Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thrashers Migrating North

And with that-- the deal is done......for now.

The Atlanta Thrashers will be moving to Winnipeg, pending approval from the NHL Board of Governors; something that may not be too hard a sell when it comes to potential revenue. Granted, Winnipeg does have to deal with their Drive to 13,000 season ticket, but still-- with price ranges being generous-- don't see it being that hard.

And while you'll get details from the most uninspiring press conference ever-- I will only lend some words to both sides of the coin.

First, to the Thrashers fans-- I'm sorry. I'm sorry your ownership let you down, I'm sorry your support wasn't enough, and I'm sure there was no local interests serious enough to keep the team in town. It's a craptastic situation and not one many wish on their worst enemy. The disjointed ownership didn't help and with no clear plan in place for seemingly making the team better....it was almost a matter of time, but probably not this quick. There is probably nothing that will bring you solace at this point, which is why I won't try. I can only send out my condolences to the fans and team members off the ice who won't make the move.

Now, to the Winnipeg fans-- sure, enjoy it, but it's actually time to deal with the gauntlet ahead of you. While you may be keen to the team coming back now, you have to make sure you're actually there for their down times as well as the high times. If the support isn't there when the team is at their lowest-- you'll be put in the same spot you were 15 years agos. And to be honest-- there won't be a third try if that happens. There's a lot of knocks against your city and the cold winters and other intangibles-- but if you show up and show you're support like no other team out there; those will be erased or dealt with accordingly. Support your team through good or bad and while this is a great time to celebrate-- it's also time to get down to work and show you want this team and want it for the long-haul.

And with that-- we now wait. Not only for June 21st and the Board of Governors approval of this move-- but what's next. The team has to come up with a name (yet to be determined, apparently), logo, jersey, and a front-office as they have about three weeks until the Draft. Not only are the fans under pressure, but the owners-- who don't have much time to deal with everything coming at them. Yet, for some reason-- I think they'll do whatever it takes and sacrifice whatever is needed in order to make this once far-off dream and present day reality.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Dave Parro

There's time where being in the minors is a bad thing and something you wish could come back from. Yet, for this week's AGM, being in the minors allowed him to find a place where he would call home after his playing career, as well as help out the locals in the process. This week, we look at the career of Dave Parro.

Parro started his career back in the 1973-74 season, where he would play the first of two seasons with the Saskatchewan Junior League's Saskatoon Olympics. After 64 games with the Olympics; Parro moved onto the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Canada Junior League, starting with one win in his only appearances in the 1974-75 campaign. For the 1975-76 season, Parro played 36 games behind Randy Ireland, going 28-6-2 in those games, then going 1-3-1 in nine playoff games, as the Blades would lose in the final. Parro took over the starting role in the 1976-77 season for the Blades, going 28-26-12 in 69 games, then 2-4 in six playoff games. Parro was named to the WCJHL Second Team All-Star squad.

Parro did get the eye of both the NHL and WHA, as he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the NHL Draft, then being picked by the Houston Aeros in the 10th round of the WHA Draft.

However, Parro decided to go to the AHL, playing for the Rochester Americans in the 1977-78 season, where he would get in 46 contests and go 25-16-3 in those games, then 2-1 in three playoff matches. The 1978-79 season had Parro in Rochester for part of the year, but only for 36 games with a 12-15-5 record. Parro also spent seven games with the IHL's Grand Rapids Owls that season.

The Summer of 1979 was interesting for Parro, as he was selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the Expansion Draft with the WHA teams coming into the fold. However, he was only a Nordique for two days, as they traded him to the Washington Capitals for Nelson Burton.

Parro would play for the Hershey Bears in the 1979-80 season, going 20-30-3 in his 54 games, but then going 5-3 in eight playoff appearances, helping the Bears win the Calder Cup. Parro would start out the 1980-81 season, playing in 14 games (7-6-1) before getting a call-up to Washington and playing in 18 games with the Capitals (4-7-2). The 1981-82 season would be a sticking point for Parro, as he got a majority of games in the Capitals net, although going 16-26-7 in his 52 games that year. Parro would only appear in six games for the Caps in the 1982-83 season (1-3-1) before being demoted to Hershey again, with a 21-20-4 record in 47 games, then 1-3 in four playoff games; while also getting AHL Second Team All-Star honors. The 1983-84 season had Parro play 42 games with the Bears, finishing 12-21-5, while appearing in relief in one game for the Caps.

Without a NHL deal, Parro moved to the IHL, signing with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles for the 1984-85 season, but only playing in 28 games with an 11-14-3 record to show. The 1985-86 season had Parro going to the Flint Spirits first, going 10-34-0 in 46 games, before moving onto the Fort Wayne Komets for five games and a 1-3-1 record to show. The 1986-87 season was the last one for Parro in the IHL and in hockey (for playing) as he would go 16-14-0 in 32 games with the Indianapolis Checkers.

While Parro's hung up the pads for a professional career, that almost changed. Parro lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania and was called upon by the Bears to be an emergency back-up in 1997 for Marc Denis. He didn't play, but he said it was a close call.

Parro still lives in Hershey, helping with the Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic League for high schools, coaching first with Lower Dauphin High School, then now with Hershey High School. As well, Parro is active with the Bears, Capitals, and even Flyers alumni, serving as president for the Bears alumni.

While he didn't have the most lengthy career, Parro did leave his mark-- especially at the community level. He may not be remembered by many for his playing days, the indelible mark he left on the Hershey area will live onward for years to come.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's Next 2011: Tampa Bay Lightning

While it wasn't the Cinderella story we all thought it would be, the first year of the "new" look Lightning set the bar pretty high for next season. However, with the GM and coach tandem they have, this playoff was probably a warning for the rest of the East to look out for the revitalized Bolts.

The biggest question heading into the off-season is the goaltending. Dwayne Roloson is probably not going to be back, mostly due to his age and possible price tag after the playoffs he had. Yet, Mike Smith is also a UFA, which will be interesting to see how that negotiation goes with how he played in the Conference Finals. With two young goalies like Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus signed and ready to go, but are they ready to back-up Smith?? You can bet GM Steve Yzerman will shop the market for a decent back-up for Smith if they retain him.

Obviously, the big thing for Yzerman before that is locking up Steven Stamkos, who is a restricted free-agent and probably will get a nice long-term deal to stay around with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier for the future. Granted, while Simon Gagne won't be back-- other role players like Sean Bergenheim and Teddy Purcell will be top priority for Yzerman over Gagne. The offense was very solid and they have plenty of firepower up and down the line-up; which should take pressure off the top-three guys. Plus, you have to look for James Wright and Carter Ashton to make a big push to get into the everyday line-up and even bump some of the role players.

