Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The NHL Goes Up In Flames

Don't look now, but the Calgary Flames are starting to hit their stride. After a so-so start to the season, the Flames have picked up their game, especially on offense, and just completed a perfect 6-0 road trip. The Flames have yet to lose a game in regulation in the month of December, following head coach Mike Keenan publicly ripping his team after a 4-1 loss to Calgary at home.

Leading the charge for the Flames has been captain Jarome Iginla. Iginla contributed 8 goals and 3 assists on the road trip. He wasn't doing it alone though. Iginla's linemate Kristian Huselius notched 5 goals and 8 assists on the trip, including a pair of 5 point games, and defenseman Dion Phaneuf chipped in with a goal and 8 assists.

The Flames have been doing quite a bit of celebrating lately.

The scariest part of all is that superstar goalie Mikka Kiprusoff has still yet to provide the team with consistent play between the pipes. He has been great some nights, like in his 36 save performance against Columbus, but on other nights he has fallen flat, such as the game in Tampa when he allowed 6 goals to the Lightning. This despite, unsurprisingly, Kiprusoff being the target of much of Mike Keenan's criticism.

As it stands right now they are only a single point behind the Wild for the division lead despite their slow start. Although the Wild and the other teams ahead of them in the Northwest all have games in hand on the Flames. If the Flames can continue to get this high level of play out of their top line, and get some scoring from the depth players and more consistent play from Kiprusoff, they could prove to be a tough team to deal with in the Western Conference.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fantasy Focus: Auld I Want For Christmas

It's time to take another look inside the world of fantasy hockey and see where those of you in need should be focusing your attention.

Prime Pickups:

  • Alex Auld (G - BOS) All Auld has done since coming over from Phoenix is go 4-1 with a 1.40 GAA and .955 Save%. Tim Thomas will start eating into his ice time again shortly, but he is still a solid depth acquisition in net.
  • Andy McDonald (C - STL) McDonald was having a pretty lousy year in Anaheim, but he's been given a fresh start in St. Louis alongside Paul Kariya. I think he will get it going again in a hurry. Grab him if he's available.
  • Tyler Kennedy (RW - PIT) TK is the flavor of the week on Sidney Crosby's right wing. Kennedy has responded well to the assignment and should put up good numbers for as long as he stays with Sid.
  • Aaron Voros (LW - MIN) Voros is a good source for PIMs and will contribute in other ways as well, as his 8 points attest. If you missed out on Daniel Carcillo, do yourself a favor and add Voros while you can.
  • Denis Wideman (D - BOS) Wideman got off to a slow start in Boston, but he has rebounded with 8 points (6 on the PP) in the last month and could be a solid contributor on the blueline the rest of the way. Especially for those who will be without Bryan McCabe for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Dany Sabourin (G - PIT) The beneficiary of Marc-Andre Fleury's ankle injury, the man they call Sabu will be manning the pipes for the foreseeable future in Pittsburgh. The team is starting to hit its stride and Sabourin's win total will benefit from that. A solid number 3 goalie at worst.
Keep An Eye On:
  • Andrew Raycroft (G - TOR) There are rumors flying around about Raycroft being traded. He could be a nice addition if he lands in the right situation.
Sell High:
  • Ed Jovanovski (D - PHX) Jovo was on a real tear there for a bit, but I don't really see anyone in Phoenix as a viable long-term option. Try to move him while his value is high.
  • Vesa Toskala (G - TOR) Toskala has helped to lead the revival in Toronto with his solid play of late. Things in Leafland are so insane though that things could turn around in a hurry. Try to move him for someone a little more stable/predictable if you can.
Buy Low:
  • Cam Ward (G - CAR) Carolina has been struggling of late and Ward's numbers reflect that. They still have the luxury of getting to fatten up on the rest of their weak division though, so things should turn around for the Hurricanes. You might be able to get away with a lowball offer to an impatient Ward owner if you are lucky.
  • Jaromir Jagr (RW - NYR) Jagr has done next to nothing for about the last month, but he is just too talented for that to last. See if you can take advantage of a frustrated Jagr owner and bring in Double J on the cheap.
  • Alexander Frolov (LW - LAK) Frolov missed some time with an injury but is back in the Kings lineup now. He could be a nice upgrade at left wing if you need one. Beware though, Frolov is a streaky guy so be prepared to take the bad with the good.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ducks Make Move: Add Weight, Cap Space

TSN is reporting that the Ducks have sent struggling center Andy McDonald to St. Louis in exchange for Doug Weight, prospect Michal Birner, and a 7th round draft pick. This move gives the Ducks enough cap space to finally bring Scott Niedermayer back into the lineup. The Ducks are also hopeful this will give them enough wiggle room under the cap to start trying to extend pending RFA Corey Perry.

This move is a bit of a shock since most were assuming the Ducks would move a defenseman to free up some room under the cap. Mathieu Schnieder's name was being the one most often mentioned, but McDonald has really struggled without Teemu Selanne cruising his right wing. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him get back to his high scoring ways of a year ago.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reactions To The Mike Richards Contract

The Flyers set the hockey world on fire today with their signing of Mike Richards to a 12 year, $69 million contract extension. Here are some reactions from around the league:

"Only 12 years? That kid needs a new agent."
- Rick DiPietro

"Man is that kid overpaid."
- Brad Richards

"That deal is so insane I got excited when I heard about it because I thought I had signed him."
- Kevin Lowe

- Evgeni Malkin's agent

"That's almost $700,000 for each career point. I can't believe they didn't offer me a 12 year, $1 billion contract. I'll show those ungrateful jerks!!!"
- Mark Recchi

"When did Kevin Lowe become GM for the Flyers?"
- Brian Burke

"So, you don't want me back next year then I take it."
- R.J. Umberger

"Are hey trying to one up us as the team dealing with the cap the worst? Quick, get Wade Redden's agent on the phone! I'll show them how to ruin your team's future."
- Bryan Murray

Anatomy Of A Salary Cap Crisis

In the wake of Mike Richards' new contract signing today, I figured the Flyers were painting themselves into a corner in regards to the salary cap. Never one to ignore a hunch, I opened up the Flyers page at, took into account the new deal for Richards, and then found the following situation facing the Flyers:

  • Daniel Briere - $6.5 million cap hit (8 years remaining)
  • Kimmo Timonen - $6.33 million cap hit (6 years remaining)
  • Mike Richards - $5.75 million cap hit (12 years remaining)
  • Simon Gagne - $5.25 million cap hit (4 years remaining)
  • Scott Hartnell - $4.08 million cap hit (6 years remaining)
  • Derian Hatcher - $3.5 million cap hit (2 years remaining)
  • Mike Rathje - $3.5 million cap hit (3 years remaining) yikes!
  • Martin Biron - $3.5 million cap hit (2 years remaining)
That's over $38 million committed to 8 players, with the cap currently sitting at $50.3 million. I hope the flyers have a long list of players willing to play for the league minimum, because they have to fill out the remaining two thirds of their roster for about $12 million. I can already smell Kevin Lowe getting an offer sheet ready for R.J. Umberger.

Breakout Passes: Pennsylvania Is Burning

Welcome to the first installment of Breakout Passes! There's just too much good stuff going on out there in the hockey blogosphere to go unlinked. So away we go!

  • Tuesday night's Pens/Flyers tilt has rekindled the interstate rivalry. The Battle of Pennsylvania has responses from both sides. Melt Your Face Off has a great post about how the officials should have taken control of the game. The Pens' visit to Philly on January 24th can't come soon enough.
  • On a more positive note, the boys over at The Pensblog were able to drop a little knowledge on some poor soul who managed to slip through the cracks of the Philadelphia school system. Just do a find on palindrome...
  • James Mirtle's man-crush on Mark Recchi is still going strong! All I will say about this is that the Pens' record is a lot better without Recchi in the lineup than in it this season.
  • The buzz around the Lightning moving one of their big three forwards continues to grow. Good luck finding someone who will take on that Richards contract!
  • Someone apparently needs to hold an intervention and explain the concept of a salary cap to the Flyers. They just aren't getting it.
  • Going Five Hole scored an interview with Steve Williamson, he of 30 games in 30 nights fame.
  • GFH was also the first blog I saw run the amazing Max Gherlach goal. That may be the best one-on-one goal I've ever seen at any level.
  • Sidney Crosby... Lou Marsh Award winner!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Stars Don't Shine In Shootouts

Following Pittsburgh's shootout victory over the Canucks on Saturday night, a game in which Sidney Crosby was not only stopped by Roberto Luongo in the shootout, but also on an OT penalty shot, I started to reflect on Sidney's relatively poor track record in shootouts. I couldn't help but think that Michel Therrien might better serve the Pens by letting someone else take Sid's place in the shootout. This in turn led me to wonder how many other big name players are sent out in the shootouts by their coaches despite a lack of success. After going through the shootout stats since the start of the '06-'07 season, there is quite a list of big name players who have been disappointing in the shootout.

