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.