Thursday, February 28, 2013

O'Reilly Gets Offered

Today's big news in the NHL is that Ryan O'Reilly will be joining a team in seven days.  The only question is what team, as the Calgary Flames have given O'Reilly an offer sheet.  The Colorado Avalanche, who currently own his rights as a restricted free agent, have seven days to match that offer or let him walk for a first and third rounder.  The details:

According to TSN's Darren Dreger, O'Reilly's contract from the Flames is for two years, $10 million (an average annual value of $5 million). He would receive a $1 million salary and $2.5 million signing bonus this season, and a $6.5 million salary next season.
Those contract numbers are what O'Reilly had been asking for, and the Avs had not wanted to agree to those terms.  Now, they may have no other choice if they are to keep one of their own.  As for the Flames, O'Reilly is not the final piece, but he sure would be a viable solution for that gaping hole in the center position.  Since Olli Jokinen left for Winnipeg this offseason, the Flames have been without a real number one center, and should O'Reilly not get the offer from Colorado, it would help in the Flames' overall depth, as while there is a dearth of overall talent, the center position is one that needs a lot of attention.  O'Reilly could also provide leadership should Jarome Iginla get traded at some point.

As for Colorado, if O'Reilly walks, then it could spell the end of the Greg Sherman/Joe Sacco regime, as that duo has one playoff appearance to show for it in their three-plus seasons together, but none since their first year together.   Combine that with another potential year of not making the playoffs, the questionable trade for Erik Johnson, and the mishandling of the O'Reilly contract, and it is likely the Avs will be rebuilding...again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cutting Through the Competition

Don't look now, but the Saskatoon Blades are the hottest team in the WHL right now.  With all apologies to the Portland Winterhawks, a 15-game winning streak speaks volumes as to just how well the Blades are playing, and yes, they have taken the lead in the race to be East Division champions.  Though the Blades will be playing for the Memorial Cup no matter what happens in the WHL playoffs (they are hosting the Memorial Cup this year, thus ensuring their spot), the Blades are not content with just playing out the season.  Behind the great goaltending of Andrey Makarov, the Blades are quickly becoming the dark horse in the WHL playoffs and could very well be a favorite come May.  Their offense is led by Matej Stransky and Josh Nicholls, and their defense features Duncan Siemens and Dalton Thrower as their best players on the blue line.  Erik Benoit has provided a boost since coming over from Kootenay at the deadline.  Michael Ferland has also provided a boost since coming back from injury suffered while with Brandon, proving that the Blades made a shrewd decision at the trade deadline to trade for a guy who has produced in the past (Ferland was second on the Wheat Kings last season behind Mark Stone in scoring).  Saskatoon will be playing in May, but the way things are going, they may not have much time to catch their breath between the WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, and that would be just fine with them.

Peterborough Express: Playoff Hopes Take a Hit

This past week was a chance for the Peterborough Petes to make up some ground on the Kingston Frontenacs and the Mississauga Steelheads for one of the final two playoff spots.  Unfortunately, things did not exactly go as planned, as the Petes won only one game of the four and remain four points behind Kingston for the last playoff spot.  The Petes lost to Owen Sound on Monday 3-2, beat Oshawa 6-3 on Thursday, and lost to Belleville 5-2 Saturday and lost to Oshawa 4-1 on Sunday.  Games this week include a home game against Ottawa on Thursday and road games at Sudbury on Friday and at Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday.  With only eight games remaining, the Petes had better take care of their own business if they want to sneak into the playoffs, but with a slow start hampering them, it may be too little too late.  Don't count the Petes out, though, as anything can happen, and the Petes are still only six points behind Mississauga for the seventh spot.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: 50 and Lovin' It!

