Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Heading in Opposite Directions: Redux

Before I get to today's topic, the weekly Missouri Mavericks report will return next week, as I am preparing for this weekend's NHL All-Star weekend.

Today, there are two teams heading in opposite directions, one of them in the WHL and the other in the OHL. Heading up is the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes, who are three points clear of Kelowna for the top spot in the league and are in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. They are the best offensive team, which has been a dramatic turnaround from the last two seasons in which they were terrible in just about every way possible. The Hurricanes will have a chance to extend that winning streak on Friday as they visit the Victoria Royals.

On the other side is the OHL's Flint Firebirds. It's been an eventful first season for the team formerly known as the Plymouth Whalers, as they've had to deal with the embarrassment of having their players walk out after the owner fired the coaching staff, only to rehire them a few days later, as well as a water crisis in the city. Currently, they sit nine points out of a playoff spot, but haven't won since December 18, when they beat Oshawa that evening. They have also only managed two points in that drought, getting overtime losses in both instances. The Firebirds are the third worst offense in the league, as only Guelph and Sudbury are worse, with leading scorer Will Bitten in a bad funk, as he scored last game, which ended an eight game goal scoring drought. It hasn't helped that Josh Wesley, Alex Nedeljkovic, and Connor Chatham were all traded prior to the trade deadline. The Firebirds hope to get back in the win column this Friday at Sarnia.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Faces for the Mavs

In an effort to bolster their push for the Kelly Cup, the Missouri Mavericks made some moves yesterday. Zach Cohen and Garrett Ladd will join the Mavericks while Scott Wamsganz will be joining his third team this season after the Mavericks traded him to the Alaska Aces for future considerations.

Cohen comes from the Rapid City Rush with a score line of seven goals and nine assists. Ladd will make the Mavericks his third team of the season after splitting time with both Adirondack and Elmira, notching three goals and three assists. Wamsganz had been acquired from Orlando a few weeks ago and suited up for five games before being sent to Alaska.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mavericks Report: Coming Home and Then Some

The last leg of the Missouri Mavericks road trip happened last week, and for most of it, the Mavericks came out on top. Tuesday, the Mavericks bested their cross-state rival Wichita 4-1.  Friday and Saturday, the Mavericks wrapped up the road trip with a split in Colorado, winning 5-4 on Friday and losing 5-3 on Saturday.

The Mavericks come home this weekend to take on the Tulsa Oilers in back to back games on Friday and Saturday.

Because of early deadlines for this week, the next week's games will also include Evansville coming into town on that Tuesday before Wichita comes calling on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

From Last to First

As of this current writing, the WHL season sees the Lethbridge Hurricanes as the top team in the WHL, standing three points clear of Kelowna. At this time last year, the Hurricanes were cleaning up the mess left behind from the Brad Robson/Drake Berehowsky era.

It was thought that when Peter Anholt took over as General Manager and head coach, the latter role relinquished prior to this season, things could only go up from there. Just how far they've gone up this season was not what anyone expected, as Anholt and Brent Kisio, who was Anholt's hand-picked coach, have put Lethbridge not only in position to end a playoff-free streak that has spawned three regimes, but also a chance to claim the Scotty Munro Trophy for best regular season. Having a +63 in goal differential this season in contrast to a -102 goal differential last season is a big part of it, but now, we're seeing what talent such as Giorgio Estephan, Tyler Wong, and Stuart Skinner can do when competent people behind the bench and in the front office are present.  It's a new day in Lethbridge, and they're not finished yet, as they could be a team that makes a deep playoff run even in a tough Central Division that features Calgary and Red Deer.

Friday, January 15, 2016

I Watched This Game: It Was Wretched

On this episode of "I watched this game," I will examine the mess that was the Vancouver Canucks taking on the Washington Capitals. Because it was a mess, today's thoughts will be done as if the WWE stable New Day were penning this, so with that in mind, "It's a New Day, yes it is!"

