Friday, May 29, 2009

CHL Living On The Edge

Due to a small leak by the Halifax Mooseheads, it seems the Canadian Hockey League is switching to the RBK Edge templated jersey system. On Wednesday, the Mooseheads put up the screenshot above, which looks like it's the new Edge system design. This would make sense since most of the players from the CHL get drafted into the design in the NHL or get sent to the AHL, where they have the Edge design as well.

However, this irks me because this could be yet another way to go a templated design and have not any originality of it all. It also makes sense this would happen with the Windsor Spitfires switching jerseys mid-season to a design that is already in the Edge way of life, the Washington Capitals template. The Mooseheads are taking the Wild design and all kinds of fun stealing should follow I'm sure.

We'll keep an eye on this because I believe the CHL could be some of the best jerseys out there in the hockey world and who knows what kind of awfulness could come from this whole switch to the new streamlined designed of uniform system.

Thanks to "Dante X" at the CCSLC for the catch of design change.

EDIT: As I was looking more through the CCSLC, the London Knights have gotten a new retro logo for their jerseys next season. In the press release, it also says that the CHL and Reebok have the jersey agreement that can't be revealed until September. Fun.....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 Stanley Cup Preview we are again. A re-match of last season's Stanley Cup Final with the Detroit Red Wings coming out of the Western Conference and the Pittsburgh Penguins coming from the East. Not many names have changed, though one prominent name switching from one side to the other-- which could cause plenty of animosity.

That's right, the focus of this is that of former Penguin/current Red Wing Marian Hossa facing his old team, facing the team he didn't have much faith in making it to the Cup finals again. Well...doesn't his face look red. Like the Penguins needed that much more motivation for revenge, they have this little Hossa deal looking over them to hype them up some more. Of course, Ty Conklin is another of last year's Penguins in the finals again, although his factor may not be as great. However, this is Conklin's third time in the Cup Final in the past four years-- it could be his year. It seems he's not only Winter Classic karma, he's Stanley Cup karma.

Looking at the goaltending first, both Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury are playing as amazingly as they did last season, though the edge could be given to Osgood just because of the defensive help he has gotten in front of him. Yet, one slight bad bounce for Osgood could change this whole series and shift momentum on a dime. That said-- if Osgood can get some help on the offensive side of things, if he could get the support he has been getting in the first two series-- he'll be just fine.

Defensively, the Red Wings were without Nicklas Lidstrom for Games 4 and 5 and without Jonathan Ericsson for Game 5 and still held the Blackhawks to only two goals. The depth of the Wings blue line is insane and it seems that they have an added intensity from last year. On the opposite side, the Penguins have had their shaky games and let the opposing offense strike too many times too quickly. For the Pens to be successful, their defense will need to be in shutdown mode and not let the Wings get multiple chances on M-A Fleury, because if they do-- it's not going to be pretty.

Finally, on the offense-- the Penguins have the two top guns in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are arguably the best one-two punch in hockey today. The Wings knows this and will do all they can to shutdown these two-- which means the role players will need to step up even more than they have been. Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin will be the key secondary guys who will be looked at to step up. The Wings have really been without Pavel Datsyuk for most of the playoffs since his ineffeciency has been at the forefront and him missing some of the Blackhawks series showed it was more than a slump. However, Johan Franzen has recaptured his playoff magic, Henrik Zetterberg is showing why he got a long-term deal, Dan Cleary and Darren Helm are even chipping in as grinders. Oh yeah-- some guy named Hossa using his puck-possession to control the game hasn't hurt either.

PREDICITION: Wings in Six. Same teams, same results. I'm sorry Pens fans, but the depth for the Wings is far too much to overcome in my eyes. The fact they can be without their captain for two games when the series momentum could have shifted and they outscore their opponent 8-2 in those games is very telling. It could be a very fun series to watch, depending on what happens to the Hossa situation, but it's the Cup finals and it'll be the last NHL hockey we'll see until September and we may as well enjoy it, regardless your team affiliation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's Next: Chicago Blackhawks

There were plenty who thought the Blackhawks had something special last year. I doubt many thought they would get this deep into the playoffs this season, but they had some swagger and no fear, which made this young team to grow as a group, as well as bringing a city that has been dormant to hockey for years back to life. If this is a look at things to come, then you're going to have a solid team in the Central Division and Western Conference for the years ahead.

The one big question heading into the summer and that is what can you do with Nikolai Khabibulin. He was spectacular during the season and into the playoffs, but he left sick during the conference finals and barring a re-signing-- he's gone. Which puts the pressure on Cristobal Huet to perform. While he looked great in Game Five of the Western Final, his inconsistency could be his undoing. While they have the likes of Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi as back-up consideration, the inexperience could be counterproductive to the Hawks goals. Of course, both Crawford and Niemi are RFAs, which means they could bring in an experienced back-up while they get seasoning in Rockford.

