Sunday, January 25, 2009

Net Gains

With all the things that have been done when it comes to goalie masks, this new trend could take the cake. We've seen that goaltenders can put some fancy patterns on their pads, like that of Trevor Kidd and Kevin Weekes, but what Trevor Leahy (not any relation to Sean Leahy, that I know of) has done with his new pads is something that I'm surprised no one has thought of before hand.

The Pingree School senior thought of ideas for his new pads and came up with something uber-unique: net patterned pads. As you see in the picture, that's the design for his blocker, the illusion of the twine behind the net is what catches the eye of the shooter; which is bound to fool any forward. So far, it has with Leahy netting two shutouts in the pads and have his own teammates baffled in practice.

You have to give it up to this kid for thinking outside the box. You've had recently the comeback of the brown-colored pads for retro games and white pads for more illusion of a bigger net, but Leahy had upped the ante when it comes to design and execution. Bigger props to Darren Stomp who actually had to put the pads together. I'm sure that the time he had to put into this project was something that he had never seen before.

Now, the question is whether or not we'll see a professional goalie get onto this trend or if Leahy can break himself into the pro game and show off his original design to the world. Of course, since he patented it; he could be the only one to be able to use it for the time being. I didn't spend much time in law school, so I don't know how it works.

Again, props to Leahy and Stomp for the new look at the old goalie trade.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Have We Learned: Skills Competition

The most exciting part of the All-Star Weekend, the Skills Competition, was held tonight and I must say-- there was some good, some bad, some ugly; but it happened. Here's what we learned.

-Need for Speed: I honestly believe that Mike Gartner could have come out and won this event at 40+ years of age. Not to knock on the skaters in the event, but no one coming close to a sub-13 second time makes me wonder what the hell is going on.

-Breakaway Challenged: There was a lot of tricks put out, but it was very bland as a whole for this event. A lot of nice stickhandling moves by the participants, but it was the same thing over and over again. Luckily, Alex Ovechkin's flair helped save the whole deal with his tourist motif he put on with an assist to Evgeni Malkin.

-YoungStars Killer: I can understand allow a time for people to text in their vote for the Breakaway gimmick, but this game was like a pregnancy-- it was a flow killer. Leave this game to open the events and then go into the Skills Comp. Put the breakaway deal at the start and let the fans test their votes through the last event or something like that. Put a time limit on it. Do something, but don't ruin the flow of the Skills Comp.

-The Price is Wrong: It's only an exhibition, but Carey Price looked very shaky. I know he's been on the shelf, but you have to wonder what's this kid's confidence level is right now. We'll see what he can bring to the All-Star Game, but it may be time for Price to re-focus himself.

-Accuracy in Marketing: It wasn't so much how well Malkin did going 4-for-4 and 3-for-4 in OT, but how the NHL is selling sponsorship on anything. Gotta love the McDonald's accuracy plates.

-Skullet Unseat: Thanks to composite sticks and insane genetics, Zdeno Chara set a new Hardest Shot record with 105.4 MPH (169.62 KPH). It was nice to see that Chara was able to fashion a toque out of a bookmark, but if that's his crazy Slovakian style, more power to him.

-Elimination of Insomnia: Great idea, somewhat good execution, but boring as hell. At least this was something everyone was in on and gave them a chance to shine, which is what Shane Doan did in winning the whole thing. Maybe think of something different for next time and maybe get all six goalies in on it rather than just four.

All in all, it was a very dull skills competition in comparison to other years, at least what I can remember. I don't know why they don't give the goalies more events, but I guess the risk of injury is a little much for them, but still. They'll get lit up during tomorrow's game-- that's for sure, but that's the way this glorified shinny game is supposed to be like anyway. Pick the over in this game folks.

