Thursday, July 18, 2013

Indefinite Hiatus

After much thought, consideration, and soul-searching-- I think it's time for me to give this whole thing a break. So, like many of my favorite bands, I've decided to put this blog on an "indefinite hiatus" and see how long it takes in order to get my feeling for this whole blogging thing back.

Part of the reasoning for it has to be just the ideal that this has become more of a chore for me to do rather than an outlet to get my thoughts and stuff out. Due to personal and "professional" frustrations in my life-- it's better to actually let go of this for a while rather than beat myself up over not posting on a normal basis and not putting up stuff that I actually believe is good. Granted, none of the stuff I deem "good" ever gets the credit I think it should-- but that's probably me being too hard on myself through all of this.

Thanks to the people who did read, link, and gave feedback on the stuff that I have written. It's always nice to get some kind of recognition for a hobby like this. Plus, the people I have met and interacted with because of this blog has been pretty cool, too. Not to mention the opportunities it has afforded me, it's been a crazy ride.

I won't be completely gone, as my Twitter will live on in its randomness, as will Face Off Hockey Show every Wednesday (and on Facebook and YouTube). It's also not to say I won't create a new project and go on from there, but as it seems right now-- The Strangest One of All blog will lay dormant until something I feel is worthy enough to post here comes about.

Take care of yourself and someone else.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Alphonse "Frenchy" Lacroix

When it comes to goalies, it's always a rough task to come on in an emergency situation like an injury. Even worse back in the olden times when only one goalie dressed at a time as the concept of a back-up hadn't been invented as of yet. However, this week's AGM had the task of going in for, at the time, one of the most heralded teams in the NHL to that point with only an amateur background to boot. This week, the profile of Alphonse "Frenchy" Lacroix.

Lacroix started off as a 16-year-old with Newton High School in Massachusetts in the 1914-15 season, going 5-1-1 in seven games, while in the 1915-16 season; Lacroix would post a 5-2-0 record. In his final high school season, Lacroix went 7-0-1 in eight games.

Post-high school, Lacroix would play in the amateur ranks with the Boston Navy Yard in 1917-18 and posting a 7-4-0 record in a 11 games, as well as playing exhibition games for the Navy Yard in the 1918-19 season. Begining in the 1919-20 season until the 1923-24 season, Lacroix would play for the Boston AA Unicorns across different amateur leagues. Lacroix would go 15-4-0 in the 19 games played in that time-frame and 4-3 in seven playoff games.

Playing in the amateur ranks allowed for Lacroix to be selected for the 1924 Olympics by the USA, where Lacroix went 4-1-0 in his five games played and helped the US to a silver medal. Lacroix would return to the Unicorns for the 1924-25 season, playing in 21 games and ending up with a 15-6-0 record.

In November of 1925, the Montreal Canadiens signed Lacroix as an emergency goalie. When Georges Vezina started to cough up blood on the ice due to an undiagnosed tuberculosis; Lacroix would play in five games and going 1-4-0 before yielding the crease to Herb Rheaume for the duration of the 1925-26 season. Lacroix would spent the 1926-27 season under contract with the Canadiens, but not play a game with them that season.

Lacroix returned to the amateur ranks, playing with the Providence Reds of the Can-Am League in the 1927-28 season, posting a 1-3-0 record in four games. Also that season, Lacroix played for the Lewiston St. Doms in the Northeast League and went 8-12-2 in 22 games played. Returning to the St. Doms in the 1928-29 season, Lacroix went 3-1-0 in four games, then 2-1 in three playoff games. Lacroix would return to the Can-Am League in the 1929-30 season with the Reds again, playing in only one games-- which was a win. In the 1930-31 season, the Boston Tigers would use Lacroix in net for four games, where Lacroix went 1-3-0 before he would retire after the season was over.

Having to come into the NHL with no professional background and take over for a legend like Vezina is a taunting task for someone who actually had professional games under his belt. However, with a silver medal in tow and a decent amateur background-- Lacroix did what he could in the emergency situation.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kovalchuk Russian Back Home; Will Others Follow??

With Ilya Kovalchuk retiring from the NHL to return to the KHL, it not only shocked the hockey world in their reaction to it all, but it also made people question about if it was about being homesick or something more to it. While Kovalchuk could make $15-20 million a year, he did express interest in staying over in the KHL even after the lockout was resolved-- so the money may not have been the true issue. The factor of Olympics could be another factor, as the NHL and PA haven't decided yet on participation.

This whole scenario could spring up a much more interesting conundrum in the future when it comes to Russian superstars. For a while now, the KHL has been an alternative for many minor league players and some players at the end of their careers. Yet, with Kovalchuk going over to the KHL in his prime age, would this be the thing that finally makes the KHL a viable option for other players to ship off to and maybe leverage their NHL team into contract demands??

Sportsnet's Jeff Marek did bring up the idea of Kovalchuk being the modern day Bobby Hull, though rather than bringing free agency into the NHL fold-- Kovalchuk's move could make many NHL teams force their hands and their wallets in order to keep their talent from jumping ship. Though many have reviewed the KHL as not well run, especially the lower tiered teams, if enough talent can come over-- the money will be found one way or another.

Not only that, but with the league expanding into Croatia this season, as well as Finland and Italy in 2014-15 and Norway, Poland, and Switzerland for 2015-16; there should be a lot of money and a lot of variety to go around in terms of where some players want to play. Even if the top North American players don't go over, the role player threatening to go overseas could cause much overpayment to the players that won't live up to it and will make fans and pundits alike sweat heading towards this CBA's ending.

Going the other way, the crop of Russians have hit a lull when it comes to those who have played in the NHL. Some of that is due to mismanagement, some of it due to not being the right fit; but you can definitely see that the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin aren't too much on the horizon. While the jury is still out on Nail Yakupov, it's probably safe to say that he could be the last of this generation to come over and have a bit of success in the NHL.

With the KHL influence on the National players, it has made many NHL leery over selecting a Russian in fear that they may never come over, which is probably why Valeri Nichushkin dropped in the Draft due to his adamant feeling about playing in the NHL or else he'll go to the KHL to make the big money. That's also a reason why Evgeni Kuznetsov has stayed in the KHL, though the Caps are confident he could be over next season. That KHL money and the influence to the younger players that this is their league to take over when they get older and they should have pride in their national league, as much as the North Americans have with the NHL.

As this whole thing will completely settle itself out, it does give a lot more to talk about than just development camps, lingering free agents, and upcoming arbitrations. Not only that, it makes some fans worry about what their top player could do with this development. Kovalchuk could be the first domino to fall or just the exception to the rule of Russian players.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Don Head

After a week off, the AGM this week focuses on a goalie who stayed to his amateur roots for longer than most in order to play in the Olympics. After that, he took another less taken road by going out west. This week, the profile of Don Head.

Starting in the Junior B system with the Weston Dukes during the 1950-51 season, Head would move forward during the 1951-52 with the Toronto Marlboros for 37 games, winning the Dave Pinkney Trophy for goalie with the best goals-against average for his team. Head would return to Weston for the 1952-53 season to end out his junior career.

Going the amateur route with Senior Hockey, Head played for the Stratford Indians from the 1953-54 season until the 1955-56 season, playing in a total of 74 games over that span. Head moved to the Windsor Bulldogs in the 1956-57 season, where Head would go 30-17-3 in 50 games, six wins by shutout. During the 1957-58 season, Head moved to the Chatham Maroons of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association and would play there for two seasons for a total of 96 games. Returning to Windsor for the 1959-60 season, Head used it as a tune-up for his role for Canada in the Olympics.

Head would pilot the Canadians into a solid position in the Olympics, going 5-1-0 in the seven games he played in, but they were upset by the United States, relegating the Canadians to take silver.

Starting in the 1960-61 season, Head moved onto his pro career with the WHL's Portland Buckaroos, where Head went 38-23-9 in his 70 games, then going 10-4 in the playofs to help Portland to the WHL title-- the Lester Patrick Cup. Head would win the WHL's Rookie of the Year award and Outstanding Goaltender Award for fewest goals-against on the season.

Portland would trade Head to the NHL's Boston Bruins ahead of the 1961-62 season, where Head would play in 38 games for Boston, posting a 9-26-3 record. Head would also spend five games in Portland that season on loan, going 3-1-1 in those games.

The Bruins traded Head back to Portland before the 1962-63 season, where Head would rebound from his NHL downside with a 43-21-6 record in 70 games, then 3-4 in the playoffs-- which was enough for another Outstanding Goaltender Award. Injuries hampered Head for the 1963-64 season, playing in only 16 games and having a record of 6-9-1; but Head would get back to play a majority of the games for Portland in the 1964-65 season, posting a 26-20-4 record in 51 games played, then 8-1 in the playoffs; helping Portland to another Lester Patrick Cup as champions.

