[Originally post on www.betonhockey.com on January 25th, 2012]
Well it appears I got my wish, and partially to my own chagrin. Alex Ovechkin will not be attending or participating in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game after all. Not because the vote for him to be there (which was clearly based on his reputation, not his current point total) was reversed, but because he’s pulled himself out.
Ovechkin was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for his hit on the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek. Interestingly, the Penguins defenceman was not hurt, and Ovechkin was not penalized during the game for the play, but those points are apparently neither here, nor there. Ovie sat out his first of three on Tuesday, and is not permitted to return to NHL action until the Capitals play the Montreal Canadiens on February 4th. Since this prohibition period overlaps with the 2012 NHL All-Star Game on January 29th, Ovechkin has taken it upon himself to suspend himself from the All-Star Game (in addition to the Skills competition, which he “retired” from earlier in the season) as well.
Now some might call this Ovechkin taking the “high road” and doing the right thing – he does make a good point after all. But those in the media looking for a juicy storyline may see this as Alex either protesting the suspension laid down on him by the league, Alex just wanting to take a few days off (ala Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk in 2009, who declined their invitations, and were promptly suspended one game each for doing so), or maybe, just maybe, Alex realizing he’s not an all-star this year. Having an off-year or not, Ovechkin is a superbly talented hockey player that brings more than his share of much needed attention to the game. But what is this All-Star Game really all about? Or perhaps more importantly, after holding this game for more than 60 years, what has this game become?
Here’s what we know: these days, the ASG is lauded every year as being a farce of hockey. There’s no hitting in the game, and there’s a school-yard style team picking format; yet the NHL still keeps tally of nearly 30 individual records (most goals, assists, games played, and even penalty minutes, to name a few), charge over $100 for tickets, and give away a vehicle to the game’s MVP (Hey all you millionaires that all own 10 cars already, we’re going to get the 50 richest of you together all in a group to play a game, vote for the best, and then give him another vehicle that he’ll never drive, and will probably give away. Sound good? Great. Good talk, guys.). So someone tell me, are we fans and the participating players supposed to take this game seriously, or not?
If we aren’t, then Ovechkin should go/should be made to go, because it doesn’t matter what he’s done this year, it’s all about his entertainment value, and the extra dollar amount his presence at the game can generate through advertising, ticket and merchandise sales – and no one in the league is more entertaining at his peak than him (though Ilya Bryzgalov has been heating up lately). And if only for this reason, he should be there so Phil Kessel could have his moment of revenge to photograph Ovechkin being picked last.
But if we’re supposed to take it seriously, and get excited about the prospect of someone like Steve Stamkos or Rick Nash breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of four goals in a game, or Mario Lemieux’s record of six points in a game, then Ovechkin should not be there for a number of reasons: one, because he’s legitimately suspended, and shouldn’t be able to pursue those feats while barred from the game; two, because he simply hasn’t been good enough to be there this year; and three, because lots of other guys deserve to be there ahead of him this year and pursue those milestones.
So NHL, what’s it going to be? Is this game worth me clearing my weekend schedule to watch your programming, or should I just trust that Sportscentre will be able to piece together a decent enough highlight package for me to get the gist of it? At least I know there won’t be any idiots skating around in it wearing sunglasses and a Tilley hat with flags stick out of it this year.
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 22/11]
No games since January. First game back: 4 points on the Penguins’ 5 total goals scored. First goal of the game. Last goal of the game. Game winner. My. Mind. Blown. In the lip-read words of Sid Crosby himself after scoring his first goal in over 10 months, “F*** YA!!!”
In one game, he catapulted himself by hundreds of statistical spots at a time by each backhander that went in, and every pass that his teammates converted into goals. From 711th, to 605th, to 523rd, to 464th, and finally to 373rd in the NHL’s total points standings for this season, after one single game. Todd Bertuzzi, Scottie Upshall, Jordin Tootoo, Dustin Penner, Paul Bissonnette, George Parros, Blake Comeau, and 330 other established NHL players got leapfrogged in points in one hour of play. And there’s now even talk of whether Crosby can beat league leader Phil Kessel in points this season, who has a 25 points and 20 games advantage. Bets are being taken on whether Crosby will win the Hart Trophy this season. And no one’s kidding or balking when they ask or hear about either possibility.
It reminded me a lot of Brett Bulmer, a former Minnesota Wild player who played 8 games with them this season, before being sent back to his major junior club, the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. In his first game back, Bulmer dominated the game, and dictated the pace, also scoring 2 goals and 2 assists by the conclusion. Only difference was what Bulmer did was against junior hockey talent; what Crosby did was against NHL talent, aka the best hockey players in the world (clearly not the 29th place New York Islanders, but you get the point. By the way, Crosby annihilates the Islanders statistically nearly every time the Penguins play them). If you’re still calling Sidney Crosby overrated at this point, you’re, well, an idiot.
In a night where nothing else that happened that evening in the league really mattered or was even worth televising, it became pretty apparent that the NHL needs Sidney Crosby and the attention he brings to the game. While millions were tuning in to see a sold-out Pittsburgh audience chant Crosby’s name and shake signs emblazoned with his first name, other headlines from the night’s NHL action included “Red Balloon Gets Attention During Coyotes-Capitals Game” (seriously, here’s the link from NHL.com : http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=602620), as a low-flying helium-filled balloon apparently caused quite a scene during the epic clash for 14th place in the league. Yes, the same Washington Capitals that Crosby’s nemesis, Alex Ovechkin still plays for. Ovie managed to contribute a secondary assist in the game.
Some question whether Crosby’s return is the antidote to awaken Ovechkin from his offensive amnesia, which currently has the former Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophy winner sitting at 57th overall in points. The two have seemingly been the yin to each other’s yang since they both entered the league – at this point though, I’d have to wager that Ovechkin needs Crosby a lot more than Crosby needs Ovechkin.
