Friday, October 30, 2009

Which Trends Can Stay

When you look up and down the standings board, you see weird things here in the month of October. What, with the Colorado Avalanche being the top team in the NHL after a horrendous year last year, the LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes being neck-and-neck for top spot in the Pacific Division, with the Sharks being merged between them. On the flip side, the Detroit Red Wings off to a awful start, being .500 right now, as well as the Minnesota Wild off to a rocky start; even though they did lose a lot on the off-season.

Then the player stats side of things, you see Dustin Penner of Edmonton in the top-five for goals, assists, and points; Anze Kopitar finally coming fully into bloom of superstardom, and Steve Stamkos is showing he has no sophomore slump this year. Guys like Patrick Marleau and Vinny Prospal are off to a huge start, while Craig Anderson is leading in wins and Ilya Bryzgalov leading in shutouts.

With all this craziness, you have to wonder how much of these trends will continue out through the rest of the season. I mean, that's the thing with the start of the season, you're going to have players or teams that will take others by surprise, but once they catch onto the trends, the odds are they'll slow down and fall off the map completely. Isn't that right Chris Kontos?? Whether it be figuring out a goalie's tendencies throughout the year or know the move the forward is going to make, somehow or another the hot-hands at the start of the season which end in November.

Yet, this year it seems most of the trends mentioned could continue on throughout the duration. For the Avalanche and Craig Anderson, I think this is a team would could continue to excel because they have a new direction and seem to have the pieces to keep going surging through the Northwest Division. Steve Stamkos looks like he has the confidence and touch to keep his point production going with the mentors he has in Tampa, while on the other Bay Area team; Patrick Marleau is in a contract year and probably won't come back to San Jose-- so he's displaying his wears for prospective suitors. And why the jury is still out on the Kings situation, Kopitar's emergence is something that's been expected since he was drafted.

On the flip side, the trends I wouldn't expect to continue is, sadly, the Phoenix Coyotes. While Dave Tippett is a god-send for this team, the team has a tendency to start off well and get people talking, but one things leads to another and they fall off the standings board. Dustin Penner is another guy who could be at risk at faltering, though he is one of the few offensive options for the Oilers. While the clip is nice for Penner, if he falls into a slump, no one knows how he could be pulled out of it. Also, I don't know how much the Red Wings slump could last, but this isn't the same team that made the Stanley Cup Final, as it seems that the safety net in goal of an experienced back-up isn't there. Jimmy Howard won't be able to protect Chris Osgood as Ty Conklin did last year.

But more over-- why have all these storylines I've mentioned been out West, sans Stamkos?? Not many are able to pay attention to the Western Conference because it's past their bedtimes out East or the interest isn't there. If the interest isn't there now, it should be. All the big stories are happening out West, all the surprising teams are coming out of the West, and it seems the most parity is out West, with the East pretty much going through the same regular season script as it has in the past years. In summation, I guess the moral is that people need to pay more attention out West since it seems to be the place to be when it comes to regular season storylines.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Gimmicks of Hockey Canada

Whether it be the fanciness of green jerseys or having PepsiCo create a contest to select a new team cheer, it's becoming interesting to see what Hockey Canada will do next in terms of gimmicks. While it's great for fan interaction (at least for the cheer), it seems a little bit much for a hockey federation to go all out like this.

The green jersey is what's getting the most buzz, as Hockey Canada is doing because green is the big color in Saskatchewan. Plus, it gives a nice Christmas-y feel to the whole thing, as the tourney is held during that time of the year. However, at the same time-- for an iconic hockey nation like Canada, why would you want to localize the national team like this?? They didn't do this for Vancouver or Ottawa when they hosted the WJC and they probably won't do it for Calgary/Edmonton in 2012, so why is Saskatchewan different for these games?? Sure, it's a two-off jersey (once in pre-tournament, once in the tournament), but still-- it's not something they have done prior, so I don't get why this instance is different than others. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised to see sales for this one go off the charts.

As far as the Team Canada/PepsiCo cheer contest....oof. Now, the premise for this is because of other countries having chantable names and then doing research about how fans interaction affect players and games (don't know how scientific that is), adding in the the brand exposure they'll get-- Pepsi was all over it. The let fans create their cheers, record and upload them, which then got moved to judges who picked the top-3 (which is attached on the link at the top), then moved to the fans to vote on which is the best. While the idea is solid, the fact this will actually catch on, I don't know. To orchestrate this in a big scale is a task which may or may not work. How would other voters feel if their cheer got scorned, will this create a civil war in the stands of dueling cheers?? No, probably not-- but think of the possibility of it happening-- creates for outstanding fodder.

In any case, the fact Hockey Canada is going to this make me love capitalism. They know they could make money hand over fist as it is, but they still are thinking of way to make some more. And the thing is that it'll work everytime regardless of the gimmick they pick. The Hockey Canada brand is something people love to buy and you slap a logo onto something, odds are it'll be a success. They know this and they almost abuse it to an extent, but what can you say-- you'd probably do the same thing if you had the chance as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Live or Die in LA

(I know, I butchered the movie/song title, but deal with it)

It was leaked, sort of, by David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period and seconded by Rich Hammond of Kings Insider, who learned by Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief that the NHL Draft this June will be held in Los Angeles. Hammond reports that it will be announced in December, but it has yet to be determined if it will take place at the Staples Center or the Nokia Center.

For those who don't know, the Nokia Center is where they hold the American Music Awards every year and is an amplitheatre kind of gimmick. The issue I have with this is that it will turn out to be something like the NFL Draft gimmick, which I think is the worst way to hold a Draft. Especially for the NHL, which has been using the arenas for better part of two decades, the ability to have the fans in the same setting they'd have for a game is what they want. Plus, it almost feels like you're closer to the "action" that happens in the draft because the fans are surrounding the team tables, which is where it all goes down. The NHL Draft is unique and if they do this-- who knows what precident this will set.

In any case, the main point is whether or not LA is the good choice for all that is going down. When I mention setting of places, you obviously think Canadian cities, but fact of the matter is that the draft need to be in a place where it'll get the majority of attention. It's easy for this event to get lost in a place like LA, as the MLB season is in full swing and LA....well, it's LA. Even a place like Anaheim could be a better place than LA for the draft to be at. You have to wonder what a turnout would be like to this in terms of LA. Would it be an attraction enough for people to come from all over to see the Draft?? Maybe it's me, but I don't think it would be a good thing to hold it in LA because it would probably get lost in everything that is LA.

Of course, I could be wrong and it could be a great thing for the Draft host city and be the best Draft on record in terms of turnout. I just don't think that the appeal will be there, especially with the distance it is from a lot of the East Coast people who have often made the trip up and down the seaboard in order to get in on the action. The flights and hotel cost could make it unattractive to those who may be looking to come from out of town. Counterpoint, the West Coast can be represented in fashion, with people coming from all around to enjoy it-- because I know a lot of people have shown interest in going from the West Coast and they'd get a taste without paying an arm and leg to fly out to the East Coast.

For me, I couldn't care less because I'm there regardless. I'm just trying to think of the bigger picture in terms of turnout, especially if it's at the Nokia Center. If it's the Nokia Center, I think the intimate appeal will go down, the uniqueness will be compromised, and the other cities will try to repeat it because of cost cutting measures. I'm a pessimist, can't you tell??

