Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lehn-ing on Youth

With the uncertainty of Craig Anderson's injury from cutting frozen chicken (don't ask me to make a joke here, for cutting yourself for any reason is no laughing matter), the Ottawa Senators' goaltending situation is in flux.  Alex Auld was brought in prior to this year to be a backup, and nothing more.  So, imagine the surprise when he let the flood gates open in a 5-3 loss to Boston on Saturday.  The following day, the Sens made a trade for Ben Bishop, who will be competing with Robin Lehner in the near future for the starting job.  So, how does Lehner respond?  A 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders is a nice start, but it is last night's 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins that (un)officially gives Lehner the inside track for a roster spot next year, if not right now.  Prior to last night, Ottawa had not won against Boston, and certainly, if Ottawa wants to win the division this year, the road goes through Boston.  Last night's victory means Ottawa is serious about its playoff run, and if Lehner plays like he did the last two games, Ottawa should be set for years in goal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deadline Post Mortem

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and while the moves weren't as big as the last two years, the biggest stunner was Vancouver and Buffalo swapping former first round picks in Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian.  That trade also saw defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Marc-Andre Gragniani switch places.  The real story is Hodgson and Kassian, as Buffalo needed a top six forward and Vancouver needed size and grit.  Hodgson has 33 points, but being stuck behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, it was clear that Hodgson had reached the ceiling of his potential in Vancouver.  Combined with the acquisition of Sami Pahlsson from Columbus earlier in the day, it was clear Hodgson's days as a Canuck were numbered.  This isn't the first time a former first round pick from Vancouver was traded before hitting his prime.  Michael Grabner (2006) was traded to Florida last year for Keith Ballard and Patrick White (2007) was traded to San Jose for Christian Ehrhoff prior to the 2009-10 season.  Grabner would go on to be claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders before playing a game for Florida and become a Calder Trophy finalist last year.  White has yet to play an NHL game, and is currently playing in Europe.

As for Kassian, he provides the size and toughness that can play almost everyday in Vancouver's lineup.  He can also provide some offense when needed, but given that he's likely slated for either third or fourth line duty, his main role will be similar Milan Lucic of Boston.

And what of the Rick Nash to Vancouver rumors that had been circulating around?  I maintained all along that Vancouver did not need Nash, as the Canucks already had depth in terms of offense, and their biggest needs were on the bottom two lines and the blue line (you can never have enough defensemen).  In the trades they made yesterday, Vancouver filled both needs well, and Gragniani can step in right away and be what Ehrhoff was last year, albeit with less production at this point.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Deadlines! Deadlines! Deadlines!

Today marks the NHL trade deadline, which means the playoffs are near.  So, who (besides Rick Nash) could be moved today?  We know it won't be Ales Hemsky, since he signed a two year extension over the weekend, and if I'm the Oilers, this is a calculated gamble.  Hemsky can be a solid second line right winger who can put up 80 points in a healthy year.  The problem?  You guessed it, health, and he hasn't played a full season in the last three years.  Names that are being floated around include Dustin Brown, and this is because of the recent Jeff Carter trade.  While it is uncertain if this marks the Kings as true buyers or sellers (the Carter trade only cost them Jack Johnson and a first rounder in either 2012 or 2013), Brown's departure could almost certainly be taken as a transition of sorts to a Mike Richards team.  Ottawa already made a move, adding insurance in goal in Ben Bishop.  Bishop won't likely be threatening Craig Anderson for the starter's role, but this move clearly puts Alex Auld on notice and gives Robin Lehner competition for a backup role as soon as now.  Vancouver put Keith Ballard on the long-term IR, clearing up $4.2 million and possibly clearing the way for a trade for Dallas center Steve Ott.  It's no sure thing right now, but imagine the possibilities: a team with Ott and Maxim Lapierre on the bottom two lines.  The rest of the league will hate playing Vancouver if this happens.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Open Letter to Jeff Carter...

