Thursday, January 31, 2008
Here's who else is currently out of action:
Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh
Dany Heatley - Ottawa
Daniel Alfredsson - Ottawa
Patrice Bergeron - Boston
Manny Fernandez - Boston
Jonathan Toews - Chicago
Michael Nylander - Washington
Brendan Morrisonn - Vancouver
Joe Sakic - Colorado
Sergei Fedorov - Columbus
Bryan McCabe - Toronto
Gary Roberts - Pittsburgh
Joffrey Lupul - Philadelphia
Ryan Smyth - Colorado
Paul Stastny - Colorado
Jere Lehtinen - Dallas
Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit
Mike Cammalleri - Los Angeles
David Legwand - Nashville
Steve Sullivan - Nashville
Rostislav Olesz - Florida
You could start a rival league with the kind of talent that's currently sitting on the trainers table.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
But even if Hartnell had purposely kicked it in, why should the NHL have disallowed it anyways?
This is one rule that I think needs to be refined.
Why can’t a player kick a puck into the net?
It seems like it’s just one of those rules that no one questions simply for the fact that it’s there and must have some inherent reason for existing. Yet, time and again, the fans and players are subjected to endless reviews by video goal judges looking for the slightest intent to direct it into the net with a skate, interfering with the flow of a game and putting into question every goal because there are so many rules (including high sticks and goalie interference) that can possibly repeal it.
I think the first argument for the rule is that skates are sharp and if players begin to try to kick pucks in the net, then someone could presumably get hurt.
I don’t think that holds water. No player would intentionally use his skate to redirect or kick a puck when his stick is available. A skate is just not useful enough or accurate enough just by the inherent design. That would preclude teams intentionally drawing up plays that involved kicking the puck into the net. It’s just too unpredictable and ineffective. Of course you would have to draw the line if guys were trying to drop-kick pucks out of mid-air but honestly, what are the chances that would happen? Who in their right mind would think that would be effective? Players don’t try to use their head to direct airborne pucks and they wouldn’t use their skates either. There should be no fear of soccer creeping into the NHL game simply because the dynamics are totally different.
The only time a player kicks at a puck is out of desperation or sudden reflex. Virtually all of these incidents take place within five feet of the net when the puck is on the ice. What difference does it make if the player put it in with his skate or his stick? If a goal counts when it directs off your butt, what does it matter that it’s guided in by a skate, intentionally or not?
Removing this rule would not only add a few goals here and there that are traditionally waved off but it would end the constant delays when these goals are meticulously reviewed. If there is some major argument that proves the worth of this rule, then please let me know.
Otherwise, why are we disallowing so many goals because of it?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Then hosts Glen Kulka and Lee Versage decided to test the libel laws by openly suggesting that Emery might have substance abuse problems. Kulka admitted that he had no proof or information about this, but that didn't stop him from mentioning the theory over and over and made no attempts to correct callers who said the same thing.
I'm no lawyer, but I'm sure that you're not allowed to suggest that someone has a substance abuse problem with no proof. That's almost cut and dried libel.
The emotional craziness didn't stop there. The callers and the hosts were almost unanimously in favour of just waiving Emery right away with the team getting no compensation.
Yes, Emery deserves to be reprimanded, but people are getting way too emotional over a guy who is 25 years old and obviously just immature.
At least take a breath and listen to captain Daniel Alfredsson's measured and cool response:
"It's not good," acknowledged captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We have our fines for being late and I guess management is going to deal with it. It's unfortunate. It's a little bit frustrating, but I think he has said he is going to improve and he has been better in practice, so for me, as long as he works hard in practice, sometimes you can overlook other stuff.
"We have to address it. With management and what they're going to do, it goes along with that. But it's going to be addressed, for sure."
We already know that he was four minutes late for a 4 PM practice. Emery says that he thought the session was at Nassau Veterans Coliseum when in fact it was at the Islanders practice facility. Coach John Paddock rightfully told him not to suit up and now it’s up to the team management to figure out how to punish him.
Strangely enough, the person who seemed the most angry was Ottawa Sun scribe Bruce Garrioch. When he finally got a chance to ask the coach a few questions, he went into a self-righteous rage wondering if it was time to suspend Ray for “embarrassing the organization too many times” and seemed to be demanding that Paddock and GM Bryan Murray take swift and harsh action. Paddock would have none of it and simply waved him off with a “no-comment”.