On the blue-line, the core seems to be there with Victor Hedman, Mattias Ohlund, and Pavel Kubina will be back-- but what could be something to look at is whether or not Eric Brewer will be back with the team. Brewer won't light the score sheet on fire, but could be an invaluable defensive resource. There's not much on the horizon, so the free agent market should be solid for the Bolts to replenish what they may lose.

Regardless of what happens and whatever parts are actually in the line-up; Guy Boucher will be able to mold those guys into his kind of players and will be able to keep this solid run alive and build off of that. So long as the players buy-into it, they'll be fine. If they don't, then they may have a long-bumpy road to get to this spot again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's Next 2011: San Jose Sharks

While they did win one more game than they did in last season's playoffs-- the Sharks really have some interesting questions to ask themselves, especially when the production of their top stars was so far off of last year's pace.

We'll start there, as the big-three of Patrick Marleau (-10 in points from last year), Dany Heatley (-18), and Joe Thornton (-19) were very off kilter. Luckily, the role players like Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe were able to help counterbalance the lack of production that the big-three didn't put up. Rookie Logan Couture was also a pleasant surprise for the Sharks this season; potting 32 goals and 56 points; allowing the Sharks to see that they have a bright future. Another concern for the Sharks is that Heatley was virtually invisible during the playoffs, going goalless in the last eight games, only collecting three assists in those games-- which could create issues for the remaining three years of his contract, which holds a no-movement clause.

Defensively, Dan Boyle had a slight hiccup, but he was able to actually keep the offensive side of things going for the Sharks, while Jason Demers definitely cemented his regular spot for the line-up with his play and leading the team in plus/minus rating. When Ian White came over from Carolina, he provided a solid help, but it's doubtful he'll be back considering how well that Justin Braun played in his 28 games coming up from Worcester. Douglas Murray was again solid for the Sharks (for the most part), while Marc-Edouard Vlasic played stellar in his stay-at-home role he plays.

The goaltending of Antti Niemi was shaky at the start, only putting up only five wins in 12 games in the first two months, but while Antero Niittymaki couldn't overtake the starting gig that was handed to him; Niemi took hold. Niemi showed that he could be a starter in this league and his Stanley Cup victory was no fluke at all. With Niemi locked up long-term, it's his team to guide. Niittymaki only has one more year left, but he probably won't see much time behind Niemi.

I don't know if the Sharks could every wipe off the "choker" label, despite being in the Western Finals for two years straight. The fact is that this is a team that always comes short on expectations, which could be due to the high expectations they have set on them. Whichever way you dice it, the signs of greatness for this team is there-- it's a matter of following through on the actual signs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Tom Askey

With a small trend of hockey players going in the music direction, this week's AGM follows that kind of ideal. While he didn't have the best college career, has small sip of tea in the NHL, his minor league durability made him endearing to many people. Now, without hockey-- he's on the music scene. This week, the profile of Tom Askey.

Askey played with the Wheatfield Blades of the Empire Junior League before he would move onto the college ranks. Askey would start for The Ohio State Buckeyes in his freshman season in 1992-93, but wouldn't fair well-- putting up a 2-19-0 record in 25 games. That didn't deter the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who picked Askey in the 1993 NHL Draft in the eighth round. The 1993-94 season wasn't any better at OSU, as Askey would go 3-19-4 in 27 games; while in the 1994-95 season, Askey posted a 4-19-2 record in 26 games. Askey would improve his record for his senior season in 1995-96 and by more than one win-- 8-11-4 in 26 games, getting him CCHA Second Team All-Star honors.

Askey moved along to the pro ranks in the 1996-97 season, playing with the Baltimore Bandits of the AHL and getting in 40 games and finishing with a 17-18-2 record. Also, Askey was called by USA Hockey to play in the World Championships, winning his only game he played in.

The Bandits would move to Cincinnati and become the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, where Askey would spend most of the 1997-98 season, going 10-16-4 in 32 games; but then being called up to Anaheim late in the season-- appearing in seven games with an 0-1-2 record. For the 1998-99 season, Askey was back in Cincinnati, where he would play 53 games and put up a 21-22-3 record, then an 0-3 record in the playoffs. Askey also went to Anaheim for one playoff games in the 1998 playoffs; a loss.

The 1999-2000 season had Askey IHL bound, splitting his time between the Kansas City Blades for 13 games (3-5-3) and the Houston Aeros for 13 games (4-7-1), as well.

However, when Askey signed with the Rochester Americans in the summer of 2000, he seemed to find a home, as he would go 15-8-4 in the 2000-01 season and 0-1 in the playoffs; but also won the Hap Holmes Trophy with Mika Noronen for fewst goals-against. That was enough for the Americans' parent club-- the Buffalo Sabres-- to sign him in the summer of 2001. Askey would stay in Rochester for the 2001-02 season, playing in 34 games and having a 16-15-4 record. The 2002-03 season saw future Sabres come into Rochester, most notably Ryan Miller-- which would cut Askey's workload more-so, only getting in 16 games that year with a 3-8-4 record. Askey would see more time in 2003-04, playing in 21 games with a 10-8-3 record then a 2-0 record in the playoffs, then following that with a 2004-05 season with a 10-6-2 record in 20 games.

With no gigs in North America, Askey went on a European vacation in 2005-06 season, playing first with HIFK Helsinki and going 9-5-5 in 21 games, then getting moved to Jokerit Helsinki; going 8-6-2 in 16 games. Askey also dabbled in the Swiss league that season; playing for HC Fribourg-Gotteron for six games with a 4-2 record, but then going 0-4 in the playoffs.

Askey would return to North America to play for the United Hockey League's Kalamazoo Wings for 2006-07 campaign, where he would get into 45 games, finishing with a 27-15-2 record, but having a 0-1 record in three playoff games.

One more shot for Askey, as he went over to Italy, first, playing with HC Alleghe for 11 games before moving all the way over to England to play for the Nottingham Panthers, where he would play 31 games; helping them win the Challenge Cup as champions of the Elite League.

After his playing career was done, Askey moved back to Kalamazoo and is actually working on some original music. While he doesn't have a record out yet, he does have some of his work on his MySpace page.

It was a bit of a travel for Askey and while the success didn't really outweigh the unsuccessful side of things, he seemed to still keep strumming along and rolling with the punches. And while he has another career with no guarantee of staying power, he's in it for the love of the art-form rather than the paycheck.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Winnipeg Blogging

First off, I'm in Maryland for holidays, so who knows how much this will be updated until after the 27th. Not like I was tearing up the world with blogging, but still.

Despite the people of power saying reports of this ilk are untrue, many places are saying the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg is all but a done deal. Of course, until it's a done-deal, most of this is purely speculation and things could fall apart quickly.

Even so, the rejoice about Winnipeg goes without reality actually taking its toll, which I guess is something that is going to happen when you get someone you really want-- like a puppy for Christmas. To keep that puppy healthy, happy, and learned-- you're going to have to do many steps you never thought of before, but you don't care because you just got your puppy.