Up front, there are plenty of RFAs like Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, and Dave Bolland to name a couple, but seeing as how well they gelled in the season, they will most likely be back. Can't say the same for Martin Havlat, who was decent this season and mostly healthy, but probably will be pushed out for some more youth in the line-up and to free up the money in order to re-sign some RFAs. Also expect some extensions for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Dustin Byfuglien-- all who are key cogs in the the Hawks future plans.

Defensively, the Hawks have a lot of money tied up in Brian Campbell, who should anchor the defense offensively, but guys like Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith will be the keystones in this wall for the Hawks future. It'll be interesting to see how the Hawks handle Cam Barker's RFA status, especially if they don't have the money to re-sign him. Expect Matt Walker to be back for a small contract like he got this year.

There's a lot to be excited about if you're a Hawks fan or like the success stories like the Hawks have become. This group has done nothing but good for a city that embraced them for years and the hockey town mentality has come back in full effect. This team has the skill set and the leadership in Joel Quenneville to lead them further if they stick to the game-plan. Sad thing is that all it took was long-time owner Bill Wirtz to pass on before this team could really flourish. Bittersweet, indeed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Next: Carolina Hurricanes

They had a gritty effort through and through, but the Carolina Hurricanes ran out of steam when it was the most important, in the Eastern Finals. After two hard-fought seven game series prior, you can bet that they just ran out of steam and could keep pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

However, the season wasn't all that good until after the trade deadline. In their last 10 games, the Canes were 8-2 and one of the hottest in the league, mostly due to the play of Cam Ward. Ward seemed to pick it up towards the end of the season and showed the style that won him a Conn Smythe back in '06. However, it seems that he could get much help when it came to the Conference Finals, which ruined what could have been a successful season otherwise.

Speaking of the defense, the only solid players on the blue were Anton Babchuk and Joni Pitkanen, while the other regulars were somewhat subpar in their own end, but guys like Joe Corvo and Dennis Seidenberg made up for it offensively. Seidenberg is a UFA, while Babchuk has RFA status for the summer, but I suspect both should be re-signed because the budget will allow it to happen. If they are able to fix up defensively, it could help out a lot for a run next season.

However, it's going to be up to the offense to get a little more proactive. Of the 16 playoff teams, the Canes only had more goals than four teams. While the addition of Erik Cole helped a little, the brunt of the pressure was put on Eric Staal and Ray Whitney. Whitney had another solid season, while Staal seemed to have a downer year not living up to the expectations set. While Staal did step up in the playoffs, he'll need to show more during the regular season to help his team get a better position. The grand surprise was the offensive output of Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose in the playoffs, both are free agents, Jokinen being restricted. Both should command a healthy raise if they re-sign with the Canes.

Cole and Tuomo Ruutu are the other two forward who are free agents of substance, which means that the core can remain together for another year. There's some talent coming up through the ranks, but the Canes could be looking at the free agent market to bring in some more scoring to the team for the next season.

Odds are that if the Canes had a solid first half of the season, they could have put themselves in a better position for the playoffs. However, they got hot when they needed to be and went into the playoffs with a hot goalie, which usually is the thing to get you far in the playoffs. They were renamed the "Cardiac Canes" with their late game surges, grabbing victory out of the jaws of defeat. Even then, they ran into another hot goalie and couldn't overcome the deficit this time.

Edmonton's Men on a Mission

While the title suggests that I'm talking about the early-90s WWF tag team, I'm actually talking about the Oilers new head coach(es) hiring today. Though I would love to see Mabel, Oscar, or Moe behind the bench at some point.

Anyway, Pat Quinn was named head coach and Tom Renney was named assistant coach today. Both have three-years deals and there is an understand that if the Mighty Quinn retired after the contract and both are still with the franchise, the ship will be Renney's to run. I'll get to that situation in a moment, however.

Quinn is an interesting choice, but could be one that's right for the Oilers. Considering what he was able to do with the Canadian World Junior's team this year and the Canadian U-18 team, you can only imagine that the Oilers picked him on the basis that he will be able to get his message through to the younger players, which the Oilers have plenty of. With 15 players under 25 years old on the roster this past season, Quinn should still be able to get to the untapped resources of these kids' talents. He may have the ability to haress the talent, rather than squander it.

The intriguing part of this whole thing is Tom Renney being named an associate head coach, which is fancy wording for assistant coach. With the prospective jobs that are out there in Calgary, Minnesota, and Montreal-- why would Renney be willing to take a job that's underneath him?? Sure, he could still learn from a mentor like Quinn, but he wasn't that awful of a coach when with the Rangers-- he just wore out his welcome quickly. The fact of the matter is that if Pat Quinn's history is telling of something; he won't step down unless it's absolutely necessary, which could spell doom for Renney if he thinks that in three years he'll take over in Edmonton. That puts the Oilers in a rough spot if that does happen, mostly because they wouldn't want to lose Renney if Quinn has shown that the game has passed him by.