Some of the most prominent players are:

  • Sidney Crosby - 6/20 (.300%)
  • Alexander Ovechkin - 2/13 (.154%)
  • Vincent Lecavalier - 3/14 (.214%)
  • Henrik Zetterberg - 2/9 (.222%)
  • Evgeni Malkin - 3/16 (.188%)
  • Thomas Vanek - 2/11 (.181%)
  • Patrick Elias - 2/11 (.181%)
My first reaction when researching these stats was that Crosby's numbers are actually a little better than I thought they were, yet still not as good as I would expect from him. For some reason I'm not surprised that Ovechkin hasn't fared well in shootouts. He's more of a finisher to me than a guy who can consistently take on goalies one-on-one and prevail. The numbers for Lecavalier, Zetterberg, and Elias (and Vanek to a lesser degree) really shocked me. These are craftier players who have been around for a while, and you would think they would be more successful in this setting.

The real question here is whether or not these players are helping their teams by taking part in the overtime shootouts. I recognize that there is pressure for a coach to send out a premier player like Crosby or Lecavalier, but at some point results have to start to come into play. If you look around the league, it isn't hard to find some "no name" players who have excelled at the shootout. Erik Christensen has been a revelation for Pittsburgh, going 11 for 18 in shootouts since the start of last season. Devils defensive specialist John Madden is a somewhat surprising (I think his offense is better than he gets credit for) 4 for 7 when participating in shootouts. And then there is the Wild's secret shootout weapon, defenseman Petteri Nummelin is a remarkable 8 for 9 in shootouts. Certainly these players help show that results count more than the name on the back of the jersey.

This isn't to say the stars should be given up on. For example, Anaheim center Andy McDonald was 1 for 10 in shootouts last season, but has converted both of his opportunities so far this season. I'm simply saying that coaches could probably secure a few extra points for their teams if they looked a little outside the box when putting together their shootout lineups. Would it hurt for the Penguins to try Kris Letang (2 for 2) in Crosby's usual 3 slot for a bit, or for the Canucks to make Trevor Linden (4 for 5) a regular shootout participant? It could mean a few extra points in the standings. And in today's NHL, that can be the difference between making the playoffs or golfing in April.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Step Back From The Ledge!

I know everyone is down due to MAF's ankle injury last night (I haven't seen any updates on his condition yet), so here's a little something to cheer you up.

A big thanks to Mirtle for the find!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Run Silent, Run Deep...

The purpose of this post is mainly to let those of you who frequent here (both of you) know that you shouldn't be expecting any new content over the next week or so. Finals start for me tomorrow and I'm flying out to California for the weekend for my Grandma's 100th birthday party (if life was the NHL, Granny would be Gordie Howe!), so I'm even more busy than usual for the next week or so. The good news is that starting next Monday afternoon I can forget about school for about 5 weeks, which will allow me to concentrate more on this here blog. I've got a few ideas clanging around in my head and I'm hoping to make good use of the time.

In the meantime, so as not to leave you empty handed... here's a couple pics of MAF owning some 9 year-olds:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

NHL Team Of The Month: November 2007

With the quarter mark of this season in the rear view mirror, it's time to name the Team of the Month for November:

  • Center: Vincent Lecavalier (14 GP, 9 G, 16 A, 7 PPP)
  • Right Wing: Martin Erat (12 GP, 8 G, 10 A, 4 GWG)
  • Left Wing: Ilya Kovalchuk (12 GP, 14 G, 8 A, 8 PPP)
  • Defense: Sergei Gonchar (12 GP, 4 G, 11 A, +5, 9 PPP)
  • Defense: Zdeno Chara (13 GP, 3 G, 7 A, +7, 4 PPP)
  • Goalie: Roberto Luongo (12 GP, 8 W, 1.56 GAA, .940 SV%, 4 SO)
  • Lecavalier and Kovalchuk were both out of their minds in November. They were no brainers for Team of the Month honors.
  • Martin Erat has been quietly sensational for the Predators. Four game winners in a single month is great for anyone. Where would they be without his offense?
  • Chara and Gonchar both had outstanding months. Gonchar's +5 is especially noteworthy considering he does most of his scoring with the man advantage. Maybe it's time for people to start giving him some credit for his defense.
  • Luongo gets the nod over Henrik Lundqvist because he takes the ice every game knowing he has to steal points for the beat up and goal-starved Canucks. Lundqvist has a bit more margin for error on most nights. It also doesn't hurt that Luongo closed out November with a three game shutout streak.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't Forget To Take Your Sticks And Rogaine

Just in time for the celebration of the year that will no doubt be Mark Recchi bobblehead night at the Igloo on Monday December 3rd, Recchi has apparently been told to trade himself. Preferably by tomorrow. Timing is indeed everything in life!

The Pens most likely won't get much in return for the balding vet, but it will undoubtedly be more than they would get from Recchi the rest of the way. I was against Shero bringing Recchi back this season (and last season to be honest) and Recchi has proven to not do much more than take up space on a team loaded with young talent. At this point there is no way to justify scratching Tyler Kennedy or Colby Armstrong in order to dress Recchi. There just isn't a place for him in this lineup anymore.

One deal that popped into my mind (partly due to the mention of Pierre being in Vancouver) would be a deal sending Recchi and Darryl Sydor (another recent press box regular) to the Canucks for ex-Pen Markus Naslund. I don't really see this deal happening, but it makes some sense since the Pens have the cap space and the Canucks would help their battered blueline and replace most of the scoring they'd be giving up. A swap with Columbus for Nikolai Zherdev is also tantalizing yet unlikely.

In reality the Penguins will probably get back a young player or a mid-round draft pick for Recchi. Which is fine since getting anything for him without having to eat some of his salary is probably the main objective at this point. Otherwise, there's always waivers...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Star Is Reborn In Dallas

What a difference a record setting night in San Jose can make. Mike Modano entered his game on November 7th against the Sharks one goal behind Joe Mullen for the most goals ever scored in the NHL by an American born player. Modano scored two fantastic goals that night to move into the record books, and he has been on a tear ever since.

Back on top of his game!

Since that early November game Modano has scored 6 goals and 6 assists in his last 11 games, helping to catapult the Stars to the top of the Pacific Division. This is after notching just 2 goals and 3 assists in his first 14 games this season. Clearly Modano has turned his game around since getting the weight of the goal scoring record off of his back.

Modano's turnaround could not have come at a better time for the goal starved Stars. Offense has been a problem for the Stars for quite a while now (just look at their playoff series against Vancouver last season), but they have taken advantage of superb goaltending and Modano's hot hand to make a charge up the Western Conference standings.

Dallas clearly owes much of their recent success to the classy Modano, who stuck with the team despite being unceremoniously stripped of his captaincy prior to the start of last season. Even as Modano struggled out of the starting gates this season his critics circled like vultures as he painstakingly plodded towards the goal record. Ironically, Modano has been on fire ever since and looks to have the last laugh on those who were so quick to slap the "Washed Up" label on him less than a month ago. With the grace he has shown Navigating the rinks of the NHL throughout his career, Mike Modano has made it through one of the toughest stretches of his Hall of Fame career and retaken his seat at the table among the NHL's elite.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fantasy Focus: These Flightless Birds Could Soar

Welcome to my first installment of Fantasy Focus. These won't be regular posts more than likely, but I will chime in from time to time with advice I think will help those of you trying to improve your fantasy hockey teams. Hopefully this won't come back to bite me in any of my leagues. Anyway, away we go...

Worth a gamble:

- Colby Armstrong (RW - PIT)
Colby has proven in the past that he can put up big numbers when paired with Sidney Crosby. So guess where he has found himself the last two games... He likely won't see time on the power play, and Michel Therrien's line combinations are as consistent as New Jersey Devils attendance, but if Army sticks with Sid the points should be there. As the goal and two assists in the last two games show.