We all know Winnipeg didn't move because of attendance, it was due to the Canadian dollar being craptastic and the owners wanting to get out because they couldn't keep up. The biggest issue with this is not will the fans come, but will they keep coming if the team is bad and if the ownership doesn't want to put out the big bucks for players willing to play and stay in Winnipeg. And, as Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey pointed out-- Winnipeg has under 700k people in its metropolitan area and they will have probably the smallest building in the NHL, seating a smidgen over 15,000. While renovations could be made, the first year could be rough attendance wise, but the people will show up in droves for the first little while-- but depending on how they sell the team and ticket prices; the future could be a bit murkier.

Then it comes to competition-- the Thrashers were barely in the hunt in the Eastern Conference. When they move to the West-- there's going to be a lot of travel and lot more tougher teams to deal with. If the team isn't equipped enough or if the team can't deal with the travel-- will the fans show up for a losing squad. If they don't show up for a losing team, then we'll be right back in this situation for this franchise in another decade or so. Always good for a team to not know where they're going from contract to contract.

Finally-- the team won't be called the Jets, as I believe the Coyotes and NHL own that name. Plus, True North Sports and Entertainment didn't want that name and will probably use the Moose moniker, the same one as their AHL team. Oh, and that's another thing-- what's going to happen with the Manitoba Moose and their AHL team?? They'll probably have to lay dormant if they can't find a place to move, which kind of screws the Vancouver Canucks of an AHL team. However, no one gives an thought to that-- because it's not exciting, it's a downer-- like this post.

In the end, I feel bad for Atlanta hockey fans. Yes, they aren't as plentiful as Winnipeg fans, but they're feeling like crap right now and they have to see mostly EVERYONE celebrating their demise. It's not as drawn out as the Coyotes drama, I'm sure-- and probably would have happened sooner or later; but to have this happen to them without any notion it would go down this quick.....even worse.

In addition-- even if I loathe someone for their "journalistic" prowess, I'll give props to a good line, which is what Stupid Eric Francis put out on Twitter: "Atlanta, Georgia: supplying Western Canada with NHL hockey franchises since 1980." Good one, douchecanoe.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: David Littman

While I didn't plan it like this, it just happens to be the 91st goalie in the AGM series, which is the year that this year's AGM's new gig started. It's a guy who didn't get much of a taste of the NHL, but still had a pretty solid career in the NCAAs and minor leagues. He may have taken the scouting report of being technically sound a bit too seriously. This is the profile of David Littman.

While Littman started with the Oyster Bay Gulls in the New York Junior League, Littman really burst onto the scene with the Boston College Golden Eagles in the NCAA for the 1985-86 season, where he was a scholarship goalie-- playing in seven games in the first year and going 4-0-1. Littman would split time in 1986-87 with Shaun Real, playing in 21 games sporting a 15-5-0 record, as well as helping BC win the Hockey East Championship that season. That season would get Littman drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1987 Draft in the 11th Round. The 1987-88 season would be a little rough for Littman and the Golden Eagles, going 11-16-2 in 30 games, but was able to get a hold of Hockey East Second All-Star Team honors. However, Littman would bounce back with a 19-9-4 record in his 32 games, grabbing Hockey East First All-Star Team honors and NCAA East Second Team All-American honors.

The 1989-90 season would give Littman his first taste of pro hockey, splitting time between the AHL's Rochester Americans (5-6-1) and IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners (8-7-2). However, Littman would settle into the AHL role for the 1990-91 season, playing in 56 games with Rochester and going 33-13-5, then going 4-2 in eight playoff games, as the Americans lost in the Calder Cup finals. Littman would get his first NHL game in late January 1991 with the Sabres; replacing former AGM Darcy Wakaluk for half the game, both of whom were Buffalo's AHL goalies. Littman and Wakaluk won the Hap Holmes Award in the AHL for fewest goals-against, as well as Littman getting AHL First Team All-Star honors. The 1991-92 season had Littman back in the Rochester cage, playing in 60 games with a 28-20-9 record, going 8-7 in the playoffs; though losing in the semi-finals. Littman got his second Hap Holmes Award and AHL Second Team All-Star honors. Also, Littman got one full game with the Sabres that year, a losing effort against the Islanders.

During the summer of 1992, Littman decided to sign on with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 1992-93 season, but he would spend most of his time with the IHL's Atlanta Knights, going 23-12-4 record in 44 games, 1-2 in three playoff games, then losing his only game with the Bolts that season against the Devils when replacing another former AGM, Pat Jablonski.

While Littman signed with the Boston Bruins for the 1993-94 season, he was again relegated to the AHL ranks, splitting between the Providence Bruins for 25 games (10-11-3), then loaned out to the Fredericton Canadiens for 16 games (8-7-0). That off-season, he played in one game for the World Championships for the USA, a loss, as they would finish fourth.

Littman didn't play most of the 1994-95 season for some reason (can't find the reasoning), but he would land in the ECHL with the Richmond Renegades for eight games in the season, going 4-2-0, then busting out big and going 12-4 in 17 playoff games, leading the Renegades to a Kelly Cup championship. The summer of 1995 had Littman go to the RHI, playing for the Los Angeles Blades for three games, going 1-1-1.

It was an IHL adventure for 1995-96 onward, starting first with the Los Angeles Ice Dogs, playing in 43 games and putting up a 17-16-5 record, but missing the playoffs. The 1996-97 season had Littman move to San Antonio to play with the Dragons, where he would put up a 20-16-5 record in 45 games, but going 1-3 in the playoffs.

Another run for Littman came starting in 1997-98, where he would land in Orlando to play of the Solar Bears-- going 21-13-6 record in 44 games, then 8-8 in the playoffs. It was a big year in 1998-99, as Littman played in 55 games finishing with a 32-17-1 record, but appeared in only two playoff games-- both with no decisions. However, the 1999-2000 year wasn't as kind for Littman, as he would only play two games in Orlando, going 1-1 before he would abruptly call it quits.

However, don't feel too bad for Littman-- sure he was a bit off on his NHL dream, but he's living a dream other people would love to have-- Producer for EA Sports' NHL series of games. Rather than not doing the story of him moving from hockey to video games justice-- I'll let his post about the transition go to work.

While he didn't get a primo job as an NHL goalie, he's got a primo job doing work with the NHL and creating something that most NHL fans enjoy. He was able to go through the ranks of minor leagues to try to reach the pinnacle and able to climb through the entry level ranks to be a solid figure head that provides a fancy product to the non-playing fan to actually allow them the chance to experience the game without going through the training and all of that stuff.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Realignment Assignment

Yes, the title rhymes, big whoop, wanna fight about it??

Anyway, stupid Eric Francis was on last night's Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove segment (what'd he have to do to get that??) and he said that should the Atlanta Thrasher relocation-- not only would they have three weeks to do it, that the Detroit Red Wings wouldn't be moving to the East because it would take a Board of Governors vote and he claims that they wouldn't be able to do it in time for next season.