Whatever the future for these two bring, they'll cross that bridge when they get to it. The main objective right now is what's going to happen for the '09-'10 season. Since the Oilers went to the Cup Finals in '06, they have yet to make it back to the Playoffs. They have a young team and have talent up and down the roster and in their farm system. It's now time for Quinn to put his years of service to work and show that he still has the touch that made him so sought after. Just hope that he doesn't power trip and try to be GM when he has no power to.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Draft Hat Disgust

The geniuses at Reebok and those who make the choices for the NHL have unveiled some of the 2009 NHL Draft hats and to be honest with you....ugh.

Look, I get that people wearing white may be the in thing nowadays, but enough of it. I'm sick of it, mostly because it's so very cookie cutter. There's no thought, no originality, and really no identity. Put some damn team colors on it for Pete's sake-- it won't hurt anyone. Usually, the NHL follows the NFL Draft hat since Reebok does both official clothing contracts. And to be honest, I was really ready to see the new Draft hats because the NFL's were pretty solid, as you see by the Redskins' hat.

I can deal with the cookie-cutter if they have some kind of team feel to it. The NHL's hats just fail horribly when it comes to originality or diversity amongst their teams. Maybe it's cheaper, but I don't know if it's going to be a highly sought after product if they are this plain. Another thing could be my OCD and hatred for anything white because it could get very dirty very easily, but still.

Granted, if the NHL can come out and say that these are just prototypes, that's fine, but I have my doubts when it comes to that kind of reprive.

Iron Mike Flames Out

The Calgary Flames have been ousted from the playoffs in the first round for the last three seasons and Mike Keenan has been at the helm of this ship for the past two. For that, Keenan has been relived of his duties as head coach and the Flames will look for yet another coach to see if they can make it past that crucial first round.

Keenan didn't do too horribly behind the bench of the Flames, going 88-60-16 in the regular season, but the fact of the matter is that he couldn't guide the team when it counted the most. I'm sure that it wasn't as bad in the first year since they had to scratch and claw to get into the playoffs and then putting the Sharks to a Game Seven before being ousted. This season, the Flames got off to a great start, but then faltered after the trade deadline and were out in an uninspiring six game set against the Blackhawks.

Under Keenan, the Flames were able to open up offensively, however; the defensive side of things became a little lacking in the fact that Miikka Kiprusoff's GAA has shot up progressively since the end of the lockout, though that could be partial to him playing an insane amount of games and expected to be on constantly. The defense itself had the bottom drop out with Dion Phaneuf's play defensively suffering and Adrian Aucoin playing much less than stellar in his contract year. While the Flames were able to get some secondary scoring from Mike Cammalleri, it still wasn't enough to help take the pressure of Jarome Iginla. Though, we'll see what Olli Jokinen can do in a full-season in Calgary.

So, now-- with Keenan out-- who is the next coach in Calgary?? With Darryl Sutter in the GM role, the Sutters being kings in Alberta-- you can bet that there's going to be insight to Brian or even Brent Sutter coming to coach for the Flames and be close to home. To some, that may be an ideal situation, but at the same time a bit of overkill for the Sutter clan. We get it, you're vast in numbers and rule Alberta-- nice. Yet, aside from that-- who is out there?? You have the two big candidates that the team up the QE2 in Edmonton want in Peter Laviolette and Tom Renney, as well as one time head coach Jim Playfair-- though I think Playfair's chances aren't that good.

How much of a chance that they go off the board in this and look for someone not on the radar?? Maybe look at Ryan McGill from down on the farm and promote from within. Scott Arniel from the Manitoba Moose could get a look-see, though you never know what the Canucks would say to that. Of course, the Ted Nolan debate could linger, but it's very, very, very doubtful. And, for pure insanity-- let's put Patrick Roy in here too. Also, the long-lost Sutter, former star of "The Bachelor", Ryan Sutter.

It's going to be an interesting time in Calgary when it comes to what's happening behind the bench, amongst many other things that the Flames will be looking at as they head into the summer trying to figure out how to right the ship with so much promise.

Robert Mueller 1980-2009

Sad follow-up from something I wrote in November, as German National goaltender Robert Mueller passed away today at the age of 28. Mueller had been dealing with an inoperable, incurable brain tumor, but still found a way to play this season for his club team Kölner Haie.

Mueller did all he could while he was still on this Earth and after he played the hand that he was dealt and it seems to show some kind of inspiration as a whole to the human spirit. Albeit, he knew what he fate was, he never showed any kind of sign of getting down on himself or letting this beat him without a fight. Even though he was drafted into the NHL and went to some training camps, he stayed in Germany and made a name for himself on the international stage and was a huge success. Kölner Haie has retired his #80 and word is that the German league as a whole could do the same.

It's a little bit of a sombering moment, what in this time of playoff drama and high emotions based on a game, but it does give the sport a bit of a reality check for people who could take it a little too seriously. Mueller's legacy of fight and determination is something that would be considered second to none and really is an inspiring tale of facing adversity and fighting through it. May he rest in piece knowing that he has touched the hearts of many in the German hockey community and the hockey community as a whole.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roy-ee Mountain High

Yes, that was an awful attempt at making "Rocky Mountain High" into something dealing with Patrick Roy and it failed like it did in my head.

