Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Lowe Improves Oilers' Draft Potential

An interesting day yesterday, to say the least. Some teams got stronger, others got weaker, and some removed themselves from the playoff picture a season from now. The Edmonton Oilers, for example, have now been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the 2008-2009 season. If I'm an Oiler fan, though, I'm hoping they can swing a deal to get Angelo Esposito, and start building with youth much like the Pittsburgh Penguins have done. Otherwise, the Oilers are now the Phoenix Coyotes of the Great White North.

Kevin Lowe may have made the most ridiculous statement of the day when he said, "Today we turned a page for sure – but this is not as much about the Oilers today, but what we continue to do as part of an overall plan. I want to be very clear that making this trade today is a hockey decision. It was not financial."

If it was not a financial deal, Kevin, what was it? The opportunity to trade your best player for two third-liners and a first-round draft pick in an already weak draft year? What makes even less sense is that, according to reports, Smyth was asking for around $5.5 million per year. Lowe's offer was $200,000 to $300,000 less than that. Why wouldn't he just offer up the extra dough for the best Oiler in the last decade?

Bob McKenzie of TSN writes, "As near as anybody can tell, the magic number for Ryan Smyth looked to be in and around $5.5 million per year.

"I think this was a number that came to be a reality the moment that the Calgary Flames signed Alex Tanguay to a $5.25 million deal.

"Tanguay is not the face of the Flames franchise and he doesn't have the pedigree of a Ryan Smyth - the world championships, the Olympics - so I think in Ryan Smyth's mind, he started thinking he's a $5.5 million player. The Oilers don't see it that way and as near as anybody can tell, the average annual difference at the end looked to be somewhere between $200,000 a year and $300,000 a year."

If that was the difference in what Smyth wanted, and what Lowe wanted to pay, the Oilers' strategy for the future is significantly flawed.

In the last two weeks, Garth Snow has acquired Edmonton's best offensive defenseman and Edmonton's most complete player for a guy who doesn't want to play in the minors, and two guys who will most certainly be in the minors for a while.

The City of Champions may not see the playoffs for a long time.
The Score's Ultimate 64 Highlights rolls along. Mario Lemieux's embarrassment of Ray Bourque didn't advance yesterday. Let's see what we can do with this beauty save by Norm Maracle.

Bill Guerin thinks he scores, but Maracle uses some Hasek-like moves to keep the puck out of the yawning cage.

I'm still shell-shocked over the Ryan Smyth-for-nobody trade. It might be a long time before I have any respect for Kevin Lowe again. I'm looking forward to the playoffs, though. They should be highly entertaining. Take it easy, and keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Fallout

It's over. Officially, Trade Deadline 2007 has ended. There will be, without any doubt, some major outrage towards the fallout of this trade deadline. Edmonton fans will be calling for Kevin Lowe's head, and may end up storming the offices of the Oilers to get it. Peter Chiarelli may have some explaining to do after trading Brad Boyes for Dennis Wideman, but he may be saved by the acquisition of Aaron Ward. However, I doubt Ward has the same offensive flair as Boyes.

In any case, I'm going to run down the acquisitions and departures for each team. I'll also be adding comments, so be sure to check for those if you're scrolling through the list. This will only cover the last three days, though. Here we go.

Anaheim Ducks
Acquisitions: F Brad May (COL), D Doug O'Brien (TBL).
Departures: G Michael Wall, D Joe Rullier.

Teebz: Anaheim is going with their current lineup into the playoffs. They added a little grit in May, but they couldn't get another scoring threat.

Atlanta Thrashers
Acquisitions: F Pascal Dupuis (NYR), F Keith Tkachuk (STL).
Departures: F Alex Bourret, F Glen Metropolit, 2007 first-round, 2007 third-round, 2007 third-round, 2008 second-round draft picks.

Teebz: Atlanta is trying to keep the Southeast Division on top by mortgaging the future on Keith Tkachuk.

Boston Bruins
Acquisitions: D Dennis Wideman (STL), D Aaron Ward (NYR).
Departures: F Brad Boyes, D Paul Mara.

Teebz: Why did they trade Boyes? They have trouble scoring goals already.

Buffalo Sabres aka Barney Rubble Hairpieces
Acquisitions: D Mikko Lehtonen (NAS), F Dainius Zubrus (WAS), D Timo Helbling (WAS), G Ty Conklin (CBJ), 2007 second-round draft pick (PHI).
Departures: F Jiri Novotny, G Martin Biron, 2007 first-round, 2007 fourth-round, 2007 fifth-round draft picks.

Teebz: Getting Zubrus was big, but only getting a second-round pick for Biron is disappointing. At least he won't hurt them in the playoffs with payback.

Calgary Flames
Acquisitions: D David Hale (NJD), 2007 fifth-round pick (NJD).
Departures: 2007 third-round pick.

Teebz: Calgary's earlier trades were enough of a move for Sutter, but acquiring Hale for depth was a smart move.

Carolina Hurricanes
Acquisitions: none.
Departures: none.

Teebz: For a team on the edge of the playoffs, this was surprising. Rutherford is sticking with his guns to get into The Show.

Chicago Blackhawks
Acquisitions: F Nikita Alexeev (TBL), 2007 conditional second-round draft pick (VAN), F Jason Williams (DET).
Departures: F Karl Stewart, F Brian Smolinski, F Kyle Calder, D Lasse Kukkonen, 2007 third-round, 2007 sixth-round draft picks.

Teebz: Chicago wasn't the seller that everyone thought it might be.

Colorado Avalanche
Acquisitions: F Scott Parker (SJS), G Michael Wall (ANA).
Departures: F Brad May, 2008 sixth-round draft pick.

Teebz: Colorado must think it can make a run for 8th-place in the West.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Acquisitions: 2007 fifth-round pick (BUF).
Departures: G Ty Conklin.

Teebz: Modin signed a new contract, so he came off the market. Berard wasn't moved. The Blue Jackets are looking at the draft and free agency for younger players.

Dallas Stars
Acquisitions: D Mattias Norstrom (LAK), F Konstatin Pushkarov (LAK), 2007 third-round (LAK), 2007 fourth-round draft picks (LAK).
Departures: D Jaroslav Modry, D Johan Fransson, 2008 first-round, 2007 second-round, 2007 third-round draft picks.

Teebz: Dallas gets leadership and a big defensive body in Norstrom. However, they must think this year's draft is terrible since they don't have a pick until the third round.

Detroit Red Wings
Acquisitions: F Todd Bertuzzi (FLA), F Kyle Calder (CHI).
Departures: F Jason Williams, F Shawn Matthias, 2007 conditional, 2008 conditional second-round draft picks.

Teebz: Missing out on Tkachuk and Guerin, the Wings got Calder and Bertuzzi instead. Personally, I don't think these trades will put them over the top, especially if Bertuzzi can't play like he did in Vancouver.

Edmonton Oilers
Acquisitions: F Robert Nilson (NYI), F Ryan O'Marra (NYI), 2007 first-round draft pick (NYI).
Departures: F Ryan Smyth.

Teebz: Edmonton better hope that Ryan Smyth doesn't hold a grudge during free agency. They got zilch in return for the heart-and-soul of the Oilers.

Florida Panthers
Acquisitions: F Shawn Matthias (DET), D Noah Welch (PIT), 2007 conditional (DET), 2007 fourth-round (PIT), 2008 conditional second-round draft picks (DET).
Departures: D Joel Kwiatkowski, F Todd Bertuzzi, F Gary Roberts.