College Goalie Comes Up Big, Islanders Taking Notice

Crazy story out of Wisconsin, as Daniel McIntosh of Northland College broke an NCAA Division III record for save in a game with 95 saves in a 4-0 loss to Adrian College. How bad does one team have to be in order to let up 99 shots in a game; and how good is this McIntosh kid to stop that many shots in a game and only let up four??

The thing about this Northland team is that they are currently 1-17-0, with 25 goals for and 116 against, so they aren't that good. However, this game put in by McIntosh against the top team in the MCHA could get some buzz about this kid and may boost his standing in the scouts' eyes. Or, it could get some other schools interested in him and maybe try to lure him out of Northland and onto their roster via a transfer. It is definitely a great feat for this sophomore goalie and hats off to him for putting up with the barrage of shots.

This is probably the biggest headline news from Division III hockey since my old school, Neumann College, got destroy by RIT 24-0, breaking plenty of RIT's school records for most goals scored in a game and biggest goal differential.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Face the Media or Face the Music

I think there's a lot of people who will consider the NHL All-Star Game as a farce, a glorified shinny game, and something that proves nothing to no one. I wouldn't disagree, that's for sure, but the whole ideal of the All-Star Game is to collect the NHL's greatest stars (fan voting aside) and have them in one place at one time for the fans to take in their demi-god status.

There seems to be an uproar about Gary Bettman and the NHL's decision to discipline the players who do not show up for the festivities. The lay of the land set out by Bettman is that a player would only be exempt if they missed the last game before the All-Star break or one game after it's done. Now, that doesn't mean they have to play-- they just need to show up, sign some autographs, wave, maybe take some pictures-- then they can take in the life of what it is to be in Montreal, which is what Sidney Crosby will do. However, for guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, they will miss their first game back as healthy scratches, which I'm sure Red Wings fans are just very keen to hear.

Yet, at the same time-- it's a genius thing to do and really something that will keep the sponsorship money (which is $10M this year) rolling in and keep the top stars in one collective in one way, shape, or form. Sure, people can shell out for season tickets to see these players every one and a while-- however, especially in these tough economic times, this weekend is the one true way to see all the top players in one area at one time unless they somehow decide to have bar-b-que in the summer and sell off passes on eBay....which may not be a bad event, truth be told-- only if the Ice Girls are there in a swimsuits.

If the NHL wants to get more sponsorship money from their current sponsors, as well get more sponsors on board, they need to have all their stars there and not sitting at home resting. Sure, the players need to rest and baby some injuries, but what does it hurt to just show up for the other festivities out there?? They can still get their rest, get a free vacation out of it, and maybe munch on a hot dog or something. It's good for the game to have the player show up, though it'd be better if they played. A little face time can go a long way into promoting the game off the ice when they can't be on the ice.

James Mirtle has more in a much more eloquent way than my rambling ever could.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Eur-losing Your Minds

Reports from ESPN have said that the NHL and NHLPA have reach agreements in regardless to the World Cup of Hockey, which will take place again in 2011 and in terms of Europeans games to be played in the next couple of season, which has been going on for the past two years now.

The reports are saying that there's a handshake agreement to have six teams open up the season in Europe next year and then in 2010, having eight teams open up their seasons there, as well. Which, if you're doing your math correctly, in another 12 years, we'll have all 30 teams start their seasons in Europe.....super.

My question is-- are their 15 cities in Europe that can actually hold an event like this, aside from the cities that have already been used?? I mean, obviously Helsinki and Moscow could be two possible locations for next season's openers, but are their any other hockey hardened nations in Europe to hold down the fort and keep this dream alive. You could probably put a place like Mannheim, Germay and Davos, Switzerland on the map too, but after those, does the NHL have to start repeating their previous cities?? Is there a notion that these cities are actually interested in having the NHL show up to their place and take over their rink in order to sell their game over the game of the host nation?? Does the NHL start going outside of Europe and try to hit up the Asian nations like Japan (again) and China to grow the sport that way??