- Ryan Malone (LW - PIT)
What I said above applies here too, but Malone seems to be pretty firmly attached to Crosby's left hip at this point and his recent play has done nothing to suggest that will change soon. Ryan has four points in the last two games, and assuming he stays with Sid and the Pens continue their recent turnaround, he should be good for about a point a game. Ryan's also good for some PIMs too, which gives him added value.

PIMs count too:

- Daniel Carcillo (LW - PHX)
People often overlook PIMs in fantasy hockey, but they can be a difference maker. Carcillo is a great source for PIMs and he will actually give you some offense too as he continues to get quality minutes with a less than talent laden Coyotes squad. Carcillo has 179 PIMs in 39 career games and has also chipped in 11 points in 21 games this season. Pick up the poor man's Sean Avery if you still can... he may be the final piece to your championship team.

Blueline help:

- Tobias Enstrom (ATL)
Enstrom has come out of nowhere to become Atlanta's top blueliner and throw his name into the Calder discussion. Since cracking the Thrasher lineup Enstrom has 13 points in 23 games (including 9 on the power play) and is a strong +6 while leading all Thrasher players in power play minutes and total minutes. His size could prove to be an issue, but this kid should be owned in every league.

- Erik Johnson (STL)
This hulking rookie has been playing well since returning from a foot injury and is worth a look. He's drawn comparisons to his landlord Al MacInnis and could prove to be a good source of power play points. Definitely give the kid a look if you are saddled with some struggline defenders (i.e. Rob Blake).

- Kris Letang (PIT)
Letang has taken over Ryan Whitney's left point on the Penguins' top power play unit, and if he stays there points are a given. Letang has definite offensive ability, but young defensemen are nothing if inconsistent. Still, most of you probably have a defender not really producing much for you so Letang's upside is probably worth the gamble at this point.

Crease upgrade:

- Mike Smith (DAL)
There's something of a goalie controversy brewing in Dallas thanks to the recent play of Smith. Smith has seen a big increase in minutes on the strength of allowing only 4 goals in his last 4 starts, including stopping 39 of 41 shots against in a road win against the Rangers this afternoon. Smith is probably still available in most leagues and could definitely prove useful to a team struggling between the pipes.

Buy low:

- Marc-Andre Fleury (G - PIT)
MAF's struggles this season have been well chronicled to put it mildly, but the Pens seem to be turning the corner on this season and getting back to their winning ways. MAF will still probably turn in the occasional stinker (see Thanksgiving in Ottawa), but if the team can continue to improve The Flower's numbers will too and he'll definitely help you in the win column. He may be a free agent in some leagues, and if he's not he can probably still be acquired relatively cheaply.

- Ryan Whitney (D - PIT)
A notorious slow starter, Whitney has struggled out of the gate this season and has now been taken off of Pittsburgh's top power play unit. How long that will last is anyone's guess, but Ryan's goal against Atlanta Saturday night may get him going and he will still get his share of minutes with the man advantage. Send his owner a bit of a lowball offer and see what you can do, you'll be thanking me in January (if not sooner).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's A Penguins Thanksgiving Charlie Brown!

The holiday season is upon us (you know, since stores have had their Christmas stuff up for about two months now) and I thought this would be the natural time to stop and give thanks. Instead of writing a novel about all the things I am thankful for (and believe me there's plenty) I am going to give thanks to my one lifelong love of the sporting world... the Pittsburgh Penguins. So grab yourself a slice of pumpkin pie and enjoy as one Pens fan gives thanks.

The things I am thankful for:

  • Bob Johnson - Badger Bob brought a winning attitude to the Pens and transformed them into a dominant force in the NHL while leading them to their first Stanley Cup. Along with Craig Patrick, Johnson is responsible for much of the success the Penguins enjoyed in the early '90s, and he is not forgotten.
  • Bob Errey - Bob was always one of my favorite players and it killed me when he was traded to the Sabres in '93. He wasn't flashy, he just went out and worked his butt off. He made some big plays and was a tremendous leader for the Pens. I am thankful we got to have him in black and gold.
  • Petr Nedved - Endurance is a beautiful thing. Nedved played his best hockey as a Pen and was a big part of that '95-'96 team that came ever so close to the Finals.
  • The Lang/Straka/Kovalev Line - It's a shame these guys played in the shadow of Jagr and Lemieux, because they were arguably the best line in the NHL when they were together. All great players individually, this line was magic on ice (they complimented each other perfectly) and the three of them will always share a warm spot in the hearts of Penguins fans. They were just flat out a blast to watch and we were lucky to have them.
  • Ulf Samuelsson - The original Terminator. Ulfie brought a necessary dose of nastiness to those early '90s Pens teams. You just had to love the way he gave everything he had every shift. Every team needs a guy like Ulf.
  • The Moose - Johan Hedberg made the summer of 2001 a magical time for Pens fans. The Moose came over from San Jose at the trade deadline and then propelled the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. Hedberg's stay in Pittsburgh was relatively short, but he has a place in every true Pens fan's heart and I am extremely thankful for the magical spring of 2001.
  • Darius Kasparaitis - Say what you want about the guy, but he came to play every night and wasn't afraid of anyone. Oh, and he did this!
  • Sid/Geno/MAF/... - This new crop of Pens are just awesome. Sid is a once in a generation player, Geno is blossoming into a true force on the ice, we all know I love the Flower, and the rest of the team is a blast to follow as well. This team has brought fun back into Penguins hockey and I am thankful for each and every one of them. Okay, except for Mark Recchi...
  • Paul Stanton - The kind of player every successful team needs a couple of. Stanton was pretty much the defensemen version of Bob Errey. Never flashy, he just went out and did his job game after game, and for that I am thankful.
  • Joey Mullen - What's not to love about Joe Mullen? From a purely physical standpoint Mullen had no business being a professional hockey player, but that didn't stop him. Joey was a gamer and gunned his way to retiring as the leading American-born NHL goal scorer. Joe was also a big inspiration for me (and other less physically gifted players as well I'm sure) and I couldn't be more thankful for what he brought to the Pens and to the game in general.
  • Tom Barrasso - Not exactly Mr. Personality, but he was money when it mattered (most of the time). Without Tommy B. the Pens don't win two Cups and are basically the Kings of the Eastern Conference.
  • Larry Murphy - Calm, quiet, and classy... that was Larry Murphy. He never really got the credit he deserved (he should have won the Norris in '93), but he was loved and appreciated by the Penguins faithful. If you look up solid in the dictionary you'll see a picture of Larry Murphy. Penguins fans were lucky to see the best years of his Hall of Fame career.
  • Jaromir Jagr - Arguably the best NHL player of the '90s, Double J was a pleasure to watch his entire time in Pittsburgh. He may very well be the most skilled NHL player ever not named Lemieux. Despite an ugly breakup with the Pens and the horrible trade that sent him to the Caps, Jags gets nothing but love from me and I would love to see him finish his career back in the black and gold.
  • Mario - Where to begin? Any hockey fan who got to see Mario in his prime should be thankful for all that he gave us. The dominance. The incredible goals. The comebacks. Mario did it all and I doubt there will ever be another player like him. He was a once in a lifetime talent and I am thankful to have been around for it.
  • Ron Francis - Ronnie Franchise is easily my favorite athlete ever. Ron Francis did it all and he did it all extremely well. He may have been the most complete player ever and like so many others on this list, his best days were in Pittsburgh. He was often overshadowed by some of his flashier teammates, but for most of the '90s he was the heart and soul of the Pens. Saying I am thankful for Ronnie doesn't even begin to do it justice, he was my hero growing up and will always be my favorite.
I could probably continue this list for quite a while, but I think you get my point. Penguins fans have been extremely fortunate over the last twenty or so years. Yes there were some lean years in there, but it has all been worth it. I am thankful my dad took me to see the Pens play an exhibition in Oakland when I was a kid and that I was able to fall in love with them immediately. Ever since that September night at the Coliseum I've been black and gold through and through, and for that I will forever be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe. Go Pens!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's A Great Day For Hockey!

A small bit of "official" business here... Taking One For The Team is now solely a hockey blog. There are a few factors behind this decision, but one of the main ones is that I think I will be much more effective if I narrow my scope a bit. I'm sure there will be times when I have to resist the urge to write a Liverpool post, but I will survive. I have no doubt that this is the right move at this time and should allow TOFTT to move forward onto bigger and better things.