It is what it is and the final word won't be until December. I just hope whoever hosts the Draft will be ready for the outsiders coming in and know how to harness the spirit of the thing and make the event as big as it has been in the past.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Rick Wamsley

While we went to college the past few weeks, it's time to move back to the junior ranks for the AGM of the week. We move to a guy who seemed to be going under the radar, in the shadow of another goalie at the same time. However, in the end-- it got him a Stanley Cup ring, a Jennings Trophy, and a bronze and silver medal at the World Championships. This week's inductee is none other than Rick Wamsley.

To start out his career in 1976-77, Wamsley split between the OHL's (then OMJHL) St. Catherine's Fincups and the Ontario Junior B Simcoe Jets. During his time with the Fincups, Wamsley was behind Al Jensen on the depth chart, though Wamsley was able to get more time in 1977-78 when the team moved to Hamilton-- doubt that it had any bearing, but just stating facts. The final season in juniors, the team moved again; this time to Brantford, Ontario. The result was the same for Wamsley, though, as this time he was backing up Mike Roy for the 1978-79 season. Even with the adversity and not getting much playing time, Wamsley was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1979 Draft in the third round.

In his first pro season during the 1979-80 season, Wamsley got a majority of the starts for the Nova Scotia Voyaguers, as his partner Richard Sevigny was called up to Montreal for most of the season. In those 40 games Wamsley played, he went a respectable 19-16-2, though his .887 save percentage left much to be desired. The 1980-81 season saw Wamsley have a less than average season, going 17-19-3 and was overtaken by Mark Holden in some aspect; though Wamsley had five games in Montreal that season, where he went 3-0-1 in his tenure, showing his AHL numbers didn't reflect real well.

His performance for a short time in Montreal allowed him the chance to play from the big club from the start of the of the 1981-82 season, with Wamsley seeing a majority of the games by the end of the season, going a stellar 23-7-7 and a 2.75 GAA for his troubles. Also for his troubles, Wamsley, along with Denis Herron won the first William M. Jennings Trophy for goalie(s) with the lowest GAA and a minimum of 25 games played. Wamsley was able to build off that season for the 1982-83 season, where Wamsley took the starters role again and again amazed with a 27-12-5 record, though his GAA of 3.51 and save percentage of .878 isn't one you often see for a starter. The 1983-84 was a so-so campaign for Wamsley, as he saw his time split in half with Sevingy and saw his quality go down a bit. In 42 games, Wamsley went 19-17-3 with his GAA being another high 3.70 and save percentage at .853, the Canadiens had plenty to think about over the summer of '84.

That summer, Wamsley was packaged with some Draft Picks (which turned out to be Brian Benning, Tony Hrkac, and Robert Dirk) and traded to the St. Louis Blues for more Draft Picks (which turned into Shayne Corson and Stephane Richer).

The 1984-85 season saw Wamsley take over for Mike Liut in net, as well as regain his winning ways, as Wamsley went 23-12-5, as well as getting his GAA and save percentage down, albeit slightly (3.26, .885). In 1985-86, Wamsley kept his winning trend going (22-16-3), was able to get his save percentage up (.896), but it seemed that his GAA seemed to inflate (3.42); which was a trend for most of his career. The split gimmick came back for Wamsley, as Greg Millen was the co-star for Wamsley's year. Wamsley returned in kind with a subpar season, 17-15-6 an a 3.54 GAA, and .883 save percentage. Millen overtook the reigns for the Blues, as Wamsley faltered from the start of the season. In 31 games, Wamsley went 13-16-1 and was considered expendable.

So expendable, that the Blues traded Wamsley and Rob Ramage to the Calgary Flames for Brett Hull and Steve Bozek, a deal that would oddly help both teams in the long-run. After being dealt, Wamsley only got two games in for the 1987-88 campaign behind workhorse Mike Vernon and went 1-0.

His first year with the Flames in 1988-89 was another memorable one, though his record may not show it. While Wamsley only went 17-11-4, his GAA was its best since he won the Jennings Trophy, going 2.96 for the year. He was also a part of the Flames only Stanley Cup winning team to date, as the Flames beat Wamsley's former team, the Montreal Canadiens, in six games. In 1989-90, the Flames gave Wamsley more time to help out Vernon, and it did well for both. Wamsley went 18-8-6, though the Flames had a bit of a hangover as a whole and didn't last long in the Playoffs. Wamsley's PT dimished a bit in the 1990-91 season, where he only got 29 games with a 14-7-5 record, with his GAA and save percentage being average (3.05, .888). The 1991-92 season would bring change, as Wamsley only played nine games with the Flames, going 3-4-0 with a 4.46 GAA and .850 save percentage. That made him, yet again, expendable.

Expendable as it became one of the biggest trades in NHL history in terms of volume and volume along. The Flames sent Wamsley, Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville, and Ric Nattress to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jeff Reese, Craig Berube, Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, and Michel Petit. Needless to say, it was one of the most lopsided deals out there as well.

The rest of the 1991-92 season, Wamsley sat and waited behind Grant Fuhr and had to fight newcomer Felix Potvin as well for time. In eight games that season, Wamsley went 4-3. In 1992-93, Wamsley was behind Potvin, Fuhr, and Daren Puppa. Wamsley saw only three games in the NHL going 0-3 and played two games with the St. John's Maple Leafs where he went 0-1 there. It would be the end of Wamsley's career.

Wamsley quickly jumped into the coaching game as an assistant from 1995-98 with the Maple Leafs and then was an assistant for the OHL's Erie Otters. After the Otters, the Columbus Blue Jackets came calling and hired him as a goalie coach from 2001-06, then Wamsley moved onto the St. Louis Blues, where he started as a goalie coach in July of 2006 and still remains there today.

With all the ups and downs, it seemed that a change of scenary was what was needed for Wamsley during his playing career. And while he racked up plenty of wins, the fact he had good teams in front of him helped him keep his confidence during off-games he may have had. With all his experience in the game, Wamsley was able to transfer that to coaching, which hasn't turned out too shabbily thus far.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hockey Lifestyle in Print Form

A couple weeks back, I was talking about the ability for the NHL to produce something along the lines of a reality based show to give a greater understand of the inner workings of the hockey life. However, it seems, oddly enough, print media has been the one to really bring out the hockey lifestyle inside and out.

Of course, The Hockey News just put out their own sort of lifestyle mag called "Fully Loaded," which I thought was going to be a monthly gimmick, but only seems to be once-a-year. Granted, the minute I saw it, I immediately thought of The Fourth Period's magazine, which came out around the Draft time and has the same kind of feel to it, but luckily TFP's magazine is a monthly thing and is more of a mix of hockey news and gives kind of a Maxim feel in terms of the picture of some Ice Girls every month which is really.....really great. The Hockey News' one-off has mostly to do with actual gear for on and off the ice, so it's more like a Laptop Magazine with gadgets and stuff.

In any case, I have to say this is the step that hockey fans need in order to get more into the game off the ice. The fact that both TFP and THN have taken this step is a great idea, which I'll say TFP did have first and I'm a bit disappointed that THN is almost ripping them off. Either way, this is just what is needed to give the game of hockey more appeal. Get the fans more into the lives of players and how they live, plus showing off some of the new things apparel wise that fans can get their hands on that they see the pros wear in the post-game interviews and wherever else they may don such things. Any insight into the players and game the NHL could give to the fans, both hardcore and casual alike, will be helpful into making the game more marketable and appealing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Jersey Issue, What Makes a Jersey, and Blurst of Jerseys

Now that I have your attention......The Hockey News' "Greatest Jerseys of All Time" issue is on the newsstands and I did in-fact pick it up. Now, I have to say, it was a decent read in terms of how they were able to uncover the facts of some the jerseys that they did and actually getting some of the vintage sweaters from the pre-Original Six days from the Hockey Hall of Fame and put it on display as they did.

