Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Not To Treat a Goalie 101

This is what happens when you keep your team at the top of the standings while your all-world goalie is injured for the majority of the season-- a trip back to the AHL.

That's right kids, with Martin Brodeur coming back; Scott Clemmensen was sent down to the Lowell Devils to make room for him. Clemmensen, who went 25-13-3 with a 2.39 GAA and .917 save percentage in Brodeur's absense, is back to riding the bus after pretty much putting together a dream season and keeping the Devils at the top of the Eastern Conference standings while Brodeur recovered.

Now, I understand that Brodeur is the best goalie out there today, but you would think that the Devils would be much more willing to part ways with Kevin Weekes than Clemmensen. Sure, it's good that Clemmensen doesn't have to go through waivers, but still-- where the hell did the loyalty go in the system when a guy like Clemmensen gets this as a reward from the team he held together.

We'll see how this all pans out in the end, but if I'm Clemmensen; this is leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, no matter what kind of front I put on for the media. And to be honest, the Devils will have to offer a damn sweet deal to get my services back next season, since Clemmensen will probably get plenty of offers this summer from every team who could use a solid goalie for a valued price.

While I don't have hatred or fandom for the Devils, I want karma to kick them in their ass for this. As much as I respect Brodeur, I'd like to see him fail for the rest of the season. I'd like to see an early exit with Brodeur between the pipes for the hockey gods to show the organization that you don't treat a guy who save the season for you like they did with Clemmensen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Around The Rink 02.24.09

-Tom Renney is out and it appears John Tortorella is in as head coach for the New York Rangers. Renney's demise came after 10 losses in their last 12 games and just a complete lack of desire coming from the Rangers side of things. Tortorella was released by the Bolts in June and should be a great fit for the New York media, especially Larry Brooks. You have to wonder if the combination of Brian Burke and John Tortorella being united in Toronto could just block out the rest of the hockey world with the amount of quotables given in the center of the hockey universe??

-With that, all four coaches who started the year with those NHL Premiere games in Europe have now been fired. With the next round of teams announced to be taking the European Vacation, you have to wonder if those coaches may sit this one out in hopes their assistants get fired over them.

-The Buffalo Sabres playoff hopes could be riding on how Patrick Lalime does if Ryan Miller's ankle injury is severe. Miller was run over by Scotty Gomez and suffered a mild high ankle sprain which has him sidelined indefinitely. Lalime could possibly carry the workload, but he wouldn't be the first option to go to in this situation. You'd have to wonder if there's a rental out there the Sabres could be in the market for just in case Miller is out for an extended amount of time and Lalime fails horrificially.

-Speaking of goalies, Martin Brodeur could be back in the line-up for the Devils as early as Thursday. This will put the Devils in an interesting position that they haven't had since '92-'93-- a goaltending controversy. Do you go with Brodeur, who is arguably the best goaltender in this era or stick with Scott Clemmensen, who has played very well in the absense of Brodeur?? It's a good situation to be in, however-- two decent goalies at your disposal for what could be a deep playoff run.

-With the trade deadline coming up, the thought of who is buying, who is selling, who will be bought and who will be sold pops into everyone's head. While there's plenty of rumors, there's plenty of indecision as well. With some names out there, there's pros and cons to all the deal will be there and it could change any fate of the season. Plus, my thought as a GM is that you could always trade them before or at the Draft in order to get them out of your hair while still dealing with the possible playoff run.

-The Lightning may be in the market for defensemen, but we all know they don't like them at all. However, it could be necessitiy because of Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros being out for the season for torn labrums in their left shoulders. It's amazing how you can go from little defensement to negative defensemen like that. But, it's just another chapter in the Bolts circus of stories this year. If they need young defensemen, there's always a captain by the name of Lecavalier they could deal out if need be

Friday, February 20, 2009

Habs At It Again

The story of the Kostitsyn's and organized crime in Montreal has taken on a life of it's own, but of course-- this is not something that is unknown to the world of the NHL, nor the world of the Montreal Canadiens. We all remember Jose Theodore's run-in with the law in regards to organized crime and his father's possible involvement with loan-sharking.

Plus, you have the curious case of the the Russians being controlled by the organized crime in Russian while they play in the NHL. Such names as Pavel Bure, Alexei Zhitnik and, Alex Mogilny, to name just a few. The CBC's "Fifth Estate" did a piece about this situation back in 1999, which involved Bure, Valery Kamensky, and Slava Fetisov. PBS's "Frontline" had a story about the mafia's "power play" in the NHL, while Play the Game has a pretty big piece about the different types of scenarios that happens, which is quite a solid read.