In any case, rumors out of Colorado have the Avalanche offering the head coaching position. It could seem a bit odd, as Roy has been only coaching for a few years in the QMJHL and had some success there with a Memorial Cup win; but there's a big step from coaching in juniors and coaching in the NHL. You never really know if he will be able to strike gold in the NHL like he did in the QMJHL.

The thing is with all the candidates that are possibly out there, why go for a guy with the inexperience behind the bench like Roy?? Is it because they are looking for a familiar name behind the bench that could get the fans back into the Pepsi Center after a dismal past campaign?? Albeit, you can say he is a winner and quick learner since he's done that for most of his career on and off the ice. Yet, when you're trying to recover and the whole organization is in a panic, some times; the snap decisions don't work out really well for the teams. That all said, if Roy is put behind the bench, maybe he could whip the goaltenders, whomever they may be in Colorado next season, into shape.

Yet, what will happen if this project goes through the signing stage if it'll work out or not. The Avs do have the youth enough in order for Roy to come in and be the teacher and not have to worry about an uprising from an older group of veterans who aren't going to listen to him and try to be his friend rather than have the player-coach scenario going on.

The rumors are rampant in Colorado, what with this and then the rumors of Pierre McGuire hinted as a candidate for the GM job-- it's going to be interesting to see what all falls into place. Though you have to wonder if the Avs are pulling the same trick that they were doing with his number retirement and trying to hire Roy before the Canadiens can do it. Just saying....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Conference Final Shabby Preview

Alright, I won't lie-- I'm on vacation right now visiting the family and friends from Maryland, so doing anything productive outside of playing hockey, catching up, and drinking isn't at the forefront, so this is a brief rundown of the Conference Finals.


The Penguins are coming off a grueling series with the Capitals and you wonder how much it took out of them. Albeit, the Pens looked pretty good in Game Seven winning handily and the rest could help them heal-- the fact remains that they are going to be in tough against a team like the Canes. This is the second straight year for the Pens to be in the Eastern Final and their experience in being here before should help them focus and not get too excited over it. If Evgeni Malkin can be the force he started to be at the end of the second round, then the Pens could be unstoppable. Add that to M-A Fleury's stellar play and it could be a perfect storm for the Pens.

Speaking of unstoppable, Eric Staal has been on quite the tear and been the life force for the Canes offense, while Cam Ward is looking like the goalie who won the Conn Smythe in the 2006 Playoffs. The Canes may not have the dynamic offensive force that the Penguins may have, but the Canes are getting scoring from all over with Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose being the unlikely contributers for Carolina. There are still some leftovers from the 2006 Cup team, so the experience could be good enough to focus those with inexperience of it all. However, you wonder how much the two seven-games series have taken out of the Canes, especially since they have been fighting for a spot into the playoffs for the last part of the season.

PREDICTION: Penguins in 6. While the Canes could be a nice story of the underdog, the seven games serieses they had to endure will have taken a lot out of them physically and really not make them outlast a much fresher Pens team.


(Note, Game One is already over with as I write this)

The Red Wings keep on going, though their series against the Ducks went much longer than they want, but it looks like the Jekyll/Hyde act of Chris Osgood is in full effect. There's times he was on, times he was off-- but luckily the team in front of him were able to adjust to fit which persona was in net. Johan Franzen looks like he's back in full playoff form, leading the Wings again in points thus far. However, the non-productive nature from Pavel Datsyuk should be something that is alarming to the Wings. While it's good they can produce without him, yet to get him going would be the best for the team in general.

The cardiac Hawks are still in this and show that they could be showing that being young with no fear is going well for them. While Martin Havlat is leading in points, the youth movement has gotten much of the press. Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg, and Jonathan Toews have been decent contributors in their first playoffs, though their even-strength play will have to get better in order for them to be successful in this round. The story though has been the stellar play of Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabby has been able to come up huge at times when his team has needed it and has showed the form that gave him the starters job in the first place. He'll need to really be on in order for him to help lead the Hawks over the Wings.

PREDICITION: Wings in 6. As great of a story as the Hawks have been, they will probably be no match for the depth and experience of the Wings. This far into the playoffs, experience will be crucial and the Wings have just that, which should lead them into another Cup Final.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's Next: Anaheim Ducks

As an eighth-seed, the Ducks weren't supposed to get past the #1 team in the NHL, but they upset the San Jose Sharks and put the defending Cup Champs to the brink. The Ducks weren't the usual 8-seed, but because of their sub-par season leading up the playoffs, they got stuck in the back. Of course, they got some much needed surprises and got some attention from those who didn't think much of them from the on-set.

