Saturday, June 30, 2012

Badgering the Oilers

Pop quiz: when was the last time a college free agent gained as much attention as Justin Schultz?  It can be any sport.  Go on, I'll wait...

(waits a few minutes)

Okay, wait's over.  Schultz was originally a draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2008 and played three seasons in the Wisconsin Badgers system.  He left after the 2011-12 season, but could not agree to terms with the Ducks, thus making him a free agent.  The catch: he could only sign a 2-year entry level deal, so finding a right fit would matter to him.  Enter the Edmonton Oilers, who will sign him to that deal tomorrow, since that's the day every free agent can sing with a team of their choosing.  What does Schultz's signing do for the Oilers?

You have Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and potentially Nail Yakupov at forward, and Schultz instantly becomes the Oilers' best defenseman (Ryan Whitney would have been that, had injuries not curtailed his career).  Add in Oscar Klefbom and David Musil in the team's pipeline, and suddenly, a major weakness is now getting to be a strength.  Yes, Schultz is unproven on the NHL level, but the Oilers will gladly take any help they can get, and Schultz is definitely motivated to prove himself.  Now, if only they can solve their goaltending problem...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Off the Market

If you're an NHL team in desperate need of a starting goaltender and are looking towards Vancouver, you can forget about Cory Schnieder.  The restricted free-agent to be had he not been signed agreed to a 3-year, $12 million dollar contract with the team, which almost certainly increases the pressure on the team to trade Roberto Luongo and his albatross contract.  That isn't to say Schneider is guaranteed a starting role, as conceivably, both could still be on the team by October 11, when the season starts.  As far as Luongo is concerned, Toronto and Florida are being kicked around as teams most interested in Luongo, with the latter, according to sources, being Luongo's destination of choice.  Do not rule out Chicago, Columbus, or the New York Islanders, though.  Chicago has issues as far as who will start, Columbus still doesn't have nearly enough goaltending depth, and the Islanders will need to find a way to the salary cap floor.  Of course, it will ultimately be up to Luongo as far as what he wants to do.  As for Schneider, it appears his future as a starting goaltender is now, and there is no doubt about it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Almost Time for Baseball (All-Star Edition)

No, you will not see this mascot at any Major League ball park, but this mascot (Orbitz of the Albuquerque Isotopes) segues nicely into today's topic.  With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game less than two weeks away, I figure to devote some time in the coming days to the Midsummer Classic that will be held in Kansas City, MO.  If you've followed this blog at all, you will remember that this hack of a writer calls the city home (for now), and since baseball has been on the back burner since the beginning (this blog was going to cover baseball in addition to hockey), I figure to make up for it somewhat by going through some of baseball's best moments from the All-Star Games of the past.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Making the Case for Lindros as a Hall of Famer

With the inclusion of Pavel Bure into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday, that leaves Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan as two of the big name players from the 90's not to be in the Hall.  Shanahan will get in next year, there is no question (at least, I hope he does, lest the committee wants to feel the Shanaban), but what about Lindros?  Today, I will argue for why Lindros should be in the Hall (besides the fact that Bure will be getting in, as I believe both should be in together).

As you know, Lindros' career was star-crossed, from the low point of refusing to wear the Quebec Nordiques jersey on draft day, which forced a massive trade to Philadelphia to the high of winning the Hart Trophy and losing out on the Art Ross in 1995 (yes, I know it was a lockout shortened season, but you also didn't have Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky didn't nearly have the supporting cast he had in the past).  In 1997, he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals (one of two times the Flyers have been in the last fifteen years, the other being 2010), and with 290 goals and 369 assists at the end of the 1999-2000 season as a Flyer, things were looking up from a statistics standpoint.  However, there were two things standing in the way of true greatness: his concussion history, which would eventually emasculate his playing style, and the fallout with upper management in the Flyers organization.  Let's be clear, the issues with management, namely General Manager Bobby Clarke, began in 1998, when Lindros began to suffer multiple injury issues.  This was at a time in which Lindros was hitting his prime, and even with the injury and management issues, he still put up good numbers, as he averaged more than a point a game in a Flyers uniform.  Yes, that means every season he played in Philadelphia.  He would sit out the 2000-01 season, after more management problems with the Flyers (namely blocking a trade to Toronto, near Lindros' hometown of London, Ontario).  For the 2001-02 season, he would suit up for the New York Rangers, where he would average a point a game his first year there, but he was never really the same player in the seasons after, not even a year in Toronto in 2005-06 would revive his numbers.  He would retire in 2007 after an uneventful year in Dallas, and despite not dominating for a longer period of time, he still averaged over a point a game for his career.  Lindros is the ultimate "What If" in that he could have been a more physical Mario Lemieux (another "What If" story) had concussions not curtailed a promising career that showed flashes of brilliance from the time he stepped onto an NHL rink in 1992 until the concussion heard around the world in the 2000 playoffs.  Even when he had a chance to shine in the playoffs, he made the most of his opportunities, averaging a point a game in his playoff career, with the 1997 playoffs being his best, 26 points in 19 games.  Life is unfair sometimes, and while Pavel Bure is rewarded for being a dynamic player whose career was cut short by knee problems, Lindros sits on the outside.  This is why I am making a pitch for Lindros to be in the Hall of Fame next year: he put up comparable numbers that Bure did, and he has an MVP trophy (Hart), something Bure never won in his career.  His past transgressions off the ice may keep him from getting in, but the Hall of Fame should be about what happens on the ice and how much of an impact you make (I'm looking at you, Dino Ciccarelli), something Lindros did for the Flyers when given a chance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Class of 2012

This is your class of 2012 that will be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates will be inducted this Fall in Toronto.  Personally, I'm a little surprised that it's this foursome.

