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XP PSP so1e07: Go Berzerk

October 19, 2013 Leave a comment
Episode 7 of the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast is up and running. Nevermind how we got from episode 5 to 7 without a 6th show, that’s not your concern.
Panel: Dave Cunning, Harold Dale, Ryan Brown, Dan Nabben
In this episode, we discuss:
-Ilya Bryzgalov’s free agent woes, and getting cut – whether to stick with it or pack it in.
-Tim Thomas, taking a year off and expecting to pick up where he left off; who can actually do that.
-The guy in every sport on every team that’s a little off.
-Hertl’s goal, “The Code”, and what it means in different sports.
-The place of fighting in hockey and all sports.
-Whether the opinion of former players or analysts who didn’t play holds more weight than the other.
-Why the Chicago Cubs are allegedly superior to the Chicago White Sox.

Hockey Talkie: Preds Matching Weber Offer Sheet A Pivotal Move

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

If the Nashville Predators truly had any interest in winning, they had to match Philadelphia’s offer sheet for Shea Weber. No question.

The match was a pivotal move for the club, and one the team itself described as “the most important hockey transaction in franchise history“.

Even after matching the Philadelphia Flyers’ offer sheet of $110 million (hold on, they were gonna pay him how much to play hockey? Wait, Nashville IS paying him that much??) over 14 years (third longest in NHL history; second highest total value), the Nashville Predators still retain plenty of bankroll breathing room – they’re only 24th in league payroll, with nearly $16.5 million in cap space still available. So yeah, they did have to match Philly’s offer for their captain/best player. They NEED him, plus financially, it’s not like they had to move money around to make it work – they straight up could afford it.

If Nashville didn’t match, the Predators likely would have sunk this season, save for Pekka Rinne again playing out of his mind all year, this though without an all-star bolstered blue-line anymore. And you can’t expect a hot goalie to play in front of that kind of mediocrity for long before he also joins the mass exodus in an effort to actually win somewhere.

Additionally take into account the roster exits the Predators do have to address — Radulov back to the KHL, and Jordin Tootoo to Detroit – also subtract Weber, and Smashville’s roster wouldn’t exactly have looked primed to improve on its Conference semi-final appearance last season.

And the message sent to fans and fellow players would have been one to the tune that the Predators really weren’t all that committed to success – that they weren’t willing to do what’s necessary to keep top talent that has proven their ability to help the team win, on the team; that they’re ok with just seeing how far they can go with what they have on hand. That’s not a message anyone can get behind.

If Philadelphia did indeed acquire Weber as hoped, then as Nashville would likely fall, the Flyers would likely rise in return – perhaps even enough to finally get them over the Cup hump. They’ve got scoring, they’ve got goaltending (in Bryzgalov, somewhere, I’m sure of it. The guy just needs to come back to earth), and they have defence too – but Weber could have been the perfect replacement for Chris Pronger, whose future remains in jeopardy after injuries sustained last season. Though he gives up two inches in height and eleven years of NHL experience, Weber’s eleven years younger, faster, heavier, shoots harder (multi-time runner up to Zdeno Chara for league’s hardest shot) has nearly as much experience as Nashville’s captain as Pronger has as Philadelphia’s, and even a little bit of crazy (see: Zetterberg head smash) in him, just like Pronger, and he can score from the concession stand if he has to (much to the chagrin of all Nashville’s healthy scratches). I can’t see that being anything but a smooth swap – and even more potent if Pronger manages to return.

But Nashville did match. And they still have Weber. For a really long time. But 14 years ought to be long enough to find someone he can move the puck to (Alexander Semin, anyone?), and to build a better team around him, and Rinne. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, they can trade him after a year, as Weber has no NTC built into his deal. Tough salary slack for another team to absorb, but their “out” is there. The match meant the Predators kept a pivotal player, their team leader, around 50 points a year, and it sent the right message to their team and fans. Good move, Nashville.

Knock Knock, Analyzing The Flyers Flop

May 12, 2012 Leave a comment

[Originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 10/2012]

 There are plenty of legit reasons that could make a person believe the Philadelphia Flyers should have won the Stanley Cup this year.

At the time of their elimination at the hands of the New Jersey Devils this year, the Flyers had the leading goals (tied with teammate Briere – 8), assists, and points scorer of the playoffs on their roster (Giroux 8g, 9a, 17pts); as well as second place in playoff assists, Jakub Voracek (8), second place in playoff points (Briere — 13), two players tied for the lead in playoff powerplay goals (Giroux, Hartnell – 3), one player tied for the lead in playoff short-handed goals (Giroux – 2), and two players tied for the lead in overtime goals (Briere, Voracek – 1). And in the second round, all this firepower was being directed at a goaltender that turned 40 years old during the series. Mind you, that old goalie is a four-time Vezina Trophy winner, holder of more than 20 goaltending records, and wears the best looking blocker in the league, but I digress.

As a team, the Flyers had the number one rated power play (35.7%), scoring on 15 of 42 opportunities – that’s 6 more man-advantage goals than the second place team – and were second in goals for; only behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they disposed of in the first round.

With two of five games in the series being decided by one goal, another two of five being won by two goals, and even in the lopsided game 2 that New Jersey won by three, you’d think offensive numbers like these would have been more influential, and in Philadelphia’s favor.

So what in the world went wrong?

BetOnHockey_Flyers_Bryzgalov.jpgGoaltending, right? It always comes down to goaltending with the Flyers, it had to be that again, right? Well, as it turns out, yeah it kinda was.