Also, a special thanks to those of you who have stuck it out through the recent inactivity. Your patience shall be rewarded...

Nap Time Is Over

Wow, I would like to say I can't believe I went that long without posting, but sadly I can. Things have been a bit crazy of late, but I'm back! And big changes are in store.

In the meantime, here are a few things I want to touch on:

  • Friend of the Team, The Sidney Crosby Spotlight has assembled a great piece on how NHLers owe the Penguins captain a big one for getting Reebok to tweak their crappy new jerseys.
  • Ron Francis went into the Hall of Fame, but some argue his true legacy exists off the ice.
  • Al Strachan put together an outstanding article about wood sticks. It kills me that wooden hockey sticks are going the way of the dinosaur. I also buy into the theory that the new composite sticks are playing into a decrease in scoring. Another question is at what point does this start to make hockey too cost prohibitive for young players? I know my parents never would have bought me a $300 stick.
  • The debate/outrage over the Penguins' goaltending continues to cruise along. I won't even bother to link to all the stories that have popped up, but there does appear to be an increasing number of people that feel the Pens need to stick with MAF and see where they end up. As has been well established here already, I fall into that category. Honestly, I'm one more bad game away from writing a fire Gilles Meloche rant. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that.
On a more personal note, I received a lot of great advice and support from a lot of people (too many to name right now) over the whole Ross McKeon situation, and I would just like to say thanks. Hockey fans are a special breed and hockey bloggers are no different. I truly feel honored to have an ever so small place in that community. For what it's worth, I did get a brief reply from McKeon and I am good with how things went down.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

So I opened up Firefox this afternoon and you'll never believe what I saw on the Yahoo Sports home page:
What an original idea for a story! I wish I had thought of that. Oh wait, I did a week ago. Ross McKeon will probably be getting an e-mail from me in the near future. I have no idea what it will say since I'm sure this is a coincidence, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

You can read McKeon's story here if you feel so inclined.

***UPDATE (11/2)***

I sent the following message to Ross moments ago:

Hi Ross,

I enjoyed reading your "Hockeytown, USA" piece. I couldn't help but notice though that it is quite similar to a post I wrote for my blog last week, which you can read here:
[linked to original post here]

Please do not get the wrong idea here, I am not accusing you of plagiarism here and am sure this is just coincidence, despite all of the similarities between the two pieces. You know, great minds think alike and all that. To be honest with you, I don't even really know what type of response I am hoping to get from you here. Some type of acknowledgment of my work would definitely be appreciated, but I would rather you not respond at all then respond in a way that you are not comfortable with.

Again I want to reiterate that there is no type of accusation being made here. I know we are not the only two people on the planet to have this idea and put pen to paper (or finger to key in this case). I guess I just feel that the similarities between our two works does justify some type of response/recognition, be it privately or publicly.

Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work.


We'll see if anything comes of this... stay tuned.

NHL Team Of The Month: October 2007

Well, the first month of the NHL season is in the books. Here's my starting 6 based on their performance in October:

  • Center: Sidney Crosby (11 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 9 PPP)
  • Right Wing: Jarome Iginla (12 GP, 8 G, 11 A, 4 PPP)
  • Left Wing: Rick Nash (11 GP, 9 G, 6 A, 8 PPP)
  • Defense: Brian Rafalski (13 GP, 2 G, 9 A, +5, 8 PPP)
  • Defense: Dion Phaneuf (12 GP, 3 G, 6 A, +10, 5 PPP)
  • Goalie: Pascal Leclaire (8 GP, 6 W, 1.25 GAA, .953 SV%, 4 SO)
  • I went with Sid at center because I think he has been better than his numbers indicate (which is sick considering he is 5th in scoring despite having games in hand on everyone else at the top of the scoring list), and he was saddled with Mark Recchi on his wing for much of the early going. Hopefully he'll see more time on the ice with Malkin (Geno has been a beast so far this season) going forward and he'll have more nights like his recent 4 point outing against the Wild.
  • You could make a case for Henrik Zetterberg at left wing and it would be hard to argue, but I think Nash has been more valuable to Columbus and has decidedly less talent around him. That gives him the edge to me.
  • Rafalski and Phaneuf have both been lights out, as I would expect. Hopefully Rafalski will start to get a little more love from the hockey world now that he is out of New Jersey.
  • Pascal Leclaire has been a revelation. There's no way he can keep this up for a full season, but for the first month he has clearly been the best keeper in the league. Enjoy it while it lasts Jackets fans!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Custom Crosby Covers

Here are some Sidney Crosby covers for you NHL 08 players out there. PS2 and XBox 360 versions only. I could also put together an XBox (original) version. If somebody wants one just request it in the comments and I'll add it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Claude Julien Slams Devils Fans

With the Red Sox playing Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway and Boston College playing a big Thursday night game against Virginia Tech, the Boston Bruins played a home game in an arena that was more than half empty. Bruins head coach Claude Julien's response:

"You have to remember, I came from New Jersey so I am used to this."

Slam! You have to know that Julien was just saving that one all night and couldn't wait to get the press around a stick it to the Devils. Looks like Claude Julien isn't afraid of burning bridges, eh?

I just wish Blackhawks center Yanic Perreault had commented on the attendance. Just imagine how he could finish the sentence, "You have to remember, I played in Nashville so..."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Looks Like Someone Didn't Get The Memo

Over the past few days I have been reading at various places how "blogger friendly" the Washington Capitals have become, at the request of owner Ted Leonsis. In a nutshell, the Caps have begun to embrace their blog community and have given them unprecedented access and accommodations to bloggers at Caps home games. Yes, this is why the internet has been flooded with Capitals blogs lately. Personally I think this is a great move and hopefully more teams will follow suit. I could only dream of finding myself in the press box for a Penguins game one day.

Anyway, the Caps and Leonsis have gotten a lot of good pub from the blogging community and the print media out of this. There was a nice article about the situation in the Washington Times recently that help shed some light on exactly what is going on in the Verizon Center press box. The gist of it is that Leonsis has made accommodating "active" Caps bloggers to the fullest and embracing the fan-run blogs and what they bring to the table a big priority in Capital-land. The article even quotes Leonsis as saying:

“Then they can come sit in the owners box... I’ll find them a place to sit. I hope we have that issue [a crowded press box during a deep playoff run]. I’d like to be looked at as the most new media-savvy, blog-centric of the teams. If we win, that network just helps you to keep that momentum going.”

Unfortunately, it looks like not everyone on the Capitals payroll shares Ted's love for the fan blog. Earlier this week Capitals senior writer and official blogger Mike "Dumpy" Vogel took time out of his busy day to enlighten us all with a far from clever complaint about the then upcoming Sidney Crosby: Revealed special that was about to air on Versus. That was all well and good, Sid may be a little overexposed at this point, but I'm still not convinced that isn't the best move for the NHL right now. But that is neither here nor there. After a not so thinly veiled comment about how the NHL should spend more time hyping Washington's favorite caveman, he then took a cheap shot at Snoopyjode and The Sidney Crosby Show that was as uncalled for as it was unprofessional. When I read Vogel's post I was in disbelief. This is the official writer for the "blog friendly" Capitals? I promptly e-mailed a link to the post to Snoop and then waded in to comment on how bush league that post was.

Before I go any further, let me make it very clear that I couldn't care less if Vogel and Caps fans like Sid. I sure don't like Ovechkin so I wouldn't expect any different from them. I did however take great offense at Dumpy and his four readers making an unprovoked attack on Snoopyjode and her blog, which is lights out and a daily must read by the way. It was a ridiculous move for a so-called professional and I was not going to let it slide. I won't rehash my comments here, you can go read them at Dump N Chase for yourselves (we all know Vogel could use the traffic), but I do want to emphasize that this guy works for arguably the most pro-blogger owner in sports and he is taking cheap shots at a blog run by a fan in her spare time because she loves Sid, hockey, and the Pens. Oh, and her blog just so happens to be a 100 times better than the one he gets paid to write.