Emery is certainly at fault here and will have to face the repercussions, but to say that Emery has embarrassed the organization is a bit ludicrous. He’s an immature young adult who has showed up late for practice a few times. Hardly earth shattering embarrassment there. He’s been involved in a couple of traffic accidents. Nothing too shocking there. Everyone I know has been in a few.
What is apparent is that Emery has very few friends on the media side of the ledger in Bytown and they are now taking their opportunity to stick the knives in. Emery is known for short and curt interview answers and reporters tend to get their backs up about that after awhile. When Emery screws up, they are not about to soft-peddle their criticism.
Another dimension to this is that fans both love and despise pro-athletes. They love them for what they can do on the ice and on the field, but they secretly harbour a jealousy at the kind of money they make and the lifestyle they maintain. The fact that Emery was late because he was flying back from a Vegas vacation is certainly adding fuel to the fire for indignant Ottawa sports fans.
They see a young multi-millionaire who doesn’t seem to take his job seriously and is gallivanting around the continent to famous hot-spots while the poor fan has to sit at a desk and walk through mid-January winds to get home to their modest homes and apartments. To some, this is unforgivable and Emery has made himself public enemy number one because of it.
Even the Ottawa Sun is running a poll on whether or not the Senators should just waive Emery. Amazingly enough, as of this writing, over 75% have said yes.
But there has to be some common sense here. For one, behavioural problems can be fixed. You don’t necessarily give up on a young and gifted athlete because they can’t get their priorities straight. With some discipline and patience, this can be corrected and it certainly can in Emery’s case. Knee jerk reactions like the one Bruce Garrioch and his loyal legions of scalp demanding fans are espousing will not benefit anyone involved in this situation.
Bryan Murray has been through the wars. He’s seen this type of thing before. There is no reason to close the curtain on the Emery show just yet.
Monday, January 28, 2008
From the Toronto Star:
"...the 2008 version did little more than show off how inept the league and its players are at showing off. It was hard to tell if there was much excitement in the arena, but as far as television went this was one major dud.
First came an obstacle relay that must have been dreamed up by someone who'd played too long without a helmet. Any event that features disjointed skills and ends with goaltenders trying to score on an empty net needs a rethink.
The fastest skater competition was a complete hash, so much so that CBC announcer Jim Hughson couldn't figure out who won the heats. "
From the National Post:
"...the NHL has realized that it needs some mustard. The problem is, it doesn't have any hot dogs.
They can dangle in an all-star setting, as they did in the Eastern Conference's last-minute, 8-7 win Sunday at Philips Arena. But for the rest of the season, NHL players are a bunch of humble Canadians and quiet Europeans. As Jason Arnott said this weekend, Owens wouldn't last 30 seconds inside an NHL dressing room...
But the NHL desperately needs individual. So on Saturday at the SuperSkills competition, they debuted the drably named Breakaway Challenge. From the judging to the execution, it was a complete disaster.
Pavel Datsyuk, one of the game's most dexterous, skilled players, had nothing out of the ordinary to offer on his breakaways. Martin St. Louis tried, but was hopeless. Alex Ovechkin was most impressive, twice flipping the puck high and attempting baseball-swing goals. The fact he missed on both attempts - yet still won the competition - is more a statement of what little everyone else brought to the table. "
From the Ottawa Sun:
"At the very least, it would appear the skills competition is going to become a victim of the changes once the league figures out what direction it wants to take. ...
"I haven't heard any positive comments about the skills competition at all," a league executive yesterday said. "The players think it's painful, the changes to the competition didn't work and quite frankly, the players are bored with the whole thing."
I for one don't think they should cancel it. There's still a lot of good that can come out of the competition and just imagine if Ovechkin had actually scored on one of those gong show moves. That would have made every highlight show on the continent.
But I'm completely glad the All-Star weekend is behind us. It's the same thing every year. In fact, I think most columnists just reprint the previous years column because the commentary never changes. Why do we get so riled up over an All-Star game anyways? It's evident that we sometimes take the game way too seriously.
Let's get on with the stretch drive.
That’s freaking hilarious if it’s true and I’m wondering if anyone reading this can confirm that.
Apparently they doctor up the photo to make him look like Krusty the Clown but again, I’m not sure if that’s true or not.
I could see the Leafs doing that, but the Raptors???? It’s not even the same freaking sport. Can they not find a photo of Vince Carter and put his head on a baby in a crib or something?
Anyways, I thought some of you might find that amusing, true or not.
