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Serenity Now… The SDC Blogs Podcast — Special Guest: Mike Danton

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Hi folks! This is the video podcast (written version here: http://bit.ly/VzOpWb on The Score’s Backhand Shelf) of my September 2012 interview with former NHLer and ex-con, Mike Danton.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no one in the game of hockey has a stigma around them the way that Mike Danton does. Now trying to resume his professional hockey career in Europe, the ex-NHLer and ex-con deals with all sorts of prejudice and ignorance directed towards him on a daily basis — not to mention all the life roadblocks that a convicted felon could expect on the outside, because of his nearly decade-old crime — despite serving his sentence.

In our interview, Mike talked very candidly and at length about everything from hockey, his time in jail, how he’s turned his life around for the better, his thoughts on other ex-con pro athletes, his feelings on being denied entry to the UK to play, his family, and what the future holds for him. Without a doubt, the responses that he gives will at least make you reconsider the opinion you’ve come to form about him.

Enjoy.

Cam Paddock Content To Continue Hockey Career Abroad

July 4, 2012 Leave a comment

[Originally published in the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper on Friday, June 22/2012]

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After tough season, Paddock sets sights on Europe

FRIDAY, 22 JUNE 2012 02:00 DAVE CUNNING

Had things played out a little differently this past season, a former Kelowna Rocket could have had his name on the Stanley Cup this year.

Unfortunately for Cam Paddock, things didn’t quite work out that way.

Paddock, who played five seasons with the Rockets from 1999 to 2004 and won a Memorial Cup with them, signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 26, 2011.

Two years prior, he had appeared in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues, until being sent back to the AHL. This past season, it seemed Paddock had been given his second chance in the NHL.

Looks can be deceiving though, and the deal turned out to be too good to be true – L.A. released him two days later, and reassigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.

“They basically offered me the contract and cut me at the same time,” said Paddock. “I came back to Vancouver and mulled the offer over at home before I signed it.

“I jumped in my car and drove 52 hours out to Manchester the next day.”

After a strong showing at L.A.’s training camp, and a contract offer from them, Paddock felt he was lined up for a season ripe with opportunity with the Kings’ affiliate.

However, Paddock’s hope slowly dwindled. After scoring two goals, three assists for five points with 44 penalty minutes and a minus-10 rating in 39 games, Paddock seemed to be a fixture on the team’s fourth line.

“I thought that I had a really good training camp,” said Paddock, 29. “I was told certain things by L.A., got sent to Manchester and then had their coach looking at me like I was playing with the wrong-handed stick.

“I assumed I was going to be the same third-line centre that I had been the past four years that I’d played in the league, but it didn’t work out that way. The coaches were feeding me the ‘work hard and you’ll get your opportunity’ rhetoric you get told when you’re a 21-year-old starting out in pro hockey, and playing me on the fourth line. I haven’t done that in five years. It was discouraging. I already know how to work hard, and what kind of player I am.”

“On some teams, you can do no wrong in the eyes of the coach. On other teams, it seems you can do no right,” continued Paddock. “It was the latter in Manchester for me. That’s just how it goes sometimes. It was a weird year.”

Playing with the Monarchs did, however, offer him the chance to play with Dwight King (his older brother D.J. played with Paddock in Kelowna), Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan and Andrei Loktionov – all whom were recalled by L.A. and were contributors to the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory.

“They were all very good players with a ton of NHL ability,” Paddock said. “Dwight’s a really good guy and probably an even better hockey player. Loktionov and Voynov are both super-skilled. Slava’s nickname was Slava-bomb because his slapshot is about as hard as they come. Jordan is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen in the AHL. I was happy to see them all get a chance to go up there, and do as well as they did.”

As good as they are, though, none of them are household names on the Kings’ roster. In fact, one could make the case that other Monarchs could have done as good of a job as those call-ups had they got the call instead.

“Sometimes it comes down to whether you had a good week, or if a certain person saw you play a good game somewhere,” Paddock said. “Those guys are their young draft picks that they are developing. They deserve it, they work hard.

“But as far as them getting a chance instead of me, it’s a pretty fine line when you get down to it. In a lot of cases, it’s youth and size more than anything, I’d say.”

Perhaps if Darryl Sutter, who replaced Terry Murray as L.A.’s head coach back in December, had seen Paddock in training camp, things might have worked out differently.

