Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Year Of Thanks

It's been quite a year here on HBIC, in this writer's life, and across the hockey spectrum. I know everyone is preparing their 2014 lists, but I wanted to do something a little different this year. Far too often, we forget that there have been some exceptional people who have crossed our paths, and I want to give thanks to those who have crossed mine this year. Without these people, HBIC wouldn't be where it is, and The Hockey Show certainly wouldn't have had the success it did. So let's get it started by saying thank you, readers, for stopping by this year. You're going to hear that a lot on this entry.

First off, we were treated to some exceptional hockey in 2014. The NHL and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are always exciting, the AHL brought fans in Winnipeg a little closer to St. John's as the IceCaps made a run to the Calder Cup Final, some great uniforms from the ECHL, Shannon Szabados becoming the first woman to win an SPHL game in history, Erin Blair and Katie Guay officiating a men's professional game in the SPHL, and a myriad of great hockey stories. The leagues were busy, and HBIC tried to bring you the best stories from those leagues.

There was that little hockey tournament in February known as the Sochi Winter Olympics, and it might have been the only time that I woke up to drink beer at 6AM in my life. Canada's two gold medals at the Sochi Olympics saw the women knock the gorilla off their back as they downed Team USA in the gold medal final while the men simply suffocated every team they played in the medal round until they had their hands on their gold medals. The hockey was incredible, and we were lucky to witness such amazing performances from both Canadian squads.

The IIHF World Junior Championships saw Finland win on an overtime goal by Rasmus Ristolainen, and it appeared the Finns would be a major player in the World Junior Championships once more. Flash forward to December, and the Finns were fighting for their lives in the most recent World Junior Championships. Combine that with Denmark winning their first-ever game at the tournament, and there have been some exceptional storylines for junior-aged players around the globe as well.

To every single hockey player, coach, and executive - professional, amateur, junior, peewee, atom, and every level in between - thank you for your love of the game, your skill, your passion, and your dedication. HBIC would be nothing without you.

The Hockey Show has had a phenomenal year in terms of listeners and fun. Part of the reason for that is that we've been attracting some incredible guests, and these people need to be thanked for giving up their time to help us to their stories. Some of these people have well-known names, but other names will be less recognizable. All of them, though, had fantastic hockey stories to tell, and we are proud to feature them as well as hopeful they will return. In no particular order, these people deserve a hearty round of thanks for appearing on The Hockey Show:
  • Jared Keeso - star of 19/2 on Bravo and CTV.
  • Nicole Haase - writer for Bucky's 5th Quarter.
  • Jay Bodnar - musician from Eagle & Hawk.
  • Vince Fontaine - musician from Eagle & Hawk.
  • Jeremie Gauvin - MJHL/CIS/Hockey Canada official.
  • Amanda Schubert - goaltender for the Manitoba Bisons.
  • Alana Serhan - forward for the Manitoba Bisons.
  • Tasmine Hemingway - forward for the Manitoba Bisons.
  • Brody Jackson - Winnipeg radio host on QX104FM.
  • Samantha Stevens - Winnipeg radio host on QX104FM.
  • Kevin Wilson - director of the Re/Max Cup.
  • Jeff Nepinak - player at the Re/Max Cup.
  • Mike Dueck - official at the Re/Max Cup.
  • Vin, Dave, and Ivan - players at the Re/Max Cup.
  • Ted Irvine - retired NHL legend/forward.
  • Dirk Digglers hockey team - Winnipeg legends.
  • Jason Goulet - rep from Top Shelf Hockey.
  • Andrew Loewen - Columbus Cottonmouths' goalie.
  • Myles Doak - creator of SummerSkates.
  • John Corallo - owner of The Coop Ink/Don Cherry's tailor.
  • Brad Lukowich - retired NHL legend/defenceman.
  • Ciarán Downes - musician from Big Lonely.
  • Jake Heise - musician from Big Lonely.
  • Cole Mortillaro - musician from Big Lonely.
  • Theoren Fleury- retired NHL legend/forward & author.
  • Al Strachan - HHOF-inducted journalist & author.
  • Sean Pronger - retired NHL legend/forward & author.
Clearly, we had a few people on The Hockey Show over the last 365 days. These people are all awesome, and I am humbled, honoured, proud, and feel privileged to have welcomed to the show and call some of them friends. Thank you, everyone, for your appearances. Everyone one of you is an all-star.

To everyone who has stopped by, commented, sent an email, or clicked a link off this little project known as HBIC, thank you. As you know, I get paid nothing to do this, but it's you guys who keep me coming back. Th relationships I've forged with a number of you through this blog are held in the highest esteem, and I can't thank you enough for helping to make HBIC what it is. Thank you!

People like Neal and John who contribute articles continue to drive me to look at other opinions, and I love the interaction we have. I want to encourage anyone who has a desire to write to send me an article. I'm not going to destroy your work, and you will be credited entirely for the work you do. To all contributors here at HBIC, thank you for your hard work and effort. You guys make this blog so much better for everyone else.

There have been many companies who have generously and graciously sent me samples of products this year, and they have been put to good use by myself or by readers when awarded as prizes. I cannot thank enough those companies who have supplied some incredible stuff to me this year, and I want you to know that this blog is available to you for any news you may have on your products. To the book publishers, I am committing to reading a number of books now that I've settled in to the new home of HBIC, so everyone should be prepared for a lot of book reviews this year. Thank you to both the publishers and authors for this opportunity.

Finally, I want to say thank you to the people who are behind-the-scenes here at HBIC that do yeoman's work in keeping this blog running. I know I'm late some days with an entry, but these great people - and one mascot - continue to push me to keep abreast of everything in the hockey world: my parents, my brother, UMFM GM Jared, UMFM Program Director Michael, Brenden aka "Beans", Veronica aka "Columbus", carpooler and fantasy hockey lover Richie, Phuong, Marie the real estate agent, Chris Zuk, Jennifer Everard, and, of course, Meg the cat.

Yes, that's Meg watching hockey on TV.

Happy New Year, everyone, from Hockey Blog In Canada and The Hockey Show. All the best to you and yours in 2015, and may this be the best year for hockey yet!

Until 2015, keep your stick on the ice!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

On A Mission

HBIC is lucky enough to be on the radar for a few companies who enjoy sending products for me to test. For you, readers, I will not endorse anything without testing it first because if I won't buy, I don't expect you to buy that product either. Makes sense, right? I was lucky enough to have the Mission Belt Company send one of their newest designs, and I have to tell you that I am impressed with their product!

I had first heard about Nate Holzapfel and the Mission Belt Company through his pitch on ABC's Shark Tank. Granted, it had nothing to do with hockey, but the idea of redesigning the belt to work better was an intriguing idea. Since then, Nate's been pitching the Mission belt on various programs, and the results are very encouraging!
When you can get Daymond John, the founder of FUBU, to back your product, you know you have something special. The Mission Belt Company has been growing by leaps and bounds since that appearance on the TV show, and they've started to add new products to their lineup. One such product? Licensed sports!

I will tell you upfront that this belt fits well, and is certainly easier to fit on a waist than the conventional hole belts. The one-inch gaps between holes doesn't give you a tight fit if you're not exactly a specific size, so the belt is either too tight or too loose. The Mission Belt Company's ratchet belt is a thousand times better since the sizing is far more exact. Personally, I'm going to invest in a non-sports one for more formal attire because it fits so well. But - and this is the part I really like - there's a second reason to buy a belt from Mission Belt Company.

I used to work in the financial industry, and we tried to help the under-served a lot. Various initiatives and programs were designed to give those who needed a helping hand the steps and abilities they were seeking. The Mission Belt Company is doing something similar with their mission, and it's an initiative I believe in: one dollar from the sale of every belt is going to fight global hunger and poverty through micro-lending. Partnering with Kiva, a non-profit, peer-to-peer micro-lending organization, Mission Belt Company is working to reduce and, hopefully, eliminate world hunger and poverty by empowering those who want to make a difference in their communities through economic development and entrepreneurship.

As you can see from these graphs, the impact is already being felt around the world as Mission Belt Company and Kiva do their parts in helping the global community. Again, I think this is an excellent cause, so I'll be ordering myself a belt come 2015. For now, the Pittsburgh Penguins belt that Mission Belt Company generously sent to me is the best belt I have in my wardrobe without any doubt.