The biggest surprise is the emergence of Jonas Hiller. Yet, the wonder about Hiller is if he's going to be yet another in a long-line of Anaheim back-ups that has a stellar run and the falters outs in the next season. Just ask Martin Gerber and Ilya Bryzgalov. While J-S Giguere could be the top guy heading into next season, knowing what Hiller is capable of should allow the Ducks many options when it comes to who to play next season.

Up front, the core of the Ducks remains, with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry leading the way. Bobby Ryan broke out in the playoffs and will be in a contract year, so you can expect some big things from him next season, which should be a great help to the Ducks forwards. While Rob Niedermayer is the real big name not under contract next season, he could be let go by the wayside if the Ducks feel they have players coming through the pipe in order to fill his role at a cheaper price.

The big news will be on defense and who the Ducks will and want to get back into the fold. Of course, Scott Niedermayer, Bret Hedican, and Francois Beauchemin are all UFAs and may or may not be back. With Niedermayer, you can bet that he may considering retirement and play that gimmick again. With Pronger still in the fold, you can bet Niedermayer may want to step aside and let Pronger run that team. Beauchemin and Hedican are both affordable pick-ups, though Hedican could call it a career since he is getting up in age and may not get the offers he wants. It could be a change of pace for the Ducks defense if they can't get their big guns back.

The Ducks could be a new look team next season, which could be either good or bad for the team as a whole. While the front line has been fantastic and should grow like that for a while. The defense and goaltending will be the big question marks and wait-and-see period of the whole thing. The new look to it all may be the big deal and could be the thing that makes and breaks the Ducks for next season.

What's Next: Boston Bruins

For the Boston Bruins, it must have been disappointing. They had the best record in the Eastern Conference, dominated all the way around from start to finish, and after an easy first round; they got caught by the Hurricanes and now are left to wonder "what if" this summer.

Obviously the main story was Tim Thomas coming up huge for the Bruins in net and pretty much becoming the front runner for the Vezina Trophy. Rewarded with a new contract, we'll see if Thomas is for real with this new contract or if this was all a dream season. Plus, it'll be interesting to see how much time Tuukka Rask gets in net next season, as you can image that Manny Fernandez isn't gonna be back. Rask has been a prospect for a while now with two different clubs and you have to wonder how long he can be hindered before he just falls off the map and his stock completely falls out.

The good thing with the Bruins is that most of their core is still together for next season, which will be good in the growth and development of the team. There's only a few question marks, one being what to do with Phil Kessel. There's been plenty of speculation that he has worn out his welcome in Boston and could be shipped out or allowed to walk as a RFA. Kessel had a career year this year, which could get him many suitors out on the market. Yet, something about him may rub people the wrong way. The Bruins could be willing to move him if they believe that Blake Wheeler can be a solid contributor to the team. Plus, if Byron Bitz can develop a little more, he could be a suitable alternative as well. The Bruins also have David Krejci, who was second in team points and is a RFA this summer as well.

That aside, the contribution that Michael Ryder provided is something that could ease any pain the Bruins could have losing anyone on their team. Plus, they have Marc Savard signed and who knows what Marco Sturm could do, if he can stay healthy. Though the lack of production from the likes of Patrice Bergeron could be a bit concerning for some, especially considering he was supposed to be the big scorer for the Bruins.

An upside of things is the defense, Zdeno Chara was again solid and could be the next Norris Trophy winner, Dennis Wideman came on like gangbusters this season, both putting up 50 points this season. Matt Hunwick showed signs of becoming a solid contributor this season, which could get him a new contract for next season as he is a RFA. Hunwick could be a cheaper option than UFAs Shane Hnidy and Steve Montador, though Montador is willing to throw the mitts now and again, which may get him a small contract.

The season was a great one for the Bruins, another building season that could have been more if they hadn't hit a hot team at the right time. If they can keep this potential up for next season, they'll be in good shape moving forward. Claude Julien has been able to keep these guys in check and should be able to keep getting his message across to the squad and keep them growing throughout. It's not that much of a consolation that they need, but it should be something to help them moving forward.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's Next: Washington Capitals

The Caps came back from last year's amazing run with another amazing run, culminating in an epic, dream match-up with a usual rival. And per usual, the Caps came up just short against the Penguins and now look to next year with a new outlook and continue to get better.

The one thing that the Caps were able to find out is their new goaltending star in Simeon Varlamov. When Jose Theodore was down, Varlamov came up and became a folk hero of sort and really showed that he's able to take over the top spot in Washington. Theodore, you have to wonder what's next with him and what's going to happen to his contract considering he wasn't the best when it counted the most. With Varlamov's explosion, you wonder if a buy-out and re-signing of Brent Johnson is in the future for the Caps goaltending.

Up front, three vets are UFAs and it remains to be seen if the Caps will make a play for them. Of course, Sergei Fedorov's decision to play or not will be a big factor, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Caps bring him back, if not for his ability to help the Russians mature, but for his leadership as a whole for his very inexperienced team. Donald Brashear is a muscle for the team, but depending on his price tag, it could be a little much for them to swallow. Viktor Kozlov's play in the second round may have been his swan song in DC and could see him free up a little bit of cash for the blueline funding.