“I thought about that when he got the job,” said Paddock. “I don’t know if it would have really made a difference, but the Sutter brothers are from Western Canada, and I know Darryl had seen me play when he was with Calgary and I was with St. Louis. I’d like to think that maybe it would have helped me out. But in saying that, he had only come to L.A. in a coaching role rather than a managerial one.

“The best-case scenario for me with Sutter would have been him putting a bug in someone’s ear about me when I was down the depth chart in Manchester and not playing. I’m sure he had enough to worry about in L.A. and wouldn’t have been too concerned.

“It definitely worked out good for Colin Fraser, though, who played for Brent Sutter in Red Deer. When Darryl got there, he knew exactly what kind of player he was and he trusted him. Colin is a good player – I played against him all over and I respect him -Â but to be candid, I think he’s six of one and I’m half a dozen of the other.”

On Jan. 26th, Kings president Dean Lombardi released a statement saying Paddock’s contract had been terminated – freeing him to return to play in Germany’s DEL.

In 13 games with the Augsburger Panther, Paddock recorded three goals, five assists for eight points, plus 20 PIMs and a plus-five rating.

“For my career, I had to make a move,” Paddock said. “Going back to Europe became the best option for me. It sucks to say, but as far as the NHL goes, with as disappointing as the year was this year, I’m done with it.

“To have the experience I had in Manchester, you realize the team really has nothing invested in you. I’m happy I got my 16 NHL games in, but now I’m looking forward to playing more years in Europe. It’s a cool lifestyle, it’s a different culture and there’s opportunity to climb the ranks over there instead.

“I really liked Augsburger’s coach. He was a very honest guy that told me exactly what I was there to do and didn’t make any promises he didn’t keep. I got along with him well. I really liked the fans, and we had a good group of guys on the team. It will be a lot of fun going back to that, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Before signing his next overseas contract, Paddock will have to wait until the NHL’s CBA is worked out – the result of which will determine whether an import spot will be available for him, rather than a North American orphan looking for a European team. It’ll give him more time to ponder his future.

“If I could play for another five or six years, I’d be happy,” Paddock said. “But it has to make sense. I feel really good, I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, and I still really like playing and being around the guys. Playing the game’s still fun for me, and that’s the main thing.”

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Hockey Talkie: Gretzky Playoffs, Ovie Expendable, Worlds Woes

May 7, 2012 Leave a comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 2, 2012]

A puck bucket full of hockey thoughts to tee up….

Four of the eight teams remaining in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have direct ties to Wayne Gretzky – The Great One played 18 games with the St. Louis Blues in 1996, 234 games with the New York Rangers from 1996 – 1999, coached 4 seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 – 2009, and played 539 games with the LA Kings from 1988-1996, captaining them to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history. Had the Edmonton Oilers not been laughingly awful yet again this past season and lived up to hype and expectations, this could have been an all-Gretzky playoffs. Gretzky was known to have been vocal about wanting to win just one more Stanley Cup before he finished his career – is it that far-fetched to think that if one of those teams manages to win the Cup this year (there’s currently a 50% chance of that happening), Wayne might find a way to sneak on the ice and hoist the grail one last time?

••••••••••••••

Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they’re beginning to draw a lot of similarities to the underdog 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens – both entered the playoffs as the eighth seed of their conference, both eliminated the President’s Trophy winner of that season in the first round (Montreal beat Washington, Los Angeles ousted Vancouver), and both had/are having unexpected success in the second round (Montreal eliminating Pittsburgh, LA currently mauling St. Louis). The main difference though, is that it took Montreal 7 games to win both of those series – it only took the Kings 5 in the first round, and they are in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead now. Of course, Montreal was beat in the third round, and LA’s playoff fate is not yet written. Los Angeles’ main criticism heading into this year’s playoffs was their inability to score – coming off a series sweep over St. Louis most recently, and with three players in the NHL’s top 25 playoff scorers (Brown, Kopitar, Richards), that ailment seems to be cured. Their goaltender remains a standout, and they’re shown their toughness is not an issue either, mixing it up frequently in both series. While both the Habs and Kings teams look similar, LA looks to be well on their way to faring far better.