Teebz: The Panthers got a decent, young defenseman in Welch, and can use the draft picks. Not moving Belfour doesn't hurt them.

Los Angeles Kings
Acquisitions: D Jaroslav Modry (DAL), D Johan Fransson (DAL), D Jamie Heward (WAS), 2007 second-round (DAL), 2007 third-round(DAL), 2007 fifth-round (TBL), 2008 first-round (DAL), 2008 second-round (VAN), 2008 fourth-round draft picks.
Departures: D Mattias Norstrom, F Konstatin Pushkarov, F Jason Ward, D Brent Sopel, 2007 third-round, 2007 fourth-round, 2007 conditional draft picks.

Teebz: The Kings had better have the best scouting over the next two years in order to use all the draft picks they stockpiled.

Minnesota Wild
Acquisitions: F Dominic Moore (PIT).
Departures: 2007 third-round draft pick.

Teebz: Adding Moore adds depth down the middle for Minnesota for next-to-nothing.

Montreal Canadiens
Acquisitions: D Josh Gorges (SJS), 2007 first-round draft pick (SJS).
Departures: D Craig Rivet, 2008 fifth-round draft pick.

Teebz: Gorges has upside, but Rivet's toughness and leadership won't be easily replaced.

Nashville Predators
Acquisitions: 2007 fourth-round pick (BUF).
Departures: D Mikko Lehtonen.

Teebz: The Forsberg deal was their bread-and-butter.

New Jersey Devils
Acquisitions: 2007 third-round draft pick (CAL).
Departures: D David Hale, 2007 fifth-round draft pick.

Teebz: Lou is happy with his team, and got a decent draft pick in return for a depth defenseman.

New York Islanders
Acquisitions: F Ryan Smyth (EDM).
Departures: F Robert Nilson, F Ryan O'Marra, 2007 first-round draft pick.

Teebz: Garth Snow is showing that he's no slouch on the Island. Nilson was a bust, and O'Marra is a third-line player at best. The Isles stole Smyth, and will benefit.

New York Rangers
Acquisitions: F Alex Bourret (ATL), D Paul Mara (BOS).
Departures: F Pascal Dupuis, D Aaron Ward, 2007 third-round draft pick.

Teebz: The Rangers got Mara, but lost Ward who is arguably a better defenseman. The Rangers, in my opinion, downgraded at the deadline.

Ottawa Senators
Acquisitions: F Oleg Saprykin (PHO), D Lawrence Nicholat (WAS), 2007 seventh-round draft pick (PHO).
Departures: D Andy Hedlund, 2007 sixth-round, 2008 second-round draft picks.

Teebz: Adding Nicholat for depth is a smart move in the physical Eastern Conference. The Mike Comrie deal earlier in the year added the additional scoring they needed.

Philadelphia Flyers
Acquisitions: G Martin Biron (BUF), D Lasse Kukkonen (CHI), 2007 third-round draft pick (CHI).
Departures: F Kyle Calder, 2007 second-round draft pick.

Teebz: Martin Biron will be a fixture in the net for Philly for many years. Esche is most likely the odd man out since Niittymaki has youth on his side.

Phoenix Coyotes
Acquisitions: D Brendan Bell (TML), F Danny Carcillo (PIT), 2008 second-round (TOR), 2008 second-round (OTT), 2008 third-round draft picks (PIT).
Departures: F Yanic Perreault, F Oleg Saprykin, F Georges Laraque, 2007 seventh-round, 2008 fifth-round draft picks.

Teebz: They couldn't re-sign Perreault? This team will always be a bottom-feeder.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Acquisitions: G Nolan Schaefer (SJS), D Joel Kwiatkowski (FLA), F Gary Roberts (FLA), F Georges Laraque (PHO), 2007 third-round draft pick (MIN).
Departures: F Dominic Moore, F Danny Carcillo, D Noah Welch, 2007 fourth-round, 2007 seventh-round, 2008 third-round draft picks.

Teebz: The Penguins are one of the winners on deadline day. They added goaltending and defensive depth, got tougher, and acquired leadership. This team is looking for a long playoff run.

San Jose Sharks
Acquisitions: F Bill Guerin (STL), D Craig Rivet (MTL), 2007 seventh-round (PIT), 2008 fifth-round (MTL), 2008 sixth-round draft picks (COL).
Departures: G Nolan Schaefer, F Scott Parker, F Ville Nieminen, F Jay Barribell, D Josh Gorges, 2007 first-round, 2007 first-round draft picks.

Teebz: The Sharks are also winners. Adding Guerin and Rivet makes this tough team even more formidable. The Sharks may go deep in the playoffs as well.

St. Louis Blues
Acquisitions: F Brad Boyes (BOS), F Ville Nieminen (SJS), F Jay Barribell (SJS), F Glen Metropolit (ATL), 2007 first-round (SJS), 2007 first-round (ATL), 2007 third-round (ATL), 2008 second-round draft picks (ATL).
Departures: D Dennis Wideman, F Bill Guerin, F Keith Tkachuk.

Teebz: The Blues did well as sellers, getting a couple of first-round picks. The acquisition of Boyes could turn out to be a steal.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Acquisitions: D Joe Rullier (ANA), F Jason Ward (LAK), F Karl Stewart (CHI), 2007 sixth-round draft pick (CHI).
Departures: D Doug O'Brien, F Nikita Alexeev, 2007 fifth-round draft pick.

Teebz: Tampa Bay added depth, but could not solve their goaltending problems. Marc Denis will be forced to carry the team into the playoffs, a place he's never been before as a starter.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Acquisitions: F Yanic Perreault (PHO), 2008 fifth-round draft pick (PHO).
Departures: D Brendan Bell, 2008 second-round draft pick.

Teebz: Adding Yanic Perreault, who is the best faceoff man in the game today, will make a big difference for the Buds.

Vancouver Canucks
Acquisitions: F Bryan Smolinski (CHI), D Brent Sopel (LAK).
Departures: 2007 conditional second-round, 2008 second-round, 2008 fourth-round draft picks.

Teebz: Depth is always good for teams, and Nonis got his men.

Washington Capitals
Acquisitions: F Jiri Novotny (BUF), D Andy Hedlund (OTT), 2007 conditional (LAK), 2007 first-round (BUF), 2007 sixth-round draft picks (OTT).
Departures: D Jamie Heward, F Dainius Zubrus, D Timo Helbling, D Lawrence Nicholat.

Teebz: Novotny won't replace Zubrus, but he's young and fast which should work well with Ovechkin and Semin next season.

Ok, now that you've gotten all caught up on your favourite team, the stretch drive is upon us in the NHL. The action should be good, so keep your eyes on the prize, and keep your sticks on the ice!

Trade Deadline Distraction

Today is the big day for NHL GMs. Today is the day where teams basically lay their cards on the table and show everyone whether they are in the game, or sitting on the sidelines. TSN, Sportsnet, and several blogs are live blogging and providing constant updates on trades, favourite meals, and the number of suitcases of players being moved. As much as I like Trade Deadline Day, there is an overwhelming amount of reporting done on the same stories. I will include a run-down of all the trades on a separate entry. But I think someone should provide a little distraction for those of you reading the same stories over and over on all of the sports pages, and that might be right here.

First off, another highlight from The Score's Ultimate 64 Highlights. Some weak NFL highlight is up against this beauty by The Magnificent One, Mario Lemieux.