Speaking of which, the defense was another shaky part of the game, but with Mike Green's injury coming out after the series, you wonder what could have happened if Karl Alzner or Sami Lepisto were back there and playing at full health. Digression though, three RFAs for the rear-guard, Shaone Morrisson, Milan Jurcina, and Jeff Schultz are the names and depending on their contract demand may or may not be back. Like I mentioned, you have guys like Alzner and Lepisto ready to go, John Carlson is in the OHL waiting, and let's not forget about Tyler Sloan who had a decent impact. While the Caps could have been better in their own end, the future is looking quite bright depending on who stays and who goes.

This playoff was a baby step for this young franchise and it showed what they could do in the face of some adversity. Alex Ovechkin showed why people think he's the best in the world and the Caps turned plenty of head with their gritty play and their team system of things. If this is an indication of what's going to happen moving forward, then DC will be rocking the red for years to come and not be ashamed of doing professing they are a Caps fan, which is a welcome change from just a few years prior.

Two Stars, One Series, One Golden Age

When this whole thing started, the hype was all about the two faces of the league going against each other in a way that the league could branch out to a more mainstream audience and bring some people in who may have not been on board before.

After tonight, after the seventh game of this grueling series, after the last buzzer sounds, the last goal is scored-- it's easy to say this is when the hype wasn't enough to show how amazing this series has been between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

And it's not just the stars, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby going head-to-head-- it's been a team effort through and through. Albeit, Ovie and Crosby have been the focal points and have yet to disappoint this series, the team dynamic has ruled over the mainstream match-up. You've had heroes like Kris Letang and David Steckel take over the headlines for their game winners, you've had stellar performances from Marc-Andre Fleury and Simeon Varlamov, but when all is said and done-- it's been about Crosby and Ovechkin.

The question that is posed now is whether or not one game or even one series can determine who is better between the two of them. Can you really measure the greatness between the two of them when they have been so close in everything when it comes to this series?? Sure, it'd be easy to say one was better than the other if the series was a blow out or if one star took control like noone's business; but these games have been close (five of the six being decided by one goal) and the stats of Crosby and Ovechkin have been mirror of each other for the most part. Is it fair to judge who is better than who because of this??

Personally, I don't think you can. Sure, the odds of this hype being big as this year should these teams meet again in a playoff down the road is unlikely, but the fact remains that one match-up does not a rivalry determine. Sure, you can debate the rivalry of the Penguins and Capitals as one way or another, but to say that this one singular match-up in the playoffs between Ovechkin and Crosby is going to be a precursor to their future match-ups and the future outcome is rather absurded to put it nicely. Both of these guys were under the microscope, both of them had the hype machine behind them, both of them have yet to disappoint. No matter who comes out on top, they should have bragging right for a while, but the debate will continue on. That's the thing with Ovechkin vs. Crosby-- you'll always have one side that going to be homer over another or love one player or hate one player; but the respect value should be there for both players. Sure, this is a very Kofi Annan thing do to, but the debate is great, but the heated hatred over one from another get a bit ridiculous, especially during the playoffs.

We have to admit that we're in a golden age of hockey stars. It seems every year, there's a new phenom just making hockey fans' jaws drop, making people take notice. That will continue with John Tavares next season and will probably get better if Taylor Hall can keep up his pace in the OHL for the 2010 Draft. It's hard to say that one player is better than another unless it's absolutely one-sided, which in most cases it never is. This second round has shown more stars break out of the mold and display their own skills, own personality, own way of play.

The thing is as a collective we need to do is let the petty squabling die down for just a minute, sit back, and take in the fact that this is something we may never see again in our lifetimes where there are so many great players in one league at one time. Enjoy it, folks-- because it's going to be a great ride for the next decade or so watching these rookies turn into royalty.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's Next: Vancouver Canucks

They had a great run to end the season, turned it into a first-round sweep, but they ran into a team that didn't know fear and the Vancouver Canucks' season is now over.

Yet, the downfall of the Canucks playoffs could have been the downfall of the year. While the Sedins were able to get a point-per-game in the playoffs as they did in the regular season, the secondary scoring wasn't there at all. While Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Pavol Demitra tried to contribute, the defensive mindset still remains for the Canucks.

However, you can tell this team is all about Roberto Luongo and when he was injured-- you could tell things were akimbo. Jason LaBarbera started out well and then faded, and that's after he usurped Curtis Sanford's role. Once Luongo came back, he took control and allowed the Canucks to play in their defensive gameplan. So, goaltending won't be a problem for the Canucks for another year.

However, the offensive side of things will have to step up to give Luongo some support. With the Sedins both UFAs alongside Mats Sundin, who was somewhat subpar during his tenure, the Canucks may have to shift their priorities in order to give their goaltending some support and make their game more towards an offensive movement. While that may not happen under the tenure of Alain Vigneault, it may be something that the Nucks will have to do in order to be successful in the playoffs and even in the regular season.