However, it seems that this happens every few years-- especially with those who come from the Eastern Bloc nations. Whether it's gullibility or contact they made before they reached the NHL, but somehow-- these kind of stories surface once every 5-7 years with the NHL. We had a some kind of hypothesis like this when Evgeni Malkin has his little dilemna before he came into the NHL. It's something that almost can't be avoided when it comes to Russian superstars however, especially if they are high-profile ones. You almost have to wonder what will happen if the NHLers go over the Sochi for the 2014 Olympics.

Yet, while on some message boards, hockey fans believe this is a black-eye for the face of the game. I don't know how some could see this as a big deal for the league, when other leagues in North America could have something like this (much like the MLB) and it passes like it's nothing at all. The NFL and NBA has stuff like this all the time, but like my friend and guest of FOHS Kym "With a 'y'" said: "Because 90% of the time the NHL behaves itself. Steroids and misdemeanors are so common in other sports that people are used to it."

And that's the truth. The NHL can keep it's nose-clean so much, but the moment that the league has something scandalous happen to it-- it's a huge deal. People make this out to be the biggest thing ever and yet, it passes like that and it usually guilt by association, but not direct association. Also, it's when the kids are younger and more adept to be influenced by these possible connections.

In the end, if there's nothing the Kostitsyn's are involved in directly, it's another happenstance of the connections they made as young, vulnerable hockey players who could believe they could live beyond their means by making some friends they don't know all that well, but they live a high life; so it attracts them. If they didn't do anything wrong-- it's a non-issue and really all for naught.

However in the biggest anniversary in this storied franchise, the news has been nothing but bad as of late. With the team slumping and rumors of the night life being too much for the youngsters, it's the perfect storm for a collapse the size of the Ottawa Senators of '07-'08.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Around The Rink 02.16.09

-The Penguins fired Michel Therrien, putting the fate of the Penguins dwindling playoff hopes in the hands of Dan Bylsma. It's something that seemed to be in the works as the divide between players and coach seemed to be expanding as the year went on. Though the injuries didn't help, the team didn't seem to get up for the games they needed to. With the come from behind blow out the Leafs put on the Pens Saturday night just cemented Therrien's fate. Here's hoping for the organization that Bylsma is the right change for the Pens in order to get them into the playoffs.

-I don't care how much people try to sell it, I don't see Mike Green as a Norris candidate right now. Yes, he's the highest scoring defenseman with 50 points, he's a +28 on the year, and is a big threat for the Caps scoring. However, I see Green as more of a fourth forward than a defenseman out there on the ice. Though he may not be considered a defensive liability as some people may want to point out, but when you're on a line with Ovechkin more often than not-- odds are that you won't have to deal with the defensive side of things too much. Unless Green becomes more of a Scott Stevens kind of player through his career (minus the limo incident we don't talk about), I can't really correlate Mike Green and Norris Trophy, because most points does not a good defenseman make.

-So, with Martin Brodeur coming back, the thought of a goalie controversy in New Jersey is almost unfathomable. However, with Scott Clemmensen's hot play, the thought of Brodeur being thrown back in net full time once he returns to the line-up is all but a sure thing. Many believe that the Devils would be fools not to put Brodeur right back into net, because he is Martin Brodeur. Yet, at the same time-- how can you bench a guy like Clemmensen who has held down the fort so well and then throw him to the curb for name appeal rather than ability?? I don't envy Brent Sutter for having to make this kind of decision in order to give the Devils the best chance to win the Cup.

-Hey, Sean Avery's back kids. That's right, the troubled forward debuted with the Hartford Wolfpack last night. Aside from a little skirmish during the game, didn't seem like Avery mattered too much at all. He also said that during the get-togethers he held back and didn't say anything "Old Sean" would have. Great, he's talking about himself in third person, past tense. Over under three weeks on when Avery goes back to his old self again.

-We're a year away and the 2010 Olympic talk is starting. Brian Burke, the US GM, and Steve Yzerman, the Canadian GM, are heavily under the microscope for this one. On top of that, the Canadians are under pressure to come up with something other than their traditional logo. With the logo debate almost as big of a headline as who Yzerman will pick, there's a lot riding on Team Canada's display in Vancouver and it seems they want to look their best if they feel like they'll play their best.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bankruptcy vs. Bandwagoning

A friend of mine back in DC is very upset that she's not able to get a ticket to a Caps game anymore because the team has become so popular. She's gone as far as saying she's done with hockey as a whole because of the bandwagoners and people who don't know all that much about hockey swapping up the tickets in lieu of fans who have been there the entire time supporting the team in their darkest days.

While I can understand her pain, it brought about the conundrum of whether a fan would like to see the team succeed and be financially stable while avoiding rumors of a possible move in the midst of not being able to get a seat or would a fan rather be able to get a ticket to a game whenever they wanted, but have to deal with the thought the team may not be in that building next season??