Well it didn't take long for wind of Vogel's post to get to Pensblog and at that point it was all over. We're like family in Commentorblog and when you mess with one of us you mess with all of us. So the Pensblog faithful stepped up and dominated Vogel's comments section like Pens fans dominate road games against the Caps (just look at the attendance numbers and see). Instantly the Caps fans there all went silent and even Vogel could only manage to make a lone and very weak attempt to worm his way out of the situation by A) being very condescending to myself and the other Pens fans calling him out and B) trying to deny insulting Snoop in the first place. Unfortunately for Dumpy this only made things worse and the Pens/Snoop faithful continued to poor it on. The bad news for Vogel is that he has exposed himself as a bitter old hack. The good news is that he's probably gotten more traffic in the last 48 hours than in the previous 48 days. Maybe he gets paid by the visit, then he'd really be in business!

The bottom line here is that hardcore NHL fans are probably the most internet savvy of any sports fans in North America (you have to be when you can't get highlights on TV!), and the exponential growth of hockey blogs and websites has to be a bit scary to the "old guard". I can only imagine how insulted Vogel feels that he has to share his precious press box with a bunch of amateurs. It will be even sadder for him in a year or two when one of them takes his job. I can only hope he hangs around long enough to share the press box with the one and only Snoopyjode, who I will be doing everything I can to help get into the Verizon Center press box the next time Sid and the Pens come calling. Unless maybe the Caps aren't so blogger friendly afterall?

In the meantime, keep your head up Dumpy. I don't think you've heard the end of this from Pens fans...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

O Hockeytown, Where Art Thou?

Enough is enough, it is time to strip Detroit of its (undeserved?) Hockeytown title. I never liked the whole Hockeytown thing to begin with, especially since the Red Wings bestowed the title on themselves. Shouldn't something like that be voted on? Well that's just what we're going to do! We're going to choose a new Hockeytown right here and now.

The nominees:

  • Buffalo - Plenty of teams in the NHL are having attendance issues these days, some even failing to sell out home playoff games (yes, I'm looking at you Detroit). Well the Sabres not only sell out their games, they also packed the area outside the arena with fans to watch the game going on inside projected onto a big screen. How many teams could pull that off? The Sabres were also named the best franchise in sports by ESPN not too long ago (for whatever that is worth). Buffalo is a strong choice to take on the mantle of Hockeytown, USA and probably has to be considered the favorite here.
  • San Jose - Hidden on the west coast, I don't think most people realize what a good hockeytown San Jose is. But is it worthy of being Hockeytown? Sharks fans have come a long way. I remember being at the San Jose arena during the '93-'94 season to see the Sharks take on the Nordiques and someone sitting behind me asking the person they were with if the Nords were an expansion team. Well the Sharks have carried on and now their fans are (for the most part) as knowledgeable as they are loud, and that is saying something. If you don't think San Jose belongs on this list, take in a playoff game at the "Shark Tank" and then get back to me.
  • Chicago - This may turn out to be an optimistic choice on my part, but I think Chicago is in for a hockey renaissance. The team is loaded with young talent and the team and fans both seem eager to put the Bill Wirtz experience behind them. They're even getting home games on TV now! Seriously though, I don't think there is any doubt Chicago is back on the hockey map.
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul - In very Red Wing-esque fashion, the Wild have declared Minnesota the "State of Hockey". They are pretty much right though so I'll let it slide. As far as hockey goes, Minnesota is pretty much South Canada, and that's a good thing. The Wild's fanbase is as knowledgeable and passionate as it gets in the States. Of course I have to mention that they are on their second run with the NHL.
  • Dallas - A surprise nominee to many I'm sure, but deserving nonetheless. I can say from first hand experience that going to a Stars game is as good as it gets. The arena is top notch and it has fans to match. It will always be Cowboys first in Dallas, that is just how things work here in Texas, but there is also a die hard Stars fanbase in Dallas that can't be matched. If you are a hockey fan, you owe it to yourself to take in a Stars home game. Just don't expect to sit down a whole lot. A definite dark horse in this contest, Dallas may just get my vote.
  • Detroit - I'll give the incumbent a chance to defend its title here, but I don't think it deserves it any more (if it ever truly did). I have a hard time calling somewhere Hockeytown when you've got empty seats for home playoff games. I think Wings fans in general have grown a bit tired of the same-old same-old from the Wings and are a bit apathetic at this point. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
Just missed the cut:
  • Pittsburgh- The Pens have as rabid a fanbase as you will find, but I can't bring myself to put Pittsburgh on the list when they're less than a year removed from almost losing the team.
  • Denver - The Avalanche have a great track record since relocating from Quebec. I just don't see them at the level as some of the teams above. Denver sort of strikes me as Dallas-lite.
  • Boston - A great hockeytown to be sure, but the Bruins are an afterthought on the Boston sports scene.
  • Nashville - Just kidding. The situation in Nashville is a joke/mess. Just move them to Kansas City already. Then in 5-10 years when that fails they can move to Hamilton.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sid Discusses the "New" NHL

The Versus Network has a special called "Sidney Crosby Revealed" airing before Tuesday's Pens/Rangers game. Here is a clip with the Penguins captain talking about the "new" NHL;

You can catch the special in its entirety at 6:30 Eastern time, and then hang around for the Pens and Rangers. Hopefully the Pens can get the offense going and MAF can carry over his play from the Capitals game Saturday night. Go Pens!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

MAF Tells His Critics To Suck It!

Off to a relatively disappointing .500 start after six games, Pens Nation and the NHL media have channeled their disappointment and frustration in the direction of young Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. There have been rumor pieces popping up all over the web over the last week about how Fleury isn't producing and that the Pens are on the verge of shopping for a new goalie to either push or replace MAF. Friend of TOFTT and AOL Fanhouse scribe Jes Golbez even jumped on the MAF-bashing bandwagon.

Needless to say I had been simmering about this all week and was all prepared to sit down tonight and crank out a post about how MAF is being made a scapegoat for a subpar defensive unit and how Pens fans need to take a deep breath and readjust their expectations for this team. I was all set to come rushing to my guy's defense (unlike anyone wearing a Penguins uniform), and then MAF went ahead and took the first big step towards shutting them all up himself...

After watching from the bench as Danny Sabourin beat Carolina at home in a shootout last night (I thought he looked shaky from what I saw), MAF got the nod tonight in Washington, and he made the most of it. After hearing it all week from the fans and media MAF went out and stole the show against the Caps, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced and being named 1st Star of the game while backstopping the Pens to the 2-1 road win.

Not tonight chump!

This was exactly the kind of effort the Pens needed the Flower to put forth tonight. Hopefully this win will go a long way towards MAF getting his confidence and finding a good groove for a while. It has to help that the Pens will start playing more than once a week now (do they really need 4 days between games?) Tonight's performance surely won't silence all of the critics, especially those who have already mistakenly labeled MAF as Pittsburgh's sole weakness, but it sends a strong message to the fans and the team that MAF is a guy who can be counted on to win games for this team when needed. The Pens should score more than 2 goals on most nights, but it is nice to know that when they are held to a brace, that MAF will be there to help bring home the two points. Now bring on the Rangers!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I May Have To Start Cheering For The Blues

Recently St. Louis Blues rookie defenseman Erik Johnson answered some e-mail questions from readers of John Buccigross' column. Among the questions asked was "Halo 3 or NHL 08?" This was Johnson's response:

"All my buddies back home play Halo, headsets and everything. They are a joke. I hate it and I have never played NHL 08. I liked NHL 07."

