Thursday, December 18, 2014

Erie Examiner: Stumbling to the Finish

In the weeks before holiday break, the Erie Otters are not playing their best hockey right now.  The week began with a 7-4 loss Tuesday at Kitchener in which the Otters couldn't do much on defense.  That would be the theme of the week, even in a 6-4 win at home against Saginaw on Friday.  Saturday, they had no answer for Oshawa in a 5-1 defeat.

In the last games before break, the Otters will at home Friday against Niagara before heading to Guelph on Saturday in the first meeting since the Western Conference Finals last year.  After that, the Otters won't play until December 28, and they are likely to be missing Connor McDavid due to World Junior Championship duty, which should provide the Otters an idea of where he is in his recovery.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Oil Change

At this point, it seems that the best way to describe the Edmonton Oilers in the last nine seasons or so is best captured by a cat sticking out its tongue.

The big news coming out of Edmonton is that Dallas Eakins has taken the fall for the Edmonton Oilers' dreadful season and is out as head coach.  The plan, according to Oilers' brass is that Craig MacTavish will fill in as head coach with Todd Nelson expected to eventually take over during the season.  If any of that doesn't make sense to you, you're not alone, as while Eakins didn't do his job of getting the Oilers moving forward in terms of progress, now, there's going to be no less than three coaches within a season.  In case you're wondering what will become of the upper management (read: MacTavish and Kevin Lowe), they're still sticking around for now, as nothing else was announced.

Just another day in Edmonton, as nothing really changes here except for the coach.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Well, That Didn't Work...

The experiment that was the Brad Robson/Drake Berehowsky era drew to a close yesterday.  Both men were given their walking papers by the Lethbridge Hurricanes after another season of dreadful hockey.  The Hurricanes have not seen postseason hockey since the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, and have not finished higher than fourth since that time.  Robson was hired to be the General Manager prior to last season while Berehowsky was tabbed head coach in that time, and both replaced Rich Preston, who had both roles the previous four years.

Both men are out of a job after a 6-19-3-2 record this season that followed a 2013-14 season that saw the Hurricanes become the only team in the league to finish under the 30 point mark.  Peter Anholt was named both General Manager and head coach, effective immediately, and while he has only been with the team since June (as assistant General Manager), he does bring head coaching experience from his time with Prince Albert, Red Deer, Kelowna, and Seattle.  Prior to coming to Lethbridge, he was a scout for the Thunderbirds.

Winterhawks Weekly: Almost Break Time

The Portland Winterhawks are still playing well, and with a recent trade involving the Kelowna Rockets, they will have to step up their game.  Tuesday, the Winterhawks headed to Vancouver Island to take on the Victoria Royals, and in a wild one, the Winterhawks managed to win 6-4 for their sixth straight victory.  However, that winning streak would come to an end on Friday, as Vancouver would score three goals to open the game, and despite a comeback by the Winterhawks, they could not complete it as they fell 3-2.  The Winterhawks came home on Saturday hoping to start a new winning streak, and on Teddy Bear Toss night, the Winterhawks not only made it rain teddy bears, but they also held off the Everett Silvertips in another wild one 5-3.  Sunday, the Winterhawks proved to be rude hosts to the Medicine Hat Tigers, as the Winterhawks handled them 4-1, leaving the Winterhawks with eight wins in their last nine games and just three points back of Everett in the U.S. Division standings.

Yesterday, the Kelowna Rockets made a big trade that could impact what Portland does in their quest for five straight Conference titles, as the Rockets picked up Josh Morrissey and Gage Quinney from Prince Albert in exchange for Austin Glover and Jesse Lees, plus some draft picks.

As for the Winterhawks, they play at home Friday against Spokane before finishing the week on the road against Seattle on Saturday and Sunday against Tri-City before the holiday break.

Monday, December 8, 2014

MacLean-ing Out the Closet

In an attempt to shore up some defensive holes in their game, the Ottawa Senators relieved Paul MacLean of the coaching duties and promoted assistant coach Dave Cameron to head coach.  In three and a half seasons as the Senators coach, MacLean led the team to two playoff appearances, both in his first two seasons, and won the Jack Adams Trophy in the lockout shortened 2013 season.  However, it is the last season and a half that proved to be his undoing, as the defense couldn't stop anyone and communication was an issue.

The job of turning the Senators' season around now falls on Cameron, who will be looking to do better with a team that is four points out of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.  Cameron has been on the coaching staff since the day MacLean was hired, and had previously coached Binghamton of the AHL and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (now the Mississauga Steelheads) of the OHL.