First off, stupid Francis doesn't realize this is the NHL-- they can do whatever they want, whenever they want and in as little time as possible. If they want to move the team, they'll have to have a vote on that, right?? Why wouldn't you actually vote on conference change as well?? Moron.

Secondly, I'll never understand why the Red Wings should be in the Eastern Conference. Sure, their fans would love it because the Western Conference is a tough conference, not just in competition, but also because of the fact of the travel isn't that rough. It's much easier for the Wings to have a field day in the East and be in contention every year. However, if the Red Wings leave, you put the Blackhawks as the only Original Six in the West and that rivalry will diminish slightly because of the infrequency of meetings.

For me, and I've said this on here and on The Show, the Columbus Blue Jackets should be moved over to the East. This way, I think they can compete a little better because the Jackets are a young team and follow into the Eastern "style", as it were. Not to mention, they're geographically closer to the Eastern Conference teams than the Red Wings; the fact they would have a hope at a playoff shot, would get the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby go into their barn more frequently (bringing the people in), and could be more desirable to a player who wants to be in the East, but with a team who has a chance of making the playoffs. The Jackets have a lot of cap room and plenty to build on.

You can read more about the ripple effect this could cause from other aspects on Pro Hockey Talk, but still-- I think if Atlanta moves and Winnipeg is the destination; Columbus goes to the East in the Atlantic, Philadelphia goes to the Southeast; Winnipeg to the Central. Logistically, it makes sense and I think it could very well go off without a hitch, but PHT does tease other things and is worth the read.

In the end, the Red Wings shouldn't be left as the only Eastern Time Zone team in the West, but at the same time; there's so many rivalries they have out West to pick from with the Wings-- it'll take a hit when it comes to Western rivalries.

Friday, May 13, 2011

John Druce Award: After Two Rounds

We're weeding down the field of guys still in the running for the JDA. Of course, this Conference Finals section is usually the make or break period, as John Druce and the Capitals were eliminated in the Prince of Wales Finals by the Boston Bruins in 1990. But now, we get to the nitty-gritty for the players looking to be the next Druce. As always, goals count more than assists.


1. Sean Bergenheim, Tampa Bay Lightning (7g, 1a): In 11 games, Bergenheim has been a force for the Bolts, leading them in goal scoring and tied for the playoff led, as well. A guy who was a journeyman is making a name for himself and actually showing how smart Steve Yzerman as a GM for picking him up in late Summer off the free agency market.

2. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (6g, 6a): Couture is in the running for the Calder Trophy, but at the same time-- I don't think anyone really thought he could explode like this, being primary scoring for the Sharks in the playoffs. Though he could be a household star soon, the young forward is a guy who will be the primary scorer in the next two years, for sure.

3. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (5g, 6a): Leading the Bruins in points, the aggressor for the Bruins is getting the goals in the grimy places, as he has a nose for the net.....so to speak. While the top guys for the Bruins have been crippled for one reason or another, Marchand is showing the prowess that he had in the junior leagues and making it finally translate when it's needed most.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (But Eliminated): Joel Ward, Nashville Predators; James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers.

Chronic Prognosticator: Conference Finals

It's finally time for the Conference Finals and the Final Four teams couldn't be more.....I guess evenly matched could be a good word for it, but these should be some solid series; though it'll take a lot to match the San Jose/Detroit series or Vancouver/Chicago side.

Well.....let's do it.

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

This will be a chess-match. The fact that both these teams are leading the way in the East proves that defense wins championships. The big issue will be not only trying to figure out each of these goalies-- but also which team can transition better off their defensive strong-point.

When it comes down to it, I think Tampa has a better edge and have shown a little bit more depth in their line-up. Not to say the Bruins don't have that, but who would have thought that Sean Bergenheim would have seven goals and Steve Downie have 10 assists?? Those are two guys who are really helping out beyond the top guys of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos.

However, the Bruins definitely have a defensive edge with Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference on the back-end. The fact Timmy Thomas is up for a Vezina should tell you that he's got the credentials to get a team through the worst, but he does have his own bouts of meltdowns.

PREDICTION: Tampa Bay Lightning in Seven Games
WHY??: It'll be a struggle in this series with these two, but I think the Bolts have really shown their gumption with Guy Boucher behind the bench and the long layoff will serve them well in resting a guy like Dwayne Roloson, who is up there and may not have been able to taken the grind of one series after another.

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (2) San Jose Sharks

While we had hoped these two would be in their Conference finals-- not many people thought they could actually get to it and face each other. A lot of people on the Twitter even said this could be the first series where both teams would lose-- which I would like to see, actually.

When it comes to the Canucks, it was great for them to get Ryan Kesler back into the fold, but now it's about getting the Sedins into it. This series could be a wide-open event, which could bring in the Sedins nicely-- but if they can't get it going from Game One; it could be another series of commentators questioning them night-after-night.

The Sharks should be happy not to choke a 3-0 lead in the second round, but at the same time-- it's a warning for them. The fact we'll see a Joe Thornton and Kesler match-up in the face-off dot is exciting. The big deal is Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture carrying the Sharks in the scoring, which needs to be a wake-up call for Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley-- who have been virtuall invisible.

PREDICTION: San Jose Sharks in Six Games
WHY??: While the goaltending and defensive breakdown hurt the Sharks psyche a bit-- the fact remains they are getting a lot from their depth guys and can put distance on themselves when needed. Both teams are going to be urged to get their offense going quickly because the minute they rattle the oppositions goalie-- the better the chances to making it a quick series.

What's Next 2011: Detroit Red Wings

After breezing through the first round, injuries and a hot team caught up to the Red Wings. They will always be a force as long as they keep pumping out those late-round picks that become superstars, but who knows how many teams have caught up to to them with that certain thing.

Up-front, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are superstars on this team and really should keep this team together for the long-run. Luckily, their contracts are still good for three seasons, which will help the team along. The big thing now is the the transition processes that are going to happen, as odds are that Kris Draper and Mike Modano will retire and the Wings will need to re-sign Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves in order to fill their roles. While it's good enough to bring the youth movement thing, you have to wonder how much leadership they'll be losing in the older guys and if they'll bring in another veteran guy for next season to counteract things.

On the defense, Nicklas Lidstrom is still a force, and you can almost bet he'll be back for yet another season to anchor the Wings defense. While he's on the older side of the spectrum, he can still get the job done and looks effortless doing it. Things are looking up for Niklas Kronwall, as he had a solid bounce-back season from a knee injury last year. Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart will be back and while Rafalski played well, Stuart is probably capable of a lot more. With all things going as they are, what's going to happen with replacing guys leaving-- as Ruslan Salei won't be brought back, but Jonathan Ericcson is a solid young defenseman and will probably be part of any rebuilding process the Wings could endure.