There's only so many hockey powerful nations out there in Europe and once you use them up, is the NHL willing to bite the bullet and hold annual games in those cities that responded well to the first pass?? Does that really fulfill their inititive if they keep holding the NHL in the same place every year?? That doesn't really expand the game, per se-- but the exposure will be given to the places that actually want it.

Could this be considered a fail experiment if they can't get the full European exposure?? I don't think so. I don't think many people had too many high expectations when the game in London started. The NHL just took the gimmick and ran with it and so far the response has been "meh" as a whole, but the NHL will spin it to look like they are doing good thing for the European hockey scene-- which they should because that's what they pay their PR staff to do.

Personally, I'd love to see games in Europe that are unknown hockey nations. What about Budapest, Hungary; home of former Calgary Flame farmhand Levente Szuper?? How about Belfast, Ireland; home of Minnesota Wild forward Owen Nolan?? The NHL can take the Blackhawks to France where the country will not only surrender to the NHL, but they'll display the native son Cristobal Huet.

Yet, I think the topper would have to be the NHL to go to Reykjavík, Iceland and have Gunnar Stahl drop the first puck. Hey, it's just a thought.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

VLOG: The Islanders and Kansas City

It's my first attempt at video blogging, which works because I can go off the cuff and not second guess myself like I do when, I'm lazy and don't like to type too much. So, this installment is the issues with the Isles and what's the deal with Kansas City. Let me know what you think and if this works or is another hack job.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oilers Address Goaltending Issues, Penguins Create Own

One trade freed up some goaltending controversy for one team, but could have created another one for the recipient. The Edmonton Oilers traded away Mathieu Garon to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Dany Sabourin, Ryan Stone, and the Penguins 4th Round pick in 2011. The Oilers get rid of their logjam in net, as GM Steve Tambellini has said the Oilers won't being Sabourin to Edmonton, either trading him again or sending him to Springfield in the AHL.

This of course leaves the Oilers with Dwayne Roloson and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers as the tandem in Oil Country, which may not be the most desireable for Oilers' fans, but it is what it is. However, does this create a goaltending controversy in Pittsburgh?? You have two #1 quality goalies on the roster, one who has been injured a decent amount this season and seen his share of struggles and the other being slighted by his former team and now traded to Pittsburgh.

Now, albeit after this season, Garon is a free agent, but if he outplays M-A Fleury or Fleury crumbles under the pressure of having to save his job, could Garon play his way into an extension with the Penguins or Fleury play his way out of town?? Fleury is signed through the 2014-15 season, but if he continues to underachieve; could that term be short lived?? The Pens are showing that Fleury needs to kick it into gear and become the goalie that got them to the Cup Finals or else have a guy like Garon take the spotlight and take the job, which could be the last straw for Fleury's tenure in Pittsburgh.

Depending on what happens this season, what would Penguins fans like to see come from this situation?? If Fleury falters, could they actually stand six more seasons of underachieving from Fleury and having to worry about if the back-up is good enough to cover his ass in those times of Fleury's short-comings. But how the might have fallen, with Fleury being deemed the savior in net for the Pens, now being second-guessed because of his play....or lack there of.

If there wasn't enough to watch in Pittsburgh as it is, we have this subplot of what will happen between the pipes for the rest of the season and what will happen into the off-season to worry about as well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Religion and the Rink

It seems that when I head to Montreal this June for the Entry Draft, I'll be heading into the Holy says one Swiss-born professor at the Universite de Montreal. That's correct folks, it seems that, at least in one place, we've gotten to the point in Canada where at least one hockey club has been looked at as a religion.

It seems that there's a university course at Universite de Montreal exploring the ties between the Montreal Canadiens as an organized religion. The correlations of this and some forms of Christianity is fantastic, what, with the relics of jerseys, the nicknames of certain players of the teams' history. Now, if the Canadiens are that of Christianity, does that means the Maple Leafs are Judaism?? I mean, they're lost for 40+ years, different leaders still not taking them to the promised land, and the locust....wait, what??