Head's workload would decreased starting in the 1965-66 season, playing in only 36 games and finishing with a 20-12-3 record, sharing an Outstanding Goaltender Award with teammate Dave Kelly. During the 1966-67 campaign, Head played in 44 games for Portland, going 26-13-5, then 0-3 in four playoff appearances.

Portland traded Head to the Seattle Totems before the 1967-68 season, where Head would go 23-19-4 in 46 games and then posting an 8-1 playoff record to help the Totems to the Lester Patrick Cup, the team's second in a row. Back for the 1968-69 season, Head played in 44 games for Seattle and compiled a record of 22-13-4 (0-4 in the playoffs), while in the 1969-70 season; Head went 8-10-2 in only 20 games with the Totems. The 1970-71 season would turn out to be the last for Head, going 4-7-3 in 16 games before he would hang up the pads for good.

Head was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame thanks to his time and achievements with the Buckaroos.

Though he had a cup of coffee in the NHL (which resulted in a Sports Illustrated cover....sort of) and Olympic glory, Head's contribution in the the semi-pro side of things made him a memorable aspect of Pacific Northwest sports lore. Though it might not be the big time for most, Head make the most of it and succeeded quite well due to it.

Friday, July 05, 2013

On the Topic Of Alfredsson's Departure

At the end of the day, you cannot blame Daniel Alfredsson.

The emotion of everything that has happened today with the news that Alfredsson is leaving the Ottawa Senators for the Detroit Red Wings; the thing lost in all of this has to be the idea that with the departure of Alfredsson, they actually need to have someone pick up the pieces for contribution. It's a time for Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and the other players to step up their game and hopefully find a way to stay healthy in order to contribute more.

Not only that, the void left in the locker room for the Senators is something that won't be as easily replaced as the scoring contribution. For a core of young players, it's a huge hit in trying to turn to someone, but for guys like Erik Karlsson, it will make them grow up a little more and actually learn to become a leader and get the experience by being fed to the fire. Not only that, it'll be a big thing for Paul MacLean to be the motivator that he has shown off to the world with his Jack Adams Trophy campaign this past season.

Yet, the biggest sign this signing to Detroit brings is that Alfredsson doesn't believe himself to be the primary contributor to the Ottawa Senators, as he was being called upon to do. Getting up there with age, it just shows that Alfredsson is at the point of his career where he wants to be able to ride shotgun and let the others actually be the superstars of the team and he can lay back and be the secondary scoring and the leader on the ice by example.

With this, the Red Wings will get some experience they have lost in the past few years with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, and the like. Alfredsson's voice is something that's respect around the league and is someone who could teach Henrik Zetterberg how to be a leader off the ice, as well as on. Sure, the teaching of that is often futile, but if Zetterberg is willing to learn a thing or two from Alfredsson; it couldn't hurt to get some pointers here and there.

Plus, they get a little bit of consistency out of Alfredsson, who won't bring big goals or assists; but all of his points are very timely and will add more punch to the second power play unit, especially on a big one-timer chance. While it may not completely fill the void and drop-off from Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk's points contribution; Alfredsson could give a shot in the arm to the top-six guys.

Most importantly is what the fans of the Senators will do when they meet their new division rival Red Wings this season. They will be mad, regardless of what Alfredsson says his reasons are for leaving Ottawa. The wounds of this signing is going to be hard to make heal with time or at all. I'm sure long after Alfredsson has retired, he will be welcomed back by the Ottawa faithful as Mr. Senator-- but for now, there's bitterness, tears, and a lost feeling trying to find out what went wrong between the Sens and Alfie.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On the Topic Of Vindictive Reporting

Morning Radio Zoo co-host and part-time sports writer Eric Francis had a gem of a column today when it comes to what he's been able to put together. In his recent piece, Francis said that Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff should have been more forthright with the Flames about his impending retirement rather than have the news break thanks to the Finnish media. Also, Kipper should have done more of an exit for the organization, fans, and community.

Of course, Francis forgets that whole thing about Kipper saying he wouldn't show up if moved at the trade deadline, but who needs to remember that to put out a story about how he personally feels let down that Kiprusoff didn't make a bigger exit.

And forget that on April 16th, Eric Francis knew that this was Kiprusoff's last home-stand and on April 17th reviewed Kipper's last game and wrote, "The end is near ­-- one day away in fact. Kiprusoff may not go out with much fanfare, but he seems focused on going out in style -- something he certainly did Wednesday night as the game's shining star."

Yet, it seems that Francis was shocked (SHOCKED) by Kiprusoff not giving a big farewell. Luckily, a Calgary writer named Eric Francis (yes, the same guy) knew that when he wrote on the 16th:
After rounding out the season -- and most likely his career -- on the bench watching Joey MacDonald audition for Kipper's old gig, the bearded Finn will no doubt punctuate garbage-bag day by doing his annual backdoor dash.  
No sayanora (or however you say goodbye in Finnish) news conference thanking the fans, city or organization for embracing him and his family over the years. After years of fishing pucks out of his net with a stunningly calm sweep, swig and stare at the Jumbotron, far be it for Kiprusoff to get all misty-eyed at the prospect of perpetual anonymity, peace and quiet in Finland's remote lake district.  
He'll leave just like he arrived; under the radar.
The fact that Francis thinks that he was let down by Kiprusoff not giving the Flames, their fans, and the media more of a send-off is just another example of writers thinking it's a little more about them and a little less about the facts of the story that have been out there for a while. Even written by Francis himself.

This is one day after Randy J. Miller of the South Jersey Courier-Post went on a Twitter tirade about Ilya Bryzgalov's antics in the locker room were the big thing that got him bought-out by the Flyers and not the media scrutiny that Bryzgalov had implied during the season-closing interviews.

Even with the traditional media bashing the new media of blogging and podcasting as something that is not needed in hockey media; the traditional media themselves may need to take a step back and not make themselves a part of the story as much as referees and linesmen shouldn't make themselves a part of the game with false face-offs and penalty junk.

No player or coach or GM owes writers much of anything. Even if there's something pressing, just because the information isn't put out there doesn't mean the writer has to take it as a personal insult and then try to actually embarrass the organization by airing out their own personal gripes because they didn't get exactly what they wanted. This isn't the toy store and writers don't need throw a tantrum just because the overseer doesn't allow them to get something because the writer thinks they deserve it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here's To You, 2013 Chicago Blackhawks

From start to finish, the Blackhawks were the team to beat. With an impressive start to the season, to dealing with injuries in their key positions, to dealing with a rough playoffs-- the Blackhawks used their core to get back to the promised land and get a second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

Corey Crawford was the breakout star of the playoffs and the season for the Blackhawks. While some people draw parallels to the 2010 goalie star, Antti Niemi; Crawford did draw plenty of criticism for his inconsistent play, despite keeping the Hawks in many games. However, next year will be the litmus test for Crawford with a full season ahead, but the confidence he has to have now is going to be amazing.

Upfront, the best offensive players were the best for the Hawks, with Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane leading the charge and Jonathan Toews being the leader by example. The biggest thing for the Hawks is Brandon Saad coming into the line-up and contributing like he did. For a franchise to have the model to bringing up young players and getting them to contribute quickly, Saad just falls into line of what Kane and Toews did for the Hawks.

Outside of the top two of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya became the surprise for the Hawks, playing solid defense and contributing when needed on the offensive side, especially during his slide during the Atlanta/Winnipeg years. Nick Leddy contributed for the Hawks in the regular season, but did have some shaky times during the playoffs; which I'm sure will come into play during contract talks this summer.

And speaking of contract, the Blackhawks may have to break-up some of their team as they did in 2010. With only $2M in cap space going into next season and two more players to sign-- not to mention UFAs and RFAs; the Hawks may need to do something creative in order to get some breathing room going into the season. Luckily, two amnesty buyouts are available and may have to be burned this summer rather than having to wait for next off-season.

You can bet they won't think about that now. The party is on in the Windy City, the Second City, That Toddlin' Town, City by the Lake, City with a Lot of Nicknames-- and it won't be rained on today.

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 Boston Bruins

With a team who was hidden in the fourth spot in the East, the Boston Bruins overcame a first round scare and had the whole city on their back for the ride as they got to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the counterattack was a little too much for the Bruins, but a lot to build off of.

One big bright spot is David Krejci's production in the playoffs, only seven points off his regular season output in 25 less games. With his budding performance, you can bet that Krejci will be the focal point along with Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins offense, despite them being a primarily defensive team. On the flip side, the snake-bit nature of Tyler Seguin's post-season is something that could be a worry going forward if he can't shake it off.