All in all, a successful return for Sidney Crosby. Keep in mind though, it was only one game, against a not very good team. I don’t question his ability to continue to perform at this level, but there are many more games to be played, and a lot more hits to be taken (let’s hope the Penguins are more akin than the Buffalo Sabres are to standing up for their superstar if someone takes a cheapshot on him). I’m excited to see what unfolds.
[update: at the time of this re-post, Crosby now has 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 total points, and sits at 176th in NHL overall points, having passed another 197 players in offensive production]
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 8, 2011]
Is it possible that Alex Ovechkin’s best and most productive days of hockey are behind him?
Probably not, but let’s speculate some evidence of why they might be, if indeed they are.
Last year, in the first ever fantasy hockey pool that I paid money to take part in, I somehow lucked out and drew the first overall pick. At the time, it was a no-brainer and generally assumed that your first pick would be either Ovechkin or Crosby. I picked Ovie. Mainly because in his past 4 of 5 seasons, he had 100 or more points, and seemed like he could score whenever he wanted to. He was just always dangerous if he had the puck. The guy scored a goal sliding on his back on the ice while doing a barrel-roll for crying out loud. Now, you may argue that I did get the better choice of the two considering Crosby’s season-ending injury, and that Alex finished ahead of Crosby in points. But, for the guy that was supposed to finish first overall in scoring, instead he placed seventh, and scored 24 fewer points than he did the season before. I made an early exit out of the fantasy pool and lost all my money. **Screams in my best Captain Kirk/George Costanza Wrath of Khan reference impression** OOOOOOVVVVVVIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
We’ve since learned that he was injured – as he took 10 games off before the playoffs, and has eluded in interviews to rehabbing over the summer during his training. Whatever was bothering him then, may continue to linger. When an injury site is vaguely referred to as an upper or lower body injury, it’s hard to speculate the possible extent and long term effects on the injury. BUT, from experience, between a torn ACL in my knee, broken collar-bones, pulled groins, and minor neck, back, and shoulder issues, they all had range-of-motion limiting effects on me, though I eventually healed and played through them all. Wayne Gretzky’s back injury in 1991 was one that had lasting effects on his career and offensive productivity until he retired. As of this post, Ovechkin’s sitting at #39 in league scoring, averaging less than a point a game, and sitting at -1. For him, that’s unheard of. Since 2008, his point totals have been slowly diminishing, and so have his shots on goal (you know, scoring chances). In 2008, he took 528 shots. The following years, he only took 368, then 367 shots. And with those lowered totals have also come less wild, pre-meditated stick-burning goal celebrations. While he’s still excited when he scores, his reactions are noticeably subdued, for him anyways.
He’s changed his gear this year too, switching from CCM to Bauer. Hockey players are very particular with their gear, and once a player finds a setup they like and seems help put pucks in the net for them, they’ll quite often remain loyal to that brand forever. This move may be purely monetary, but it may also indicate that Ovechkin’s lost confidence in his previous equipment to help him score goals. And further, it may have damaged his confidence in himself to score goals. You could always tell in Ovie’s goals, skating speed, interviews, and off-ice antics, that confidence has never been an issue for him. When you’re a player of Alex Ovechkin’s caliber, you can’t afford to have anything get you “in the head” if you hope to score torrentially like you once did.
And further on confidence, even his coach, Bruce Boudreau has shown lower confidence in him; benching him on November 1st, in favour of other players. Boudreau was quoted as saying, “I thought other guys were better than him …I’ve got to put out the guys that I think are going to score … I just didn’t think Alex was going to score.” Moments after Boudreau cold-shouldered him, Ovechkin was cussing like a sailor at the snubbing. Ovechkin’s used to being the go-to guy when the team needs a goal, and in these key situations, he’s starting to not be the guy Boudreau taps on the shoulder first anymore. That can’t be good for the ol’ ego.
And further still, Ovechkin’s the Capitals captain. What are other players supposed to think of their leader when they see him not chosen to lead them? The C may simply be too much responsibility for him, ala Mike Modano, Brett Hull, or any other former NHL captains that have either surrendered their C, or had it taken away by their coach/team management.
Boudreau’s not exactly innocent of blame here either. He’s spent so much time trying to change Ovechkin and the Capitals’ overly offensive playing style over the last couple of seasons that Ovie couldn’t even be his old-self if he tried. His most effective style – the kamikaze-bull-in-a-china-shop-shoot-and-score-from-anywhere-blow-guys-up-and-there’s-no-need-for-defence- style – has been rendered obsolete. Bruce, you seriously want an offensive juggernaut to turn in his guns and become a 2-way, defence-first, responsible, playmaker instead? Has anyone told you who plays for your team, and what they do best? Sure, balance out weaknesses, but come on, no other team has the scoring personnel that Washington does. Last I checked, you still have to score more goals than the other team to win a hockey game, right?
Ovie could be just plain distracted too. He’s doing endorsements and/or commercials for Bauer, Nike, Mr. Big, Eastern Motors, ESPN, and probably forty companies based in Russia. Maybe making money’s beginning to take mental precedence over being a dominant hockey player every year?
Some speculative conspiracy: George Laraque recently wrote in his book regarding steroids in the NHL, saying that,
“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”
I’m not going to say Ovechkin was/is on PED’s, but his production did begin to decline post 2010 Olympics. Heck, even during the Olympics. Ovie’s former other-worldly talent, speed, and scoring ability suddenly turned suspiciously average. Like Tiger Woods, but without the TMZ scandal.
And finally, the guy just can’t seem to win the big one. Besides the 2008 World Championship tournament that’s attended by a fraction of the best players in the world, the Stanley Cup, and the Olympic gold medal (the real world championship in my view) continue to elude him. Could frustration over continual early playoff exits, and Crosby’s ongoing trumping of him be wearing him down too? Is it possible he’s become complacent with just being really good and making a lot of money? Is it feasible that with Sidney Crosby sidelined, Alex doesn’t have the competitive drive to try and be better than Sid, his arch-nemesis, the player he’s most often compared to?
I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, and I truly hope he gets back to form and proves all of this wrong. He’s been the face of the league since he’s been around, and if he can get his act together, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be. But the question is, will he?
