Saturday, 13 July 2019

A Panda Is Off To Mexico

The title of this post is a little misleading because she's not actually a Panda just yet, but she is a recruit of the University of Alberta and she will be going to Mexico after making the cut at Baseball Canada's selection camp over the last few days! Madison Willan, who was the captain of the St. Albert Slash this past season, will be part of Team Canada at the COPABE Women's Baseball World Cup Qualifier in Aguascalientes, Mexico from August 18-25! It's a huge honour for Willan who was part of the Team Canada squad at the 2018 Women’s Baseball World Cup in Viera, Florida where the team won a bronze medal, and Madison will get a chance to add more hardware to her mantle with this new opportunity!

As stated above, Willan was the captain of the St. Albert Slash this past season where she scored 24 goals and added 27 assists in 30 games. She led her team to a three-peat of the Esso Cup this season, and scored the Cup-clinching goal at 2:46 of overtime to down the Saskatoon Stars for the championship. She's a force to be reckoned with on the ice, and clearly she's got all the tools on the diamond as well!

She's not only making history on the ice, but she actually made a little Baseball Canada history in 2017 as well! Willan became the first player in Women's National Team program history to hit a home run out of the park when she crushed a 3-run shot at the Washington Nationals Youth Academy! Her home run put the "Canada Leaf" team ahead of the "US Stripes" team by a 5-2 score after she was called upon to pinch hit! Canada would hold on for the victory by a 5-4 score in that game as her history-making bomb came in a victory! I'm not sure about those of you reading this, but she sounds like she'd be a shoo-in for any future Baseball Canada teams with that kind of resumé!

If you know anything about me, I usually try to avoid giving kudos to anything related to the Pandas because they are they arch-rivals of the Manitoba Bisons. It's not that I don't like them; in fact, it's quite the opposite. You have to respect how good they are because all they do is win. And win. And win some more. And to see them get a player like Madison Willan next season only means that winning tradition will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Credit to Howie Draper and his staff for getting Madison to commit to their incredible program.

Because it isn't hockey season just yet, you can be sure I'll be cheering for Madison Willan and her teammates as they suit up for Canada at the COPABE Women's Baseball World Cup Qualifier in Aguascalientes, Mexico from August 18-25. Canada comes in as the second-ranked team according to the most recent WBSC Women's Baseball world rankings, and there's hope they can capture another medal at this tournament.

Go Canada Go, and congratulations to Madison Willan on being named to Team Canada!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 July 2019

A Great Addition

We're breaking out of the hockey chatter today because I had a problem on my kitchen counter this week that I needed to solve. I like a good sandwich as much as the next person, but I find that bread seems to go stale - or worse - on my counter because . I just can't eat a loaf fast enough. Yes, I'm going to start breaking loaves of bread bought from the grocery store into smaller amounts so I don't have to worry about this, but I still had a half of a loaf to deal with tonight. What can one do with this semi-stale, starting-to-harden load of rye bread besides feed it to the birds? Well, if you're like me, you enjoy a few croutons on your salad, and that's the future for this bread!

Honestly, these croutons are amazingly light and tasty, and they aren't like the store-bought croutons that are hard and crunchy. These still have a nice crunch to them, but they melt as you bite into them. The soft crunch turns into rich flavour rather than just a dry bite similar to melba toast. And that's why aging bread on my counter ends up in the oven as croutons - they're better than anything one can buy!

Ingredients

Stale or day-old bread
Olive oil*
Freshly-ground pepper
Salt
Herbs of your choice

Directions

As stated above, this one is easy. Preheat your oven to 400F. Cut the bread into cubes. Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and add pepper and salt to taste. Mix the cubes so that the oil, salt, and pepper coat the cubes. Add your herbs if desired for taste. Mix well, and spread onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and store in an airtight container for up to a couple of weeks.

If you note the asterisk on the olive oil, I use chili oil (red pepper flakes + whole jalapenos in a bottle of olive oil) on my croutons to add a little spice whereby I no longer have to add the herbs or red pepper flakes for flavouring. Yes, it's divine! I've also used rosemary and herb submarine sandwich bread as well, and that saves on the herb usage in that crouton creation as the olive oil really highlights those herbs!

