Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Twenty-One

The Hockey Show is proud to present a fellow blogger to the show today as we welcome Jeff Barak from the Third String Goalie site to the show! Jeff does great work in finding old hockey jerseys and stories and posting them on his site where he imparts some incredible information about the person who wore the sweater or was responsible for some major revelation in hockey history. Needless to say, Third String Goalie is a favorite site of mine, and I stop by quite regularly to see what Jeff has found.

One of the best things about knowing Jeff is his passion for the game of hockey itself. He lives in Minnesota, meaning he lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps hockey. He's a passionate Minnesota Wild fan. He loves watching the NCAA's Golden Gophers dismantle the rest of collegiate hockey. His knowledge and love of hockey history is phenomenal, and I am happy to call him a friend. In short, Jeff is a die-hard hockey fan, and I believe that will show in the interview tonight. The man knows his puck.

We'll be talking to Jeff about the NHL, the loss of the North Stars, the rise of the Dallas Stars as Stanley Cup champions, the return of NHL hockey to Minnesota in the Wild, Gopher hockey and a possible run in the Frozen Four this season, and, of course, hockey sweaters. If you have questions you'd like to ask Jeff, I encourage you to tweet them to me at @TeebzHBIC or email them in at HockeyShowUMFM@shaw.ca. We're going to squeeze as many questions into our half hour as possible, so join us tonight at 6PM on 101.5 UMFM to hear Jeff Barak of the Third String Goalie site give us the low-down on his view of the hockey world!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Purple Crusade

You had to be pretty impressed when Indiana Jones passed the three tests to finally make it to the room with the Holy Grail. I know I was impressed, but I was something like ten years-old when it happened. Heck, Indiana Jones could have stumbled into that room upon a thousand ninjas and I would have been stoked. But the Grail Knight featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade wore the mark of a crusader, something that wasn't immediately brought out in that movie. That's significant from a hockey standpoint when you consider that one city in North America had a whole pack of crusaders arrive on the scene when the WHA decided to award a franchise to Cleveland.

In 1972-73, the WHA started up with twelve franchises in cities they identified as key grounds for establishing a new, and arguably better, professional hockey league. One of those cities was Cleveland, Ohio. October 11, 1972 saw the season open, and the Crusaders were one of four teams to play on opening night. They played the Quebec Nordiques in Quebec City, and Gerry Cheevers earned the first shutout in WHA history with a 2-0 blanking of the Nordiques.

Why am I yapping about the Crusaders tonight? Well, Uni Watch reader Tim Nash found another beauty video, much like the Oakland/California Golden Seals video posted yesterday, on YouTube! Again, with a lot of old, historical hockey footage not being found online, finds like the one Tim made are incredible. This fifteen-minute clip is really more of a "Crusaders Hockey 101" piece, but it's pretty incredible to see footage like this if you're a historian. Take a peek.
The sad part of this video, shot in 1974, is that the Crusaders would move out of Cleveland in 1976 after the NHL announced its intentions to move the Golden Seals to Cleveland. The Cleveland Arena, home to the Crusaders, was considered too small for the NHL team, though, and they moved an hour away to the suburban Richfield Coliseum. In all honesty, the Crusaders probably could have won the battle on the Lake Erie shore had they simply stood firm in their arena.

Gary Jarrett stands as the leading scorer in Crusaders history with 104 goals and 223 points. In four seasons with the club, Jarrett is the only player to have scored more than 100 goals as a Crusader. Gary Pinder, seen a number of times in the above video, logged the most games in Crusader purple with 304 notches on his belt. Paul Shmyr holds the franchise record for penalty minutes with 538. And despite the WHA's allowance for European players to play for teams, the Crusaders only have one European player on their all-time roster: Finland's Juhani Tamminen. Tamminen played 65 games for the Crusaders, amassing seven goals and 21 points as the top-scoring European-born Crusader.

I wasn't aware of this until she asked me what I was writing about, but my better half's uncle actually played for the Crusaders as well! I'm not going to point out who he was, but I am quite impressed by this one degree of separation she has with a professional hockey player. She doesn't seem as impressed as I am, though, so maybe I'm making more out of this than what appears.

While the video is overproduced and a little underwhelming, I just find it very comforting to see video highlights of any old WHA games. Hockey history is awesome, and I'm glad that Tim Nash brought that to the attention of Uni Watch readers like myself!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Diving Into Seals History

I've spoken a little about the California Golden Seals and Oakland Seals before on this soapbox. Hockey history, particularily from this point in time, is quite fascinating with all of the changes, movement, and upheaval of franchises that were seen within both the NHL and WHA. The hardest part is finding images and highlights of the old games to confirm findings. However, several users on YouTube are now putting up incredible highlights and news clips regarding these old teams. Today, we'll take a look at an incredible piece put up about the Seals franchise that highlights the entire existence of the club.

Credit for this clip goes to "werqa123" as he posted the clip on YouTube. Greg Musselman, who was an anchor and Sports Director for ITV Edmonton from 1981-96, filed the following report, and some of the images and facts contained within his story are pretty incredible.
There was no mention of why the Seals were changed to green-and-gold, but everyone assumes that it was due to Finley owning the Oakland Athletics. The Seals officially wore "kelly green, California gold and 'polar bear' white" if you asked Finley. Finley, of course, changed MLB's Athletics to a green-and-gold team with white shoes. For a long time, Finley has stated that the color combination of green and gold was his favorite. However, the June 30, 1970 edition of the Vancouver Sun quoted Finley as saying, "My two daughters are redheads and my wife has dressed them in green and gold since they were born. It'll be the same in hockey."

So if that's the case, he dressed his teams in the same colors as his daughters. The white skates, which look like figure skates in this image, are now more easily explainable when you consider that Finley was modeling his team's look after his wife's and daughters' fashion choices.

For the longest time, it was thought that the players on the Seals had their skates painted white, but Musselman reports that owner Charlie Finley actually bought the team white skates! Of course, there was a backlash from the other owners and, in particular, NHL president Clarence Campbell who is quoted in the Vancouver Sun article as saying, "White skates are for girl fancy skaters."

Marshall Johnston fondly recalls the ridicule the Seals took in their white skates to Evan Weiner of NHL.com. "Back then, I wasn't a physical player anyway, but I remember in Boston one night and some guy hollers over, 'Hey Johnston where's your purse?" he said with a laugh. "But that part of it. It was kind of fun."

Terry Murray wore the white skates in 1972-73, and he elaborates on the painting of the skates in an interview with Evan Weiner.
"Well, the white skates, they got heavier every week, too," Murray told Weiner. "It was just shoe polish and the trainers had to make sure they were white every game and they just got the old white polish out with the applicator and kept piling it out. So it was an extra five pounds by the middle of the season.