Hi Folks, Sorry for the hiatus. My wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew and I all took off to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a little Easter vacay. After being removed from all english-speaking media for nearly a week, I came back to see that my LA Kings got bounced, Vancouver nearly blew their 3 game lead and went to 7 with the Hawks, somehow the Predators are in the 2nd round, and I think some other stuff happened too. A lot can happen in 7 days I suppose. Big shout-out to the hotel bar for getting SkySports and showing a few select playoff games. Other than that, it was surprisingly easy to be cut off from my phone, computer, email, facebook, twitter, blog, etc for a week. I suggest everyone give it a try sometime.
MOVING ON…. I’m pleased to bring back guest poster, Peter Nygaard (aka @RetepAdam on Twitter) for 4 playoff series’ worth of suggested supplementary drink-along material for you to enjoy the second round with, after the popularity of his first installment. Continue to, or begin to Follow Peter on Twitter for coverage, analysis and whatever else throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. He occasionally tweets for @FVSports , so pop by there too.
Well, that was quite a first round. Between the 14 overtime games, bitter rivalries and countless subplots, the most exciting aspect of the first round was that it was once again a scoretacular affair. For the second straight year, goals came at a clip of nearly six per game in the first round, and there were nearly twice as many games that featured 7+ goals as there were games with less than three. In the context of this column, what that means is that everybody who participated in the First Round Drinking Games got schwasted.
Yet, somewhere amidst the belligerent stupor, I discovered a newfound ability. My knack for predicting events such as Alexandre Burrows’ series-winner has become so apparent that I’m going to go ahead and say that it borders on precognition.
That’s right. I’m saying I’m psychic.
But I’m not going to lure you in with claims of knowing how the future will unfold, only to turn on you, my loyal reader, and demand a sum fee for a display of my powers. No, I will be giving away these babies for free. So, throw out your Magic 8 Ball. Make chai out of your tea leaves. Sit back and enjoy as I give you a little glimpse of the future.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal.
-If the announcer mentions Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos in the same sentence, take a drink.
-If the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning have won a Stanley Cup while the Washington Capitals remain Cupless makes you laugh, take a drink.
-If that same fact makes you cry on the inside, finish your drink.
-If somebody in the room mentions Dwayne Roloson’s name, “The Rock Rule” goes into effect. The first person to successfully pull of an “IT DOESN’T MATTER” doesn’t have to drink while all other players must finish their drinks.
-If Sidney Crosby’s name is mentioned for no apparent reason (i.e. in any context other than discussing Tampa Bay’s first round series), take a drink.
-If the Lightning make some sort of weak pun on their team name as part of a home crowd motivator, take a drink.
-If Mike Green makes an excellent defensive play, pour a drink into your gaping, wide-open mouth.
-If you’re listening to the game at such a high volume level that Washington’s home goal siren causes your neighbors to call the cops on you, finish your drinks on the go.
What the Future Holds…
-After two years of Bruce Boudreau not following John Tortorella’s lead, Capitals alternate captain Mike Knuble will finally take matters into his own hands by skating up to Ovechkin during a break in the action, ripping the ‘C’ off his jersey and placing it on his own.
-“Seen Stamkos?” is no longer used mockingly to refer to the Tampa Bay star’s scoring drought, after he breaks out with a multiple goals in the first three games of the series, and reverts to its original meaning of asking Tampa Bay citizens whether they’ve seen him play. The answer remains a resounding “No.”
-Versus and NBC take every opportunity to show the Flyers-Bruins series instead of this one, leading most fans to not really have more than a vague idea of the series score, just like both of the teams’ first round series.
Prediction: Capitals in 6; Toasted in 4
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3) Boston Bruins
-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal
-Returning favorite: If the Philly crowd boos (or cheers for Boucher in its own particular… idiom), take a drink.
-If the Flyers blow a lead of any sort (game, series, whatever), take a drink.
-If you’re watching on NESN and the announcers homer up the Bruins, take a drink.
-If the Stanley Cup is mentioned, drink two seconds if you’re rooting for the Flyers; drink three seconds if you’re rooting for the Bruins. One second for each decade since either team has won it.
-To counteract the media hype for this series, after the clinching game, finish an additional drink for every game short of 7 that this series ends.
What the Future Holds…
-Every journeyman goalie ever will watch this series and daydream about what might have been.
-Fed up with Tim Thomas’ continued resurgence, Tuukka Rask will convince team brass to trade Thomas to Philadelphia in exchange for Keith Van Horn.
-After the series ends, Chris Pronger will tearfully reveal his puck-collecting addiction on the most-watched episode of Hoarders to date.
Prediction: Bruins in 5; Friggin’ hammahed in 2
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal
-If “Alex Burrows” and “hero” are said in the same sentence, take a drink.
-If it even appears like Alain Vigneault is considering replacing Roberto Luongo in net with Cory Schneider, take a drink.
-If a Preds player complains about the lack of focus placed on them this series, take a drink.
-If a Canucks player isn’t exactly sure where Nashville is, finish your drink.
-If a game in Nashville gets canceled due to inclement weather, develop a greater understanding of what living here’s been like for the past year and change — and finish two drinks.
-If, by contrast, Vancouver seems like the nicest place in all of North America to live, take a drink. (Note: Having been there, it does.)
-If you live in an area where Versus isn’t part of the television package (for instance, the Vanderbilt campus), drink until the Grizzlies game looks like the Preds game.
What the Future Holds…
-The losing goalie in this series will not win the Vezina Trophy. Also, the winning goalie in this series will not win the Vezina Trophy.
-After struggling to hold Hart Trophy frontrunner Corey Perry in check last series, Nashville captain Shea Weber will have an equally difficult time stopping Daniel Sedin, to the point where after the series ends, he will swear that there are “two of him out there.”
-After reading that last joke — another one in the tired series of twin jokes — you will probably just skim the next section and scroll down the pick.