There is one caveat on the NHL belts: there are only 16 teams represented right now. Missing are Anaheim, Arizona, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Winnipeg. Of course, there may not be as much of a market for a Carolina or Edmonton belt as, say, a Toronto or Boston belt, but you'd have to think that Mission Belt Company will offer all of the teams in the near future.

Mission Belt Company gets a thumbs-up from me for their belts and, more importantly, their mission in helping to eliminate world hunger and poverty. The belt fits amazingly well, and the mission that Mission Belt Company is on to make the world a better place is one I can happily support. Well done, Mission Belt Company!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Live Blog: Canada Versus Finland

I haven't live-blogged a World Junior Championship game yet, so tonight seems like a good time to do that. I have a feeling that I might use a lot of Finnish/finish puns, so be prepared. Canada and Finland are preparing for an important game in both their championship runs this year, and I'll be looking for things that can and should be improved upon from the Canadian squad. Canada and Finland starts momentarily!

FIRST PERIOD

  • Zach Fucale gets the start for Canada. It appears that Juuse Saros will take the blue ice for Finland. This is a future NHL matchup, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Nick Petan's progress has to please the Jets. He was a late cut in training camp, and he's showing why he's going to make things tough for the Jets next season. 
  • Dear Gatorade: I hate your commercials. Thanks. 
  • Canada wins the opening face-off. Good start, yet Canada ices the puck. 
  • Wow, Saros just robbed Duclair on that shot.
  • Max Domi is gonna be a great player for the Coyotes. He's got that Dustin Brown grit, but better hands and a better scoring touch. He's gonna be a star, kids. 
  • Roope Hintz with some good jump, but Fucale makes the save.
  • Canada needs to stay focused here. Bad penalties are the best way to kill any building momentum. You just can't take them. 
  • Kasperi Kapanen needs to show that he has some heart. Horrible tournament thus far. Pittsburgh can't be happy. 
  • How did St. Louis draft Robbie Fabbri? That team is loaded! 
  • Atte Mäkinen will serve two-or-less as he got the stick up high on Gauthier.
  • Sam Reinhart ended that man-advantage quickly! Reinhart deposits the rebound in the yawning cage off the Theodore shot, and Canada leads! 1-0 CANADA.
  • WOW! Fucale comes up big on that Finnish chance!
  • Oh man! Fucale is looking to secure a Player-of-the-Game vote on that save off Puljujärvi! WOW! 
  • Samuel Morin looks a lot like Tyler Myers at this point in his career: huge potential, but he plays like he's 5'3", not 6'7". He needs a mean streak.
  • Good block on that Lazar shot. That's the sacrifice that Finland will have to make in this game to help Saros. Well done by Aleksi Mäkelä.
  • Lawson Crouse appears to be headed for a high-pick in 2016. 
  • Commercial break! I need a beverage. I'll be back in 30 seconds. 
  • Roope Hintz should go mid-first round. He's a dynamite skater. 
  • Fucale looks sharp. No rebounds. Nothing soft. This is promising. 
  • Can you imagine if Finland loses tonight, and then loses to Germany? They host the World Junior Championship next year, and they might be playing for their lives if they hit the relegation round! 
  • That was a bad penalty by Reinhart. Forget two minutes for tripping. That's two minutes for stupidity. 
  • Finland has yet to hit the net on this powerplay. They won't have a chance if this continues. Credit to Canada for filling the lanes.
  • Mikko Rantanen is the only Finn going to the high-traffic areas. There's a reason this kid has both goals for Finland in this tournament.
  • Official HBIC mascot Meg the cat has seen enough. She's off to bed.
  • That got a little physical. Honka paid the price against Ritchie.
  • That'll do it for the first period. Canada with an early edge in goals!

FIRST INTERMISSION

  • Do I stick around to hear James Duthie and Bob McKenzie talk about the game? Nah, it's channel surfing time. Jets and Wild are on!
  • Hey, the Jets are leading 1-0! Michael Frolik! 
  • Minnesota takes a timeout with 2:53 in the first period. Think they want these two points against a division rival? 
  • Bill Nye and Chris O'Dowd in a Nike commercial. It happened. 
  • How about Canada beating Jokerit in the Spengler Cup? Team Canada is rolling!

SECOND PERIOD

  • Looks like the Reinhart-Domi-Duclair line will start.
  • Max Domi is fearless. Two huge shot blocks!
  • Wow. Paul and Petan have incredible hands.
  • Crouse was absolutely robbed by Saros! WOW!
  • Max Domi just rung one off the goal post! Good to see him back! 
  • Saros just robbed Curtis Lazar! WOW again!
  • The pace of this game is incredible. We've played one-and-a-half periods and squeezed in an intermission in just over an hour!
  • Joonas Lyytinen is off for high-sticking, and Canada's back to the powerplay.
  • Fabbri just missed that gorgeous back-door feed from McDavid, and that's why McDavid will be the first-overall pick. Incredible hands to get that pass through! 
  • Again, Fucale is dialed in. Shot, no rebound, whistle, and we'll go to commercial.
  • WOW! Domi to Duclair to Reinhart streaking through the middle, and he makes no mistake. The chip shot is up over Saros' right shoulder, and Reinhart has his second! 2-0 CANADA.
  • No offence to the Finns reading this, but this Finnish team looks nothing like it did last year. Zero heart being shown in all three zones.
  • Compared to the game against Germany, Canada has been light years better. 
  • Sebastian Aho with a great deflection, but Fucale says no once more. 
  • Apparently, Ray Ferraro is a poor Minecraft player. Gord Miller says he is too.
  • Artturi Lehkonen capitalizes on the Samuel Morin mistake, and his low shot isn't handled by Fucale well. Lehkonen taps in his own rebound, and Finland is on the board! 2-1 CANADA.
  • Imagine that: a Flyers draft pick mishandles a puck. Seems almost too fitting.
  • At the end of two periods, Canada has a 2-1 lead!

SECOND INTERMISSION

  • Winnipeg has a 2-1 lead on the Wild! Mathieu Perreault with the second Jets' goal, and Ryan Carter has the goal for the Wild.
  • Does anyone actually believe the Oilers got better by trading Mark Arcobello for Derek Roy? I'm sorry, but Craig MacTavish needs to be fired. Derek Roy didn't record a shot in his last six games. Not a point - a shot! If I'm Arcobello, I'm sending MacTavish a thank-you gift.
  • Secondly, if you're the Oilers, why trade Arcobello when you could have just claimed Roy on waivers? You're the worst team in the NHL - no one else can claim him before you!
  • The Oilers might be the worst team in the standings, but their front office is an absolute mess. I'm sorry, but Craig MacTavish and his team of monkeys are laughable. 
  • Fontaine scores, and the Wild and Jets are tied 2-2.

THIRD PERIOD

  • Reinhart-Domi-Duclair start the period once more! 
  • Connor McDavid just got straight-armed by Aleksi Mäkelä. He would have been in alone had he not been so rudely stopped.
  • That's a weak call on Darnell Nurse. Regardless, he'll sit for two or less. 
  • Julius Honka appears to play like he's scared to make a mistake. How about some creativity? Where's the skill? 
  • I don't understand the Finnish strategy. Why are there three guys back when you need a goal? Send someone up to create the odd-man situation!
  • I like coach Benoit Groulx's idea: defend in the offensive zone. That'll work! 
  • Beauty! Anthony Duclair is the recipient of a rebound off Max Domi's sweet hands to the front of the net, and Duclair goes over the pads for his goal! 3-1 CANADA.
  • That two-goal lead is huge!
  • Sebastien Aho with the high-stick on Dylan Heatherington, and Canada will have the powerplay for the next couple of minutes! 
  • After about 20 seconds of Canadian domination and an injury to Honka, Curtis Lazar pokes home a loose puck under Saros' pad on powerplay! 4-1 CANADA.
  • Honka looks like he's really hurt after taking that puck off the outside of the knee.
  • The singing has started in Montreal, folks! 
  • Virtanen has to be careful. Alex Lintuniemi hit Lazar from behind, and Virtanen didn't like it. Looks like it'll be coincidental minors, but Virtanen can't risk a suspension.
  • Jesse Puljujärvi is the Finnish Player of the Game. By a wide margin.
  • Sebastien Aho might be seeing stars after that Nick Ritchie hit. WOWZERS!
  • That'll do it, kids! 4-1 Canada, and the US awaits them on New Year's Eve!
It's hard to believe that Finland hasn't recorded a win yet, and they'll have their hands full with Germany on New Year's Eve. Canada, though, looks impressive and plays a much cleaner game than we saw against Germany in their game. Canada and the US will play for top spot in the pool in two nights. Be ready!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Real Test Begins

Well, that's two games played and Canada has surrendered a total of zero goals. Not a bad way to start Hockey Canada's biggest tournament in terms of breeding gold medal success. However, as Canadians, we need to temper the excitement seen in destroying a Slovakian team that was clearly overmatched. We need to stifle the growing anticipation of a walk in the park after the game against a German team that wasn't going to roll over for the red-and-white.

