Friday, March 30, 2012

Patrick Roy Returning To Montreal?

The day after the Montreal Canadiens fired their General Manager, the speculation in the media is now running rampant with rumours that Patrick Roy could be returning to Montreal, either as head coach or general manager (unlikely he'd do both). The former Habs goalie has acknowledged that he is considering the possibility and is open to negotiations. He must  finally have forgiven the franchise for his untimely and unexpected departure. There are few players in my lifetime that I have loathed as much as Patrick Roy. He was and is an arrogant prick, and one of the fondest memories of my childhood as a Red Wings fan was Dec 2, 1995. Let's take a walk down memory lane together


That was the night the franchise died, Patrick Roy's last game in Montreal. Since that fateful night 17 years ago, this storied team has advanced past the 2nd round of the playoffs once and has not been back to the Cup finals since their last victory in 1993. Roy would go on to win 2 more Stanley Cups in Colorado. Will he get the job in Montreal? If he wants it, yes, provided his ego has recovered from Habs fans cheering easy saves. With a man of his arrogance...err excellence...that is easier said than done.

It is difficult to project how Roy would perform as coach or GM of Montreal since he has no prior NHL front office experience. We really have no idea if he can coach at an NHL level. There are rumours that he could stay in junior until Quebec City gets a team, which may or may not happen in the near or distant future. If that's true, then he's probably still carrying a grudge. 40 years from now when Montreal still has not won another championship, fans will start talking about "the curse" of Patrick Roy, like the Boston Red Sox with their curse of the Bambino.

As the wise philosopher Dennis Lemieux once said; "my allergies to these f**king fans has returned."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brian Elliot Should (but won't) Win The 2012 Vezina Trophy

When the 2012 NHL season comes to a close, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathon Quick will be the top two choices for the Vezina Trophy for the leagues best goaltender. The tender who should but won't win is Brian Elliot of the St.Louis Blues. The reason he won't win is because he'll likely finish the season with 40 or fewer games played. Of the last 10 Vezina winners, the fewest GPs have been by Tim Thomas with 54 and 57 the two times he won, with no other winner playing less than 60. Elliot, who Colorado let go by not even making him a qualifying offer last summer (then traded 1st and 2nd round draft picks to Washington for Varlamov), is currently leading the NHL with 9 shutouts, a 1.48 GAA, and a .941 SVPCT in 36 games played. He would have played more, but teammate Jaroslav Halak has also been sensational and has split the starts. The dynamic duo has all but locked up the Jennings for lowest team goals against, but it remains to be seen if either is even nominated for the NHL's best goalie.

Lundqvist and Quick have all but locked up Vezina nominations, but the 3rd spot is up in the air. Could be Elliot, Rinne, Smith, Lehtonen, Howard, or Fleury. If I had a vote, it would be for Brian Elliot to win the trophy, but I don't and he won't.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ovechkin Better When Crosby Is Healthy?

Over the last 3 NHL seasons, Alex Ovechkin has scored 164 points in 127 games when Sidney Crosby is healthy, and 91 PTS in 96 GP when Crosby has been injured. Over an 82 GP average, that is 106 PTS when his top rival is healthy and 77 PTS when Sid is out. Ovechkin is a different player when Crosby is playing in the NHL, and when Crosby is hurt, Ovie's production diminishes. Is this a fluke/coincidence, or should Ovechkin be standing in Crosby's living room saying "you complete me"?

During Crosby's latest stint on injured reserve, a friend and I noted that Ovechkin seemed sad when out on the ice, but since Sid returned a few weeks ago, the fire is back in his eyes. He's excited again. This is a statistic that should be charted in the future, but since the NHL is a better place with a healthy Crosby, let's hope going forward that we don't have two significant sample sizes to compare.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Doctor Mark Recchi

Some techie out there sure has a sense of humour. When Henrik Sedin passed Mark Recchi on the list of all-time NHL iron man streaks, a graphic appeared on the television screen that identified him as "Doctor" Mark Recchi, which was no accident. That was a sarcastic moniker applied to Recchi last season when he disputed the seriousness of Max Paccorietty's injuries inflicted by his teammate Zdeno Chara. The fact that the nickname was shown during a Canucks broadcast is not only hilarious, it is awesome! It might diminish the significance and difficulty of playing 570 consecutive games, but here's to hoping the guy who did this not only keeps his job, that he's encouraged to do similar gags in the future.