This past week marked a milestone for the Portland Winterhawks, as not only did they win the U.S. Division, but also won 50 games on the way to a perfect week.  It began with an 8-3 spanking of Spokane in the Daylight Classic, and Taylor Leier led the way with a six point effort.  A sterling effort by Mac Carruth was the highlight in a 3-0 shutout in Kamloops on Wendesday, and the Winterhawks went into Prince George, BC and beat the Cougars 6-2 on Friday behind a couple of goals from Ty Rattie and 6-1 on Saturday, with Brendan Leipsic netting two goals and an assist.  This coming week, the Winterhawks will finish their road trip in Kennewick, WA for a Tuesday tilt with Tri-City before coming home to host the defending Ed Chynoweth champions in the Edmonton Oil Kings in what could very well be a rematch come May, and the Winterhawks will finish the week with a Saturday evening dance at Everett, who is looking to solidify their playoff positioning, as the Western Conference now has six spots spoken for and three teams looking to fill the remaining two spots (Seattle, Everett, and Prince George).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Giant Birthday for Mr. Hockey

It's been a while since I've done a jersey article, but this jersey you see here was unveiled yesterday by the Vancouver Giants for a week of celebration.  Yes, the Giants are terrible this year (and they lost 6-0 to Kamloops, by the way), but nothing can brighten a team's season like Gordie Howe, and the Giants will be wearing these jerseys throughout the week.  They wore them yesterday, and will continue to wear them for games on Sunday against Seattle and March 1 against Lethbridge.  The Giants will also be holding a special 85th birthday celebration that will see the likes of Howe, Marcel Dionne, Orland Kurtenbach, and Johnny Bower in attendance, with 500 fans getting the chance to meet Mr. Hockey and the other legends in attendance.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Down to Bridgeport

Forever the punchline since signing that 15-year deal in 2006, Rick DiPietro was placed on waivers today, effectively ending any chance of his revival with the New York Islanders.  Of course, any team can claim him, but with a health history that would make the Tin Man look healthy in comparison, combined with a not-so good 2013 so far, the Islanders will now have nearly $9 million either in the minors or sitting at home, as Tim Thomas was acquired a few weeks back from Boston in what was a salary cap dump by the Bruins.  And now, you may make your DiPietro jokes

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Man in Charge in Buffalo

Meet Ron Rolston, the man that will be coaching the Buffalo Sabres for the rest of this season.  In a press conference yesterday, the Sabres tabbed the 46-year old Rolston to coach the Sabres after letting Lindy Ruff go earlier in the day.  Rolston had been coaching the Sabres' minor league affiliate in Rochester since the 2011-12 season and before that, was the head coach of the United States NTDP, who play in the USHL in addition to international tournaments.  Under Rolston's watch, the US team took home three gold medals in international play, and in recent years, has been a hotbed for potential future NHLers, as they produced six first rounders in the 2010 and 2011 drafts, plus Brandon Saad and Justin Faulk, both of whom played with the US NTDP, are currently playing in the NHL.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Coaching Casualty in Buffalo

If you were running an office pool as to who the first NHL coach would be canned, you would win if you picked Buffalo's Lindy Ruff.  As of today, Ruff's tenure, which began in the summer of 1997, comes to an end, as the Sabres struggled to a 6-10-1 start, the last game being a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg at home.  In his time, Ruff led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 and was the coach when the Sabres were handcuffed in the early 2000's.  The team's inability to make the playoffs consistently in recent years, combined with the slow starts this season and last season, led to the Sabres making this move today.  No replacement has been named as of this writing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Casting Call for Writers

With the WHL playoffs (and if I'm lucky, the OHL playoffs) looming, as well as the continuing education on the USHL, that has left me with little time to talk about the NHL in the last few weeks.  To solve this problem on some level, I am turning over the month of March to you, the people who may (or may not) be reading this blog.