Prediction: Canucks in 5; Iced in 5
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Detroit Red Wings
-Drink 2 seconds for every penalty, 5 seconds for every fight and finish your drink for every goal
-If the Sharks miss Evgeni Nabokov, take a drink.
-If the Red Wings miss every playoff goalie they’ve had in the past decade not named Jimmy Howard, take a drink.
-If San Jose fans take a page out of the Detroit playbook and throw a shark on the ice for good luck… that’s freakin’ awesome.
-If Detroit is a man down, drink for every second Darren Helm holds the puck.
-If a member of your viewing party is named Joe, he must be referred to as “Little Joe” for the rest of the series, as “Big” and “Jumbo” are already taken.
-If San Jose’s home goal song gives you the urge to break out your old Super NES, take a drink.
-If Detroit’s home goal song gives you the urge to break out your old Jock Jams mix, take a drink.
What the Future Holds…
-With yet another impressive playoff performance, Johan Franzen overtakes Ray Finkle as the most famous athlete to be nicknamed “The Mule.”
-Joe Thornton will rest on his laurels as playoff hero and not even bother to show up for the rest of the series for fear of diminishing that reputation.
-After making this series pick, I will proceed to be sick with myself.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6; Regretting it by tomorrow
I love love LOVE Matt Cooke’s regular season/1st round playoff suspension. Faaaaaaaar overdue. The guy did not deserve as many chances as he got to clean up his act. Only thing better would have been if it were for all playoffs, or more. I don’t care how good of a guy HBO’s 24/7 series made him seem like, and how much his teammates stick up for him, guys who play like that need to be removed from the game. Curious that the Mario Lemieux factor finally wrangled an apology out of him too.
I can’t help but think Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty was locationally circumstancial. Anyone who’s had their ribcage rattled off Sparrow Gardens’ mid-bench wood pillars knows what I mean (for those who don’t know, that was the now-demolished wartime built airplane hangar/converted home-rink of the Briercrest Clippers, the college team I played for). As absolutely terrible as the result was, the hit would’ve turned out ok anywhere in the rink there was glass, and it seems a little out of character for Chara to go out of his way to hurt a guy like that. I could be wrong. Maybe there’s more to the story that the camera didn’t catch; some stick work, or something that set him off. Good for the NHL in beefing up the stanchion padding in rinks, but do we really need that little media area anyways? I get the ongoing American media sell of hockey and every nook and cranny of the game to increase viewership, but that little hut that houses reporters to call color-commentary and jump on the team benches mid-game to bother coaches for questions doesn’t seem necessary. Not to say that the Euro’s are doing it right, but some of their rinks benches are completely open, and don’t even have a divisible separation point between both teams, besides a huge gap of space. But then again, both teams walk out to the ice side by side, like they’re not about to go out on the ice and try to kill each other, so take that analogy with a grain of salt.
Good call on the no suspension for Chara though, much to the chagrin of Air Canada, who threatened to pull its sponsorship of the NHL out if the league didn’t make its product safer. I respect the move, but it sure would’ve held more water if the 6 Canadian and 5 American based NHL teams spend between $2.5 – 3.5million per season each on Air Canada flights (via HNIC’s Jeff Marek on Twitter), and if Air Canada wasn’t such a terrible airline.
So I’ve entered the 1st round of playoffs in the Bourne’s Blog fantasy hockey league. This year marks the first year I’ve put money on the line, and the first year I won the 1st overall pick selection. I selected Alexander Ovechkin, on the basis that I thought he would be awesome yet again. Instead of awesome, I got above-average. And now, when I need him the most, Ovechkin has decided to take 7-10 days off, while each round lasts one week. FML.
Speaking of infuriating Russians, a lesser man would’ve taken the hint he wasn’t wanted, retired, and headed back to Russia after being traded for a conditional 7th round pick. Not Alexi Kovalev. A “conditional” pick seems like the worst one to get in a draft, and pretty well the absolute minimum of acceptability when it comes to collateral in a deal. Doesn’t conditional just mean that the team who’s offered the pick will make sure you get the worst choice possible in that round?
Penguins: “Our conditions… just make sure your pick isn’t taller than 5’5”, he can’t weight more than 165 lbs, and make sure he’s got no track record of doing or winning anything significant or noteworthy in his hockey career. Stick within those parameters and we’ve got a deal.”
Senators: “… that sounds fair.”
Both, under their breath: “ ………suckers!!”
Vincent Lecavalier did to PK Subban what Mike Richards wouldn’t, and would only talk about someone doing if he kept playing the way he does: I don’t get what Vinny was so mad about; should Subban have just let him stand in front of his goalie, or maybe politely asked him to move? Maybe he was just mad that a rookie defenceman has played more games, has more assists, and gets more minutes per game and shifts per game than him. Why do the league’s veteran players get so angry with young, quick, talented players who celebrate their goals, and play a highly physical and exciting to watch style of hockey? Surely a Cup champ and seasoned veteran can’t feel threatened by the presence of this new brand of player, can he? Subban sure seems to make a lot of other players mad for fairly perplexing reasons.
Speaking of rookies, Taylor Hall’s first NHL fight turned out pretty well worst-case scenario for him, with that resulting ankle injury. He picked up the Gordie Howe hat-trick though, so there’s that at least for him. That stat puts him in some elite company, and places him only 16 more off the lead set by Brendan Shanahan.
After being written off for most of the season, Jarome Iginla’s 30 goals/10 seasons milestone sure has redeemed him in the eyes of the hockey world.
Former Calgary Flame and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach, Tim Hunter is still an ugly, ugly man.
The slow shootout approach seems stopped more often than not. Get up some speed, move around; do something less easily read by a goalie.
I respect no-BS guys like Brian Burke & John Tortorella, but I think it’d suck to work/play for them. I’m sure Sean Avery hates every minute of playing for Torts, but at the same time, knows he’s exactly the coach he needs to get the best out of him. Burke won’t tolerate the media’s crap, and I love it. The NHL, and everyone really, needs guys that cut out the crap.