Instead, Canada, we need to bear down and prepare to be tested because the next two games - against Finland and the US - will be anything but easy. And after a lackluster game against Germany where passes weren't crisp or accurate and shots were hitting boards instead of the net, Canada needs to get themselves prepared for two teams that should be considered gold medal favorites.

With Finland already having dropped a game in this tournament, you know that they're going to gun for every point left on the table. Canada's day off today should help them gain some insight into systems and plays run by Team USA as they take on the same German team Canada played last night, but the Finns are the next target for this Canadian team and should not be overlooked despite that 2-1 loss to Slovakia.

Finland's goaltending thus far has been ok, but not what was expected. Juusi Saros sits tied for 14th-overall in save percentage, and he's much better than that. As we saw with Shairpov against the Americans tonight, perhaps he just needs to feel the pressure of the "big game" to turn it on and help Finland to its first win of the tournament. His goals-against-average is a respectable 2.04, so it's not like he's being blown out in games. That means he's doing all he can to keep Finland in their games, but isn't getting the help he needs elsewhere.

Finland's issue is that they don't generate much offence, but they are a good team when it comes to capitalizing on mistakes. For team boasting great young players like Kasperi Kapanen and Julius Honka, having those two pile up no goals or points in their first two games is concerning. Mikko Rantenan has all of Finland's offence to date as he's scored both Finnish goals, so the Finns are going to have to generate some offence somewhere if they hope to beat Canada.

Canada, for all they've done in their first two games, can't play as loose or as fancy against the Finns. Again, the Finns have the talent to put the puck in the net if the puck is turned over, so being more efficient with the puck has to be the priority for the Canadians against Finland. They were sloppy and missed targets all over the place against Germany, and those kinds of mistakes will come back to hurt Canada against a more talented squad.

That being said, expect Canada to play much better and the score to reflect that commitment to a better effort. All of it is in preparation for the New Year's Eve game against Canada's arch-rivals in the Americans, and it appears that game will determine who wins this pool with the Slovaks, Finns, and Germans well back of where the North American teams sit.

Canada and the USA always have huge battles in their game, and this one will be no different. How Canada plays against Finland, though, may determine a lot in this game. Giveaways, poor passes up the middle, diagonal passes through the defensive zone, and poor puck possession numbers must be improved upon for tomorrow's game and the New Year's Eve game if Canada wants to win their pool. Those plays are incredible when they work, but they expose the team when they don't. The high-risk, high-reward plays that Canada was trying for against Germany won't fly against Finland, and they certainly won't fly against the Americans.

Tomorrow night, Canada takes the first step in looking to reclaim the gold medal that has eluded them for so long. It's up to them whether that first step is on solid ground.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The New Jersey Debacles

Well, Lou Lamoriello was a busy guy on Boxing Day. No, he wasn't here in Canada looking for great deals on whatever he didn't get for Christmas. Instead, he was busy cleaning house as he dismissed head coach Peter DeBoer and assistant coach Dave Barr from the team. In their place, it was rumored that Paul MacLean might be taking over as the recently-fired Senators coach was looking for work. Today, though, it was announced that Lou Lamoriello himself would step behind the bench once more to join Adam Oates, who will be in charge of the forwards, and Scott Stevens, who will be in charge of the defencemen, as the associate coaches of the New Jersey Devils. Gong show? You betcha.

The Devils are a mess when it comes to offensive production, but they aren't out of a playoff race by any means at this point in the season. They currently sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 31 points, but they only trail the Washington Capitals by nine points for the last wild card spot. It's not unthinkable that the Devils could go on a run if they can find some offence. After all, they are 26th-overall for goal differential at -26. While being 25th-overall in goals-against doesn't help, they're also only 26th-overall in goals-for despite having players named Jagr, Elias, Zajac, and Cammalleri, and sit 28th-overall in goals-per-game at 2.11. The Devils were 114-93-41 under DeBoer's watch, but a horrid 4-26 in shootouts which was part of their Achilles' heel last season in missing the playoffs.

Peter DeBoer, though, won't get a chance to right this ship. He'll be at home, watching his former team from his television as they try to make a push for the playoffs under Lamoriello, Oates, and Stevens. Personally, I'm not sure what those three men will accomplish that Oates and Stevens couldn't do under DeBoer, but Lamoriello will oversee everything from a more intimate perspective instead of from his perch in the sky.

Lamoriello does have a solid coaching record after his brief stint as Devils head coach in 2005-06. He went 32-14-4 after firing Larry Robinson following a 14-13-5 start. Adam Oates has a longer track record as he coached the Washington Capitals in 130 games, going 65-48-17 in that span. Scott Stevens has no head coaching experience, but he's been behind the Devils' bench since 2012 as an assistant coach to Mr. DeBoer.

Lamoriello has already said that his time behind the bench will be temporary, so you have to wonder who will run the show as this three-headed monster travels to Madison Square Garden tonight for a game against the Rangers. While Oates and Stevens are co-coaching this team, who gets the final say on goaltending changes or lineup changes? Do they defer to Lamoriello in those cases?

Lou Lamoriello has always done things his way without exception. The firing of DeBoer and appointment of co-coaches is certainly another chapter to Lamoriello's history. His previous odd timings of firing coaches has shaken the Devils as a team enough to win Stanley Cups as well as completely combust. The one factor that Lamoriello can always point to, though, is that the Devils always seem to respond to his moves despite their erratic timings.

Make no mistake, though, that the Devils will live and die by their lack of offence this season. Having three of the five oldest players in the NHL won't help in what is generally regarded as a young man's game, but Lamoriello needed a spark to light the fire under a few players' keisters.

With Trader Lou behind the bench now, it will either be shape up or ship out as the GM's eyes will be on everyone from a much closer point-of-view.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 December 2014

IceBoxing Day!

Hockey Blog In Canada wants that fridge to the left. That, readers, is the Molson Canadian Slap Shot Beer Fridge, and it will be on display in both Montreal and Toronto during the IIHF World Junior Championship! Now you might be saying "Teebz, it's just a fridge", but I'd stop you right there in your tracks. You see, this is no ordinary fridge, and it won't have your usual Molson adult beverages in it for the lucky few who are able to snipe their way to awesomeness. If legends are born at the World Junior Championship, the Molson Canadian Slap Shot Beer Fridge will certainly make a few fans into legends!

Molson Canadian has had a long association with hockey in this great land of ours, and they'll be helping those who like beverages to get in the spirit with their new limited edition can design as seen to the right. Molson Canadian is proud to help commemorate Hockey Canada's 100 Year Anniversary and to highlight two legendary gold-medal winning years of 1993 and 2005 for Team Canada. Personally, I've never collected cans of any sort, but I do know that there have been some cans that have become iconic for their imagery. The Don Cherry "Bubba" Can is one such can. If you're a collector, though, these cans are available for only a short time as Canada looks to start a new gold medal-winning streak here in 2015!

As stated above, Molson Canadian has a long history of supporting hockey and has been in partnership with Hockey Canada for the past twelve years. This year, though, Molson Canadian is giving fans a chance to snipe for awesome prizes! The Molson Canadian Slap Shot Beer Fridge only opens if a puck is shot through the puck slot, so start working on that accuracy! Prizes will include Team Canada jerseys, tickets to games throughout the World Junior Championship, and much, much more! How cool is that?

This is somewhat like the passport fridge that Molson Canadian set up at the Canadian Pavilion in Sochi during the Winter Olympics. It's a pretty cool idea, and I'd love a chance to shoot for whatever prizes may be inside. With Molson being a major hockey supporter, you know the pries are going to be awesome. If you're in Montreal or Toronto during this holiday season, grab you stick and head down to the rinks where the World Junior Championship is being held and see if you can score yourself some gear and tickets compliments of Molson Canadian!