My advice is find the bread you like for croutons, and then work on the flavouring. Lighter breads - french breads, for example - give more light and airy croutons where heavier breads, such as the sub sandwich breads, give a heavier crouton that really absorbs the oils and flavours. If you like your croutons to deliver that punch of flavour, use a heavier bread.

Don't pay for croutons that are hard and extremely stale at the grocery store. Invest that money in some decent bread and make your own. I guarantee you'll like them entirely more than the store-bought variety. You can flavour them as you like, you can make more than just a handful of croutons so the return on investment is high, and they just taste so much better.

Do yourself a favour - make croutons.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 355

It's another Thursday which means The Hockey Show is back on the airwaves of UMFM tonight! We rarely are able to feature gold medallists on our show simply due to the fact that they usually live elsewhere than our humble community. Tonight, though, Beans and I are lucky to welcome a recent gold medallist who has been breaking barriers and making waves both on and off the ice in the hockey world with her outstanding play at the prep ice hockey level, the national ball hockey level, and the international ball hockey level! Her ice hockey exploits won't go unmentioned tonight, though, as she's been pretty stellar on the ice and will continue to excel next year at a post-secondary institution! We're excited to welcome this guest to the show, so let's get to it!

Tonight, Beans and I welcome the woman seen in the photo standing on the right holding the ISBHF World Championship Trophy! We are humbled, privileged, honoured, and proud to welcome this proud Manitoban goaltender who backstopped Team Canada to the gold medal in Julianna Thomson! Julianna is an outstanding ice hockey goaltender who has played for the St. Mary's Academy prep team and Team Manitoba over the last few years, earning her a scholarship to the OUA's York University Lions next season and beyond! Off the ice, she's starred for Team Manitoba ball hockey for a number of years, and she was recruited to play with Team Canada as one of their two goalies this year at the ISBHF World Championship in Slovakia where she and her teammates won the gold medal! We'll talk to Julianna about her career, playing on ice versus playing on the floor, her trip to Slovakia, her participation in the Female World Sports School Challenge, and much more tonight on The Hockey Show! Join us at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans dive into Julianna Thomson's career through minor hockey, prep hockey, ball hockey, OUA hockey, international hockey, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 11, 2019: Episode 355
RESOURCES: Manitoba Minor Ball Hockey Association

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Ferland Gets Paid

If there's one thing that NHL general managers love, it's a big middle-six winger who can score and bring a little grit to the roster. We've seen teams overpay for these types of players in the past, and we'll likely see teams overpay for these players in the future. With that being said, the Vancouver Canucks added another player of this type today after adding the likes of JT Miller in a trade earlier this off-season when they signed Micheal Ferland to a four-year deal worth $3.5 million per year. With Antoine Roussel on the roster, the Vancouver Canucks have invested a lot of money in "sandpaper"-type guys.

The 27 year-old Ferland recorded 17 goals and 40 points in 71 games for the Carolina Hurricanes this past season, and it was expected that he would move on from the Hurricanes once free agency started. A number of teams were reported to be interested in Ferland's services this summer after a pile of teams reportedly asked about him at the trade deadline as a rental, but the Vancouver Canucks came out on top with the four-year deal. GM Jim Benning still has some important pieces to sign, but Ferland makes the Canucks a little harder to play against for the foreseeable future.

Since 2015, Ferland has played in 71 or more games in each season. His durability isn't going to be questioned, so he'll be a valuable piece for the Canucks if his body can continue to withstand the physicality. His breakout season was in 2017-18 when he scored 21 goals and 20 assists with the Calgary Flames. His production saw the Carolina Hurricanes ask for him to be included in the Noah Hanifin deal that sent Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, and the rights to Adam Fox to Carolina in exchange for Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. While the Hurricanes opted to keep him for their playoff run, there was a very good chance he'd leave at the end of the season.

That's where the Canucks benefitted by having cap space to sign the power forward.