The issue itself was a little bit of a letdown. There's a nice pictorial of jerseys throughout most of the issue, but it seems to jump around from topic to topic. The articles that were thrown in there were actually very well put out; like the debate of white jerseys being worn on the road, the wool jerseys being phased out, the jerseys of Mike Sillinger , and plenty more. There's a lot of helpful tidbits of knowledge you may have or may not have known when it comes to the hockey jerseys we've known since the first day we set eyes on the game of hockey. However, the layout is so frantic, it's hard to keep a good flow to the whole thing. Too much of a rapid change, which makes it a little frantic. I will say, the history they gave on each team, including the longest name on the back of the jersey, was a very nice touch to the issue.

But the eternal debate is what makes a good jersey, what makes a memorable jersey; especially with the new teams and new identities coming out. Personally, the logo will make or break a jersey. You can have a greatest jersey design in the world, but if the logo is crap or positioned horribly, it breaks a jersey into horri-bad status. That's where many jerseys go wrong, the logo kills it all.

A couple examples are the Islanders' fisherman jersey-- the logo itself was quirky, but awful for the jersey design it was on. Yet, if you put the logo they have right now onto the jersey-- like they did-- and it looks pretty decent with the jersey designed they picked out. Sure, the waves were a bit on the radical side, but it worked in one instances and not the other. An example of the logo being good, but placement and jersey being wrong is the LA Kings third jerseys from 1996. The logo itself is pretty nice, it's a solid logo when you look at it just as a logo. But, you look at the placement on the jersey; which was the upper left breast; along with the random black-to-gray swoosh on it-- that equals an awful jersey.

But, you can't go on with a jersey post without doing your best and worst jerseys. Of course, I could do a hack bit like that......and I probably will, but I'm not going to do it in the traditional way. My thoughts are that I have too much of a quirky personality to limit them all. However, I'll do my best for favorites and hatred.

Favorites: Ottawa Senators 1930-31, Ottawa Senators thirds (black) 2000-07, Washington Capitals 1987-95, Phoenix Coyotes 1996-2003, Hartford Whalers 1992-97, Vancouver Canucks 1985-89 Baltimore Bandits 1996-97 (Honorable Mention: Glen Burnie HC 2005-07)

Not So Much: Buffalo Sabres 2006-Present, Tampa Bay Lightning thirds (storm) 1996-99, St. Louis Blues 1995-98, New York Rangers 1976-78, Nashville Predators thirds (mustard) 2001-07, Calgary Flames 1995-2000

But, as we all know-- it's all in the eye of the beholder. One persons trash is another person's treasure. Which is why many of the horrible jerseys and trends (Cooperalls) from yesteryear are so revered this many years later. Why else would the "Flying V" Canucks jerseys be ironically hip because of how terrible they were??

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Glen Burnie HC: End the Season Now/ Issues with Teams

It's the middle of week three and I'm trying hard as the GM of Glen Burnie HC to end the season now. Why?? Because I'm in first place in the FOHSHL Hirsch Division and I'd like to have the bye week for the playoffs. But it's been good-- luckily, the guys who I need to produce like Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and the surprising Michael Del Zotto, who was a great pre-season pick-up, are producing in droves and really booting my team through the roof.

However, the fact some of the players I have like Mike Green, Mark Streit and goalies Pekka Rinne and Jonas Gustavsson aren't pulling their slack, but in Gustavsson's case, injuries have slowed him down. Fact of the matter is that many complains are coming from other owners about what to do and how freaked out their are, even two weeks into the season. Many guys have reformated their teams as it is and are thinking about trading away the teams to shuffle up a new group, even if they are in the playoff spots as it is.

I know I'm one to panic, but not really two weeks in or so-- I'd be more freaked out when it comes closer to the final playoff push rather than starting the seasons slow. Many complaints from the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and goalie Niklas Backstrom have popped up. I think the same happened with Alex Ovechkin last year when he got into his funk, but smart owners just took a deep breath and realized he's a superstar and would snap out of it-- and he did.

It's just an issue of realizing how patient you can be when it comes to a player. The discretion is up to the owner in terms of who else they have on their roster. If they have a decent supporting cast, then the panic will not be as stressful and they won't have to worry about dealing out their star player and will wait longer for them to get out of their funk in order to reap the benefits when they do. If an owner doesn't have a good supporting cast or their cast is slumping as well, the freaking out will commence ten-fold because of it.

Yet, the moment and owner freaks out in a panic strictened state is the moment they should try and focus on the next season. Yes, it's that bad when you're already trying to make wholesale changes in Week Three. Of course, there are times where the wholesale changes do make differences, but in all honesty-- it's a crap shoot. Like they say, even a blind squirrel finds a night every once in a while.

Luckily for me, GBHC is doing well, because while one of the Aston HC satellites is doing well in 3rd, the other satellite is dead last. My expert's league team is deadlast too, but at least the expert's league games have been close....but still-- only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and bocce ball.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Journey to the Spoke and The Community of Junior/Minor Hockey

This past weekend, I decided to hop in the Pontiac and drive eight hours to hang out in Spokane, Washington. While there, I had some of the best hostesses the city could ask for, which consisted of Princess Curl, The Canadian, and NoStache16; who deserve plenty of thanks for helping me navigate through the thriving metropolis of Spokane. Of course, I planned my trip around the Spokane Chiefs, who were playing the Kootenay Ice in some fantastic WHL action for the weekend.

While I do live in Calgary where the WHL's Hitmen reside, the fact of the matter is that they aren't the only game in town and really aren't the primary hockey focus. Spokane, the only hockey focus is in town is the Chiefs and you can see the true community interaction in terms of interaction amongst people and their love of the team. I experienced that with "The Panel" after the game at the fine Spokane establishment, The Onion; which I thought was a parody of a real restaurant....get it??

Anyway, the community as a whole knew their players very well in terms of disecting their play, knew their habits when it came to playing alongside certain teammates, and pretty much knew the inner workings of the team from a playing level and to an extent, a marketing level. The sad thing is that this team could be so much more, but you couldn't see a billboard in this town about the Chiefs unless you went to the "Roll up the windows and lock the doors" part of Spokane. Yet, the announced 6,702 knew where to show up and showed off their passion for their team every goal. As an aside, the Chiefs went on to beat the Ice, 3-1.

But the community aspect is something you can only seem to get a feel for in most major junior hockey cities and minor league towns, where the team is what brings a community together and where the fans become family through the team. If you notice in both cases, the teams are built in smaller areas or show up in smaller areas, where it's the only thing in town to talk about or care about. You look at the major junior leagues, especially in the WHL-- the towns are mostly smaller towns. I know driving through Cranbrook, BC; they pride themselves in being the home to the Kootenay Ice, because for the most part that would be what the town is known for other than being in-between two resort stops in Alberta and BC. Other towns in the Dub like Swift Current (Sask.), Kennewick (Wash.), and Prince George (BC) are other examples of the small town team and how a community can rally around a team.