"I don't think we felt good about (wearing the skates), I think we always felt like a little bit of a pansy; maybe the only thing that helped out was that the Oakland A's were playing World Series ball and championship ball at that time and they had the white cleats on. Maybe it helped in our minds a little bit seeing them out there."
Pretty interesting, right? We have two teams in the "Big Four" pro leagues dressed as his daughters were dressed, and the white skates were covered in coats and coats of shoe polish. While it wasn't truly paint per se, Terry Murray made it pretty clear that the skates got heavier and heavier as the season progressed. The legend of the Seals' white skates, as well as why they were changed to green and gold, now have a little more weight to them thanks to Mr. Musselman's excellent piece and a little research.

Isn't hockey history great? It's even better when you learn that Terry Murray kept his white skates!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 28 January 2013

St. Louis' Man

The St. Louis Blues honored long-time baseball great and St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan "The Man" Musial by donning sweaters with his name and number after the Hall-of-Famer passed away on January 19 at the age of 92. He was a beloved sports figure in the St. Louis community, and his contributions in the community made "The Man" larger than life decades after his retirement from baseball.

As if it were written in the stars, on the day of Mr. Musial's passing, the Blues blanked the Red Wings by a 6-0 score. And then on the day that they honored him, the man who now wears #6, Wade Redden, opened the scoring against the Minnesota Wild in a 5-4 victory. If that's not karma for the Blues, who had already given Mr. Musial a jersey of his own in 2012, I'm not sure that I know what karma is. What I do know, however, is that the Blues pulled off a very classy, very respectable move in honoring one of St. Louis' most prominent sports figures and most beloved citizens.

The Blues were auctioning off the Musial jerseys after each player had signed the jersey they had worn, and all the funds were going to the Cardinals Care charity in honor of Stan Musial. Again, for a man beloved by his community, the act of the Blues giving back the money they raised in the sales of these jerseys has to appreciated by Mr. Musial's family. And I'm quite sure that Stan Musial would have been proud as well.

Well done, St. Louis. Cross-sport promotions normally end up horrible, but this one works very well because of Stan Musial's legacy in St. Louis. And thumbs-up from me for honoring "The Man" with a great donation to charity!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Exuberance vs. Experience

There's a lot to be said for the scouts that uncover amazing talent for NHL teams. Those are the men that should be paid a king's ransom for finding talent amongst the many options available to teams when it comes to picking a player. There are no-brainers - Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Tavares - but some picks don't pan out for a number of reasons. It's hard to build a team around a handful of players who never quite reach that star potential, so I wanted to take a look at how many first-round picks are being dressed for each team. This should, in theory, give us an idea of which teams will be successful.

This idea was brought about by a comment made on Twitter by George C. and retweeted by Comcast Sportsnet's Tim Panaccio. Last night, in the Flyers game versus the Florida Panthers, the Flyers dressed nine first-round picks. George wanted to know if this was the NHL's highest total, so I began the work to find out if the Flyers did have the most players chosen in the first round in their lineup.

To see any of the first-round picks on any of the teams, just click the team name. The players on that roster that were chosen in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft will appear below the team name. Here are the counts as to which teams have the most first-round picks on their rosters.

Anaheim Ducks - 12

Boston Bruins - 5

Buffalo Sabres - 8

Calgary Flames - 6

Carolina Hurricanes - 11

Chicago Blackhawks - 6

Colorado Avalanche - 7

Columbus Blue Jackets - 7

Dallas Stars - 4

Detroit Red Wings - 8

Edmonton Oilers - 13

Florida Panthers - 12

Los Angeles Kings - 9

Minnesota Wild - 9

Montreal Canadiens - 6

Nashville Predators - 5

New Jersey Devils - 10

New York Islanders - 9

New York Rangers - 10

Ottawa Senators - 8

Philadelphia Flyers - 11

Phoenix Coyotes - 11

Pittsburgh Penguins - 7

San Jose Sharks - 9

St. Louis Blues - 12

Tampa Bay Lightning - 7

Toronto Maple Leafs - 9

Vancouver Canucks - 11

Washington Capitals - 10

Winnipeg Jets - 13

So what do all these first-round picks mean in terms of success? Well, not much in terms of an analysis. After all, Edmonton and Winnipeg/Atlanta have the most first-round picks on their rosters, and both have a long history of missing the playoffs in recent memory. On the flip side, Dallas has four first-round picks playing for them this season, and they also haven't had much playoff success as of recent, either.

Here's what I do know from the numbers above:
  • 11 of 30 teams have ten or more first-round starters this season.
  • Southeast Division has 53 first-rounders starting this season.
  • Atlantic Division has 47 first-rounders on their rosters.
  • Northwest Division has 46 first-rounders on their rosters.
  • Pacific Division has 45 first-rounders on their rosters.
  • Central Division has 38 first-rounders on their rosters.
  • Northeast Division has just 36 first-rounders on their rosters.
  • Only Southeast team to have less than ten first-rounders is Tampa Bay.
  • Northeast Division is the only division to have all teams with less than ten first-rounders.
  • Canadian teams feature 66 first-round picks on their rosters.
  • The state of California has 30 first-rounders.
  • The Hartford Whalers still have two first-round picks on rosters.
  • The Quebec Nordiques have no first-round picks on rosters.
  • The last five Stanley Cup winners feature nine or less first-round picks.
  • The Los Angeles Kings feature first-round picks from only Philly and LA.
  • Washington features four players drafted in the first round of 2004 Draft.
  • Philadelphia has no players drafted in the same first-round draft year.
  • San Jose features the #1 and #2 picks of the 1997 Draft.
I thought that was a pretty interesting look. I won't lie when I say that the coding for this exercise took me a while to figure out, but I like the results. Thoughts? Additions? Notice any trends? Let me know!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

A Difficult Choice

The man to the left is Lubomir Visnovsky. He was dealt to the Islanders in the off-season before the NHL lockout began, and he fought the trade thinking that his no-trade clause that he signed in Edmonton could be invoked. Unfortunately, that's not how the NHL and its contractual obligations work, so Visnovsky was informed that he would need to report to the Islanders for this season. With the lockout, Visnovsky found work in the KHL closer to home, and it appeared he was prepared to join an up-and-coming Islanders squad.

When the lockout was over, however, Visnovsky decided that it would be better if he remained closed to family in Slovakia, opting not to return to North America, the NHL, or the Islanders. This, of course, would cause a major rift between the NHL and KHL, so the KHL wisely suspended Visnovksy's KHL contract with Slovan Bratislava, making him ineligible for any further games.

With no hockey to play, he insisted he must remain in Slovakia for family reasons. The Islanders suspended him for not reporting, essentially putting him out of hockey until he resolved this issue with the Islanders.