••••••••••••••

A moment of discussion about a frame from game 2 of the Rangers/Capitals series…. The score was 3-1 Rangers with roughly 8 minutes to play in game 2, at which point Washington took a Too Many Men penalty. Caps’ coach Dale Hunter elected to have Alex Ovechkin serve that penalty. The announcer was quick to point out that Ovie’s serving of the penalty was a strategic move in hopes of springing him on a breakaway at the conclusion of the infraction, which is all well and good. My counterpoint to that is that on every team and every level I’ve played on, the player that generally went over to serve a bench minor penalty was an “expendable” player – maybe a fourth line or injured player, or just someone who wasn’t getting a lot of ice time for whatever reason that game, and it certainly wasn’t by any means because our coach had a strong confidence in their breakaway ability. So from that standpoint, it looks like Ovechkin may simply have been chosen for removal from participation in the game for 2 minutes when their team needed 2 goals really badly in a short amount of time if they hoped to win the game.

The chance of that breakaway opportunity actually occurring is relatively slim and more of a crapshoot; a hail mary play that is too low percentage to gamble on when the puck could just as likely be in a precarious scoring chance against Washington when the penalty expires. It seems like a positive spin a coach might pose to a psychologically fragile player that needs positive reinforcement to perform well so they don’t conclude that they are the team’s expendable player while sitting alone for two minutes or less. By the strategic logic, Hunter should have put Matt Hendricks, Washington’s shootout goal leader through the regular season, in the box for the opportunity at an uncontested run to the net.

It’s not like Hunter is afraid to clip Ovie’s wings if he’s not performing either– Ovechkin played 21 minutes in game 2 and was a -1 in the loss, while in game 3 he only saw 13 minutes of play (the least he’s ever played in a single playoff game), and scored the game winning goal. So the query point I want to raise is this: do you think Ovechkin serving that bench minor penalty was a strategic move for a chance at a scoring chance, or was it a knock towards his expendability and/or need to improve from coach Dale Hunter?

Further, the Caps should maybe consider making Ovechkin a dman if he’s only going to score from the point now.

••••••••••••••

The 2012 World Hockey Championships are nearly underway in Finland/Sweden, and the world’s “best” will be competing to improve their world rankings – Canada currently sits at fifth in the world, and will be looking to improve on that seeding with a decent roster, but one that does not include names like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton, and many other big name players that are available, but have elected not to compete for reasons of varying legitimacy. With many national rosters in the same boat, is it even fair to place as much value on this tournament as there is? Is there no way that this tournament can be played out at a different time of year where all of the world’s best hockey players can compete against each other to determine the world’s best? Or is it possible that the world’s best hockey players simply aren’t taking the tournament seriously enough when they should be jumping at the chance to wear their county’s colors on the international stage?

2012 NHL Playoffs Preview: Blues vs. Sharks

April 14, 2012 3 comments

Canvassing the Caucuses: An Election-Style NHL Playoff Preview during Election Season

PART 6

by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)

Western Primary

St. Louis Blues (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (7)

[also see: Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks,  & Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings]

  • The Issues:
  • Pro-Choice — Generally speaking, having a goalie controversy entering the playoffs can be an easy way for a team to punch a one-way ticket to the nearest golf course. But when you have the kind of problems the St. Louis Blues have in net… life is good. The Blues enter the postseason with a timeshare in the crease, split between the NHL’s goals-against average leader, Brian Elliott, and No. 4 in that same category, Jaroslav Halak. Halak, best known for his impressive playoff debut with the Canadiens in 2010, earned the majority of the starts, but Elliott finished the season on a stronger note, posting three straight shutouts to bring his season total to 9. Together, the two ran away with the William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest team GAA. But in the playoffs, presumably only one will get the chance to play. According to reports, Halak will start Game 1, but if he starts to struggle, coach Ken Hitchcock won’t hesitate to pull the plug. Elliott has not been to the playoffs since he also made his debut in 2010, getting shelled in three games against the Penguins before giving way to Pascal Leclaire.
  • Experience (Or lack thereof) — The biggest question St. Louis has faced all year is “Who exactly are these guys?” The Blues have positioned themselves just outside of the playoff bubble in recent years, but few anticipated how quickly they would rise to the Western Conference elite. Hitchcock has managed his share of high-profile campaigns, but he has not yet been able to re-capture the magic he had in Dallas. Perhaps last year’s loss to the Boston Bruins was a wakeup call to the Western Conference that the old guard is no longer going to get it done. The Blues may not have much experience outside of veteran Cup-winners Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, but they do have a lot of young talent and depth. Combine that with hope, and maybe… just maybe, change is on the horizon.
  • Political Dirt:
  • America is never going to elect the St. Louis Blues without seeing a few birth certificates first. This “T.J. Oshie” doesn’t sound like he was born in America… and how can we be sure that “Andy McDonald” even exists?
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Blues promise to never miss the playoffs again. One thing that few remember was lost during the canceled season was St. Louis’ streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances. When the NHL returned to action, the Blues missed the postseason for the first time since Jimmy Carter was in office. After only one appearance in the last six years, this season may mark the beginning of a new streak.