With Vancouver, there's a good chance Ferland plays on the second line alongside Bo Horvat. Playing on that second line and in a more offensive role, that career-high of 21 goals and 41 points are certainly within range for Ferland to pass if he concentrates on using his size and skill to go to the net for deflections and chip-ins. While his production fell off in the playoffs, he'll need to find some consistency if the Canucks are to return to the playoffs.

Sometimes, there are contracts signed in the off-season that makes one shake one's head with regard to length or annual value. Ferland's $3.5 million seems like a little much for a guy who has broken 20 goals only once, but the Flyers gave $7 million for seven seasons to a guy who has also only scored more than 20 goals once. It makes you scratch your head and wonder who got better value for their 20-goal man.

Micheal Ferland's contract may not be the biggest or richest, but he'll provide good production per dollar paid, and that's precisely the kinds of contracts that should be handed out in the salary cap age. GM Jim Benning did well on this one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

What's Happening In Chicago?

I understand that the Blackhawks are in a bit of a rebuild phase. Apparently, GM Stan Bowman feels differently as he continues to add players with rather questionable contracts based on their point production while trading away players who were seemingly trending upwards. I'm not here to criticize Stan Bowman entirely because it's still July, but I do wonder how the trade today, sending blossoming Finnish defenceman Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Alex Nylander, makes the Blackhawks better. Bowman has never been afraid of taking on a player as a project, and Nylander comes to Chicago as a guy who never could find his scoring touch in Buffalo and Rochester. That would qualify as a project by most definitions, but one has to wonder why he'd trade a good, young defenceman who showed flashes of brilliance last season for a project.

There's some debate on whether Jokiharju would have been an everyday defender this season after Bowman went out and acquired Calvin de Haan from Carolina and Olli Maatta from Pittsburgh to bolster his defence behind Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Connor Murphy, Erik Gustafsson, Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, and Jokiharju would have likely battled it out for the two spots on the final pairing, but I truly believe that Jokiharju was good enough to win one of those two spots.

Where Bowman may have been forced to make a move is that the Blackhawks currently have just ten forwards under NHL contracts along with Brendan Perlini as an unsigned restricted free agent. Clearly, they need a few forwards to fill out their roster, so there will be competition from players in camp to make the team this year. Alexandre Fortin seems the most likely to make it from their players in Rockford if we look solely at last season's performances, so Bowman went out and made a swap to bring in a guy who could get a big taste of NHL action this season and won't put the Blackhawks in salary cap hell.

As it stands, the Blackhawks have just north of $2 million to spend to round out their roster. With none of the eight defencemen listed on their roster as waiver-exempt, my guess would be that the Blackhawks wouldn't want to expose any of those players, making the push for a couple of Rockford IceHogs to make the team all that more important. Fortin, signed for $706,666, and Nylander, signed for $863,333, would total $1.57 million in salary added to the Blackhawks, keeping them from going over the cap's upper limit. It should also be noted that Fortin has no bonuses attached to his contract, so he won't cost the Blackhawks more based on performance while Nylander is potentially owed an additional $850,000 in bonus money if he reaches all his bonus goals. The Blackhawks will need to be aware of these performance bonuses as they'll only have $466,000 in wiggle room.

While the team isn't out of the woods yet, the $925,000 salary that Jokiharju was making on defence wasn't helping the cause. Yes, he had been shuffled down to the AHL last season after a few poor outings, but his work at the IIHF World Championships was stellar and really should have had the Blackhawks excited for his future with the club. However, after tying up $11 million in Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner in the crease, after tying up $20 million in Keith, Seabrook, de Haan, and Maatta, and after tying up $35.45 million in Toews, Kane, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, and Andrew Shaw, there isn't a lot of money to spend elsewhere. Like third-line scoring. Or a fourth line entirely.

Jokiharju was deemed expendable despite his excellent play thanks to the Blackhawks needing forwards with potential NHL talent. That's the reality of today's NHL - manage and stay on top of the cap, or pieces seen as vital may have to be moved for lesser pieces. Jokiharju could have been a good addition to the Blackhawks this season... if he only played forward.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!