Goaltending wise, a lot of people are still questioning Jimmy Howard-- which is odd considering he had another 37 win season, like last year-- but his GAA and save percentage ballooned a bit. The question now is what to do with a back-up, as Chris Osgood's injuries are probably going to have him out of the organization and probably the league. There's a nice crop of back-ups out there, but you need to get a guy who's able to play back-up, but get on a run as a starter if needed.

A lot of people are pondering of the Red Wings are going to be blown up, but I don't see a reason why. They have a solid bunch of players who are stars and have a lot of veterans to teach the younger guys how to actually win. They have a good young core moving forward and GM Ken Holland can always turn anything that glitters into gold; and they should be worried about the day he leaves the organization.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Relocation or Contraction?? The Eternal Debate

DATELINE: New York City, New York: Bothered by the troubles of some teams and their inability to actually pay their bills, Gary Bettman has decided to abandon the plight to have 30 teams in the NHL. Rather than keeping fledging teams afloat, Mr. Bettman has decided to cut four teams and go ahead next season with 26 teams in the league.

That does a seem a bit of a drastic measure, but to be honest-- it would probably be a little bit better than dealing with the issues the NHL is dealing with today. We all know that Phoenix is on life support, Atlanta seems to be flat-lining, Columbus has been having issues, as Florida seems to be the next on the radar in having issues or even the Islanders if their $400M arena deal gets shot down. The amount of teams looking for ownership is amazing (Dallas, St. Louis) and while we've had success stories with teams like Buffalo and Nashville in recent years-- the fact remains that maybe the NHL can't actually sustain 30 teams.

When you look at it, there's definitely a lot of issues and legalities that would happens if they decided to contract teams, much more than if they relocated a team. But the fact remains that even if teams do move-- odds are the market they move to will embrace them for a short time, but a decade down the road; these same issues could still arise and we're back in the same boat we were before. More over than the legal issues, fighting with the other owners when it comes to revenues and the NHLPA with revenues and guys losing jobs-- it's definitely easier to relocate or keep the team in the troubled market, because then you're facing only one or two problems rather than five or six.

Yet, when you look at the ideal of contraction-- it seems like it would be a decent idea so that fans aren't going to have to deal with the off-ice issues a franchise is having and focusing on the product that's actually on the ice. It's board-play rather than boardroom antics. Of course, the fans that lose the team will always be bitter (RE: Winnipeg Jets), but at the same time-- it's almost a necessary evil for people to actually focus on hockey rather than if their team is going to be there or not. Plus, it's not toying with potential cities who could get a team, only to have local government intervene (which they would with contraction, too) and then the team is still there floundering. You take the team away, but you don't give it to anyone else-- it's gone forever.

In the end, no one is going to be happy with contraction for the time being, but the greater good will probably prevail and make the game healthier in the long-run. It's not like now because teams are having to sacrifice getting better and bringing in a new fan base because the team is winning-- only because the team is owned by the league or the team is up for sale and you don't want to put out big money for a team you're selling due to not wanting to pay the money or passing the buck to someone who may not have signed off on the deal for one reason or another. Not only that, but the trickle down of minor league affiliates being downsized due to it.

Yet, the prospects of seeing a better product on the ice could be something that may sway other hockey fans to take interest in a team outside of their market for the good reasons and not because it could be the last time you see the team in that location.

Sure, we could see another success story in many of these teams that are in limbo, but is the headache now worth the rewards that could come in the end game for this?? I don't know if you can take the risk like this with the economics being the way they are. With the Coyotes' situation-- the city government is deciding to take money that they could go to other things in the municipality that aren't sporting related to go to a team that may not be there next year. That almost seems like bad politics, but the city has pumped a lot into the arena, which the Coyotes are the only tenant-- so I guess I can understand the logic. With the Thrashers, the city doesn't want to do the same thing Glendale is doing with the Coyotes because they'll still have the Hawks there and won't take money they could put to something else for a hockey team that no one is seeing. Of course, the city sizes and appeals are different-- so it's not a good correlation, yet shows that some places aren't going to ragdoll the people of their city around with hope the team can have a White Knight come and save the team.

While I'll personally love the idea of teams actually hanging around, I always understand the reality that if they can't be profitable, they have to either move or get out completely. That's the sad reality of it all, but it seems many people don't like to think in reality a lot when it comes to sports. In the end, what will happen with these relocation rumors-- some may come true, some may be bunk, some may be strung out for five years. This does go to show that the season is winding down and there's not many games on TV-- there needs to be something to talk about. Also-- welcome to another Summer of Relocation Rumors, folks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's Next 2011: Nashville Predators

It was a banner year for the Nashville Predators, going further than any previous Predators teams and then actually showing they could keep up with the top team in the NHL. However, the downfall of the team was something that could very well be fixed in the off-season for them.

When it comes to defensively, the Predators are definitely solid-- with Shea Weber leading the charge and getting him signs should be top priority, because if it gets to July 1st-- he will be offer-sheeted at 12:01 AM. That said, with Weber as the cornerstone-- the young core they have is stellar; Ryan Suter helps the offensive cause with Weber, Cody Franson is slowly developing into a solid two-way player, and Kevin Klein rebounded from last year nicely and honing his stay-at-home prowess. The defense is definitely the main point for the Preds game-plan and they've build it up very nicely.

In net, it seems that Pekka Rinne has really broken the curse of Tomas Vokoun leaving and has solidified himself as top-tier goalie-- especially with his Vezina Trophy nomination. Even so, Anders Lindback had a decent season as a back-up in his first season in North America; which could provide a solid 1-2 punch going forward-- but Rinne is going to be the guy for years to come, or so the Preds hope.

Offense is really the big thing that could be holding the Predators back. With only two guys hitting the (exactly) 50-point plateau and only two guys having more than 20 goals; it could be the reasoning they couldn't have beat the Canucks. That said, Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist are definitely guys who can reach for a big output if they're given the free reign, while Sergei Kostitsyn did a lot for getting paid a little-- which could turn out to give him a solid payday this summer. Also, Joel Ward's performance in the playoffs should get him a nice contract this summer as well. The addition of Mike Fisher should bring not only a veteran presence, but a solid forecheck for the defensive front.

In the end, the Preds did more than many expected and brought the city alive and into hockey, which many people doubt for the past........several years. They have a lot to build on and all the tools to make Nashville a hot spot for hockey in the next few years.

On the Topic Of Sean Avery and Uptown Sports

While I was asleep during the day (stupid graveyards), all hell broke loose on the Twitterverse and it seemed that an agent put their foot in their mouth. Huzzah!!

If you hadn't heard, Sean Avery is in a new New York State campaign to legalize same sex marriages-- which he should definitely be given some dap for. However, it seems Todd Reynolds, VP of Uptown Sports Management doesn't not agree with Avery and went on Twitter to voice his opinion on it; much like Avery did in the advertisement.