  • "Ohhhhh, Landover! Don't you dare be sour! Clap for your new 500 goal scorer, and feel the powwwaaaahhhh!!!" The Capitals held a pregame ceremony for Alex Ovechkin in honor of him joining the 500 goal club. The usual highlight package was mostly scrapped for some of the other 500 goal members (plus Pavel Bure) sending their congratulations. This would be followed by the Caps front office and Ovechkin's parents and fiancee joining him at center ice for a presentation of a specially made stick. In all, it was nice, but then the game started.
  • No New Day references for the first period, as nobody scored or took a penalty.

  • Holy smokes, somebody found Tom Green!
  • Alex Edler sits for two minutes, as he gets called for a penalty.
  • The Canucks manage to kill off the penalty, but Edler turns the puck over, leading to a two on one the other way that sees Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps up 1-0.
  • Linden Vey high sticks, and that is a no-no, so two for him in the box.
  • Nicklas Backstrom gets called for a trip, but Edler also goes for bad acting.
  • Another defensive lapse by Vancouver leads to Karl Alzner bring by himself at the blue line, where he fires a laser past Ryan Miller to put the Caps up 2-0.
  • Backstrom gets called for a hook, but Vancouver can't put one past Braden Holtby.
  • Period ends with Vancouver down two and with little life offensively. Of course, Derek Dorsett is playing with the Sedins, which is proof that even they can't make everyone better that plays on the same line as them.
  • Third period begins, and just two minutes in, Tom Wilson scores to make it all but over.
  • Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich take penalties less than a minute apart, putting Vancouver two men up, which they manage to score just as the two man advantage was up thanks to Radim Vrbata scoring.
  • Kuznetsov puts in an empty net goal to seal the deal for Washington.
Overall, it was an effort that can be best described as "booty." Miller played fairly well in his return from the injured list, but the defense let him down, with Matt Bartkowski and Edler at the forefront of the problems this game. Nothing worked offensively, either, as Willie Desjardins kept mixing lines (e.g. Vey-Cracknell-Burrows) to no avail. To conclude this segment, I'd like to end with what best describes the game last night: 

"This. Game sucked. This. Game sucked. This. Game sucked."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Still Howlin'

At this point in the NHL season, if you were to tell me that the Arizona Coyotes were going to be in second place in the Pacific Division, I would have thought you would be insane. Here we are now, and that is exactly where the Coyotes stand, four points clear of both San Jose and Vancouver despite having a -8 in goal differential and giving up the third most goals in the Western Conference. So, how have the Coyotes done it? An early hot start with Mike Smith in goal, scoring by committee that includes leading scorers Mikkel Boedker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Max Domi, recent goaltending from Louis Dominique, stability in the ownership, and a stellar home record have all attributed to their success. At some point, the Coyotes should fall off, given that Shane Doan leads the team in goals and proven success hasn't always been a staple of the team, but we are talking about the Arizona Coyotes, a team that has had a history of proving people wrong in recent years. Domi and Anthony Duclair both have a hat-trick to their names, as Domi helped the Coyotes come back in their most recent game against the Edmonton Oilers while Duclair has proven to be NHL-ready this season after starting in the NHL with the New York Rangers last season before getting sent down and later traded in the Keith Yandle deal.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mavericks Report: Two Out of Three...

Things are still moving for the Missouri Mavericks as they will finish their road trip this week. However, they had to play three games at Tulsa and Rapid City. Last Tuesday, the Mavericks needed a shootout to beat Tulsa 4-3, and after the game, the Mavericks saw goaltender Stephon Williams assigned to them while Loic Leduc was called up to Bridgeport. Friday and Saturday, the Mavericks spent those days in Rapid City, SD to take on the Rush in back-to-back games. The first half wasn't kind, as the Mavericks could only muster an overtime loss, dropping a 2-1 decision. Saturday, the Mavericks did better, beating the Rush 3-1 and were able to get five out of six points in the standings for the week.