While you won't get a gold medal, it might be the best score all year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 120

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back on the air tonight at 4pm CT once more! I know it's Christmas, so I want to wish everyone the merriest of Merry Christmases this year, and I hope you'll join us on UMFM for some hockey chatter tonight. It should be a fun show as we have a special guest coming on - no, not Santa Claus - and we'll chat some hockey with him!

You may not recognize the man to the left, but he has a lineage of hockey in his family and he was a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens! That's Terry Ryan, and, while his hockey career didn't pan out as he had hoped, he's been doing a lot of cool stuff in the meantime including acting, writing a book, and playing high-level senior men's hockey! We'll talk to him about his short NHL career, his other professional hockey stops, his skill as a ball hockey player, his family's legacy in hockey, and everything else he's been doing! Terry's a busy guy, so you don't want to miss this interview if you enjoy listening to a funny guy tell stories about his life!

We'll also talk about the World Junior Championships kicking off in Toronto and Montreal, what Canada's chances of bringing home a gold - or any - medal are, and we'll look at some of the players worth keeping an eye on during this tournament. We'll talk a little about the Spengler Cup as well as we look at Team Canada's chances in Davos, Switzerland. And we'll talk of simpler times like the image below from The Saturday Evening Post!
Happy Holidays!

Being that it's Christmas and we have Mr. Ryan on, the phones will be closed. You can hear all the interviews on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 4:00pm 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. There are lots of ways for you to interact with The Hockey Show!

Merry Christmas to all from Hockey Blog In Canada and The Hockey Show!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Subban Is Awesome

Everyone seems to have an opinion on PK Subban, but it's time to start giving credit where its due. Subban is one of the best defencemen in the game right now, and he's always been about entertaining the fans. From celebrations after wins to fist-pumping after big goals to throwing a massive hit, Subban is always looking to turn the volume up a few notches with his performance. Quite frankly, I enjoy his antics on the ice, but his off-ice persona is starting to become even more impressive since he's normally making someone's day better. That's how you win at life, and I'd say that PK Subban is certainly racking up the points in the winning-at-life column.

Case in point? Check out what PK Subban did for a group of young Canadiens fans in the video below. His alternate persona - Karl - should be used in the future for another fun outing!
PK Subban: Life MVP. The smiles on the faces of those kids is evidence enough that Subban truly is awesome!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ain't No Bull

I'll be honest when I say that the most I know about the Pro Bull Riding circuit is that the competitors ride bulls and try not to get killed. I know that Carey Price is a big fan, and he routinely takes in competitions during the off-season. I know that riders are sometimes injured during these competitions as the angry, thrashing bovine has little regard for human life in this contest. What I didn't know is that the bull pictured above is named Gretzky or Gretsky, depending on who you ask, and that The Great One has a stake in the bull riding game!

Back in 2008, NFL legend John Elway and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky jumped into the Professional Bull Riders' world as shareholders through Spire Capital, a private-equity firm that partnered with the PBR in 2007! Both Gretzky and Elway know Ty Murray, founder of the PBR and a Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer.

"In sort of watching it as an outsider, the PBR is a lot like NASCAR," Gretzky told USA Today's Gary Mihoces. "They really do a tremendous job of involving the fans, and corporate sponsorship is really strong. And they're worldwide."

I would have never taken Wayne Gretzky to be a PBR fan, let alone an investor. I know Mr. Gretzky has invested in a number of ventures in terms of having a varied financial portfolio, but the Professional Bull Riders' circuit is one of those things where you'd never even think a hockey legend would be interested in. Instead, Wayne threw his support behind the PBR, and the rest is history!

As for the other Gretzky in this equation, he's simply a brute force!

The Great One and Gretzky the bull: two forces to be reckoned with!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Wilkesburgh Penguins

Remember this logo put out by Zephyr as a spin on the skating penguin? Tonight's game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Florida Panthers should have some sort of mash-up between the Pittsburgh and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton logo with everyone the Penguins have out right now. And what's causing this mass exodus out of the Penguins' dressing room? The mumps! Luckily, the Penguins have a solid farm club who doesn't play until Saturday, so they can pick up the slack for the fallen flightless birds!

The image to the right is the actual line-up playing in Sunrise tonight for the Penguins. A number of regular are missing from the line-up, replaced by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's finest. They included goaltender Jeff Zatkoff who arrived at the arena tonight in Florida at 7:05pm - just 25 minutes before the game was scheduled to start! There are a lot of names that might not be recognized on that line-up as Steve Downie, Thomas Greiss, and Brandon Sutter were all sent home as a precaution for mumps testing. You just hope that none of the guys filling in get afflicted with the mumps!

Here are the guys that the Penguins are using tonight to fill out a roster. I'll post some info beside each name as well so that you get a sense of the shorthanded situation they're in. Ready?
  • Scott Harrington: 2 NHL games total. 115 AHL games.
  • Brian Dumoulin: 11 NHL games total. 180 AHL games.
  • Andrew Ebbett: 209 NHL games for five NHL teams in nine seasons.
  • Bobby Farnham: 4 NHL games total. 176 AHL games. 593 AHL PIMs.
  • Bryan Rust: 4 NHL games total. 28 AHL games.
  • Taylor Chorney: 61 NHL games for three NHL teams in seven seasons.
  • Derrick Pouliot: 1 NHL game total. 24 AHL games.
Four of those guys are defencemen, and the Penguins are actually using Chorney as a forward tonight in Florida. Like the Jets, the decimated Penguins blue line is getting the job done with the young kids. The Penguins trail the league-leading Anaheim Ducks by a point, and are 7-1-2 in their last ten games despite the mumps taking over the Consol Energy Center!

The Christmas break might be the best thing to happen to the Penguins after they finish this road swing in the Sunshine State because there aren't many bodies left on the farm! After tonight's game against the Panthers, they'll head up the interstate to Tampa Bay for tomorrow's game against the Lightning.

Let's just hope no one gets injured tonight!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Fantastic Piece

The rather emotionless gentleman in the fuzzy photo to the left is actually one of the bravest men when it came to his hockey career. He doesn't look very happy, but days later would be the scariest few days in his life followed by some of the greatest happiness seen on the young man's face. Alexander Mogilny defected from the Soviet Union during a time when walking away would result in many years of hard labor and possibly death if caught. Alexander Mogilny's story from the Sabres' side is told in the piece below.

I haven't been overly complimentary of Sportsnet's coverage of the NHL, but I have to admit that this piece on Alexander Mogilny is awesome. Kudos are deserved for Director of Editorial Planning and Research Marc LeBlanc, Director and Producer Jeremy McElhanney, and the entire Sportsnet crew that worked on this piece. Fantastic work!

Here is Defector: The Alexander Mogilny Story!

Who would have thought that President George H. W. Bush would have played a major role in helping Alexander Mogilny stay in the US after he defected? That's such a cool fact considering the President of the United States of America rarely gets involved in the sports arena when it comes to political persecution!

Again, Sportsnet did an amazing job on this piece, and I commend them for their efforts. If this is how investigative journalism will look for hockey going forward, consider me a fan!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Great, The Unfortunate, And The Stupid

Tonight's hockey action saw a lot of good, some bad, and definitely some ugly. The three men in the image above don't really represent those three sentiments, but they do represent the three traits in the title of this article. Alexander Ovechkin, Dennis Wideman, and Willie Mitchell - three veteran players - will demonstrate the great plays, the unfortunate plays, and the downright stupid plays from last night.

We'll start with a great play, and it was pulled off by The Great Eight as he made two New Jersey defencemen look like pylons.
Jon Merrill one-on-one with Alexander Ovechkin is a mismatch in talent from the start. However, Travis Zajac should have recognized who had the puck and who he was looking to victimize as he was back-checking. Instead, Ovechkin now has a "Goal of the Year" video to submit, Jon Merrill has a video to suppress on his free agency resumé, and the rest of the planet can salivate over Ovechkin finding a little of his mojo once more.