If you were to ask me who the locks were for this year's class, I'd tell you Sakic and Brendan Shanahan would be the favorites, so not having Shanahan in this class is a little surprising.  Now, if I had to take one player off this list, it would be Sundin.  Yes, Sundin has the more impressive International resume, and yes, he was the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs from the late 90's to 2008.  However, he didn't put up impressive enough numbers to leapfrog Shanahan, and is minus a Stanley Cup, which Shanahan has three.  Shanahan was never a leading man at any point (the Hartford stop in the 1995-96 season notwithstanding), which is the one argument a Sundin backer can make.  Both deserve to be in the Hall...I would only put Shanahan in before Sundin, though.

Sakic was the slam dunk as far as the Hall of Fame selection goes.  The face of the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise from 1990 until 2009, he tied a record for most goals in a playoff season en route to a Conn Smythe in 1996 and played perhaps his best hockey in a two season stretch in which he won the Hart Trophy, a Stanley Cup (his second, with the first in 1996), and was the best player in the 2002 Olympics en route to a Canada gold medal.  He let his numbers speak for themselves, and speak, they did.

Say what you shall about Bure, but when he was healthy and without contract issues, he was the most dynamic player on the ice.  Knee injuries cut his career short at 33 years old, and contract issues with the Canucks in 1998 would mar a career that saw 437 goals in 702 games.  The former Calder Trophy winner was a threat for 60 goals every year, which he did once or twice in his career.  As a Canuck fan, I can never say anything bad about him, even after the contract issues that led to his departure.

Oates' induction was long overdue, and it comes on a day when he was named the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.  His game was dishing out the puck, which he did well, and Cam Neely and Brett Hull were the biggest benefactors to his skills.  1,079 assists and almost eight years after he left the game as a player, he finally gets his deserved call, and will be coaching a likely future Hall of Famer in Alexander Ovechkin.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cascadia Success

In the most recent chapter in the Cascadian rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, the Timbers managed to hang on to a 2-1 victory over the Sounders.  The first half was all Timbers, as Kris Boyd and David Horst staked the Timbers to a 2-0 lead.  The second half had the Sounders respond with a goal from Eddie Johnson and the Sounders threw everything at the Timbers in the closing minutes, only to have the rally fall short.  This rivalry is far from over, as red cards were handed out to a member of each team close to stoppage time.  This was a much needed win for the Timbers, who had been on a seven match winless streak.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Today is the first game of the season between Cascadian rivals Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders.  The rivalry, which also includes the Vancouver Whitecaps for what is called the Cascadian Cup, predates the Major League Soccer days for all three teams.  Today promises to be a lively one at Jeld-Wen Field, and there is no love lost for the team three hours north.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another Family Reunion

This weekend has been all about family in the NHL, be it the Reinharts (Griffin was the 4th overall pick, Max is a Calgary Flames prospect, and Paul played for Calgary in the 1980's), Subbans (PK and Malcom could be on opposite ends in a few years, as a Canadien and Bruin, respectively), or the Staals (Jordan and Eric are now teammates in Carolina.  Could Marc be joining them soon?).  Now, you can add the Schenns to the list, as Luke Schenn joins brother Brayden in Philadelphia.  Going to Toronto is James Van Riemsdyk.

This trade should help Luke, as he had been scuffling since joining the Leafs in 2008 as a first round pick that year.  He is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, so offense is not his forte.  However, he has also been out of position on a few key plays for the Leafs, and has been subject to trade rumors.  Now that he is out of Toronto, will he play to his potential?  He only needs to look at future teammate Chris Pronger (a big if, due to injuries he suffered this season), who never fulfilled expectations in Hartford, was traded to St. Louis, and became a number one defenseman there.  Van Riemsdyk has been injured, but has also shown flashes of potential (see: 2010 and 2011 playoffs).  He is likely insurance if the Leafs do decide to trade Mikhail Grabovski.  At the moment, it looks like the Flyers have the better of the deal, but time will tell.

Getting All the Staals (Almost)

Meet the happiest Carolina Hurricane, Eric Staal.  In the NHL Draft held last night, the Pittsburgh Penguins swung a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes that saw Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumolin, and the eight overall draft pick this year, which became Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks head to Pittsburgh.  Going to Carolina?  Jordan Staal, who you will remember to be one of Eric's younger brothers.  This deal ended up being a win-win trade for both teams.  For Pittsburgh, they clear a little cap space (they cleared a little more by trading Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix, possibly opening the door to either Simon Despres of Joe Morrow (another Winterhawk) while still getting a good center in Sutter, who will slide into the third line that Staal previously occupied.  For Carolina, Jordan Staal gives the Hurricanes an instant number one center and conceivably, play on the same line as Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner.  Pittsburgh could make a run at Zach Parise or Bobby Ryan with the money saved in the trades while Carolina gets a much needed boost at center, where Jordan Staal could be the superstar that he always wanted to be while possibly getting Eric a chance at another 100 point season.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Awards Post-Mortem

Before I get to today's piece, I'd like to say that due to a miscalculation on my part, today is going to be a review of the trophy winners instead of a predictions piece.  The NHL Awards happened yesterday, instead of today, like I thought it would be, so I take full responsibility.