Some NHL teams should consider rescuing Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets and offer their entire roster for him. Now THAT’D be a hype-worthy deadline deal. Sure, it’d take a few years to rebuild your roster, but assuming you have a decent farm system (any farm system can’t be that far off pace of CBJ’s actual team), you’d be back up to par in no time, AND have the addition of a franchise player. Nash deserves better. I’m going to start a FREE RICK NASH campaign, I think.
On the Heritage Classic…..
-Did anyone else think the NHL is fairly stupid for not having the Heritage Classic be either Toronto vs Montreal, or Calgary vs Edmonton? I get the cross-continental viewership theory, but aren’t the afore mentioned rivalries a little more historic and television worthy? Based purely on rivalry/game-entertainment value, who’d you like to see in next year’s version? I’m thinking a Vancouver-Chicago one would be fun.
-Leave it to the USA to declare “Hockey Day in America” on the day Canadian teams play in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Canada.
-Paul Brandt having a musical note on his Flames jersey in place of a number was ridiculous.
-Why did the Flames wear white pants???? So close to looking totally awesome. Then again, this is a team that throws salmon on the ice at home games, so not sure what I expected….
And finally, why does ESPN continue to push women’s pool, dogshows, and bowling more than NHL hockey? And why does TSN continue to pick up these feeds? This is exactly why players like Pacioretty get hit into stanchions protecting the league’s media gimmicks. Americans, watch hockey already so players stop getting hurt!
Hockey Talkie: Hodgson Hype, DiPietro’s Judgement Deficiency, Collapsing Thrashers, Franzen, Ovie, and TSN’s WWF Playbook Move.
For the Canucks’ sake, Cody Hodgson better turn out to be the second coming of Crosby, like Vancouver media would have you believe. He seems like a good kid, and a really good player, but the more that Sportsnet West jams him down all our throats, they more I start to undeservingly hate him by default. Just let him season a little, or at least get the birdcage off before the greatness assessments start flying; that’s all I’m asking.
So after years of unplanned injuries, New York Islanders’ goaltender, Rick DiPietro, voluntarily pursued one the other night when he squared up with Pittsburgh’s Brent Johnson; where he found himself a broken face, twisted knee, and another visit from the Injury Fairy. You would think that someone that’s clearly so fragile would try to avoid blatant threats against his health; especially with the dark cloud of trying to live up to his first-overall draft selection and his lengthy/exorbitant contract hanging over his reputation, and contending against his minimal activations, frequent and lengthy IR stints, and overall average performance. I’d say Islanders’ GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang are almost ready to one-punch him too.
A thought on goalie fights… as even casual fans seem to love them, why can’t NHL goalies that fight just sit in the box for 5 minutes to serve their penalty like everyone else? There’s no real reason why teams couldn’t just put their backups in until the penalties expire; both would be coincidental penalties, giving the goaltenders opportunity to reset after they are released. I’m sure the reason it’s frowned on is all to do with something along the lines of “not encouraging that kind of behaviour” or another hypocritical cliché.
Another Atlanta Thrashers’ player collapses during a game? As much as I wouldn’t want to, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a Performance Enhancing Drug scandal in Atlanta in the future, especially now that it has happened to two players on the same team. Had their been two seperate instances involving unrelated players, this might fly under the radar, but it’s hard not to wander towards suspicions after this revelation. These are the most elite athletes in the world; you don’t just collapse for no reason while doing something your body has been trained to do for its entire existence. With Freddy Meyer now experiencing a similar mid-game fainting episode to that of Ondrej Pavelec’s invisible banana peel slip earlier in the season, I’m going to go ahead and speculate with nothing beyond my own opinion that these guys are putting something into their bodies that is causing their systems to operate in an unnatural way – and is causing unnatural reactions. Regardless of whether my suspicion turns out to be true or not, it’s always dangerous to put things into your body that alter the normal operations of your heart or your brain; and if we can look to MLB for any indication of what drug scandals can do to your sport, I hope I am completely off-base, for the players’ and the NHL’s sake.
I really think Detroit’s “Mule”, Johan Franzen could be the best player in the NHL if he could be consistent. 5 goals in one game? A 4-goal game in the playoffs last year after being benched by Mike Babcock the night prior? Who else do you know that scores in bunches like that? He’s got a well-known streaky dominance, but an equally well-known follow-up of extreme average-ness for extended periods of time. After the 5 goal game, Detroit was shut out by Columbus the next night, and Johan missed at least one wide open net.
A further player assessment; for a one time “best hockey player in the world” candidate, Alex Ovechkin’s…. kiiiiiiinda average at hockey now. Well, among the top 30 players in the world that is. Even with an injured Crosby, Ovie’s still 8th in NHL scoring, and 15 pts off first place overall. His hardest shot round at the Skills Competition was nothing short of comical; broken stick, unregistering radar, and swimming through tripped over TV cables and all. I wonder how rattled CCM was that Ovie blew up his CCM stick and then borrowed an Easton stick to finish the shootout? Luckily for CCM, the Easton blast was nothing spectacular. Still, having your poster boy tote someone else’s product in a globally viewed performance review couldn’t possibly be an option written into the product endorsement contract.
Also on the All-Star Game, I never understood why the NHL’s “All-Star” level goalies get so bad at stopping pucks in that showdown. I get that the defence and physicality is limited, while the offensive output is maximized, but isn’t that scenario the goalies’ show-off time too?
I find TSN’s stealing signing of rival sports channel’s broadcasters (Darren Dreger, Steve Kouleas) like the WWF stealing underutilized WCW talent in the 90′s. To be fair, Sportsnet did pick up TSN patriarch Jim Van Horne at one point in time too, so it’s not like it’s a one-way street. Interesting talent joust. Sports channels are possibly the most entertaining they have ever been nowadays. Viewers win.
Right off the bat, Happy belated 50th birthday to my boyhood hero Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all-time, and who will incidentally never read this birthday greeting. To read my old “meeting Gretzky” story, click here.
While I didn’t see Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal being picked as NHL All-Star Game captains, I am interested to see who they pick first. And perhaps more interestingly, who they pick last.