  • The Issues:
  • Flip-Flopping — The Sharks have been considered Cup contenders for the last four years but have heretofore disappointed. This year, they looked like they were going to finish on the outside looking in before making a late push for the playoffs. After years of serving as the disappointing juggernaut in the West, the Sharks are now trying to convince us that they’re plucky underdogs just because it’s a more advantageous position come election time.
  • Joe the Plumber — San Jose boasts a pair of not-so-average Joes in team captain Joe Thornton and rising star Joe Pavelski. Thornton quieted many of his critics in last year’s playoffs, tallying 17 points in 18 games and leading the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals. Conversely, Pavelski established a big game reputation in the 2010 playoffs but was nowhere to be found last year. If the two can put it together in the same year, the Sharks will be a dangerous squad.
  • Political Dirt:
  • The Sharks and Blues met four times during the regular season, and St. Louis won all of them. San Jose couldn’t beat the Blues even once in four tries. How are they going to take four out of seven
  • Campaign Promises:
  • If elected, the Sharks promise to deliver the unpredictability that makes playoff hockey so great. The Sharks have the talent and experience to go all the way. That hasn’t stopped them from tripping over their own skates in the past. This year presents an interesting conundrum. Will a stint as the underdog be what finally puts the scent of blood in the water, or are the Sharks simply slipping?

Vote For: San Jose Sharks in 6

THE RUSSIANS ARE LEAVING!! Upsets, and Assessments of Olympic Hockey.

February 25, 2010 2 comments

 

My goodness, Canada obliterated Russia.  Canada lives to fight another day, and Sid wins the latest chapter of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin showdown (actually, they both had zero points in the game, but Sid wins by default with the team win; also Ovechkin was invisible throughout the whole game).  I hate to say it’s typical of Russia, but since the loss, the Russians have been skewering Canada in the media (no offence to any of the nice Russian people I know).  All the people who thought that the loss to the US might have been the “inspiration” Canada needed to get things back on track may just have been onto something.

My most common thought through that game was MAN I FREAKING LOVE TEAM CANADA.  I had a long term relationship with the LA Kings during the Gretzky era, had cups of coffee with the Blues, Rangers, and most recently, I’d been warming up to the Coyotes and Leafs.  But all in all, Team Canada is my favourite hockey team of all time.  I absolutely love it when they win, and I nearly lose my mind when they lose.  All the whining about how American NHL teams are all comprised of Canadians, and when those teams win Cups, it’s really Canada winning, sort of; well this is actually all those Canadian players all together on one team, and all NHL season gripes, grudges, and affiliations are off.  I’ve even come to realize that I really like the new sport neutral Team Canada logo designed for the Olympics.

I really have come to think that the Olympic tournament is the premier

Remember when the US beat us for this in '96? We got revenge in '04.

international hockey competition as well.  As opposed to the World Championships, you have EVERY country’s best players representing their flag; not the small percentage of NHL players who aren’t in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year.  Also, the players are in peak mid-season conditioning; whereas WC players may be “mailing in” their efforts after knowing they’re not going to win the Stanley Cup.  The World Cup/Canada Cup is cool too, but it has no frequency to it; only being contested every 7-8 years.  It would be better if the Olympics didn’t have single elimination games, and best-of series’ instead.  I wish there was a way to have every country play every country at least once, instead of the pool play, but I guess there really isn’t that kind of time.  Maybe next NHL lockout, there could be a Global Hockey League, where we see countries compete in an NHL season format.  How awesome would that be?

