Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Pekka, You Pekka, We All Pekka.

With the Nashville Predators making the playoffs again this season, the team not only seems to have found themselves in the best position for a Stanley Cup run since 2007, but they have also reached a franchise milestone, reaching 500 wins as a team.  This milestone is significant in that the General Manager and head coach who were with the team from the beginning happen to be the same guys in the same roles today.  David Poile (the GM) and Barry Trotz (the coach) have made the most out of what was, and in some ways, still is, a non-traditional hockey market.  The keys to success have been mentioned quite a bit, but the milestone is a crowning achievement for a team that was the subject of relocation rumors in 2006 and their philosophy of valuing the draft has borne much fruit, in guys like Martin Erat, Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and David Legwand (the team's first ever draft pick, and still with the team).  Yes, Nashville, it is time to support your Predators and if you really want, Pekka-ing is fine.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sacrificing the Gaut(hier)

In a move that many a Montreal Canadiens fan has been clamoring for since, well, really the end of last season, Pierre Gauthier is no longer the General Manager of the Canadiens.  The circus surrounding him included firing an assistant coach before a game, firing a head coach the morning of a game, hiring a coach that can't speak French, and trading a player during a game.  Oh, and he traded for what used to be Tomas Kaberle, but that's a story in itself.  To say Gauthier overstayed his welcome is an understatement, but it does have to be said, and Bob Gainey is out of a job, too, as he is no longer a special advisor, a role he took after stepping down as GM, precipitating the Gauthier Error.  Montreal needs to rebuild, and whoever gets named GM or coach (no way does Randy Cunneyworth begin next season as head coach) will be squarely in the line of fire from fans from day one.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Booth, the whole Booth, and nothing but the Booth

When David Booth was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks earlier in the season, I endorsed the deal because of the goal scoring potential that he brought, as he was a 30-goal scorer for Florida.  Last night, you can add dropping the gloves to his job description.  Taking on Mark Olver of the Colorado Avalanche, Booth clearly won the fight.

Before you say anything about Olver being a small guy, remember that Olver dropped first and Booth also did not have to take the fight, as teammate Maxim Lapierre rushed in to protect Booth.  Though Booth has had injury issues in his career, he also didn't back down when challenged, though to be fair, Booth had challenged Olver earlier, as the commentating on the video gives an explanation for what led up to the fight.  The Canucks would go on to win 1-0 for the second straight game.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Dream is Over...Again.

Today, we mourn the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs.  As of 10:00 PM EDT, the Maple Leafs saw their playoff hopes die at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.  Their season began with so much promise, and everyone thought James Reimer would be that guy who would be the team's goaltender for the foreseeable future.  Then, he got concussed, and he was never the same player.  A 1-8-1 stretch in February doomed the Leafs and caused an ouster of Ron Wilson as the head coach, and not even his replacement Randy Carlyle could save the Leafs.

For every Phil Kessel, there were guys like Tim Connolly who didn't quite produce to their contract numbers, and for every Dion Phaneuf, there were guys like John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek who didn't live up to their billing, and in the case of Komisarek, hasn't since he joined prior to the 2009-10 season.  Then there were the Mikhail Grabovski trade rumors that ultimately never happened, and given the Leafs' state right now, they could have gotten something for a player who is never going to be better than he is now.  And let's not forget Nazem Kadri.  Remember him?  The player that was supposed to be a star after being drafted in the first round in 2009?  I think it's time for the Leafs to move him for his own good, as right now, the Leafs are a dysfunctional bunch, and in the event that you don't know where the bulk of the blame should be directed, it's the guy who put the team together, meaning General Manager Brian Burke.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Start Plannin'!