That said, you are looking at what will grace the NHL 13 cover.  The likeness of Claude Giroux, as voted by the people, will be on the cover, and if you're thinking curse, this isn't the Madden Football franchise.  Patrick Kane was on the cover of NHL 10...and scored the Cup winning goal.  Jonathan Toews was on the cover the next year, and had the best year of his career so far.  Last year's cover boy: Steven Stamkos.  He only went on to win the Rocket Richard Trophy and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy, so keep the curses to yourself.  All of that coincided with the Awards, so without further ado, here are the winners:

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
Hired early in the season after Davis Payne was let go, he led the Blues to a second seed in the Western Conference.

Masterton: Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
He took a gruesome hit from Zdeno Chara last year that broke a vertebra in his back.  This year, he scored 33 goals and 32 assists in what arguably is only the surface of what he can do when healthy.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Long considered a good two-way player, he finally gets the recognition over the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and David Backes.

Calder: Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
The second overall pick in last year's draft, he was just as advertised, with 22 goals and 30 assists.  He beat out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (drafted one spot ahead of Landeskog) and Adam Henrique.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
How do you celebrate a new 7-year deal?  If you're Karlsson, win the Norris Trophy, which is exactly what he did.  Far and away the best offensive output from a defenseman, he did well enough on defense (plus 16) to win over Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara.

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Backstopped the Rangers to the best record in the Eastern Conference, beating out Rinne and Quick, no slouches when it comes to carrying a team.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
No Sidney Crosby?  No problem, as Malkin took the team on his back while Crosby was recovering from concussion issues.  Lundqvist and Steven Stamkos were the other nominees.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Knockout Time!

Now that the Euro 2012 tournament is entering the knockout round, here are the matchups and who I think will advance.

Greece is taking on Germany, and while Greece played their best match against Russia, Germany has found their touch, getting all nine possible points.  Safe money says Germany here.  Portugal squares off with the Czech Republic, and both are on two match winning streaks.  Is Portugal playing to the ridiculously high expectations finally, or is it the Czech Republic's time?  I think this will be a good one, but take Portugal, as they played Germany well in the tournament.  England takes on Italy, and it looks like England has put the controversies behind them.  However, they almost always play down to the competition.  Italy hasn't been spectacular, and they have blown chances when given them.  Take the arrogant bastards from England.  France and Spain squares off, and both teams are not playing their best.  France lost to a Sweden team that had nothing to play for, and Spain has clearly let the injuries affect them.  However, Spain has too much talent to not win this matchup, so go with them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to the KHL With Ye!

You may remember the Alexander Radulov saga this season in which Radulov was being lured by the Nashville Predators to play out his NHL contract.  One problem: his KHL contract, as in he couldn't leave for the NHL while the contract is in effect.  So, the Predators negotiated a deal that would bring him to the NHL while leaving the door open for the KHL.  Well, it looks like Radulov will be going back through that door, as his KHL team's original holder Salavat Yulaev traded his rights to CSKA.  Without getting into how or why Radulov is going back to the KHL, let's look at his NHL tenure: both of them.

In 2004, he was the 15th overall pick of the Predators, and would come to North America to play for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL for two seasons.  His NHL debut happened in the 2006-07 season, and he would go on to play that season and the next, where he amassed 44 goals and 51 assists in that time.  After the 2007-08 season, he would bolt for the KHL.  He made his return to the NHL this season after Salavat Yulaev's season ended, and he would play nine games, with 3 goals and 4 assists.  For all of the talent he flashed in his time in the NHL, it was what happened in the playoffs this year that garnered him headlines, as he was benched for games 3 and 4 in the Conference Semifinals against the Phoenix Coyotes along with Andrei Kostitsyn.  His time with the Predators ended when he was made a restricted free agent, which opened a door to go back to the KHL.

As you can see, Radulov does indeed have talent, but with all of the talk about changing leagues and his off-ice behavior, is it any wonder why no NHL team jumped at the chance to get Radulov?  Sure, he can get you 30 goals a season and brings an edge that sometimes gets him in trouble (see: 2007 playoffs against San Jose), but would you want a player who has commitment issues, particularly when it comes to North American hockey?  That answer won't have to be answered by any NHL club, as it is now in the hands of CSKA.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Clean-Up and Re-Stocking: Part 3

Here's part 3, and I will update the Euro 2012 report on Wednesday.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Salary cap problems galore will likely keep the Flyers from developing young talent right away...not that they've been great in that category.  Claude Giroux (2006), James Van Riemsdyk (2007), and Sean Couturier (2011) were some of the team's biggest hits in the draft.