Today, however, Visnovsky's agent, Neil Sheehy, reported via Twitter that the defenceman would join the Islanders "no later than Feb 11th, possibly sooner, due to personal medical reasons within his immediate family". While I appreciate the importance of family and how medical problems within his family could require his attendance, Visnovsky has gone about this entirely wrong.

So the question needs to be asked: when Visnovsky returns on February 11 or sooner, would you dress him as part of your team, or would you simply tell him to remain at home and keep him suspended?

On one hand, you can certainly use a defenceman like Lubomir Visnovsky if you're the Islanders. He's a strong veteran presence with good puck skills, and he can be relied on to log a pile of minutes in both zones if necessary. He pick up 30-40 points if things go well, so he can certainly contribute from the back end, and has only been a minus player in five of twelve seasons.

Then again, the Islanders have a number of solid, young defencemen that could use those minutes to improve for upcoming seasons. While it's always nice to pick up another veteran defenceman, the kids can use the seasoning to make them better. Visnovsky would arrive with 37 games to play - still three-quarters of the season - but, depending on the Islanders' record after those 11 games - it might be better to go with the status quo based upon chemistry and ability.

I'm sure that the Islanders will certainly welcome a veteran player like Visnovsky in, and it should be of benefit in terms of his play in the KHL while being locked out. I'm not sure that I would be comfortable as a player with him strolling in mid-season, but management is responsible for putting the best team on the ice and I would assume that Visnovsky will help.

If I'm Neil Sheehy, however, I'm telling my client to make the "possibly sooner" a reality in order to make things nice with the Islanders and, by extension, the rest of the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Looking Buff

How about that game tonight? If you caught the nationally televised broadcast of the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Winnipeg Jets, you were lucky enough to see two first-period goals by Sidney Crosby. It appeared the Penguins might be on their way to another blowout of Winnipeg, but one player in particular took the bull by the horns and changed the outcome of this game. If Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien can continue to put nights like tonight on his resumé, we might be looking at a Norris Trophy candidate in this short season. Byfuglien scored, he added a helper, and he was all over the ice throwing checks and breaking up plays. Crosby may arguably be the best player on the planet at any given time, but Dustin Byfuglien was the difference for the Jets in their 4-2 victory tonight.

It's not often that you can find a 265-pound player that's as agile as a man half his weight. Byfuglien has great hands, great footwork, and he showed several flashes of great jump and agility last night that should make him a dangerous player all season if he can continue with these kinds of effort all season.

Jets head coach Claude Noel made it clear on Wednesday after his team had returned from a two-game roadtrip with three of four possible points that Byfuglien will be needed to be an impact player all season if the Jets want success. Said Noel,
"His conditioning level is good. I think the thing that's important with Byfuglien is it's not so much the minutes but the consistency in his play and I think he’s been fabulous in the way he's played.

"As we all know, Dustin can play that gunslinger type of game that can keep you on the edge of your seat in both ways and I think he's cognizant of that and I think he’s managed his games well, really well. We're reliant on him, I think he recognizes the urgency of wins and I think he recognizes the impact he can have on games. I think he's matured."
If Byfuglien has indeed matured as Noel suggests, it seems to be making him a better all-around player. As we saw when he was with Chicago, he could take over a game with his sheer size alone. He has always had a scoring touch for a big man, and there was never a question about Byfuglien's heart. But like Noel said, it was always a question of consistency for Byfuglien, and it looks like he might be turning that corner.

Byfuglien played a solid game for Winnipeg in Washington, and he seemed to step his game up another notch in the shootout loss to Boston. Of course, Byfuglien was the only goal scorer in the opening game against Ottawa, but there hasn't really been a shift where Byfuglien has decided to glide in the first four games.

Indeed, tonight was proof of that as he was leading rushes, forechecking deep in the Pittsburgh zone before being one of the first men back defensively, and he was crashing and banging all over the place. He doesn't wear a letter on his uniform like Ladd, Stuart, or Jokinen, but he's showing that he's certainly a leader on this team, and he's letting his play speak volumes.

There's a good chance that guys like Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, and Drew Doughty would be favorites for the Norris Trophy at the start of the season. They are consistently some of the better players on NHL bluelines, and there's no denying the impact that they have on games.

However, Byfuglien was second in defenceman scoring last season, ahead of Weber, Chara, and Doughty. Byfuglien also missed significant time last season, playing the least amount of games of any of the top-fifteen defencemen. While his plus/minus wasn't anywhere near the leaders in that category, his -8 rating shows just how important he was in terms of Winnipeg scoring.

It's no different this season for the Jets as it seems that the Jets go as Byfuglien goes. While Byfuglien is still a -2 thus far this season, if he continues playing as he did tonight, his name should be tossed about when it comes to narrowing down the Norris Trophy finalists.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Twenty

The Hockey Show welcomes back a guest who honestly was one of the best interviews we've had thus far in our short twenty-week history. We interviewed Jared Keeso on November 29 in Episode 12, and he's back tonight as we talk some hockey! There won't be any Don Cherry questions or chatter about his time in the OJHL. What we will talk about is the first week of the NHL, and we'll get Jared's take on how the season is going!

The best part of the entire night is that Beans and I will be chatting with a Calgary Flames fan, so we'll probably toss out a few digs about the Flames. I'm quite certain that there may be a few of you who'd like to ask Jared a question about his love for the Flames or an NHL question in general, so I invite you to send them to us at HockeyShowUMFM@shaw.ca or tweet them to me at @TeebzHBIC.

We're looking forward to a fun and crazy show tonight, and we hope you'll join us at 6:00PM CT on 101.5 UMFM for The Hockey Show! Beans, myself, and Jared Keeso will be there, so tune in and hear our takes on the first week of NHL action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Even If You Don't Like Purple

If you're a regular reader of Uni Watch, you're most likely aware that writer Paul Lukas hates the color purple. If you're not reading Uni Watch, I suggest you start doing that. In any case, the AHL's Binghamton Senators announced that they will be holding a Power of Purple Night on February 10, 2013 when they play the Albany Devils. You're probably thinking that Binghamton will be wearing purple jerseys, and you're probably right. But this promotional game is about so much more.

Luke Richardson, a former NHL defenceman, was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators in 2010 when his daughter, 14 year-old Daron Richardson, committed suicide on November 13, 2010. The death of Daron was a shock to the Richardsons, the Senators, the community, and the city of Ottawa. Her suicide prompted many schools and groups to band together and wear purple in memory of Daron and her struggle with her mental health. Purple was chosen as it was Daron's favorite color.

On February 2, 2011, the Richardsons took action to try and help other teens and parents cope with mental health issues by launching Do It For Daron. Along with the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, the Sens Foundation, and the Ottawa Senators, the Do It For Daron Foundation was launched to honor Daron's life. On every February 8 - Daron's birthday - the Do It For Daron Foundation encourages groups and businesses to promote purple in order to raise awareness and show support for any and all young people "who suffer in silence from the pain and stigma of mental illness".