I kind of stuck my neck out defending the All-Star game (actually Ian Mendes said much the same thing this morning on the Team 1200 by noting that adults are too jaded and cynical to enjoy the game anymore but the kids still like it and that’s probably the point.) but it’s hard to defend the abomination that was the Skills Contest.
First off, the skating race comp was absolutely brutal. They couldn’t figure out how to properly time these guys and thus the slowest skater, Brian Campbell, had to skate in the final and embarrass himself one more time.
I had no idea what the hell was going on in the relay comp. Neither did the players. It was utter crap and probably planned by a league-hired cretin.
The “dunk” competition, the one that was judged, was a little embarrassing to watch. Alex Ovechkin was the only one who really tried something and even he failed miserably as he couldn’t hit the puck out of the air. Nobody knows what the hell Martin St. Louis was doing and Ilya Kovalchuk going down on his knees and putting a weak shot into the goalies chest was a letdown for his adoring hometown fans.
I’m not saying scrap it, because it was a great idea, but the players have to step up and bring something unique – that actually works!
And what the hell was Evgeni Nabokov thinking? The player coming down (I think it was St. Louis) was trying to pull something great out of his ass and Nabokov comes out and poke checks him.
Are you serious? Way to make the show about you Nabby. Like we all tuned in to a see an exciting poke check from another monstrously padded goalie. Honestly, just leave the goalies at home next time and hire some ringers from the local beer league.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
(The video is dark for a few seconds at the start)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Wherever you go to read about the game, inevitably you’ll hear the usual diatribes disparaging the game, saying it’s pointless and too much like shinny and no one wants to show up etc etc.
Just leave the damn game alone. “ It is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t” to quote the great songwriter John Prine.
It may not be for the rabid fan who takes the NHL so seriously that he puts a fist through the wall when his favourite team loses but it’s still worth putting on. When I was a kid, the All-Star game was almost as good as the playoffs. The glitz and the players being announced to boos and cheers, depending on who it was and what city it was in. As I got older, I loved seeing guys like Mario Lemieux joking around with enemies like Chris Chelios and it was always worth a watch seeing Ray Bourque shoot out the targets and Al Macinnis unleash a demon slapshot that clocked in at over 100 mph in the skills competition.
Plus you’ve got to love a game where the goalies are finally helpless against the real attribute that the NHL should be marketing - skill.
Goalies may not like the game and that fact alone makes me happy. In fact, I’d like to see the league institute a special All-Star rule where the goalies have to wear pads the size they once wore in the 70’s and 80’s and then we’d see some real action.
Anyways, as long as the kids still like the game, it’s worth it for the NHL. God forbid the talking heads have to endure one weekend a year where they can’t dissect the gameplay like forensic scientists.
Brad Richards is -25.
Patrick Marleau is -20.
Yet Daniel Cleary is +22 and Mike Ribeiro is +13.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Since a lot of people are comparing the Richard Peddie-run Maple Leafs to the Harold Ballard years, let's start off with the man himself, the always foolish, and often racist and sexist Harold Ballard. Be sure to check out previous editions of Classic Quotes by clicking on the tag at the bottom of the post.
"Diabetes is all in the mind."
- Ballard speaking on his own diabetic condition to Brian McFarlane.
- Harold Ballard talks about race relations with Ottawa writer Earl McRae in the '80s.
- Don Cherry, referring to Howie Meeker. Cherry played one NHL game while Meeker played for eight years and was a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Leafs.
- Jim Schoenfeld, coach of the New Jersey Devils, screaming at referee Don Koharski after a game in the 1988 playoffs.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Unfortunately, there aren't too many cases of coaches or players going off like this in the NHL but in baseball... there's a neverending supply of mental breakdowns and reporter beatdowns. We'll start off with some classic audio by Rich "Goose" Gossage, at this time part of the New York Yankees, going off at those pesky Bronx reporters. At one point Gossage calls one of them a "greasy c*!*sucker". Amazing.
Next up we'll go with Hall Of Famer Earl Weaver going off the rails on a radio segment called Managers Corner. Weaver is a beauty.
Be sure to check out Lee Elia's world famous rant already posted here.
With the Ottawa Senators mired in their second mind blowing slump of the year, the media in Bytown have been noticeably easy on first year head coach John Paddock. Maybe it’s still the honeymoon phase or maybe Paddock has been supplying too many easy quotes on how terrible his players have been, especially the goaltending of Ray Emery and Martin Gerber.
But how long will Paddock get a free ride from the likes of Bruce Garrioch, Wayne Scanlan, Allan Panzeri, Chris Stevenson and Don Brennan?