Defensively, the Nucks had some solid performances from Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, and Alex Edler on the defensive, Kevin Bieksa's offensive performance was a breakout, but struggled on the defensive side of things. The top-four will be back again next season, but you'd think that they would want the pressure off of them, as well. If they want some of the guys to be able to open up their game more, the offensive push would be something that could relieve the pressure on their end.

There could be a lot needed for the Canucks to change their ways and to change their success in the regular season and maybe adapt to the new style of play in the NHL. Every year is seems that they either barely squeak into the playoffs or have the threat of not getting in down the stretch. If they can actually get some secondary scoring or primary scoring if the Sedins leave-- then they could be more assured to their playoff destiny and give their fans something to get excited about rather than defending their team and their defensive scheme.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Summer of Relocation Rumors

With the hubbabaloo that is going on with the Phoenix Coyotes, it seems that Hamilton may have another suitor for their fair city. Reports are saying that Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger will have a meeting with Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi about possibly moving the Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton. Gaglardi said he hopes to have the Thrashers in Hamilton for the 2010-11 season.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise, especially since the Thrashers' ownership have been in-fighting for years now, with no resolution in sight. You see, the Atlanta Spirit group is comprised of nine owners in three separate groups based in three different cities....yeah, that's got me scratching my head too. Plus, there has been legal preceedings to get one of the owners ousted and it's just a big mess.

You have to love the timing of this though-- the Thrashers body isn't even dead and people are picking at it. Also, this is showing that the city of Hamilton may not be willing to wait for the legal issues between Jim Balsillie and the NHL to be done with in order to have a NHL team in their city. Yet, what happens if (and a huge IF) both Balsillie and Gaglardi get control of their respective teams and gain some kind of relocation vote. What kind of quagmire will that create (giggity). Especially with the news that there are as many as five groups eyeing the Hamilton area for a new or used NHL team.

But, we get ahead of ourselves here. The big thing is that this summer could be the Summer of Relocation Rumors in the NHL. With the Islanders issues, the Coyotes, and now the Thrashers are in the headlines when it comes to relocation. Yet, the NHL is to have us to believe everything is fine and dandy when it comes to the finances to each of it's 30 teams. If stuff is going wrong, it would be better to cut losses and move the team where it's not going to be an albatross for the league. You would think that the Board of Governors would be behind had if it meant they made more money to it all, the players association would probably be behind it because then with revenues up, the salary cap goes up and they are able to make more money. Everyone is happy.

Of course, that is everyone, except those who lost a team. And while I can sympathize with those who have and are in danger of losing their hockey team, but it's the business of things. Sports is no longer about city pride, team loyalty, or any of that nonsense. It's about business and if the business isn't working in one place, you have to look at moving it where it could work. While some fans can't see the forest for the trees, the end result justifies the means of the owner who wants his business to work.

This is why the City of Hamilton has been stepping up their efforts to get a team into the Copps Coliseum. While the Bulldogs have done their part, their isn't a comparsion from the AHL to the NHL and if you want local businesses to back the team and put money into the team, you bet that the NHL would be a more attractive option. Of course, this will probably mean that the city will have to look at developing a new arena plan since it is almost 25 years old and can accomedate under 17,400, but they first have to get a team.

All eyes will be on Hamilton this summer and will be until a successful bid brings a team into that region. It won't be long until each of the 30 teams will have their name throw into the Hamilton rumor mill for moving there....hell, even some defunct teams as well, why not??

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bankruptcy is Balsillie's Gain

The big news out of the desert isn't something we weren't surprised by-- what with the Coyotes apparently filing for bankruptcy, but it's that there's a deal in place with my favorite demi-owner Jim Balsillie to buy the team and that the NHL taking over for former owner Jerry Moyes and will act on behalf of the Coyotes in bankruptcy court.

The deal that is reportedly in place according to court documents is worth about $212.5M, which will be in place by June 30th, 2009 so that the NHL will know where the team is headed and can adjust the schedule/conference/world properly. Balsillie, working under the guise of PSE Sports and Entertainment LP, would take over the team and move them to Southern Ontario, according to the report from the Arizona Republic. The thing with Balsillie is that he isn't as rambunctious as he usually is, which is really good because he's not going to sell season tickets already, but he's plugging his website Make It Seven, which is all that he's doing right now.

Now it's not a done deal yet, as investors can bid overtop of Balsillie, but it has to be at least $5M over the $212.5M and it's a wonder if anyone will step up to the plate when it comes to a team that has hemorrhaged money like the Coyotes have in the past years.