This may be my favorite quote ever. Johnson nailed this one. Halo is terrible and the people who get all worked up over it are a joke. Congrats Erik, you just secured a spot on the TOFTT NHL All-Rookie team!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

5 Players To Watch This NHL Season

As the NHL season sets to kick off in earnest tomorrow night, I thought this would be a good time to point out five players who merit keeping an eye on this season as they will be key to their teams fortunes in the upcoming campaign. So with no further delay:

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury: Not surprisingly, we start out in the 'Burgh where expectations are completely reversed from this time last year. I don't think most people really expect the Pens to take the Cup this season, but they are expected to continue to mature and progress and to at least make it past the first round of the playoffs. Having said that, despite Sidney Crosby and all that young offensive talent on this Penguins team, the Pens will only go as far as MAF can take them. Personally I think that is far, but the defensemen in front of him are going to have to play much better than in last season's series against Ottawa for it to matter. As far as the regular season goes, MAF is going to play a ton (barring injury) and I think he has a legitimate shot at taking a run at Martin Brodeur's shiny, new single-season wins record. MAF is in position to blow by Tom Barrasso's franchise mark of 43 wins and make a strong push for 50. Keep an eye on this guy, Sid may be the face of the franchise, but MAF is the backbone.
  2. Eric Staal: It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating Eric Staal's 100 point season and Stanley Cup title. Well, things didn't work out quite so well for the franchise center last season and there was a significant drop off in both his numbers and the Hurricanes' win total. I think the 'Canes are poised to turn it around this season and I think Jordan's big brother will be a big reason why. Look for Eric to have a career year as he leads Carolina to the Southeast division title and back to the postseason.
  3. Markus Naslund: The Canucks have Roberto Luongo and not a whole lot else to be excited about heading into the new season. If the Canucks are going to go anywhere this year they are going to need consistent offensive production from someone not named Sedin, and Naslund is the likely candidate. For the Canucks to mount a serious challenge for the Cup this season their captain is going to have to break out of his funk and regain his pre-lockout form. Hopefully his pending free agency will be enough motivation to get Naslund back on top of his game. The arrival of Peter Forsberg wouldn't hurt either.
  4. Vesa Toskala: Sure there are tougher jobs than being the starting goalie for the Maple Leafs, but not many. Leafs fans have high expectations and most will be looking to Toskala to get this storied franchise pointed back in the right direction. The Leafs are a strange mix of youth and vets, but if Toskala can handle the pressure in Toronto and perform the way he did in San Jose, the Leafs may be able to sneak up on teams and snag one of the last playoff spots in the East.
  5. Todd Bertuzzi/Bobby Ryan: Okay, so this isn't s single player here, but hear me out. The big stories surrounding the Ducks this season have almost all revolved around who is not currently with the team as opposed to who is (or for that matter, defending their championship). With Teemu Selanne undecided on whether he is going to play or not this season, the Ducks will have to look elsewhere to replace his 48 goals from a year ago. That is where bad boy Bertuzzi and number 2 overall pick Ryan come in. if these two can combine to give the Ducks 50-60 goals that would go a long way towards lessening the impact of Teemu's absence. If they can perform to that level and the Ducks can coax Selanne back at some point, then the Ducks may be well on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups.
So there you have it, five/six guys to keep an eye on this season. I could have easily doubled this list and thrown in guys like Martin Havlat, Brian Gionta, and Henrik Lundqvist, but the above players are the ones I really feel will have the biggest hand in their team's success (or lack thereof) this season. At the end of the day though, it's just nice to have hockey back.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Solo Stands Alone

Embattled Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo will not be with her teammates when they play Norway Sunday in the Women's World Cup third-place match. Idiot coach Greg Ryan has determined that Solo did not stand strong by her teammates during the "hard time" that was the US 4-0 blanking at the hands of Brazil in the semi-final and that she does not belong with her team on Sunday as a result.

This is a childish move by a coach who ruined his squad's chance at a World Cup title and is trying to deflect the blame and spotlight away from himself. Ryan said he came to this decision after meeting with "team leaders". To be fair, some of the vets on the team are publicly siding with their coach on this one. Striker Kristine Lilly went as far to say that having Solo with the team against Norway would be a distraction. Apparently then, not having her in goal against Brazil wasn't a distraction so maybe the team needs to step up and take the heat for getting humiliated by Brazil.

Beyond not allowing Hope to be with the team on Sunday, Ryan and some of his players have called into question whether she still has a future with the team. First, no player should be commenting on anything even close to that. That is a complete joke. Second, Ryan should be worrying about his own future more than Solo's. United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati is already starting to position himself to send Ryan packing, either by simply not offering him a new contract at the end of the year or by letting him go sooner. Either way Ryan should never have anything to do with USA Soccer again after this week's disaster.

As for Hope, she has apologized and said that she did not intend her comments to come across as a criticism of fellow keeper Brianna Scurry, and I believe her there. She does still maintain that coach Ryan made the wrong decision by not playing her against Brazil. Again, couldn't agree more. Solo is taking some heat for her comments, but she said what needed to be said and I think a lot more people are supporting her than are vilifying her. My guess would be that she has gained at least twice as many fans as she has lost. The bottom line is that she was right and hopefully (no pun intended) we haven't seen the last of Hope Solo in goal for Team USA.

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Getting Drafty In Here!

So a couple days ago we here at TOFTT got an e-mail from Carlo over at Poolhardy about taking part in his "Battle of the Blogs" fantasy hockey league. Now how could I resist? Especially since I'll get to take on the gang over at Abel to Yzerman and lay the proverbial smackdown on some Wings fans. So we just finished the Live Draft about a half hour ago and here's how our team shaped up. We had the 5th pick and it was serpentine style.

The Team
  1. (5) Alexander Ovechkin - LW
  2. (18) Jason Spezza - C
  3. (27) Ryan Whitney - D
  4. (40) Marc-Andre Fleury - G
  5. (49) Martin Havlat -RW
  6. (62) Alexander Semin - LW
  7. (71) Brian Rafalski - D
  8. (84) Cam Ward - G
  9. (93) Andy McDonald - C
  10. (106) Kimmo Timonen - D
  11. (115) Brian Gionta - RW
  12. (128) Vesa Toskala - G
  13. (137) Chris Kunitz - LW
  14. (150) Petr Sykora - C
  15. (159) Teemu Selanne - RW
  16. (172) Ruslan Salei - D
  • Part of me really wanted to land a "top-tier" goalie, but it became clear pretty quick that wasn't going to happen. At that point Spezza fell into my lap with the 18th pick and then I had to sweat out trying to land Whitney and MAF with my third and fourth round picks.
  • Our Right Wing is one big question mark. Can Havlat stay healthy? Did we get the Brian Gionta from two seasons ago who scored 48 goals? Will Teemu play this season? If the answer to at least two of those questions is "yes" we could be sitting pretty. Petr Sykora can't get RW eligibility soon enough!
  • Getting Selanne with the 159th pick could turn out to be genius. If he doesn't play I'm not really out that much. I see it as a more than worthwhile gamble for the guy who was 4th overall in the Yahoo game last season.
  • Cam Ward is a steal if the 'Canes have the kind of season I think they will. If they don't this could be a long fantasy season.
  • I have AO, Semin, and Havlat on both of my fantasy teams. If any of those guys get hurt it won't be pretty around here.
  • Yes, I feel dirty for drafting AO.
  • No, I have no problem saying I'm hoping for big Semin production this season.
  • Sykora, Timonen, and Gionta could all end up being real good picks. Lotta upside on this squad.
  • At the end of the day, we have MAF... life is good.

NHL Puts Downie In The Timeout Chair

NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell sent a message to the entire NHL today by levying a 20 game suspension on Flyers prospect Steve Downie for his vicious hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. I won't go into too many details of the hit itself, but I would like to applaud Campbell for sending a strong message to players that these types of hits will no longer be tolerated.

I'll be honest here, if Downie keeps his feet on the ice than this whole thing is nothing more than a hard, but clean, hit and all of the hoopla that has ensued doesn't (or at least shouldn't) happen. But Downie did leave his feet, and that is where he crossed the line. The second Steve Downie's feet left the ice he went from trying to land a hard hit to trying to seriously injure Dean McAmmond, and that is why he needed to be made an example of by the NHL front office. My only regret at this point is that Steve Downie may never set foot on the NHL's ice again and the Senators will never get the payback the must surely want right now (then again we are talking about Ottawa...)

When examining this story there is no looking past the entire body of Steve Downie's hockey career. He has a history of violent incidents against teammates, opponents, and officials and that has to come into play at some point. Colin Campbell said he did not hold Downie's past against him when determining his punishment, saying Downie had a "clean slate" with the NHL. I don't think Downie will be so lucky with regards to the other teams in the NHL. I think there is a very real chance that if things don't work out for Downie in Philadelphia, that his NHL dream will be over. I just can't see another team bringing in a kid with this much baggage that is such a risk to his team. Steve Downie's NHL career may be over before it even started, and I for one am more than fine with that.