From the great play, we move to a most unfortunate play. Dennis Wideman is a solid defenceman on a Falmes team that is reeling right now, and his play with Jonas Hiller on the bench during a delayed penalty didn't help the Flames break out of their funk last night against Vancouver.
Yannick Weber of the Canucks was credited with the goal, but Wideman's 200-foot bank shot was hard to watch. Wideman was clearly looking to send the puck back to Mason Raymond, but the two didn't connect whatsoever. Instead, the Flames went to the powerplay down 1-0 on Wideman's and Raymond's miscues. In the end, the Flames would fall in overtime to the Canucks by a 3-2 score. That goal would come back to haunt the Flames on this night.

Finally, Willie Mitchell has played 826 NHL games, including tonight's game, and he's always been a respectable defenceman. He was brought in by Florida this season to be a veteran leader for the young kids on the Panthers' blue line, but I'm not sure anyone should follow his utterly stupid lead from tonight.
Willie Mitchell might be looking at a suspension for his use of Kris Letang's helmet as a weapon. Letang's extra poke at Luongo was probably warranting a talking-to and maybe a facewash, but both Mitchell and Letang were given five minutes each for their tussle. However, it appeared the referees missed the helmet swing that Mitchell attempted, and we already know that the league doesn't take lightly to idiotic moves like Mitchell's attempt to use the helmet for anything but protecting a skull.
Expect a fine, but don't be surprised by a suspension for Florida's captain.

I also want to express some relief that Jannik Hansen of the Canucks seems to be fine after collapsing on the Vancouver bench. Hansen was hit by the aforementioned Dennis Wideman in tonight's game at 1:27 of the second period, and it appeared that Hansen was winded or in some pain as he skated back to the Vancouver bench. Moments later, the Canucks' bench was calling for team doctors.

The good news is that Hansen walked down the tunnel to the Canucks' dressing room under his own power, and he seemed to be moving without any noticeable struggle. Let's hope that everything turns out ok for the Vancouver forward. We don't need anything awful to report during this festive season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Good In Both Zones

The Jets and Bruins tangled tonight, and it was a solid effort by a depleted roster that helped the Jets to the 2-1 win. As seen to the left, newest Jet Jay Harrison will wear #23 for the foreseeable future, and he had an impact already as he picked up an assist. On whose goal, you ask? Evander Kane's first period goal, and that brings us to tonight's topic: Kane's play as of late. While there's some concern about his projected totals this season, his play in the final minute of tonight's game is proof that he might be maturing as a player, and the results are encouraging.

We'll start with Kane's goal because he finally did what fans have been crying for since he rolled into town: he went to the net! Grant Clitsome's point shot was stopped by Tuukka Rask, but Kane beat his man to the net and was able to sweep the rebound into the net. For a guy who is known to be a power forward more than a finesse forward, he finally showed that he's willing to go to the high-traffic area to earn himself a point. Let's hope this continues.

However, it was his play in the final minute that really caught my attention. Kane, who had been out for the previous 45 seconds, was dead-tired as the Bruins pressed for the tying goal with six attackers. Kane, who is supposed to cover the point, never left his zone despite him running on fumes, and was the man who finally cleared the puck out of the zone thanks to him staying where he's supposed to be. In other words, he did his job defensively. And did it well!

Paul Maurice's confidence in his young star has never wavered from what he says, but there are definitely times in the past where Kane wouldn't be on the ice in that final minute. Kane has shown a penchant for back-checking in the last few months - along wit his teammates - and the commitment to defence has put Winnipeg into a playoff spot.

This writer won't lie when I suggested at the beginning of the season that the Jets would miss the playoffs if Kane wasn't a factor, but I was suggesting that he needed to be more of an offensive threat. Instead, Paul Maurice has him playing confident hockey in the defensive zone - something not seen from Kane since the Jets moved back from Atlanta!

Tonight, the Jets got the effort they needed from Kane on both ends of the ice, and it provides hope that his game is finally maturing into the complete package that Claude Noel was always trying to get out of him. This is the Evander Kane that can be considered one of the best wingers in the game of he brings this kind of effort nightly. This is the Evander Kane who can lead the Jets to the playoffs as long as he's putting this kind of game together every night.

The pat on the helmet from head coach Paul Maurice and the jostling from Chris Thorburn show the appreciation from both men when it comes to Kane's effort tonight. I'm quite certain that the curtain call for Kane when he was named as one of the three stars was the loudest cheer he's received from the Winnipeg fans to date. The fans here aren't dumb; they appreciate the effort that goes into winning. Blue-collar efforts like Kane gave tonight will win back his detractors in spades!

Tonight was one of Evander Kane's best games, and I'm happy to have witnessed it. All he has to do is follow it up with another game like tonight!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 119

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is opening the doors for the extended hockey family tonight! With Beans off vacationing in warmer climates and Columbus at home in the Twin Cities, I was feeling a little lonesome in the booth, so I decided to do something dramatic! Straight Ahead with Aaron Sabasch, a fantastic little jazz show, is on holiday hiatus as well, so I sent the boss a memo, made an executive decision, and I'm taking his timeslot! With the extra time, I'm inviting back two of The Hockey Show's favorite guests, and we'll welcome a brand-new friend to the show as Extended Hockey Family Episode takes shape!

The show will open at 4:00pm CT, so mark your calendars! This two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza will open with our good friend Isabelle Germain joining me from 4:00pm until 4:45pm! I've been trying to get Isabelle on for a while as we want to talk about a pile of things. We'll discuss the CWHL All-Star Game and the emergence of the women's game as not only a great sport, but as an alternative hockey source for many families. We'll talk about the success of Shannon Szabados in Columbus, Georgia with the SPHL's Cottonmouths, and the recent game where referees Erin Blair and Katie Guay called the game. We'll talk about the CIS teams out east as well with the co-host of East Coast Sport Show on Bell Aliant Community One TV, Miss Isabelle Germain!

The guests dropping by don't stop there, though. From 4:45pm to 5:30pm, I am honoured to welcome back one of Canada's best actors, in this guy's opinion, in Mr. Jared Keeso! We're going to talk to Jared about his work on 19-2 and the upcoming second season starting in January! We'll discuss his favorite team in the Calgary Flames, and how they've proved all the pundits wrong thus far. We'll discuss the hockey scene in Montreal as that's where he was filming 19-2, we'll talk about him starring in a new Heritage Moment commercial, and we may even get some insight on upcoming projects that Jared is involved in! It's been a while since we've had Jared on, so this truly does feel like a family reunion!

Yet we're still not done as we have an hour left in the show! So who else could be dropping by? If you recognize the smiling face to the left, you already know that The Hockey Show is honoured, privileged, and proud to welcome former NHL star, former Manitoba Moose centerman, and author Sean Pronger to the program from 5:30pm to 6:30pm! Sean and I will discuss a lot of stuff in his book, we'll chat some fun hockey stuff, and we might even work in a few questions about his lesser-known brother, Chris. I'm really excited to be able to talk to Mr. Pronger because he was a great player when he suited up for the Moose, and his book is hilarious so I'm sure he'll bring a lot of fun and laughter to the show!

Tonight is going to a jam-packed show, so I'm going to let everyone know that the phones will be closed. You can hear all the interviews on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 4:00pm 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. There are lots of ways for you to interact with The Hockey Show, so tune in tonight and hear from three amazing people as we bring together the extended hockey family for a night of fun and laughs!

FULL PODCAST: DECEMBER 18, 2014: Episode 119
Isabelle Germain interview
Jared Keeso interview
Sean Pronger interview

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Correctly Coding Color

Occasionally, programmers and coders run into a little problem of color. Colors in the coding world are based on what are called "hex codes" based on hexidecimal values in mixing the primary colors of blue, green, and red. Most are written in the format #000000 (that would be black) in order to achieve the color needed. Because it's written in hexidecimal format, you can have over 16 million colors to choose from when looking for a specific shade! Needless to say, there's a color for every programmer out there.

Graphic designers require specific shades of color for logos and designs, so they are extremely picky when it comes to eggshell versus white. Relating this to hockey, there are a ton of specific colors that are used for logos and jerseys in the NHL, and finding the right hexidecimal code on the internet for your team could be a bit of a chore.

Until today as I'd like to present Team Hex Codes! Big stick tap to my friend Tessa V. for finding this site and sharing it. Suddenly, finding the right shade of light blue for the Jets is no longer a guessing game!