Remember when Philadelphia allegedly cured their goaltending ailment by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year, $51 million contract that maxed out their salary cap allowance? How’d he do? Dead last in goals against amongst goaltenders in the playoffs, with 37 on 326 shots he faced. The second worse, Braden Holtby of Washington, faced more than 100 more shots (albeit playing in two more games) and let in 9 less goals. More importantly, Martin Brodeur let in 12 less. Out of 23 goalies recording statistics in the playoffs, Bryzgalov placed 19th in GAA (3.46) and save percentage (.887%), and Philly’s backup Sergei Bobrovsky finished 23rd in GAA (8.11) and 21st in save percentage (.722%) [to be fair, Bobrovsky only appeared in one game]; meanwhile, Brodeur is currently pitching a 2.05/.920%. Bryz was so bad, he’s not even being invited to play for Russia at the IIHF World Championships — a tournament where participating national teams clamber for all the available NHL talent they can acquire in an attempt to legitimize their team and an overall watered down talent pool that is somehow allowed to influence world rankings – holding fast with Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov as their starter, and backing him up with two KHL goaltenders, despite Bryzgalov’s availability [also to be fair, much of the NHL’s top talent turns down the opportunity to play in this tournament for various reasons, and is unsubstantiated that he would have gone, even if invited].

Additionally, it didn’t help having Claude Giroux, leader of basically every offensive statistical category in the playoffs, suspended for the series-deciding game five, after a head hit he dished out in game four. Some may argue though, that while facing a 3-1 series deficit to the Devils, the series may have already been over for the Flyers. The on-ice absence of Philadelphia’s captain Chris Pronger was unquestionably missed as well.

BetOnHockey_Flyers_Eliminated.jpgSome may argue still the Flyers felt the relocation of former captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who have both become substantial contributors to the success of the Los Angeles Kings, more so than the acquisition of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and even Jaromir Jagr.

Whatever you want to pin it on, it’s back to the drawing board once again for the Flyers. They again bow out of the running for the Stanley Cup early, and now make it 37 years since their last Cup victory. At this point, after acquiring a highly touted goaltender and a bona fide offence, it’s got to feel like they gave all the right answers, and then someone changed the questions for that franchise. I can’t imagine it’s anything short of frustrating for all those involved. I wouldn’t blame Peter Laviolette is he felt like doing this with a real hammer. I regret having to say we’ve heard the last rendition of Mac Miller’s “Knock Knock” in the Flyers’ dressing room for another season.

Hockey Talkie: Modano Retirement, Flyers Fans’ Final Straw, Marchand Mangling, Upper Body Injuries, and The Bourne-Gillies Wedding!

September 26, 2011 1 comment

Isn’t it wonderful to see hockey highlights on Sportscentre again? I know it’s only preseason, but sports highlights are 1000 times better to watch with NHL clips included, wouldn’t you say?

Speaking of the NHL…

On Mike Modano’s retirement: I always wanted to cheer for Modano as he was a great player and wore my number 9, but I was always held back by that American factor. Regardless, he had a phenomenal career, despite my fringe support. I had a couple thoughts when I heard about his announcement. First was that I predicted this day was looming in a previous blog before he was dealt to Detroit. Second was that I thought the Dallas Stars paying him $999,999 for one day of no service was absolutely ludicrous, especially if it ate at the Stars’ salary cap. Luckily, I was assured by @capgeek on Twitter that Modano won’t actually see a near million-dollar day, as I asked if Modano will actually be able to cash that cheque. His response was,

“@capgeek @davecunning No he won’t and it doesn’t affect the Stars’ cap at all.”

So there’s obviously some sort of “out” that teams get on contracts when a player “hangs ‘em up”, which I don’t totally understand. Anyone out there know the deal?

Thirdly, on Modano retiring as a Dallas Star, I thought to myself, isn’t that the team that told Modano he wasn’t going to be included in the further development of the team and subsequently did not offer him a new contract, and also once stripped him of his captaincy? It is definitely noble to have played with one franchise for that long, and in the end the move makes the most sense, but I’m sure Mike’s got a few axes to grind with the organization that he has retired with.

Moving on….

I wonder how long it will take before the “upper/lower body injury” player report becomes too specific, and teams just say a hurt player has a “body injury”. Upper and lower still gives dirty players a fairly sizeable target to hack and to try and mangle, doesn’t it?

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Considering how annoying the “pest” players of the NHL are (see: Esa Tikkanen, Claude Lemieux, etc), doesn’t it warm your heart just a little to know that the Bruins’ pest, Brad Marchand, got a misspelled tattoo permanently engraved on his flesh?  Apparently it got rectified, but if you were going to wish that kind of misfortune on a current NHL player, the only guy ahead of Marchand would be, like, Matt Cooke, wouldn’t you say?  I think even some Bruins fans could bring themselves to admit that. 

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I feel like Philadelphia Flyers fans might burn down the Wells Fargo Center after this season if Ilya Bryzgalov turns out to be a dud. That team has been one good goaltender away from a Stanley Cup so many times, that this might be the year Flyer fans make the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot look like a little girls’ teddy bear tea party if their team can’t get it done. They really don’t have any excuses any more.

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And finally….

Close friends of ours, Justin Bourne (son of 4-time Stanley Cup champ and NY Islander Hall of Fame member, Bob Bourne) and Brianna Gillies (daughter of 4-time Stanley Cup champ and Hockey Hall of Fame member, Clark Gillies) were married on September 17th in Long Island, NY! I was humbled and honoured to have been included in the wedding party as a groomsman for a very fun weekend. Still no word on whether the Islanders fronted the cash in exchange for the rights to the couple’s offspring, as was proposed at one time.  Bourne will be working for The Score this year, so be sure to keep up with him there. In the meantime, follow both Justin and Brianna on Twitter!

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