The play of Tuukka Rask definitely made the Bruins fans forget about Tim Thomas's off-ice wrangling; though many though Rask was more than ready when Thomas was already there. Keeping the Bruins in many games and facing a ton of shots, Rask is showing that he could be considered a top-tier goalie, so long as his temper and focus are kept in check.

The young guns on the defense, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton, are going to be maturing more and more as the summer and into next season comes. Krug had an early showing of what he could do in the playoffs to start and should be able to build off that, while Hamilton got a taste of the experience though he didn't play all that much. It is still Zdeno Chara's defense, though the Blackhawks seemed to have a game plan that worked against Chara's size and strength.

For the Bruins, it's a bright future and continues to have a nice little feeder system working for them that allows their younger players to get into the line-up quickly and the system that's in place allows them to succeed on the big stage and allows them to get noticed quickly. While this defeat hurts, the fact is that they'll be able to learn from it on the fly and adjust as needed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jim Pettie

This installment includes a goalie who has his own attachment to a certain Bruins/Blackhawks match-up, though it was in the beginning of the season rather than the end. For a man they called "Seaweed" due to his hair, he had a small shelf-life, but he'll live on thanks to that and being a main part in a well-known novel. This week, the profile of Jim Pettie.

Starting in the 1972-73 season, Pettie played in the OHA for the St. Catherines Black Hawks for 31 games and registering a 5.04 GAA in that span. It wouldn't deter the Boston Bruins from picking Pettie in the 9th Round of the Draft in 1973.

Pettie made the jump to the pros during the 1973-74 season, playing in the IHL with the Dayton Gems, playing in 118 games between the 1973-74 season and the 1975-76 season (no record provided). During the 1975-76 season, Pettie went 12-3 in the Turner Cup playoffs to help the Gems win the Turner Cup. During that run, Pettie played in the North American League for the Binghamton Whalers for five games.

The Bruins gave Pettie a boost in the 1976-77 season, placing him in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, where he would play 43 games and have a record of 26-15-1, then go 6-5 in the playoffs. Pettie was called up to the Bruins and won his only game; which was the first time a Bruins goalie would play against Bobby Orr-- who was with the Blackhawks at the time.

At the start of 1977 training camp, Pettie was roomed with author George Plimpton as the latter was doing research for his upcoming book, "Open Net." Because of that, Pettie was referenced in the book plenty of times. Pettie returned to Rochester for the 1977-78 season, posting a 16-12-4 record in 32 games, while losing his only game when he was called up to the Bruins. During the 1978-79 season, Pettie was up with the Bruins for most of the season, going 8-6-2 in 19 games as the back-up. Also that season, Pettie went 0-7-1 in nine games with Rochester.

Before the 1979-80 season, Pettie was signed by the New York Rangers, but was placed in the AHL with the New Haven Nighthawks, going 16-13-3 in 33 games; then 1-1 in the playoffs. For the 1980-81 season, Pettie played with the Central League's Birmingham Bulls, playing in 21 games with a GAA of 5.50, while also playing one game for the Eastern League's Richmond Rifles, which was a loss. After that season, Pettie would retire.

Not for long in the NHL or hockey in general, Pettie does live on in a well-known book and has the distinguished honor for being the first Bruin to play against Bruins legend Bobby Orr, so despite not much of a stat-line, he'll always have those things to hang his hat on.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sakic Not Keeping Up With the Jones

If the reports out of the Denver Post saying the Colorado Avalanche won't take Seth Jones with their 1st overall pick are true, we could see the Avalanche making a once model franchise become the punchline of many jokes to come. While there are many who think Sakic could be using this in order to get a better offer in a trade, odds are that they are serious about taking a forward because.....well, I really don't know why.

While the debate rages whether or not you should pick for need versus picking for want, it seems the Avalanche are taking the latter, thinking that it could boost their offense to pick either Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, or Alexander Barkov. Any of the top-three skaters would help out the Avalanche for the short-term and for personal numbers, the long-term vision may be skewed. Sakic saying the forwards are too good to pass-up is one thing, but on his first months onto his job; it seems that he didn't take a full vision of his roster.

Any of those players will be projects, but it seems that the Avalanche are looking more towards a quick fix with a forward who can blend in with the crowd rather than take the time to build up a franchise defenseman like Jones is projected to be. While Erik Johnson is the top guy on the Avs roster, the depth behind him isn't the best. Jones would be a franchise player and help the offensive output for the defense. With the free agent market being somewhat unspectacular-- the trade market could be the only way for them to improve their blue line this summer.

This whole report is adding to the reunion of the better years that the Avs have put in the front office and behind the bench. It almost seems that, instead of trying to improve the team, the Avalanche are trying to bring the shiny names from the past and preach patience to the fan base as they go through some clunky times. There was a small light with the Avalanche's 2010 performance, but since then it's been quite shaky and doesn't look to be going too much better in the long-term. Not to mention that Greg Sherman is still the team's GM is another target for ridicule for this team, but the bigger legend names who used to be with this team coming on board with the front office mask that as much as the struggles during the season.

Yet, in the end-- Sakic could be swerving everyone and trying to get more talk for a trade for the first pick to leap over the 2nd and 3rd picks to get Jones and make sure other teams don't get there. Of course, if Sakic is misleading people-- especially after saying they wouldn't hire a coach out of the major junior system-- you have to wonder if it's good to have a guy who has no front office being so quick to lie about what's going on with his franchise.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Roberto Romano

This week's AGM is a guy who almost gave up before his career was able to take off. With the pressures of a young starting goalie in a certain market, it was almost too much for this week's goalie-- but he was able to level himself off a bit and made a decent career for himself. This week, the profile of Roberto Romano.

Romano started off in the QMJHL playing for the Quebec Remparts in the 1979-80 season, going 20-14-3 in 52 appearances, then 1-2 in the post-season. During the 1980-81 season, Romano would play in 59 games for Quebec and post an even 24-24-2 record (1-2 again in the post-season), while playing only one game for Quebec in 1981-82, which was a loss. Romano was traded during that season to the Hull Olympiques and played in 56 games and finished with a 34-17-2 record and then 6-7 in the playoffs.

As an undrafted goalie, Romano finished his junior career as a free agent. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Romano before the 1982-83 season, playing most of that time in the AHL with the Baltimore Skipjacks. With Baltimore, Romano went 19-14-3 in 38 games, then finishing with an 0-3-0 record with the Penguins that season. For the 1983-84 season, Romano went an impressive 23-6-1 with Baltimore before being called up to the Penguins and going 6-11-0 in 18 games. It wasn't a stellar 1984-85 season, as with Baltimore, Romano posted a 2-8-2 record; but in Pittsburgh-- the record of 9-17-2 was enough to make Romano think about retiring after that season.

Trying to earn his teammates and his organizations trust back, Romano fought back in training camp and was somewhat better in the 1985-86 season, finishing with a 21-20-3 record. It was a hectic split season in the 1986-87 season for Romano, spending five games in Baltimore (0-3-0) while also spending 25 games in Pittsburgh (9-11-2) before adding some other destinations to his resume.

On February 6th, 1987, Romano was traded to the Boston Bruins for Pat Riggin. Romano played one game in Boston that season (a loss) and appeared in relief for one game with the team's AHL affiliate, the Moncton Golden Flames, but didn't figure in the decision. The 1987-88 season saw Romano play for the Maine Mariners for 16 games and ended up with a 5-8-1 record.

After that season, Romano went international and went to Italy to play. From the 1988-89 season until the 1992-93 season; Romano played with HC Merano, HC Bolzano, HC Milano Saima, HC Milano, and Romano gained his Italian citizenship; which allowed him to play for Italy in the 1992 World Championships.

Returning to North America in the 1993-94 season, Romano signed again with the Penguins and knew that the IHL's Cleveland Lumberjacks would be the destination of choice. With Cleveland, Romano went 2-7-2 in 11 games; but due to injuries, Romano was called up to Pittsburgh for two games and went 1-0-1 in that times. After that season, Romano hung up the pads.

For a player who was on a subpar team and almost quit because he wasn't playing up to snuff-- Romano was able to actually rebound (all things considered) and make a steady career for himself. It also allowed him to actually get outside of North America and experience his Italian heritage side and representing that nation.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

MOCK!! YEAH!! DRAFT!! YEAH!! 2013 Edition

As we await the rest of the Awards and Game Two to start, we must be reminded that we're just two weeks from the annual NHL Draft. While it's only one day this year, many say it's the DEEPEST DRAFT EVER!!! They also say that about every other year, but that's besides the point. Because of the organizational depth, what's on the board, what's on the rankings, and some comments made by prospects about wanting to only play in the NHL, it could cause some havoc after the top three picks.