The site has the hex codes for NFL, MLB, and MLS teams as well, but no NBA teams at this time. What's cool about the Team Hex Code is that if you are an aspiring coder, you can grab the source code over at GitHub and make changes or add teams or even add a league! Personally, I'd like to see alternate and throwback colors added for the NHL teams. Obviously, the Winter Classic jerseys for the Capitals aren't included, but the alternate colors for the Penguins and Islanders are also missing.

If that's the only complaint with this site, though, most coders are going to love it! I do caution that some of the colors seem slightly off - Phoenix's Coyote logo is more brown than what is shown on the image, but the hex code matches the picture. Therein lies the rub, and it might be a good idea to do a little research if you're planning to design a site off these colors. You can never go wrong with a second opinion!

This is a great site to begin working with hex codes for colors, though, and you might find that you can find one of the 16 million colors that works a little better than what the site has when you're coding your NHL colors. Maybe you'll discover you have an eye for this graphic design thing!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Who's Next Permanently?

It's been a while since all the Whos in Whoville have been happy and dancing joyously. Oilers fans have known heartbreak and disappointment for way too long, and they'll have to be buoyed by the fact that Todd Nelson might be able to squeeze out the remaining life in this Oilers squad. But where hope fails, disappointment lives. It's for this reason that a new coach who employs a new system that maximizes the talents of the Oilers could bring back some hope to the Alberta capital. Hope springs eternal, and if the Oilers show life under a new coach, there may be just enough of a heartbeat to rescue this franchise from the cellar of the NHL where they seemed to be trapped.

Of course, the question of who will lead them into light is a massive one. Today, HBIC is proud to welcome back Neal L. with his thoughts on how the Oilers can make a turn-around with a new man behind the bench. This new coach will require some criteria that will be laid out by Neal, but I think he may be onto something here. I'll discuss below, but here's who Oilers GM Neal is looking for in his search for the next head coach of the Oilers!
So by now, unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard that the Edmonton Oilers have axed coach Dallas Eakins. It was a move that many pundits have been discussing should have happened for some time. While people have speculated who should replace Eakins behind the bench, I'm here to tell you that the perfect solution may have landed right into the Oilers laps.

Before I get to who the Oilers should hire, I'd like to explain some of my reasoning on who the club should get. Most people seem to think that the Oilers need a defensive coach who will plug up some of their holes in their defense and give the goalies a better chance at stopping the puck. You can simply hear the collective voices of all the experts: if the Oilers could just shut people down their superior talent should win them many games. That's the missing link a coach that will teach them how to play team defense and that winning will follow.

My response is that all of those opinions are simply poppycock. For me there are several reasons why this is the case. My first reason is that you need to tailor a system to the players on your roster. While you may think that Nail Yakupov is a waste of space and you would like to have him off your roster, you should make the most of his abilities while he is on your roster. I don't think Yakupov will ever be an effective defender, so put him in position for what he does best: scoring goals on the offensive side of the ice. That goes for several of the other talented forwards out there as well. I don't want Taylor Hall locking down a winger; I want Hall causing a rush for the Oilers.

I don't want to make it seem like I feel like defense isn't important because it most certainly is. My opinion is that players work best when they are asked to do roles that favors them the best. The Oilers could cause havoc with an aggressive forecheck using what should be their superior skill to hem opposing teams in their own zone. With youth on their side, they could wear teams down over the course of the game. It is a battle they can win.

On the flip side, playing defense is a battle I don't see the team winning. Other than guys like Benoit Pouliot, their roster isn't equipped to play a shut down type of game. In some ways, it is just a losing proposition. Part of coaching is putting your players in a position to succeed. The most effective coaches throughout history don't necessarily stray from their system, but tweak it so their players can succeed. Putting a defense-first coach behind the bench goes against that in my opinion. Another one of my reasons is that the Oilers defense isn't that bad to begin with!

The Oilers defense has been a punch-line over the course of several seasons. Multiple highlights show blown or just lazy coverage leading to a slam dunk goal for the other team. The Oilers are second-to-last in goals-against-per-game giving up well over three goals a game. The solution for a defensive coach seems so easy. How can I possibly defend this unit? As I am about to tell you, the stats seem to indicate the Oilers are about an average NHL defensive team.

The first stat is the Oilers are almost exactly mid-pack in terms of shots-against-per-game. Some people may counter that this stat is deceiving. First, they will point that those shots the other team are getting are higher quality which isn't captured in the stat. In addition, the other argument is that teams with the lead may stop pressuring as much opting instead just to get pucks deep and keep it away from their own end. There are stats that dispute these counters.

According to advanced stats, the Oilers are tenth-best in Corsi against in five-on-five situations. In other words, they are better-than-average in keeping the other team from possessing the puck. For those who think this stat is padded by blowouts, they are actually only 19th in five-on-five situations when down two or more goals. In terms of Fenwick percentage, they are 15th in Fenwick-against. Nothing spectacular, but a sign of at least a competent unit.

The real problem is goaltending. Scrivens and Fasth have proven to be quite a screen door when it comes to stopping the puck. Both sport save percentage in the .800-range when the NHL average is about .915. Some of these goals could be caused by bad defense, but a lot of them are not. I would argue most teams have lapses in coverage during games, but good NHL goaltenders make the save. Replacing them with a statistical average goalie would have already yielded almost 30 fewer goals. Even replacing them with a .900 save percentage yields 25 fewer goals. The goaltending is the main problem, not the defense. This leads me to who I think should be coach. There was an interesting turn of events last week across the country that could answer Edmonton's prayers.

Last week the Ottawa Senators made their own coaching move, they fired Paul MacLean - a coach with a measure of some success the past few years. This is exactly the coach that Edmonton needs. Paul MacLean brings an up-tempo style that would mesh well with this roster. A lot of Edmonton's problems lie with their surprisingly anemic offense. They rank near the bottom in Fenwick and Corsi for the season. What should be the mighty Edmonton Oilers offense is scoring under two goals per game. During the past three seasons. Maclean’s Senators were top-three in Corsi for all three seasons, and were top-three in Fenwick over the past two. Ottawa's defense also hovered just outside the top-ten in Corsi- and Fenwick-against, suggesting that his defenses didn't struggle because of the increased tempo.

MacLean also eased out every ounce of talent in some pretty underwhelming teams. While no one is going to suggest guys like Jason Spezza and an aging Daniel Alfredsson were stiffs, but, in comparison, the Oilers skilled players would represent a world of riches. The offense could cover up for a defense while guys like Darnell Nurse are developing and until maybe a key free agent or two comes into the organization to round out the team. More importantly, it would give the team a distinct identity and make them one of the best watches in the whole league. "The Walrus" is just a gift from the heavens to the Oilers - one they would be foolish to pass up. This guy led a team who perennially rank near the bottom of the NHL in salary to the playoffs during his time there.

Yet despite this, Edmonton will fumble this away like they do everything else. The ownership group is clueless and the popular PR route would be to hire the defensive coach. While I'm sure my argument will never be the popular conception of the situation, I feel that it is the right one and, honestly, it isn't even close. So I beg you Craig MacTavish, for the overall betterment of your team, hire Paul MacLean. It will be a move you will not regret.
There you go, MacT - a passionate plea to buck the trend and go with an offensively-minded coach. I'm not sure what the analytics have to say about that, but Neal worked in some solid statistical numbers that help support his plea as well. He identifies the horrific goaltending that Edmonton is getting, but I'm going to go against Neal on this one based on some history, some player information, and a couple of key statistics.

First, Ottawa has this pretty solid offensive defenceman in Erik Karlsson that is responsible for a lot of that Ottawa offence. He controls the game for the Senators much like Paul Coffey did for the Oilers of the 1980s. He's an excellent first-pass defenceman as well, and this led to many opportunities for the Ottawa offence. Edmonton doesn't have a player like this. Justin Schultz would be the closest, but there's a wide distance between his skill level and Karlsson's skill level. You could make a case for there being some similarities between Jeff Petry and Patrick Wiercioch, but the Oilers have no answer for players like Cody Cici and Jared Cowen. At least Andrew Ference and Chris Phillips kind of cancel one another out. The defence, in this case, is heavily-stacked in favour of the Senators.