All you have to do is write about anything hockey, whether is it complaining about your team's play this season, any thoughts on who you should get (as outrageous as it may be), trash talk the other teams, anything.  The only rule is that it has to pertain to hockey.  If you are interested, shoot an email over to doclindgren (at) gmail (dot) com, and be sure to list a date in March that you would like to contribute, so as to make things easier on me as playoff season in the Juniors approach.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hockey Day in America: Kearney, NE

Yesterday was Hockey Day in America, and given that there has been a few articles on this blog about the United States Hockey League, I figure this would be the time to start delving more into the top junior hockey league in America.  Today's spotlight (by the magic of the random selector) is on the Tri-City Storm.  This Tri-City is not to be confused with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL, who play in Kennewick, WA.  The Storm play in Kearney, NE, located in the central part of the state.  The Storm were founded in 2000, and prior to their current incarnation, had played as the Bloomington Jr. Stars (1979-84), Minneapolis Stars (1985-86), St. Paul Vulcans (1986-95), and the Twin Cities Vulcans (1995-2000).  Among the more notable players to have donned the Storm uniform include Jaden Schwartz and Tim Jackman, the latter doing so while the team played as the Twin Cities Vulcans.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Peterborough Express: Keeping the Pressure On

Peterborough entered the week only four points out of the last playoff spot and will end the week just two out.  Thursday, they beat Brampton 3-1 to gain ground on Kingston, and on Friday, they beat Ottawa 5-1, but since Kingston also won that evening, the Petes will have to settle for that two point gain.

Monday, they host Owen Sound and they will also host Oshawa on Thursday before heading out to Belleville on Friday and Oshawa on Saturday.  Yes, a playoff spot is realistic, but you do not want to be looking past some formidable teams, and this coming week will be telling of where the Petes stand in the playoff chase.  Keep in mind that though Kingston and Mississauga both need to lose (Peterborough is only six points out of the seventh seed), the Petes need to take care of their own business and let the chips fall where they may on the other teams' fates.

Winterhawks Weekly: A Rocky Road

The Winterhawks' week began with an easy 8-3 win at Vancouver on Monday.  Led by a four goal effort by Ty Rattie, the Winterhawks did what they were supposed to do to the worst team in the WHL.  Friday night, the Winterhawks came out flat and Tri-City were undoubtedly looking to avenge a shutout loss last meeting, and the result was a 6-2 loss at home for the Winterhawks.  The Saturday game against Vancouver saw the Winterhawks play flat for most of the game, likely a carryover from the Tri-City game and due to an early start time, but in the end, the Winterhawks came back and Brendan Leipsic capped off a furious rally to seal a 4-3 win in overtime.

This Monday is a Daylight game, as the Winterhawks will open the curtains of Memorial Coliseum for an afternoon tilt with Spokane.  They hit the road on Wednesday to Kamloops and for a double dip on Friday and Saturday at Prince George, who is looking to make their case for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Buy Me Grainstorm or Go to Hell!

When it comes to beer, I gravitate towards the IPAs quite a bit.  So, imagine when I laid eyes on the Boulevard Grainstorm Black Rye IPA yesterday morning.  With an ABV of 7.7%, the drinkability of the beer suggests that it should be fairly easy to drink, but with the fact that it comes in a 750 mL bottle as shown, you may wish to pace yourself.  As you can see by the color, it is black, and the smell is actually quite good.  The barley, oats, wheat, and rye are evident with each sip, and like any good IPA, has a potent taste that requires all of your patience.  Since it's a part of the Boulevard Smokestack series, you will have to pay a fairly pretty penny for it, but it is definitely one of the better beers in the series.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wounded Sens Army

The above image is one that many Ottawa Senators fans would rather not see, and given the severity of the injury, this is going to be the future of the Senators for the rest of this season.  In the second period of last night's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh, Erik Karlsson suffered a cut on his left Achilles that needed surgery today.  The timetable for his return is 3-4 months, which means his season is over.

With the Senators already missing Jared Cowen on the blue line and Jason Spezza not expected to return until mid-April (or thereabouts), Karlsson was the last player the Sens needed to miss time, as he accounts for much of the team's offense and is far and away the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.  If you're looking for any in-house options for offense, the best option is Sergei Gonchar, who is approaching 40.  That's not going to inspire confidence, and given that the team needs to think about stocking its blue line depth in the system, there's not going to be any real option other than trade, and you're not going to find anyone like Karlsson anywhere, not even in the NHL.  In their own end, the Sens should be alright, given that Chris Phillips and Marc Methot are dependable in their own end, but without Karlsson to start the offense, that means Craig Anderson is going to have to impersonate his 2009-10 season when he was considered for the Vezina Trophy that year on the way to leading Colorado to their last playoff appearance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Changing (Blue) Jackets