Now, I will make a note of this-- these picks are how I think some things will play out if the draft board is to remain the same. With the Blue Jackets and Flames carrying THREE first round picks, you can bet they will barter a deal here and there in order to get rid of them and get some roster players to fill out their team. Also, with picks 29 and 30 still undetermined because of the Stanley Cup still going on, I'll put out what the team will do rather than the positioning.

1. Colorado: Seth Jones
2. Florida: Nathan MacKinnon
3. Tampa Bay: Jonathan Drouin
4. Nashville: Elias Lindholm
5. Carolina: Aleksander Barkov
6. Calgary: Darnell Nurse
7. Edmonton: Sean Monahan
8. Buffalo: Valeri Nichushkin
9. New Jersey: Curtis Lazar
10. Dallas: Alexander Wennberg
11. Philadelphia: Ryan Pulock
12. Phoenix: Adam Erne
13. Winnipeg: Max Domi
14. Columbus: Robert Hagg
15. NY Islanders: Andre Burakowsky
16. Buffalo (From Minnesota): Nikita Zadorov
17. Ottawa: Bo Horvat
18. Detroit: Mirco Mueller
19. Columbus (From NY Rangers): Josh Morrissey
20. San Jose: Hunter Shinkaruk
21. Toronto: Samuel Morin
22. Calgary (From St. Louis): Anthony Mantha
23. Washington: Kerby Rychel
24. Vancouver: Rasmus Ristolainen
25. Montreal: Ian McCoshen
26. Anaheim: Jacob De La Rose
27. Columbus (From Los Angeles): Michael McCarron
28. Calgary (From Pittsburgh): Ryan Hartman
--. Boston: Frederik Gauthier
--. Chicago: Zachary Fucale

So there's that. All purely speculative and shows I could have as good a chance as any to pick them all right. The crazy thing is that with most teams, you won't be able to figure out their mindset from some picks (Mark Jankowski at 21st over anyone??), but I think this year could be very straight forward with many team playing by the book at least in the first round.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stanley Cup Prediction: (1W) Chicago Blackhawks vs (4E) Boston Bruins

It's come to this. We've all waited nine six long months for the Stanley Cup to be presented and the Finals are just a day away. Why not be like the other cool kids and actually make a pick that will be a 50-50 shot because I'm either right or wrong.


Out of the East are the Boston Bruins, who were pushed to the brink in the first round; but since then have been world beaters. You can almost sense that the first round scare could have been a wake-up call this team needed to stave off the likes of the Rangers and Penguins.

But the Bruins are a scary bunch. They have all the tools to be a successful playoff team and are a team that will battle for every piece of land out there. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic have lead the charge with their hard-nose play, while David Krejci and Nathan Horton have produced fantastically for the Bruins this post season.

When it comes to defense, you can't bet against Zdeno Chara, who provides pleny of intangibles, but with Torey Krug coming on like a house of fire this post-season has been a great surprise. With Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid holding down the fort in their own end, the Bruins seems impenetrable.

And even if they get past them, Tuukka Rask shut down one of the most prolific offenses in the NHL today last round and has had plenty of support to help him along the way. One big thing is that he has been strong mentally, not letting the junk in front of the net or a bad goal get to him and making him bust out into his rageful mood.


Out of the West, the team that has been one of the top teams from start to finish-- the Chicago Blackhawks. Much like the Bruins, they've had to come back from a series-- granted they were down 3-1 and not up--and have showed their guile and depth, especially with their top players not filling the net as many would have hoped.

In that, I mean that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane haven't been setting the scoresheet on fire, sans Kane's last game in the Conference Finals with a hat-trick. That said, the scoring has been spread around, making the offense a decent threat regardless of the line out there.

Defensively, the Blackhawks have had it a little rough, with Brent Seabrook not having the best playoffs-- but Johnny Oduya coming up clutch for the Blackhawks in their own zone, as well as making that first pass to create offense. Michal Roszival has also played rather well on the third pairing. Duncan Keith, despite the one-game suspension, has been the offensive leader on the defense.

In net, Corey Crawford is looking like Antti Niemi did when he was in net for the Blackhawks' Cup run in 2010 (observation by Lyle Richardson). While he hasn't been extremely extraordinary-- he has gotten the job done and been able to get the wins needed to get the Hawks to this point. He's not the most flashiest and may give Hawks fans fits, he has gotten the job done in a big way.


So, prediction time: Boston is very scary. They have all the tools needed in order to actually take this series handily, but Chicago won't let their record start be tarnished with a pathetic showing at the end of the year.

With that all in mind, I feel the Blackhawks will take Lord Stanley's Cup in six games.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Jack McCartan

While many of the past goalies have toiled at their craft to be successful, this week's AGM took an unusual route. While he may not have been outfitted from the start, he lucked into the position and thanks to his baseball background, he was able to excel in net with a solid glove hand. This week, the profile of Jack McCartan.

McCartan fell into the goalie position, playing the spot in youth hockey when all the players too rotations in net, but didn't have the proper gear for it. McCartan acquire the gear of a friend, which enabled him to play for St. Paul Marshall High School and while his team was often defeated, McCartan played well enough to be name to the All-City Team in his senior season of 1953.

While he was recruited for a baseball scholarship, McCartan was lured back into hockey when at the University of Minnesota by hearing the puck bang against the boards when going to ball practice. After playing for the freshman team to start, McCartan played with the Golden Gophers for 67 games from 1955-56 until 1957-58, being named to the WCHA First All-Star Team in 1957 and 1958, and named to the NCAA First All-American Team in 1958.

McCartan continued his amateur aspirations in order to try out for the Olympic team, playing for the US National Team in the 1958-59 season for 29 games. McCartan did make the 1960 Olympic team, playing the unlikely hero for the underdog team that won the Gold Medal, as McCartan went a perfect 5-0-0 during the games and being named the Best Goaltender for the Olympics.

That exposure was notice by the New York Rangers, who signed him to a try-out contract following the Olympics, where he would play in four games and go 1-1-2 before being sent down to the Central League's Minneapolis Rangers for five games. The 1960-61 season had McCartan play only eight games for the Rangers (1-6-1), then being sent to the Eastern Pro League's Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers for the duration of the season, finishing with a 25-21-6 record in that span and 3-4 in the playoffs. Staying with the Beavers for the 1961-62 season, McCartan played in 70 games and posted a 36-24-10 record, then 3-4 again in the playoffs.

The Rangers would trade off McCartan to the WHL's Los Angeles Blades in the inter-league trade. McCartan played with the Blades for the 1962-63 season, putting up a 31-27-2 record, then 1-2 in three playoff games.

The Chicago Blackhawks would claim McCartan in the inter-league draft before the 1963-64 season, being relegated to the Central Pro League's St. Louis Braves and went 31-30-6 and 2-4 in the playoffs. McCartan only played in five games for the Braves in the 1964-65 season, going 1-4-0 before being on the move again.

The Blackhawks traded McCartan back to the LA Blades for the rest of the 1964-65 season, going 8-22-2 in the last 32 games of that year. McCartan stayed in the WHL for the 1965-66 season for the San Francisco Seals, going 23-27-3 in 53 games, while in the 1966-67 season for the California Seals; McCartan put up a 25-26-10 record, then 2-3 in the playoffs.

The 1967-68 season had McCartan playing in the CPHL again, this time for the Omaha Knights, but would go 9-25-7 in the 43 games he played.

After some summer shuffling, McCartan landed with the San Diego Gulls before the 1968-69 season, posting a 20-14-6 record in his first season there. Coming back for the 1969-70 season, McCartan got more games under his belt, finishing with a 21-20-9 record then 0-3 for the playoffs, while during the 1970-71 season, McCartan finished with a 24-20-11 record and 2-4 in the playoffs. Finally in the 1971-72 season with the Gulls, McCartan played in 36 games and posted a 14-16-2 record, then 0-2 in the playoffs.

With the WHA coming along, it gave McCartan another shot at the pros, as he was picked up by the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the 1972-73 season, playing in 38 games and having a 15-19-1 record, but only saw two games of action in the 1973-74 season for the Saints, but only in relief. McCartan went to the Southen League during the 1973-74 season for the Sun Coast Suns for six games (no record provide) as well. McCartan came back to the Saints for the 1974-75 season for two games, going 1-0-0 before hanging up the pads for good.