Today is a small break from the hockey talk in favor of something that will be happening almost a year from now.  Four and a half years since the last Heathen Crusade Festival, it will be resurrected on March 9, 2013.  Currently, Einherjer is headlining the fest, and there are more bands to be announced.  On a hockey note, since the Festival will be held in St. Paul, MN, the question for this guy: "Attempt to fit in with the Minnesota Wild jersey or walk into the proverbial hornet's nest with a Vancouver Canucks jersey?"  You have a year to decide for yourself.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thrasher the Unfriendly Ghost

In the most recent Winnipeg Jets game, they traveled to Nashville for a game against the Predators, where they lost.  However, that is not the story, as there were a few Atlanta Thrashers jerseys thrown onto the ice during the game.
The story behind it is that in the wake of the Thrashers being relocated to Winnipeg to become the new Jets, the Predators took a rather aggressive approach to court the fans that would be losing their team.  This brings to mind two things: why the Predators were the only team (that has been documented) to try and get some of the ex-Thrasher fans on their side, and whether any of those converted fans were in fact, the people who threw the jerseys onto the ice.  Nashville has been an underrated franchise in many ways, and the fact that they managed to get a few displaced Thrashers fans on their side should be an example to teams that are struggling to stay afloat (e.g. Columbus and Carolina).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Playoff Bound...Again!

The road leading up to the playoffs has been fairly quiet for this blog, and given that Ottawa has been struggling of late, as is don't look now, but Washington and Buffalo are only two points behind them.  Vancouver has no such worries, as before they even stepped onto the ice for what would be an overtime win, they clinched the Northwest Division for the fourth straight year.

That honor is nice and all, but the Canucks' success is going to be measured, as always, by whether it can bring home a Stanley Cup this year.  Despite the lowered expectations by experts, it is the hometown fans that matter the most, and nothing short of a Stanley Cup hoisting will do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gretzky's Tears

Today is a book review, and the subject of today's book review is one that has been talked about a lot since August 9, 1988.  If you consider yourself a hockey fan and don't know the significance of the date, then turn in your hockey fanboy card now.

The book, Gretzky's Tears, examines the trade, from the rumblings behind the scenes during the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty to the moments leading up to the trade and even the long term effects of the trade on a country, a league, and those associated with Gretzky in any way.  The author, Stephen Brunt, has penned a book about another hockey legend in Searching for Bobby Orr, so one would assume that he knows how to approach such subject matter.  In Gretzky's Tears, Brunt tells a fairly detailed story of how the trade went down, the long term ramifications of the trade (e.g. the Sun Belt expansion), and how the principal owners in the trade came to the position that they did in making the trade.  Overall, the book does a fairly good job of getting to the details of everything surrounding the trade, and in some cases, the participating owners in the light that they deserve.  The book does tend to be biased towards the neighbors to the North, portraying them as victims and the NHL as money grabbing thieves (come to think of it, some still think this way, particularly with Gary Bettman in charge).  Bias aside, the book provides a unique insight on The Trade and in some respects, the emotions behind it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Burning Leafs

Just as the season started well for the Toronto Maple Leafs, this year has turned into an absolute nightmare in the last month or so.  A 1-8-1 stretch at one point led to Ron Wilson being relieved of his duties as head coach and Randy Carlyle being brought in.  Just as the Leafs felt they were going in the right direction once again, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Saturday night, they laid a major egg last night, losing 8-0 to Boston.  No, that is not a typo.

I am sure you're wanting me to start a "Fire Burke!" spiel here, and even though there are compelling cases for this to happen (see picture for one reason), I will not do it.  Not because I think he should remain as general manager (far from it), but because this collapse is more than just the GM or even the coach.  It's Mike Komisarek practically being paid handsomely for doing next to nothing, John-Michael Liles not being the puck mover that he was in Colorado, Nazem Kadri not being the player the Leafs were hoping to get when he was drafted in the first round in 2009.  I can go on about the goaltending mess the Leafs have on their hands, and certainly, James Reimer hasn't been the same goaltender since getting concussed early in the season, and Jonas Gustavsson has been unable to stay healthy for a full season and has been inconsistent when he has been healthy.  Oh, there's a lot of blame to go around for Toronto, and unless things get fixed, guys like Phil Kessel (who himself has been in the middle of controversy, being the central figure in the trade with Boston (there's that team again!) for two first round picks, who would turn out to be Tyler Seguin (2010) and Dougie Hamilton (2011)) will be wasting their prime years on Maple Leaf teams without direction.