Erie Examiner: Rough Times on the Road

The Erie Otters started out the week well, but then they had to go out on the road, and the results weren't all that great.  Wednesday, the Otters needed a strong second half, highlighted by newcomer Nicholas Baptiste's two goals to hold off Owen Sound 4-3 at home.  Saturday, the Otters began a three game stretch where they hit the road, and it started in Belleville, where they managed to get a point in a 3-2 shootout loss.  Sunday, the Otters traveled to Oshawa, where they were throroughly outclassed in a 4-1 loss.

The Otters finish the road trip Tuesday against Kitchener before coming home for games Friday against Saginaw and Saturday against Oshawa.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy Trails to the 'Stache

One of the more famous mustaches in recent NHL history has decided to call it quits.  George Parros, who was known as one of the better enforcers and for having one of the most recognizable mustaches in the league, retired today after nine years in the NHL.  Before you ask, yes, I deliberately chose the photo you see above.

Silliness aside, Parros was actually a graduate of Princeton, and had toiled in the AHL with Manchester for three years after that.  He made his NHL debut with Los Angeles in 2005, and would go on to play in Colorado, Anaheim, Florida, and Montreal in his career.  However, it was in Anaheim that he became a recognizable figure, as he would become the team's top enforcer.  Like most well known enforcers, his offensive contributions were a drop in the bucket, but it was his toughness, as well as his off-ice work that endeared him to fans, and his personality made him popular among teammates.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Latvian Power

The player you see scoring is Zemgus Girgensons, and he is currently in the news because he is leading the fan vote for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.  You read that correctly, and much of that is due to his home country of Latvia turning out and voting.  This brings out several things about Girgensons: he is the Buffalo Sabres' second leading scorer with 14 points (which isn't saying much, since the leader, Tyler Ennis, has 16) and he leads the team in the +/- category at +6.  The second part is big, considering that he is only one of three Sabres on the right side of that statistic (the other two are Nikita Zadorov and Brian Flynn).  He earns the most ice time of all forwards and is routinely put up against the opposing team's forwards, which is no small task for a guy that is only two and a half years removed from playing junior in Dubuque of the USHL and made the direct jump to the pros (he started in the AHL after being drafted in 2012).  He also played for Latvia in the 2014 Olympics and had a good showing there.

Buffalo is still undergoing a rebuild, and while it is still fairly early, Girgensons is one of the bright spots for a team that is much closer to winning the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes than they are the Stanley Cup at this point.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Newest Blue Note

The image above is likely going to make people do a double take.  Yes, that is Martin Brodeur, and yes, he is wearing a St. Louis Blues hat, and as of today, he is a member of the Blues for this season.  Brodeur did say during the off-season that he wanted to keep playing, and an injury to Brian Elliott opened the door for Brodeur to join.  The contract is strictly for this year and has a prorated base pay of $700,000 with bonuses if he reaches certain goals.

What does Brodeur really bring?  Given the injury to Elliott, who is listed as week-to-week (hence the Blues looking into Brodeur in the first place), he can step in and at least be a backup to Jake Allen.  For Allen, it also means that he can learn from Brodeur what it takes to have sustained success, since this is only his second full season in the NHL.  As for Brodeur, he says he can still be a contributor, and with a talented team in front of him, he has that chance to prove the Blues right when he does play.  The signing also allows the Blues to not rush Jordan Binnington to the NHL, something that they would have done had the Elliott injury not been a possible long-term deal.  This is a gamble, but not a costly one, as the Blues didn't overpay for a short-term solution that may very well provide long-term results.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Erie Examiner: Two Wins and a Bear

In a tough three game stretch in as many days, the Erie Otters came out with four points, which isn't bad.  A Thanksgiving tilt with Mississauga saw the Otters dominate the game in a 5-1 win.  Friday, the Otters traveled to London, ON to take on the Knights in an attempt to avenge an earlier loss in the Forest City.  The Otters were successful, as they edged out London 3-2.  Saturday was the Teddy Bear Toss game, and Travis Dermott scored the goal that sent the bears flying onto the ice.  However, the Belleville Bulls would turn a strong third period into a 3-1 win, handing the Otters their second home loss of the season.

The Otters are at home Wednesday against Owen Sound before hitting the road for games Saturday at Belleville and Sunday at Oshawa.