Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Guy Like Me

It had been a long, strange year for John Howard Scott, who was suddenly thrusted into the spotlight around this time last year, when he was voted into the NHL All-Star game by fans, only to be traded a few days later and the subsequent chain of  events that followed that would ultimately see him be in the All-Star Game that year and win the game's MVP honors. His autobiography, A Guy Like Me, written with the help of Brian Cazeneuve, tells of a big kid at heart who simply wanted to enjoy the game he loved.

From his early days to his struggle with being the tall guy in pee-wee hockey, he tells of a guy who truly is like any other person, right down to their struggles. His time at Michigan Tech, which had obstacles both on the ice (the team was never any good while he was there) and off the ice (he served time for DWI), is documented, as well as how his relationship with his now-wife evolved from the awkward beginnings to where it is now, are covered. Also included is his relationship with former teammate Derek Boogaard and how he had wished he could have done more, coaches who he loved playing for, and of course, the drama leading up to his All-Star turn. Scott may be retired now, as he announced it a couple months ago, but the mark he left on the game, however small it may be ultimately, won't soon be forgotten.

One of things that makes A Guy Like Me a great read is that everything you read is truly from the heart of Scott. Despite never being comfortable in the spotlight, the reader always got the sense that no matter the situation, he manages to get through, and throughout the book, he gives thanks to his wife. Another positive of the book is that he offers a side of some of hockey's more notorious villains (that does depend on which team or teams you root for) that most fans never get to see, and while he doesn't completely throw a few people under the bus, he does address a few of those critics in a respectful manner. The book may not be as detailed as some would like, but it is one of the most honest autobiographies one will read.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Axe Falls

The New York Islanders became the second team this season to change head coaches, as Jack Capuano was the latest casualty after the Isles were unable to build upon their first playoff series win last season. A miserable special teams was largely seen as the culprit of the team's troubles and ultimately, Capuano's undoing. However, it may have been his time to go, as seemingly, he's reached the ceiling of his coaching capabilities.

Having been the Isles' head coach since the 2010-11 season, when he took over a month into the season, he led the team to playoff berths in three of the five full seasons in which he was coach, as well as a playoff series win last season, their first since 1993. However, the Isles teams were largely overshadowed on a regular basis by the likes of Washington, Pittsburgh, and the New York Rangers. The ever-constant goalie carousel, which currently sits with Thomas Greiss and J.F. Berube as the goalies, also figured into his legacy. Even with John Tavares, finding consistent offense was a constant challenge, though he did routinely hit paydirt with quite possibly the best fourth line in the league until this season. Doug Weight takes over on an interim basis.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Brightening Up for Hollywood

The NHL All-Star weekend in Los Angeles is right around the corner, and with the announcement of the full rosters for each division, as well as what the teams will wear, it's time to examine each aspect.

Beginning with the uniforms, the idea that each division will get their own color scheme for the game was a major step up from last year, when there were just two uniform sets. Each uniform set is representative of the host Los Angeles Kings' color schemes over the years, with gold, purple, silver, and black all being represented. The stars around the waist mark the NHL Centennial, as there are ten around while the numbering takes its cues from the NHL All-Star logo for this year's event, as the design within the numbers mirrors that of the logo while the lettering resembles the famous HOLLYWOOD facade. Like last year's event, the NHL logo on the front has reflective elements. Where things do become a bit of a problem is the assigned uniforms, as the Atlantic will have the gold, the Metropolitan will have the white, the Central will have the purple, and the Pacific will have the black. The Central/Pacific matchup will especially be a potential issue, as it is purple and black, though the shoulders are different enough to possibly offset the problem.