However, Reynolds did not see what had happened to Dan Ellis and version one of Paul Bissonnette's Twitter Fiascos. This did blow up in his face and he had to explain himself on Twitter and then on a print and other media spree to clear himself up.

You can read it all on the wonderful Puck Daddy, mostly because he does a much better recap and has the tweets and whatever. Much better than this dreck.

First-- with Reynolds, not only does he work for a place that was probably named for a Billy Joel song; but his opinions are the same reasoning that Sean Avery went out and said what he said. Sure, it was a bit of a brash commentary, almost shaming Avery for his opinion and voicing what he feels is right. But he is right in his backtracking-- it doesn't mean that he or his company is bigoted by any nature; they maybe aren't as progressive as some other people out there. You look at the client list and guys like Chris Neil and Mike Fisher pop up-- both of whom are devout Christians. That makes me think that this company is a little right-winged/conservative leaning company that has their own ethics clause....which could make things a little more understandable-- though doesn't make it any less near-sighted.

But like I said-- it's not necessarily bigoted or intolerant-- just not as progressive. We don't think the Amish people are crazy or intolerant for not using electricity; they just aren't as free thinking or open to ideas because they have been taught one way and that's how their convictions have formed. That should count for something, at least-- they won't waiver too much from their position. To me, it wasn't right for Reynolds to do this on a CORPORATE outlet; but he's entitled to his opinion-- that's what makes North America great.

Personally-- I don't agree with Reynolds and I think you can interpret marriage or whatever how ever you feel. My big thing is that he went on the corporate feed to do this venting. It's one thing for an agency to put over their players or put over their sponsored events, but to vent about a hot-button issue on the corporate side of things is usually universally frowned upon. If you want to do it on your own feed or just not to the masses-- sobeit. I think that's the big thing that irked me, dragging the corporation into it.


That brings me to Avery, who definitely has a set to put himself out there like that and maybe voice an opinion that a bit of taboo in terms of publicly saying this. But from someone that's out there like Avery, it's not unexpected and he's a guy who has a thick enough skin to actually defend and fight back any kind of criticism that does come his way.

Yet, I don't see how he's an angel and absolved of everything he's done beforehand. Sure, he does move up a notch, but this is still a guy who said his ex-girlfriends get passed around the NHL like a puck during a Vancouver Canucks power play. He's an agitator to the extreme, even getting annoying enough to have his own rule for being an all-around jerk and putting himself over on a gamely basis. I don't see how an opinion like this from him absolves him and puts everything else to rest. As good as he is coming out on this and standing up for gay marriage-- there's a lot of crap he did beforehand and this almost feel like community service for the past bad deeds he's done.

In any case-- Avery comes out looking good; Reynolds comes out looking bad-- as does Uptown Sports Management. Yet, in the end-- it's all a matter of opinion, it's all a matter of viewpoint, and regardless of which way you look at it, the other side shouldn't be lambasted if they think differently.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mike Dunham

After weeks of some old-school types, we go forth with a more recent goalie who keeps dabbling in the game today. From a solid NCAA career to a great international career, to a dependable NHL career; this week's goalie has been through it all and still has his work cut out from him, even though he's been retired for a few seasons now. This week, the profile of Mike Dunham.

Dunham started out at The Canterbury School, a prep school in Connecticut, playing there for three seasons. He would be drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the third round of the 1990 Draft, but Dunham had committed to the University of Maine and would honor his commitment to the Black Bears. Starting in the 1990-91 season, Dunham would start out playing behind Garth Snow at Maine, playing 23 games with a 14-5-2 on the season. Also that season, Dunham went to the World Juniors for the US, going 1-2-0 in three games. Dunham would see limited amount of time in the Maine net, as he played only seven games with a 6-0-0 record to show for it.

However, in the 1991-92 season, Dunham mostly spent time with USA hockey's program, playing in the World Juniors and going 5-0-1 in six games, leading the US to a bronze medal performance and getting Top Goaltender honors from the tournament. Dunham also spent time with the National Team touring squad, going 0-1-1 in three games, while going 0-1-0 in three games at the World Championships and being a spare goalie for the 1992 Olympic team.

The 1992-93 season had Dunham playing a huge role with the Maine Black Bears, playing in 25 games with a 21-1-1 record, then helping the Bears get to the NCAA Tournaments-- winning the title over Lake Superior State. Dunham would be Hockey East First Team All-Star and NCAA First Team All-American. Dunham would join the US team for the World Championships, going 1-0-0 in his only game. Dunham would stick with the US National Team in the 1993-94 season, playing on tour with them going 22-9-2 in 33 games, then 0-1-2 in three games during the Olympics.

Post Olympics, Dunham started his pro career by joining the Albany River Rats of the AHL, where he would play five games at the end of the '93-'94 season and going 2-2-1. In his first full season in Albany in the 1994-95 season, Dunham came into his own, playing in 35 games with a 20-7-8 record, then going 6-1 in seven playoff games, as the River Rats won the Calder Cup. Along with Corey Schwab, Dunham would collect the Hap Holmes Memorial Award for fewest goals-against and shared Playoff MVP honors with Schwab. Dunham's role expanded in the 1995-96 season, going 30-10-2 in 44 games, but wouldn't be able to repeat the playoff heroics, going 1-2 in three games.

The 1996-97 season had Dunham move up to the New Jersey Devils to back-up Martin Brodeur. Dunham would get in 26 games with a 8-7-1 record, including two shutouts, which allowed him to share the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals-against with Brodeur. Dunham also spent three games in Albany, going 1-1-1 in three games. The 1997-98 season saw Dunham play only 15 games with a 5-5-3 record to show for it. Dunham would head to the the World Championships again with the USA with an 0-1-0 record in two games.

The Devils left Dunham unprotected, which allowed the Nashville Predators to claim him in the Expansion Draft. Dunham would split time with Tomas Vokoun, mostly because Dunham missed 26 games due to a reoccurring groin injury. Dunham still go into 44 games with a 16-23-3 record. The 1999-2000 season was better for Dunham, as he played in 52 games witha 19-27-6 record for the Preds, then spending a game in the IHL with the Milwaukee Admirals-- which was a win. Injuries plagued Dunham in the 2000-01 season, as he missed 15 games due to a knee injury, but it was a solid season after all-- sporting a 21-21-4 record in 48 games. Back on the mend in 2001-02, Dunham would put together a 23-24-9 record in 58 games, but Dunham would take home some hardware, as he would go to the Olympics; winning the only game he played in and captured a Silver Medal for the US. Dunham would start the 2002-03 campaign with the Predators, but would only play 15 games; going a dismal 2-9-2 before he was sent out.