Are we going to find out after this season that Ovechkin had been using corked sticks prior to this year, or something to explain the slump? Could he have been injured this whole time and not have admitted it?
After seeing Joe Thornton get busted open above the eye with an unintentional(?) high stick from Vancouver’s Alex Burrows recently, I immediately thought to myself, how dumb is every player in the NHL that doesn’t wear a visor? If that stick hit “Jumbo” Joe half an inch down and to the right, he’s possibly blind in one eye for life, his career is probably over, and all for no good reason. I only inserted “possibly” and “probably” because Bryan Berard suffered an eye injury which he came back from, but needless to say, if he’d been wearing one, he would never have been in a predicament to make a comeback.
I’ve heard the negative side of the issue which is basically “you can’t see as well with them” and “he’ll be a worse player with one on because his vision is obstructed”, but I seriously don’t buy those arguments at all. The things are totally transparent for starters. Secondly, if they get dinged up, just replace them. For people like myself that have to pay $30 to $130 a piece for visors, this is a little easier said than done; but for guys whose yearly contracts end in a number with the word “million” after it, this is peanuts, and the trainer will even install it for you.
It’s strange too, because, as far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong), visors are mandatory at every level of hockey up to the NHL. That being said, you know that every player who’s in the NHL came up playing with one on, and we all started out wearing those ridiculous (but safe) full cages. And if you go a little further, a lot of players who were scouted to junior teams were observed playing well enough to commit to while playing with a cage on. So if we know that every player who makes it to the NHL has played well enough to get there with an “obstruction” on their face their entire career prior, we know that the “lowered playing ability” notion is complete garbage. Didn’t Sidney Crosby wear a full fishbowl in the World Juniors and do just fine?
The only time I’ve had the opportunity to not wear a visor has been in beer league, or out on the pond. To be quite honest, when you get going skating fast enough, the wind starts drying out your eyes and they start to water a little bit, which starts to cloud your field of vision, and affects your play. To me that’s the only legitimate vision obstruction.
So it’s gotta just come down to aesthetics then, doesn’t it? The old cliché of looking cool? How many guys have to either have close calls, or actually have life altering injuries that mess their vision up (see: Bryan Berard) before the NHL mandates visors?
The whole Evgeni Nabokov thing is one part ridiculous, and one part Jersey-Shore-level-drama-induced crazy. Interestingly, so is the NHL’s waiver system.
How a player can be claimed by one team after he’s been signed by another doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but apparently it’s within the rules (explanations are welcome).
Doesn’t this seem a little Eric-Lindros-refusing-to-play-for-the-Quebec-Nordiques-because-they-were-brutal-at-the-time ‘ish?
Obviously Nabokov wants to play for someone who has a shot at the Cup, and if anyone does, it’s Detroit; so their signing him was an obvious ideal. But doesn’t every player want to play for someone who has the potential to win the Cup? I highly doubt there are many NHL’ers who don’t have hoisting the Cup over their head in the back of their mind somewhere, even if they don’t admit it on camera. So what gives Nabokov the right to be more selfish picky selective about where he plays than anyone who made it there by traditional means?
Playing in the NHL’s rival KHL is a bit of a blackballing move from what I understand, so for guys looking to make their way back into the NHL from there are far behind others trying to get the same chance. So the struggling Islanders, who need to fix a goaltending situation, snap up Nabokov, which they have every right to do. Evgeni then apparently hangs up on Islanders GM Garth Snow (later saying it was an accident), refuses to report to the team, and makes a statement saying,
I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision. It’s nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s just that I’m at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don’t see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that. I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, ‘Wow, what’s the point?”‘
Well, I’d say the point is to play in the NHL again, wouldn’t you? He may have put up some good goaltending numbers for a few seasons, but this guy is nowhere near a level that he can just pick and choose who he plays for. Maybe Ray Bourque got away with that in Colorado, but I assure you, Nabokov’s not there yet.
So now New York looks great because they have a bargaining chip they can easily double their money on if they choose (getting Nabokov at near league minimum is a steal) and they’re really no worse off considering their current standings position, and Nabokov looks like a selfish (albeit, rich) idiot sitting at home, suspended. Welcome back, Evgeni.
Hockey Talkie: Brodeur, Byfuglien for Norris, HBO 24/7, Sutters, Spengler, Waffles, & The DiPietro Deficiency.
Could the New Jersey Devils’ situation be any worse? Dead last in the entire league (as of Dec 28/10), their bazillion-dollar signee, Ilya Kovalchuk sucks, and their former best-goalie-in-the-world is anything but, often injured lately, and having a tough time doing the most important thing about the goaltending position job description – stopping pucks. You gotta think Martin Brodeur is, at least, contemplating retirement at this point. No disrespect to him, but I mean he’s won everything for a goalie to win (3 Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold twice, 4 Vezina’s, multiple All-Star selections; holds 20 NHL records, including most wins, shutouts, most games and minutes played, even scored a game-winning goal). But really, at this point, what is the purpose in him hanging around, especially when he’s now playing for the worst team in the league? After all his accomplishments, it’d be a shame to see him fizzle out and get Chelios’ed in his remaining time.
Speaking of bad teams, how many more stints on the IR for Rick DiPietro until the New York Islanders decide buying out the remaining 11 years on his contract is actually the better option? Tough for the Isles to get the most bang for their $67 million bucks out of a constantly injured goalie who hasn’t played an entire season since around the time he signed that contract.
Dustin Byfuglien’s the early favourite for the Norris Trophy, no? He’s 13th in league scoring as I write this, and there is not another defenceman on the list until Nicklas Lidstrom at 26th. He’s even got more points than Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Malkin, Teemu Selanne, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat, Rick Nash, and Patrick Kane, to name a few. To be fair, he is currently 65th in +/- rankings, which may or may not be a more important measure of a defenceman’s worth, depending on who you are. He’s still got my vote, for now.
Like many of you hockey folks, I’m loving the HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic miniseries. I know lots of people are talking about it, so I’ll try to raise a few points that aren’t being beat to death, too badly.