Minor league teams are the same way, mostly from ECHL level on down, though you can have some AHL teams get the appeal of the community-- though with many teams relocating in many years; it's hard to say the community can actually come together and support the team in their town. But you go to message boards around, like Into the Boards, and the support for the low minor teams is insane and really good to see. Many of these people have become very close acquaintences because of these boards and because of this interaction. Many have actually gotten married because of the interaction through the boards and then manifested that into real life. It combines the love for a common interest and new media.

I guess through this rambling diatribe, it shows that people don't need to be NHL fans in order to enjoy the game and grow from the game. These fans in the junior and minor league towns are very invested in their team and take pride when their players they've watched go onto bigger things after they leave the town. In fact, to some point I think that these fans are a little more knowledgeable and insightful about the game as a whole because they have to do more research because of the fact their local news outlets don't report on the sport, much less the team, on a daily basis.

To these people, I salute your dedication and salute your support of the team, even if you're the only support that the team has. Local teams are the backbone of many towns and brings people together who may not have come together otherwise-- people you've got to school with, but didn't hang out in the same cliques in order to meet-up and get to know each other. The world works in mysterious ways for sure.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Damian Rhodes

In keeping with the college goalie theme, we move to the Northern Midwest region to get a guy who had a knack for scoring goals, even if his record shows that he should have stuck to playing out rather than playing in net, it's Damian Rhodes for this week's AGM.

The story from Legends of Hockey goes that the passion for playing goal for Rhodes, a St. Paul, Minnesota native, was when he was playing mini-hockey and was able to stone his friend while paying in net, therefore he went to the route of going in goal for his career path. Rhodes got his first taste of notoriety playing with Richfield High School in Minnesota where his 35 games have no document record, but he has a GAA of 4.61 with one shutout to his record. He was able to catch on with the Michigan Tech, being thrown into the starter role right out of the shoot. Even before the season started, Rhodes was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 6th round of the 1987 draft, but rather than pass up college, Rhodes passed on the pros for now.

His freshman season, Rhodes played very well. The first half of the 1987-88 season was good enough for him to get a spot on the US World Junior team. Rhodes struggled during that tournamnet, playing five of the seven games and giving up 20 of the 47 goals the US gave up during that tournament. Yet, for Tech, Rhodes finished with a 16-10-1 record in his freshman year. Though, that tournament may have been a precursor to his struggles, as during his sophomore and junior years at Tech, Rhodes went 15-22-0 and 6-17-0 respectively, but after his junior season, Rhodes opted to go pro and start off his career to the NHL. However, before going off, Rhodes got himself credited for a goal in January of 1989 while playing for Tech.

The 1990-91 season was the start for Rhodes career and....boy, was it awful. With the Newmarket Saints in the AHL, Rhodes went a dreadful 8-24-3; but got a call to the big club in Toronto in March of '91 beating the Red Wings and getting his first NHL win. The Leafs moved affiliates from Newmarket to St. John's and Rhodes went with them and took the starting role with him The years in St. John's were good to Rhodes, as he went 20-16-5 in the 1991-92 season and 27-16-8 in the 1992-93 season. His years were good enough for when Daren Puppa left Toronto at the start of the 1993-94 season that Rhodes was able to get to the big club in Toronto.

Yet, for someone like Rhodes, it was the worse time for Rhodes to get the call for the big club, as a young goalie named Felix Potvin was making waves for the Leafs and got the starting role locked up, which basically put Rhodes to back-up duty. In his first year, Rhodes got 22 calls and made his case going 9-7-3 with a 2.52 GAA in that season. The following year was the shortened-season, so Rhodes was only able to get 13 calls and only had a 6-6-1 record to show. In the 1995-96 season, Rhodes got frustrated with his position and the Leafs management could see it. In his 11 games, Rhodes went 4-5-1 and by late January, Rhodes was on his way out of Toronto.

On January 23rd, Rhodes was part of a three team deal between the Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders. The end result saw Rhodes and Wade Redden go to Ottawa, Don Beaupre and Bryan Berard go to Toronto, and Ken Belanger and Martin Straka head off to Long Island. Rhodes was immediately given the starting role in Ottawa for the lowly Senators. That first half season was a write off, but Rhodes got his playing time and went 10-22-4 with the Sens, also posting a 2.72 GAA and .906 save percentage for the season. The 1996-97 season was also unkind to Rhodes going 14-20-14 for the season, but that was a turnaround season for the Sens, as they got their first playoff appearance in the franchise's young history

While the 1997-98 season was shaky for the forwards, the tandem of Rhodes and Ron Tugnutt were able to carry the team to another playoff spot, but it would be Rhodes' time to shine in the playoffs. Many had counted out the #8 seed Ottawa Senators out against the #1 seed New Jersey Devils, especially since the Devils had 24 more points than the Sens in the regular season-- but it wouldn't mean anything. The Sens kept the games close, especially against the top shot goalie Martin Brodeur, while Rhodes stood on his head in the series and was able to steal four games from the Devils, advancing into the second round. Yet, the second round wasn't as kind to Rhodes and the Sens as the Washington Capitals took the Sens out in six and Ron Tugnutt took over for Rhodes, as Rhodes struggled when it counted most.

It was a bit of a confidence boost for Rhodes, who carried the momentum into the 1998-99 season, as he went 22-13-7 and had a goal for his troubles as well. You see, Rhodes was the last person to touch the puck for the Sens before a delayed call was made. However, Lyle Odelein passed the puck to the point, but no one was there. The puck sailed into the open net, as Brodeur had went to the bench for the extra attacker, and Rhodes got his first NHL goal. It was also the first time a goalie had a goal and shutout. However, the season saw the split in starts between Rhodes and Tugnutt go evenly, even in the playoffs, where both got only two games apiece before their quick exit. It was time for Rhodes to be moved along.

On June 18, 1999, Rhodes became the first ever member of the Atlanta Thrashers, as he was trade from Ottawa to Atlanta for the ever popular future considerations. Rhodes then jumped into another starting role for another squad. Or so he would have thought.

The first year of Rhodes' season was a forgettable one, as he slumped out of the gate, going 3-7-2 to start the season, but would be sidelined for 49 games in November of 1999 due to a sprained ankle. Once he came back in March, Rhodes went 2-12-1 down the stretch, which threw his starter's tag in jeopardy. The 2000-01 season was another horrorshow for Rhodes, which had a rough start and was full of injuries. Rhodes started the season 2-3-4 before being sidelined with a sprained right knee in November. Once he returned 18 games later, he rounded out his season 5-14-3 before going down to a strained groin in February, but came back to go 0-2 to end the year.

Thanks to his injuries, Rhodes was demoted to the back-up role behind Milan Hnilicka and only saw 15 games in the 2001-02 season, going 2-10-1 in those games and thus being released by the Thrashers in the summer, due to the depth in the Thrashers system of goaltenders. It would be his last NHL season and had him get his last NHL win against the team he made his name with-- the Senators.

Not being picked up by any other NHL team, the 2002-03 team was a year in the minors for Rhodes. He started off in Greenville of the ECHL and played for the Grrrowl, but went a dismal 2-8-2 before going off the the AHL and playing for the Lowell Lock Monsters for seven games, only going 1-4-0 in those games.

Rhodes seems to have fallen off the grid in terms of staying with the hockey formation, but I'm sure people reading this will correct me in the comments. However, with his struggles and all of that, Rhodes had a decent career but seemed to be given a bad hand with injuries, inconsistency, and playing on some bad teams. Not only that, but being pushed by others and not being able to push back. It is what it is, and if nothing else-- Rhodes will always be remember for being the Perioxide Kid.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Entry Draft Site Fight

As I mentioned on last night's FOHS, the NHL Media site showed that the NHL has yet to pick the site of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which is a hinderance to the media people and some fans who want to plan their summer vacations in tune with the Entry Draft, since it really is a big event for fans to congress.