Post playing career, McCartan was a scout for the Vancouver Canucks for a time before he retired to Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

For not directly wanting to play goalie, McCartan got a lot of mileage from his career thanks to being able to get equipment from a friend and being lured back into hockey just from the sound of the puck hitting the boards in college. Though he toiled in the minors, his amateur career was more than enough for him to be remembered for the long run.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 Los Angeles Kings

After getting over the hurdles of the first round, the defending Cup champions looked as if they were going to be the team to beat in the West. However, their defense-first mentality just wasn't able to stop the top team in regular season, thus making it 15 years since there was a repeat Stanley Cup winner.

Defensive teams need a solid goalie and that's what the Kings have in Jonathan Quick. After a shaky start-- Quick showed off his Conn Smythe ways in the playoffs and proved himself capable to living up to the long-term deal the Kings signed him to, especially after back surgery in the off-season. The question now lies on whether or not Jonathan Bernier wants to stick around, knowing that he won't get a chance any time soon to be the starter. Of course, he's a restricted free agent and the goalie market will be slim odds are he'll stay in LA for the short-term.

Offensively, Jeff Carter was the Cy Young winner in the NHL (much more goals than assists) and helped out for filling the net, while Anze Kopitar kept getting better and better. Overall, the Kings were the solid, evenly distributed team that really had scoring by committee. Outside of Carter, (and maybe Dustin Brown), the goal scoring wasn't too spread out-- which is good for useful getting everyone involved, not allowing opponents to focus on one line or player.

On the blue line, there's a lot of valuable RFAs, but only $11M left. Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin will probably want their money for their performance this past season, but whether they get it in LA is another story. Yet, with buy-out candidates being mulled over, you can bet the Kings will be able to free up the money to make sure their valuable pieces don't get away from there.

Under Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter, the Kings look to be in good hands-- so long as neither of them do anything to divide the room and break apart the great chemistry they have. They were hungry again for the Cup, but just ran into a team with a lot of momentum on their side and a little more fire-power than they could handle.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins

A top team in the Eastern Conference with all the fire power, leadership, and depth in the world. A hiccup in goal the first series didn't really deter them through the first two rounds, but no one thought they would only get two (TWO) goals in the four-game Eastern Conference Finals. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, you can bet that there may be a new look overall when the puck drops in the 2013-14 season.

Granted, many people believe that coach Dan Bylsma is on the hot seat and I don't think that's necessarily true. While he wasn't able to adjust his team to the defense of the Bruins, the fact they couldn't really hit the net in the Eastern Finals is not really something he can overly teach or re-teach, that's on the player. The Pens brass have a lot to thank Disco Dan for, which is why his job probably isn't as in jeopardy as many others would have you think.

However, Bylsma could have a different look team when it comes to next season. Seven total UFAs on the roster and many thinking that Evgeni Malkin is on the trading block could make the Penguins have a drastic change. Though Malkin will probably get an extension in the summer; the thought that the Pens will have a total overhaul is a bit overblown. Sure, the trade deadline pick-ups they got will probably not come back, as with Matt Cooke, but it's not as if they can't get a suitable replacement for them.

One big point of contention is what to do in net. This playoffs was a flop for Marc-Andre Fleury, who got yanked in the first round in favor of Tomas Vokoun, thus almost completing Fleury's free-fall from grace. While they probably won't use their amnesty buy-out on him this year, should he not be able to get his confidence back, it's a definite option in the summer of 2014. But, you have to imagine the Pens have to rely on Fleury, as Vokoun has one year left and may not be up to the task of being a starter anymore.

The Pens always have a knack for finding the next solid guy to plug into their line-up and still be successful. The system is a good one thanks to Bylsma and it should continue so long as he's there. While there may be a little change here and there, a complete blow-up of the team would be short-sighted and a sign of panic on GM Ray Shero's part. The Pens will be fine later on, but licking their wounds this summer after being swept will be on the top of their priority list.

Iggy and the Off-Season

While the Boston Bruins celebrate and prepare for their second trip to the Stanley Cup in three years, there's some murmurs about what should have Jarome Iginla done in the aftermath of this whole series. Of course, Iginla publicly was going to head to Boston at the trade deadline, only to veto that and head to Pittsburgh instead. Little did anyone know that they would meet in the Conference Finals and that the Bruins would manhandle the Penguins.

But do you really blame Iginla?? For the Penguins, they were the top dog coming out of the East and it was almost unthinkable to believe that they would get steamrolled the way they did. Hell, Iginla had 4 goals and 12 points heading into the playoffs and looked to be that secondary scoring that the Penguins need should the top line get into a funk. No one thought that the Bruins would shut the entire roster down.

Now, with the Penguins out, Iginla a free agent, and the future being unknown-- did Iginla lose his last chance at getting with a real contender?? The Penguins probably won't bring him back unless he takes a massive pay-cut and assumes the role of maybe a bottom-six guy. It's not that Iginla doesn't bring some intangibles, but he'll be 36 next year and if he doesn't find a way to find more speed in his legs; not many contenders will use him to the fullest.

That's not to say a team won't be salivating to get a leader like Iginla on their team, but they could shy away from what he could be asking for in order to be on that team. The league knows he wants to be with a contender in order to win a Stanley Cup, but will he and his agent, Don Meehan, be willing to take the pay-cut in order to get that ring??

For the most part, Iginla's ego won't be hurt to take the decreased pay, but at the same time-- will his agent be able to convince him that a possible low-ball deal be able to get him to a Cup Finals or will Meehan really go for that top dollar and try to sway Iginla for a fringe team on their way up over a sure thing?? A team like the Blues could benefit from Iginla being on the team, but would Iginla benefit from being there and maybe get to the second round rather than being on a top contender?? Maybe the Marian Hossa trick could be it, where Iginla goes to Boston in the summer-- doubtful-- but it could give him a puncher's chance.

It's a tough spot for Iginla to be in, as he is a figure who is almost universally loved by fans because of what he meant to an organization like the Flames and the country of Canada for his play. Not only that, but he was talked about as being one of the league's top players before Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin started the youth movement in the league. Whatever he chooses this summer, Iginla will make a decision after weighing all the options and will most likely go with his heart rather than go with the dollars.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Absurd Goalie Monday: Michel Belhumeur

When players have seasons to forget, it's mostly because they were underachieving. This week's AGM had a season he and many others would want to forget-- being a part of the worst team in NHL history. This week, the profile of Michel Belhumeur.

Belhumeur started off in the Quebec Junior League with Sorel Eperviers and played in only 11 games over a three seasons span between 1964 until 1967 and would go 3-8-0 in those games. Also in the 1966-67 season, Belhumeur spend time with the St. Jerome Alouettes in the Montreal Midget League, then was on Sorel's roster for the 1967-68 season, but no games were given. During the 1968-69 season, Belhumeur would play with the Drummondville Rangers and play for 34 games.

Despite the lack of play, the Philadelphia Flyers picked Belhumeur in the 1969 Draft in the fourth round. and the Flyers would send Belhumeur to the AHL's Quebec Aces for two games in the 1969-70 season and then in the Eastern League for 14 games for the Charlotte Checkers. During the 1970-71 season, Belhumeur would play in 37 games with the Aces in the AHL and finish with a 12-15-8, the lose his only playoff appearance. The Flyers would move their affiliation to the Richmond Robins, where Belhumeur would end up for the 1971-72 season posting a 20-17-8 record in 45 appearances and was named to the AHL's Second All-Star Team.

Belhumeur would get a chance with the Flyers during the 1972-73 season, playing in 9-7-3 in 23 appearances, while also playing in 12 games with Richmond (no record). For the 1973-74 season, back in Richmond, Belhumeur would compile a 13-23-7 record, then go 1-2 in three playoff appearances.

The Washington Capitals would pluck Belhumeur in the Expansion Draft, which would prove to be rough for all parties involved. During that 1974-75 season, Belhumeur played in 35 games and wouldn't win a game, posting a 0-24-3 record with the only saving grace being the assist Belhumeur recorded-- the first goalie in Caps history to do so. Belhumeur would play in seven games in the 1975-76 season, going 0-5-1 before being sent back down to Richmond to play in the AHL; playing in 45 games and holding a 19-24-2 record and then 2-1 in the playoffs.

As the 1976-77 season rolled around, Belhumeur moved to the Central League with the Tulsa Oilers, finishing that first year with a 17-12-3 in 34 games, then losing his only playoff appearance. The second year with Tulsa in the 1977-78 season, Belhumeur played in 24 games and finished with a 8-14-0 record and then 2-3 in five games.

Starting in the 1978-79 season, Belhumeur moved to the North East League for the Utica Mohawks for 24 games, then to the New Jersey-Hampton Aces in the 1979-80 season for 11 games before retiring from the game.