This season, with Luke Richardson coaching the Binghamton Senators, the Senators will lend their support to the Do It For Daron efforts. This is a really classy act by the Senators to stand by Luke Richardson and show their support of him, his family, and the charitable organization he runs.

On February 10, fan will be encouraged to wear purple to the rink. The first 1,750 fans to make it down to the rink that night will receive a purple D.I.F.D. rally towel to help cheer on the Senators. Both teams will wear special purple warm-up jerseys before the game, and all Senators players will wear Do It For Daron purple heart stickers on their helmets and don purple laces in their skates. Of course, the Senators coaching staff will be dressed in purple as well.

The best news is that the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST) will be on-hand at the game to provide information and professional support for those seeking it. Do It For Daron merchandise - bracelets, pins, t-shirts, mittens, toques and mental health kits - will be available for purchase that night, and MHAST will have a limited number of bracelets and t-shirts available.

Perhaps the best news of the entire night is that all proceeds from the sale of Do It For Daron merchandise, the silent auction, and in-arena donations will go to the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier in partnership with DIFD. $2 for all tickets sold for that night will also go to MHAST as well.

I have to say that I cannot fathom how a teenager can consider suicide as an option, but it's very apparent that the mental health of teens should not be overlooked. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers after car accidents. While the quantity of suicides is low among teens, the fact that it is the second-leading cause of death says that the demons some teens face are very real.

I commend and applaud the Binghamton Senators for helping the Richardsons cope with the loss of their daughter, and for standing behind them in trying to bring further awareness about mental illness in teens. This is a classy move by the organization, and I'd be proud to wear purple on this occasion.

It may be a regal color, but it will look great on a number of Senators on this night.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

It Might Be A Penguin?

It was twenty years ago when the Penguins rolled out new uniforms and a new logo to start the 1992-93 season. I hadn't realized that it had been that long had it not been for a tweet from Icethetics about it. While Icethetics breaks down how the new image of the Penguins came about, I have a more unique view on this change since I've been a Penguins fan for approximately all my life. While some may view the new logo as the Pittsburgh Pigeon or the Robo-Penguin, I view it as the "Dark Era" in my life as a Penguins fan.

First off, I was quite shocked when I found out that it had been twenty years since this logo first appeared. I fondly remember the Stanley Cup Final against the Minnesota North Stars as the first sign that the Penguins were a dominant team, and they were destined for a long run of success. The skating penguin logo was etched into my mind, and my room had posters of Lemieux, Francis, and Jagr all over the walls.

After dispatching the Blackhawks in four games in 1992, the Penguins appeared to be building a dynasty. After steamrolling their opposition in 1993, it appeared that the Penguins were on their way to a third Stanley Cup when David Volek of the New York Islanders shocked the hockey world.

There were certainly some highs after that shocking loss in the second round to the Islanders, but they were few and far between. There were some amazing players who wore Penguins colors for a short time - Luc Robitaille, Tomas Sandstrom, Petr Nedved, Alex Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Markus Naslund, Glen Murray, Darius Kasparaitis, and Stu Barnes to name but a few - but none of them could propel the Penguins further than the Eastern Conference Final.

Some of the trades made during this time are absolutely incredible when you consider the exodus of talent out of the Steel City. They include:
  • April 7, 1995: Martin Straka to Ottawa for Norm MacIver and Troy Murray.
  • July 8, 1995: Larry Murphy to Toronto for Dmitri Mironov and a second-round pick.
  • March 20, 1996: Markus Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov.
  • June 22, 1996: Sergei Zubov to Dallas for Kevin Hatcher.
  • January 27, 1997: Tomas Sandstrom to Detroit for Greg Johnson.
  • March 18, 1997: Glen Murray to Los Angeles for Ed Olczyk.
  • March 11, 1999: Stu Barnes to Buffalo for Matthew Barnaby.
  • March 14, 2000: German Titov to Edmonton for Josef Beranek.
  • July 11, 2001: Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to Washington for Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, and Michal Sivek.
  • March 19, 2002: Darius Kasparaitis to Colorado for Rick Berry and Ville Nieminen.
  • March 19, 2002: Stephane Richer to New Jersey for a conditional pick.
  • February 10, 2003: Alexei Kovalev, Janne Laukannen, Mike Wilson, and Dan LaCouture to New York Rangers for Joel Bouchard, Rico Fata, Richard Lintner, Mikael Samuelsson, and futures.
Make no mistake that Pittsburgh gave up a ton of talent in approximately nine years. They got some back, but the vast majority of their trades were for cost-cutting reasons and because they were teetering on bankruptcy.

Consider, though, a team of Straka, Murphy, Naslund, Zubov, Sandstrom, Murray, Barnes, Titov, Jagr, Kasparaitis, Richer, and Kovalev for a moment. Two of those players are still playing, and they have won a ton of hardware while playing in the NHL.

Compare that to the team of Stojanov, Hatcher, Johnson, Olczyk, Barnaby, Beranek, Beech, Lupaschuk, Sivek, Berry, Nieminen, Bouchard, Fata, Lintner, and Samuelsson. Not much of a comparison, right? A team of Hall-of-Famers and fantastic offensive talents versus a squad of mostly AHLers. Any wonder why Pittsburgh was horrible for nearly a decade?

I will say that I never lost faith in finding the light at the end of the tunnel, and it appeared that there could have been moves to several cities, including Winnipeg and Kansas City, had the team and city not worked hand-in-hand to get an arena built and the franchise sold to stable, responsible owners.

I have several Penguins jerseys with the modernized Penguin on them, and I have a diagonally-written Pittsburgh uniform as well. To think they came out twenty years ago makes me really feel old now.

You kids leave those Penguins alone. And get off my lawn!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Thanks For Reading

I'm not sure who linked me up to a Facebook account today, but my article regarding the Dalhousie hockey team from yesterday is generating a ton of hits from Facebook. I have not yet updated my social media sites with the latest links, so I'm writing this article of gratitude to an anonymous linker. I have a Facebook account and I do accept friends, so if this was you linking things up, I'd be willing to be your friend because, quite frankly, you're awesome. Thank you so much for helping my name get a little of the internet's spotlight for a few moments. It makes me smile knowing that a few people happen to like my work.

I have a busy evening, so I'm not going to post a major article today. I am working on a few things for this upcoming week, and this week's episode of The Hockey Show should be a lot of fun as we welcome Jared Keeso back to the show to chat some hockey and have some laughs. It's not going to be an interview show because we've done that before, but we'll still have some questions and we'll get Jared's take on this shortened NHL season. Needless to say, we're going to have fun.