Of course, the delay could be due to the whole Phoenix fiasco and since they don't know where the team will be from week-to-week, you can't really make the commitment to having something there in June. There's been other rumors abound with the location such as Chicago, Minnesota, Anaheim, and Philadelphia. Yet, while they are places many would like to go to-- I'd want to throw out my idea for places for the NHL Draft for 2010 or future years.

1. Las Vegas, Nevada: While it's a hackney concept, Vegas makes sense in this instance. This is due to the Awards show being held there (date TBA, of course) and it'll cut down on the trips that are needed to be made from Vegas to one of these out places that are not Vegas. Granted, the Draft should be right after the Awards or else you'll have plenty of players, GMs, and executives losing their salaries and cap space on the craps table.

2. The NHL Store, New York: What a better way to mix commerce and new ideals than to hold it in the NHL's own store and introduce the kids to a big swarm of people in the media capital of the USA. Plus, in addition to that-- you bring about a new concept to the player, where as they are picked by their team; they go on a shopping spree with their family to get the merchandise of their new team. Fantastic idea, if I say so myself.

3. Kansas City, Missouri: They have a big, beautiful arena that's probably not going to have anything else there in June, and it'll expose fans from other places to the allure of the Kansas City. Some people may not think it's a hockeytown, but when the Draft comes around, it'll show people why there is such a buzz when it comes to relocating a franchise there over a Canadian city.

4. Jim Balsillie's Backyard: We mentioned this on FOHS, where Jim Balsillie has enough cash to hold this big NHL event in his literal backyard, because god knows his compound is probably big enough to hold 20,000 people, including prospects and their family. And be honest, your Blackberry reception is probably the best it'll ever be in your life time.

5. Washington, DC: If nothing else-- I'd like to go back home and use a vacation week to make a big deal out of this.

While this is all just me, something has to be done in order for people to get their flight information, hotel information, and bar-crawl maps set-up-- we need to know where to be in order to get all prepared for it. Since it's a big deal with people coming from all over North America (and some cases Europe), needing to know this information is vital, especially with putting in for days off....and then making up excuses for why you're just trashed come that Monday.

Regardless of what's going to happen with this, god knows that the FOHS crew will have a story. Whether it be random, psycho hotels or telling someone to play in traffic or making reservations 12 hours before arriving to the location or even blacking out on the shore of the Ottawa River-- there's always a story to tell.....even if we have to piece it together.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Should They Stay or Go??

It's almost time for teams to decide whether or not to send their junior aged players back down to the junior ranks or keep them and take a season off of their entry-level deal. Over at NHL Fanhouse, Chris Botta says that Evander Kane is a virtual lock to stay up with the Thrashers. Obviously, the likes of Victor Hedman and John Tavares will be staying up on the main rosters; while the likes of Matt Duchene, Michael Del Zotto, and Dmitri Kulikov are fighting to stay with the big club and are getting every chance to stay up with the big club.

It will also bring about the question on how fast is too fast when it comes to keeping a kid up in the pros. While the likes of Tavares and Hedman maybe no-brainers, the players like a Duchene who could be good this season, but may need the development in the OHL to become the complete player the Avs want him to be in the future. Same with Del Zotto, who may be doing well, but will he continue his pace and solid play for the rest of the season. Of course, NHL teams have up to 40 games to move the players back to junior.

Yet, what will happen if the players are moved back to junior?? Will it make them hungrier to play better and will they get the message that they need to get a bit stronger in order to stick a whole season?? Odds are, it could be a hinderance and make the player think that he's at his best, but still not good enough to stay with the big club. That, or they get lazy with their junior team and they regress rather than improve on the skills they need to do.

The other side of the coin, if the young player stays with the club, but is not ready for it-- does their confidence get shot that way?? We see that issue with most goalies who are kept up when they aren't developed, but who's to say that a skater would be the same way. Could a skater get ruined by being pushed into the everyday line-up and put into a higher role?? And if that player gets a bigger role in the team dynamic, would they be able to handle the pressure if they aren't fully developed in their skill set just yet??

It's definitely something that is a hard choice for the coach and GM, especially if the player is providing a lot to the team, even in the short amount of time they have played. If you keep the player in the line-up, will they keep providing the pop they have so far and will they grow on it throughout the season?? If that's the belief, you have to keep them up on the main roster. If it's anything other than that, maybe it could be he best if they sent him back to juniors and let them develop a little more and try it again next year. I can say that I don't envy the people making that kind of decision.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Frank Pietrangelo

While we started the college hockey goalies going into the pros, we continue this week....but with a twist. This goalie was recruited from outside the college's usual recruiting area and performed well enough to get into the NHL, though it took some time to get to a team. And in all of this....he had a fantastic 'stache to boot. This week's inductee is Frank Pietrangelo.

Starting his career off in the Ontario Junior Hockey League "B" league, Pietrangelo did well when playing in his hometown of Niagara Falls in both 1979-80 and 1981-82, with a stop off in Brampton in the OJHL "A" league for the 1980-81 season. However, after that was done, Pietrangelo decided to go to the University of Minnesota, a place that didn't usually look outside of the state to find players. It made Pietrangelo the only Canadian on the team when he joined the squad. In his freshman season, Pietrangelo did well enough as the starter, going 15-6-1, that it got the eye of the Pittsburgh Penguins-- who picked him in the fourth round, 63rd overall in the 1983 Entry Draft. Rather than making the jump to the NHL, Pietrangelo decided to stay with the Golden Gophers and finish out his college career.

While he would never see as much playing time as he would in the his freshman year, Pietrangelo did very well when he was called upon. In his sophomore season, Pietrangelo split time with three other goalies, but it went well going 13-7 for that year, but got beat out the next two seasons by youngster John Blue, only playing 17 games his junior year (8-3-3), but was able to bounce back in his last season going 15-7 as he rounded out his career with the Gophers. And while he got his education in all of this, he could have screwed up his playing career in the process.

Though he was drafted, Pietrangelo was never signed by the Penguins and couldn't get a try-out with any team whatsoever. However, thanks to some fate as his brother-in-law (Rick Ley) was the coach of the Penguins affiliate in the IHL, Pietrangelo was able to score a try-out with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. In that season with the Lumberjacks in 1986-87, Pietrangelo went 23-11-0 and was good enough to get a contract from the Penguins that summer.

From 1987 to 1990, Pietrangelo was bouncing from Pittsburgh to Muskegon on a regular basis. In those years, he played decently in Pittsburgh with a 22-20-2, while he was lights-out in Muskegon with a 30-6-4 record in that time span. Yet, though he enjoyed success in the IHL, Pietrangelo didn't like being bounced back and forth without really any resolved to his issue. As he was looking at options to go play hockey in Italy, Pens' GM Craig Patrick intervined and gave Pietrangelo a guaranteed NHL contract for the 1990-91 season, which turned out to be a minor move at the start, but turned into a god-send later in the season.