By the way, it is unlikely that either Henrik or Jay Bouwmeester will pass Doug Jarvis. Jay-Bo being 3 years younger has a better chance. The Jarvis record is actually quite remarkable when you crunch the numbers, arguably more impressive than Cal Ripken given the amount of physical punishment sustained by the athletes (which leads to shorter careers for hockey players).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CKNW 980 Hires David Pratt

Big Daddy is back on the Vancouver radio waves, being hired at CKNW Newstalk 980AM to do daily 2 minute rants while Neil McRae is on vacation. It is not yet clear whether he will be getting his own show. He will either be a substitute for Dan Russell's Sportstalk from 9pm to midnight, and/or may co-host every so often; or hopefully the news radio station adds a new daily sports show, shifting more content from news to sports. This is the station which used to carry Canuck games until they were replaced by the Team 1040 as the Canucks primary carrier a few years ago.

Pratt is a degenerate jackass, but I want him on my radio. I hate him as much as I've missed his deliberately provocative, frequently ridiculous rants. He is a character who endeavors to be like Bob McCown, but isn't on that level. In any event, welcome back Dave, I'm happy that you've returned, even if you are just filling in McRae's vacation hours.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins 2012 Stanley Cup Champions

The Pittsburgh Penguins are your 2012 Stanley Cup champions! Or at least that's what the headline will be when the NHL playoffs play their final day. It is all but certain, and it has become tradition on this blog to declare a championship winner before the trophy has been awarded, though it didn't help last year's Vancouver Canucks or this year's Detroit Lions (whom I jokingly declared champion in week 5 of the NFL season). That being said, Malkin, Crosby, Fleury, and Letang is a powerhouse combo that no team can match. Really the best antidote is to hit them in the chin as often as possible and hope to put one or more of them to sleep.

Karma can be a bitch...

But remember Boston and Philly, "you can't put a bounty on a man's head!!!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mid March 2012 NHL Power Rankings

It has been 2 weeks now since the trade deadline and my last power rankings, making it time for an update. The previous rankings were done shortly after TD-day based on a formula of PTS per game, goal differential, and PTS in the last 10 games. Personal bias is not a factor, this is a mathematical equation. The "last rank" was right after the trade deadline, which does serve as a barometer for winners and losers.

1. St. Louis Blues (last rank #4): By my formula, this is now the best team in hockey. They have a gifted group of young hockey players. Makes you wonder if Hitchcock is that good, or if the coach he replaced a few months ago was that bad. Perhaps this should have been a top team right from day 1?

2. NY Rangers (last rank #1): They are maintaining, but their chances of winning the East diminish significantly with a healthy Sidney Crosby. Lundqvist has a 3.15 GAA in March, but Gaborik and Richards are putting the puck in the other team's net.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #6): It should be noted that Pit climbed to the #3 spot based largely on performance without Crosby. Put the best player in the game back in the line-up, and this could be your Stanley Cup champion.

4. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #2): Chris Higgins and Kevin Bieksa are leading the team in scoring in March, Sedins have 0 PTS this month, Luongo has an .889 SV% and Schneider is at .939. This team is ripe for a playoff upset. My big question, how many playoff games does Cory Schneider play? If I were taking bets, I'd set the over/under at 4. If they play Chicago in the first round, all bets are off.

5. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #9): Ilya Bryzgalov has been playing out of this Universe in the month of March. Can it continue? Claude Giroux now has to be considered one of the top 5 forwards in the NHL. This kid is the real deal, enough to build a franchise around (which is what the Flyers did when they shipped Carter and Richards out of town).

6. Nashville Predators (last rank #7): Adding Radulov makes the #6 team all the scarier, not a team I'd want to play in the playoffs, sadly that is the team my Red Wings are most likely to play first. Needless to say, I'm concerned. The Kostitsyn brothers together again have been producing goals.

7. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #3): Life without Howard, Lidstrom, and Datsyuk have seen the Wings slip in the last 2 weeks. I'd prefer to think of it as those guys getting a rest before a playoff run. If they can knock off the Predators, look out. Their toughest match might be in the first round.

8. Boston Bruins (last rank #5): They have been coasting into a playoff spot, slowly falling from their earlier ranking as the best team in the league. Despite mediocre play the last 6 weeks, this is a team that can it turn up a level when it needs to in the playoffs.