Coming up, we're proud to feature a handful of great guests as we welcome Jeff Barak of Third String Goalie, Dalhousie women's hockey player Isabelle Germain, potentially two Olympians in February, and a whole host of additional people. The Hockey Show already has its NHL Playoff Contest ready to roll, so be prepared as we roll through the next 97 towards to serious prizing!

We have a couple of events we'll be attending, so bring your hockey faces and sweaters along and we'll have fun! On February 8 and 9, the Canadian Sport Film Festival returns to Winnipeg to celebrate sport and film! There will be a FREE outdoor screening of five short films on hockey at The Forks on Friday, February 8 at 7:00pm CT. There is also a FREE screening and panel discussion on children, sport, and film at 2:30pm on Friday, February 8 at the University of Manitoba and I'm going to try to attend this panel to get informed!

The second event is one I am extremely excited for as Beans and I will be out at the MTS IcePlex on Sunday, February 17 for Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest! Beans and I will be talking to players, coaches, parents, fans, and other distinguished guests as the day progresses, and we'll have some chatter and laughs as we grab interviews! We'd really love to see a lot of people come out and cheer on the young ladies as they work through the day!

If you know of someone who you feel has a unique connection to hockey, let us know by emailing The Hockey Show at HockeyShowUMFM@shaw.ca, tweet me at @TeebzHBIC, or comment below and I'll look into booking someone for the radio show. If you haven't checked out the podcasts, click the NHL '94 player to the right, download the podcast, and listen and laugh!

Finally, if you are the anonymous linker, please connect with me on Facebook! I'd love to find out who is trumpeting my work so I can properly thank him or her!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Money Ends The Season

While the title of the article could have been used for a CBA-related article, the sad reality is that one hockey team's season is over due to money. I've been following the Dalhousie women's hockey team's story where the team was suspended due to an alleged hazing incident that happened. At first, I had been against the women because of the stigma that the word "hazing" carries. However, after reading about what the women say happened at the party and working towards a plan for restorative justice, my favor swung towards the women in that the punishment did not fit the crime.

It appears that the threat of legal action by the women's team against the university - a drastic last step in restoring their season - will not happen now because of one thing: money. Taking a case to court costs a bundle of money, and, having been a student myself, students don't have bundles of money to spend on things like court cases when classes and books are a priority.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic, players Isabelle Germain and Laura Brooks stated that they would not be pushing forward with the legal option due to the costs associated with the case. While I totally understand their reasons for not pushing forward, I'm surprised that no one from the legal community has stepped forward to allow these young women to play.

While Miss Germain states in the interview that Dalhousie University has unlimited resources in terms of being a reputable law school, there are probably a pile of lawyers who would do this type of work pro bono. The only problem I see is that a vast number of lawyers in and around the Dalhousie University area, and the rest of Nova Scotia for that matter, are Dalhousie law school graduates. Biting the hand that once fed these graduates probably isn't such a smart thing to do. Especially when the reputation of being a Dalhousie law school graduate is held in high esteem.

Both Miss Germain and Miss Brooks indicated that they would pursue a spot on the team next season, and that neither hold the school in a negative light. I commend both players for finding the silver lining on a dark, ugly cloud passing by this season. This speaks volumes to the character of the players on this team, and while I assume some will hold resentment over the forfeiture of the season, the fact that the players have chosen to take the high road speaks more about how much of a family they are than anything else they have done during this process.

They accepted responsibility, they admitted they partied, they looked for a reasonable agreement with the university and found none, and they still took the high road when all other paths led to dead ends. This type of character speaks volumes in the real world and with me.

So while the buck stopped this court case from proceeding, the women will pursue the university in order to have them clarify policies so that nothing like this can happen again. The women will ensure that parties like theirs that landed them in trouble do not occur again for any of Dalhousie's teams. Again, that's a show of character that you wouldn't expect from a group of disappointed, wronged young adults in a case like this whether they are innocent or guilty regarding the alleged charge of hazing brought against them.

Dalhousie University has every right to uphold their policies, as ambiguous as they appear to be, in any way they see fit. They made the rules, so they can uphold them even if it seems that they are doing so in an unfair fashion.

The women that represented Dalhousie women's hockey team, though, are winners in my book regardless of how this season played out or what their record showed. They have shown incredible patience and stoicism in the face of being accused of something quite serious, and have tried to find reasonable and compassionate solutions to not only erase the stigma attached to their names and team, but to the school and its community as well. When the school decided to not change their stance, the ladies have since pushed on and are now doing the right thing in taking the high road in showing their strong characters.

Hearing the end of this story in terms of how this whole thing played out, the Dalhousie women's hockey team reminds me of Charlie Simms in Scent of a Woman. The women are seemingly doing the right thing, albeit opposite of Charlie in speaking out, and it seems that headmaster Mr. Trask - President Tom Traves of Dalhousie - is trying to identify them as the guilty party.

As Al Pacino, as Lt. Frank Slade, said in his epic monologue at the end of the film,
I don't know if Charlie's silence here today is right or wrong. I'm not a judge or jury, but I can tell you this: He won't sell anybody out to buy his future! And that, my friends, is called integrity. That's called courage. Now that's the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy's future in your hands, committee. It's a valuable future. Believe me. Don't destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It's gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.
I took the liberty of bolding a number of words and phrases: integrity, courage, right path, principle, character, valuable future, gonna make you proud. All of these words and phrases apply to the women on the Dalhousie women's hockey team regardless of what they are alleged in doing because they came to the crossroads, they admitted they may have been wrong at face value, and are asking for transparency at this point.

Until Dalhousie University can produce their evidence that finds the women guilty of hazing outside of what they have admitted to, one must be held innocent until proven guilty in virtually all societies. If this is all the evidence they have, noting that they have maintained there IS additional evidence, innocent until proven guilty. It's quite simple. Being that Dalhousie University is a public institution, those investigations done should be of public domain. After all, as per Wikipedia, "All major Canadian universities are now publicly funded but maintain institutional autonomy, with the ability to decide on admission, tuition and governance."

Meanwhile, all lawyers, and certainly those from Dalhousie's school of law, are taught that "the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies" (from the Latin, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat). In this case, there has been no evidence presented by anyone from Dalhousie University to warrant the forfeiture of a hockey season and the suspension of 19 players in an alleged hazing incident.

Like Pacino said, "I'm not a judge or jury", but I'm siding with the women in the court of public opinion. It's just a shame that these women won't be able to challenge the punitive action taken against them in a court of law because of money and power.

I wish the women of the Dalhousie hockey team all the best in their studies this year, and I hope those players returning next year come back with the passion and drive necessary to do big things on the ice. I'm not comfortable or happy with how the process played out for these women, but Dalhousie University is doing what they deem as being fair and just. I just wasn't aware that a publicly-funded institution in a democratic society was a dictatorship.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Quite The First Day

We finally got to see the banner raised at Staples Center for the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup victory last season. A lot of time has past since then, we've seen an ugly labor war finally rectified, and everyone is back to work officially starting today. As "Badger" Bob Johnson used to say, it's a great day for hockey!