Yet, this begs the question of whether or not this is a little bit over the line of fanaticism and onto the realm of craziness. Sure, the points made are valid ones that Montreal has a lot of history in hockey, both professional and amateur; but there's a point where you may want to hold back on the blasphemy that this could create. Yes, the people of Montreal (and beyond for that matter) who are infatuated with the Canadiens knows the history, remembers the players past and present, and are as devoted as any other team on the face of the Earth in any sport. That said-- would you consider it a religion or cult?? Granted, if it was a religion and Ken Dryden was giving the sermon, it'd be at least a two-and-a-half hour homily.

I guess it's really all in the eye of the beholder whether or not it is a religion or not. There's plenty of passion in Canadien fans, they seem to show up win or lose, and could be some of the smartest fans in the game today. Whether or not that constitutes holy standing or not, who knows-- but some would say they have a "holier than thou" attitude at times, but there are plenty of team fans out there who have that mantra, but don't have the history to back it all up.

Yet, where do we draw the line between sports and everything else in life?? Is the meaning of life sports?? I mean, there's drama, heartbreaks, pleasant surprises from underachievers, and overachievers brought down to Earth when they thought they were on the top of the world. It has all the makings of what makes life go around and it last in three to four hours bursts almost every night of the year. Huh....maybe it could be a religion within itself, weird....

Quite frankly, I'd love to see the course in action and see the syllabii that comes with this class. If only I could speak French, then I'm sure I'd not only understand what the professor was saying, but could definitely figure the linage of how the Habs could be tied deeper to a religion than a cult-form.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Around The Rink 01.14.09

-So, Brendan Shanahan has finally signed a deal with the New Jersey Devils, which will see him paid $800,000 divided by two, since we're in the halfway part of the season. While we can only wonder how much rust is in Shahahan's gears-- you can only hope he can help with some secondary offensive punch and get some leadership in the room while Marty Brodeur continues to sit on the sideline.

-The World Juniors could be the new way for drafted junior players stuck in Europe to get over and play in North America, should they have a problem with their club team. Point in case, Mikael Backlund, who played for Team Sweden last Monday, the Calgary Flames last Wednesday, and now has settled in Kelowna of the WHL. While his Swedish club Vasteras wasn't too keen on the idea, they, along with the IIHF and the Swedish Hockey Federation, signed off on the transfer for Backlund to play in the Dub. I'm sure it's a coincidence that Backlund's coaches had criticised him before he headed off to the WJC for his play on Vasteras. I couldn't translate it that well, but I think it was something to the effect of "Birdy-bird bork, bork, bork."

-So much hype has been build up between tonight tilt between the Caps and Pens, it's almost like the Caps are up 3-1 in a playoff series. This could be the most watched game tonight, especially with all the smack talk and random news stories that have come out in the past few days. I mean, the fact that Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin's friendship has cooled down a bit and it being headline news-- oof-ta. I think it'll be a fantastic game, but I doubt it'll have the bloodshed of a Federal League game that the media is hoping for.

-Roberto Luongo is ready to come back, which means that one of the goalies for the Canucks has to be placed on waivers and sent down. Since they recently acquired Jason LaBarbera, as well as his lack of consistent play down the stretch; Curtis Sanford was placed on waivers. Way to go, you big dummy.

-Speaking of LaBarbera, what the hell is with this guy?? There are times where he looks like the second coming of Ken Dryden, then other nights he looks like Hardy Astrom. Why wouldn't the Canucks place LaBarbera on waivers and let him walk out?? If a team wants to pick him up after seeing his pure bi-polarism in net in both Los Angeles and now Vancouver-- more power to them. He could be one of the best minor league goalies in history, but the hype of him being able to make the jump to the show is completely wasted.