You know you have to vote for Mario. He embarrasses one of the greatest defensemen of all-time, not to mention it happened in the playoffs.

In keeping with Deadline Day, how many teams have actually made good trades to get them to the Holy Grail? Is your team better off at keeping the chemistry, or better off by adding a hired gun? TSN did an examination of this, and here are the results:

1) March 10, 1980 - New York Islanders obtain C Butch Goring from Los Angeles for RW Billy Harris and D Dave Lewis (trade completed one day before the deadline). Harris was the first player drafted in Islanders' history and had been with the club since its inaugural season, 1972-73. Lewis had been a steady presence on the Islanders blueline for seven seasons. With Goring, the Islanders went undefeated in their last 12 regular-season games and went on to capture their first-ever Stanley Cup championship.

Teebz: This is probably one of the best deadline deals ever made, and it directly led to four consecutive Stanley Cups for the Islanders.

2) March 4, 1991 - Pittsburgh Penguins obtain C Ron Francis, D Grant Jennings and D Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford for C John Cullen, RW Jeff Parker and D Zarley Zalapski (trade completed one day before the trading deadline). The Penguins went on to capture the 1991 Stanley Cup, the first championship in franchise history. Francis was tied for the team lead with four game-winning goals and tied for fifth in scoring with 17 points during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Francis played in Pittsburgh for eight seasons, posting 100 points in 97 post-season games and was also traded at the deadline again in 2004 by Carolina.

Teebz: In what can be considered the worst deal ever by the Hartford/Carolina franchise, this trade led directly to the Penguins winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, and establishing Francis as one of the best two-way players in hockey history.

3) March 21, 1994 - New York Rangers obtain:
- LW Stephane Matteau and RW Brian Noonan from Chicago for RW Tony Amonte and the rights to LW Matt Oates.
- RW Glenn Anderson, the rights to D Scott Malone and Toronto's fourth-round pick in 1994 Entry Draft (D Alexander Korobolin) from Toronto for RW Mike Gartner.
- C Craig MacTavish from Edmonton for C Todd Marchant.
The Rangers, on their way to capturing the Presidents' Trophy as the club with the League's best regular-season record, acquired four players at the trade deadline and went on to win their first Stanley Cup since 1940. New arrivals Matteau, Noonan, Anderson and MacTavish all had important roles in the Rangers' Cup triumph.

Teebz: All of these role players contributed in a big way. Stephane Matteau's overtime goal eliminated the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final, and Glenn Anderson scored several key goals in the Finals against Vancouver.

4) March 18, 1997 - Detroit Red Wings obtain D Larry Murphy from Toronto for future considerations. Murphy appeared in all 20 playoff games for Detroit, recording 11 points and led the league in plus-minus (+16) as the Red Wings captured their first Stanley Cup since 1955.

Teebz: He was always a great player, and he strengthened an already formidable defensive team with his steady play.

5) March 14, 2000 - New Jersey Devils obtain RW Alexander Mogilny from Vancouver for C Brendan Morrison and C Denis Pederson. Mogilny added to the offensive powerhouse that led the Eastern Conference in goals with 251. Although he tallied just 3-3-6 in 12 regular-season games and 4-3-7 in the playoffs, Mogilny's presence helped free other players en route to the team's second Stanley Cup.

Teebz: Mogilny didn't make a huge offensive impact, but as TSN noted, his presence alone garnered him attention to allow others to get free.

6) February 21, 2001 - Colorado obtains D Rob Blake and C Steve Reinprecht from Los Angeles for RW Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, first-round draft pick (David Steckel) and a conditional pick (the trade was completed 20 days before the trade deadline). In their first Stanley Cup victory since 1996, Rob Blake made an immediate impact leading all defencemen in playoff scoring with 19 points. Blake joined a team full of leadership to win his first Stanley Cup along with veteran defenceman Ray Bourque.

Teebz: This pick made an offensive juggernaut even stronger.

7) March 10, 2003 - New Jersey Devils obtain:
- RW Grant Marshall from Columbus for a conditional choice in 2004.
- D Richard Smehlik and a conditional choice from Atlanta for a fourth-round choice in 2003 (Michael Vannelli).
The Devils were relatively quiet at the 2003 trade deadline compared to 2002 when they obtained C Joe Nieuwendyk and RW Jamie Langenbrunner from Dallas for C Jason Arnott, RW Randy McKay and New Jersey's first round choice in 2002. Grant Marshall provided timely scoring for the Devils including a series-clinching goal in triple overtime against Tampa Bay.

Teebz: What TSN doesn't say is that Grant Marshall also brings experience and grit to a team needing some for the playoffs.

8) January 27, 2004 - Tampa Bay obtains D Darryl Sydor and a fourth round draft choice in 2004 for C Alexander Svitov and a third round draft choice in 2004 (the trade was completed 40 days before the trade deadline). The 31-year old veteran defenceman brought with him the experience of having appeared in three Stanley Cup Finals, including playing with a championship team in Dallas in 1999.

Teebz: Sydor also gave the Lightning a responsible offensive defenseman, and another powerplay quarterback.

9) March 9, 2006 - Carolina obtains veteran RW Mark Recchi from Pittsburgh for LW Niklas Nordgren, C Krys Kolanos and Carolina's second-round choice in 2007. The 38-year-old Recchi, who had won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991, had 16 points during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including six points in the Final against Edmonton. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 that put Carolina up 3-1 in the series.

Teebz: Mark Recchi stepped in for Erik Cole who had been injured, and played as well as he ever has in helping the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup.

In 27 years, only nine teams have made big deals at the deadline and won the Stanley Cup. In five of those nine deadline deals, the player(s) acquired had won the Cup before. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. It all depends on how you play once the Big Dance rolls around. The one thing to note, though, is that no teams have ever won the Stanley Cup by acquiring a goalie at the deadline.

The Barney Rubble Hairpieces acquired Ty Conklin today from the Blue Jackets. If the trend holds true, it looks like the Hairpieces won't be bringing the Silver Chalice home this year.

Until the Trade Deadline is over, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Is Chris Neil a Dirty Player?

I was thinking about this question earlier today as I was playing hockey. One of our players took a solid, open ice, shoulder-to-shoulder hit and sprawled to the ice. Now, I’m a guy who likes the open ice hit. It’s exciting, it can swing momentum, and it is normally a crowd-pleaser. However, this one got me to thinking about Chris Neil’s hit on Chris Drury. Could Neil have gone shoulder-to-shoulder on Drury? I believe he could have, and not knocked Drury from the game, not to mention how many other games he is going to miss. I know NHL players are taught to finish their checks, but is headhunting really necessary in finishing a check?

Do I think Neil is dirty? No. What he did was completely legal according to the NHL rules. And this is where the problem lies. Why does the NHL allow headshots? How many players have had their careers shortened or ended due to concussions? Pat Lafontaine wasn’t the same after he got laid out by Fran├žois Leroux. Brett Lindros’ career was ended after a series of concussions. Should the NHL be taking a long, hard look at headshots? I say yes. It’s never a big defenseman or a grinding winger who gets throttled with a brain-rattling shot. It’s the marketable stars: Lafontaine, Paul Kariya, Chris Drury but to name a few. It’s time for the NHL to protect everyone. Outlaw the headshot.

In fact, here are some clips of headshots. Some are shoulders, some are sticks… all have affected the player receiving the hit in some way, most being concussions.