Once the excitement of seeing the banner hit the rafters died down, the Kings promptly began their defence of the Stanley Cup by completely rolling over for the Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing says "we are the defending champions" like giving up three first-period goals and looking entirely unorganized on the ice. While the rest of the game was a 2-2 draw, the damage was done early on as the Blackhawks took the game 5-2.

If you were wondering, the first goal of the shortened 2013 season was scored by Patrick Kane on the powerplay from Marian Hossa just 3:41 into the first period. I'm not sure if that will be useful for any trivia buffs out there, but that was the first goal scored this season.

We all heard about how great the goaltending tandem was in Vancouver this season with Cory Schneider being ready to accept the starter's role and Roberto Luongo being prepared to defend his stater's role with the Canucks. Instead, we saw the oldest player in the NHL this season - 42 year-old Teemu Selanne - pile up four points against the two goaltenders.

Anaheim pumped four second-period goals past the two Canucks netminders en route to a 7-3 win over last season's President Trophy winners. Selanne had two goals and two assists in the win, and he looked like he was ten years younger than he is. Schneider, who played in Switzerland during the lockout, looked like he hadn't skated for a while, and Luongo was only marginally better.

While the goaltending wasn't great for Vancouver, the penalty kill was absolutely abysmal. Anaheim went three-for-three with the man-advantage, leaving Vancouver with a penalty killing percentage of 0% after one game. Anaheim was the 21st-best team on the powerplay last season, and it's not like they brought in a ton of talent to revamp their offence. Vancouver laid an egg on Saturday night, and Teemu Selanne took advantage.

Speaking of old men lighting up the ice, Jaromir Jagr carried over his Czech Republic scoring pace in Dallas as the Stars downed the Coyotes by a 4-3 score. Jagr was in on all four Dallas goals, and helped to set up another old man as Ray Whitney scored a powerplay goal in his Stars debut.

Jagr, who is 40 years old this season, looked like he was in his mid-twenties in this game, connecting nearly-impossible passes to teammates and skating with determination again. I didn't see the game, but the highlights made Jagr look like he's playing for a Stanley Cup in Dallas this season. If he can continue to rack up points like he did tonight, Dallas had a great shot at making the playoffs this season.

Despite the loss, Radim Vrbata is back to his old Phoenix ways again. He's never scored more than 18 goals for any team he has played with other than Phoenix. In the Arizona desert, Vrbata has never scored less than 19 goals in a season. I'm not saying that there's any correlation between Vrbata and Phoenix, but he might be out of a job if the Coyotes were to ever move. He scored a pair against Dallas tonight, giving him 107 of his 185 career goals in a Coyotes uniform. Or, more succinctly, 57.8% of his career goals have come in four seasons in Phoenix.

Did anyone see Detroit struggling like they did against the Blues? I understand that Nicklas Lidstrom was a Hall-of-Fame defenceman, but the Red Wings looked all kinds of lost on the ice against St. Louis today. The result? A 6-0 loss to start the season.

St. Louis outshot Detroit 17-2 in the first period. Yes, that's not a misprint. The final tally saw St. Louis throw up a Detroit-like 36-14 margin in shots. For all the weapons that people talk about in Detroit - Datsyuk, Brunner, Zetterberg, Franzen - all St. Louis did was throw a blanket on them. Brunner and Filppula led the Wings with three shots each, but St. Louis was simply awesome in their opening night effort.

St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko looks like he's going to make a case for the Calder Trophy as he scored a pair of gorgeous goals against the Wings. He skates like wind, has incredibly soft hands, and sees the ice very well in terms of finding a spot to turn a pass into a goal. Keep your eyes on this Russian whiz kid. He looked impressive in his NHL debut.

Lastly, it looked like all systems go in Winnipeg where the Jets used a huge push from the crowd to jump out with some excitement and emotion. An early penalty resulted in a Dustin Byfuglien powerplay goal, and it appeared that the Jets were off and running in this sprint-like season. The problem? These are still the Winnipeg Jets.

After that powerplay marker, it appeared as though the Jets took their foot off the gas pedal. Or perhaps Ottawa woke up and began to push. In any case, the Jets were outhustled, outworked, and generally outclassed in their own barn once again by this Senators team. Ottawa has now won three straight games, including a key one down the stretch last season, at MTS Centre and appear to be making the Winnipeg arena into their second favorite home with their 4-1 win today.

The good news for Winnipeg after dropping the season opener for the season year in a row is that they are in the same place as Washington and Carolina right now. The bad news for Winnipeg is they are in the exact spot where all the prognosticators said they would be at the end of the season. Winnipeg started strong, but it went downhill from there. They need to find a way to play for the entire sixty minutes every night or this season will be a long one for Jets fans.

It was a great day for hockey, kids. Here's to the next 98 days being just as good!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Equipment Watch 3: Launch Skates

I haven't written about any sort of equipment in quite some time, but I actually saw a clip about a pair of skates that I had previewed some time ago. In December 2011, I had some reservations about the claims that Launch Skates was making, but little did I know that Launch Skates was on the rise. In May 2012, Launch Skates was named as one of Popular Science's 2012 Inventions of the Year! Not bad, right?

Had some no-name blogger talk about your skates? Check.
Made it into a fairly influential publication? Check.

So where do Launch Skates go from here? Well, how about appearing on Discovery Channel's Daily Planet? Normally at this point, I'd be embedding a video, but being that Discovery Channel is one of those awesome BellMedia sites, you can't actually embed their videos. Isn't that awesome?

Instead, I will provide the link to the Daily Planet episode that contains the footage of the Launch Skates in action! Honestly, the science behind the skates is actually pretty cool in terms of the springs inside the skates using the skaters weight and strength to propel the skater forward faster.

It is very interesting to hear Lucas Lawson talk about how he found that the gliding aspect was "enhanced" and that "on the turns, you can feel yourself, as you put the weight into your skate and as you move from stride to stride, it propels you to the next crossover". That, of course, means faster turns and increased speed coming out of a turn. For players who already leave a trail of fire behind them when skating, this means even more speed.

It's interesting to think that the springs in the skate could help to reduce injuries by cushioning a player's joints. Knee injuries are quite common for hockey players, and there might be some credence to the suggestion that there would be less wear-and-tear on a player's knees and ankles. I'm not sure how one would measure this, but I would assume it follows the same idea as Nike Shox shoes.

After seeing the video on how they work and hearing Lucas Lawson's review, I'm definitely coming around on Launch Skates. I was a little skeptical in my first article, but I admit that every time Mr. Blois has contacted me, he has more and more evidence to prove that the Launch Skates do exactly what they promise.