The news of the day comes from Columbus, OH, where there is a new general manager.  Scott Howson was canned after five plus seasons, overseeing one brief playoff run and many decisions that were largely duds, including the Jeff Carter trade last year and the Rick Nash debacle.  When John Davidson stepped down from his role as president of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues to take a similar role with the Blue Jackets, it was only a matter of time...and a poor start away.  The expected replacement is Jarmo Kekalainen, who worked under Davidson while in St. Louis, and had returned to Finland to take the role of General Manager with Jokerit.  A press conference is expected to announce this decision.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mid-term Crash Course into the USHL

Yesterday, I started to delve into the United States Hockey League and their outdoor game.  Today, we will get to learn more about the league, as their season winds down and is heading into the playoffs.  The league has been around since 1947, when it was called the American Amateur Hockey League name.  The USHL name came to be in 1961, and has been that way since.  Currently, there are 16 teams in the league, and became an all-junior league league in 1979.  Like its Canadian junior league counterparts, the USHL has an age limit of 20 and players can jump to either college or the NHL once they're drafted by an NHL team.

Eastern Conference

  • Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
  • Chicago Steel (play in Bensenville, IL)
  • Dubuque Fighting Saints
  • Green Bay Gamblers
  • Indiana Ice
  • Muskegon Lumberjacks
  • US Hockey NTDP (play in Ann Arbor, MI)
  • Youngstown Phantoms
Western Conference

  • Des Moines Buccaneers
  • Fargo Force
  • Lincoln Stars
  • Omaha Lancers
  • Sioux City Musketeers
  • Sioux Falls Stampede
  • Tri-City Storm (play in Kearney, NE)
  • Waterloo Black Hawks
The Anderson Cup recognizes the best team in the regular season while the Clark Cup recognizes the best in the playoffs.  Notable alumni of the USHL include David Backes, John Carlson, Thomas Vanek, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, and Max Pacioretty.

Monday, February 11, 2013

USHL Goes Outdoors

I bumped up the Peterborough Express weekly piece to get this article put in, and yes, it is an outdoor game.  The United States Hockey League had their own Outdoor Classic on Saturday with the Omaha Lancers defeating the Lincoln Stars 4-2 in Omaha, NE.  This game was the first ever in league history, and featured two Nebraska rivals.

More information about the USHL will be posted in the coming days, as this league has its own unique history and stories to tell.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Tuning Up for the Playoff Run

With the news that the Portland Winterhawks are officially in the playoffs this week, the rest of the regular season is chance to see where the team can improve.  On Wednesday, the Winterhawks lost a tough home game against Calgary 4-3.  Calgary is the second best team in the Eastern Conference behind Edmonton, and are undoubtedly motivated by their provincial rivals' Ed Chynoweth win last year.  Friday and Saturday promised to be a litmus test for where Portland was in their game, as Kelowna had carried a 23-game home winning streak into those games.  That streak ended on Friday with a Winterhawks 5-3 win with Taylor Leier providing two of the goals.  Ty Rattie netted four points on Saturday en route to a 5-1 win, giving Kelowna an unfamiliar feeling of a losing streak at home.  Monday, the Winterhawks travel to Vancouver to face the Giants and will return home for home games on Friday against Tri-City and Saturday against Vancouver.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Peterborough Express: All Eyes on Them

This week, Peterborough is the center of attention, as the Hockey Day in Canada festivities were being held in Peterborough, ON, which means the Petes will be getting a lot of attention.  As for the current Petes, they started the week with a 10-6 win at Ottawa on Wednesday.  They would promptly give up nine goals in a 9-4 loss against Windsor at home.  A 3-2 win against Sault St. Marie at home on Saturday now puts them only two points behind Kingston for the final playoff spot as of this writing.