One – Bruce Boudreau has been getting a lot of heat for his constant cussing in the dressing room and on the bench. My response to this is that the only people balking at this have to be people who are either over-sensitive, or just have never been in a hockey dressing room before; because, and I hate to break it to the weak at heart, but that’s exactly the way hockey dressing rooms and coaches are during the game. They get frustrated when things don’t go right, and when you’re as emotionally invested in the game and the success of the team as a coach has to be, f-bombs begin to flourish, especially in a slumping team situation. Personally, I love the fact that he’s not pulling any punches or walking on egg-shells just because there’s cameras around him all the time.
Two – I love seeing that NHL players are pretty much like every other hockey player that plays on every other team in the world and every other level (minus the skill level and multi-million dollar contracts, of course). It should be pretty obvious, since they all came up through all the same developmental leagues that all other players do to get where they are, but there’s something humanizing about seeing a teammates pulling hotel pranks on each other during road-trips, coaches telling players to “pack up your stuff so we can get the f— outta here” after a road loss, generally being jokers off the ice, and then really dialling in their serious side when it’s time to perform on the ice.
Three – as cool as this build-up to the Winter Classic has been, and as amazing as that game will be, this kind of TV series is tailor-made to a Stanley Cup Finals showdown, is it not? I know the big sell is the Crosby-Ovechkin matchup for American viewers by the networks, but isn’t the confrontation for the Cup, aka the biggest prize in the sport, even easier for fans to invest their advertisement-susceptible eyes to, compared to a gimmicky mid-season outdoor game?
And further, isn’t it a testimony to how unnecessary it is to advertise hockey in Canada that, compared to the Winter Classic media blitzkrieg, there has barely been a mention of the upcoming Heritage Classic outdoor game between Calgary and Montreal? You mean to tell me the mention of Jarome Iginla vs Josh Gorges isn’t enough to put butts in seats, and eyes on TV’s?
Even though I’m an avid Calgary Flames hater, it’s unfortunate to see Darryl Sutter “resign” as team GM, after team CEO Ken King asked him too. Seems like an either-quit-or-you’re-fired face-saving situation for Sutter; which, if you’re going to publicly announce that you ask a guy to quit, you might as well just fire him. I don’t support Flames success, but I have to admit, Sutter has been the only guy to get any out of that organization in recent history, including brother/head coach Brent, who barely batted an eyelash at the situation, citing his family’s unparalleled ability to separate family from business. Man, that’s got to be an awkward family to be around at Christmas.
I love the Spengler Cup. I wish it could be rescheduled so it actually got some coverage, instead of being overshadowed by the WJC. With personnel like Mark Messier coaching, Hockey Canada obviously supports the team; why aren’t they allowed to sport the official Hockey Canada jerseys like every other legit Canadian team representing Canada in international play? Surely HC just doesn’t want to desecrate the uniform with all those euro ads, right?
And finally, I’m loving the waffles being thrown on the ice at Toronto Maple Leafs games. It’s just such an amusing item to throw. It causes a delay of the game, bla bla… some one could get hurt, yadda yadda… let’s be honest, if the Leafs keep sucking, and Kessel keeps not scoring, they’ll be thanking their lucky lifetime season-ticket holders that something as soft (and delicious) as waffles is all that’s being thrown on the ice.
So Canada 2 got bounced from the IIHF World Championships, and Corey Perry is eliminated from the DCC. Anybody care? The only thing worth bothering with is that Canada will probably lose some ground in the official world rankings for hockey, after we reclaimed it so awesomely in the Olympics. Meh, we still rule at hockey. Did anyone really not think Ray Whitney was going to lead us to international glory against Ovechkin, and every other player who was mad they lost at the Olympics, when all our good players were quite content with what they already accomplished for us?
Chicago’s manhandling of San Jose has awoken Joe Thornton from his comatose state, but is it already too late? Answer: yes. Montreal decided they like winning better than losing too. Interesting hockey coming up…
So The Office ended its most recent season Thursday night. All year, I was left with a lingering thought of this, one of my favourite shows: I wish the Office writers turned Parks & Recreation’s writers hadn’t given P&R all the good scripts and storylines this season. It really was not The Office’s best season. Though the shows’ writers will deny it, P&R is clearly the Pawnee, Indiana version of The Office. For whatever reason, Rashida Jones, the former Karen Filippelli on The Office who ended up as the Manager of Dunder-Mifflin Utica, for some reason changed her name to Ann Perkins, cut her hair, abandoned her child and husband, moved to Indiana, became a nurse, and met and befriended Leslie Knope the female, Indiana version of Michael Scott. There she also met April, the female Dwight Schrute; Mark, the Indiana Jim Halpert; Tom, the Andy Bernard of Indian descent; Jerry, the fat Toby; and Donna, the large, African-American Kelly. Surely you can make a few other connections yourself if you watch both shows. Too bad it means that one show has to get mediocre. Maybe that’s at least partially why Steve Carell isn’t coming back after next season…
With DVR’s, PVR’s, and torrent downloading, is anyone even watching TV anymore? It’s great to record TV and watch it when you like, but you still have to fast forward the commercials. To my wife and I, downloading torrents is definitely the way to go. You can’t watch it immediately because you have to wait for the show to be uploaded, but no one’s doing that anyway, hence all the D and P V-R’ing. As far as mindless entertainment goes, there’s nothing like watching your favourite 22 minute episode commercial free. The only lame part is that you have to wait a week for new stuff. One of the best moves I ever made (and I give full credit to my wife for this) is starting to watch LOST this way after four seasons had already gone by. We could string together 3 or 4 episodes together in one sitting, and never be left dangling off any dramatic cliffs unless we chose to. Now unfortunately, we’ve caught up to speed; luckily right in time for the big finale of which has no chance in satisfying anyone in tying up all the series’ loose ends to viewers’ satisfaction. Much like Seinfeld’s finale, and Dr. Dre’s Detox album, the hype has created an unobtainable contentment standard. When you think about Seinfeld’s finale from a logistical standpoint, where did you think Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer – the most cynical and judgemental fictional characters on the planet (albeit the most hilarious as well) – deserved to end up, besides in prison, with each other? I have a feeling LOST’s finale is going to make sense in the end, but the majority of people will not be happy with it.