If you're looking for a boost in your game, try Launch Skates. The science makes you faster!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Nineteen

The Hockey Show welcomes a special guest tonight as we mark our nineteenth show with our first female guest! Ok, maybe I shouldn't be celebrating that fact too much, but we're always looking for guests to come on and talk hockey with us! If you know of someone who would make a great guest, let us know! And if you know of a woman who loves hockey and chatting hockey, we're all ears!

Tonight, at 6:00PM CT on 101.5 UMFM, Beans and I are proud and honored to welcome the Kingston Frontenacs' Social Media Coordinator Missy Deyo! Missy is in charge of the social media aspects of the Frontenacs organization, and she got her start with the OHL team in a rather interesting way. We'll discuss this, other ventures, an interesting hockey lineage, her favrite charities, and a pile of other stuff tonight on The Hockey Show!

If you have any questions for Missy, please tweet them to me at @TeebzHBIC with the hashtag #MissyQ. You can also email them to us at HockeyShowUMFM@shaw.ca, and we'll do our best to get them on the air with Missy. Tune in tonight and find out how tweeting her thoughts turned into a job with the Frontenacs live on The Hockey Show at 6pm CT on 6:00PM CT on 101.5 UMFM!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Some Hockey Notes

Today's entry will just be a quick entry as we get ready for the first games in the NHL season on Saturday. I know I said I wouldn't support the NHL as much, but I do miss hockey on Saturday nights - and a pile of other nights - because, well, most TV programming is pretty horrible. That being said, I have received some pretty interesting emails as of late, and I wanted to skim through those so that you have an idea of what's happening in other parts of the hockey spectrum because the NHL is great, but it's not the be-all and end-all. I'm also very excited about the guest who will be appearing on The Hockey Show tomorrow, so stay tuned to the end of this article in order to read a little about this fascinating guest!

The ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears - still one of my all-time favorite hockey team names - is going pink for their games on January 17 and 19! The Solar Bears will don pink jerseys and help to raise money for cancer research and cancer initiatives by auctioning off these glorious threads! I can't really criticize the Solar Bears for wearing pink if they are donating money to cancer initiatives, and I think that the community involvement shown by the Solar Bears in their return to pro hockey has been outstanding. Well done, Solar Bears, and thumbs-up from me!

I received an email from a kind lady by the name of Pati. Pati works in the legal industry, and she wanted to know if I would give my blessing for her to use an article of mine at a ceremony. Curious as I was, I had to know what type of ceremony she wanted my work for considering I'm not the best wordsmith despite my best efforts. She responded by informing me that the man to the right - The Honorable Redfield T. Baum - is retiring from his role as a judge in Phoenix, and that they wanted to use my article for a poster that will be presented to Judge Baum about his time dwelling over the Phoenix Coyotes saga! While I'm not overly impressed with my writing in the article about Judge Baum's decision on the Coyotes, I am thoroughly honored that someone wants to use my work and I wish all the best in your retirement, Judge Baum! May good fortunes and great weather find you always in your next adventures!

If you haven't seen it yet, you're probably not using Google as your search engine. Today's Google page features a fun Zamboni game in honor of Frank Zamboni's birthday! Mr. Zamboni passed away on July 27, 1988, but his link to ice hockey is anything but normal.

In 1927, Frank and his younger brother Lawrence entered the block ice business by adding an ice-making plant to his supply shop. They ran their ice-making venture until 1939 when electrical refrigeration units began making their way into everyday life. With their experience in making ice, Frank, Lawrence, and a cousin opened a new ice rink, called the Iceland rink, near to their homes in Hynes, California.

The popularity of this rink was immediate as Frank Zamboni had devised a way to prevent rippling in the ice. In 1949, he came up with his finest invention: a machine that could replace the laborious three-man resurfacing crew that cut ice resurfacing from 90 minutes to a mere ten minutes. Originally built on top of Jeep CJ-3Bs, the Zamboni has evolved and been redesigned over the years. The 10,000th Zamboni ice resurfacing machine prouduced is still in use today at Montreal's Bell Centre, and the company is still operated by Frank's family. Pretty cool, right?

Well, if you want to play the Zamboni Google Doodle Game, it's linked up right here and waiting for you. The Google Doodles site has a ton of interactive doodles that you can look through and interact with, so I suggest taking some time and checking out all of this amazing work done by Google. Some of may favorites include the Star Trek Doodle, Les Paul's Doodle (where you can record your music), Robert Moog's Doodle (again, recordable), and the Charlie Chaplin Doodle (Google's first live-action Doodle). Enjoy these doodles, find some other good ones, and even kick back and enjoy a game of PacMan!

Finally, we welcome our first female guest who, like Frank Zamboni above, has an interesting story about how she got involved with hockey, specifically an OHL team! We'll be chatting with her tomorrow about her work with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, and how she turned a passion into a full-time job! Tune into The Hockey Show tomorrow night at 6:00PM CT on 101.5 UMFM and we'll chat with the Frontenacs' Social Media Coordinator Missy Deyo!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Injuries Mounting

If there's one thing about a short, intense camp where players are jockeying for te few open roster positions, it's that injuries can and will happen as players look to go the extra mile in making the team. There were a pile of reports out of camps today as players began feeling the tweaks and strains of intense camp workouts. And some teams have lost key players in these scrimmages and drills, making the job on the rest of the team a little harder when the season opens on Saturday.

With Ryan Kesler on the shelf already after having his wrist and shoulder operated on in the off-season, potential linemate David Booth joined him in the Canucks' infirmary. It was confirmed today that Booth has a groin strain and will miss 4-6 weeks while he rehabs the injury. Stepping up in Kesler's and Booth's places are Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian, but may be a far cry from what Kesler and Booth normally bring to the table in terms of talent. Chris Higgins may get some time on that line, and he's proven he can fill the net at the NHL level. Either way, though, the Canucks have found themselves two-thirds of a line down and we haven't even broken camp yet!

It sounds as though Winnipeg will be without a solid defensive forward as Antti Miettinen will miss at least the season opener against the Ottawa Senators with the mysterious "upper-body injury". Head coach Claude Noel confirmed the injury.
"He's going to be out indefinitely. We're doing some further testing on some things on him to assess the situation. It's not day to day. He won't be a player for Saturday."
While Miettinen isn't relied upon for scoring like Booth and Kesler are in Vancouver, he's a valuable penalty killer and a solid defensive player - something the Jets can definitely use. If Miettinen's injury is serious, could this be the break that Mark Scheifele needs to stay in Winnipeg all year?

