Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 150

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is starting to get geared up for the hockey season! Part of getting ready is knowing your opponents and we're proud, honoured, and privileged to feature a guy who has scored a pile of AHL goals and who will be coming to town to try to derail the Manitoba Moose's efforts to make the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. He's played in a bunch of big games, moved a few times only to find himself back where he started, and we're thrilled to have him join us on The Hockey Show tonight!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to bring to you the man to the left who is under contract with the Carolina Hurricanes and Charlotte Checkers! Mr. Zach Boychuk will join us on The Hockey Show tonight as we get to know a division rival's sniper! He's won the Willie Marshall Award once for leading the AHL in scoring, and he's been a part of some incredible Team Canada rosters that are responsible for a pile of gold in this country! We're going to talk to Zach about growing up in Airdrie, Alberta, his time with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes, being drafted 14th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes, spending time in Albany, Charlotte, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Nashville, and a pile of other stuff that Zach's done in his ten-year career thus far.

Of course, we also like to toss some softball-type questions at our guests, and Zach will get no special treatment. We may ask him about his favorite TV show, his favorite movie, his pregame meal choices, the last song he listened to on his iPod or in his car, what he'd be doing if he wasn't playing hockey, favorite NHL player(s) growing up, and much more. It's going to be fun to learn about one of the Moose's top opponents this year!

The phones will be closed with Zach Boychuk joining us by phone. To hear this great interview, tune in tonight on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. We're excited to have Carolina Hurricane Zach Boychuk join us tonight only on The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: July 30, 2015: Episode 150

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 13

We've reached the thirteenth entry in the Antler Banter series, so all of you have a phobia of thirteen - triskaidekaphobia - might want to avoid this article. Of course, I kid about that as I've surpassed a number thirteen-related entries, but we'll look at another full entry with no Moose news as the team sits quietly. There was a coach hired in one city, new uniforms debuted in another city, an unintentional jersey unveiling for another team, and signings continue to dominate the headlines in the AHL. We'll look at a number of these stories tonight as we build towards the Manitoba Moose's first season back in Winnipeg despite there being very little action on the Herd's front. Let's get rolling with another edition of Antler Banter!

Welcome Back, Randy

He may not be Kotter, but the Rochester Americans brought back a very familiar face in Randy Cunneyworth who has lived in the new York city for the past 31 years! Cunneyworth was the head coach of the Americans for eight years, spanning 2001 until 2008, twice winning division titles, thrice surpassing the 40-win mark, and was named the AHL's top bench boss in 2004-05.

"I'm just excited to be back," Cunneyworth said at his introductory press conference. "All the emails, and texts, and well-wishes, it's great; overwhelming, really. I think we all want the same thing — and that's winning.”

Cunneyworth has done a lot of that in his career - 350 wins to date that saw him behind the benches of Rochester and Hamilton with 306 of those wins coming with Rochester. That puts Cunneyworth eighth all-time in wins in the AHL, and he should be able to add to that total this season with some of the great young players the Sabres have drafted. Of course, with the Americans celebrating their 60th anniversary this season, the former Amerks player and coach feels there's a chance to do something special this season.

"Terry (Pegula) believes in the heritage of the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans," Cunneyworth said. He will have his work cut out for him, though, as the Amerks were 29-41-5-1 last season, finishing 14th of 15 teams in the Western Conference. While the playoffs will be the goal this season, Cunneyworth will have his work cut out for him. In saying that, the Sabres and Amerks hired an excellent teacher and coach, and we should see improvements from the Amerks this season in the standings.

Playoffs? Maybe. It's not out of reach for a Cunneyworth-coached team.

All On Sven

22 year-old Sven Baertschi will be back with the Canucks after being acquired last season as the trade deadline. The Canucks announced on Tuesday that they had re-signed the Swiss forward after he had a pretty solid Utica Comets debut last season. Baertschi was a point-per-game player through fifteen regular season games with the Comets after posting seven goals and eight assists, and then added another fifteen points in 21 playoff games.

The surprising part of the deal was that it was a one-year, one-way deal for $900,000 in what some are saying is a "show us" deal. Baertschi, a former first-round pick by the Calgary Flames, has had solid AHL numbers, but is production falls off in the NHL where he's recorded just ten goals and 20 assists in 69 career games including two goals in three games with the Canucks last season.