Pietrangelo was the back-up to Tom Barrasso, who helped the Pens succeed to the heights they were at, contending for a Cup title. It was a mediorce 25 games for Pietrangelo during the regular season with a 10-11-1 record, but it was the post-season which got him the most acclaim. The Pens were down three games to two in the first round of the 1991 playoffs, Barrasso went down to injury and it was all put onto Pietrangelo's shoulder. He responded amazingly, shutting down the Devils in Game Six and Seven, including a shut-out in Game Seven to push the Pens along. He lost Game One to the Capitals in the next round, but did come back with a win in Game Two. By Game Three, Barrasso was back in play and Pietrangelo stayed on the bench. He wasn't called upon again until Game Five of the Stanley Cup finals against the Minnesota North Stars when he came in to replace Barrasso and was able to help the Penguins to a win and put them to the brink. The next game, the Pens skunks the Stars and won the Cup. Pietrangleo was able to get his Cup ring through great clutch performances down the stretch.

The next season was odd for Pietrangelo, as he started out with the Penguins, playing five games and going 2-1-0, but at the trade deadline; he was dealt to the Hartford Whalers for a third and seventh rounder in the 1994 Entry Draft. Pietrangelo only played five more game for the Whale going 3-1-1 with a solid 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The 1992-93 season was horrible for Pietrangelo, as he played 30 games and went 4-15-1 with a 4.85 GAA and a dreadful .858 save percentage. That caused Pietrangelo to move between Hartford (5-11-1) and the Springfield Indians (9-10-2) of the AHL. In the 1994-95 season, Pietrangelo spent the year with the Minnesota Moose of the IHL going 3-8-1 in 15 games. That caused Pietroangelo to go into semi-retirement for a season as he recollected his thoughts.

Pietrangelo returned to hockey in the 1996-97 season in Italy playing for Balzano HC with the next season being spent in Asiago with Asiago HC. He moved from Italy to Germany in the middle of the 1997-98 season, to play with the Kaufbeuren Eagles, but for the 1998-99 season, Pietrangelo went to England to play for the Manchester Storm for three seasons and became a small cult icon while in Manchester. His first season in Manchester was his best with a 1.92 GAA and .931 save percentage in 42 "Super League" games. That whole 1998-99 season, 56 games, Pietrangelo had a 2.02 GAA and .928 save percentage. It was a career year in '98-'99 with a championship with the Storm, goaltender of the year, and made a name for himself with the organization.

His next two season with Manchester were riddled with injury, going through some bumps, bruise, and a knee surgery. Pietrangelo was never able to recapture the magic he had in the 1998-98 season. He had to finally retire from play in the middle of the 2000-01 season after playing only nine games thanks to a reoccuring groin injury.

It's unknown what's going on with Pietroangelo, but his tale is one of having to pay your dues and usually working extra hard to achieve what you want to. Of course, in Pietrangelo's instance, he got to the pinnacle, but then got screwed around too much in his latter days and decided to go where he would be wanted and where he would play. Though he had his ups and downs, he was clutch when it counted the most. Who knows what could have happened if given a solid chance.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Weighing-In On The Creativity Conversation

If you follow the blogosphere and look at Puck the Media like I do, you'll see the post Mr. Steve Lepore had about bloggers creativity being ruined due to the access. He cites Yahoo's Puck Daddy and AOL Fanhouse as examples to this ordeal, Fanhouse being looked at a little closer. While we had this discussion on our Draft Show Portion One, it's begs to be talked about a little more, especially with the season going on and stories from blogs being thrown up and down.

I can see Steve's point. There's a lot more you could do when you have the access to. If you're going to get down and dirty with things on the blog, and have the access, it'd be nice to see something out of the usual norm of things. That's what makes Puck the Media so unique because you don't have someone devoting their time to the happenings of hockey broadcasting and solely focusing on critquing the media. It's a great concept and Steve does a fine job of doing what he does. And I mean, you look at all the blogs out there and it's an outlet used for people to get the "everyman" kind of response to games and what-not, which is a refreshing change from the normal mainstream media reviews and insight of the game-- even better than most op-ed pieces you can find in the newspaper.

That said, most of the people at Puck Daddy and Fanhouse can't have that kind of independence, mostly due to the fact they could have assignments, like was revealed about the Chris Botta case, or they have to realize that they are a representitive of a bigger company and don't want to risk their jobs, reputation or the reputation of the company they work for by doing something so out of the norm. They have a little more at stake than most of the people out there in the independent kind of blog. Plus, who's to say the independent blogs would be able to do something they would want to do if given the access. Knowing if they make one false move while attending, they could be at risk of never getting that access again, they could tone it down when in attendance more than they would on their blog.

Now, luckily-- I have been able to get credentialed in the past and am glad for the chance to. I've never really done much out of the norm, mostly due to the lack of imagination. I've ask some off-the-wall questions in some interviews, but mostly just to lighten the mood or see how some people react. Plus, I don't think I'm well enough known to do something pretty crazy and get away with it in good humor. It's definitely a different world when you actually get down to the bowels of any arena. Most of the times, you could be intimidated in terms of what you want to do and if it's your first time there, get a little flustered when you actually get your chance to do something with it.

While Steve make a point of bloggers doing the same thing that mainstream media folks do, sometimes it's a necessary evil. You may not want to do something like, in fact the complete opposite will be true-- yet, going the simple route may be the best route at the time. Hindsight of what could have been done and what should have been done with the access given is 20/20-- if you want to continute to be granted that access, the safe route is always the way to go.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

EIHL Experimenting Overseas

While the title could lead you to the thought of backpacking and getting into crazy troubles much like "Euro Trip", but sadly it's not about that. This is about the new gimmick that those in the Elite Ice Hockey League (aka the British League) tried out this past weekend in Sheffield, England. It's the 20/20 Hockeyfest. Thanks to FOHS fan Anthony for bringing this to our attention.

Basically, the gimmick to the 20/20 Hockeyfest is that all eight teams in the British Elite League would play in a mini-tournament in the same day. But here's the hook-- it would be four-on-four with 20 minute halves, with each half being running time. In the format, the games took no longer than an hour and happened hourly. It went from eight teams to four, then finally the last two participants playing for the title. Huzzah.

Now, it seems like a decent idea, but the execution could have been done a little better. The idea itself seems like a decent idea for hockey fans to get a full day of hockey into their schedule. Yet, it almost seems like a very beer league move for them to do. If you're trying to get a little creditability to the the league, pulling a stunt like that isn't going to win you over any friends. Of course, this whole thing leads to open ice and moves the game along, but it doesn't seem fitting for a professional league.

As our boy Walker pointed out on the FOHS message boards, it almost seems like a pick-up game at the local rink, but with refs and the score being kept during this. As a one-off or pre-season tournament thing, it's fine-- sure, but I don't think it's something that'll be something to hang your hat on, nor do I see any leagues in North America do it.....well, maybe the SPHL. However, the fact of the matter is that this was done as the season was going on and it seems a little out of place of this to happen as the season is going on. It's just another risk for player injury, which could cost a team a win or two due to it.

I'm all for gimmicks and it's something that would be great for the pre-season, but while the season goes on, the focus should be on the season and the heat coming off of that. This whole gimmick being done as the season is going on, I frown upon that happening. With the pre-season, it'll create the rivalry and intensity heading into the season. Plus, it'll put a foreshadowing of the season to come. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's a good way to get the season going and bring more people into the whole ordeal.