-The Edge jersey has finally made its way to the ECHL. The All-Star Game in Reading will have both the American and National teams wearing the Edge uniform. The thing that I have wondered is the actual statistics on whether or not the Edge uniform system is actually that much better that it's going to the top-three professional hockey leagues and be hailed as the greatest thing in hockey since they stopped using cow-shit as a puck. I'd be willing to conduct this study for a nominal fee, of course.

-Just some blog issues to take care of, so just feel free to skip it if need be. Soon, I'll be trying to integrate video to this blog for the fact that it'll be a lot funner for you folks to watch and listen rather than read.....and it cuts down on my typing. We'll see how that goes. Also, there could be a nice little project coming up here in the next few weeks that I'm sure with be...just....just super.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Captain, The Contract, and The Circus

This is the best thing about Lightning-- there's never a dull moment or a dry story.

According to TSN's Darren Dreger, there's a rift amongst those in the Bolts front office whether or not to keep Vincent Lecavalier in the Tampa Bay Lightning uniform. The captain of the team, tied for the team lead in goals, the franchise-- the brass doesn't know whether or not they want to keep him. I don't understand why this discussion is taking place. It's not a sane decision-- but again this is Tampa.

The thing that's going to get me-- is there a team out there willing to take on the new $85M extension he just signed this past summer and give up what could total the family farm for Lecavalier?? Sure, he's an extraordinare talent and probably worth every penny and prospect/player a team is going to give up. One team named is the Montreal Canadiens, which of course with every Francophone player out there is always the case.

But why would the Bolts want to trade their guy, a guy they wanted to lock-up for so long, for something that's probably not going to be a sure thing?? Especially when your team is just trying to find some kind of relavance in the NHL, aside from the sideshow that this ownership has made this organization. If the Bolts deal Lecavalier, regardless of what they get in return-- you may as well move the team to Kansas City or Hamilton, because they've given up all hope of succeeding anymore in Tampa.

Plus, aside from the contract length and cash involved-- which is their own stupid action to begin with if that is in fact the case-- why has Lecavalier fallen out of favor with the team?? It's not like there are many weapons for him to work off of or to help pick the team up if he and Martin St. Louis were to go into a slump; why deal a big gun when you're already hurting to score goals (28th in the NHL in goals for)?? Also, this is after the Bolts told Lecavalier's agent there is no desire to trade him.

Regardless of the outcome of this, at the end of the day-- you just have to shake your head and say, "It's Tampa, what do you expect??"

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Why The Bolts Should Never Get Another First Overall Pick

With the exception of their first draft where they got the first overall pick in Roman Hamrlik back in 1992, the cases of Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Stamkos should be more than enough to give the NHL reason to never allow the Tampa Bay Lightning have another first overall pick in the Entry Draft ever again. Albeit, the Bolts management probably didn't know how to put the media behind the Hamrlik move, or else they would have done it.

It's very apropos that the Barrie-Koules contingent put out the "Seen Stamkos??" campaign, because as of right now-- not many people have. With only four goals and 14 points including a -11 on the season after 39 games, it's definitely not something that the Bolts had in mind when he came into town and they put the money out. With all the hype they put out for him this summer, for all the buzz that the Bolts had out there for him-- his production has been less than stellar.

It oddly resembles the rookie year of the other first overall pick for the Bolts, Vincent Lecavalier, who had former owner Art Williams call him "the Michael Jordan of hockey", which resulted in Lecavalier putting up only 28 points in his first season and really didn't allow him to flourish too much until '02-'03 when he started to really find his niche.

The parallels are starting to really shine through with both Stamkos and Lecavalier, at least through the first year. They were propped up to be the biggest thing in the history of Tampa's hockey history. However, with all the pressure on each of them, with all the expectation-- the youngsters aren't able to excel. Even though it's not that much of a hockey hotbed, the pressure in a market like Tampa is very high because they are looked upon to bring a true face to the area. With all that on their shoulders to carry an entire market, of course they are going to crumble in the first parts of their career if they aren't pampered and nurtured to adapt to the NHL way of life-- both on and off the ice.

