Maximus character: Cory Smoot.  In a sad development this morning, Smoot was found dead in his hotel room.  No cause has been determined, and this development happened as GWAR was in the midst of a tour.  This death will obviously hit GWAR fans hard, but what makes it worse is that it was in the middle of a tour and not while the band was taking a break in between touring and making an album.


Before I get to today's topic, there is a correction to be made from Avery the Musical: Act III.  Sean Avery will not be playing in the game vs. Anaheim tonight, so the side show that is Avery will have to wait for another day.

As for today's topic, it's all about the 'stache, as this month is Movember, or the month formerly known as November.  What is Movember?  I'll let the link speak for itself: Movember.

Now, if you would like to support this cause, whether you are a male who can grow a mustache (or not) or female who likes mustaches, just head to the Movember website for more information, including how you can contribute.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Avery the Musical: Act III

With the news that Sean Avery cleared re-entry waivers on Tuesday with no other team claiming him, his first NHL game this season will happen this Thursday vs. Anaheim.  Now, the chants of "We Want Avery" during a game against Toronto may or may not have had anything to do with it, but Avery's exile into AHL purgatory was short lived (in fact, he didn't suit up for the Connecticut Whale for one game).  As before, Avery will undoubtedly have his supporters and his detractors, and certainly, he will keep the Rangers in the headlines.  The question here will be if it actually makes a difference, as the Rangers haven't played to expectations (just like every year since 2000, it seems).  Fans wishing for Avery to be on the team got their wish, now we'll see if it backfires.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

THN Best of Hockey Issue

Seemingly every year, I buy the Hockey News magazines special editions, be it the Yearbook, Prospect Watch, or whatever else they come out with.  Obviously, I think highly enough of THN to keep sinking in money to buy these issues, so it should come as no surprise that I buy the BEST OF EVERYTHING HOCKEY issue that came out just recently.  On many of the topics, there is general agreement on them, but on some, I'm thinking, "East Coast bias!"  As a Canucks fan, this is something that you would expect, so take that for what you will.  There is also a section devoted to the best players on each team, as well as that team's best season.  In that section, there are a few interesting points:

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have have a single player on the first or second team that played in the 1990's or beyond.  The latest any Leaf mentioned played was Bjorne Salmig, who last played in 1989.
  • Despite a dreadful last 20 years or so, one New York Islander managed to crack the second team in Kenny Jonsson, who played from 1995 until 2004.
  • Not surprisingly, the New Jersey Devils teams are dominated by teams from the Stanley Cup years, with Kirk Muller being the only one who played before those years that made the team.
  • Scott Walker makes an all-time team?  Only the Nashville Predators, folks.

This issue, like many of the Hockey News magazines, was designed to inspire debate, from the major issues of the day to the more comical things, such as hockey songs.  I am approaching ten years since I bought my first Hockey News Yearbook, and I am happy to say that I am still buying, and will continue to do so.