However, another stick in the spokes for Balsillie and this deal is three-fold. First, the NHL taking over the team and may queer the deal in the courts. Second, the Board of Governors holding up any move from the Phoenix region, though that looks less and less likely. And third, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs will be the biggest factor. They have always said that they want concrete evidence that a second team on "their turf" wouldn't hurt their money-making capabilities and regardless of what the BoG votes, they will raise a stink about it and request plenty of compensation from Balsillie for moving into their area, much like the Kings did with the Anaheim Ducks back in '93. And if they don't let this happen, you have to wonder if there will be any resentment between the NHL and it's fans against the Leafs....more so.

While a Leafs ticket is one of the hardest to get, why would they want to deny people seeing any NHL hockey. Isn't that counterproductive to what the NHL wants to do and get people out to the rinks?? Wouldn't a second team in a highly populated area be a the best part, especially if people will shell out money to see either teams, just to see NHL hockey?? You would think that the ability to have hockey in a popluated area with great profit potential will be welcomes with open arms and not shunned. And even if Balsillie puts together a scientific paper showing that the Leafs wouldn't lose their money-making potential and finds out the the meaning of life, the Leafs would probably dismiss it in order to keep all the monies to themseleves.

That's the biggest hurdle right now, the filibuster that is the Leafs. The BoG probably wouldn't be as hard to sway since they would realize that the team in a place like Phoenix would be as desired as a place like Southern Ontario, which will then get the league on board because they ultimately work for the BoG and if Gary Bettman and Bill Daly like their jobs, they'd be wise to keep the BoG happy.

For a guy like Balsillie who is passionate about owning a NHL team and putting one back in Canada like many have wanted for years-- I hope this works out for him. I've always been in your corner big man, I just hope you remember that should you need a sarcastic ass in your entourage when this becomes reality.

McGuire May Be Minnesota's Monster

Reports out of St. Paul have the Wild short-listing for their possible replacement for their GM position and it seems that TSN analyst, color-blind advocate, and all around annoyance for some people, Pierre McGuire seems to be the front runner for this position.

Now, say what you will about this man, but he has a decent hockey mind and could take over in this position and flourish. He may be loud, obnoxious, and hated by many who can't deal with his shrill voice and commentary, but when you stop to listen to what he says; it actually makes sense. You have to remember, he did help coach the Penguins to a Stanley Cup as a scout and assistant coach in '91 and '92, so he has the ability to go into a deeper role and have an eye for talent and knows what will work with the line-up out there.

Other non-factors that may or may not work into his favor for getting this job-- his real first name is "Regis", he was born in New Jersey, and he's got TV savvy. Thanks to Wikipedia for the first two.

The fact of the matter is that many may rejoice about him being off the TSN and NBC broadcast, and they could be right in doing so; yet I think this could help out the Wild or anyone else looking to fill a GM position. While he's crazy, kooky, and at times insane and beligerent-- he has a mind for hockey, which could be priceless to have someone that available with that much knowledge on the game and knows the players well from his time as a broadcaster and getting to know them more. With those connections, it could prove invaluable to when it comes to trades and free agencies......or not.

The only downside to this is that during TSN's Trade Deadline show, Darren Dutchyshen won't have McGuire uncomfortably close to him again in the know, that may be the best for everyone.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wide Array of Disarray

With the reports that Charles Wang has regrets buying the New York Islanders, you have to wonder if they'll be another team that's going to be put onto the market for selling and whether or not the NHL will allow Wang to relocate, if he so chooses. With Bill Daly talking about how the losses that Wang has accumulated since taking over the team, you'd think relocation could be a possible option.

Of course, most of this is all because the Town of Hempstead is holding up the Lighthouse Project, which would bring about a new arena for the Isles and a new town center for the entire area. Due to this, Wang has possibly started to explore his options, which includes Kansas City and officials in Willets Point in Queens have express an interest in possibly housing the Isles.

The funny thing about this is why the Town of Hempstead would be wanting to drag their feet on such a project that will bring growth and commerce to the area?? It'd be a stimlus to the area, bringing in more jobs and more businesses to the growing area, as well as giving the Isles a better arena than the crapshack that is the Nassau Coliseum. Yet, it seems like your pure political crapulence that has been holding up the whole works, good or bad, in this whole thing.

While I won't claim to know anything about politics, much less Long Island politics; I'll pass you along to BD Gallof and his site Islanders Independent, which has plenty to do with the Islanders and the happens with the Lighthouse Project.

As it stands, something needs to give. With this report coming out at vital time for the Islanders, as well as the muck that's going on in regards to the building of a new arena-- it could be a time for Wang to crap or get off the pot. It could be the time for him to actually look indepthly into moving the team, which should really give the town an ultimatium in terms of approving the the idea of a new arena and should show where their true loyalty lies.

Whether or not this should send alert bells to the NHL is another thing. With the issues already with the Coyotes, now you have an owner who is saying he regrets buying a team-- it's not a good motivational factor for perspective owners who may want to get a piece of the NHL. Sure, this could be mismanagement and terrible judgement by previous ownership putting them in this mess, but it's still a deterent to someone who may be looking to get into the NHL game by picking up and buying one of these floundering franchises.