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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ilya Kovalchuk Contract Extension On Hold

According to the AJC
Contract negotiations between Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers have hit a "snag" general manager Don Waddell said Monday.

"Our position is different than his position right now," Waddell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before Monday night's game with Montreal. "Their position is fixed years with money and we have a different side of that.

"That's what we have to work through. We've gotten through every thing else, now we have to make it through that."

Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, met with Waddell in Atlanta over the weekend. Waddell said he remained optimistic that a new deal would get done.

Kovlachuk was asked about the possibility of being sent to another team at the trade deadline should a new deal not be completed.

“It’s a business,” Kovalchuk said. “I think every player goes through that. It’s the first time for me. It’s [management’s] decision, but I like everything here. Like I’ve said a lot of times, I want to play with one team all my life, but you never know.”
Is this Waddell's public plea? He is utilizing the media to brace (ahem) Thrashers Nation for the possibility of losing their one and only superstar?  As Forbes recently divulged in their NHL fan rankings:
"The team had the worst attendance in the league last year, and second to worst TV ratings. "
Where do you go from there? If Atlanta loses their only hope to marketing this franchise, the answer is simple: They go away!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Power Rankings

Remember, you can also see our rankings at:

The defending champs move up to number one. Nashville continues to move up as do the luckless Wings. The Sharks falter a bit while the Jackets, Canadiens, Flyers and Lightning plummet.

1. (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are healthy again. They have won four in a row and ten of their last thirteen. Marc-Andre Fluery is playing like he wants to start for Team Canada.

2. (2) Washington Capitals
The Caps are rolling. They have a few off nights, witnessed by a 3-6 drubbing by Toronto, but they consistently win with their attacking style and are getting offensive production from everyone.

3. (1) New Jersey Devils
The Devils fall from the top spot, in spite of their continued success. Why? Their even tempo style just doesn’t seem as impressive as the Caps and Pens? This was to be an “off year” for them…maybe we are not completely sold on New Jersey just yet.

4. (5) Chicago Blackhawks
After losing to Patrick Lalime (note NOT Ryan Miller) and the Sabres, Chicago goaltenders Huet and Niemi posted back-to-back shutouts. There were questions in net coming into the season. Those questions have been answered.

5. (10) Nashville Predators
Nashville has won three in a row and five of their last six, and doing it with offense! During their streak they have managed no less than five goals in any game. Steve Sullivan had a hat trick, and Nashville looks like it has a real player in Patric Hornqvist.

6. (6) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings surged last week to move into elite status, but have not sustained enough offense to keep their streak going losing twice this week in games in which they only managed one goal.

7. (4) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks had lost five straight until they beat Anaheim Thursday night. Do they have things together or is this just a little help from a bad team in the middle of a prolonged skid?

8. (11) Phoenix Coyotes
A note to all Phoenix area residents: Go see the Coyotes… this team is good! They just seem to find a way to win. It looks as if the NHL has found a new ownership group in Ice Edge. The new owners have a winner on their hands too.

9. (7) Calgary Flames
Kiprusoff has been his usual brilliant self, but Calgary’s offense has taken the month of December off thus far. A win at home against L.A. halted a three game skid, but Kipper had to hold the Kings to one goal to pull it out.

10. (12) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres had won four in a row before getting shut out in Ottawa Wednesday night. Miller’s fantastic season continues. If he gets even a little offensive support, Buffalo wins.

11. (9) Colorado Avalanche
The Avs have also seen a bit of a power outage, as the team has struggled to score goals consistently. They have been held to one or fewer goals three times so far in December. They still have managed to win their share of games, but also have suffered through some bad games, like their 1-6 home loss to Washington on Tuesday.

12. (8) Boston Bruins
The Bruins cooled this week. They placed Lucic back on IR and lost back to back games to a struggling Islanders club then, even worse, to the hapless Flyers.

13. (13) Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin remains on fire, but the Canucks have not been impressive as a whole. The win some good ones, but then give away games to lesser opponents like the Canes and Ducks.

14. (20) Detroit Red Wings
Like the old television Hee Haw refrain: “If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all…” The Wings won four in a row and then lost Henrik Zetterberg to a shoulder separation. Even when things go right for the Wings, that little black cloud seems to find them again.

15. (15) Minnesota Wild
The Wild are having a fine December. They are winning now with defense. Minnesota has limited opponents to one or fewer goals in four of their last five…all wins.