Monday, March 19, 2012


It's rare that an NHL linesman or referee gets praise from players, particularly in the heat of the moment.  So, imagine the scene at last night's Chicago Blackhawks-Washington Capitals game, in which the officials wore number 47 in honor of Dan Schachte, who was working this game.  This game marks a coming full circle moment for Schachte, as he officiated his first NHL game in 1982 at Chicago Stadium, and last night, he officiated his last game in the United Center.  After the Blackhawks won 4-2, players from both sides gave their congratulations to Schachte with handshakes.  Class move on both sides, and we at Pucks and Rocks would like to wish Schachte a happy retirement.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Jade-n Debut

This week has been a week that Jaden Schwartz will never forget.  The former first round pick in 2010 was signed by the St. Louis Blues out of Colorado College and made his debut in a Blues uniform last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Prior to the game, he was on the receiving end of a rookie initiation when he was to lead the team onto the ice for the practice skate.  One problem: he was the only one out there, as his teammates stayed back in the tunnel for about 40 seconds before joining him on the ice for the practice skate.  As for his debut, he scored his first NHL goal to put the Blues up 2-0.  That goal would be the game winner, as the Blues would win 3-1.  In the wake of Sven Baertschi being sent back to the Portland Winterhawks, as he was an emergency call-up for the Flames, Schwartz is the rookie of the moment, and given the travails he has experienced prior to taking the ice as a Blue (his older sister Mandi succumbed to cancer last year), his story is one that will bear watching in the coming years.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stranded Once Again

I could spend today talking about Sidney Crosby's re-return to the ice last night, but I wouldn't have very much to talk about, as one assist isn't a great deal.  Also seeing the Portland Trailblazers falling further down the spiral (between Brandon Roy's premature retirement, the great stinker in the Garden on Wednesday, and now, a new coach, this is the most depressing season yet) is something that I would rather not ever mention.  So, what is there to talk about today?  Well, the fall of another team, as in the New York Islanders.  Yes, John Tavares and Matt Moulson are having their usual seasons, and PA Parenteau is a revelation as a set up man, but so much else has gone off the rails for the Islanders.  So, where does the blame begin (besides owner Charles Wang)?  Well, if you're an Islanders fan, it has to begin with the head coach, who just so happens to be one Jack Capuano.  Need proof that Capuano is on the hot seat?

Folks, as you can see, at some point, Tavares grabs the marker and draws up a strategy...well, the best one that anyone can do with one second left.  This begs the question of why on earth anyone would even call a timeout with one second left (if indeed, that's what happened).  The Islanders have been notorious for hiring no-name coaches, with decidedly negative results most of the time (Ted Nolan being the lone coach with any prior experience in 2008).  If I'm an Islanders fan, I would worry about Tavares and his eventual pulling of a Rick Nash or for that matter, the Islanders leaving town...presumably with a better owner.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crosby: The Return (The Sequel)

If you're sick of hearing about Sidney Crosby, and I'm sure that eliminates a lot of the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals fans, then don't read any further.  I'll wait...