PHOENIX COYOTES: In their ongoing saga of finding an owner, the Coyotes have almost had to rely on young talent.  Most of that talent hasn't developed, mainly because they've been rushed to the NHL before they're ready (see: Tikhonov, Viktor (2008) and Mueller, Peter (2006)).  However, most of that young talent is finally playing to potential, but now, the focus must be on some offense up front.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: It's no secret that the Penguins have drafted well, with Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Evgeni Malkin (2004), Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang (both in 2005) forming the foundation for the team's success in recent years.  However, it will be guys like Simon Despres (2009) and Joe Morrow (2011) that will be key to sustaining that success.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: As badly as they whiffed on guys such as Shawn Belle (2003), Marek Schwartz (2004), and Erik Johnson (2006), they have some pieces in place that came from the draft.  David Perron (2007), T.J. Oshie (2005), and Jaden Schwartz (2010) all figure to be key players for years to come.  Vladimir Tarasenko (2010) could be the best of the bunch, though if he makes the jump to the NHL.

SAN JOSE SHARKS: A team that is badly in need of developing talent, it isn't like the Sharks don't develop young talent, they just trade it away for players with bigger contracts.  Remember Milan Michalek (2003)?  Traded for Dany Heatley, who underperformed in San Jose.  Pray that Logan Couture (2007) does not get traded for another bloated contract (paging Rick Nash).

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: The Lightning's draft history has not exactly been sterling, as they seem to fail on picks that are not the first overall like Steven Stamkos (2008).  However, the Lightning have been trying to reverse that trend in recent years, but they still need to find a way to develop a goaltender, as they have never been able to do so in their existence.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS:  Want to know why Toronto hasn't been to the playoffs since the lockout?  Look no further than the team's draft history, which includes trading away Tuukaa Rask (2005), trading first rounders in 2010 and 2011 for Phil Kessel, and the yet-to-be developed Luke Schenn (2008) and Nazem Kadri (2009).  This year is pivotal if the Leafs hope to be playoff bound next year.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Ryan Kesler (2003) and Cory Schneider (2004) have been integral parts to the team's success in recent years, which isn't to say the team doesn't do well after the first round (see: Hansen, Jannik (2004) and Raymond, Mason (2005)).  Recent drafts haven't been as kind, as Jordan Schroeder (2009) haven't developed as hoped, and defense is still a sore spot, where Luc Bourdon (2005) would have been a major part had he not been killed in a motorcycle accident in 2008.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The draft has been important for the Capitals, as Alexander Ovechkin (2004), Alexander Seimin (2002), and Niklas Backstrom (2006) all play important roles.  Don't forget about Karl Alzner (2007), Mike Green (2004), and John Carlson (2008), all blue liners who were drafted by the team.  The Capitals would have had a spotless record in the last ten years if not for the folly that was the 2005 draft (Sasha Poklouk and Joe Finley).

WINNIPEG JETS:  The former Atlanta Thrashers franchise have been hit and miss when it comes to the draft.  Foolishly, they traded away Braydon Coburn (2004) in 2007, drafted Alex Bourret (2005) in the draft that has claimed many a team, and rushed some of their more recent draft picks.  Evander Kane (2009) has developed into a true star, but we're still waiting for Zach Bogosian (2008) and Alexander Burmistrov (2010).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clean-Up and Re-Stocking: Part 2

Here is part two:

EDMONTON OILERS: Recent drafts have yielded some promising players in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle.  Of course, finishing at or near the bottom every year does have its advantages.  However, the times before that haven't been so kind, as players such as Alex Plante, Jesse Niinimaaki, and Riley Nash have not panned out.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: The draft for most of the ten year span has not been kind to the Panthers.  For every Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton, there have been players like Rostislav Olesz, Kendal McArdle, Keaton Ellerby, and Anthony Stewart.  Recent drafts show some promising returns, though, as the likes of Jacob Markstrom and Erik Gudbrandson are waiting to show their skills.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Pre-lockout results were not so kind to the Kings, though Dustin Brown did come from the 2003 class.  Post-lockout, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick in 2005 and Drew Doughty in 2008 were instrumental in the Stanley Cup run this year.

MINNESOTA WILD: Like their Expansion era counterparts in Columbus, Minnesota has not been very good in the draft.  A.J. Thelen, Benoit, Pouliot, James Sheppard, Tyler Cuma, those are just some of the players to have made a negligible impact in the NHL.  Brent Burns has been the best of a bad lot, and Mikael Granlund is ready to make one.

MONTREAL CANADIENS: For what it's worth, the Canadiens can develop players, but the problem is sustaining that success (see: Kostitsyn, Andrei from 2003).  Carey Price (2005) and P.K. Subban (2007) are the cornerstones to the franchise, but what else is there for the Canadiens?

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: In stark contrast, the Predators have been the definition of "money" when it comes to the draft.  Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in 2003, Pekka Rinne in 2004, and even going back to their beginnings with David Legwand, the first ever draft pick, still with the team.  While scoring hasn't been the team's strong suit, they more than make up for it on the back end.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: They still need to identify a future starter in goal, but it looks like Adam Larsson (2011) and Adam Henrique (2008) will be cornerstone players for years to come.  The question is will it be with Zach Parise (2003) and Travis Zajac (2004)?

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: For every John Tavares (2009), there has been a Ryan O'Marra (2005) and Josh Bailey (2008).  Poor management by the team is partially to blame, but it's about time the likes of Kyle Okposo (2006) and Nino Niederreiter (2010) seize control and play to their potential.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Without mentioning the debacle from 2003, the Rangers have done fairly well post-lockout, with Marc Staal (2005), Michael Del Zotto (2008), and Chris Kreider (2010) all figuring into the team's future plans.  The black marks post-lockout?  Bobby Sanguinetti (2006) and Alexei Cherepanov (2007, he died in 2008 after collapsing on the bench during a game in Russia).