As for rosters, the idea of every team having an all-star player will once again be at the firing line, as at least four teams truthfully didn't deserve to have a player representing them. Detroit (Frans Nielsen), Colorado (Nathan MacKinnon), Carolina (Justin Faulk), and Arizona (Mike Smith) would be fair game for this rule. As for those who should have been there and who should not have, one could make the case for Mark Schiefele being there, replacing Jonathan Toews in the Central. You could also make a case for Henrik Lundqvist being there, but it would be impossible to kick either Braden Holtby or Sergei Bobrovsky off. While Smith was a rather questionable pick, seeing as Oliver Ekman-Larsson would have been a better pick if they were going with a Coyote, presuming that Ekman-Larsson would have kicked Cam Fowler off, a case could be made for either Peter Budaj or Cam Talbot, with smart money being on Budaj, especially since he started in the AHL this season, but has kept the Kings within striking distance of a playoff spot in the absence of Jonathan Quick. It would have worked twice as much if there was a John Scott-like angle to be found.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Round and Round We Go

The waiver wire resembled a merry go round yesterday, as two former major junior stars were picked up by other teams through waivers, and in one case, it marked the third time he went on the waiver merry go round.

Ty Rattie and Reid Boucher had storied careers in major junior, with Rattie setting the all-time record for most playoff goals in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, Originally a second round pick of the St. Louis Blues, he was unable to crack the Blues lineup largely because of the depth in front of him, and his time in the Blues' system came to an end when the Carolina Hurricanes claimed him off waivers yesterday. Boucher was a 2011 fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils who scored 62 goals in his final year with the Sarnia Sting. Like Rattie, he was unable to crack the lineup of the Devils. However, Boucher was also unable to rediscover that scoring touch, something that the Devils have been in need of since Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise last played for the Devils. Earlier in the season, Boucher was claimed on waivers by the Nashville Predators. However, his stay there didn't last long, as a month later, he was reclaimed by the Devils a day after the Predators sent him down. Of course, the Devils tried to send him down a day later, only for Vancouver to claim him off waivers.

The waiver wire has proven to be a place of considerable activity, albeit a strange one, as Jaroslav Halak was also placed on waivers a few weeks ago, only for no one to claim him and he has since played for Bridgeport of the AHL.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Watched This Game: The Great Midwest Outdoors

Another Winter Classic is in the books, and while the surrounding hype wasn't quite matched by the game itself, it is fair to say that the city of St. Louis did well in paying attention to detail when it came to putting on a show. Yes, I watched this game.

  • It looks more like the Outdoor Fog Bowl.
  • Also, due to sound being off (thankfully), there will be no commentary on in-between entertainment.
  • The national anthem was performed on trumpet by Spencer Ludwig, which was not only done well, but also a tribute to St. Louis' musical history.
  • Pet Peeve #1: For those at home, the last line of "Star Spangled Banner" is "Home of the BRAVE," not home of the BLUES or CHIEFS.
  • The ceremonial puck drop was done by the Hulls, Bobby and Brett. It took them a minute to get the pucks, since someone forgot to supply them with one heading to the ice. I think this may have been planned, given the propensity of both Hulls to put on a show in their playing days.
  • That didn't take long, as Michal Kempny's shot from the blue line deflects off of Jake Allen's glove and into the net to put the Blackhawks up 1-0.
  • Pet Peeve #2: the ref cam. Was that really necessary?
  • The Walking Penis Pierre McGuire is interviewing Ken Hitchcock, and for some reason, Hitchcock appears to be auditioning for role in the remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Alex Pietrangelo will feel shame for two minutes, as he got nicked for slashing.
  • Brian Campbell tried to delay the game, but only gets two minutes in the box for his troubles.
  • After one period, it's Blackhawks 1, Bules 0. No, that's not a typo, I'm just taking another shot at the Seattle Sounders supporters, as they once misspelled "blue" as "bule" on one of their banners.

  • Back to the actual hockey action, Panarin will be sitting two minutes and feel shame for holding.
  • The Blues don't score on the power play, but they do tie it up, thanks to a Jay Bouwmeester pass from the corner that Patrik Berglund tips past Corey Crawford.
  • Robby Fabbri boarded, so he will be sitting for two minutes.
  • Shortly after Chicago kills off the penalty, Ryan Hartman goes off for interference, and despite it carrying over into the third period, the game remains even at one once the penalty ends.
  • Hartman didn't last long out of the box, as this time, slashing is how he gets nicked. Meanwhile, Niklas Hjalmarsson was seen limping off the ice. Fortunately, he didn't miss a shift and was just fine.
  • Ryan Reaves heads off for interference.
  • A Vladimir Tarasenko pass finds a bank shot off of Niklas Hjalmarsson's stick, which ends up in the back of the Chicago net to put the Blues up 2-1.
  • Tarasenko strikes again. This time, he didn't need luck to score this time, putting the Blues up 3-1.
  • What would life had been like for the Ottawa Senators had they kept their first round pick from 2010? The pick they surrendered? It went to the Blues, who took Tarasenko that year.
  • Alex Steen puts a ribbon on the game with an empty net goal, and that is how the 2017 Winter Classic ends: Blues winning 4-1.
The conditions for the game weren't perfect, but the Blues found ways to go around it to send their fans home happy. The wisest move the Blues made was extending Tarasenko, as he is definitely their best goal scoring option. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