Mike Peca hammers Teemu Selanne with a shoulder-to-head check while Selanne watches his pass. Selanne had no way of defending himself.

Scott Stevens’ famous hit on Eric Lindros. As clean as this was, Lindros has no way of defending himself against the shoulder-to-head check delivered by Stevens.

Scott Stevens’ monster hit on Paul Kariya. Kariya remained on the ice motionless for several minutes. He had no way of defending himself against the shoulder-to-head check either.

Brian Campbell scrambles R.J. Umberger’s brains with a shoulder-to-head hit. Umberger never got the license plate of the truck that ran him over until much later.

Raffi Torres goes shoulder-to-face on Jason Williams. Williams ended up with a concussion, and spent the next few weeks watching from the press box.

Kyle McLaren throws a clothesline on Richard Zednik. Zednik needed extensive surgery on his face. McLaren got suspended, but Zednik hasn’t been the same since.

This might be the worst offence of all. Donald Brashear has no defence for Marty McSorley’s stick to the side of his head. Thankfully, Brashear is ok today.

Ban the headshots. Nothing more needs to be said. Keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 23 February 2007

Other Goalie Fights

I've watched that Emery-Biron fight a dozen times now. It occurred to me, as I watched it over and over, that Ray Emery might be one of the best fighters the NHL has even seen when it comes to goalies. Sure, it helps that he takes boxing lessons. The point is that no matter how many goalie fights are seen, they're almost always entertaining. Why? I think it's because both goalies are doing something they never normally do, and it's a guarantee that the fight is on the highlight reel. So in honour of Ray Emery's decisive win over Martin Biron last night, here are some more masked warriors throwing fists at one another.

Dan Cloutier may suck as a goalie in terms of stopping pucks, so why doesn't he become an enforcer? Tommy Salo of the Islanders sees more haymakers than a John Deere factory in this fight.

Adam Dennis of the London Knights and Justin Peters of the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL throw some serious punches at one another.

Patrick Lalime stops Byron Dafoe's fists with his head.

A classic playoff tilt between Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon after the infamous Claude Lemieux hit on Kris Draper.

Patrick Roy tangles with Detroit's other goalie, Chris Osgood.

Martin Houle of the Philadelphia Phantoms and Adam Munro of the Norfolk Admirals do a little dancing in the AHL.

Andy Chiodo of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Antero Niittymaki of the Philadelphia Phantoms do a little wrestling. I think these announcers may have hyperbolized Chiodo's "win".

Steve Shields throws some heavy rights on Philadelphia's Garth Snow.

And we'll end this little examination on goalie fights with the current heavyweight champion, Ray Emery, throwing right bombs into the face of Josh Gratton of the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Nothing like an afternoon of goalie fights. Keep your sticks on the ice, and watch out for the goalies!

Some Interesting Notes

After having watched that Barney Rubble Hairpieces-Ottawa Senators game last night, I am thoroughly impressed with Ray Emery. I knew he was a decent goalie, and probably worth more money that what he's currently making, but who knew he was the team's second-best enforcer behind Brian McGrattan? I was, however, disappointed that Emery wasn't able to prove that he can beat the Hairpieces. He did show Martin Biron how to throw fists, and then took on the bigger Andrew Peters. Ray Emery did have 72 PIM with the Binghamton Senators in 2003-04, so it's not like he doesn't know about taking penalties. Heck, he just served a three-game suspension for his slash to the face on Maxim Lapierre. All I know is that this game was entertaining. The video below shows all the fun.

On to some more interesting notes:

- Never before in the history of the NHL have the two teams that competed in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before both missed the playoffs. Edmonton is seven points behind 8th-place Calgary right now, while Carolina is sitting in 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

- The last time the Stanley Cup Champion missed the playoffs the following year was in 1996 when the New Jersey Devils failed to qualify for the playoffs. If the Hurricanes miss this year, they'll only be the second team in the NHL's history to accomplish this feat.

- The lowest-scoring team in the playoffs right now is the Vancouver Canucks. They've scored just 163 goals in 61 games. Ironically, they are the 3rd seed in the West because they lead the Northwest Division in points. The next lowest-scoring team? The 2nd seed in the East, the New Jersey Devils, who have scored 165 goals in 61 games, and lead the Atlantic Division.

- The Nashville Predators are 1-1-1 since acquiring Peter Forsberg, including a shootout loss last night to the Montreal Canadiens. Forsberg has zero points since the trade as well. And after last night's shootout debacle by Forsberg, I am officially stating that Nashville will be the 4th seed in the Western Conference. You heard it here, folks.

- Todd Bertuzzi will not be traded for two reasons: a) he hasn't played; and b) no one wants to give up a first-round pick and a blue-chip prospect for a guy who has more rust on him than a car in a scrap heap. He wasn't very good before back surgery, and he'll surely be worse now.

- Anson Carter has been dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2008. Honestly, if Detroit was serious about getting a solid scoring winger, why wait on Bill Guerin when Carter is a solid checker and a reliable scorer? My notes on Carolina missing the playoffs above may now be void if Carter can mesh into their system quickly.

- Lastly, the Senators and the Hairpieces clash again on Saturday. I expect McGrattan to be in the lineup for this game, even if it means that a more-skilled forward has to sit. I feel this game will be a playoff-style game, too. Expect lots of hitting, a few fights, and some goals. Hockey Night in Canada should move the Leafs off the national broadcast, and show this tilt instead.

That's all for now! Keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

I Need A Pina Colada and a Power Forward

The GM Meetings in Naples, Florida are done, and the men who build their respective teams are headed back to their offices. It was disappointing that nothing was really accomplished over the three days that the GMs were together, besides allowing enforcers five instigator penalties instead of three. That decision could have been made via a conference call, but who am I to judge? It just seemed that this meeting of the NHL braintrusts was nothing more than a golf game and a vacation between friends.

One idea that wasn't adopted was the "3-2-1" point system where a win in regulation time gives a team three points instead of two. It was voted down by all 30 GMs, and Brian Burke made it clear as to why it was defeated.

"Because it's a terrible idea," Ducks general manager Brian Burke said. "That's why it didn't have any support."

The three-point idea came from British soccer. It was said that the three-point system there opened up the gentleman's game when it was introduced in 1980.

"They tried this in British soccer and everything I've heard is that it didn't make a difference," Burke argued. "Teams would get ahead and then would shut it down.

"I think our system is pretty darn good," he added. "I think our game is good, I think our points system is good, our fans are just finally learning to understand it. And now we're going to change it? It's just dumb for me, it's just dumb.

"We made some radical changes when we came back from the work stoppage. The game is faster, the game is better, and the game is more entertaining. If something ain't broke, there's no reason to try and fix it."

New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello added, "I think we've had too much change of late. It's a good game, let's enjoy it."

I, for one, whole-heartedly agree with both men. The NHL can't be in a constant state of flux. For a game that is defined by tradition, the NHL needs to work with its current set of rules for the next decade and see where the game goes. Reclaiming ground on the NBA, MLB, and the NFL won't happen overnight. The NHL needs to let the game grow on its own merit now, rather than trying to reshape the landscape every couple of months.

I was also a little disappointed that there were no deals swung by any of the teams. It appears that the asking price of many of the sellers is still far too high.

"I have a better sense of the market now as I head home," said Red Wings GM Ken Holland, actively searching for an impact forward. "The prices remain too high. Whether nor not we'll be willing to pay that price next Tuesday at the deadline remains to be seen."