9. Dallas Stars (last rank #12): Kari Lehtonen has been one of the NHL's best goalies in the last couple of weeks, and this team just keeps winning hockey games. I doubt this leads to playoff success, so long as it leads to fantasy playoff success in my hockey pool (where I own Benn and Lehtonen).

10. New Jersey Devils (last rank #11): I did not expect to say that Ilya Kovalchuck would be earning his paycheque this season, but the man has been incredible for a few months now. Parise has been playing great, Brodeur is in the zone, and this team has at least a 50/50 chance of winning a playoff series, if not better.

11. Ottawa Senators (last rank #10): Ben Bishop might have quietly been one of the best trade deadline acquisitions. Spezza and Alfredsson however, important producers in this offense, have been quiet in March.

12. Washington Capitals (last rank #16): The outlook is improving, Ovechkin looks excited again, and suddenly this is a team that could produce an upset in the first round of the playoffs.

13. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #15): Life without Toews ain't easy, but they are getting by. To me they are not a legit contender, but a team that could win a playoff series if a goalie gets hot. I still remember Sam Gagne making them look like a Pee Wee team...

14. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #19): Since arriving on the team, Jeff Carter is their leading goal scorer, and Dustin Brown has turned things around. That being said, Quick's numbers have fallen in March, so it is tough to say if this is a playoff team or not. They have the talent.

15. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #8): They went on a fine roll, but since have fallen back to reality and could fall out of the playoffs. I'd have trouble believing that Antoine Vermette made this team worse. Fact is Raffi Torres is their leading goal scorer in March, and Mike Smith has returned to earth, where I always believed he belonged.

16. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #14): It will be tough for them to make the playoffs without Duchene, but this is a good young team that will be competitive for a few more years. Landeskog was a great draft pick.

17. Calgary Flames (last rank #21): Not sure if they will make the playoffs, but this roster is good enough to make it and lose in the first round.

18. Florida Panthers (last rank #17): If they make the playoffs, so be it, but I have never believed in this team and still don't.

19. San Jose Sharks (last rank #13): This team is drifting out of the playoffs and it is hard to figure out why, given all the talent on that roster. Anti Niemi has been playing like s**t. That's a good place to start your investigation.

20. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #20): Blake Wheeler is the professional equivalent of Luis Mendozza from the Mighty Ducks movie. Sadly for the Jets, it looks like their bid to make the playoffs has fallen flat on its face. The playoff race in the East might now be set, and Washington winning 4 straight might have been the nail in the coffin.

21. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #25): Nice little hot streak for Miller to finish the season, but too little, too late. They aren't eliminated, but Washington seems to be stepping up and getting it done at just the right time to secure a playoff spot. Buf has a 30% chance or less.

22. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #26): Despite a valiant effort from Steve Stamkos, it is unlikely this team will make the playoffs. That could cost Stamkos the Hart, but he's got a good shot at the Art Ross. This team has needed a goalie for the entire season and Steve Yzerman never addressed that need. Stevie Y might have been my favourite player of all time, but his recommending ringuette rules be introduced into hockey is absurd and I've lost some respect for him.

23. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #18): Please Corey Perry, return quickly, my fantasy hockey team needs you back. It is never a good sign when a player misses a game for the first time in the last 270. Any chance Anaheim has of sneaking into the playoffs rests on Perry's shoulders...err shoulder...

24. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #24): The best thing for this team's long term success is if Scott Gomez stays down and remains injured for the rest of his career. The insurance company wouldn't be happy, but this team would love nothing more than to write off that contract.

25. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #23): It is hard to recommend that a team lose the rest of their games, but you have virtually no chance at the playoffs, so at this point you are playing for draft lottery ping pong balls, just like Leaf fans. If those two teams played, fans would (or should) be cheering when the other team scores.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #22): And so ends the 4th year of Brian Burke, with yet another missed opportunity at making the playoffs. They had it in their grasp, they had a chance to pull away, and fell flat on their faces. Leaf fans are now cheering for a lottery pick in the draft.

27. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #28): The biggest question mark for this franchise is who is their goalie of the future. They seem to be missing a vital building block in their rebuilding process, a good goalie. Maybe that turns out to be Devin Dubnyk? I doubt it, but maybe...