With the addition of Brandon Sutter this week by the Canucks, Baertschi is going to have to make an impact in camp in order to grab a top-six role. We'll see how his summer work has fared once camp breaks, but this could be the last chance Baertschi gets to crack an NHL roster for a while.

Connor Does All Three

He's suited up for the Hershey Bears. He's played with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. And now he'll be taking his services to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Chris Connor signed with the Flyers back on July 1 to complete the three-Pennsylvania-city feat, and the Flyers are getting themselves a solid AHL veteran who has a ton of experience under his belt.

"It was one of those things where it was nice to get a two-year offer," Conner told The Patriot-News's Tim Leone today. "From what I was told, there would be a good opportunity for me to play some games up [in the NHL]. It's just a good opportunity for me."

The two-year, two-way deal should bode well for Connor with the number of changes the Flyers seem to be making. Connor has 180 NHL games to his name where he's scored 22 goals and 28 assists, but he is familiar with Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol having played against Hakstol's North Dakota teams while he was attending school at Michigan Tech.

I liked Connor with Pittsburgh, and he should be able to provide some great bottom-six depth for the Flyers. After five different AHL teams in the last five years, I'm betting that this deal from Philadelphia for Connor will see him work his tail off to make the Flyers and Phantoms better.

IceCaps Go Bleu, Blanc, Et Rouge

The St. John's IceCaps followed suit with most other teams by adopting their NHL affiliate's look for their uniforms. The traditional bleu-blanc-et-rouge worn by the Canadiens will have the redder IceCaps logo added to the chest of the uniforms as the IceCaps begin play as the Canadiens' affiliate next season. Like the Jets did before the Canadiens came to town, there is no identity for the IceCaps as a team thanks to them buying into the NHL Look-Alike Contest.

Rather coincidentally, the two men modeling the jerseys are IceCaps President and CEO Danny Williams and IceCaps head coach Sylvain Lefebvre! If Lefebvre's name sounds familiar, he is the former NHL defenceman who played with Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Colorado, and the New York Rangers. He is also the man who was behind the bench for the Hamilton Bulldogs before the franchise transferred to Newfoundland, and he'll assume the same position with the IceCaps.

The new uniforms are nice, but I'd like to see AHL teams adopt heir own identity. While I get that wearing the colors of the NHL team is the ultimate goal for all of the players on each respective AHL affiliate, giving them NHL colors in the AHL makes those colors less significant.

EA Sports Upends Gulls

I know EA Sports is the be-all and end-all in the sports video gaming world, but occasionally they get a little too enthusiastic. Case in point? The image to the right is from the NHL '16 trailer put out by EA Sports on Tuesday. The Gulls, however, have been closely guarding their uniform design until later this summer when there was to be a major unveiling of the Gulls' new threads. It's never a good thing to upend one of your clients, but leaks happen occasionally. Oops!
The good news? It's definitely in the game since the Gulls didn't refute the jersey shown.

That's all I've got for today in Antler Banter regarding some of the larger stories out of the AHL. The Moose make their home debut on Thursday, October 15 with a schedule release sometime in mid-August for the remaining 75 games on the schedule. Will you be there? Mini-packs and season tickets are still available! If you're looking for a contact within the Moose to get tickets, let me know and I can hook you up with some awesome people!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Third-Line Improvements

The Pittsburgh Penguins were busy on Tuesday as they solidified a rather weak third-line via trade and free agency. The Penguins made a deal with the Vancouver Canucks to send Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third-round pick which originally belonged to Vancouver to the Canucks for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second-round draft pick in a rather unsurprising move, and then announced they had signed former Capital Eric Fehr to a three-year, $6 million deal. While no one will say that the Penguins have the best third-line in hockey by any means, they solved their "Brandon Sutter" problem while bringing in two guys who make that line better.

The stakes were high when the Penguins dealt Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, and they felt that Sutter could replace Staal while being a cheaper option down the middle. While Sutter was an excellent penalty killer and checking forward, the offensive flair that the Penguins wanted was never found. The Penguins certainly used Sutter to make their team better, but his impending free agency and potential big payday made the once-vital centerman expendable in an era where two-way players have to contribute offensively.

So he's off to Vancouver in exchange for a centerman who can score, a defensive prospect who looks like he may have a shot at an NHL job, and a pick that the Penguins desperately need after dealing away every first-round pick until 2076 (I kid, of course). The Penguins are already fairly deep down the middle, but there is a definite need to get more offence out of their third and fourth lines. Players like Marcel Goc, Zach Sill, Daniel Winnik, Craig Adams, and Maxim Lapierre did little to bolster the top two lines in Pittsburgh, and there's a good chance that Bonino, Fehr, and the re-signed Beau Bennett form the third line. There's vast potential there, but I'd be careless not to suggest that potential has to be realized.