If you’re looking for the BEST TV TORRENT DOWNLOAD SITE IN THE WORLD, look no further than eztv.it . Posts every day’s new episode torrents, and they’re always virus-free. If you live anywhere besides the USA, don’t waste your time with hulu.com , no matter what it says you’ll be able to watch. I want to hack and destroy hulu.com every time it tells me my video can’t be displayed in my region (note to security people reading this: I’m not actually capable of doing either of those). I can watch U.S. shows on TV, download U.S. shows from the internet, but can’t stream them from hulu.com because I live outside the U.S. That seems fair.
And lastly, HD and Blu-Ray, Plasma and LCD all seem a little low-tech now that 3D TV’s exist, don’t they? The technology train sure has chugging along the last few years; this “Digital Age” that we’re living in may end up being the continually the awesomest thing ever, or the complete and utter death of itself and modern commerce. What’s that? You bought a 50” HD plasma TV last year for $5000 that’s now obsolete? That’s a shame…
***Heading into their Olympic quarter-final showdown both touted as their respective country’s top players, I thought I’d relaunch my Sid vs. Ovie blog that I previously posted for another site. While the latest chapter may not be have the gold medal on the line, for Canadian fans, it might as well be in the “do or die” situation we’ve found ourselves in. Enjoy!*** -SDC
There are battles of Alberta, Summit Series’, and “Magnificence” vs “Greatness”; but is there an NHL rivalry greater than the current individualistic battle between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin?
The two phenoms entered the league as at least respectful rivals of each other. Prior to their simultaneous NHL arrivals, they had only ever competed against each other on the international stage, playing for Canada and Russia, respectively. With cameras and tape recorders rolling, making campy NHL commercials and delivering birthday cakes at the NHL All-Star game together slowly morphed into on-ice physicality and off-ice verbal sparring. Welcome to the business of “selling” the new NHL to the American market.
It’s a protagonist-antagonist scenario that seems to be inspired by Vince McMahon himself. In one corner, you have the abrasive, exciting, inimical Ovechkin; equipped with infinite energy and a talent level he must have exchanged his soul for, hailing from Mother Russia, a country that, according to Hollywood, produces more bad guys than perogies. His opposition, the humble, hard-working, and traditional Crosby; hailing from Canada, playing and interviewing the way the Canadian hockey heroes of the past did before him. Of course, as the NHL panders to the North American market, it’s easy to portray Crosby as the “good guy”, though Ovechkin, Federov, and every other Russian NHL star has been adorned in their homeland. Most Canadian fans would likely admit that there’s Russian NHL’ers that are better than Canadian NHL’ers, but they’d feel like they were betraying their country if they ever uttered it publicly.
Forget all the media hoopla; shouldn’t the NHL be sending royalties to the parents of Sidney and Alexander for deciding to have children that grew up to capture the attention of their entire audience? In the ongoing battle to
procure American advertisers and cable network broadcasters, the NHL can count on at least Penguins and Capitals games as easy ratings sells; providing that Crosby and Ovechkin are in the lineup. Did anyone care about the Capitals before Alexander the Great? A team with no Stanley Cups, and nothing more than a conference championship in 1997-98, former Hart and Art Ross Trophy Winner Jaromir Jagr couldn’t even make hockey exciting in Washington. All of a sudden, the Verizon Center has sell-out crowds, and the team is a contender. Ovechkin plays with a wreckless abandon that has resulted in a kneeing suspension, but what is coach Bruce Boudreau going to do with his star, bench him? Tell him to ease up? Come on. The Penguins at least got to pair Lemieux and Crosby together in 2006, but the Steel-Town had been pretty dismal since the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-92. Sure hockey’s a team game, but to suggest that the individual ability and rivalry of Crosby and Ovechkin isn’t largely responsible for the teams’ success and the league’s rising interest, is naive.
The 2008-09 playoffs were an absolute treat to watch, and many people would point to the Pens/Caps Eastern Conference showdown as a highlight, as well as an indication of who would/did become the eventual Cup winner. Fans got to see Sid and Ovie go at each other for seven consecutive games rather than once a season, and they got to see both players at the top of their respective games; Game 2 featured both players notching hat tricks, and Sid’s 13 series’ points and Ovie’s 14 equaled the highest single-series point total since the 1995 NHL playoffs. It was awesome.
Penguins win the series 4-3, and the “evil” Ovechkin, was banished back to Russia (well, Washington), screaming promises of revenge (actually he wished that the Pens win the Cup, but just work with me) while he was being dragged away. Meanwhile, the “heroic” Crosby was adorned on a mountain top, cape waving, a dark curl dangling from mid-brow (just above his perv-stache), all while giving an interview where he characteristically puts over his opponents, commenting on how well they played, and not giving himself any selfish credit. Wouldn’t it have been great/justified if he had finally just snapped, either after that series or after winning the Cup, and said, “YOU SEE?!?! I AM BETTER THAN HIM!!”
Ovechkin wins rookie of the year, Sid’s named the youngest captain in history. Sid wins the Art Ross and the Hart, Ovie wins the Richard and Pearson awards. And so they dance. We’re still waiting to see what Ovechkin’s equal to Sid’s Cup win will be. Alexander’s pursuit of a championship, Sidney’s defence of his, and their continued rivalry will continually be fun to watch, and is easily the best rivalry in the NHL today. It’s Canada vs. Russia, tradition vs. new school, team vs. team, and man vs. man, all wrapped into one ongoing showdown. Their 2010 Olympic showdown will be the latest chapter, and perhaps the most exciting for fans thus far. It’s one thing to have the hopes of a whole city on your back in the case of an NHL team, but entire countries? If the NHL can’t sell that to Americans, then tearing fans away from the baseball diamond and football field for the hockey rink is a fruitless endeavor anyways.