Belhumeur started his professional hockey with a team called the Aces and ended it with a team called the Aces. With all the craziness that was sandwiched between them is something many would want to forget, especially going winless in a season playing more than 10 games.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Pointless Playoff Prognostication: Conference Finals

Perfect in the West, squa-douche in the East. So, here we go-- we're looking at the Final Four, who-- oddly enough-- are the last four Cup winners. How about that.


(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Boston Bruins
Prediction: Bruins in 6
Reason: The Bruins have a lot of life after that first round and the Penguins still look like a vulnerable team-- so the nod goes to the inspired Bruins over the Pens.


(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7
Reason: While Jonathan Quick looks like the goalie who stole games for last year's Kings, the offense of the Blackhawks could prove to be too much for the Kings defense-- especially if the Kings get a little listless offensively.

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 Detroit Red Wings

On the verge of missing their first playoffs in forever, the Detroit Red Wings were able to actually get to the 7th game of the second round, though getting beat in overtime by the Blackhawks. While many thought they overachieved, these are the Red Wings and that's a tradition that never gives up.

The core of the Red Wings offense is going to be together for a long-time-- especially if they re-sign Pavel Datsyuk to a long-term deal this off-season--but for some reason, they have been able to develop players to fit into their system for years. Many were skeptical of what Damien Brunner could bring to the table, but he could be one of the first European free-agents to make a big impact in the NHL, so long as he sticks to the Red Wings system. Up and down, the Wings filter in and out cogs in order to fulfill their needs.

It's hard to fill the void that Nicklas Lidstrom left, but the Wings are trying with Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson. Kronwall does bring the physical side and Ericsson the defensive side; but they are hard-pressed to have the full package player that Lidstrom was. With only Kronwall, Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl playing over 40 games, the stability of their defense is something that that could be called into question as the years go on.

There are many who call Jimmy Howard elite, but I don't know if I believe that he's the Joe Flacco of the NHL. While Howard's number are decent, is that because of the system or his skill?? Many believe that Martin Brodeur was so good because of the system and scheme he was behind, but people give Howard the benefit of the doubt. Chris Osgood was able to win Cup rings with this Red Wings team in front of him, but Howard so far has zero. I refuse to believe that he's in that upper echelon of goalies without a ring or Conference championship to show for it.

Many questions also surround Mike Babcock's future, as he has a couple more years with the Red Wings. Even if Babcock were to leave, the Wings have always been a team that has been able to replace coaches with relative ease, sans the Dave Lewis experiment. Should Babcock go in a couple years, the brass of the Wings should be able to fit in another cog to the machine-- much like their player roster-- in order to keep a successful franchise going.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 San Jose Sharks

Is there need for a change in San Jose?? After their second-round exit this season, you have to wonder if the cogs that are in place now are actually going to be good enough to move forward and be successful. With a coach that has his job in the balance, you can bet that changes will be made in off-season to give the Sharks a chance....or to rebuild.

With one year left on Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture's contracts, you can bet those names-- especially the first two-- are going to be looked at to move. Granted, Thornton and Marleau both have No-Move Clauses, as well as Pavelski and Couture being the cornerstones of the future of the Sharks-- it's hard to believe any of them can and would be moved-- though you could always make a case for Marleau, who has his name in the trade rumors forever.

While Antti Niemi is holding down the goaltending duties, the question in net is whether or not Thomas Greiss will be re-signed or stay in the NHL at all. If Greiss, who is an UFA, doesn't choose to stay; the big deal would be to get someone as a back-up to Niemi who could shoulder the load for 10-15 games for next season and give the Sharks quality starts.

Defensively, Dan Boyle turned on his offensive prowess during the playoffs after a middling during the regular season, especially since Brent Burns was converted to forward-- the blue line needed a bigger punch. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was solid on the blue line despite not playing while the lockout happened. However, one guy who is making a name for himself is Matt Irwin, who has played well in the AHL and should make a nice transition as the next offensive producing defenseman once Boyle's contract expires.

While Doug Wilson said that Todd McLellan and his staff would be back for the 2013-14 season, who knows how long into the season they'll be still there, but a lot of that depends on the moves that the Wilson makes in the off-season. For the Sharks, they've always seemed to be the team that's ready to make a big push, but they fall short in the end. There's going to come a time where these results aren't going to be a enough and there will be a huge change.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Look at the NHL Trophy Baron

We all know about Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup. He's the guy who follows around the Cup wherever it goes, keeping a keen eye to make sure that nothing drastic happens to it. Whether it's photos ops of him strapping the Cup into a seat on an airplane or calling Peggy in order to actually get a seat-- Pritchard is a legend himself for being the secret service for the Stanley Cup.

However, what about the other trophies the NHL has-- who looks after them?? You're in luck, as in a TSOoA exclusive*, I got a one-on-one with the other Keeper of the Trophies-- Travis Uriac.

"Sure, Phil gets to go out and have all the fun with one trophy-- but think of what he could do with the rest of this silver hardware??" Uriac stated while he was in the corridor of the Hall of Fame's Esso Great Hall. "I feel a little more valuable than this guy. Granted, he actually gets to go around with the players, but who has to get his mail when he's gone, ya know??"

Uriac started with the Hall of Fame when he saw a listing on their website. They were looking for someone to overlook the Great Hall and he took it upon himself to be considered the keeper of the other trophies. While he's not officially that guy, the Hall of Fame really didn't have the heart to tell him that wasn't his primary function.

Notwithstanding, Uriac takes his job seriously. He looks after the trophies most every day and even accompanies them for the annual NHL Awards. That's when he feels that he has reached the peak.

"Look, it's not traveling all over the world, but I feel my job is the same scale. I have to make sure the guys don't do something crazy with them, make sure they to the venue in one piece, all that crap. Have you ever try to put a seatbelt on the Richard Trophy?? It's a pain in the ass." Uriac laments.

The travel within itself was something that has really hamstrung Uriac's life. At times, he has to look after at least five trophies that travel to certain events outside the Awards show-- like the All-Star Game and the Draft.

"It's cute that Phil has those photo ops with the Cup in First Class, but they don't see Rows 30 and 31 where I have to make sure all that silver is safe. It annoys the hell out of the flight attendants, especially when I have to bust out the silver polish for them. So what if the oxygen masks coming down, at least they're working-- I've got a job to do. So much easier to buy them a seat than it would be to check those trunks. These things aren't light-- and with the excess baggage fee and all that junk-- it's a when I use the polish in enclosed areas."

At least, with all those trophies, Uriac has to have some great stories of interaction with players.

"No, not at all," Uriac said looking at his feet. "They don't usually let me go with the players, but I tried a couple times. First was with the Calder-- Keeper of the Calder I called myself, and it was Patrick Kane back in '07. Honestly, I don't remember much of that, but we couldn't find the trophy for a few days after the the ceremony...and I'm not allow back at the Buffalo Zoo anymore either."

"There was a happening back in '11 when I decided that I should look after the Vezina Trophy. I called myself the 'Vezina 'Visor' trying to make something of that. But, apparently, no one told (Tim) Thomas. When I showed up to his house to take him the trophy and look after it; there were some awkward times just staring at him and then making sure the trophy was safe . Let's just say it ended when he called me 'big brother' and almost threw me out the door, but luckily I got out of his grasp."

As it stands now, the players-- as they usually do-- take a photo op with the trophies at the Awards show and then get some sort of replica of it later on. Uriac feels that doesn't have the intimate feel that he would like the other trophies to get from all the players. It won't stop him from keeping up with his passion, however. He still looks over the trophies in the Great Hall and make sure that people look at them, but don't do anything too rash for his liking.

"They're my kids, I wouldn't want strangers to completely go crazy with them. They can take a look, take some times have me take the picture for them...but you know, it's something that makes people smile and creates some memories. But, with the memories, I don't want them to taint the history they have by smudging fingerprints around the cases. It's a labor of love."

It's definitely a labor of love, as Uriac didn't actually tell us what the Hall of Fame is paying him and they have not returned my emails when it came to what they thought about Uriac's job and how they feel when it comes to his sometimes over-protection of the trophies. Though one worker of the Hall of Fame who chose to remain anonymous, said that Uriac is just a support player for the Hall of Fame and is very low on the seniority totem when it comes to actually taking care of the trophies, which is why he was suspended for a time for the 2011 incident.

Uriac has taken his lumps, but continues to forge on looking after the trophies. He has done his best in order to make sure that people are able to enjoy them and that the players who win them look after them and add to the legacy of the trophy. Some may say he has gone mad with the passion he has shown towards them, but at the same time-- to have that kind of passion for any job is quite admirable regardless of how over-the-top it may seem to the outsider.