OTTAWA SENATORS: It begins with Erik Karlsson (2008) if you're looking for success stories in Ottawa.  Zack Smith (2008) and Nick Foligno (2006) also play regular roles in the Senators system.  Brian Lee (2005) and Jim O'Brien (2007) are some of the players that haven't played to full potential, though not for lack of opportunities.

Clean-up and Re-stocking Time: Part 1

With the NHL season finished until October, this week is time for a clean up (NHL Awards) and restocking the shelves (NHL Draft).  So, what is there to talk about?  Well, I'll get to the predictions for the Awards sometime before the Awards ceremony Thursday, and seeing as the NHL Draft begins Friday, with the first round, today's piece is all about the past NHL Drafts and what it has meant to different teams.  So, in a sentence or two, I will look at the first ten teams' success (or failure) rate in the last ten years.  Parts 2 and 3 will be coming shortly.

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Their best year was 2003, where Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were taken in the first round.  However, the 2006 and 2007 drafts bore little fruit, though 2010 draft sees the Ducks have their possible cornerstone on the blue line in Cam Fowler.

BOSTON BRUINS: Until 2006, the Bruins were practically spinning their wheels in the draft.  Then, they took Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic, and both would have an impact on the Bruins' fortunes for different reasons.  Kessel was traded to Toronto for what would become Tyler Seguin (2010 first rounder) and Dougie Hamilton (2011 first rounder).  Lucic is an integral part of the Bruins success in recent years...when he's on the ice.

BUFFALO SABRES: It's not unusual that many teams were bitten by the draft bug in the mid-2000's.  Buffalo was no exception, as those picks did not pan out well.  Beginning with Tyler Myers in 2008 however, it seems that Buffalo has turned the corner.

CALGARY FLAMES: The Flames have not done very well in the Draft since their Stanley Cup run in 1989, and seeing as only Dion Phaneuf (2003) has played to potential in the last ten years, it is easy to see why the Flames rank near the bottom in development.  One bright spot: Sven Baertschi, who impressed in an emergency call-up from Portland of the WHL.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: Their foundation is built on Cam Ward (2002) and Eric Staal (2003).  However, outside of Jeff Skinner (2010), not many of the team's drafted players in recent years have made a big impact.  They did manage to flip Jack Johnson (2005) for blue line mainstay Tim Gleason, a move once panned by Hurricanes fans and media alike, now not as much.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: After the lockout of 2004, the Blackhawks made the draft a major point of emphasis.  Even with Jonathan Toews (2006) and Patrick Kane (2007), it was players like Dustin Byfuglien (2003), Niklas Hjalmarsson (2005), and Duncan Keith (2002) that were a major part of the team's championship run in 2010.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: A team that has had to rely on the draft since the lockout, it has only been recently that the team feels comfortable doing so, with Matt Duchene (2009) and Gabriel Landeskog (2011) leading the way.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: The definition of failure, only Rick Nash (2002) has been a consistent force.  Following that success has been failures such as Nikolay Zherdev (2003), Alexandre Picard (2004), Gilbert Brule (2005), Derrick Brassard (2006), and Nikita Filatov (2008).  And given that they traded away the pick that would be Sean Couturier (2011) for Jeff Carter, that only serves to be the ultimate kick in the balls for a team that just doesn't have any luck.

DALLAS STARS: Once a sore spot, the draft is now being re-emphasized by the new management for the Stars.  Players such as Jamie Benn (2007) and James Neal (2005) were the hits of the draft, but too often, they didn't succeed on players such as Scott Glennie (2009).

DETROIT RED WINGS: If any team is adept at drafting late, it is Detroit.  Darren Helm, Jiri Hudler, Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and even the recently retired Nicklas Lidstrom were not taken in the first round, yet all have played a role in the team's success.They regularly let the players develop before they're ready to promote them, which is the surest sign that a team is doing well.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tampa to Ride the (Lind)Back

Since Tuesday, I've been practically devoting time to the Euro 2012 Football tournament that is heading into the homestretch for the round-robin.  Today, I get to delve into a little hockey talk because after all, this is primarily a blog about hockey.  With all of the talk about Rick Nash and where he will end up and Roberto Luongo and whether he will remain in Vancouver, it is almost certain that Luongo will not go to Tampa Bay.  That's because Tampa Bay acquired Anders Lindback from Nashville along with Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick this year.  Nashville gets two second round picks this year, a third round pick next year, and Sebastian Caron.

Lindback is a restricted free agent at the moment, and it is likely that Tampa Bay will sign him to a larger deal in the hopes that he will be the long term answer in goal.  As you may recall, Dwayne Roloson got old, Mathieu Garon is nothing more than a capable backup, and Dustin Tokarski is not NHL ready right now.  Lindback wasn't about to wrestle the starting job away from Pekka Rinne, and with nothing to really stop him from claiming a starter's role in Tampa, it is hoped that Lindback will not only solve the goaltending problem in Tampa, but also the Lightning will have better luck with a former Predator (Remember Dan Ellis?).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Birthday Gore

A little birdie in the know as far as horror films is concerned told me that today is Herschell Gordon Lewis' birthday.  He turns 83 today, and is best known for movies such as Blood Feast and Gore Gore Girls, movies that were one of the first to feature excess blood in horror films.  So, celebrate the birthday of an innovator and hide the meat tenderizers.