The gross mismanagement of both these young stars are proof that owners really should re-evaluate how they market some of their young stars. Granted, players like Sidney Crosby can be able to withstand something like that because they've been through it their entire life; yet guys like Lecavalier, Stamkos, and others who only get the attention at the end of their careers in juniors; they're not sure how to adjust to all the attention from going under the radar and being just a face in the crowd for so long. Yet, the owners only care about profit and if they can just, I guess exploit, their young stars-- they don't care the effect it has on the player until it affects their profit.

Oddly enough, both times that the Bolts had a first overall pick, they had relatively new owners to the team and to gain a little push for them-- they had to go beyond extreme when promoting the next big thing. Both times, the adverse effect happened and they did more harm than good.

These two players should be an example to all owners-- old and new-- be careful what you do with your young talent and and how you promote them. It's a hard enough transition as it is with guys making the jump from junior to the pros (though some make it look easier than others) without the weight of a franchise on their shoulders and having to carry the team and organization in their first year, normally at the age of 18. They have enough pressure on them as it is, they don't need added, unneeded pressure off the ice, as well.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What Have We Learned: Winter Classic '09

Now that the 2009 Edition of the Winter Classic is over, it's time to steal a bit from "Opie and Anthony" and play What Have We Learned.

-The Ice Was Right: NHL ice czar Dan Craig and his crew deserve all the credit they get and more. The ice they made on Wrigley Field was perfect for game and allowed a great flow to the game and allowed the players to make crisp passes and solid dekes as opposed to the ice from a year ago.

-More Doesn't Mean Better: Luckily, I was able to get both the NBC and CBC feeds for the game. While NBC had more angles and more cameras, the CBC's angles and camerawork was much better with the less cameras they had. The shots were tighter and more precise than what NBC presented. Sure, CBC has been doing this for years, but you'd think NBC would hire guys who knew how to deal with hockey games....or not.

-Field of Dreams: For all the doubt that a baseball field would work, by all accounts the sightlines were very solid regardless of your seats. Of course, sitting higher was probably better in this case, but still-- it wasn't as awful as some people may have thought.

-Ty's the Guy: If I'm a team, I'm looking to get Ty Conklin through free agency or a trade because that almost guarantees an outdoor game. This is Conklin's third start in an outdoor game and has the experience to deal with the elements.

-Tale After 20 Minutes: The Blackhawks took it to the Wings in the first period, but after that it was all Detroit. You have to wonder if the buzz in the first helped the Hawks get out to the 3-1 lead, but why couldn't they have held that intensity for the other 40 minutes that remained and that counted??

-Depth Kills: The Red Wings had 10 players with a point, three with multi-point games, and five goal-scorers. Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler, and Henrik Zetterberg all had three points, while the Wings also got goals from unlikely sources like Brian Rafalski and Brett Lebda.

-Home Ice Disadvantage: No home team has won an outdoor game, but this edition was the first to not to be a one-goal game. You have to wonder if teams would not lobby to take in the outdoor game in fear of a loss, but would love it because of the extra revenue.

-Cheli's Swan Song??: Chris Chelios only played 1:57 and you have to wonder if this was it for him in terms of playing. His injuries this season have hampered him and this could be the best way to go out, playing in the Winter Classic in his hometown in a victory for his squad. His heart may be there, but the body may not have enough in the tank.

-Huet's Mr. Hyde: There's times he looked amazing, but Cristobal Huet's Jekyll and Hyde routine continues as he let up some soft goals and was bobbling the puck many times in the 43+ minutes he played in. However, without much help in front of him, the blame shouldn't be put too much on his shoulders.

Now, we await to see where the next venue will be for the Winter Classic in 2010 and if the trend of home teams losing continues and if Ty Conklin will get another outdoor start.