28. NY Islanders (last rank #29): Similar to Edmonton with a solid young core but lacking a goaltender of the future. Even if they resign Nabokov, his days as a pro hockey player are numbered. Is Al Montoya the future? I won't hold my breath, and same goes for DiPietro.

29. Minnesota Wild (last rank #27): How the mighty have fallen. 6 weeks into the season this team was 1st place in the NHL. Everyone, myself included, was ready to give Yeo the Jack Adams. Since that time, the team has been remarkably pathetic, one of the worst in the league. They are who we thought they were.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): This franchise is going to suck for years to come.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Please NHL, Don't Bring Back The Redline

With word this week that some NHL General Managers are trying to get the two line pass reinstated into the rule, it is incumbent upon us concerned hockey fans to ensure that they do NOT take this ridiculous action. Hockey is a far more entertaining game when you open it up with no red line, in no small part because it makes the neutral zone trap less effective. How is it going to be better for the game to return to the dead puck era? Is that what we are trying to accomplish? Bring back clutch and grab, bring back to red line, increase the incentive to trap, reduce scoring, and change hockey back into soccer. To Peter Chiarelli, the red line would not have prevented Marc Savard's injury, so get over it.

 If the GMs want to introduce no touch icing, remove the goalie trapazoids in the corners, and increase fines for headshots; great, this hockey fan has no objection to that. Look at evolving equipment technologies, and find innovative ways to reduce head injuries, but launching a new dead puck era to deliberately slow down the game and thus its entertainment quality is the wrong move. Please don't do this.  Removing the red line was a great idea, reinstating the red line is a terrible idea. For crying out loud, a simple chin guard on helmets could do far more to curb head injuries than stupid 2 line passes.

Just because there have been more reported head injuries, does not mean that there are more head injuries. Every time somebody gets a headache now it becomes a "concussion symptom", and team doctors are being so paranoid that they are diagnosing more head injuries that in previous years would have gone undiagnosed. Put money and research into the prevention and treatment of head injuries, be more cautious  with injured players, but don't ruin the game just because Sidney Crosby got his bell rung.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Should The Toronto Maple Leafs Tank Their Season?

Interesting that the Toronto Maple Leafs are just 5 PTS out of a playoff spot, but already there have been widespread calls in Leaf Nation to tank the 15 remaining games in order to secure the highest possible draft pick. These are now the questions being asked of the team by the media as the season comes to an end. First, you'll never get a coach or player say out loud that they'd like to lose hockey games. You can't blame the media for asking based on fan pressure, but you know what the answer is going to be. While the Leaf post-season chances are diminishing with each loss, they still have a shot at the playoffs. Neither Washington or Winnipeg is setting the world on fire, and Tampa just lost their only half decent goalie for the stretch drive. Buffalo is the hottest team, but even they are flawed and may not be able to sustain their current hot streak.

Toronto can still make the playoffs. It may be unlikely, but certainly not impossible. Perhaps the Lupul injury is the nail in the coffin (notice my double entendre with Nail Yakupov being the anticipated #1 pick), but they have a new coach who is going to want to make a solid first impression heading into next season. Like the commercial says, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. His biggest challenge is to get Phil Kessel to be defensively responsible. Teams who have top players that are defensive minded tend to have more success, like the Detroit Red Wings. When Steve Yzerman was an offensive dynamo shooting the lights out, the team never won in the playoffs. Once he began to focus on defense, he won 3 Stanley Cups. Datsyuk has 3 Selke trophies. Toews was a Selke nominee. Kesler won the award last year and his team went to the finals. Etc, etc, etc...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grabovski Signs Pricey Extension With Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed forward Mikhail Grabovski to a 5 year, $27 million contract extension, taking him off the July 1st unrestricted list. That price and that term is a hefty cost to pay, certainly there is no "home town discount" (but I guess he's not Ontario born). For the next two seasons he'll be making more money than Phil Kessel, who is the team's best forward and leading scorer. Kessel is 5th in NHL scoring, but will be collecting a smaller paycheque than Grabo for the rest of his contract. Not sure what Phil thinks of that, if he cares at all.