The Mavericks finish their road trip this week, as they travel to Wichita to take on the Thunder on Tuesday before heading to Windsor, CO to take on the Colorado Eagles on Friday and Saturday. They will have two new faces, as left winger Quinn Smith and defenseman Mike Donnellan were signed to standard player contracts today.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hitting the Reset Button

Two former first round picks are getting fresh starts after a recent trade...well, besides Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones. The Vancouver Canucks sent Nicklas Jensen and a 2017 6th round pick to the New York Rangers and get Emerson Etem in return. Essentially, this means two first round picks that haven't been able to establish themselves on the NHL level (as Johansen had two great years prior to this season while Jones did well despite playing behind Shea Weber and Roman Josi), as Etem is now on his third team since last June, as he had been traded to the Rangers for Carl Hagelin, and Jensen was unable to get out of Utica of the AHL. Jensen will be heading to Hartford while Etem will try to put his speed and size to good use in Vancouver all while trying to rediscover his scoring touch from his Medicine Hat days.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Trading Places

There's been a fair number of trades today, with Los Angeles trading with Philadelphia and Nashville trading with Columbus. First, Los Angeles gets Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn while Philadelphia gets much needed cap space as well as Jordan Weal and a third round pick.

As for Columbus and Nashville, you may have noticed that I put the Portland Winterhawks logo as the primary picture. Well, it so happens that two Winterhawks alumni will be trading places, as Ryan Johansen (2009-11) goes to Nashville with Seth Jones (2012-13) going to Columbus. The trade is a culmination of the rather tumultuous relationship between Johansen and Blue Jackets' upper management that came to a head when Johansen clashed with coach John Tortorella once Tortorella was named as coach midway through this season. Johansen gets a fresh start with Nashville while Seth Jones will get his best chance to be the number one defenseman in Columbus now that he won't be stuck behind Shea Weber and Roman Josi.

Golden Opportunity Gone to Waste

Today, the NHL All-Star rosters, as well as the jerseys, were revealed. While there are bound to be questions about the choices of the rosters, that happens every year, and some are warranted. As for what the players will be wearing, well, you're seeing it in the picture above.  According to the press release:

Each All-Star jersey features the official NHL Shield infused with the Predators' gold in the crest. For the on-ice version of the All-Star jersey, the crest has been constructed with reflective material which glimmers in certain light as a salute to Nashville's vibrant night-life scene. The black and white color scheme in each jersey shares the colors of the keys on a piano to celebrate the city of Nashville's "Music City" nickname.
The All-Star jerseys will feature numbers and letters designed as modern interpretations of traditional country music poster lettering, which has been a defining aesthetic of Nashville. The numbers for the on-ice versions of the All-Star jerseys also will have the same reflective material as the crest. The tri-star mark, which appears in the neck gusset as well as on the pant, is a tribute to the Tennessee state flag and the Predators and a symbol of the elite athletes participating in the 2016 Honda NHL® All-Star festivities. Each All-Star jersey will feature two full-color shoulder patches – the player's home team logo and the NHL All-Star logo.
 Now, for my analysis. The most obvious thing to notice is the fact that the game will feature black and white jerseys, and I feel the analogy to piano keys is far-fetched. Here, the league had an opportunity to go with gold and navy blue jerseys to give it the distinction that it is Nashville's year for the All-Star game. Instead, it is a missed opportunity. The crest on the front, while it could be better, is as good as it's going to get, given that two different teams will be wearing the respective home and away jerseys for the game.  Name and numbering has not been officially been revealed for public view as of this time, so judgement will be held off until then.  However, the neck gusset is where it actually hits on the mark, as it is same tri-star mark found on Predators gear, as well as the Tennessee state flag.  Overall, the All-Star jerseys for Nashville will be remembered as opportunities missed to create an identity for the game and year.

Monday, January 4, 2016

On the Move?