Goaltending has been the Achilles' heel for both of these franchises. Ottawa's Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner turn in some spectacular performances, but they are too few and too far between starts to give Ottawa a legitimate shot at being a playoff threat. If you're an Oilers fan, that sounds pretty familiar when it comes to Scrivens and Fasth. Both goalies have the ability to play at an incredibly high-level, but they rarely get an opportunity to steal a game because they're already down a goal or two. That's not entirely their fault as team defence has never been a priority in Edmonton when you look at the personnel they've employed year after year.

Speaking of personnel, Neal wanted to see an offensive coach behind the Edmonton bench. The problem is that they had one, and he failed. Pat Quinn, a man who was opposed to any sort of neutral zone trap or outright defensive system, went 27-47-8 in 2009-10 with the Oilers, and they finished a mile from the playoff race. Paul MacLean, for all the offensive talent that the Senators boasted at one point, never saw any improvement in the standings after his first full season behind the bench in Ottawa. The Senators won 41, 43 (pro-rated), and 37 games in his three full seasons, and was on-track to win just 33 games this season. In fact, that 43-win season was the lock-out shortened season, so there's no guarantee the Senators would have been two games better than they were in the previous season. The team had virtually similar records through 48 games, so there was no discernible improvement in Ottawa at any time under MacLean!

Neal speaks of MacLean as the next innovator in offensive hockey, but the numbers for the Senators show an entirely different story. In MacLean's first season in 2011-12, the Senators scored 249 goals-for and surrendered 240 against. Those 249 goals-for would stand as the highest total the Senators scored under MacLean in any of his seasons, pro-rated or not. If we use 82 games for all seasons, Ottawa would have scored 240, 198, 236, and 213 goals-for versus 240, 178, 265, and 225 goals-against, respectively. Again, if we take out the 48-game shortened season, the differentials in the two full seasons he coached 82 games would be +9 and -29. Sure, there's offence, but aren't we looking at the same problem that Edmonton has now - they can score, but the puck's always in their zone and/or net?

No, offence isn't Edmonton's problem. Like Ottawa, they are in the same boat where they can't seem to keep the puck out of their zone or net. This year, it's been magnified in Edmonton because of the myriad of problems the team seems to have both on and off the ice, but the projected 172 goals-for and 280 goals-against won't solve the last-place finish they're destined for by adding more offence. No team has given up more goals than the Oilers this season, and that's where the hemorrhaging needs to be stopped.

After all, if you're always fishing the puck out of your own net, it's hard to score on your opposition. Neal makes an appealing case for Paul MacLean, but the numbers simply don't back up the claim that the best defence is a good offence for the Oilers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Death By A Thousand Cuts

It finally happened. Craig MacTavish unceremoniously relieved Dallas Eakins of his coaching responsibilities in Edmonton this morning, but it's almost anti-climactic. For weeks, it felt as if we were watching a dead man walking whenever Eakins was on television, and the guillotine finally fell today. Personally, Eakins always felt like the wrong guy in Edmonton, but his success in the lower levels of hockey warranted a look by some NHL franchise. It's just that Edmonton should never have been that franchise.

I have no doubt that Dallas Eakins will land somewhere else in the hockey world once he finally rinses the taste of Edmonton out of his mouth. He knows the game, he's a smart man, and he certainly has shown that he can coach a team to success on the ice. However, this debacle in Edmonton may make him untouchable for a season or two until a team is willing to give him another chance. He's partly responsible for this, so he'll have to show that he's grown and changed since his time in Edmonton.

Daryl Katz, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, and Scott Howson are the designers of this mess of an NHL franchise, and they certainly should be indicted for their crimes against hockey. Steve Tambellini has already been sent off to the pasture as well, but he's also a part of this calamity of a hockey team. They draft poorly, they sign free agents who seemingly don't want to be there, and they trade away pieces that they legitimately need while forcing their young talent into roles for which they are not even close to being ready.

Again, part of that comes from the coach setting the roster, but he's trying to patch the holes that his management team has left him on the ice with whatever talent - legitimate or otherwise - he can find. Players like David Perron, who speak their minds about the mediocrity going on in Edmonton, are immediately shopped to other teams because of their "divisiveness". Yet he's one of the few solid players that the Oilers have who play the game with skill, toughness, and tenacity needed for a building franchise.

Players who show talent want out because there is a cancer growing out from the front office. This cancer is the acceptance of mediocrity, as stated above, that allows the Oilers to hover around the the bottom of the NHL standings year after year despite drafting some of the best young hockey talent that the planet has to offer.

Nail Yakupov? His career is nearly over at this point.
Leon Draisaitl? He's struggling mightily in his role.
Justin Schultz? He's regressed badly over the last couple of seasons.

We don't have to look far to see the carnage laid out by the management team.

Rushing draft picks into the NHL to fill glaring holes? Check.
Drafting the best player as opposed to strengthening weaknesses? Check.
Completely abandoning any sort of rebuild from the net out? Check.
Utter stupidity in understanding CBA rules? Check.
Inability to attract quality free agents? Check.

Look, I get that people have a stereotype about Edmonton. It's the same challenge faced by the Winnipeg Jets during free agency. However, the methods in which the two teams are taking to achieve the goal of a Stanley Cup couldn't be decidedly different.

Winnipeg drafts and develops, even risking that young talent will walk away after having been stuck in the minor leagues for too long. They are methodical, they are loyal to players who are loyal to the franchise, and they do their homework on players who are free agents. They always look to fill a roster spot with a young player, but only if that young player is truly ready. If they can't fill the roster spot from within, they sign a serviceable free agent who will do the job while that young player develops. It takes an amazing amount of patience from the team, the fans, and the players, but the steps forward are being seen in Winnipeg this season as their core and the next wave start to make a push up the standings.

Edmonton, for all the amazing young talent they have, has never let any of those young stars develop in the minor leagues where playing the professional game is taught through long bus rides, cramped hotels, and veterans who have played in the NHL. Only a few have been sent down to Oklahoma City, and they stay only for a few games. They are the highly-paid answers to Edmonton's question of "are we a playoff team?", and they continue to fail that test time and again.

On top of that, it appeared that Dallas Eakins lost the room at some point either last season or early into this season. You could see it on the players' faces that they no longer respected the coach or his message, and their increasing frustrations after losing game after game only made the chasm between coach and players even wider. No one on the bench looked like they wanted to be there, and the tantrum thrown by Viktor Fasth after getting pulled was evidence that the coach had lost the team.

The coaching carousel that Edmonton has employed hasn't helped either. Changing coaches year after year provides no continuity, no system-building, and no building on the learning from the previous season. If you look at the teams who have great success, they have had coaches who have been behind the bench of their respective clubs for many seasons: Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, as examples. Sure, those teams have had ups and downs, but the consistency in coaching keeps them as a threat to win the Stanley Cup every season based on how the team plays the game.

The one constant in Edmonton? The inept front office. It starts with Daryl Katz being loyal to guys who haven't shown a return on this seemingly annual rebuild. It moves to Kevin Lowe who has yet to provide any sort of playoff opportunity since 2006, yet he was promoted to President of Hockey Operations in 2008. When he was hired as General Manager in 2000, the team was already on the decline. Had it not been for the Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2005-06, Kevin Lowe would have little to show for his efforts as both GM and President.

The scapegoat for Katz, Lowe, and the equally-inept Craig MacTavish was Dallas Eakins. Again, I still believe he was the wrong man for the job, and now the announcement of Todd Nelson as the new lamb to the slaughter will only push the Oilers into another high draft pick.

Let me be clear: Todd Nelson is a good coach. I want to see him excel, and his work with the Oklahoma City Barons should be celebrated considering the lack of young talent he was given. However, the problem is that Scotty Bowman couldn't do much with this Edmonton team in the state it's in.

As I listened to Craig MacTavish rationalize dismissing the coach he hired today, a song by Coldplay crept into my head. The chorus from The Scientist kept playing over in my head as MacTavish yapped about accountability, effort, and responsibility. Those lyrics are as follows,
Nobody said it was easy.
It's such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy.
No one ever said it would be this hard.
Oh, take me back to the start.
I'm quite certain that Dallas Eakins would like to go back to the start in knowing how this whole thing ended. Then again, I'm sure the players and fans of the Edmonton Oilers would like to go back to the start of when Daryl Katz took over this franchise, and have a complete mulligan on the last eight years of history.