I think it's quite the thought provoking ideology, especially when it was brought up about that the people who buy the tickets know nothing of the sport and are of the "puck bunny" variety, as well as the "pretty boy" mentality that the Caps and hockey in general has brought about in one way or another. I mean, it's hard to argue that the NHL has started to become a filter with some "pretty boys" who could possibly be doing some work for the Gap or some other clothing company-- but you can't blame them-- it's genetics. If they couldn't play the game and all they did was look stylish; I could understand why the rage would happen-- but some of these pretty boys can play. But the thought of people buying up tickets that know nothing of the game is very enraging to some, which brings about the question that has been posed prior.

Hockey is a sport that is a niche in the States, at best-- fans should know it and accept it for what it is. If you're going to rely on the die-hards in any city, you'd be back down to the six Canadian teams and maybe 10 US teams. The bandwagon fans are the ones who help carry some of these ticket splurges and if a team is winning and is the talk of the market, of course people are going to go be part of the fad. Who knows-- if they go enough and learn enough; they'd soon become die-hards and thus the experiment worked when the team isn't the flavor of the month. Especially in a place like DC, they have the perfect storm for bandwagoners-- the only game in town winning, arguably the top player to watch in the NHL, and they're winning at a solid pace, especially at home. When you're the only game in town worth watching-- you're going to have people wanting a piece.

Conversely, if you have a team like Atlanta, Nashville, or Long Island who are in trouble financially and where you really couldn't get rid of tickets fast enough-- are the die-hards enough to keep the team in town if another owner or city came calling?? With the teams doing horrificially as they seem to be doing-- even some of the die-hards are throwing up their hands and wondering where the support for the team is coming from and how they keep staying in the city for the long run.

Bandwagoners are a necessary evil in any sport, but especially hockey-- where exposure in the US is always wanted and always needed. If you have a team that's winning, has a lot of marketable players, and a staff in the front office willing to get the team's name and players out there as much as possible-- the bandwagoners will come and will enjoy their experience there. The bottom line is that if the building is full-- it doesn't matter who's in the seats; money will be made to keep the stability of the franchise alive.

So, as much as it's a bitch not to get a ticket because people have beat you to the draw, it's probably the best for the long run....and let's be honest, it's easier to watch the game at home, drinking all the beer you want, and not having to deal with a long trip home because you're already there. Plus, if it gets bad-- you can flip the channel to some kind of crap.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Avery Is Ready To Return, But Is The NHL Ready??

By all accounts, Sean Avery will be cleared of his sabbatical in the NHL/PA Behavioral Modification Brainwashing Seminar soon, thus will begin his long haul back to the NHL. As Darren Dreger mentioned in his article about this, Avery is still a member of the Stars and it's their decision to find on of their 103 AHL affiliates that will take Avery on their roster once he's ready to play again, send him down there and maybe bring him back on re-entry waivers to hope he gets pluck off there from some team.

It's obvious that the Stars don't want him. They're 16-7-3 without him and they are on the verge of getting in the playoffs after they were written off in November. That alone could show what kind of guy he is, when he leaves the team finally starts to get better and play like they have a purpose in life. That could be a deterant right there.

The big factor in this is whether or not there's an AHL affiliate of the Stars that would be willing to take Avery to give the Stars a chance to get him off their hands. The Manitoba Moose already said they wouldn't be willing to take him onto the roster at all. That leaves five affiliates that may or may not be willing to expose their young players to a personality like Avery's. This is one of the big reasons why NHL teams need to have a primary affiliate so that, not only do the players who are on the bubble of the main roster and AHL rosters know where they're going all the time, but also that if you have a troubled player-- you tuck him down there to straighten him out.

Albeit, it's hard to judge Avery, not knowing what this program has done for him-- whether it has either changed him for the better or if he remains to be the same old Avery with more reasons to be pissed off because the doctors and workers there are idiots. So, the questions remains-- is there a NHL team out there who would take him off the Stars' hands??

Some people have speculated that the Rangers would be the top pick since Tom Renney was able to control him somewhat last season and because it was New York and he would have a lot of things to do there to keep him occupied. However, this late into the season, the chemistry is already set in stone and some teams will be more than hesistant to put someone like Avery, who has a checkered past to put it nicely, on their team-- no matter what the reward could be from the risk that is taken. Sure, it's unfair to an extent, but until Avery shows that he has actually changed for the better, there's going to be little interest in wanting to take him onto the roster. Though that make the circle vicious since he can't show people he has changed if no one wants to put him on a roster, AHL or otherwise. So that again puts Avery at a disadvantage of that.

It'll be a very slippery slope for Avery to climb up to get back to the limelight of the NHL and there's going to be an added obstacle with everyone having his eyes on him looking for one more imperfection to give them reason to not take him onto their roster. I personally think Avery is great at his role as an agitator and instigator, but are other teams going to look past what he's done and see what he's capable of doing, if he in fact has gotten his behavior in check or will the history of him being a nuisance in the lockerroom and in the media make teams very skeptical of how he could actually benefit the team in the long-run??

Only time will tell....