The Petes hope to continue their good play since Jody Hull took over the coaching duties at holiday break as the Petes will host Brampton on Thursday before heading to Ottawa on Friday.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hockey Day in Peterborough

Tomorrow is Hockey Day in Canada, and what will seemingly be the center of the hockey universe that day will not be in Toronto, but in Peterborough, ON, an hour or so northeast of Toronto.  So, to prep you for the day, today is a look at the team that occupies the city of Peterborough, the Petes.

Originally founded in Kitchener as the Greenshirts in 1951, the team would become the Canucks in 1954 before moving to Peterborough in 1956 and becoming the Petes.  At the time, they were officially called the TPT (Toronto-Peterborough Transport) Petes, and were known under that name until 1966.  The TPT was dropped after the 1965-66 season and the team would be called the Peterborough Petes Hockey Club the following season.  The current colors (they had red, white and blue to start their existence) of maroon and white were adopted in the 1974-75 season, as was the current logo.  Currently, the Petes are the longest running franchise in the OHL, and they were Memorial Cup champions in 1979 and nine-time J. Ross Robertson Trophy winners as the OHL champion.  Players who went on to have distinguished careers in the NHL include Steve Yzerman, Chris Pronger (pictured), Eric and Jordan Staal, Bob Gainey, Tie Domi, and Larry Murphy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Going to be a Millionaire

photo courtesy of Fort Nucks
Believe it or not, I haven't done a look at a jersey in a while, and since the lockout has all but rendered most changes out of the question, this development is something of a pleasant surprise.  On March 16, the Vancouver Canucks will be wearing the uniforms modeled by Ryan Kesler in the above picture.  As you can see, the looks are modeled after the Vancouver Millionaires of the 1910's, and is a part of the team's celebration of the city's first hockey team to exist (they began operations in 1911).  And the Canucks have gone the extra mile, promoting Millionaires gear (in Canucks' colors).

via the Vancouver Canucks' twitter

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Now or Never for Leland

With Miikka Kiprusoff officially listed as day-to-day after last night's game against Detroit, the burden falls on former Everett Silvertip Leland Irving to be the starting goaltender for the Calgary Flames.  It is unknown how much time Kiprusoff will miss at this time, but for Irving, this is his best opportunity to show the Flames management the talent that made him a first round pick in 2006.  Backing up Irving will be Danny Taylor, who put together solid numbers in Abbotsford of the AHL.  Yes, the goaltending prospects look grim in the immediate future with Kiprusoff likely to miss a few days, at worst, but now the Flames will have a chance to see what the youngsters can do, and for Irving, he would be wise to seize this opportunity because if he doesn't, it will not only mean the Flames whiffed again on a first round pick, but it could also open the door for either Joni Ortio or Laurent Brossoit, who was recently named WHL goaltender of the month for January.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Importance of Rebuilding

The word "rebuild" seems to be a dirty word for the Calgary Flames, but given their recent history, it's likely about time they did just that.  Missing the playoffs three years in a row and having exited the playoffs in the first round in the times they made the playoffs (2004 is the lone exception) since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989, it's time the Flames build for the future.  In a piece a few months back, I explored possibilities (at the time) for trade partners for Miikka Kiprusoff and Jay Bouwmeester, two of the three heftiest contracts on the team.  I did not explore the trade possibilities for Jarome Iginla, but given that the Flames are headed for another season of no playoffs, it's time to start exploring that option.

As you know by this point, this is where I put on my General Manager hat and look at the teams that either could come calling or would be attractive trade partners.  So, if you think something is amiss or want to comment on my choices, feel free to do so, but give reasons for it.

BOSTON BRUINS: Yes, the Bruins are near the salary cap ceiling like the Flames, but they are also a lot closer to a Stanley Cup than the Flames at this point.  Prospects like Malcolm Subban would be a sticking point, and it is likely we would have to take a third or fourth liner, too.