For what it's worth, though, it did generate some sort of interest, as I'm here talking about. Like I said, the idea is decent enough if you're going to do this for the pre-season. Yet, if you're doing this as the season starts, it just seems worthless and a little risky for the players participating into it. Plus, it is amongst one place and only satisfies one audience for that day, as opposed to all over the United Kingdom, like the league it. Though, you could move it along like the Winter Classic or All-Star Game to create diversity and to create a bigger buzz in the hockey community over there. I mean, let's be honest-- this buzz could be as big as the Tony Hand chase for 4,000th points or Theo Fleury's escapades in Belfast, so it's something for a nation that is trying to make hockey work.

And if you were wondering, the hometown Sheffield Steelers beat the Coventry Blaze 3-2 in the final game, sending the home crowd back to their homes happy, I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Is A Hockey Reality Show Needed, Wanted??

While I was surfing the channels on my off-day, I came across a show on Rogers' Sportsnet and there was a show that peaked my interest. No, it wasn't another poker show, which is always fantastic, but it was a show from the MLB Network called "The Pen," which follows the bullpen of the Philadelphia Phillies and their daily lives on and off the field. While I'm not one for baseball, the human aspect of things was what brought about the intrigue.

It also sparked my mind on to whether or not the NHL Network could get onto this racket and make it work. Of course, the NHL Network has the "Day in the Life" show, but that just one day and while it's nice to see how a player preps for game day, a part of me wants to get more on the inside of the organizational happenings and player's lifestyle. Everyone likes to be on the inside of things, and with hockey fans-- you have to believe that this inside look at the happenings goings on will make fans of whatever team salivate for more.

For the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Comcast SportsNet in Washington were following around the Washington Capitals for the draft weekend and gave the inside wheelings and dealings that surround the Entry Draft weekend (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). From trying to trade picks to prospects interviews, it was a great watch and make me want more inside like that. I also remember ESPN following around the Detroit Red Wings a few years back, but I can't for the life of me remember the name of it or if it was ESPN, but I know it was the Wings and TV because it was the first taste of Sean Avery to the world by him being on the show going back and forth from the NHL to the AHL. Plus, let's not forget CBC's then Global's "Making the Cut" where players would go and try out for contracts with some teams out there, or at least show their wears to those watching. That created drama and showed the process on how scouts deal with players on a case-by-case basis.

As much as I would like to believe something like this will happen in the near future, the fact of the matter is that some GMs may not be as willing to let cameras delve into their organization in that kind of matter. While, it could create great TV, a whole season, or even half a season could be too much for some teams to deal with and some players to deal with, in terms of cameras being on at all times and having to mind their P's and Q's in all of this, which could throw some guys off their game. Sure, that could be far-fetched, but it's always an option.

Yet, in a time where reality TV is the capavating norm and where people can get drawn into it; this could be the thing that the NHL needs in terms of possibly gathering a wider market than those who are already enthralled with the sport. Granted, what network to put it on and how to market it would be need to be tackled hard, but there needs to be an actual show to take place in order to go for it. Plus, if the NHL markets itself as a league for the fans and wanting to get the fans connected to the sport-- why not have something like this?? The drama of who's going to stay up with the big club, who's moving down to the minors, how a team will bounce back with a big injury or trade that happened-- it just writes itself for the fantasticness that could come from it all.

Of course, with my lack of research and dumb luck-- something like that is already happening and I just feel like the fool now for not knowing more. Ah well-- food for thought.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jim Hrivnak

With the past AGM inductees going the major junior route, this inductee made his success in the Division II section of NCAA hockey. It's pretty amazing considering he got noticed in the mid-80s while playing college hockey, which wasn't that much of a hotbed like it is today. Plus, you can almost say his great play helped get his college, Merrimack College, into Hockey East. This week's induction goes to Jim Hrivnak.

Hrivnak grew up in Montreal, where the dream is always to get into the QMJHL, but Hrivnak had a little bump in the road playing in Midget AAA, going 6-8-1 in his first year, following that up with an abysmal 8-22-1 during his second year. Therefore, not many in the major junior would wanted to pick him up, so he went into the US college hockey realm getting picked up by Merrimack in the Boston area, which is where Hrivnak showed his true colors and gathered his game together.

His first year (1985-86) at Merrimack, he saw limited time, with only 21 games to his credit. However, Hrivnak made the most of them, posting a 12-6-2 record, which was leaps and bounds over his time in Midget hockey. Some scouts took notice, as Hrivnak was selected in the third round, 61st overall in the 1986 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals. That seemed to perk Hrivnak's confidence, as in his sophomore season, Hrivnak went crazy going 27-7-0 with three shutouts on the season. That displayed got Hrivnak on the first all-star team for Division II hockey. His dominance continued as in his junior year, Hrivnak put up an amazing 31-6-0 record with a 2.38 GAA and four shutouts to his credit. In his final year, Hrivnak split time with Brian Hayward, but Hrivnak continued to be stellar, going 18-4-0 in his 22 games with another four shutout display. To this day, Hrivnak is first in school history for the single-season shutout record with four, most minutes played at 2,119, and second for GAA and save percentage in a season.

After his schooling career, Hrivnak went right into the Capitals system playing for the Baltimore Skipjacks. Though he spent 10 games there, it got off to a shaky start going 1-8-0, which may be chalked up to the transition period for the first year pro. In the 1989-90 season, Hrivnak was thrown into the starter's role for Baltimore, while getting the occasional call up (or down since it's South of Baltimore) for injuries. Yet, back in Baltimore, Hrivnak had a 24-19-2 record as a starter, as well as four assists; while during his call-ups to DC, he went an even .500 record at 5-5-0. The next season, Hrivnak also split between Baltimore and Washington, majority of the time being in Baltimore. In Baltimore, Hrivnak went 20-16-6 in 42 games with the Skipjacks, while also potting three assists in those games. In DC during the 1990-91 season, Hrivnak went 4-2-1 in the back-up role when filling in for an injured Don Beaupre.

The 1991-92 season saw Hrivnak truly split between the I-95 corridor, as he spent only 22 games in Baltimore, though he was fighting for playing time behind the other goaltending prospects in the Caps organization, Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig. However, while in Baltimore, he went 10-8-3 for his time there, splitting with Dafoe and Kolzig. For the second season, Hrivnak had three assists-- which showed how well his stick-handling skills were, collectiong 10 assists in 121 games for the Skipjacks, which would be his last there. While with the Caps in '91-'92, Hrivnak got 12 games in, going 6-3-0.

The 1992-93 season saw a lot of change for Hrivnak, as he was never in the minors. He placed himself firmly as the back-up for the Caps behind Don Beaupre. For the Caps, he was able to get 27 games in, holding his own for most of them with a 13-9-2 record, but it wasn't enough for the Caps, who decide to get a little more assurance for their goaltending situation. Therefore, the Caps traded away Hrivnak and future considerations (which turned out to be a 2nd round pick) to the Winnipeg Jets for Rick Tabaracci. In Winnipeg, Hrivnak only saw three games of action behind Bob Essensa, going 2-1-0 in those games.

During the summer of 1993, Hrivnak was dealt again-- this time to St. Louis, where he was saddled behind Curtis Joseph. In his 23 games, he replaced Joseph nine times and compiled a record of 4-10-0, which spelled the end for Hrivnak's NHL career as he decided was put into the minors and was never called back up again.

During the 1994-95 season, Hrivnak split the season between two IHL teams, the Milwaukee Admirals and Kansas City Blades. He had a much better time in Milwaukee, going 17-10-1, while in Kansas City he went a dismal 3-5-2 in 10 games. The next season, Hrivnak started off in KC, but only spent four games there (going 1-1-0) before moving to Las Vegas, where he got some of his mojo back, putting up a 10-1-1 record in his 13 games. It was enough to get a call to the AHL, where the Carolina Monarchs would put him in for 11 games, posting a 1-4-1 record during this time backing up a young Kevin Weekes.