Bonino is an American centerman who has played with the USA National Team at the 2015 World Championships where he put up two goals and two assists in ten games. He has a solid season with the Canucks last year, and put up career numbers with Anaheim the year before. Bonino isn't going to win you a scoring championship, but he has a nose for the net and has proven he can finish at the NHL level. While the Penguins will miss Sutter in his penalty-killing role, Bonino can kill penalties as well. In terms of effectiveness, we'll see how close he gets to Sutter in terms of his defensive game.

The other guy the Penguins added for a tidy sum today was Eric Fehr. Fehr hasn't done any significant scoring outside Washington, DC, so it will be interesting to see what happens in Pittsburgh. There's a train of thought that because he wasn't playing with the same type of offensive players in Winnipeg as he was in Washington that his stats plummeted hard. This may be the case or it could be because he was often injured, but whatever it was in Winnipeg wasn't the same in Washington. He's been a consistent 30-point player with the Capitals, and it's that kind of production that the Penguins sorely need from their bottom-six. Playing with a guy like Bonino who's a pretty decent passer should help as long as Fehr does the little things right like going to the net and finding openings.

It seems that the depth of the Penguins has improved greatly with these two moves while not adding a big chunk of salary. From a stats perspective, it seems the Penguins are pleased with the additions despite the subtraction. "The analytics are very strong on both Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr in all the aspects of what we look for in analytics," Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said. "Fehr is comfortable as a two position player. He could definitely jump up to the top-6 if the situation presented itself. Bonino's strongest position is center. That would be his preference."

While he's not scheduled to appear on the third line whatsoever, Adam Clendening might be the diamond in the rough in the Vancouver trade. He's a solid offensive defenceman who has really honed his game since leaving Boston University. He was excellent with the Rockford IceHogs from 2012-14 when he posted 105 points in 147 AHL games. He's generally viewed as needing to be grittier in his own zone, but I'm not sure that offensive defencemen have ever been gritty. For Clendening to take the next step, he has to use his rather under-used shot from the point. He's great at reading plays and jumping up where needed, but his shot should be featured as part of his skill set. If he can crack the Penguins line-up, expect him to be in a three/four role and see time on the power-play. He could very well be the second unit's Kris Letang with his offensive ability.

Overall, for a team that desperately needed to improve in relation to the moves made by other teams in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins have done the best they can with the miniscule salary space they have. In this writer's view, they certainly didn't take a step back.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Colour Me Excited

Tyler Seguin. Michael Del Zotto. St. John's Shamrocks. Seann William Scott. Doug Glatt. Halifax Mooseheads. Can you tell I'm excited for Goon: Last of the Enforcers? I loved the first film and still have a few props from the movie kicking around HBIC Headquarters, but this second film sounds like it's going to be even crazier.

Thanks to Jay Baruchel deciding to film in the Toronto region this time, I can't go down and talk to the stars because I'm not in the Toronto area whatsoever. However, Sportsnet's Luke Fox was in the area, and he filed this report on Sportsnet.ca. Of the more interesting tidbits...

  • "Other NHL appearances are coming, Baruchel allows, but they're top secret. 'Habs?' we ask. 'Uh, uh… let’s say there might be some former. But I'm not giving anything away.'" Might we see a Chris Nilan appearance? It would be cool to see a Vincent Damphousse or someone else drop in there as well.
  • "The Eastern Maritime Hockey League becomes a refuge for top-tier pros in Last of the Enforcers as a lockout brings an influx of goons, namely antagonist Anders Cain, into the league of an aging, married Doug Glatt — our hero, reprised by Seann William Scott." So this is the plot of the first Goon movie with Scott taking Liev Schreiber's role? Everyone is out gunning for a shot at the toughest hombre in the league?
  • "'There's way more blood and way more violence than in the first one,' promises Scott." That should make parents of teens who want to see the second version of Goon feel better about the film.
Having looked the film up on IMDB, I can tell you that Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), Halifax head coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates), Eva (Alison Pill), Ira Glatt (David Paetkau), Halifax teammate Marco Belchior (Jonathan Cherry), and Mrs. Glatt (Ellen David) all return from the first movie. Baruchel has added Popular Mechanics for Kids co-star Elisha Cuthbert and She's Outta My League co-star TJ Miller to the cast as well. In other words, this movie has brought back all of the elements that made the first movie so good while adding some solid talent in Cuthbert and Miller. I can only hope the script is as good as it was in the first movie.