I understand that teams like St. Louis, Florida, Chicago, and Los Angeles are building for the future. I know they want prospects and high draft picks. Considering how a guy like Bill Guerin can pot goals, it's no wonder than the Blues want something considerable back.

However, to ask for a blue-chip prospect and a first-round pick for someone who might be on the roster for three months is ludicrous. I understand that some GMs may choose to part with both, but for the sensible GMs this asking price is way too high.

Let's hope that Ken Holland is correct in the prices being lowered by the time Tuesday rolls around. Otherwise, this may be the most underwhelming trade deadline ever.
The Score's Ultimate 64 highlights featured another hockey highlight today.

Love it or hate it, the shootout has become an integral part of the NHL. 26-Nov-05, WAS/NYR. After an NHL record 14 rounds, Marek Malik shocks the capacity crowd at MSG with one of the most original goals in shootout history.

I voted it over some Dr. J acrobatic lay-up. The lay-up was nice, but 6'6" Marek Malik rarely scores, let alone pull off some trick shot to win a shootout. One word comes to mind when I watch this goal: WOW.

Back to the old salt mine I call work. Take it easy, and keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

The Best Damned Highlight Ever

The Score, a sports highlight channel in Canada, has decided that it is going to run a contest in order to determine the greatest sports highlight ever. This is an interesting contest as it lets the viewer vote by going to their website and picking the winner from the brackets they have created. It started on February 19th, and I encourage you to head over to The Score's website and cast your vote each and every day. Hockey highlights are well-represented.

Fred Brathwaite's amazing save lost out in the first match-up, but this is an amazing save none-the-less. He even had the play-by-play guys fooled.

Today's matchup features a couple of hockey plays.

Bobby Orr breaks through 2 defencemen, falls on his back, then pushes the puck from his elbow to his stick and then makes the craziest pass to Johnny Bucyk who scores.


What appears to be a harmless rush, Ovechkin gets knocked down by Paul Mara, and scores while on his back sliding away from the net. The puck was deflected twice and Ovechkin scored with one hand on the stick.

As great as Orr was, I voted Ovechkin. He shouldn't have even got a shot away, much less score a goal. And that Brathwaite save was sick! It didn't win its bracket, but that was still some highway robbery.

Ok, so go vote! And remember: keep your sticks on the ice!

In Memory of Nicholas Lambden

From with files from the Canadian Press: Nicholas Lambden was playing hockey with his friends at an outdoor rink on Sunday when he was struck by a stray puck from another group of players.

Guelph police Sgt. Cate Welsh confirmed that Lambden was not wearing a helmet at the time.

The boy was revived at the scene by emergency personnel and then airlifted to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children where he died on Monday.

"Nicholas touched many hearts with his passion for life, adventure and sports -- especially hockey," his father, Andrew Lambden, said through tears by telephone.

"Beautiful Nick is flying with angels. We love you forever and ever."

Guelph City councillor Bob Bell represents the ward where Lambden was killed and he says the incident reinforces the need for children to wear helmets while playing on ice.

"I think kids should wear helmets when they're playing hockey," he said. "Kids and parents need to associate helmets with skates as they associate helmets with bikes."

Funeral arrangements have not been made yet.

Published on Tuesday, Feb. 13 2007 at 11:19 PM ET.
From Guelph Just a few feet from flowers and other memorial items, a sign erected this week urges the community to continue using the outdoor rink where Nicholas Lambden recently sustained a fatal injury.

"The Lambden family hopes everyone continues to enjoy this park as Nicholas would have wanted," the blue and white sign reads. "Play safe. Have fun."

Andrew Lambden, the boy's father, said the sign was put up by a close friend after consultation with his family.

"We thought it was very kind they offered to do that because we want people to use (the rink) and have fun with it," Lambden said. "That's what Nick would have wanted."

The 10-year-old was hit in the head by a stray puck during a game of pickup hockey Feb. 11. He was airlifted to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and died the next day. Nicholas was not wearing a helmet at the time.

Lambden said his son loved spending time at the park and especially on the rink during the winter, and his family hopes the tragedy will not deter others from doing the same.

"We want to make sure the community continues to enjoy that wonderful park and that they think of Nick when they're there and that they play safe."

Lambden said his family is "coming along" as they deal with their terrible loss.

"It's the saddest thing in the world," he said quietly.

Published on February 21, 2007.
From columnist James Duthie: If you could watch one hockey player, past or present, play a game, who would it be?

Gretzky at 21? Orr with knees scar-free? The Rocket, at his angry, eyes blazing best? Crosby, right now?

I'm often asked that question. And I was never sure of the answer. Until now.

It is none of the above.

If I could watch one player lace up the skates and play a game, I would choose a skinny left-winger from Guelph, Ontario.

A player who moved so fast, they called him Wheels.

A terrific hockey mind who, by the age of 10, had already patented his own move: carrying the puck swiftly into the opposing zone, then spinning around and sending it back to his point man, leading to countless chances for his team.

A leader, so popular in the room, a former coach says when he walked in for practise, there would be a chorus of "Sit here! Sit next to me!"

A coach's dream, always shining his shoes to make sure he looked proper when he arrived at the rink. And so obsessed with being on time, he wore a digital watch with a face big enough to dwarf his little arms.

An offensive dynamo who scored 12 goals in one 7-game span this season, amazing considering he always preferred being a playmaker.

A natural athlete who was also a whiz at soccer, football, track, and pretty much everything he tried.

An always smiling charmer who, even when he tried to boast, couldn't help but turn it into a joke.

"I'm the best athlete in my school," he once said. "Then again, my school is really small."

A kid who lived and breathed hockey from the second he woke 'til the moment he hit the pillow, exhausted after playing hours a day.

But here's the rub.

This hockey player I'd love to see play again...

I never saw him play.

Everything I know about him comes from the stories I've been told over the past week by teammates, coaches, friends, and family.

His name was Nicholas Lambden.

Two Sundays ago, he was doing something every one of us who has played outdoor pick-up hockey has done hundreds of times: digging for a puck in the snow. A shot from a nearby game struck him in the head.

It was a freak, million to one accident. And it killed him.

Nick was 10 years-old.

10 years-old.

Last Friday, the Guelph Atom AA Junior Storm should have been excitedly preparing for the next round of their playoffs. Instead, they were walking up the aisle of a church, past the coffin with their teammate's #12 sweater draped over it, laying their sticks next to Nick's.

Later, they'd talk about how happy he'd been after scoring the tying goal late in what would be a thrilling OT win that past Saturday. His last game.

Nick loved hockey. Loved the Leafs. Worshipped Mats Sundin (Though Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were right up there too).

He dreamed of being just like them. Of someday being talked about on TSN. Consider it done, Wheels.

I thank all of his friends for sharing their memories.

But each new gut-wrenching phone call, each heart-breaking email that pops up in the inbox, makes me wish I could have met Nick, and watched him play the game he loved so much.

And makes me curse the fact I never will.

Our thoughts remain with Nicholas's mother Susan, father Andrew, and sister Madison. This week Nick's team will resume their playoffs wearing black armbands with the #12 on them. They also hope to spread the message that everyone who plays outdoor hockey should always wear a helmet. Always.

Published on 2/20/2007 at 11:35:56 PM.
I didn't know Nicholas. I had never heard of him. But he will always be remembered. My thoughts and best wishes go out to his family, friends and teammates. Rest in peace, Nicholas. The pond will always be frozen in heaven for you. You'll always be the brightest star on the ice.