In light of yesterday's big hockey news, today, I will turn over this piece to a "Columbus Blue Jackets fan" in regards to Jeff Carter.  I will turn the floor over to him now:

Dear Jeff Carter,

When the trade was announced last Summer that you were coming to the Blue Jackets, I was thrilled.  Granted, anybody who could provide some surefire offense along with Rick Nash is something to get excited over these days.  However, there were reports that you were sulking in your home upon hearing this news, and certainly, when anyone has to move from a place of comfort as you were in Philadelphia, I understood to some degree.  Having Nash help convince you that this move would be good for you was something that should have signaled a strong, new beginning.  So, what happened once the season started?  You got hurt.  Again, injuries do happen, and I held out hope that you would still be able to produce once healthy.  Naturally, it didn't help that James Wisniewski's elbow forced him to sit out the first part of the season.  And did I mention that the Blue Jackets stunk with both of you out?  Once you returned, you produced very little in the way of goals before getting hurt again.  Soon, there were rumors that you wanted out of Columbus, and that was when reality set in: that you really didn't want to be here and were purposely sabotaging the team's season.  25 points, a coaching change (that came far too late), and a rattled goaltender later, you were mercifully sent packing.  Because of you, the Blue Jackets' season is in ruins and because of you, it is a real possibility that Nash could be on his way out soon.

In closing, I would like to give you the finger and hope you pull a Dustin Penner in your new home in Los Angeles.


Pissed off Blue Jackets Fan

P.S. Fuck you for stunting the development of Ryan Johansen.

Losing Weight...the Gypsy Way

I have a hockey related piece to write about, but since I finished a book a few hours before that bit of news broke, the book review has to come first.  With that in mind, there was a time when Stephen King used a pen name, that being Richard Bachman. One of the books he wrote under this name was Thinner, in which the main character Billy Halleck starts losing weight at an alarmingly rapid pace.  Why does this happen, you ask?  One evening, Halleck drives distracted (read: his wife was giving him a hand job) and before he could react, he hits and kills an old woman.  One court case later, and Halleck is off the hook...except that the old woman he killed was the daughter of an even older Gypsy man.  This man curses Halleck with a dramatic weight loss plan that soon causes Halleck to try and find ways to break this curse.  Meanwhile, his wife and just about everyone associated with him begin to worry about him going insane.  The turn of events, combined with two of Halleck's closest associates being cursed (one turned into a lizard and one received an extreme case of acne), forces Halleck to seek out the Gypsy and when that doesn't work out the way he planned, he turns to an old friend from New York to help him out.  Can Halleck end the curse before he gets reduced to nothingness?

Thinner is one of the better books that doesn't rely heavily on violence to get its point across.  All of the loose ends within the novel (e.g. Halleck's incresingly deteriorating relationship with his wife) are tied up fairly well and one of the things that allows for the novel to succeed is creating hypothetical ideas of a curse being either psychological or an unseen child growing up.  It's not exceedingly long as Christine, but the results are similar in that both are good reads.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beer, Eh?

From the "I Can't Believe No One Else is Doing This" category comes the Budweiser Winnipeg Jets beer made with Manitoba water that was blessed by hockey fans in the province.  The beer itself was brewed in Edmonton, AB, where Budweiser has its brewing place in Canada.  Though I personally would not want to be caught dead drinking mass produced beer such as Budweiser (based in St. Louis, MO in the US, for those who wonder about some of my disdain for the city), this idea, combined with the Jets fever in Winnipeg, is a perfect match and is a classic example of knowing how to get the most money out of all available outlets.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turning on the Stove

The NHL trade deadline is nearing, and the talks and moves are picking up steam.  The biggest prizes to be had (potentially) are still out there in Columbus' Jeff Carter and Rick Nash.  Because Columbus is going to be in rebuilding mode (again), players such as R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette were also on the market.  I say "were" because today, Vermette was traded to Phoenix for a couple of draft picks (a 2012 2nd rounder and a 2013 5th rounder) and Curtis McElhinney.  What does this mean for Columbus?  Well, this is your classic salary dump, as McElhinney is injured and will be a free agent at the end of the year, and everyone knows that the NHL Draft is no sure thing.  Vermette has been a good player in the past, as the 2007 playoff run with Ottawa will attest.  He provides a second line center for Phoenix and can contribute offensively, which is good news for Radim Vrbata (who scored his 30th goal last night).

The best non-Blue Jacket on the market?  Tuono Ruutu, and as of today, he remains a Carolina Hurricane for the next four years, since he signed an extension with the team.  Ruutu's signing sends a strong message to Jeff Skinner that the Hurricanes are serious about keeping the core intact for the next few years, and along with Tim Gleason, Ruutu provides solid, if unspectacular play on the ice.