Lost in all of the commotion around the Downie hit was a deplorable response by the on ice officials and in particular one of the linesmen. As the inevitable wave of Senators converged on Steve Downie following the hit the pileup of players grew and a couple of them, Flyer defender Lasse Kukkonen fell on top of the motionless and defenseless McAmmond. The linesman who was standing right there had a responsibility to protect the vulnerable McAmmond and instead elected to skate off and verbally engage the fighting players. Let's be real clear here, he did not even start to break up fighting players, he simply proceeded to talk/yell at them, all the while the concussed McAmmond has players fighting on top of him. It was not until Senators forward Patrick Eaves transported the team trainer to McAmmond's side that Dean received any sort of protection from the fracas going on around him.

In my opinion the NHL is very lucky that McAmmond was not further injured by the negligence of the on-ice officials. I would love to see the NHLPA step up and call out the officiating team for their disgraceful handling of the situation. I would like it even more if the NHL took a proactive approach to the problem and handed out some sort of discipline to the on-ice officials at the game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for a major disciplinary measure to be handed out, but I would like to see the league hold the officials responsible for the safety of the players on the ice. Otherwise they might as well play the games without officials at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Team USA Loses Its Hope

The USA Women's National Soccer Team was shelled 4-0 today by Brazil in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup in China. The loss ended a 51 game unbeaten streak for the US women and was the worst loss ever for the US women in World Cup competition.

Surprisingly absent from the American squad was star keeper Hope Solo. US coach Greg Ryan benched his top keeper in favor of 36 year-old Brianna Scurry. To put this in perspective, Solo had not been scored on in over 300 minutes of play, while Scurry had not played a full 90 minutes in over 3 months.

Predictably Hope Solo was disappointed with the decision, and she let it be known:

"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that's what I think."

As a fan, this is just the type of reaction I want from Solo. She had earned the start against Brazil and she was flat out robbed of the opportunity to play.

Apparently coach Ryan had decided to go with Scurry well in advance of this match (months allegedly) and had even met with Scurry about playing her against Brazil. Scurry's history against the Brazilians notwithstanding, this is an inexcusable move by Ryan. Quite frankly, this move should cost him his job. Whoever runs Team USA needs to inform Ryan that he will be allowed to coach the third place game, during which he will start Hope Solo, and he will then promptly resign afterwards. If he doesn't agree to that then you fire him on the spot. He cost this team the World Cup, that's all there is to it.

I am not trying to overlook the fact that the Americans were pretty much dominated by Brazil today, but I do think the switch in goal played a huge role in the defeat. I won't even begin to try to guess the kind of emotional impact this move had on the other 10 players for the US. I can only imagine how shocked they were that Solo was not going to be in goal. And now, thanks to Greg Ryan, the prohibitive favorite to win the World Cup will leave China without the championship they worked so hard to claim, and we are all left to wonder what could have been. At least we'll still have a Hope in 2011.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NHL 07-08 Season Prediction Panel

Welcome to what I be the first of what I hope will be many NHL season prediction panels. I have convinced some of the hockey blogosphere's best and brightest (and the gang from thepensblog) to put their credibility at stake and forecast the upcoming NHL season. Hopefully some of us will actually be right with some of our picks.

The Players:
Loser Chris and Snoopyjode - your friendly neighborhood TOFTT writing staff.
ThePensblog - Derek and Adam from They do more than just write Big Batch News you know!
Jes Golbez - writer of Hockey Rants, and Sidney Crosby Show and AOL NHL Fanhouse contributor.
Mike Chen - writer of Mike Chen's Hockey Blog,, and Battle of California contributor. Sharks season ticket holder, and ex-Blackhawks fans. I apologize to any team's fans that I offend with my predictions, except if you're a Maple Leafs fan -- your management is so predictably short-sighted that it doesn't even warrant mentioning them in this. (ed. note: take that Canada!)
Steve Ovadia - Puck Update writer.

1) Who will win the Atlantic Division?
Loser Chris - Pittsburgh. I don't want to be too biased here, but the only other team I can see that could take the division would be the Rangers and I don't think they have the blue line depth to pull it off.
- The Pens of course!!! Well, I suppose the Devils could edge them out for the division, but I'm keeping the faith and sticking with the Pens!
ThePensblog - Gary Roberts.
Jes Golbez - New York Rangers.
Mike Chen - I don't buy into the changes that the Rangers and Flyers made, especially Philly. Getting Jason Smith is not going to help an already immobile blue line and I'm almost certain that Daniel Briere's points will drop. The Rangers are still an interesting mix, but I don't think getting both Drury and Gomez was necessary, and the money would have been better spent getting some defensive depth. That's not to say the Rangers aren't dangerous, I just don't think they're as good as the roster is on paper. I'm giving the Atlantic to Sid and the Penguins.
Steve Ovadia - Pittsburgh. They almost won it last year, and they're only getting better.

2) Who will win the Northeast Division?
Loser Chris - Ottawa. This team is too talented not to win this division. Buffalo is too depleted and the rest of the division is in disarray. I just don't see another team in the Northeat able to challenge the Senators.
- The Senators will probably go the distance here.
ThePensblog - Ottawa.
Jes Golbez - Ottawa Senators.
Mike Chen - I don't see any of these teams coming close to Ottawa. Buffalo will still be good, but you don't lose two first liners (ed. note: and your co-captains) and not feel it somewhere.
Steve Ovadia - Ottawa. Not that it matters.

3) Who will win the Southeast Division?
Loser Chris - Carolina. Only a year removed from winning it all, I expect the 'Canes to bounce back in a big way this year. I look for Eric Staal to put this team on his back and take them far.
- Tampa Bay, St.Louis + Lecavalier + Richards = money in the bank.
ThePensblog - Tampa Bay.
Jes Golbez - Atlanta Thrashees.
Mike Chen - This is always a crapshoot, but I think the Florida Panthers' time has come. You've got Vokoun in net, I think Weiss and Horton will have true breakout years, and Jokinen and Bouwmeester will put up great points. However, I think Carolina will bounce back, Tampa Bay will be a tiny bit better, Washington should improve, and Atlanta should be around the same. I think the Southeast will be much more competitive than people give it credit for, and that should make for some great hockey.
Steve Ovadia - Carolina. Last season's dip was more of a Cup hangover than anything else.

4) Who will win the Central Division?
Loser Chris - Detroit. I hate picking the Red Wings to win anything, ever, but this division is terrible. It may be the worst division in NHL history. The Wings could have the division title clinched by New Years.
- Detroit. Don't they always win this?
ThePensblog - Detroit.
Jes Golbez - Detroit Red Wings.
Mike Chen - Every year I predict Detroit to fall, so this year I'll pick them to win. Hopefully that'll curse them into self-implosion.
Steve Ovadia - Detroit. They should really just rest the Central down. The rest of the Central is like when they bring in new characters on Lost, purely for the purpose of getting killed.

5) Who will win the Northwest Division?
Loser Chris - Calgary. This will be that first season where Mike Keenan is able to come in and do great things before he inevitably wears out his welcome in Calgary. Vancouver has Roberto Luongo and not much else, and since I'm not Canadian I don't subscribe to the Ryan Smyth is an elite player theory so that rules out Colorado to me. Minnesota probably has the best chance of pushing Calgary, if Backstrom plays like he did last season and they can stay healthy.
- Vancouver. Luongo is like the Berlin Wall.
ThePensblog - Vancouver.
Jes Golbez - Vancouver Canucks.
Mike Chen - I think Colorado's back on the mend. You look at the revolving door of excellent young talent, combine that with Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, add in Ryan Smyth and a rather underrated defense, and you've got a good mix. If Peter Budaj can be as consistent as he was in the second half of last season, I think the Avs offer just a little bit more as a collective team than their Northwest competitors.
Steve Ovadia - Colorado. Ryan Smyth will be huge for them.

6) Who will win the Pacific Division?
Loser Chris - San Jose. Anaheim is the best team in this division, but I think they will suffer enough of a Stanley Cup hangover to allow the Sharks to win the division. They also have a lot of uncertainty regarding their roster (i.e. Selanne and Niedermeyer). Of course the Sharks will promptly choke in the playoffs so it won't really matter that much.
- Anaheim, the defending champs.
ThePensblog - San Jose.
Jes Golbez - San Jose Sharks.
Mike Chen - If Scott Niedermeyer returns, Anaheim. If he doesn't, San Jose by a hair.
Steve Ovadia - Anaheim. Even without Scott Niedermeyer (if he actually retires), this is a strong, dangerous team.