Of course, the players have a lot to answer for and ultimately it’s their job to get it done on the ice. But don’t forget that this team is largely the same that went to the Cup final in convincing fashion just last year under current GM Bryan Murray (a coach who captain Daniel Alfredsson said he didn’t want to see give up his duties).
Have these same players all of a sudden lost their ability? Obviously not.
Then perhaps there should be some heat put on Paddock who has made some questionable choices in how he employs his lineup. So far, he has managed to alienate his two goalies who were both playing great hockey just last season. Emery lost his job because he had off-season wrist surgery and under Paddock he has not been given any games in a row to get his confidence back. Gerber has been what he’s always been – streaky. Sometimes he looks like a worldbeater, sometimes he looks like the original Swiss Miss Hardy Astrom. Paddock hasn’t shown any sustained confidence in him either.
The defense core is exactly the same minus Tom Preissing yet they look lost this year. The top line has predictably been dominant yet Paddock has not found a way, or the ice time, to cultivate success from his other three lines. The penalty killing is still good but that’s largely the responsibility of assistant coach Greg Carvel.
Then there is the issue of heart. Under Murray, the Senators were tough and nobody was able to push them around, a revelation that the media and fans seemed to appreciate after a decade of soft teams that often withered under the aggressive tactics of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs.
Under Paddock, the Senators went into their game against the Philadelphia Flyers and had their first opportunity to do something about Steve Downie’s head shot against Dean McAmmond. When nothing happened, Paddock didn’t seem to care and neither did his players. Yet the fans and even the Flyers themselves were shocked that the Senators didn’t even bother to show up. Scott Hartnell went on Ottawa radio two days later and said he was surprised the Senators didn’t try to exact at revenge. For some reason, Chris Neil thought it was appropriate to fight Tanner Glass last night in Florida but not Steve Downie on Sunday.
So when does Paddock get in the cross hairs of the media? Just take a cursory glance at all the usual places that Sens fans congregate to vent, such as forums and blogs, and you’ll see that many of them are already screaming for Paddock to be thrown into the Canal or put on the next bus back to Winnipeg or Binghamton. Yet there’s not a peep about Paddock and his style in the morning papers.
There is a sentiment in the grassroots out there that Murray should step back in to guide this team into the playoffs. Perhaps that’s too radical a concept for the media to consider but at some point, something’s gotta break here.
Paddock can only throw his players under the bus so often (and it’s getting tiring to listen to it) before they start to turn on him. It seems he’s created a two-class system on the team. There’s the top line which gets praised at every opportunity and then there’s the rest of the team who get called out almost every day, win or lose.
Some may find his “candour” refreshing. Others find it suspicious.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This is the audio of famous Chicaco Cub manager Lou Elia dropping the most massive F-Bomb on the fans back in 1983. Warning. Explicit F@!*ing language. The Cubbies were only 5-14 at the time but had just been booed off the field after another dismal loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of a miniscule but angry set of fans at Wrigley.
This rant will likely never be topped. It's as safe as Gretzky's 92 goals.
Thanks to fellow hoser and baseball history fanatic Joe MacDonald for pointing this one out.
But are we soon headed for a similar scenario once again in the NHL? After taking a skate in the throat, Malarchuk was thought to have survived simply because he happened to be in the zamboni end at the time and medical staff were able to reach him quickly. Maybe next time the goaltender won’t be so lucky.
Just take a look around the NHL and try to pick out the goalies who wear proper neck protection. The unofficial count among legitimate starters is around 5. The ones I could find who wore the protection were Martin Brodeur, Martin Gerber, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Vesa Toskala. I’m sure I missed one or two but you get the point.
Now just take a look at the starting goalies who wear no neck protection at all.
And that’s just a list of the prominent ones.
And people complain that not enough players wear visors.
Undoubtedly, the goalie will tell you that they can’t see pucks at their feet with the plastic apron that pushes up around the chin when a goalie looks down. But that doesn’t seem to hurt Brodeur.
So why is this happening? Style? Goalies look kind of ridiculous to start with so that can’t be it. They constantly claim that the reason they wear such monstrously huge equipment is for protection yet they won't slap a simple piece of plastic to the most vulnerable part of their body.