16. (17) Atlanta Thrashers
Winners of three of their last four, Atlanta counts on Captain Kovalchuk for late game heroics and he has not disappointed. He still has not signed an extension and the rumors of potential trade suitors have begun to surface. Will the Thrashers take care of this potential distraction during the holidays or risk waiting to see what happens?

17. (16) Ottawa Senators
The Sens are getting some quality goaltending lately and have won three of four with a pair of shutouts mixed in. How long will it last? The Devils, Wild, Bruins and Penguins are next on the list of opponents.

18. (14) Dallas Stars
Dallas has lost three straight and has given up way to many goals in that span. After a strong start, the inconsistencies of a year ago have returned.

19. (29) Florida Panthers
Vokoun is getting some goal support and the Panthers are back in the fight… for this week. When David Booth comes back will they continue to ride this offensive wave?

20. (21) Edmonton Oilers
Home is not so sweet for Edmonton. The Oilers had won five straight in December, all on the road; but have now lost their last two... at home.

21. (22) St. Louis Blues
The Blues honored Brett Hull on Tuesday with a ceremony and then followed up with a victory against his first team, Calgary. However, Brett’s daddy’s old club, the Blackhawks shut them out the next night.

22. (23) New York Islanders
The Isles defensive effort has been inconsistent lately. They played a tight contest in a win against the Bruins, and then got blown out by Florida in the next game. Their home and home with the Rangers was a similar story. Their offense is regularly out shooting opponents, but the chances they give up are deadly.

23. (27) Toronto Maple Leafs
With many teams looking for offense, the Leafs have found theirs. The problem is that they still help their opponents find goals as well. Nevertheless, this Toronto team, once left for dead, shows some real promise behind Phil Kessel and Co. up front.

24. (24) New York Rangers
The Rangers lost five in a row before their win against the hated Islanders. Coach Tortorella looked on the verge of a breakdown after number five in that streak. Again, Gaborik scores, but no one else can. Let’s see if the recent benching of Kotalik and Redden prove the cure for what ails them.

25. (18) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets are losers of five straight and have had no offense to speak of. Rick Nash finally broke out of his goalless streak, but it has not been enough to win. This team could be in trouble.

26. (19) Montreal Canadiens
Montreal also has lost five straight and cannot seem to score. The Habs get Markov back on Saturday. They get a little slack because they have lost to some good teams, but very little.

27. (28) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have won two of three, but have now lost Lupul to go along with Selanne. Every time they sow some life, they take another hit.

28. (26) Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have won a few intermittent games, but that locker room is a disaster. The sad thing is that this team has the talent to win, but too many guys (see Hartnell and Carcillo) let their million dollar hands be overpowered by their ten cent heads.

29. (25) Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa is falling apart. The Lightning have won only one game this month and have been shut out three times. How long can this continue before Tocchet gets the axe? We “bet” he does shortly after the New Year.

30. (29) Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes got goalie Cam Ward back from IR and ended their skid on the strength of a Tuomo Ruutu hat trick. The good news doesn’t stop there. If Tampa keeps it up they may raise Carolina up out of the basement in the division, the conference and the power rankings!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hockey To Outlast Tiger Woods

Back in June of 2008 at a news conference at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan, Tiger Woods was asked his thoughts about Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. He gave a bit of a mocking laugh, and then replied:

"I don't really care," he said with an impish smile. "It's all about the Dodgers. I don't think anyone really watches hockey anymore." []
I'm sure that Nike pimp Chairman Phil Knight reminded Tiger (giving him grief) that Nike also sold hockey equipment. The topic came up later when Woods held a pre-U.S. Open news conference.
"Oh, yeah, I've gotten a lot of grief over that," Woods said. "I love the sport. I love watching it, but I don't like watching it on TV. In person it's absolutely incredible, what they're able to do and what they can do. TV doesn't do justice to that. But then, a lot of sports are the same way.

"I said what I said and I was trying to be funny about it, but people didn't perceive it that way."
It wasn't perceived as funny because... it wasn't. Hockey fans could have told you that Tiger was a liar back then.  Who needs TMZ?

In November of 2009 the Orlando Sentinel reported "that neighbors found him lying shoeless and snoring on his Isleworth street after he plowed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree."

The incident triggered an avalanche of character defamation, as a cavalcade of waitresses, porn stars and mistresses of all sorts, began selling their sordid stories involving the golfer to the media.  If his personal life crisis weren't enough, allegations of HGH use now threaten to tarnish his professional life.

Tiger has informed the world that he will take an indefinite leave of absence from golf and hopefully, for him, from the public eye as well.