7) Who will meet in the Stanley Cup Finals? Who wins?
Loser Chris - Anaheim and Carolina will make it to the Finals in a meeting of the last two Cup winners. Anaheim takes it in 6.
- Pens vs. Canucks. Pens win (hopefully)!
ThePensblog - Sharks vs. Rangers. Rangers win.
Jes Golbez - Ottawa vs. San Jose. Sharks win.
Mike Chen - I always hate predicting these sorts of things because you never predict trades, injuries, etc. On paper, I think the league has more parity than ever before, and it's really hard to separate the top 10 teams in the league. So I'll make a pick but I wouldn't put any money down on it: San Jose vs. Pittsburgh with Captain Sid lifting his first Cup. Really, I'm just making this pick to appeal to both the fashionable (Crosby) and the homer (San Jose). (ed. note: but we're still holding you to it Mike!)
Steve Ovadia - Rangers vs. Anaheim. Rangers win.

8) Who will win the Art Ross Trophy?
Loser Chris - Sidney Crosby. Don't expect that answer to change for at least 10 years.
- S-I-D-N-E-Y! Who else?
ThePensblog - Sid.
Jes Golbez - Sidney Crosby.
Mike Chen - Crosby will finish with 145-150 points this season.
Steve Ovadia - Ovechkin. I have a feeling he is going to thrive with Michael Nylander.

9) Who will win the Maurice Richard Trophy?
Loser Chris - Jerome Iginla. I think playing under Keenan will agree with the Calgary captain.
- I'd like to say Sid, but he's more of an assist man, so I'm going with Heatley or Lecavalier. Or, if Ovechkin gets it right this year he could have a real chance to snag this one. (ed. note: way to take a firm stance on that one Snoop!)
ThePensblog - Alexander Ovechkin.
Jes Golbez - Alexander Ovechkin.
Mike Chen - Ovechkin will top the league with Michael Nylander feeding him for 62 goals.
Steve Ovadia - I have no idea.

10) Who will win the Vezina Trophy?
Loser Chris - Luongo. I think too many people in the media and around the NHL are completely in love with this guy and will gladly give him the Vezina unless someone completely blows him away. Which I don't think will happen.
- Luongo. He was robbed last season.
ThePensblog - Luongo.
Jes Golbez - Roberto Luongo.
Mike Chen - Roberto Luongo will win it and cry when he accepts is because he is so very tired from stopping a gazillion pucks with no goal support.
Steve Ovadia - Luongo.

11) Who will win the Norris Trophy?
Loser Chris - Dion Phaneuf. This may be a bit of a reach, but Phaneuf had something of a quiet second season and still put up 50 points. This guy is the total package and I think he's more than capable of earning himself some hardware this year. Plus I'm way too biased to pick Lidstrom.
- Lidstrom. Again - he's really good.
ThePensblog - Pronger, if Lidstrom doesn't die.
Jes Golbez - Niklas Lidstrom.
Mike Chen - Scott Niedermeyer will win if he returns. Otherwise I'm going to go with the underdog and pick Dan Boyle, just because he's a personal favorite of mine.
Steve Ovadia - Lidstrom. He'll win this after he retires, people just love to check that box with his name in it.

12) Which high profile offseason acquisition will have the most success with their new team?
Loser Chris - Chris Drury. I love Drury, let's get that clear from the start, but that's not why I'm picking him. Drury will be playing with more offensively talented players in a wide open system. As long as he can stay healthy I think Drury is going to thrive in New York.
- Chris Drury. The Rangers are already a great team, and Drury's a great player. Hopefully they aren't so good that the Pens can't bury them!!!
ThePensblog - Drury and Gomez with the Rangers.
Jes Golbez - Scott Gomez. Playing on Jagr's line with an offensive minded coach = uber points.
Mike Chen - I think Chris Drury will perform up to expectations the most. More importantly, he'll give the Rangers a little more of the grit and determination that Brendan Shanahan instilled in them last season.
Steve Ovadia - Mike Keenan in Calgary. He's going to bring discipline, accountability, and grit back to the Saddledome.

13) Which high profile offseason acquisition will be the most disappointing with their new team?
Loser Chris - Daniel Briere. While I have high hopes for Briere's former teammate Drury, I don't think things are going to work out as well for Drury in Philly. This may just be wishful thinking on my part, but I just don't think he's going to have the kind of success he had in Buffalo. Briere is a good player, but he's not a franchise player and he's not a "Flyers" type of player either. I think he'll be hearing it from the Flyers faithful by the end of the year.
- Daniel Briere. He's not good enough to carry a team.
ThePensblog - Daniel Briere in Philadelphia is overrated.
Jes Golbez - Mike Keenan (coach), Dustin Penner (how can you live up to that contract?)
Mike Chen - I think Scott Gomez will bomb in his first season on Broadway.
Steve Ovadia - Daniel Briere. I'm not sure how much impact a guy who's like 5'2" can bring to any team unrelated to horse racing.

14) Which team do you think is poised to have a huge breakout/turnaround season (i.e. show the biggest improvement from last season)?
Loser Chris - Carolina is going to have a big turnaround this year in my opinion. Hopefully missing the playoffs last season will inspire them. Keep an eye on St.Louis too, they aren't that great, but they play in the Central.
- While these seem like two different questions to me, I think the Flyers will have the biggest improvement over last season, but that doesn't mean they'll have a breakout season by any stretch of the imagination.
ThePensblog - Chicago Blackhawks. Fear Martin Havlat.
Jes Golbez - Philadelphia Flyers. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but they should do a lot better, points-wise.
Mike Chen - Florida. Their young talent really is underrated because of where they're located, but they're on the cusp. Add in a steal of Vokoun and you've got the potential, if everything goes right, for not only a great regular season but a solid playoff run.
Steve Ovadia - St. Louis will make the playoffs. The NHL is all about parity so I don't think there will be anything more dramatic than that.

15) Which team will show the greatest decline from last season?
Loser Chris - Nashville. This one is almost too obvious, but between the exodus of talent during the offseason and the ownership situation it's going to be a long season for Predators fans. All twelve of them.
- Buffalo. Tee hee !! (My boss is a Sabres fan so we've got an office rivalry here.) They lost a number of players in free agency and they'll need time to build the team back up.
ThePensblog - Devils.
Jes Golbez - Dallas Stars or Nashville Predators.
Mike Chen - It seems like the Devils keep having their core picked away at and they somehow manage to cheat death. I think even with Marty keeping them in the majority of games, losing Rafalski and Gomez will really expose the depth of the team, despite a bounce back for Gionta and improvement for Parise.
Steve Ovadia - Nashville. I also predict they'll only suit up 11 players a night. (ed. note: that's a good way to save on salaries, Steve may be suited for front office work with the Preds!)

16) Who of the following pending UFA's is most likely to be traded during the upcoming season; Miikka Kiprusoff, Markus Naslund, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, or Marian Hossa?
Loser Chris - Wade Redden. Ottawa is going to be faced with trying to resign Heatley and Jason Spezza (a pending RFA) and I think that spells the end for Redden in Ottawa. They have too much money invested in other defensemen (Phillips and Volchenkov) to keep him, Spezza, and Heatley. That new deal for Mike Fischer doesn't help Redden's cause too much either.
- No way the Sens trade Heatley or the Canucks trade Naslund. I don't really know and I'm usually wrong when I try to make predictions (so these questions will probably all come back to haunt me in April), but I guess I'll go with Marleau. (ed. note: Marleau was a choice before the Sharks resigned him, right after Snoop answered these questions. So in a way she was right, she is wrong.)
ThePensblog - Naslund if the Canucks struggle, or Kiprusoff since Keenan is the coach up there now.
Jes Golbez - I'll take none of the above. Naslund as a no-trade, the Sens will be battling hard for the Cup, and the Flames will want to keep Kipper around, so I don't see any of these guys being traded DURING the season.
Mike Chen - I'll go out on a limb and say that the Flames will have a messy year under Mike Keenan and impending UFA Kiprusoff is traded for a huge package. I think the Flames' season under Keenan will either be a giant success or a spectacular disaster -- no inbetweens.
Steve Ovadia - Atlanta is out of love with Hossa. If they can find someone to take him he's out of there. For extra credit, I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up in Boston. (ed. note: Hossa for Chara maybe?)

So there you have it. Now all we have to do is wait around until the season ends so we can see how wrong we all were after Phoenix sweeps Florida in the Finals in June. Now drop the puck!