DALLAS STARS:  Imagine the irony of Iginla going back to the team that drafted him.  Now, imagine Iginla providing a do-everything presence that could take the pressure off of Jamie Benn, not to mention durability that Brenden Morrow wishes he had.  Any of goaltenders (Jack Campbell, Christoper Nilstorp, or Richard Bachman) and a reclamation project in Scott Glennie could be potential returns.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Yes, the Kings would be taking on more money, but they also have some prospects we'd be interested in.  Assuming the Kings are willing to part with Jonathan Bernier, we'd be willing to listen to the Kings.  Of course, we would need to take some money in return, so perhaps a veteran like Anthony Stewart, who isn't even guaranteed playing time in L.A. right now, would be a logical choice.  A defensive prospect would be nice here, too.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Iginla could slide into the Predators' system and not miss a beat.  While the depth on the blue line is being tested like no other season, it is worth looking into for the Flames to think about a prospect there.  We could also take a veteran back, as well, seeing as Shea Weber has that huge contract hanging over the Preds' heads.

OTTAWA SENATORS: With Jason Spezza out for two months, this is a chance for the Sens to think about picking up a player that could help out on offense.  Obviously, this is going to be dependent on whether the Sens feel confident that Iginla can handle center duties and whether the Sens offer the right package.  Ideally, either Ben Bishop or Robin Lehner and any from the likes of Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Mark Stone, and Stephane Da Costa would be attractive options.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: It's been a well known fact that the Pens need wingers other than James Neal, and with their surplus of defensemen, it's possible we could be asking for any among Scott Harrington, Joe Morrow, and Derrick Pouliot, as well as a veteran like Eric Tangradi, for example.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay seems to be one or two pieces away from being contenders, and Iginla could be that guy.  It is likely we could be asking for either Dustin Tokarski or Jaroslav Janus and a lower level prospect at forward.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Yes, the Capitals lack depth at center, and Iginla isn't the best option there. However, he could very well be the kick in the ass that the Caps need, as they struggle to score goals, and none could benefit from Iginla's presence more than Alex Ovechkin.  The asking price: prospects in goal and the blue line.

As you can see, I've listed eight teams that could best utilize Iginla's skill set and possibly provide the Flames with a best chance at helping their future prospects.  All of this is assuming the Flames do go in this direction, which is not likely because the Flames' front office is stubborn in its belief that they're playoff contenders.  However, being a playoff contender is not enough; and by rebuilding, the Flames could be so much more.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Peterborough Express: Opportunity is at the Door

This weekend saw the Peterborough Petes inch closer to the number eight spot in the Eastern Conference, as Kingston is fading fast with only three points in their last 10 games to show for it.  On Thursday, the Petes won a wild one against Windsor 7-5, and beat Saginaw 4-2 on Friday.  Saturday, though, the Petes lost 4-1 to Plymouth, thus leaving the Petes only six points behind the Frontenacs for the last spot in the playoffs.  This week is another chance for the Petes to gain ground, as they hit the road to Ottawa on Wednesday to face the last place 67's.  They return home to face the Spitfires on Thursday and the Soo Greyhounds on Saturday.

Winterhawks Weekly: The Bookend

The Winterhawks' week ended the way it began: with a shutout.  After a tough week with Spokane and Tri-City, the Winterhawks got to see some varied opponents this time around, and that momentum from the end of that trio of games against Spokane and a game against Tri-City carried over into this week.  A 6-0 shutout at Everett on Tuesday kicked off the week, and Brendan Burke gained his fourth shutout, solidifying his place on next year's team as a starter (even when he'd drafted this year, he will likely still be a Winterhawk for seasoning purposes, as goaltenders rarely ever make that direct jump).  On Wednesday, the Winterhawks overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first period to beat Kamloops at home 5-2.  Five different players scored in a 5-3 win at Seattle on Friday, and the on Saturday, the Winterhawks proved that they learned from the Spokane games, winning 4-0 at home.  Mac Carruth got his sixth shutout and Troy Rutkowski tied the team record for most games played.

This coming week, the Winterhawks will host the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday before hitting the road to Kelowna on Friday and Saturday.  Those road games will figure to be tough, as Kelowna has been hot at home, and are making themselves heard as Ed Chynoweth Cup contenders.