It was a mere two and a half years ago that Jonathan Drouin was as close to the top of the world as one could get, having been drafted third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL Draft, which followed a memorable season in which he helped the Halifax Mooseheads win the Presidents' Trophy in the QMJHL and the Memorial Cup soon after.  As of today, the relationship between Drouin and the Lightning is rather strained, as word of Drouin requesting a trade out of Tampa has come out, something that had been simmering since November.

Given that the Drouin situation has parallels to the Tyler Seguin/Boston Bruins dust-up of 2013, in which the Bruins ultimately traded Seguin to Dallas that Summer, it is entirely possible that a team could pony up an offer the Lightning couldn't refuse, but who would be the most likely to do so?  This is where I put on my General Manager's hat and narrow it down to five teams that could make the move for Drouin.

  • ANAHEIM DUCKS: They've struggled out of the gate offensively, though they have picked it up lately.  They still have a deep prospect pool, and given that they need to start thinking younger, as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler are all about to exit the prime of their careers, getting Drouin would help on the wings alongside either Getzlaf or Kesler.
  • CALGARY FLAMES: Another team with a very good prospect pool, they've also been mentioned as long shots to get Drouin's teammate Steven Stamkos. However, the Flames are more likely to address the goalie situation, as despite the depth, they do not have a number one player ready at that position.
  • NEW YORK RANGERS: Lacking prospects, the Rangers could still trade for Drouin, as they could move a couple players from their NHL roster to get Drouin. Plus, they've had this habit of trading away their first round picks lately, so if they throw in their first round pick for 2016, anything can happen.
  • VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Homer pick, I know, but the Canucks need to get younger. If Tampa Bay comes knocking for a player like Alex Burrows or Radim Vrbata plus a draft pick for Drouin, the Canucks would be wise to listen. Like Calgary, however, this would be a long shot, as they don't have the prospects...unless they decide to trade Jake Virtanen.
  • WINNIPEG JETS: I have to think of them as the favorites, as they have the prospect pool, and they've been able to make trades involving malcontents without giving up too much. Andrew Ladd could be a throw-in if the Jets decide to eventually hand Blake Wheeler the C.
All of the possibilities are wild speculation, since it hasn't been made clear where Drouin would like to land if traded.  It is a possibility that a team no one thinks of could sneak in to get Drouin (e.g. Detroit), but whoever gets Drouin would be getting a player that is still young enough to live up to potential, but one that needs refinement.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mavericks Report: Still Rolling...

2015 ended for the Missouri Mavericks the way they hoped, as they laid a 7-1 thumping on Wichita at home last Thursday.  Similarly, 2016 began as they wanted, as they put down Allen 4-1 on Friday before hitting the road on Saturday at Evansville.  They trailed entering the third period, but were able to force overtime, where they closed the deal 4-3.

The Mavericks continue their road trip, as they travel to Tulsa for a Tuesday night game before heading to Rapid City, SD for two games on Friday and Sautrday.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

This screen grab is not made up: it has actually happened.  That's right, John Scott, he of one assist in 25 games this season for Arizona, was voted into the All-Star Game as captain of the Pacific Division as part of the NHL's revamping of its format.  He will join Patrick Kane (Central), Jaromir Jagr (Atlantic), and Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan) in Nashville at the end of the month.

Now, if you thought All-Star Weekend in any sport was a joke before, with the farce of fan voting, it's hit the fan here in the NHL.  As you may remember, Scott is on his sixth team in his NHL career, amassing five goals, five assists, and 517 PIM since he joined in the 2008-09 season.  The former Michigan Tech grad has also been suspended three times and his career high in games played was 56 in 2013-14 with Buffalo.  He does nothing of note on the ice other than be a physical presence, as he's 6'8" and 270 lbs., but given that it IS the All-Star weekend, where things should be light-hearted, he's a true breath of fresh air, and that should count for something, at least, as evidenced here when he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Friday, January 1, 2016

I Watched This Game: Winter Classic Edition

Taking a page from Hockey Blog in Canada and cleaning up my own personal facebook posts about a game I watch, I decided to try and post about any hockey games that I watch from start to finish (or as close as I can get within five minutes left in the game). Today, the 2016 Winter Classic happened, and from pre-game to the end, here were my observations, complete with smarmy comments.