"Phil might get the glory, the face time, all the cult following like he does-- I mean, have you seen his Twitter?? Have you seen my Twitter?? Me either, they didn't even give me one. I don't know how this works. Has something to do with phones or something, I don't know. All I know is that he gets all this and loves it, but most of us don't need to be out in front and take the accolades in order to be content with their life."

*This is obviously a parody. As far as I know, there's not one person who actually looks after the trophies outside of the staff at the Hockey Hall of Fame. It would be interesting if they assigned one person to actually travel around with them, but it's not a team thing like the Stanley Cup is. Having a guy in the award-winners house and making sure it stayed safe is pretty insane and creepy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thanks For Coming Out, 2013 New York Rangers

 From a top acquisition during the summer to a power play that went flat, the Rangers had the ups and downs this season, which a couple surprises coming through the way. Yet, even with one of the top goalies in the NHL today-- the Rangers fell short of their quest for the Cup.

Among the Rangers faithful, the big question is whether or not John Tortorella will be back next season. There are some decisions and personnel decision made that many fans didn't like. It remains to be seen if Glen Sather feels the same way the fans do-- which should come down sooner rather than later with the amount of coaching out there for the picking as it is. While the benching of Brad Richards in playoffs could be his last move, Tortorella brought a solid game plan for the Rangers.

As far as the summer move of acquiring Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets, it seemed to pay off instantly. Nash had a 20-goal and 42-point season in 44 games, which are solid numbers for an oft-injured player and someone coming from a team that was in a bit of peril in Columbus. More over, Nash may have awaken the offense of Derek Stepan, who was on pace for a career season in goals and points, as he was only three off the pace in goals and six off the pace in points for a shortened season. This is the combo that could take the Rangers in the right direction.

Henrik Lundqvist was another solid constant for the Rangers and it's not a surprise. It's just a shock that he can never be that "hot" goaltender to help lead the Rangers. He was almost that last season, but the Devils got in their way. If Lundqvist was able to get more support, however, that's what could fuel him. With the Rangers relying on Lundqvist so much, it is a bit wearing and gives little leeway for King Henrik to make a mistake.

And the defense is a major part in the Rangers playoff plan, mostly with their shot-blocking. While Ryan McDonagh did provide a lot of the defensive side, the lack of Marc Staal in the line-up may have hurt the Rangers in the second round series. Staal will be coming back and will probably produce just in the same way he is, as I don't think he will shy away much from dirty stuff in front of his own net.

There's always a hope of the Rangers when it comes to the season, but falling short could cost them a coach, which may screw up the entire progress they had built up in the past couple of seasons. However, with the core still being in tact for next season, that same mentality should be there and they shouldn't be lead too far astray. Broadway should be solid for next year's Rangers and if they can get a little more offensive in the playoffs, it could do them a world of good.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Adam Berkhoel

 After a week off, we get back to the swing of things with a short, but sweet career. This week's AGM had a cup of coffee with the NHL after a stellar college career. While he was in a carousel where he was thrown into the fray in a bad situation and really didn't get another look from the NHL teams in a serious manner. This week, the profile of Adam Berkhoel.

After spending his high school in Minnesota with the Stillwater Ponies, Berkhoel moved to the USHL to play for the Tri-Cities Vulcans; playing 45 games with a 25-15-7, then went 7-6 in 13 playoff games.

Berkhoel moved to the NCAA ranks starting in the 2000-01 season with the University of Denver Pioneers, playing in 15 games his first season and finished with a 7-6-1 record, while in the second season-- Berkhoel played in 18 games with an improved 12-4-1 record. For his junior season, Berkhoel played in 26 games and posted a 12-6-4 record. During his senior season, Berkhoel had a tremendous breakout-- posting a 24-11-4 record in 39 games and helped Denver get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament where he helped lead the Pioneers to the National Championship. Berkhoel was named to the All-Tournament Team and Tournament MVP.

While Berkhoel was in college, he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, but in the summer of 2004, the Hawks moved Berkhoel to the Atlanta Thrashers. During the 2004-05 season, Berkhoel spent most of the time in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators and finished there with a 9-10-5 record, then going 4-1 in seven playoff games. Also that season, Berkhoel was moved up to the AHL for the Chicago Wolves for a game, losing the only game that he played in.

Berkhoel played in all three top pro leagues in North America during the 2005-06 season, spending most the season in Gwinnett at 15 games (10-4-1), then in Chicago for 11 games (3-6-0), finally; getting a call-up to the Thrashers for nine games (2-4-1). Berkhoel also had a 6-3 playoff record with Gwinnett.

Without a team for the 2006-07 season, Berkhoel played mostly in the ECHL with the Dayton Bombers, potting a 23-17-3 record, then going 12-10 in the post-season, losing in the Kelly Cup Finals. Despite the disappointing ending, Berkhoel was named ECHL Goaltender of the Year and placed on the ECHL First All-Star team. Also that season, Berkhoel played in the AHL for the Rochester Americans, finishing with a 2-3-0 record in six games.

Berkhoel was signed by the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2007 and would play for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the 2007-08 and go 10-14-4 in 31 appearances. Moving to the 2008-09 season, Berkhoel moved to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he would appear in 28 games and finish with the 15-11-2 record. Berkhoel played with WBS again for the 2009-10 season, playing in seven games and had a 4-3-0 record. Most of the 2009-10 season, Berkhoel went 12-11-3 in 28 games with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers. After the season, Berkhoel retired from professional hockey.

Post-playing career, Berkhoel went into the player representation game by being a player rep for Vaughn Hockey for goalies in the pro and college ranks to outfit them with the Vaughn gear.

Though it was only nine games of glory and he ended his career at the young age of 29, his college career is one to be remembered, especially for the University of Denver faithful. Short and sweet and he still kept in the hockey industry and very closed to the game.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

On the Topic Of the Colorado Avalanche 1st Overall Pick

 There's something to be said about the top three prospects in the NHL Draft all playing in the 2013 Memorial Cup Finals, which lead to the Halifax Mooseheads beating the Portland Winterhawks 6-4. Nathan MacKinnon had a hat-trick and two assists, Jonathan Drouin with five assists, and Seth Jones with only a goal to show.

With the joy of Twitter, it made people wonder whether or not the Colorado Avalanche will shy away from what they need most in Seth Jones's defense prowess for Nathan MacKinnon's scoring touch or even Jonathan Drouin's passing ability. Yet, if the Avalanche don't go for Jones-- then maybe they really should look at another rebuild of their front office after a couple of seasons because of it.

There is no denying that MacKinnon and Drouin are going to be studs wherever they land and it looks like it'll be Florida for MacKinnon and Tampa Bay for Drouin. However, when you look at the Draft, it should be more about necessity rather than desire of player to get. Jones is the player that the Avalanche need. They have little to nothing on defense now and they have a stockpile of forwards already. While Adrian Dater of the Denver Post is playing the "Who do you pick??" game with the stats on one game, the broader scope of things should have all signs point to Jones.

Though, with the changes that the Avalanche have made this off-season, bringing back a lot of former legends to make this team a force again-- there's always that off chance that the Avs would go for someone who's much more explosive and will garner a lot more attention than a solid defenseman like Jones. Scoring will always get people talking rather than a solid two-way game, which could sway the Avalanche's thoughts.

Even with all of that-- if the Avalanche don't pick Seth Jones with the #1 Overall Pick, they better make the playoff with MacKinnon in the first year or else they will be kicking themselves for not going with a defensive prospect who wants to play there and who could actually be the keystone to fix their defense.

Colorado will not outscore many teams, so while getting pucks in the net is great in theory-- they'd also have to find a way to keep them out, too. For a team who has let up an average of three goals a game in the past three seasons; it should be clear that the Avalanche need to get someone on that blue line to help out Semyon Varlamov keep the shooters at bay and maybe support in their own end a little bit.

Neither Jones or MacKinnon or Drouin will be the quick fix for the Avalanche. They are long-term project players who will be able to be an asset in time-- some quicker than others. However, if you need defense on your roster and you have a defenseman who is highly touted on the board-- why would you choose otherwise?? Sure, the one-on-one was a bit lopsided, but one game over an eight-month season does not a prospect's worth make.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thanks for Coming Out, 2013 Ottawa Senators

The last Canadian team is out of the NHL playoffs and they extend the Stanley Cup drought for the nation to 20 years. Of course, this Senators team as a 7th seed would have been one of the most unlikely teams out there to take the Cup, but even with an injury riddled roster through the season, they were still good enough to actually make the playoffs thanks to a big enough point lead built between themselves and others.