Even the Pros Have Bad Days

Do you ever get the feeling that when you're having a bad day that everything sort of piles on top of you? You know, like you're running late and you find that your car has a flat tire? It's those kind of days where you're better off staying in bed. Well, don't feel bad. Even the pros have bad days. And it's even worse when it's captured on television and shown over and over again on sports highlights. Or blogs. You kind of feel bad for the athletes, but it is funny when it happens. Even worse is if the other team scores. Today, I present to you some bad days.

Oh, Patrik Stefan... this moment may define your career in the NHL.

Ok, so this isn't the NHL, but that's still pretty embarrassing.

None of the Turgeons were very good fighters, and Sylvain shows why. The comment at the end about him swimming is priceless.

The ref ruled Arkhipov scored. The NHL ruled this wasn't a goal. Someone in Toronto needs to read the rules on what constitutes a goal.

Dennis Wideman scored a 6.5 from the Kazakhstani figure skating judge.

Oh, Tomas Vokoun... where did you go? A little "how's she going", and Datsyuk makes highlight reels around the world.

Is it possible that both Lars Jonsson and Antero Niittymaki were having a bad day? My guess would be yes, since the Penguins won 8-4.

Evgeni Malkin makes Brad Lukowich's, Colin White's and Martin Brodeur's days a little worse.

There are some beauty goals in there, and a few miscues. I'm heading back to work so my somewhat-alright day can continue. I'm sure there are more funny and/or bad and/or amazing goals that made someone's day really bad. Link me to them in your comments.

Take it easy, and keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The Oscar for "Best Quote As A GM" Goes To...

I've always been a fan of Brian Burke. From the tell-it-how-it-is attitude he has to the hilarious soundbytes he has offered up over the years, Brian Burke might be the most entertaining general manager in sports today. Not only that, but the man knows hockey. He has transformed the Anaheim Ducks into a legitimate playoff threat. He rebuilt the Vancouver Canucks after the Mike Keenan-Mark Messier experiment failed miserably. Brian Burke has also been an excellent analyst for CBC and TSN, and served some time as the man in charge of officiating at the NHL offices. As much as he is hated in some circles of the NHL, he isn't hated here.

Born June 30, 1955 in Providence, Rhode Island, Brian Burke graduated in 1977 from Providence College with a B.A. in history. He played Division-I hockey with the Friars, and captained the team in his senior year in 1976-77. During that season, Burke scored nine goals and seven assists in 29 games while racking up 57 PIMs. He also played for the Springfield Indians of the AHL for seven games that season, scoring zero points and picking up 2 PIMs. The following season, Burke played with the Maine Mariners for 65 games, scoring three goals and five assists while spending 60 minutes in the penalty box. The Mariners qualified for the playoffs where they went on to win the Calder Cup that year. In eight playoff games, Burke scored no points, but spent 25 minutes in the "sin bin".

After his one-year stint in the AHL, Burke went to Harvard Law School. He graduated in 1981 with his law degree, and went back into hockey with his degree. Brian served as the GM for the Hartford Whalers. He joined the Vancouver Canucks on June 22, 1998 as their GM. Burke worked with the Canucks until his contract was not renewed on May 3, 2004. On June 20, 2005, Henry and Susan Samueli appointed Brian Burke as Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, a position he is currently holding.

Burke has never been one to shy away from a microphone. In fact, Burke made some pretty honest remarks this week about GMs making inquiries about his younger players. He talked about deals involving his younger stars to the Canadian Press.

"The deals that have been put in front of me haven't been worth spending a lot of time on," said Burke. "They've been short, profanity-laced conversations. They ask for the same group of young guys and I'm not moving any of those guys for a rental.

"It's just not going to happen. I don't know if the prices are too high for other people but they don't suit me. I'm not interested in anything that's been thrown at me yet."

Burke had been involved in conversations for Peter Forsberg, but balked at trading any of his young stars such as Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf in exchange for the Swede.

"They're very short conversations," said Burke. "If anybody doesn't know how to swear they should sit in on one of these conversations because they'd know in a hurry.

"We have good young players in our group and we're not putting them in deals for rentals. It's that simple."

Pretty good soundbytes there. Anytime you hear about GMs having "short, profanity-laced conversations", you know the stakes are high. Burke has also made other great comments in his time. These are ranked in no particular order, but here are a few that I really liked.

a) "Why would we be interested in acquiring Fedorov? We already have one Fedorov too many!" - Burke's reaction when asked if the Canucks were interested in acquiring Fedor Fedorov's brother, Sergei Fedorov.

b) "The very fact that Al Strachan reported it, in my opinion, makes it extremely likely it has no factual basis what-so-ever. I deny it specifically and categorically. I have never discussed Brendan Morrison with Buffalo, I have never discussed Bryan Allen with Buffalo and I have not talked to Darcy Regier in three weeks. So I'm shocked that a respectable media outlet like Hockey Night in Canada would allow this garbage rumour-mongering to take place. I'm amazed that whoever produces that show would tolerate this." - Brian Burke responding to an Al Strachan report on HNIC that the Canucks were willing to deal Brendan Morrison and Bryan Allen for Mike Peca.

c) "After inviting us into the alley, you can't complain if you get kicked in the groin." - Brian Burke's comments on the possible arbitration case being made against Brendan Morrison in 2002.

d) "Right now, there are so few teams selling and so many buying. It's like the Discovery Channel. Seventy-five vultures in a tree waiting for one zebra to die. I'm not sure we're going to be able to make a deal." - Brian Burke on the trade deadline in 2002.

e) "Hockey isn’t a game in Canada: it’s a religion." - Teebz: clearly, Burke understands hockey.

f) "I don't have a use for the Vancouver Province because both my dogs are house broken." - Teebz: Burke has had documented problems in the past with Vancouver media.

g) "That's why Corey Perry doesn't get roughed up after whistles. That's why Ryan Getzlaf doesn't get punched in the head after he takes a shot at the net. We have a team that makes people accountable. That's never going to change as long as I'm here." - Brian Burke on his team's willingness to defend one another, leading to the highest number of major penalties this season.

h) "I said a flat 'no' both times, with a considerable amount of emphasis and profanity." - Brian Burke's comments regarding the contract negotiation with Mike Babcock.

Honestly, after reading these quotes again, he may rival Jeremy Roenick or Brett Hull for best soundbytes in hockey. That's about all for today. I just wanted to write about how Brian Burke makes me smile. And his "short, profanity-laced conversations" over the past couple of days have done that.

See you guys next time! Keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 February 2007

Afternoon Hockey at Work

It's always nice when you can listen to a hockey game at work. I was fortunate enough to listen to this past year's World Junior Championships through a local station, and everyone at work seemed to enjoy listening to the games rather than listening to the crappy Muzak that gets played. Luckily, I can tune into's radio feed of the Pittsburgh Penguins-New York Islanders tilt this afternoon. I almost prefer hockey over music at this point. It's far more exciting, and is never the same old playlist repeated over and over. And over.

Oh, and look at this: Ryan Malone scored his 10th goal of the year 45 seconds into the game! Mark Recchi and Sidney Crosby drew the assists, and the Penguins lead 1-0.

Other game notes include the debut of Marc-Andre Bergeron suiting up for the Islanders since his trade yesterday. He is wearing #47, and is currently playing in Bruno Gervais' place while Gervais is out with an ankle injury. He will also be playing on the first powerplay unit for the Islanders.