If someone knows the answer then please feel free to enlighten me and the readers but I can’t help but think that at least once in the future, some unlucky goalie is going to get a skate in the windpipe from a crease crasher or a puck in the adams apple like the Habs forward Trent McCleary got years ago which basically ended his career.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Watching Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin trade goals and hits was like watching two goliaths going toe to toe in some kind of epic battle. Everyone else on the ice looked small in comparison. At one point, Ovechkin almost took off Malkin's head with a sneaky bonecrushing hit and the two nearly ended up in a scrap because of it.
In fact the only thing missing from this game was the traditional Georges Laraque versus Donald Brashear scrap but the play was so spectacular that you hardly even noticed.
This is exactly the type of game that the NHL should be trying to encourage - high scoring, hard-hitting and anti-trap. If the American market was exposed to games of this caliber on a nightly basis then the NHL would have no trouble getting a TV contract.
Just compare this game with the absolute mind-destroying yawnfest that was the Lighting's 2-0 win over Ottawa on the weekend. I haven't seen anything that boring and ultimately meaningless since The English Patient (and I've sat through Vancouver-Minnesota games).
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
With MVP candidate Daniel Alfredsson going down with a hip flexor injury, and with perennial 50 goal scorer Dany Heatley out of the lineup, Paddock was forced to use the rest of his lineup in meaningful minutes and , surprise, surprise, it paid off for him.
Antoine Vermette excelled with the extra ice time and everybody else chipped in with a solid effort thus proving that Paddock can win without playing his top line into the ground. Ooops! Too late.
No one can really say that the recent injuries to Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were because of over-use and fatigue but you can make the point that tired players don’t protect themselves as good as rested ones. Whether or not that applies to the Spezza and Heatley injuries is up for debate but you can be certain that the hip injury to Alfredsson is simply a product of mid-season burnout and last night’s flareup should come as a warning to Paddock that Alfie isn’t 28 years old anymore. Perhaps he might want to save Alfredsson for the playoffs instead of throwing him over the bench, sometimes for over 30 minutes a game, in Paddock’s bizarre quest to win the President’s Trophy.
Now Paddock might be forced to use the rest of the lineup that GM Bryan Murray has so graciously provided him. This group of players are largely the same group that wound its way to the Cup finals last year and Paddock should have counted himself lucky to inherit them. Yet Paddock has seemingly taken a lethal lineup and reduced it to a fragmented mess in less than a calendar year.
The team’s goaltenders have no defined role and neither knows when they will start next. In recent months, both Ray Emery and Martin Gerber lurch from one tepid game to the next with neither getting any run of games in a row to get established.
Solid role players who thrived under Murray like Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond look lost this year. When a coveted spot opens on the top line, Paddock chooses to call up Ilya Zubov from Bingo instead of using someone already in his lineup to fill the role.
Yet the Senators are still rolling along on top of the Eastern Conference. So what’s the big worry?
It’s the middle of January and perilously close to the stretch drive after the All-Star game and there is no clear cut number one goalie. The top line is starting to wear down. The only solid defense pairing is the one of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov while Wade Redden struggles defensively with both Andre Meszaros at the start of the year and now with Joe Corvo. There is also a distinct lack of secondary scoring despite last night’s game against Carolina.
Not many people figured Ottawa would be heading into the first round of the playoffs with this many problems but if things aren't corrected soon, that will be the case. Not exactly encouraging for a team expected to make another big run at the Cup.
So what’s the solution?
I don’t know. I’m not the coach. I'm a freaking blogger. But Paddock better figure one out or he'll be wearing the dunce cap when all is said and done. He was handed a Cup ready team on a platter and so far his hands have been shaky at best.
Over at Sens Army they speculated about Ottawa trying to trade for Eric Cole and it’s not really that far fetched for Bryan Murray to pull off such a deal.
Here’s a suggestion :
Would Carolina go for that deal? The salaries are basically an even swap over the long run when you consider Vermette needing a new contract. It would add speed to Carolina’s lineup but also rob them of some physical guys. It may not be realistic but players like Commodore and Cole are what Ottawa needs.
Size still matters.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
""I would have thrown stuff at us, not boo us. I would have thrown stuff at us," he said. "I have never been more embarrassed."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Saturday, January 12, 2008
From The Ottawa Citizen:
"When I first started training him, the workout would start at 7 a.m., so I would always get there at 6:45 just to be ready,'' says Goodman. "Then a couple of days into it, I would get there at 6:45 and he would already be there, so I started coming at 6:40. And the next day, he was already there. This kept going until we were getting there at 6 a.m., so I finally said, 'Chelly, would you rather work out earlier?' And he said very seriously. 'No, I just don't like you beating me to the gym.'"