The Grabovski extension came not very long after a radio interview were Burkie hung up on a radio host who ask him about his job security. He's taking a lot of heat over his spats with the media, not the least of which is Don Cherry. Burke and his interactions with the media remind me of a player that I played minor hockey with that my father said had "rabbit ears"; he heard everything that everyone said, and it sometimes drove him bat shit crazy. Did Burke get paranoid about the interview and then agree to Grabo's ransom? Tough to say...but I'm sure that by writing this, Brian Burke will soon be lashing out at me...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Burke Cherry Feud

Brian Burke is continuing his long history of picking fights with media members, and his latest opponent is none other than Don Cherry, a pundit with very sharp elbows. The Don has a strong following, but he can say crazy things, so people will often take his opinions with a grain of salt. Don being Don. That being said, it does not benefit Burkie to pick a fight with Cherry, because it exposes a pattern of excessive confrontation with the media, and a segment (however large or small) of Leaf Nation will end up with a more negative opinion of Burke than they had before. Don Cherry is held in higher regard by far more people than David Pratt or Steve Simmons. A lot of people also think Cherry is nuts, a stereotypical grumpy old man. Opinions cut both ways.

Guaranteed that there are important people at the CBC who don't like Don Cherry. He's so close to retirement, and his career may be over sooner rather than later. Will he get kicked out the door or leave on his own? They don't have anybody waiting in the wings who can stir the pot like he does. If anyone takes over Coach's Corner, it has to be a coach. Milburry? Crawford? Melrose? Keenan? It sure as shit ain't Kelly Hrudey. Don's initial feud with Burke was regarding the ineffectiveness of Wilson and Burke stood up for his man. Not long thereafter the team collapsed and Burkie fired his man. Cherry was right to be ripping Wilson. The recent comments about lacking Ontario born players, that's a different matter, and I'm not sure how that plays out.

 As for Burke, he's got two years left on his deal. What happens if the Leafs miss the playoffs this year and next? There is frustration simmering in Leaf Nation right now, with many even becoming angry. He needs the team to start winning. He cannot replace the core he has built. The core that's there has to be the core that brings them into legitimate contention. His fate and his future will now be judged by the team on the ice. The team had better be good next season, and that might not happen with James Reimer in net. Burke has to hedge his bets and bring in another guy who can be a #1, and that's not Jonas Gustavsson (people should stop calling him "Monster" unless you start meaning it in a negative way).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To: New Orleans Saints "you can't put a bounty on a man's head!"

When I heard today that the New Orleans Saints had been offering players large sums of money for injuring opposing players, the immortal words of Joe McGrath became all the more relevant.

"We could all land in the clinker for this! You can't put a bounty on a man's head!"

"I just did"

Talk about your all time legally liable performance incentives. Any player who has been injured playing against the New Orleans Saints in recent years has more than enough grounds for a lawsuit. Maybe Brett Favre has enough money that he won't be pressing charges, but there has to be a long list players you don't remember or never head of who had careers ended or damaged playing against the Saints. There's a reason that you don't put a bounty on a man's head (criminals notwithstanding), and that is because of legal liability.

If we find out that this practice is common place within a number of NFL organization, prepare for the lawsuits. It will be a gold mine for personal injury attorneys.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Leaf Nation Starting To Turn On Brian Burke?

The writing is already on the wall for Ron Wilson, unless he magically turns things around and gets the team into the playoffs (which doesn't look very likely with 18 games to go). Once fans start chanting to fire the coach, historically that means his days are numbered. While the fans haven't started chanting "Fire Burkie", many are starting to question "the rebuild", which is taking far longer than expected. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The acquisition of Phaneuf and Kessel was supposed to speed things up, instead of waiting for draft picks to develop. This team has not made the playoffs since before the lockout, and the fan base is becoming rabid. They want a playoff series, and they want it now.

At the trade deadline Burke chose not to address the team's most glaring need and acquire a goaltender. His only deal was trading a 22 year old 6'6 defenseman with 57 career NHL GP for a 20 year old forward with zero NHL GP. That deal might make the team better 2 years from now, but not right now. Burke traded Versteeg for a 1st and a 3rd last year, but that move won't pay dividends for 2-4 years and Versteeg is having a dynamite season for a lot less money than Tim Connolly. The time is now for Toronto to return to playoff status. Your fans need it, as they have hit a critical boiling point and could collectively explode.

The Leafs are sitting in 11th place in the East, 5 PTS out of a playoff spot. But if you look down instead up, they are also 5 PTS from a lottery pick that could be #1 overall. The question is; in which direction do you want to go? My guess is more Leaf fans would rather make the playoffs than maximize ping pong balls in the draft lottery. You tell me.