The Penguins have gone 14-0-2 in their last sixteen games, and have not lost since January 10th when they dropped a 5-2 game to the Florida Panthers. The Penguins are 7-2-1 in the last ten games against the Islanders, but have dropped two of the last three at the Nassau Coliseum. The Penguins are 3-2-1 versus the Isles this season, with two games to play (including this one). In their last two meetings, the Penguins won 7-4 against the Islanders on December 15th, and won 5-2 on January 16th.

Update #1: Mark Recchi makes it 2-1 for the Penguins after Viktor Kozlov scored on the powerplay for the Islanders. The Penguins lead after one period of play.

Update #2: 4-4 after two periods of play. Malone and Recchi have a pair each for the Penguins, while Kozlov, Simon, Blake and Satan have replied for the Islanders.

Update #3: The Islanders rally late with Mike Sillinger scoring at 19:31 of the third period to give the Islanders a 6-5 victory over the Penguins. Malone scored his third of the game in the third period, while Chris Simon notched another and Sillinger scored the game winner.

The Pens have now dropped three of four on Nassau Coliseum ice, and the Islanders move into a tie for 8th spot in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, tied with Montreal and Toronto. The loss also snaps Pittsburgh's streak of 16 games with a point. Oh, and if any of you were keeping score at home for MacT in Edmonton, Bergeron had two assists and ended the game with a +2 rating. Great trade, MacTavish, especially since Grebeshkov won't be in an Oilers uniform until training camp.
As I drove to work this morning, wondering what I should write about, it dawned on me how Kurt Russell played Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle even though they look nothing alike. And that got me to thinking which Hollywood star should play which coach if the NHL were ever to produce a movie about the league. Here are a few examples:

Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators: the late Marlon Brando.
Michel Therrien of the Pittsburgh Penguins: Gerard Depardieu.
Ken Hitchcock of the Columbus Blue Jackets: Donald Sutherland.
Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings: Anthony Michael Hall.
Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers: Norm MacDonald.
Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild: Ed Harris.
Paul Maurice of the Toronto Maple Leafs: Jeremy Piven.

Any others I should add? Post them in your comments. I look forward to the star-studded coaching cast we can create. I'm off to do more work. Keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 February 2007

The End of the Playoff Run?

Kevin Lowe and Garth Snow swung a deal early Sunday morning that sent puck-moving defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, pictured laying out a Carolina Hurricane on the left, from the Oilers to the New York Islanders in exchange for Russian prospect defenceman Denis Grebeshkov. I'm not too sure about this rumour, but I had heard that Edmonton was looking for a puck-moving defenseman. And since Bergeron was the closest thing Edmonton had to a puck-moving defenseman at that point, it's a good deal to swap him for a guy who has appeared in a grand total of 33 NHL games including none this season. Excuse my sarcasm.

I see only two options for Kevin Lowe here, and they both involve the salary cap.

Option One: he is making cap space available by trading a guy who can't log a pile of ice time versus bigger forwards in the Western Conference. Bergeron stands in at 5'10" and 197 lbs, small by first-line defensemen standards. By making this cap space available, Lowe is going to make a run at Eric Brewer in St. Louis with the hopes of resigning him to a long-term deal, or make a deal with the Flyers for Joni Pitkanen. I see the Brewer deal as the better possibility since Brewer will be a free agent after this season.

Option Two: Lowe is signalling that he is preparing for next season. He will need to make a deal at the draft or sign a first-line defenseman when July 1st rolls around. In order to do that, he sheds himself of $969,000 worth of salary for next season that can be put towards signing a defenseman who can carry the puck and log the minutes that Bergeron could not.

I believe the second option is the reality. Why? Based on what Kevin Lowe had to say, it sounds like he is planning for the future today, not playing for tomorrow.

"We see the upside in the player we're acquiring," Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said. "We see this as a long-term upgrade."

Long-term upgrade, eh? Bergeron had spent his entire NHL career in Edmonton. He had 33 goals and 55 assists for 88 points in 189 games. Grebeshkov has no goals and six assists over 33 games with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders. Half of his points came in 2005-06 when he suited up for 21 games with the Islanders.

Kevin Lowe feels that Bergeron's 0.47 points-per-game average is better than Grebeshkov's 0.18 points-per-game average? Bergeron is 26, while Grebeshkov is 23. Bergeron was signed as an undrafted free agent while Grebeshkov was drafted 18th overall in 2002 by the Los Angeles Kings.

There will be nay-sayers who talk about how many giveaways that Bergeron committed. I agree that he turned the puck over quite a bit. However, as young as he is, he will still make mistakes. Phil Housley did it, Paul Coffey did it, Brian Leetch did it. Giveaways are part of the game, and you learn to limit them. Having confidence in the kid will only help that part of his game.

I see more upside in the undrafted kid than I do in the Russian lad playing in the Russian SuperLeague. Garth Snow got himself an excellent offensive defenseman in Bergeron. Kevin Lowe is preparing for the draft. I'm calling it now: the Oilers end up in 10th place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of St. Louis and five back of Colorado in 9th spot.

Where's the upside in that?

Friday, 16 February 2007

A King's Ransom, And More Masks

Peter the Great was moved by the Flyers yesterday. If you've checked out any sports website, hockey blog, or newswire, you probably have seen how the Nashville Predators picked up Forsberg for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a first-round and a third-round pick. I'll be honest here: if Forsberg plays as well as he has in the last few weeks for Nashville, it will certainly be worth the cost. However, if his foot injury flares up again, it could be trouble in Music City. The Flyers acquired some decent young talent, and a couple of high picks in this year's draft. Has Nashville acquired the player that can put them over the top in the competitive Western Conference? Only time will tell.

In acquiring Forsberg, Barry Trotz seems to be a happy man. "This trade could be our defining moment and we didn't want to look back 20 years from now and wonder whether or not the Peter Forsberg trade might have made a difference on helping the Nashville Predators win the Stanley Cup," he told TSN. But is he a good fit in Nashville?

Nashville has many young players who can benefit from the experience and leadership that Forsberg brings to the dressing room. David Legwand will most certainly benefit. Bringing in a man with 162 career playoff points will almost certainly help in both the stretch drive and the opening round of the playoffs. The only asterisk on that last statement is "if he plays". Injury worries are common with Forsberg, but he has looked confident on his skates in the last couple of weeks. Perhaps he has solved some of the injury concerns.

Forsberg is scheduled to join the team in St. Louis on Friday. He will, however, suit up on Saturday in Nashville when the Predators take on the Minnesota Wild. I assume that he will be wearing his traditional #21 as the Predators website already lists his under that number.

Reuniting him with Paul Kariya will most likely happen as Kariya had a decent season in Colorado alongside Forsberg. Throwing Steve Sullivan on the right-side could make the line one of the most potent in the NHL. Both Kariya and Sullivan are good scoring threats, and Forsberg sees the ice as well as anyone. I expect the Nashville powerplay efficiency to increase as well. Forsberg's ability to control the powerplay along the sideboards is as good as anyone in the NHL.

The Flyers, in return, acquired Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, along with a couple of picks. Upshall had a hard time cracking Nashville's top three lines, and has spent more time with the Milwaukee Admirals than he has with the Predators this season. He does, however, have two goals and an assist with 18 PIMs in 14 games with the Predators this season. Upshall is a good agitator, and can score. He'll get to see the ice with the Flyers more than he would with the talent-laden Predators.