A Fishy Story

Today is Ash Wednesday, which if you're a practicing Catholic, means fish is the order of the day when planning your meal today.  So, what better way to promote this day than with a "fish story."  In a 6-2 win versus the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, a Canucks fan threw a salmon onto the ice (contrary to the announcers calling it a tuna).  There is an interesting back story to this, as Yahoo notes, so rather than rehash the story, I can direct you to the story.  A moving tribute, yet also quite smelly, if you ask me.  So, the question to be asked is this: will the Canucks make this a tradition?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blackheads...Gotta Pop 'Em!

Remember those hideous third jerseys that the New York Islanders trotted out for this season?  I  know that you would like to forget, and I certainly would like to forget they ever existed, but they were on display again yesterday when they played against the Ottawa Senators.  According to the schedule posted by the fine folks at Icethetics, and in looking at the team schedule that posts their wins, losses, and OT/shootout points, the Islanders are 1-6-1 so far when they have worn the third threads.  So, I guess new clothes don't always translate into wins, and the Islanders are finding that out the hard way...again.  The Islanders have four more games with the black jerseys, and given their penchant for losing in those jerseys, does the word "superstition" mean anything to the Islanders players?  If so, then I do believe that wearing them for the league minimum required should be looked into for next year.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Boulevard Chocolate Ale

As you can tell, this month has been a slow hockey news day, so today is all about beer.  What you see here is the Boulevard Chocolate Ale, which was released earlier this month, and has a rather limited run.  With a 9.1 ABV, it does have a rather strong chocolate smell and taste.  Unfortunately, for something that has an ABV that high, it seems that the alcohol was sorely lacking, and with a high price tag, it just doesn't cut it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hockey Day in America

So, Hockey Day in America is not quite the holiday that Opening Night in any sport is, nor does it come with presents like Christmas, but one thing this day represents is a chance for everyone in America who loves their hockey to show their colors.  Canada has its own Hockey Day, and though neither has all of the pageantry or flash, if the sport continues to flourish, then days like this won't be needed, as it will eventually be Hockey Day in America (or Canada) every day.

Happy Hockey Day in America!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blue Notes

As you know, I am a fan of the Vancouver Canucks, and as of this season, adopted the Ottawa Senators as my Eastern Conference team.  Now, with the playoffs nearing, should both teams advance, I have to take the Canucks.  Having said that, I also live in Missouri, which means getting either team on television is a near impossible task.  So, what team do I get to see for almost half the season?  The St. Louis Blues, and today is their day in the spotlight.

If you've followed the Blues at all this season, you know that an Ottawa Senators castoff in Brian Elliott is a major reason why the Blues are Stanley Cup contenders this season.  You also know that a coaching change has helped in that regard, as they went from merely good to potentially a threat to the Canucks and Red Wings this year.  So, why I have I not covered the Blues as much, besides my personal affiliations?

Part of it is the stigma of being in St. Louis, MO, for which I make no secret of my disdain for the city.  The other part?  Ask a sampling of 100 hockey fans in western Missouri who their favorite team is, and the odds are that the favorable answers include the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.  As someone who has in the past lobbied for an NHL team in Kansas City, and given that the Phoenix Coyotes are perennially being bandied about in relocation talks, the rivalry possibilities are endless with the four.

Back to the Blues, there are some very good players on the team, including T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, and Kevin Shattenkirk.  However, it is the role players that more than anything else, make a team, and the Blues have players such as Vladimir Sobotka and Ryan Reaves.  If I'm a Blues fan, I feel good about the future prospects of the Blues, and if I should ever think about getting a Blues jersey, I think I will consider getting a Sobotka jersey.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Belated to the (ex-)Mullet

In the midst of all of the trade rumor talk, I missed a birthday.  So, today is all about Jaromir Jagr, who turned 40 yesterday.  Jagr will undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible, but he is already a Hall of Famer when it comes to hair.