No Luck

It wasn't a very good Euro 2012 Tournament for the Republic of Ireland football team, as they were the first team to be eliminated...and they still have one game to play against Italy.  This was the most expected result, as Spain, Italy, and dark horse Croatia are all in the same group.  However, losing 3-1 to Croatia and 4-0 to Spain exposes all that is wrong with the Republic of Ireland team, namely the lack of talent.  Their system is one of defense and everything having to go right.  Unfortunately, that got exposed in a hurry against Croatia and when it came time to face Spain, it was over before it began because Spain was not in a good mood after blowing their chances in a 1-1 tie against Italy.  It is a Euro 2012 that Ireland would love to forget, after a decade of not being in any tournament of consequence, only to be blasted into oblivion.

As for the rest of the group, Italy needs to win and hope that either Spain or Croatia win.  An Italy loss or tie or Italy win and Spain/Croatia tie would see Spain and Croatia advance.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Halfway Through the First Round

This morning marks the halfway point of the first round of Euro 2012 action, and by the slimmest of margins, all the teams are still in the hunt for advancement.  Group A has Russia still in the catbird seat with 4 points.  However, they could have been through had they not let Poland back into the last game.  Speaking of Poland, they are third with 2 points, behind Russia and the Czech Republic, the latter getting a much needed win.  Greece is still in it with 1 point, but need to beat Russia and have Poland win their matchup against the Czech Republic.  Poland needs a win to advance, the Czech Republic needs a tie and a Russia tie against Greece or win outright to advance, and Russia needs at least a tie to advance.

Group B is a little more clear cut, as the Netherlands needs to win and have Germany win by two goals (a lot to ask for, but Manchester City did it against Manchester United in the English Premier League), Portugal simply needs to win or tie and have Germany win, Denmark needs a win and a Netherlands win, and Germany needs a minimum of a tie to advance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kings of the NHL

Los Angeles Kings: Stanley Cup Champions.  Has a good ring if you're a Kings fan, doesn't it?  Get used to it for the next three months, as the Kings took the series 4-2 in convincing fashion.  Of course, they got a little help in the form of a 5-minute major on the New Jersey Devils' Steve Bernier and the Kings would go on to score three goals in that 5-minute power play. (Writer's note: a 5-minute power play from a major gets served all the way through, regardless if the team with the advantage scores)  From there, it was only a matter of time before Los Angeles could add another championship to its case.

It was only a few years ago that Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick was fending off competition from backup Jonathan Bernier.  It was only last year that Anze Kopitar was sitting at home with an injury as the Kings were bounced in the first round last year.  It was only a few months ago that Dustin Brown was on the trading block and the Kings made a desperation trade for Jeff Carter.  It was only a few months ago that Dustin Penner's legacy was set in stone as the guy who threw out his back while enjoying delicious pancakes.  Today, They are all champions, and each one played a big role in that event.  Don't forget Mike Richards, who found his game when his ex-Flyer running buddy Carter came to the Kings in a trade and Willie Mitchell, a former Canuck who has given almost a decade of sweat to get here.  Drew Doughty, much maligned for holding out before the season, played a big role in the Kings' run to a championship.  Throw in a midseason coaching change in the form of Darryl Sutter and you have history, as the Kings are the first eight seed to ever win the Stanley Cup.

Yes, this year's Los Angeles Kings did what the Wayne Gretzky-led teams could not do, and they did so in convincing fashion.  Not even the Triple Crown line from the 1980's got the Kings a championship.  Yes, this Kings team is truly special in more ways than one, and now, they will forever be remembered as a champion.  It really is good to be a King.

Monday, June 11, 2012

B-Movie Madness

What if I told you that you could have a movie or book that features atomic locusts, a mallet-toting killer, a butcher that carves up more than just cows and chickens, and a Mr. Freeze clone?  Thanks to Alan Spencer, this is all possible, thanks to his most recent novel B-Movie Reels.

The basic plot is that recent film school graduate Andy Ryerson moves into his uncle's house in Anderson Mills, KS.  His task while there is to watch a stack of B-movies given to him by his professor and make commentary on each one.  Two problems: the house has had a "storied" history, and when the original film projector breaks, Andy comes across another film projector in the house.  Not long after he starts watching the movies on the antiquated projector, the characters in the movie begin coming to life and the townsfolk of Anderson Mills begin to be killed off by the various creatures and characters from the movies.

