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!