The one omission I noted on that cast list? Eugene Levy who played Dr. Glatt, Doug's father. If Mr. Baruchel couldn't get Dr. Glatt back in this movie, I feel he might be missing a great piece of the cast. I know that when Goon filmed locally here, Eugene Levy was one of the cast members that the arena staff couldn't say enough about in terms of how nice he was to everyone and how generous he was with his time when it came to signing autographs and taking pictures. I'd love to see him back in this sequel.

In any case, the cast and crew are 23 days into shooting Goon: Last of the Enforcers, and I'm pumped for the 2016 release. Doug Glatt is back on the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Good Coin For Little Return

It was expected that the Ottawa Senators were taking a bit of a loss when they traded Jason Spezza to Dallas for Alex Chiasson, but I'm not sure that a 26-point season was the return they were expecting. Chiasson was supposed to provide some immediate scoring on the wing for the Senators, but he didn't really pan out in terms of being the scorer they needed. While he was effective at using his body along the boards, finding the back of the net was more of a challenge. It was expected that Chiasson would ask for a raise upon becoming a restricted free agent, but asking for one and deserving one are two completely different things.

I'm not one for calling out bloggers who do work for specific teams, but the garbage I read today over at a certain site regarding Chiasson's play last season is beyond laughable. Chiasson earned $900,000 for his play last season, and was awarded a $1.2 million, one-year contract by an arbitrator this season. While a modest $300,000 raise is fine by most salary cap standards, I'm not sure that Chiasson deserved a raise based on his lackluster stats and rather indifferent play.

One of the more unfathomable statements by the writer above was,
"Last season, Chiasson was instrumental on the power play, scoring three goals and adding three helpers, while using his 6′ 4, 205-pound frame to his advantage, dishing out a career-high 93 hits."
How three goals and three assists on the power-play makes one "instrumental" is beyond me. He was ninth-best on his own team in power-play points - one better than "defensive MVP" Patrick Wiercioch - and four points back of Clarke MacArthur who played 14 fewer games than Chiasson.

To make matters worse, the writer above dropped this gem of a line in writing, "... he brings just as much to the table as the aforementioned Ryan and Hoffman" in his article. Yes, the 26-point Chiasson brings as much to the table as the 54-point Bobby Ryan and 48-point Mike Hoffman. This comparison is beyond insane. How is that Chiasson can average one minute less per game than Mike Hoffman yet finish 21 points fewer than Hoffman if they bring the same amount to the table? Could it be effort? Heart? Determination? The will to head into high-traffic areas? The sacrifice of giving up a puck to get it back? Any or all of the above?

Let's be honest here in saying that the 25 year-old Chiasson has all the potential in the world to be a gamer. He could show up next season with a little more muscle and take some major steps forward in being the solid power forward the Senators need. The difference between potential and talent, though, is a wide gap, and it's up to Chiasson to close it. Asking for a raise when you've done little to justify said raise is pretty ballsy in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

"In our opinion, both sides made fair, detailed arguments and we are satisfied with the ruling of the arbitrator," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said after the arbitrator's ruling. "We are happy to have Alex under contract and anticipate that he will be a productive player for us this season. Alex will be given the chance to have an important role in the team's success."

Sounds like the ball is squarely in Chiasson's court to prove to the Senators that he's worth the money. There's no question that the Senators want him to become more of a regular scoring threat, and they were prepared to meet Chiasson's demands with an arbitrator's ruling. After all, when a writer who is signing your praises writes just below that Chiasson "... will also have room to improve his defensive game which admittedly needs work," chances are you aren't a very strong player at the NHL level, especially when Ottawa needs a very good defensive game in the division they play.

But when writing statements such as Chiasson's "tireless contributions and tremendous potential will definitely be something that the Ottawa Senators can take to the bank", you have to wonder if people are watching the game at all. If 26 points are "tireless contributions", there should be a number of overpaid players in the NHL. And all the "tremendous potential" and a loonie will still only get you a cup of coffee. It's the realization of that potential that makes players rich.

You can take that to the bank instead if you're looking to yield a payoff.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!