It would be Hrivnak's last season in North America for close to a decade, as he would be traveling around Europe in Germany, England, as well as Finland during his travels. Hrivnak also took time out to be the goalie coach of the Washington Jr. Nationals in the DC Metro area. Hrivnak played one last season in semi-pro hockey in the QSPHL for the Granby Predateurs, going an unimpressive 2-6-1 to round out his career in any professional or semi-professional aspect.

While, it's unknown of his whereabouts now, Hrivnak's career shows that you don't need to go the major junior route to get a gig in the NHL. His college career was able to give him the time to grow as a player and get a solid confidence level to be able to play in the top-tier of hockey. The time he needed to grow, he used perfectly and was able to be the third round pick for the Caps, which-- at the time-- was the highest goalie picked by the Caps in their history until Kolzig, Dafoe, and Jim Carey came in. College works, kids. College works.

Friday, October 02, 2009

What Have We Learned: Opening Night 2009

For the first time in two seasons, the NHL started their season in North America, with the two previous stops being in Europe. It had it's ups, downs, and our first overtime of the young seasons. Wins all around.

-Alex Ovechkin picked up where he left off, potting two goals and an assist with Brooks Laich putting up two goals and Niklas Backstrom tallying three assists for the Caps in a 4-1 win over Boston. Jose Theodore was shaky at first, but had 19 saves in his win. Who knows what the situation will happen with the Caps goaltending, but it could be a storyline for the rest of the season. At least the offense is not in question.

-The Leafs definitely showed how much they were willing to throw the body around. The new look team was very physical, but it didn't help intimidate too much, especially with the Habs staying in it all game. Also, the number of penalties drawn could have been avoided and was a cause for the first goal. Matt Stajan was the offensive force for the Leafs, with two goals, which is something they had hoped for from him for a while. However, the goaltending from Toskala is still best.

-Meanwhile, the Habs did look shaky at times, but Carey Price took a barrage of shots and got the win out of it. Price looked shaky at times, but was able to keep his team into it. The rest of the Habs, though small, got their top guys going with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez playing somewhat well during their first game, Gionta scoring a goal in his debut.

-Whether it was the mojo of Joe Sakic being in the crowd or not, the Colorado Avalanche looked good against the President's Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. Wojtek Wolski played an amazing game and showed why he could be the new fire power for the Avs, as his two goals led the way for the Avs. Of course, Paul Stastny, the heir apparent to the Sakic leadership, added two helpers, quietly, for Colorado, as well. Craig Anderson faced a ton of rubber, stopping 38 of the 40 shots he saw; but if this will be the same story every night, it could wear Anderson down quick. Peter Budaj better keep sharp in all of this.

-The Flames retro uniforms are very bright, let me tell you. Also bright is the Flames' role players, who contributed all of the goals for the Flames in their victory, sans Dion Phaneuf's open-netter. Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust, Adam Pardy, and Mark Giordano had the other four goals, while Miikka Kiprusoff was a rock in net for the Flames, like he usually is. However, the new defense didn't look too improved, as Kipper had to face 42 shots, 21 coming in the third period, which was the letdown period for the Flames.

-Speaking of that third period, that's the only period the Canucks seemingly came out for. The first period was a write-off, as Roberto Luongo looked like he did in Game Six of the Conference Semis last year. The new defense was shaky at first, but Willie Mitchell brought up the point of most of these guys not playing alongside each other in the pre-season at all, which ruined chemistry. Also, the lack of aggressiveness early on allowed the Flames to control the hitting game and allowed Calgary to win the small battles-- which set the tone for the game.

-The Conference's two best teams last season really stunk up the joint at the start of this campaign.

-First, the Bruins seemed to control the play in the first period, but something happened during that first intermission which made them have a letdown for the rest of the game. The reigning Vezina winner, Tim Thomas, played well, but still had some letdowns on some goals. That shouldn't be all on his shoulders, as his defense was a little shaky. Although, two goals came on the power play, which could be a lack of discipline for the Bruins in the early going.

-The loss of captaincy may have brought Patrick Marleau out of his shell, as he put up the only goals for the Sharks, but the rest of the team was fairly horrific. While new acquistion Dany Healtey got over 21 minutes of ice time, he was also a minus-3 on the night. Evgeni Nabokov only faced 20 shots and only stopped 15, which is not a good case for him to carry this team. Joe Thornton apparently played as well, though he was really a non-factor it would seem. The only other bright spot for the Sharks was Joe Pavelski, who set up both of Marleau's goals.

So, that's the first night of the NHL season. On Friday, there's morning/afternoon hockey, depending on where you live-- of course. Then everyone plays on Saturday to give people watching Center Ice endless hours of hockey enjoyments. Huzzah for hockey season again-- huzzah!!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lack of Paying Dues

Incidents like what's happening with Sergei Kostitsyn in Montreal and now with Ilya Zubov in Ottawa, both being sent down because they weren't good enough to make the big club, then requesting a trade because they thought they were good enough. It almost makes like these kids don't feel like actually going through the motions of the hierarchy of the system and they can ply their trade in the minors while waiting for their chance in the barrell.

In Kostitsyn's case, he is very good in the minors, but with the Habs organization, he seemed to be wasted. He has a case that he wants to get out of the Habs organization because of mismanagement of his talent and his skill set, so maybe it's justified. The Zubov issue is that he just wasn't good enough to crack the roster and wants to be in a place where he can play in the NHL. Not only did the Senators have to deal with Dany Heatley going this summer, but another prospect last year in Alexander Nikulin wanted to be dealt when he couldn't crack the roster for Ottawa. Nikulin was dealt to Phoenix, but still stayed in the AHL and eventually rushed to Russia for this season.

Whatever happen to the passion of getting to the NHL and actually working to get to that pinnacle?? You look at guys like Denis Hamel, Darcy Verot, and maybe to a lesser extend, Mike Keane-- guys who are willing to toil in the minor leagues and wait for their call for the big show. While Keane has had his taste of the show, including a couple Stanley Cup; the career minor leaguers are willing to toil and usually it's a big deal when they get the call to finally follow through on their dreams of reaching the NHL, if only for one game. They work all the time and hope to get some recognition, but do it because they love the game and would rather being doing that then something else back in their homes.

It could very well be the culture. The players I mentioned about waiting-- all North American players. The players in turmoil now are from Eastern Europe. It could be a case where the entitlement of the European players are a little bit higher, considering they could be in their home country's league and be making better money than they would in the minors of the NHL. People get into their ear, saying they are better than they actually are and could be tearing things up in a place like the KHL or over in their home country's league, rather than paying the just dues in order to get into the NHL.

Point is, that if you're not good enough for one NHL team, what makes you think that you're going to strong-arm your way to another NHL roster?? It's not the way the system works. It's not the way it should work either, because in sport--you have to prove you're better than your peers if you want to get to the top of the mountain, you have to actually climb it-- it's not going to be handed to you. If they aren't good enough, they should take the constructive criticism and work on their game rather than throw a hissy-fit and run away from the NHL because they weren't handed the roster spot they probably didn't deserve in the first place. Man up, pay your dues, and you won't have all this unwanted attention for your negative things and get more attention for what you do on the ice.