In getting to the Andy Ryerson character and the house he would inhabit, the novel offers a little back story on the house and its previous inhabitant, James Ryerson, who happened to be Andy's uncle.  Here, while the novel offers a good story behind James and how the house affected him, it doesn't quite go into the inhabitant before that and why the house became the way it did until about halfway into the story.  All that said, the real stars of the novel are the various creatures that emerge from the movies Andy is watching, and as is the case later in the novel, not watching, as the creatures (zombies from a movie Andy was watching) eventually take control of the projector.  Many of the townsfolk are merely fodder, as they're there to be killed off, but the ones that do play a role in the story either have some kind of connection to the Ryersons or are used by the spirit of James to guide Ned Ryerson, James' brother, to the house in order to destroy the projector and the house itself.  The premise of B-movies coming to life is ridiculous, but it provides plenty of scares and fun at the same time, and that is where B-Movie Reels succeeds greatly.  Alan Spencer seems to have found a comfort zone with ridiculous premises (see Zombies and Power Tools for another example), and though the main characters (not from the movies) outside of Andy Ryerson are secondary in the story, they do propel the story enough to make it a worthwhile read all the way around.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Groups C and D

I finished to book I was reading, and will have a review of that tomorrow.  In the meantime, kickoff for the first game today is in half an hour, so here's my take on Groups C and D.

Group C has Spain and Italy clashing in what is a matchup of the last two World Cup champions, with Spain also being the reigning Euro champions.  Spain is missing two key players in David Villa and Carles Puyol, so repeating this year in the Euros will be a tall task.  Italy is a perennial powerhouse that clearly will be tested because their defense is a sore point.  Croatia and Ireland meet later today, and if you're looking for a dark horse, Croatia is it.  Seemingly, there is a surprise team from the southeastern part of Europe (Bulgaria in 2002 World Cup, Greece in Euro 2004, Turkey in Euro 2008), and Croatia has pulled a surprise or two in their history.  Ireland should have made the World Cup in 2010 if not for a missed call on a handball on France.  Sadly, Ireland is the long shot here, and it's doubtful either Spain or Italy will whiff on their opportunities to advance to the knockout round.

Group D has France and England as the early matchup Monday.  France is looking for redemption after a lackluster 2010 World Cup in which things got ugly for them to the point of having to fly back home in coach.  If France isn't motivated by this embarrassment, then it's time to rethink things here.  England has its own share of problems as far as injuries and controversy go.  Like France, England has a lot to lose if they don't advance to the knockout rounds.  Sweden takes on Ukraine in the later game, and Sweden has a good chance of advancing if both France and England take each other out.  The Ukraine is the ultimate long shot, but as one of the hosts, they should have the home field advantage, so anything is possible with them.

As far as who I have advancing, I take Greece and Russia from Group A, Germany and the Netherlands in Group B, Spain and Croatia in Group C, and Sweden and France in Group D.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Assessing Groups A and B

Since Euro 2012 began yesterday, I did not get a chance to talk about it in earnest, as the Stanley Cup Finals are still going on.  No, the two mascots are not playing, and truthfully, they're more frightening than anything.  So, the first matches of the teams in Groups A and B were completed, so I will look at what each team did in their first matches and their outlooks for their next two matches.

First, the teams in Group A.  Greece and Poland tied 1-1, but Poland blew their chances to score at least two or three more goals in the first half, and Greece blew a chance at a 2-1 lead on a penalty kick after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off with a red card for tripping up Dimitrios Salpigidis in the box as Salpigidis was threatening to score a goal.  Giorgos Karagounis took the penalty shot, but backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton made the save.  Russia dominated the Czech Republic 4-1 behind two goals from Alan Dzagoev.  If Russia plays this well without superstar Andrei Arshavin contributing, the Russians could be a factor in the knockout rounds.

Group B saw the first major upset, as the Danish side clean sheeted the Netherlands 1-0.  Michael Krohn-Delhi provided the difference in the 25th minute, and the Dutch side could not put in their chances.  Germany didn't play particularly well, but a header by Mario Gomez in the 71st minute ensured that they would enter their match against the Netherlands with three points.  Portugal has been perennial underachievers despite the talent level, and it looks like after missing chance after chance in the game, I would not be surprised if Portugal does not make it out of group play.  After all, the Dutch will be doubly motivated against Germany, the Danish have a lot of confidence after upsetting the 2010 World Cup runners-up, and the Germans are in the catbird seat in the group.

I'll try to get analysis for Groups C and D before the games begin tomorrow, but if I don't, expect them after the first games have been competed for both groups.

Euro 2012

As the hockey season winds down and the awards and NHL draft loom, there is another sport that will take over headlines this month in the Euro 2012 tournament.  It actually began yesterday, so to get you up to speed, Group A saw Poland and Greece tie 1-1 and Russia blow out the Czech Republic 4-1.  Group B sees Denmark looking for an upset of the Netherlands (as of this moment) and Germany take on Portugal in what is termed "the Group of Death."  Group C has Ireland, Croatia, Italy, and the defending champions (both the Euro and World Cup tournaments) Spain and Group D has France, Ukraine, Sweden, and England.

I'll break down each group in subsequent pieces, but for now, you are all caught up on Euro 2012.

Friday, June 8, 2012

KHL Bound

Ideas for this piece included a beer that I tried last week and a book review, but seeing as I didn't want to clog this blog with more beer for now and I'm not finished with the book I'm currently reading, leave it to the fine folks at to come up with this piece of news.  Paul Maurice, late of the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs, will be coaching next season in the Kontinental Hockey League for Magnitogorosk.  Tom Barrasso, who was on Maurice's staff as a goaltender coach, will join him in the same role, and also making the jump to Magnitogorosk will Mats Zuccarello, late of the New York Rangers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

As mentioned in the Vladimir Krutov piece, today hasn't been a good day when it comes to significant people dying.  What Krutov did for Russians who aspired to play in the NHL, Ray Bradbury did for the science fiction genre in books.  Bradbury's most well known works include The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.  It was Bradbury's fear of technology that propelled many of his stories, with Fahrenheit 451 providing great relevance, even today, in the wake of e-readers emerging and books like Fahrenheit 451 being on the banned list.  Bradbury was 91.