Dunham was sent to the New York Rangers for Rem Murray, Tomas Kloucek and Marek Zidlicky. Dunham would have to take over for the injured Mike Richter, as Dunham would play 43 games in the Big Apple going 19-17-5 with five shutouts. Back in the Big Apple, Dunham would have another rough season-- finishing 16-30-6 in 57 games.

With the lockout in 2004-05, Dunham went to Sweden to play 13 games with Skelleftea AIK HK in the Swedish Division II league.

Once the lockout was over, Dunham was signed by the Atlanta Thrahsers for the 2005-06 season, but had to deal with his share of groin issues again, playing only 17 games with a 8-5-2 record. While rehabbing, Dunham spent time in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators, winning both his games he played in.

Dunham then signed with the New York Islanders for the 2006-07 season, playing only 19 games with a 4-10-3 record, mostly using his time as a mentor to the young Islanders goalies coming up through the ranks. However, after that year-- Dunham retired from the NHL.

Post retirement, Dunham would stay with the Islanders as their goalie coach, a spot he holds today. Many thought he would suit up again this past season, as the Islanders had issues with keep goaltenders healthy.

Though he had a solid college career, his NHL years were less than stellar. Even with that, he always answered the call for his country, which allowed him for a decorated career with Team USA. From those experiences, he's now able to try and mentor the younger goalies through the Islanders system.

Friday, May 06, 2011

What's Next 2011: Philadelphia Flyers

History did not repeat itself, as the Philadelphia Flyers couldn't come back from a 0-3 second round deficit against the Boston Bruins; getting swept this time around. There's a lot of questions with the Flyers, but it starts from the back out.

Since 1999, the Flyers really haven't had a solid goalie. Sure, they've had a lot of stop-gaps, but the patch-work continues. While Sergei Bobrovsky did a solid job in the regular season-- the playoffs were a much different story as they leaned more on Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton for a small window. Is this something that's going to continue?? Well, both Bobrovsky and Leighton are under contract, so I assume they'll lean on Bobrovsky more and maybe he'll learn, while Leighton just hangs around, hoping for a chance to pop in there.

To the positives, the Flyers were able to get a lot of former first-round pick Claude Giroux, who lead the team in points this season, whilst his landlord, Daniel Briere proved to be a solid goal-scorer in the first round, but didn't seem to appear much in the second round. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter also had solid seasons, though the scoring all sound was spread out for the Flyers-- having seven 20-goal scorers with Ville Leino only one goal away from joining that club. There's not much to worry about when it comes to the offense in the coming years-- just have to hope that it's as spread out as it was this year.

On the blue line, Matt Carle continues to excel, leading the Flyers' D in points and tied for the lead in plus/minus with Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros himself had a pretty solid year, bouncing back from some subpar seasons in Tampa Bay. Chris Pronger missed a good chunk of the season due to various injuries, including some of the playoffs where he dealt with a lingering hand injury. All in all, the defense probably had to play better, given the fragility of the goaltending at any given moment.

It definitely wasn't the rebound from the Stanley Cup finals appearance last year-- but the Flyers did what they could. Peter Laviolette may be on a tight leash next season, but with a healthy squad-- who knows what this team could have done. Yet, until something is done about the goaltending, odds are there won't be many other question as prominent as that one.

Friday Five: Quick Second Round??

We had a bit of hiatus, but with not much else going on-- why not bring it back for a second. It's been.....uneventful following the amazing first round, not much could meet up to those kind of expectations.

1. Is there something that could really save this second round, as three series could be sweeps and the other at 3-1??

Unless we get a monumental comeback like last year's second round; I don't know if there's much that could really save that. But-- looking at it like this; odds are they could push everything back and we'll get the Stanley Cup finals started earlier than June 1st. But, we usually have these dud rounds, though they usually come in the first round, mostly because there's more series'.

2. Speaking of 3s and 1s, can anything stop the Tampa Bay Lightning??

The Bolts are strong and mostly due to the system, but Dwayne Roloson has been outstanding and the Bolts are not only working the defensive system; but transitioning well off the system. The Bolts scored an average of four goals per game against the Caps, so it's not like it's a boring trap system of old. Both the Bruins or Flyers will have their work cut out for them in the Conference Finals.

3. While he went missing in the first round, Ryan Kesler has really beaten Mike Fisher in the checking game in round two. How did Kesler get his groove back??

It seems that Kesler was able to adjust against Nashville, mostly because outside of Fisher-- there's very few would could keep up with Kesler in Nashville. Chicago had a lot of muckers who could keep up with Kesler, but it seems he's able to disappear and reappear at will against Nashville. There's only so much Pekka Rinne can do while being the back stop for the Preds, he can't play man-to-man on Kesler.

4. Are the Red Wings showing that ending a series really early is a bad thing??

The Red Wings don't look like the Red Wings in the first round, even with guys like Henrik Zetterberg back in the line-up. While it may have been the long layoff putting up a lot of rust on the team, but the Sharks are really primed for big things. These games are also close, all one goal games-- two of the three going to overtime. Even with the Sharks on the verge, I think the Wings will make that fourth game tougher to to win for San Jose.

5. Question of the week: What to do with Bruce Boudreau??

I believe that George McPhee won't be the one to fire him, so that only leaves Ted Leonsis to do the deed. I don't think Ted will do that, for now. The Caps front office will give Boudreau another half-season; but if they falter like they did at the start of this season-- they will pull the trigger on firing Boudreau and getting some new blood on there. It's not that Boudreau is a bad coach, the players may or may not have forgotten what they were told from him; which could have been their downfall.


If you have any ideas to put through the playoff grind, email me at Scotty.Wazz@Gmail.com and I'll do what I can in order to answer the questions/topic/or whatever.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What's Next 2011: Washington Capitals

Another year of expectation and another year of playoff disappointment. There were a lot of ups and downs through the year, but the fact is they tried to adapt to the system that was put out for them after their playoff failure last season-- yet it seemed to elude them in the second round this year.

The biggest question is what to do with the coaching staff. Bruce Boudreau is going to be at the front of the fire storm, but odds are-- he won't be fired....yet. While he's almost in year five of the five-year plan, I'm sure the brass of the Capitals will keep a close eye on the coaching staff and see how they play out at the start of the season to see how the player's react to any new style that may come through the pike from this off-season test.

This season was one of different looks from the Caps. Alex Ovechkin was exciting, but not as productive as previous years, with only 32 goals and 85 points. Nicklas Backstrom was definitely off his game, being down 36 points from last season-- which will probably result in us learning that he had an injury holding him back, with only two assists in nine playoff games. Two big questions is (1) can they afford to keep Brooks Laich in the Caps jersey and (2) what to do with Alex Semin?? The first question should be an easy "yes", but depends on how much is too much for the Caps. The second, like the player, is much more difficult and could change at any minute.