Parent is still playing junior hockey with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. He has only played in 32 games so far this season due to injury, and is currently sitting out with a bulging disk in his back. He is the Storm captain, though, so he may be the next Dersjardins if he cracks the NHL. Bob McKenzie of TSN calls Parent "a top-four defensive defenceman", and that's an encouraging sign for Philadelphia who, for the most part, need some youth and defence injected to their defence corps. Parent currently has three goals and six assists for the Storm this year statistically.

Overall, I see good things for Nashville coming out of this trade. I think this may be what they need to get them past the first-round of the playoffs. The Flyers probably won't see this trade pan out for them for a few years, but with the picks and Parent, they have set themselves up for a bright future. Having two first-round picks this season could be a blessing in disguise.
The more I thought about mask designs last night, the more I kept coming back to the same ones I really liked. I think it has to do with the uniqueness of each mask, and how the designs really stand out when compared to other masks of that era or any other era. Here are a few more that caught my attention.

Gilles Meloche, Cleveland Barons: The thing about Meloche's mask during this era was simply how detailed the mask was. I am a big fan of how it resembles a shield insignia that you'd find on a knights' shield from medieval times.

Kim Martin, Team Sweden: One of the female goalies to have her helmet decorated in the Olympics, Martin's mask carries all the traditional colours of Team Sweden. The 2002-2-22 written on the throat protector indicated the start of the Olympics. Sara Da Costa of the US, Erin Whitten of the US, and Kim St. Pierre of Canada all had their masks painted for the Olympics as well. They are quite a bit more artistic than the mask Manon Rheaume wore with the Lightning.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: This is his alternate mask, not his everyday mask. However, I love it. It's simple in its design, has the cool throwback logo, and features Johnny Canuck, the long-lost mascot and logo of the Vancouver Canucks from their PCHL days.

Ok, I wanna see your favourite masks as well! If you're a goalie, post them here as well! Until tomorrow, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

All I Want Is A Couple Days Off

I'm sure you've noticed that this blog hasn't been updated in a couple of days. I've been busy with my own hockey schedule lately, but I've still been thinking about what I'm going to write. It was actually my own personal hockey schedule that brought me to this topic today: goalie masks. In particular, what are the reasons behind the artistic designs on the masks of goalies? Some use team logos, some use designs that change with team colours, some use Hollywood imagery... but all are distinctive and unique in their own rights. And it doesn't seem to be limited to just North American goalies or men. European goalies and women's hockey goalies are also painting their masks as a reflection of their personalities. I believe this facet of the game is one of the coolest elements in any sport as it allows such freedom of expression that the league doesn't control.

First, some history on the goalie mask. Jacques Plante is regarded as the first goalie to wear a mask in an NHL game. Plante's mask was the product of a Canadian company called Fiberglass Canada. Bill Burchmore, a sales and promotional manager for the company, envisioned the mask. He had witnessed Plante getting hit in the forehead with a puck, resulting in a 45 minute delay in the game while he was being stitched up. While at work the next day, Burchmore was looking at a fibreglass mannequin head when he realized the he could design a contoured, lightweight fibreglass mask that would fit the goalie's face like a protective second skin. Burchmore gave Plante his idea, and Plante was persuaded by his trainers to give it a try. A mold was taken of Plante's face by putting a woman's stocking over his head, covering his face with Vaseline, and allowing him to breath through a straws stuck in both nostrils while his head was covered with plaster. Burchmore layered sheets of fibreglass cloth saturated with polyester resin on top of the mold. The result was the flesh toned 0.125 in (52 mm) thick mask that weighed only 14 oz (397 g).

By the late 1970's, with goalie injuries calling attention to the shortcomings of the fibreglass design, the Canadian Standards Association ruled that the full fibreglass masks were unsafe. Thus, many goalkeepers switched to the helmet-and-cage combination first introduced by Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak, commonly called the "birdcage design". This style was popular in the 1970s and early 1980s for goalies. Chris Terreri and Chris Osgood still wear masks that look similar to this style.

Dave Dryden, brother of Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, felt the helmet-and-cage design was flawed because it protected the head more than it protected the face. By cutting out a space in a fibreglass mask and covering the hole with a cage, he created a hybrid mask of the fibreglass mask and the birdcage. His innovation would take about ten years to catch on, but it's now widely considered the safest version of goaltender facial protection available, and the most-widely used.

Masks today are still made of fibreglass and epoxy resins, but also make use of Kevlar and carbon fibre. Fibreglass is still used because it is a light material, has a high tolerance to damage, and is easy to handle and mold. It also comes in different styles and weights. Kevlar is the material used in bullet proof vests. It adds strength to the mask, but at the same time is very lightweight. Carbon fibre is similar to fibreglass, but it has higher strength and stiffness. It is also more expensive than fibreglass, therefore it used in limited amounts in goalie masks. Rubber and foam are used as padding inside the mask. The caging in masks is made of stainless steel rods or titanium.

The first goalie to decorate his mask in any way was Gerry Cheevers, who painted stitches on his mask where he had been hit with a puck or stick. The first mask in the NHL that had an artists' design applied to it was owned by Glenn "Chico" Resch of the New York Islanders. In 1976, Linda Spineela, an art student and a friend of the Islanders' trainer, was allowed to paint Resch's plain white mask. Masks are decorated by a combination of painting and/or airbrushing in various ways: team colors, images that reflect the team name, or where the team is from. For example, Brian Hayward's mask when he played with the San Jose Sharks has the head of a shark on his mask, making it a very unique design. For decorative painting, epoxy primers, basecoats, automotive paints, and urethane clearcoats are used. To ensure that the paint will not chip, it is clear coated, sanded, polished, and then baked.

In terms of the examination of the masks, I will present several masks that I have been fond of over the years. There have been many excellent designs, and a ton of interesting images incorporated into masks. I'll try to draw on some of these as well.

Kelly Hrudey, Los Angeles Kings: As you can see in Kelly's mask, he has incorporated the Hollywood sign on the Hollywood hills across his forehead. In the middle of his forehead are the marquee lights. He has the image of a filmstrip running around the mask across the throat protector. Around the edge of the mask is the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame: the sidewalk with the stars containing the names of Hollywood's elite. The entire mask is done in black, silver, grays, and white which were the colours of the team. Lots of Hollywood imagery + team colours = good mask.

Ken Wregget, Pittsburgh Penguins: Ken's new mask design coincided with the release of the Warner Brothers film, Batman Returns. In that movie, Danny DeVito plays the Penguin, and Ken opted to have the Penguin character depicted on his mask during his days with the Penguins. Since the character was already known for its white-and-black image, it matched the Pittsburgh Penguins colours exactly. Again, good Hollywood imagery + team colours = good mask.

In terms of imagery that has remained constant as a player moves between teams, Ed Belfour is probably the best example of this. He started with the Chicago Blackhawks, but was traded to the San Jose Sharks in the 1996-97 season. He left the Sharks at season's end, and signed on with the Dallas Stars. In 2002, Ed Belfour was named to the Canadian Olympic Team. In July of 2002, Belfour left the Stars for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 2006, Belfour signed on with the Florida Panthers. With each of the teams, the entire image of his helmet has not changed except some small changes on the eagle's head. The background colours have changed to reflect his current team's colours, but the overall design has remained unchanged. Eddie "the Eagle" Belfour's mask is quite recognizable regardless of what team has signed him.

Tomorrow: more mask designs I like. Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

- a big thanks to Carrie Lystila from for some of the history. The article can be found here.