Russian Pioneer

Today hasn't been a good day for either hockey or book lovers.  Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Krutov both passed away today, and both leave behind impressive legacies.  I'll devote an entire piece to Bradbury in a bit, but for this piece, this belongs to Krutov, since this is a hockey blog first.  Krutov was one of the key players for the Soviet Union hockey team in the 1980's and was actually one of the very first Russian players to make the leap to the NHL.  He would only play one season for the Vancouver Canucks, though, and his time there is only a footnote compared to the likes of Sergei Makarov and Slava Fetisov.  Krutov's post-playing days included coaching in the European leagues.  52 years is a relatively young age to die, and one wonders if Krutov had any health issues that many did not know about.  However, today is a day to remember what Krutov did for Russians in being one of the first players from Russia to make it in the NHL.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meet the New Habs Coach...Same as an Old Coach

This man that is deep in thought is Michel Therrien, and as of a few minutes ago, he is now officially the new coach of the Montreal Canadiens.  Don't laugh, he really is the new coach of the Canadiens.  Granted, he did have a previous stint as coach of the Canadiens in the early 2000's, but this is his second chance at redeeming himself, after getting axed in 2003 by the Canadiens and in the 2008-09 season with the Penguins...a year after making the finals with the Penguins and before they would win it all a few months after he got fired.

Therrien's hiring should not really come as any baboon's butt of a surprise, seeing as he fits the bilingual requirement, and given that the likes of Marc Crawford, Bob Hartley, and Guy Carbonneau (another ex-Habs coach) were considered, the Canadiens didn't exactly have that much in the way of a choice for coach.  You had a guy whose best years were with Colorado and Vancouver (both talent laden teams), a guy who is still a relative unknown because of the talent on those teams (Colorado and Atlanta...and now coaching Calgary), and an ex-Habs coach and player who was actually the best of a rather mediocre lot that had coached the Habs since 1996.  That isn't to say Therrien won't succeed this time around, but here's hoping he learned a thing or two from his Pittsburgh days, though Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not going to be putting on Canadiens sweaters anytime soon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rayon Vert

The only hockey news of note today is Tomas Vokoun getting traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he promptly signed a two year deal with the team.  Vokoun will likely serve as a backup to Marc-Andre Fleury and maybe push for a starting job, if only to get Fleury's game going again.

As for how to fill this page, well, you are looking at the Green Flash Rayon Vert.  It is the Belgian Style Pale-Ale entry from the San Diego, CA based brewing company and carries a 7.0% ABV.  It is a sour, so the taste and smell will be a little odd.  For me, the taste just wasn't there for most of the try, but it came on strong at the end as the beer warmed up.  I like consistency when it comes to taste, so in that regard, the beer disappoints.  However, it wasn't helped this time by the amount of head on the beer, as you see in the picture.  If you have the patience to wait out the warming of the beer, then the Rayon Vert will reap some reward for the drinker.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

No Timmy Jim!

I don't pretend to know Tim Thomas' middle name, so don't be sending complaint letters correcting the title, but seeing as I have no clever title for today's piece, it will have to do.  That said, take a good look at the picture above because you will not see Thomas in action next year.  No word on whether it will lead to retirement or if it's just to recharge his batteries.  What is known is that Boston's goaltending situation just got a little weaker.  It's not a major concern, as Tuukaa Rask will be the starter (assuming that he doesn't leave as a restricted free agent) and his play in the 2010 playoffs showed that the Bruins are in good hands, and yes, I know Boston lost a series after being up 3-0, but that was not all his fault.  Where the Bruins need help is likely in the backup role, as the Bruins had to sign Marty Turco when Rask was out with an injury this past season.  Thomas' absence is not a cause for alarm for Bruins fans, as it is far from the biggest need.  What the Bruins need the most is offense on the power play, as it has been dreadful the past few years.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Time to Light a New Fire

Calgary Flames fans will recognize this man as Bob Hartley, who as of yesterday, is now the head coach for the team.  This bit of news got lost in the shuffle of Nicklas Lidstrom retiring, and with the rumors of Hartley heading to Montreal prior to yesterday, it almost certainly will be an interesting time to see if Hartley made the right decision.  Part of why Hartley decided on Calgary was because of his closeness to Flames General Manager Jay Feaster.

Hartley, as you will remember led the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 2001 and led the Atlanta Thrashers to their only playoff berth in their entire existence in 2007.  The current Flames do not have the talent that the Avs did nor the young players that the Thrashers did in 2007, so it will be interesting to see how Hartley does this time around.  Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff cannot play in the NHL forever, and the prospect pool is rather shallow.  The only real clear cut player ready for the NHL is Sven Baertschi, and with the likes of T.J. Oshie and Leland Irving already cementing their spots on the roster, Hartley doesn't have an entirely barren cupboard to work with.  However, growing pains are inevitable, and neither Joe Sakic nor Ilya Kovalchuk will be walking through the door for the Flames.