Still here?  Alright.  Crosby makes his return (again) tonight at Madison Square Garden as his Penguins visit the New York Rangers for a division game.  The big story, as you just might imagine, is Crosby making a return from recurring concussion symptoms originally suffered last season.  Currently, Crosby is slated to center the third line, and the Penguins are in the midst of chasing down the Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  I guess what I am saying is that this game matters, even if Crosby isn't playing or makes a significant contribution to tonight's game.  For the Pens, his return is as good as trading for a superstar, as the Penguins did not make a move prior to the trade deadline in anticipation of his return.  If Crosby is half as good as he was prior to the concussion issues, then the Penguins will almost certainly have to be moved to the head of the Easter Conference class.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going Back in Time

As you may have figured based on the colors this blog currently sports, the blog covers some Ottawa Senators material, and today provides some very fashion forward thoughts.  In preparation for tonight's game versus the Montreal Canadiens, the Senators went back in time, in terms of both fashion (as Daniel Alfredsson is sporting, quite well, I might add) and transportation.  To travel to Montreal, the Senators took the train as part of the team's 20th anniversary celebration.  Keep in mind that the 20 years is the current Senators franchise, and in conjunction with the team's Heritage jersey (if anyone reading this would like to gain a friend for life, I wear a large (50) and will happily find a way to repay you), the Senators have gone back in time in more ways than one.  It's a unique way to celebrate an anniversary, and if Vancouver's 40 year anniversary celebration last year is any indication, it just might have an opportunity to win the biggest prize of all, something the original Senators did not do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Timber Tetris

For those who are still living under a rock, this blog covers a lot of hockey and practically anything else that comes to mind.  Today, the practically anything else is actually the subject of today's piece, and more specifically, the sport that the world calls football, but America calls soccer.  Since this blog has a Pacific Northwest bias, and why wouldn't it, this piece is about the Portland Timbers, and if you happen to be a fan of either Vancouver or Seattle, you're more than welcome to chime in unless your team is squaring off against the Timbers that day.

Last night was the opening night for the Timbers, complete with the crowd singing the national anthem and the full 90 being played in the rain.  The Timbers won 3-1, but there are still some defensive holes that need to be shored up, and that was most evident when the opponents the Philadelphia Union scored first.  The Timbers would score three unanswered goals to close out the game, getting goals from Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Kalif Alhassan, and Kris Boyd.  Offense should be less of a worry this year with Boyd, who is wearing the right colors for a change (he played for the Rangers in the Scottish League, and the Rangers are the biggest rival to Celtic FC, who just so happen to be my team outside the US), and players such as Jean-Baptiste and Darlington Nagbe providing some youth to go along with players such as Diego Chara and Eric Brunner.  The West goes through Los Angeles, the defending champions, but the Timbers are going to let themselves be heard.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One for the Winterhawks

This week, Sven Baertschi made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames and in last night's game, he scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild.  Now, as you know, this blog does have a little bit of bias for the Portland Winterhawks, and as you may have guessed from this picture of Baertschi, he was a Winterhawk prior to getting called up by the Flames this past week.  A first round pick this past year, Baertschi is just one of many Winterhawks (past and current) that look to make their mark in the NHL, with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen already making their mark and players such as Ty Rattie, Joe Morrow, and Brad Ross waiting for their opportunities.  Making an impact is nothing new for the Winterhawks, as some of the most notable alumni to have gone through the Rose City include Marian Hossa, Paul Gaustad, Adam Deadmarsh, and Cam Neely, so the new generation of Winterhawks will ensure that the pipeline from Portland will be churning out some good players for years to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Return of Markov

If you're a Montreal Canadiens fan, I'm almost certain that you forgot Andrei Markov was in fact, under contract to the team.  Okay, maybe you were trying to block that out (thanks to the "genius" Pierre Gauthier), but last night, for the first time in 17 months, Markov made his appearance in a Montreal Canadiens uniform and played an actual game.  Granted, this piece sounds like the usual, sarcastic-laced diatribe that I've been laying on the Canadiens this year, but for Markov, his return marks his passion for the game and if he's healthy, maybe the Canadiens will be in better shape next year (I will have to check his contract status for next season to verify).  As for the Canadiens fans, the next home game Markov gets to play, I should hope for a warm ovation for a guy that cares about the game and hopefully serve as an inspiration to those who are thinking of giving up on their goals.