Yet, the biggest question will be whether or not Daniel Alfredsson will come back for one last hurrah. His actions after Game Four (picking up the puck at the end, doubting a comeback) were blown out of proportions (shock), but it could be the inevitable ending to a storied career of a franchise player. Sticking with the Senators through thick and very thin-- Alfredsson will probably leave, passing the torch to Jason Spezza and hoping that his body can hold up to taking that franchise tag.

Overall, though, this is a pretty young team with a lot of unknown names to those who didn't spend a lot of time studying the Northeast Division all that much. While Spezza, Kyle Turris, and Milan Michalek are recognizable names to most; the new breed of Cory Conacher, Colin Greening, and Jakob Silfverberg are going to start making a name and if Ottawa can hold onto them, could prove to be a huge home-grown revival for the team. Add Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the mix of young guns and this is a team that's long as they stay together.

Defensively, this Sens team is Erik Karlsson's as he has been brought up well by Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar in order to get him accustomed to the NHL game. His quick adaptation (and healing powers) is something that will help him lead other young guys like Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. Much like the forwards, the defense has a chasing of the guard coming, but luckily have the right parts in place in order to make it a smooth transition.

Goaltending is solid, with Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner being the tandem going down the road. One of the things will be how much time Lehner will get with Anderson healthy for a full slate of games. The development of Lehner has been up and down, but it seems it's finally settling in for now.

A young team that has somewhat overachieved in the last two seasons, but building blocks for the future is what the focus is on now. With Paul MacLean being a solid coach for the young guys, the Sens should be able to get even better, though they'll have a lot more competition in the new divisional setting.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Avalanche of Former Players Taking Over Colorado

The addition of Patrick Roy to the new look Colorado Avalanche front office just adds to the glory days look that started with Joe Sakic getting upgraded to a new position. Who knows how Peter Forsberg or Adam Foote fit into it, but you can be assured that if there was a spot and they were interested-- it'd happen. But does it really mean all the things will change and start going the Avalanche's way??

So long as Greg Sherman is there-- no, it won't. While they do look good with the old time names they brought back, Sherman's decision making is still going to be there and could really hamstring the team when all is said and done. Of course, the fact that he could be getting pushed out with all these moves may change the way he goes about free agency; but rest assured that if there's a hiccup, Sherman will be the next one to go as there's no one else to place the blame on in the old regime.

Sherman aside, Roy is going to be getting the Avs the press they have lacked in the past few years. Sure, the last time we saw Roy behind the bench in the NHL; he was traded to Colorado a few days later, but it helped the Avs become who they are. A big question is whether or not he'll be able to bring his success in the Major Junior ranks to the NHL stage. Of course, the team's age is perfect for his transition with the youth already on the roster and either Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnion, or Jonathan Drouin being plugged into the line-up next year.

Considering what both Brent Sutter and Dale Hunter have done with their transition from Major Juniors to NHL, Roy shouldn't have too much of a problem. A lot of his peers, including Foote and Hunter, have said that Roy's pedigree should allow him to do well in the NHL, regardless of the past incidents he has had behind the bench and in the media. That kind of passion will probably be more harshly criticized than it would be in the QMJHL, yet I don't think getting handcuffed is what Roy or the Avs would want to happen for it to all work out.

Not all reunions work out as they are supposed to. There are times where it falls flat and then it makes people wonder why it happened at all. Roy has been rumored to be the next guy to move to the NHL for a couple years, mostly linked to the Montreal Canadiens, and if he's as good as the anticipation-- he's going to provide the Avalanche with the boost they have needed since he and Sakic have left.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Midwestern Movement Coming For SPHL

With the purchase of the Peoria Rivermen, the Vancouver Canucks wasted no time in saying they wouldn't be using Peoria as their AHL base, leaving the area without a team and the Canucks looking for an AHL locale. However, with Peoria as a free agent, a market like that won't be without a minor league team for long....and they aren't. 

It was announced that Peoria, who will use the name Rivermen-- a copy-written name of the city, and the Central Hockey League's Bloomington Blaze will join up with the "Single-A" Southern Professional Hockey League. Yes, two teams from Illinois will be joining the SOUTHERN Pro League for the 2013-14 season. 

Of course, those not familiar with the SPHL can check out the "Better Know" piece I did as the NHL lockout happened. The odd part about this is not that both teams will be owned by the same people, but that these teams in the Midwest are looking at the SPHL as an option and hope that it could form a Midwest exile from the Central League, in hopes that Quad Cities, St. Charles, and other Midwest CHL teams will be disgruntled by the way the CHL is run and move over to that side of things. 

The branching out of the SPHL is something that is good for the league perception, but at the same time-- if the finances of a "Double-A" league is in doubt when it comes to including a team from Brampton, Ontario; you can bet that the SPHL, a much smaller financed league, will have some teams be in possible trouble with the inclusion of more further travel. 

(Unrelated, the Augusta Riverhawks won't play next season due to arena lease issues they have had.)

Whether or not this brings in more Midwest teams or expands the league or just alienates their founding franchises and the SPHL slowly turns into another Midwest based league like the United Hockey League or International Hockey League will remain to be seen. There's good ideas and bad ideas when it comes to all of this, but if nothing else; it shows a market like Peoria will go to anywhere to keep their team tradition alive and well, even if it does mean travelling through the Southeastern US. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Hardly Knew Ye, South(L)east Division

Regarded as one of the worst divisions in the history of hockey, if not sports, is now finished. The elimination of the Washington Capitals closed the chapter of the Southeast Division, something that many celebrated for being dead because most of the time these teams were only in the playoffs because they got at least one spot for actually winning the division, putting them in the 3rd spot (at least), many times points behind the 4th finisher.

But was that division as horrific as many people thought it was?? Since the division came about in the 1998-99 season, the Southeast Division sent two teams to the playoffs in eight of the 14 seasons it was around, it yielded only one President's Trophy winner (2009-10 Capitals) and two Stanley Cup Champions (2004 Lightning, 2006 Hurricanes). The Capitals, who were the only team not to move from their original location or be an expansion team, was the division winner seven times, Hurricanes three times, Lightning twice, with Panthers and Thrashers/Jets winning it once.

Now, to look how it looked in every year against the rest of the Conference for the Playoffs:

1998-99: Carolina Hurricanes: Seeded 3rd (Ranked 8th), Lost in First Round
1999-00: Washington Capitals: 2nd, Lost in First Round
                Florida Panthers: 5th, Lost in First Round
2000-01: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked 6th), Lost in First Round
               Carolina Hurricanes: 8th, Lost in First Round
2001-02: Carolina Hurricanes: 3rd (Ranked 7th), Lost in Stanley Cup Finals
2002-03: Tampa Bay Lightning: 3rd (Ranked 5th), Lost in Second Round
               Washington Capitals: 6th, Lost in First Round
2003-04: Tampa Bay Lightning: 1st, Won Stanley Cup
2005-06: Carolina Hurricanes: 2nd, Won Stanley Cup
               Tampa Bay Lightning: 8th, Lost in First Round
2006-07: Atlanta Thrashers: 3rd (Ranked 5th), Lost in First Round
               Tampa Bay Lightning: 7th, Lost in First Round
2007-08: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked T-7th), Lost in First Round
2008-09: Washington Capitals: 2nd, Lost in Second Round
               Carolina Hurricanes: 6th, Lost in Conference Finals
2009-10: Washington Capitals: 1st, Lost in First Round
2010-11: Washington Capitals: 1st, Lost in Second Round
                Tampa Bay Lightning: 5th, Lost in Conference Finals
2011-12: Florida Panthers: 3rd (Ranked 6th), Lost in First Round
               Washington Capitals: 7th, Lost in Second Round
2012-13: Washington Capitals: 3rd (Ranked T-4th), Lost in First Round

In summation: 13 times were lost in the first round, four times in the second round, five times in the Conference Finals, three times to the Stanley Cup, twice winning it. It's very ugly considering the differential that many of the seeded and rankings shows us. Most cases, all the teams would seemingly shoot for is to win the division in order to get to the playoffs rather than shoot for the 8th spot. While you had both in the sights, the easier thing was to hope for a collapse of your division rivals, which at times happened.

It wasn't the prettiest of divisions, it wasn't the most notable, it didn't provide too much excitement outside of who could come up with a better punchline for it. We're all probably better off with the realignment, but it did provide some kind of head scratching goodness come playoff stretch time. While it's not like they actually had a non-playoff team make the playoffs in that 3rd spot, it wasn't as if they deserved that high ranking-- even though they did lose more often than not when given that.