I Watched (and Listened to) This Game: Happy 100th

Photo credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
With the calendar year turning to 2017, that means the NHL, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs turn 100, both having been established in 1917. So, what does one do to celebrate this occasion? Hand the Leafs their very own outdoor game and against an Original 6 rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Yes, I watched, and as you will read on, later listened to, this game known as the Centennial Classic.

  • 30 minute delay as the teams wait out a sun glare issue.
  • Ceremonies before the game push the actual start time back to around 2:50 PM CST. The first 28 of the top 100 players were announced, with that group being represented by their family members. Five more were announced, and they made their way out on their own.
  • Because of the channel flipping, I only caught the end of "O Canada," and it sounded a little rushed.
  • Nothing really doing in the first period, as both teams were rather tentative, although Nazem Kadri drove to the net on one play and drew a penalty on Brendan Smith.
  • No score after one. Also, no comment on intermission entertainment, having learned from the debacles of the Winter Classics past.
  • Switching over to radio, and the I Listened to This Game portion, 
  • Detroit actually had the better chances late in the first period, and they continued their momentum, drawing a penalty on William Nylander for holding the stick.
  • They don't score on the power play, but Anthony Mantha puts the team on the board. If Detroit were wise, they'd give him top six forward minutes, as he's a goal scorer and Detroit needs scoring badly.
  • Connor Brown goes off for hooking, and the Leafs are down a man again. Again, the Wings don't capitalize.
  • Nick Jensen (no, not the Vancouver Canucks draft bust) gets too grabby, and is sent off. However, the Leafs' power play is abruptly halted, as they are caught with too many men on the ice, and Mitch Marner takes one for the team.
  • In between the calls, Jake Gardiner nearly ties it up, but gets gonged by the post. Detroit heads into the final frame with a 1-0 lead.
  • The beginning of the third period sees Uncle Leo Komarov head to the net and tip in a shot to tie things up and that also wakes up a Toronto crowd that was last seen awake during the baseball playoffs.
  • We get a fight, as Steve Ott and Matt Martin have a disagreement and drop gloves. Decision goes to Martin.
  • Marner puts the Leafs ahead after carrying the puck from the corner to roof one past Jared Coreau. Those Patrick Kane comparisons aren't off.
  • It's raining goals, as Connor Brown doubles the Leafs lead, and a short time later, Auston Matthews makes it 4-1.
  • Detroit answers back, as Jonathan Ericksson cuts the lead down to two. A JVR mistake leads to a Dylan Larkin goal that puts the Wings back within one.
  • A furious finish sees Mantha tie up the game with 1.1 second left, though there was a wait, as the play was under review.
  • Free hockey, as overtime commences and both teams trade chances, but fail to score.
  • Before the shootout could happen, Matthews comes through to score the game winner for Toronto. He was on the wrong end of overtime matches in both his debut and the first game against fellow 2016 draftee Patrik Laine, but this may very well be to him what the Winter Classic in Buffalo was to Sidney Crosby.
The game got off to an excruciatingly slow start, but from the third period on, it was one of the more exciting tilts of the season. The Leafs need to figure out how not to blow three goal leads in the third period, and that will come with experience, but there is much to like here with the roster as constituted. As for the Wings, they have a lot of work to do, as the only guy who stood out was Mantha, who needs to be a top six forward. Remember, he was drafted to be a goal scorer, and the Wings would be wise to put him in a spot that best suits his skill set. That means letting him learn on the job in the NHL, as he's been more than ready this season.