Seriously, the GREATEST hockey hair in the history of the NHL, and there have been some worthy contenders such as Mike Ricci, Mike Commodore, former Referee Kerry Fraser, the list goes on.  However, none can match the Jagr Mullet, and it's not even close.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trade Deadline Madness

Suppose your the General Manager of a team that is looking for that final piece to the puzzle for making a run at the Stanley Cup this year.  The natural question would be what do I need and what will I have to give up to get that piece.  This is the question that faces many teams who seek a long Spring, and seemingly, the big prize this year is Rick Nash.  Along with Tuomo Ruutu (pending the severity of his injury from Monday) and Jeff Carter, it seems that every team not named the Columbus Blue Jackets or Edmonton Oilers is working long hours to find the right deal to bring in that missing piece.  Since this blog is heavily biased towards Vancouver and Ottawa, I figure that the time is now to figure out how both teams can better their standings.

If either team is seeking a major piece, it will not be Nash or Carter, as both carry a ridiculously high price tag, and Vancouver needs a serviceable fourth liner and maybe a puck moving defenseman.  In a previous post, I thought Lubomir Visnovsky would be a good fit, but seeing as Anaheim is making a late push for their own playoff run, I doubt Anaheim will be selling.  Ruutu would be a good fit just about anywhere, but Carolina would obviously be asking for a lot.  Ruutu has been a good player that often doesn't get enough credit, and certainly, Jeff Skinner can attest to the benefit of having a player like Ruutu around.  Rumors are circling around that Mike Knuble could be gone from Washington, and given the last two stink bombs the Capitals laid, Vancouver would be wise to look into this one, as Knuble has won the Stanley Cup before.

Ottawa made a big trade in December, bringing in Kyle Turris from Phoenix while giving up defensive prospect David Rundblad to do so.  A win over Tampa Bay last night certainly helps Ottawa's chances of making the playoffs.  Unfortunately, that win followed some painful losses in the past seven games or so.  Goaltending is the likeliest thing that Ottawa should go for, but a shutdown defenseman would be a far better option.  If I had to take a major gamble, it would be looking into what Buffalo is willing to part with, which at this point seems to be Paul Gaustad and likely Derek Roy.  Maybe Ottawa inquires about Ryan Miller, a pipe dream, I know.  The more likely option for Ottawa could very well be Evgeni Nabokov or Al Montoya, seeing as the Islanders have a logjam in goal, even without Rick DiPietro.  As for a shutdown defenseman, Mattias Ohlund from the Lightning should be an option, particularly if the Lightning continue to have problems.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miracles? Don't Bet on It.

Just when you think the city of Montreal, QC can't get any sillier, the following has surfaced from the Montreal Catholic Church.  Courtesy of Puck Daddy, the Yahoo blog for all things NHL, the Archdiocese of Montreal put down some money for the ad you see above on Thursday.  What does this have to do with the NHL, you ask?  Well, if you've followed your NHL, you know that Montreal is home to the Canadiens hockey club, who are currently as of this writing, 11th in the Eastern Conference, or seven points out of the last playoff spot.  This ad urges the people of Montreal to pray for the Canadiens to just make the playoffs this year.

Obviously, the Montreal Catholic Church spent some money for this ad, and in many respects, it sounds like the worst possible way to spend money, particularly since as a Catholic, I know that God does not have a favorite team, nor does he pick favorites.  After all, there are other sports fans of rival teams who are praying for the exact same thing.  For all of the troubles of the Catholic Church financially and in the public perception, not just in Montreal, but all over the world, throwing down some money just to get people to pray for the local sports team to make the playoffs does nothing to help anyone's perception.  After all, there are other sports fans of rival teams who are praying for the exact same thing.  If the Montreal Catholic Church wanted to get fans to pray for anything Canadien related, the first place to begin would be some sanity amongst the players, coaches, front office people, and the fans.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gomez Scores...Finally!

Sunday marked a dubious distinction for Scott Gomez, as he managed to go one whole year without scoring a goal.  No big deal, except he's earning close to $8 million a year and still has two years left from a contract that he originally signed with the New York Rangers in 2007.  Last night, he finally turned the round number into a straight one, as he tallied a goal for the Canadiens in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.  For Gomez, trying to live up to a contract with preposterously high dollar figures was already a task unto itself, as he was always known as a pass first forward and questions arose from his success with the New Jersey Devils.  He never lived up to the contract in New York and was shipped to Montreal in 2009 in a trade that has Canadiens fans ripping out their hair almost daily.  Success begins with one step forward, and for Gomez, now that he has taken that first step forward this season, maybe the Canadiens will make the playoffs this year. (or not)

And here is video proof, en Francais:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oh No(lan)!