Dallas Eakins is a good coach. He was just the wrong coach for this situation. And it's hard to pinpoint which of the thousand cuts was the one that ended his time in Edmonton. The only truth is that everyone is to blame for this catastrophe in Edmonton.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

First Of The Season

Rarely does HBIC get excited about a player's first goal of the season this late into the season. The player to the left? He scored his first goal for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Saturday night. The Ottawa Senators might want to keep an eye on this young man, though, because François Brassard doesn't get many opportunities to score. He doesn't even take a regular shift. No, Brassard will be celebrated tonight because he's a goaltender, and he scored his first career major junior hockey goal against the Quebec Remparts!

To have a goaltender score a goal before Christmas has arrived means that there's a very good chance that Brassard could score two or more goals this season. The opportunity simply doesn't come along ver for a goaltender to stop a puck, set himself up for a shot, and have the strength and accuracy to put it past the six defenders in front of him. Brassard, however, did, and this is his goal.
The fact that he banked it off the boards shows that he wasn't thinking about scoring first. He was relieving pressure, it appears, and he simply found the right angle for the puck to go the distance after clearing the zone. You wonder if Brassard enjoys billiards with that kind of bank shot.

Again, HBIC doesn't usually celebrate first-of-the-season goals, but this one is special. Congratulations to François Brassard on his goal and, more importantly, the win over the Remparts on Saturday night!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Girls' Hockey Day In Canada

Today is a pretty big day for women's hockey in this province and across Canada. Locally, we were honoured to have an Olympian visit our city and teach girls how to play hockey a little better and reach for their dreams. In Toronto, the stars of today's game took part in the first annual CWHL All-Star Game. Later, in the evening, the Manitoba Bisons women's team battled the best that Manitoba has produced over the years as part of Hockey Manitoba's 100-Year Celebration! Needless to say, Saturday was a big day for the women's game!

Scotiabank Girls' Hockeyfest is always a big day in Manitoba. Over 1000 girls participated this year, and they were greeted by gold medalist and The Amazing Race participant Meaghan Mikkelson at their sessions! While the girls ran through the drills overseen by Hockey Manitoba representatives, everyone was more than thrilled when they got to have their picture taken with Miss Mikkelson and her gold medal. She was excellent with the girls, she gave great advice, and she smiled all day long while looking back at a thousand smiling faces as they watched one of their heroes in action.

Many thanks should be sent out to Miss Mikkelson for her participation today at the MTS IcePlex, so I'll add HBIC's thanks to that list as well. Miss Mikkelson is a fantastic ambassador and a true all-star, and there were plenty of happy kids who played hockey today because of her involvement!

From there, lots of eyes landed on Rogers' Sportsnet for the first annual CWHL All-Star Game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Team Red, captained by goaltender Charline Labonte of the Montreal Stars, would square off against Team White, captained by Jessica Campbell of the Calgary Inferno. Friday evening saw the two captains pick teams in a rather unconventional, but often-seen-in-hockey, style: the tossing of sticks in he middle, and random selection for the two teams!

"Most of the girls have had that experience," Labonte told Rob Del Mundo of the team selection process. "That's how I started playing hockey. I was on the street with friends, and with my brother. After school, or at school, that’s what we did. It wasn't serious. Let's just put our sticks in the middle and play!"

The CWHL was hoping for some 12,000 fans, but they ended up with 6850, a number that needs to grow in coming years. The CWHL All-Star Game, for the talent shown, should help that growth as the game was fast, fun, and exciting!

Natalie Spooner, Meaghan Mikkelson's partner on The Amazing Race was the only player to find the back of the net in the opening period, beating Team Canada teammate Labonte to put Team White up 1-0. Team White went up 2-0 in the second period when Kelli Stack beat Christina Kessler. Team Red needed to rally as they went into the third period. Sami Jo Small and Delayne Brian held Team Red off the scoreboard in the opening 40 minutes.

Team Red roared out of the gates in the third period when Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux and Jamie Lee Rattray beat Genvieve Lacasse before the period was three minutes old. Suddenly, the 2-0 deficit was a 2-2 hockey game! The stage was set for a hero to emerge, and it was a big player for Team Canada who broke the deadlock midway through the period. Rebecca Johnston was sent in alone on Lacasse by Anne-Sophie Bettez, and she went stick-side for the 3-2 Team Red lead! Brampton Thunder netminder Erica Howe held the fort the rest of the way to give Team Red the 3-2 win in the first annual CWHL All-Star Game!

Finally, the great day of women's hockey was highlight by the "Made In Manitoba" hockey game that featured the Manitoba Bisons against a team of exceptional women from Manitoba. Some of the great women featured in this game included goaltender Stacey Corfield, forwards Amy Lee, Kyleigh Palmer, and Addie Miles, and defencemen Rebecca Hewitt and Amanda Schnell. Needless to say, the Manitoba alumni team was an all-star team of amazing Manitobans, so it would be a tough game for the current crop of Bisons.

I will fully admit that I didn't attend this game as I had a previous engagement to attend. I can honestly say that I would have swapped places in a heartbeat, but it is what it is when it comes to commitments. That being said, the Manitoba alumni skated to a 5-1 win over the Bisons in what sounded like a fun-filled game with lots of smiles, laughter, and chatter amongst the Manitoba players and the Bisons.

Now, I'm not here to criticize Hockey Manitoba for the work they do, but this was a major event in the 100-Year Celebration of your program. Maybe you could post some game results or a few highlights on your website for fan to enjoy? If you want to bring a little recognition to your program, visuals and write-ups go a long way in helping. You're welcome for being one of the few sites who took the time to recognize the game and your efforts.

It was an amazing day of hockey for women of all ages today, and there were many female stars recognized for their hard work, their talents, and their dedication. Personally, it's one of my favorite days on the calendar, and I can only wish for more them!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Julius Hudacek Show

The smiling face to the left belongs to Orebro goaltender Julius Hudacek. Hudacek is a bit of a journeyman goaltender when it comes to visiting European leagues and countries as he's played in the Slovakian Hockey League, the Swedish Elite League, the Swedish First Division, the KHL, and the Czech Hockey League. The 26 year-old has a well-stamped passport, it seems, but he may not be going anywhere after this season as it appears he's found a home in Orebro, Sweden. Not only has his play been solid, but he's loved by the fans for his play, his attitude, and his post-game celebrations after wins.

HBIC was lucky enough to meet Andrew Loewen from the SPHL's Columbus Cottonmouth. You may remember Andrew as the "dancing goalie" who does "the wobble" between the second and third periods when he's not starting in net. The YouTube video, embedded in the link above, went viral and Andrew became an overnight dancing sensation. Having met Mr. Loewen and spoken with him, he is an amazing young man and dancing is only one of the exceptional skills he has. However, Andrew Loewen may have some YouTube competition in Julius Hudacek when it comes to goalies who dance. And do other crazy things.

Let me start by saying that Julius Hudacek is 12-10 this season with a pair of shutouts, a 2.10 GAA, and a .921 save percentage. While his record doesn't show it, Hudacek is playing well based on his numbers. He has helped Orebro to fifth-place in the twelve-team Swedish Elite League, and they trail second-place Frolunda by a mere six points. While the team is getting solid offensive contributions from players like Jared Aulin, Derek Ryan, and Martin Johanssen, the tandem of Hudacek and backup netminder Henrik Lundberg are excelling in the blue paint. That should warrant them staying around in Orebro for the foreseeable future.

What really has them on the map, though, is their post-game celebrations led notably by Mr. Julius Hudacek. Mr. Hudacek is far less worried about looking goofy than he is about having a good time with the fans. Through these next few videos, you'll see why Julius Hudacek is fast becoming one of Orebro's favorite players.

Leapfrog victory celebration for Hudacek and Lundberg after beating Brynas.


Hudacek doing some goal stick surfing after beating Linkopings.


The #HudaShow in the kayak after beating Lulea.


Doing a little ice-fishing and Zamboni riding after defeating Djurgarden.


Hudacek and seven excited fans do a little on-ice dancing!

Honestly, Julius Hudacek is all kinds of awesome. We're gonna have a lot to talk to Jared Aulin about when he gets back to North America. I can honestly say, though, that Orebro is my favorite Swedish Elite League team by a large margin at this point thanks to our friendship with Mr. Aulin, some of the great Orebro fans on Twitter, and my growing appreciation for goaltender Julius Hudacek!

Go Orebro!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!