Andrei Markov, welcome back to the NHL!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Crosby Show

If you're a hockey fan and have been living under the rock for the past few months (or have your East Coast blinders on), Sidney Crosby is closer to returning to on-ice action.  He has only played a handful of games this season, and when he has been healthy, he can provide instant offense.  For a team like Pittsburgh, this is bad news for anyone not in a Penguins jersey, and Crosby can be clutch (just ask Ryan Miller in 2010).  No one knows what Crosby will be when he does return, but if he's anything close to his first return against the New York Islanders this season, who will be able to stop the Penguins come playoff time?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Erasing Carter

The Jeff Carter trade of last month has had ramifications that reach even today.  Tonight, Carter's new team (Los Angeles Kings) will meet Carter's previous team (Columbus Blue Jackets).  Talk about awkward: so to alleviate some of that awkwardness, the Blue Jackets have a promotion where if you have a Jeff Carter Blue Jackets jersey and are attending tonight's game (or attended, since the promotion ended after the first period), you can take the jersey to the team store in Nationwide Arena and get a new Jack Johnson (the guy Carter was traded for) nameplate to go over the number 7, as Johnson currently wears numver 7 for the Blue Jackets. If the Blue Jackets are to be known for something positive, this is it, as it saves potential bonfire permit issues that happened with another former Ohio athlete.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spell Check Time

Recently traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Nicklas Grossmann decided to correct a spelling error in his last name.  Since his arrival in the NHL with the Dallas Stars, "Grossman" has long left the extra "n" out for reasons some folks with hard to spell surnames understand: a matter of simplicity.  He had, however, signed his name with the correct spelling, and with the trade to the Flyers, he made the request to have the surname spelled with the extra "n" as prescribed by his parents back in Sweden, a notion that undoubtedly makes them happy.  Grossmann's phoenetic change is not the first, as Semyon Varlamov originally came into the NHL as "Simeon" and Andrei Kostitsyn was originally Andrei "Kastitsyn."  The only question that remains is what do you do if you have a Nicklas Grossmann jersey with the "Grossman" spelling?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jive Turc-o

Marty Turco's retirement from the NHL didn't last too long, as the Boston Bruins needed someone after Tuukka Rask was injured in Sunday's loss versus the New York Rangers.  He will be the backup to Tim Thomas for the next 4-6 weeks (the length of time Rask is expected to miss), which means we could get more of this:

And since it is likely that NBC or the NBC Sports Network will have Bruins games on, for our sake, let's hope Pierre McGuire has a watchful eye on Turco this time around:

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Case of Emergency...

Because of a nasty bug that caused me to be unable to function for most of the last four days or so, you have obviously noticed a lack of articles on this blog recently.  I haven't had the time to fully digest the coaching change in Toronto, and the piece I wrote for that was basically a placeholder until I figure out what to do with that.  It could be anything: a "letter to ____," a scathing criticism, even a "Fire Burke" chant.  If you've read this blog long enough, any, all three, or something else could conceivably happen.  So, there's something to look forward to (or not).

In the meantime, please check out Hockey Blog in Canada, an excellent site dedicated to all things hockey.  You won't regret it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Turning Over New Leafs

Being sick is something that most, if not all, people wish to never actually be, unless it somehow fits a means to an end, not that I recommend it just to miss a day of school or work.  What does this have to do with today's subject?  Nothing directly, but clearly, this Maple Leafs fan speaks for the majority of the people when speaking of the team's recent slide.  In the last home game versus the Florida Panthers, the "Fire Wilson" chants could be heard throughout the Air Canada Centre, the Wilson being Ron Wilson, who as of yesterday, is now the former head coach of the Maple Leafs.  Replacing him is Randy Carlyle, late of the Anaheim Ducks.  Carlyle's hiring presents some interesting dynamics, including how he'll get along with Joffrey Lupul and whether or not he can get something out of Mike Komisarek.  Leafs fans are hungry for a winner, and while it may not happen this year, the coaching change gives fans a (false?) sense of hope.