The Calgary Flames have yet to see Jarome Iginla in high-intensity practices as he recovers from a groin injury. While the Flames insist that the exclusion of Iginla is "precautionary", you have to believe that the Flames are going to keep him out of practices until his groin is 100% ready. The Flames open their season on Sunday, and everyone in the Flames organization has been saying Iginla will suit up for their game, forward Roman Cervenka is going to be sitting until his serious medical condition - blot clots in his leg - is cleared by a hematology specialist.

Boston forward Marc Savard returned to the injured reserve list after being found medically unfit to play at this point in the season. I can't imagine how hard it is for Savard to be stuck on the sidelines, but I am very glad he isn't being put back in the line of fire after having his brain scrambled a few times. Savard's long-term health is far more important than a 48-game NHL season, so here's hoping the extra time off will help his head become less foggy. Here's hoping Marc Savard will look at the future and realize that hockey isn't worth potentially ruining his life. Stay on the sidelines, Marc, and get your head right.

With speculation confirmed today that Flyers forward Claude Giroux will be named captain in the coming days, that should pretty much close the book on Chris Pronger returning from his concussion problems. If this is truly the end of Pronger's career, I can assure it's not the way he wanted to go out, but, like Savard above, his long-term health is far more important than suiting up for one more game. If anyone in or around the Flyers organization can speak volumes about this, Pronger should be asking Keith Primeau. In any case, I hope the big defenceman can recover, but I'd rather see him healthy and happy than suffering a lifetime of pain.

The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings will be without Anze Kopitar for what appears to be a couple of weeks as he recovers from a knee injury. Missing Kopitar will be a large part of their offence on the sidelines, but the Kings may benefit from an earlier return if Kopitar's schedule works out. Either way, the Kings need all the offence they can find if they play like they did last season, and Kopitar is a large part of that offence.

Needless to say, there are some important players on the mend right now, and opening night might be missing a few of the league's brightest stars as they work through their injury troubles. Short camps and short seasons mean that we could see a spike in injuries this season. Let's hope that the stars remain healthy to ensure the fans come back.

Often.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Sun Sets On Gomez

If you're ever participating in a trivia game where you're asked what professional team did Scott Gomez last play for, your answer as of right now would be the ECHL's Alaska Aces. While it was thought that Gomez would be a buyout candidate this season, it appears that the Montreal Canadiens will wait until the summer to buyout the 33 year-old Alaska native. In the meantime, the Canadiens have informed Gomez to return home as he will not be playing hockey for them this season. With that news, Scott Gomez's NHL career may come to an end since he'll be spending the next four months watching rather than playing.

It's not far-fetched to say that Gomez won't be able to find a team that will sign him to a much lower salary than what he has received in La Belle Province. Perhaps he'll return to New Jersey where he can help a young winger find the net more often. Maybe he'll be welcomed back in the Big Apple as a Ranger where he can play a more defensive role on a star-studded lineup. Perhaps he'll find work with another team who needs a centerman who won't break the payroll.

It won't be with Montreal, though. "With where the cap is going to be next year, we had to buy out Scott's contract and the safest way to do that without risking him being injured was to send him home," GM Marc Bergevin said. "It's the rules we have to play by." And that brings an end to Gomez's career as a Montreal Canadien as he was shown the door on Sunday.

Gomez, of course, won the 1999-2000 Calder Trophy as the league's top freshman, and it appeared that he would have a long and prosperous career in the NHL as a slick playmaking centerman. He helped the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup in both 2000 and 2003, but slumped in terms of point production as he saw declines in each season from his rookie campaign in '99-00 through to '01-02 before posting a 15-point increase to 70 points - the same total he had in his rookie year - in '03-04.

After the lockout ended, Gomez put up his best total of his career in '05-06 when he finished second on the Devils in scoring with 84 points. That season also saw Gomez break the 20-goal mark for the first, and albeit the last, time in his career when he notched 33 goals! After another 60-point season in '06-07, Gomez hit the Big Apple after Glen Sather brought him to be the playmaker he thought the Rangers needed.

After seasons of 70 and 58 points that were making his lofty salary hard to justify in New York, Sather packaged him with Tom Pyatt and a prospect for Doug Janik, Chris Higgins, Pavel Valentenko and Ryan McDonagh in a trade that Canadiens fans still regret. While Montreal fans were hopeful the change of scenery for Gomez would result in immediate point increases, a one-point increase in '09-10 in his first season in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge was certainly not the increase they envisioned.

A 38-point season in '10-11 and 368 days between NHL goals resulted in a 11-point, 38-game 2011-12 season in which fans routinely called for his head to be placed on a chopping block after seeing nothing for the $7 million salary he was being paid. For Scott Gomez, leaving the New Jersey swamp led to some ugly times over the last six years, especially in Montreal.

That being said, there's no reason why Gomez can't return next year at a modest salary with a team that can use a revitalized, rested centerman who still has the hands to play in the NHL. While it will be tough to maintain the kind of competitive desire needed for an 82-game NHL schedule, Gomez can certainly find work in Europe, the KHL, or any professional league in North America. His previous work, his talent, and perhaps a little need to show everyone they were wrong could be enough for a team to take a chance on Gomez. I know that if I needed someone with a Stanley Cup pedigree to help a few younger players on my roster, I'd approach the Canadiens to see if Gomez could be loaned to my team. After all, the worst thing they can say is "no", right?

Whatever happens with Gomez in the next few months, I'd hope that he finds some passion to return to the NHL and tear it up. There's no reason he can't be one of the better playmakers in the league, but for a long, long time I have truly believed that he looked like he didn't have a care in the world whether his team won, lost, or fell through the ice. While it's nice to have that carefree attitude, it's not going to help you win many games in a league built on intense competition.

I'm not here to say that Gomez wasn't a competitor. He was the first guy in Zdeno Chara's face when he stanchion-slammed Max Pacioretty. From what's been said, he's a great guy in the locker room, and he's always helping the young guys. He's a committed team player. I'm not debating any of those behaviours and/or characteristics. For everything that's been said, Scott Gomez sounds like he has been one heckuva leader and teammate for some time.

What I am saying, though, is that he may have needed a boot to the rear in terms of igniting the competitive passion within him. He may have needed a shot in the arm in terms of getting him angry and fired up. Sending him home for four months before the season even starts - regardless of how Montreal does this season - should send a strong message that he simply isn't competing at an NHL level any longer. The buyout that is inevitably coming should be the insult-to-injury move that should motivate Gomez to take his game to at least another level, if not multiple levels, above where it is now.

If, however, Scott Gomez simply doesn't have the passion, competition level, intensity, or any other intangible that will motivate him to return from this hiatus, this might be the last we see of Scott Gomez as a hockey player in the NHL. I'm hoping it isn't, but if it is, he should ride off into the sunset with his head held high as a major trophy winner and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in the NHL.

But I'm thinking the slick playmaker will be back. And he'll be back with a vengeance and desire that we haven't seen in Scott Gomez in a long, long time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!