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Hockey Talkie: Gretzky-ASG-Ovie Tidbits, NHL’s Visor Rule and Evgeni Nabokov’s FAIL

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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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?

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now wears a contact lens to bring his vision up to 20/400 when playing

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?

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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.

December 29, 2010 15 comments

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.

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secretly, NYI owner Charles Wang was trying to get the NHL to outlaw outlandish contracts all along.

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. 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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a little suspicious that this rink guy has an entire box of Eggo’s….

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.

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