  • In recent outdoor games, the NHL has been fond of getting musical entertainment to try and increase visibility to a wider audience.  The pre-game act American Authors (find out about this band on your own) was a terrible way to start.  Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from there.
  • Boston Pops Symphony plays while both Montreal and Boston take the walk to the rink, complete with people dressed as Minutemen firing muskets.  This was easily the best moment of the pre-game.
  • The Canadian National Anthem was "performed" by A Simple Plan. Worst. Rendition. Ever.
  • The Star Spangled Banner was performed by Jordan Smith (Who?), and the entire time, I thought Pat (Saturday Night Live character) somehow became a decent singer.

  • It doesn't take the Canadiens long to make their mark, as David Desharnais scores on a loose puck that Tuukka Rask was unable to find just under two minutes into the game.
  • Max Talbot gets sent to the penalty box, but the Canadiens, despite great chances, do not score.
  • A tussle between Torey Krug and Desharnais sees both go for coincidental minors.
  • Late in the period, Adam McQuaid takes a puck to the midsection, then proceeds to flip the puck out of play. That's good for two minutes in the box.

  • Some guy named Nate Ruess (and Friends, I guess?) play, and it was a mess.

  • Montreal fails to score on the power play that carried over from the first period, but they still dominate a Bruins team that largely sleepwalked through the first half of the game.
  • Paul Byron charges to the net and tips home a pass to double the Habs' lead.
  • Boston thinks they've scored, but a premature whistle wipes out the goal.
  • Nathan Beaulieu goes to the box for holding, but Boston can't capitalize on the man-advantage.
  • Brendan Gallagher, in his first game back since November, puts Montreal up 3-0.  Montreal missed his presence, and having him back provided the team a spark largely absent in December.
  • Boston goes back on the power play that would carry over to the third period, as Tomas Plekanec bats the puck with a high stick, which is a no-no.
  • Ryan Spooner had a golden opportunity to put the Bruins within two in the dying seconds, but Mike Condon makes a great glove save.  Had Spooner shot a split second earlier, that puck goes past Condon.
  • I'm surprised A Simple Plan is back out there, seeing as they embarrassed themselves with a brutal rendition of O Canada. Their intermission set was nothing to write home about, which is just as well for them.
  • Dale Weise was ruled out for the rest of the game due to an injury suffered at the end of the second period.
  • A strong start by Boston is rewarded when Matt Beleskey scores to give the Bruins a little life.
  • Two missed opportunities by Boston to cut into the Habs' lead, as one of the shots misses going in by mere inches.
  • Max Pacioretty puts a perfect pass into the net, restoring the Canadiens' lead to three.
  • Scary moment, as Tuukka Rask takes a shot just below the mask and is seen holding around the throat area. Fortunately, it isn't serious and he stays in the game.
  • The Bruins' frustrations begin to boil over, as Jimmy Hayes takes some of it out on Lars Eller. Both are finished for the day, as it's just under two minutes left in the game.
  • Byron puts the exclamation point on the game with another goal, allowing Montreal to leave with a 5-1 win and two much needed points to get back into first in the Atlantic Division.
  • Boston, however, attempted to keep the bad blood going after the last whistle, with Zac Rinaldo throwing the first punch. How he still has a roster spot is anyone's guess.
The Boston Bruins didn't show the fire needed to succeed for much of the game, and it showed on the stat sheet. Montreal dominated the chances and having Gallagher back helped immensely, as he is their heart and soul player. The NHL could stand to improve their choices when it comes to music entertainment, but everything else was as good as one could have wanted.