Now we face Slovakia, after what must be considered an upset after defeating defending gold medal champs, Sweden.  So Sweden, you’re telling me a squad comprised of Zetterberg, Franzen, Alfredsson, both Sedin’s, Forsberg, Lidstrom, and others were not good enough to beat… wait, who does Slovakia have? Zdeno Chara? (ok they have the Hossa’s and Gaborik too, but come on, not nearly as deep as Sweden)  This was the first legit upset of the tournament, in my opinion, but man were there a few close calls.  The Swiss were a handful for Canada and the US, Belarus made it tough on Sweden, Latvia took a run at the Czechs, and even Norway almost edged out the Slovaks.  Now by the math, Canada should roll over Slovakia, but hey, we said that about the US, didn’t we?

I think it’s great for hockey as a whole, but obviously not great for Canada.  We’re no longer afforded the luxury of thinking we’re automatically the best in the world when it comes to international matchups (someone tell all the women’s teams besides Canada and the US to follow suit).  We’ve known this since 2006 in Turin really, but people like to pretend as if those Olympics never happened; isn’t it odd that the only Olympics Canadians seem to “remember” in terms of hockey is 2002?  Obviously our best showing, but you have to take the bad with the good and make adjustments if you’re going to remain king of the hill.  Another thing that escapes Canadian hockey fans memories is that both Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo were our goalies in Turin as well.  Luckily, we’ve already bested our placement from that time.

Go Canada GO!

 

Bye-Bye Byng, Dallas Deterioration, Jersey Originality FAIL, and the PIM Ploy.

January 31, 2010 9 comments

Is it just me, or did the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and Colorado Avalanche all get lazy when it came to 3rd jersey design time?  Maybe they just had nothing at the deadline, and blindly approved blue uniforms; when blue isn’t even one of their official team colors?  Did the Predators just rip off a Maple Leafs symbol and stitch on that stupid prehistoric cat with the major incisor issue? Did Florida not notice that Chicago, Minnesota, St Louis, and Pittsburgh all already did the emblem with the symbol in the middle and team name circled around it, and that the Blues and Pens already did it with the same colors?  How many people in the NHL were asleep at the wheel here?   

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If I were the type of person who was looking for players to make my team better, why in the world would I want to be on the lookout for a player with a lot of PIM’s?  Isn’t getting penalties, sitting in the box for varying periods of time, and making your team play with a man down because of your error, and increasing the likelihood of being scored on, a bad thing?  It boggles my mind that players will get chosen over others based on this stat, because the player with high PIM’s is supposed to make the team “tougher”.  There are lots of players who play a physical style that can make a team tougher and don’t have to sit in the penalty box to show it.   I just saw a sidebar on TV that said Keith Tkachuk moved into the top 5 all-time PIM leaders with just shy of 2200.  Errm… congrats, Keith, you sat in the penalty box for 36 games worth of time.  Thanks for helping out…

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Now that Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic have both retired, and Pavel Datsyuk has won the trophy three years in a row, is it time to do away with the Lady Byng Award for the NHL’s most gentlemanly player?  Does anyone in the league care, or aspire to win it anymore (did they ever?)?  Like WWE did with the European and Light Heavyweight championship belts; maybe the NHL should slowly stop talking about it, never show it on camera, and very sneakily just phase it out.  In the era of the Sean Avery’s, Steve Downie’s, and Dan Carcillo’s, maybe the NHL should in contrast introduce the Johnny Knoxville Award for biggest jackass of the year; as hockey tips slightly closer to “entertainment” for the sake of selling the game in an American market, and is certainly not dissuading the behaviour.    

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Marty Turco is the most over-rated goalie in the NHL.  For a guy considered for Team Canada a few times, he really doesn’t ever get it done, does he? 

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Speaking of Dallas Stars, Mike Modano seems to be just hanging on to that spot of his (and a few other classics in the league, I might add) in Dallas, doesn’t he?  He’s earning his keep, but as that era of players seems to be drawing to a close, it’s enough to wonder how much longer he can keep from going the way of the dinosaur.  He’s always been a really good player; recently I heard him described as “the best skater I ever saw” by a former NHL’er.  For some reason, he could never keep that Captain’s “C” on his jersey.  I always secretly liked him as a player (it helped that he wears my number); but as an American, my Canadian pride refused to allow it.   

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