Today marks another piece of the childhood/teenage years biting the dust.  Owen Nolan officially announced his retirement yesterday, and while he was never the breakout star that many envisioned when he was the first overall pick in 1990, he more than held his own.  His place in history is one of a great power forward who had the misfortune of bad timing, as in he was traded to San Jose the year Colorado won their first Stanley Cup (also their first year in Denver after being in Quebec since 1979).  Nolan made the most of his time in San Jose, being the face of the franchise from 1996 until his trade to Toronto, meaning that he was there for the good times and bad times.  In addition, he also spent time with Minnesota, Calgary, and Phoenix, and he was one of the last cuts in training camp with Vancouver prior to this season.  442 goals, 463 assists, and 1,793 PIM later, Nolan's place in the Hall of Fame is not assured, but if you're a Sharks fan, Nolan's place in history is assured, and his number will likely be the first to be raised in HP Pavillion.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy (Goalless) Anniversary!

Okay, admit it.  You saw this one coming.  No, this is not a piece bashing the Montreal Canadiens (again), although you can make an argument to the contrary.  As a matter of fact, I'm not going to bash Scott Gomez and his ability to go one whole year without scoring a goal.  That would be too easy, and some folks in Montreal beat me to it, so rather, I will say to Mr. Gomez: Congratulations!  You are Montreal's problem for the next two years, and the other 29 teams are happy.

I said I wasn't going to bash Gomez on this special day, though it almost ended yesterday in a 3-0 win over Winnipeg.  Trust me, this is as close as Gomez has gotten to scoring a goal, but I will leave it to a few folks from the band The Insomniacs to put it in words:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Got Moorcock (or Another Book Review)

It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to do a book review, and since I'm contemplating reading Paradise Lost by John Milton in preparation for Lent, this may be the last one for a while.  Today, it's all about The Sailor on the Seas of Fate by Michael Moorcock, and I found this book to be a fairly easy read.  The book follows Elric, who is one of the Eternal Champions in Moorcock's series of books.  The Sailor on the Seas of Fate is actually the second of the Elric series, but can be read on its own, as Moorcock mentions in the introduction.  This book is actually divided into three parts: the future, the present, and the past.  The future part is the only one to feature the other three Eternal Champions and involves their adventure in trying put an end to Agak and Gagak.  The present sees Elric in a strange land fighting against a sorcerer that guards the Crimson Gate.  The past has Elric teaming with an explorer to seek out an uninhabited land for treasure.  The stories are actually tied in quite well, and though the book is only 160 pages long (as is the case with the small papaerback version you see here), it keeps the reader's attention and proves to be a fairly easy read, even with the strange wording that comes with the setting of an alternate universe.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Turning 30

For those that may not know, today is officially my 30th birthday, and since this blog is predominantly hockey, today's post is all about players born on this date.  The player you see is Dave "Tiger" Williams, and he shares a birthday today.  Obviously, this picture shows what he did best: drop the gloves, but it is a goal celebration that he is best remembered for, and one that many a young hockey player has tried to imitate at one point in their lives (video forthcoming).  Also born on this date: Hall of Famer Lynn Patrick, former defensemen Keith Carney and Mathieu Dandenault, and current players Andrei Kostitsyn, Ryan Wilson, Marek Zidlicky, Blake Geoffrion (a fourth generation player whose grandfather was Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion), and ex-Winterhawk/current Sabre Paul Gaustad.  As promised, here is my gift to you, if you are in fact, still reading this.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't Call it a Comeback (Actually, Do Call it a Comeback)

The player you see in the picture is Krystofer Kolanos, and today, he was recalled by the Calgary Flames from the minor league affiliate in Abbotsford, BC.  Kolanos was a former first round pick in 2000 that has been beset by various injuries, including missing all of last season.  His time in the NHL has included stops in Phoenix, Edmonton, Minnesota, and now, Calgary.  The recall happens on the heels of his appearance in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday, and given his road to the NHL, is a welcome story for the Flames and the NHL.