Another big question for the Caps was goaltending, but it seems that Michal Neuvirth stepped up and took over the role as the top goalie in the Caps fleet. The next question is who to keep for a back-up or 1b?? While Semyon Varlamov has been injury proned and threatened KHL migration-- Braden Holtby has been a great surprise for the Caps. Odds are that Holtby will be retains and Varlamov could be on his way out.

Defensively, it's hard to argue that the pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson were the go-to combination; but the Mike Green and Jeff Schultz pairing created some headaches in the playoffs; coupled with Green's injuries that limited him to 49 games. Luckily, John Erskine upped his game and a full year out of Dennis Wideman should provide some added help on the blue line.

When all is said and done, this will be a disappointment for Caps fans and fodder for the people who think the Caps are overrated from their sudden rise to popularity; yet for those (like me) who have been through the ringer with the Caps-- it's not unexpected. In the immortal (paraphrased) words of the Great JonnyP, "The Caps are like the girl at the bar who you flirt with and she flirts back and you think you have something. You exchange numbers and you call and leave a message and she never calls back. The Caps never called back."

Monday, May 02, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Chris Worthy

In honor of that Royal Wedding across the pond in jolly ol' England, we profile our second British-born goalie, but did have quite the career that Byron Dafoe had. It's another story of a player who had an amazing career in the junior ranks, but due to a bad team in front of him and deep competition, never reached those heights in the pros as he did in juniors. This week, the profile of Chris Worthy.

While he was born in Bristol, England-- Worthy and his family moved to Canada at a young age. Worthy would learn the game and start playing with the Flin Flon Bombers of Saskatchewan Junior League, starting first by playing 53 games in the 1965-66 season. The Bombers and Worthy would move onto the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for the 1966-67 season, where Worthy would put up an astonishing 40-4-0 record in 44 games, then going 8-6 in 14 playoff games, helping to win the Turnbull Cup Championship.. The Bombers would go to the Memorial Cup representing Manitoba, but would lose in seven games to the host Port Arthur Marrs. Worthy would also get Top Goaltender honors in the MJHL and First-Team All-Star honors that season. Staying with the Bombers in 1967-68, but going to the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League; Worthy continued to play amazing, going 47-8-5 in 60 games with the Bombers, as well as going 8-6 again in the playoffs.

Worthy's rights were first taken by the Detroit Red Wings, but those would be traded in May of 1968, where he, Gary Jarrett, Doug Roberts, and Howie Young were traded to the Oakland Seals for Bob Baun and Ron Harris. Worthy's pro career started with the Seal in the 1968-69 season, but would be the third goalie, getting only 14 games in with a 4-6-3 record in those games. The 1969-70 season would be a nice travel experience for Worthy, as he would only play one game in Oakland (a loss), three games with the Providence Reds of the AHL, but would spend most of the season with the Seattle Totems of the Western League with a 14-14-3 record in 31 games. As the Oakland Seals became the California Golden Seals, Worthy would be with them for the 1970-71 season, but with the work horse Gary Smith in net, Worthy only got 11 games in-- mostly in relief, as he finished the year with a 1-3-1 record.

The 1971-72 season had Worthy relegated to the Kansas City Blues of the Central League, playing in 19 games, but with a 3-10-5 record to show for it. Worthy was picked up by the Denver Spurs of the Western League in the 1972 Reserve Draft, where he would get more games in, playing 37 and compiling a 12-14-7 record.

Worthy was also selected by the Dayton Aeros of the WHA in their 1972 Draft, but would never play for them as he was picked by the Alberta Oilers in the professional players Draft in 1973. Worthy showed up to the Oilers for the 1973-74 season, playing behind Jack Norris and going 11-12-1 in his 29 appearances. It was another 29 appearances for Worthy in Alberta, this time with an 11-13-3 record in the 1974-75 season, while the 1975-76 season had Worthy in only 24 games with a 5-14-0 record to show; which would be his last season playing.

Post-playing career, Worthy attended the University of Alberta and Seattle University where he would be give a Bachelor's Degree in Commerce and would become a very successful Chartered Accountant. As well, he became Chief Financial Officer for the fourth-biggest construction company in the US before starting a private investment company. He helped many get their businesses off the ground and made sure to lead people in the right direction.

Sadly, Worthy contracted pancreatic cancer and passed in 2007 at only 57. He's survived by his wife of 41 years and two sons.

While he started off his career with a powerhouse of a junior team, that came at a price when he got chosen by a team who didn't have much of anything, which stymied his performance in the big leagues and made him bounce around. Yet-- he stuck with it for as long as he could, then used his smarts to his post-playing career and made quite the name for himself before his untimely passing.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Psychology of Guy Boucher

Say what you will about his tactics, say what you will about his motive, say what you will about the idea in general-- but the mind games that Guy Boucher, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been playing with his playoff opponents are fantastic.

In almost a "Kill 'em with kindness" sort of way, Boucher is using self-deprecation in a way that we may not have seen before, especially against the Washington Capitals, and while it may or may not have an effect on the Caps-- what he's saying could be a lingering effect should this series go a long way.

And the best part is that his team his buying into it.
Going into the series, Boucher pretty much said that he didn't expect his team to win this series and that it was Washington's series to lose because of their experience, then after a Game One victory said that he expects Washington to come out guns a-blazin' and they'll be outstanding in Game Two.

No pressure, Caps-- you'll just have to play the best you've ever played to show Boucher and the Bolts that they should be careful what they wish for.

And that's just it-- to put the high expectation on the other team, it throws them for a loop. Look at the Penguins' series; every press conference he gave, he always stated that he thought that Sidney Crosby would play in the series and it could be that game. Sure, that's good to actually prepare for a player of his caliber to come back, but to go on public record about it, very openly, shows that he wants the reporter to maybe go back to the other side and pester them about something he knows is false.

It's one thing to have a coach say this to relieve the pressure, but when you have your team actually getting into it and following the lead of their coach by being self-deprecating and to give all the credit to the Caps-- it's something that you normally don't see too often. Sure, you'll have a captain or veteran guy back-up the coach's statement-- but the Bolts seem like, to a man, they're following the coach's demeanor off the ice and taking it in stride. Boucher has really "hypnotoad'd" the Lightning and it could be the best thing that's ever happened to him.

While it's a bit of a snub for Boucher to not get nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach in the NHL; there's going to be a time where he will actually have his hands on it, posing for pictures in Vegas at the Awards Show. The way he's got the Bolts playing, it'll be hard-pressed for any team to beat them easily, mostly because they play a frustrating brand of hockey and capitalize frequently on teams trying to change up their game plan without actually having a "Plan B" to go to.

Say what you will about the team, you have to respect a coach who is able to not only throw off the game of the opposition off-the-ice, but also to pass it along to his team without getting them down or throwing them off their own game. Whether it wins another playoff game or series this season remains to be seen, but the head games are something that's Boucher has mastered in under a year in the NHL.