Now fast forward to the 2010 NHL Playoffs. It is June, and now two years removed from Woods' heinous comments.  Billy Guerin is asked about his thoughts on Tiger Woods:

"Tiger? I don't really care," he says with an impish smile. "It's all about the Red Sox. I don't think anyone really watches golf anymore."**
A hockey fan never forgets, Tiger!

By the way, people will be watching hockey while Tiger is on sabbatical.  They will be watching hockey long after Tiger retires too.  Could there be a more classic example of misplaced importance on celebrity and "hero" worship than Mr. Woods?  The lesson learned (or not learned) here: When it is all said and done, only Jesus and Sidney Crosby are perfect.  Only they have the power to walk on water, save souls and such...

** Bill Guerin's quote is both futuristic and fictional. In no way should these disparaging remarks be attributed to Bill Guerin.  They are merely manifestations of the hockey plumber's ridiculously malicious and child-like mind.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Power Rankings

You can also see our rankings at:

The Devils take over the top spot. The Kings, Bruins, Wild, Canadiens and Oilers move up. The Sharks, Isles and Flyers fall.  Toronto, yes, TORONTO makes a move upward!

1. (5) New Jersey Devils

New Jersey has won four straight. Brodeur tied Sawchuk’s shutout record and everyone is clicking. Wasn’t this to be a down year for the Devils?

2. (3) Washington Capitals
The Caps just keep on winning. Ovechkin/no Ovechkin, Varlamov or Theodore… Washington scores and scores and piles it on until Buffalo’s Ryan Miller closed the door on Wednesday.

3. (2) Pittsburgh Penguins
Lost a potential Finals preview to Chicago in OT without Crosby and then had a letdown game against the lowly Hurricanes. However Pittsburgh redeemed themselves Thursday by halting the Canadiens’ win streak in Montreal.

4. (1) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have lost three in a row, including a shootout loss to St. Louis and in OT to the Kings. Five of their next eight games are at the Shark Tank which should help halt the recent skid.

5. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago is winning with defense. Byfuglien and Versteeg punched in OT winners in tight, low-scoring affairs.

6. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Winning three straight in both, high and low scoring contests, the Kings put up one more tally than their opponents. Good teams just find ways to win, and L.A. is looking really good.

7. (4) Calgary Flames
Defense is the theme in Calgary as well in December. Either scoring or limiting their opponent to one goal in each game, Iginla and Co. would like to give Kippy a little more wiggle room in net.

8. (13) Boston Bruins
Looking to make Phil Kessel sorry he didn’t offer the hometown discount this offseason the Bruins punished Toronto in a home and home series scoring twelve goals in the two victories.

9. (9) Colorado Avalanche
The Avs closed out a rather lengthy road trip with a pair of victories, but let down the home crowd by getting shut out by the Wild upon their return. Colorado has been a little inconsistent as of late, but still look like a contender.

10. (10) Nashville Predators
Winners of three of their last four… who are these high flying Predators? Nashville has not been held to less than three goals in any game this month!

11. (11) Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes had not lost in the month of December until running into a hot Los Angeles team on Thursday. The Kings prevailed in a shoot out; therefore Phoenix still has yet to lose in regulation. Now if the NHL could convince a few locals to actually come see how good this team is. THAT would be a real win.

12. (7) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have lost two of three. The team is not scoring, requiring Vezina candidate goaltender Ryan Miller to shut out opponents to win. Maybe Miller could let a few soft ones go by him in practice to boost the team’s forwards confidence.

13. (14) Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have lost two of three but rebounded at home to beat Atlanta Thursday night. Daniel Sudin has been red hot and scores whether the rest of the team contributes or not.

14. (12) Dallas Stars
Keeping it close in regulation but can’t get over the hump in the extra time. The Stars have lost their last two games in a shoot out and OT. When does the coach speak change to “We’ve got to put together a full 65 minutes…”?

15. (20) Minnesota Wild
The Wild have gone, errr wild scoring five goals in each of their first three games this month…all wins. They were shut out in Phoenix, but returned the favor by shutting out Colorado on the road the following game.

16. (16) Ottawa Senators
It’s been a bumpy December for the Sens. Notching their only victories against the downtrodden Ducks and the floundering Flyers. How’s that for alliteration?

17. (15) Atlanta Thrashers
Offense has eluded Atlanta. The Thrashers have not scored more than two goals in any game in December. Their four game road trip was mostly unkind, maybe some home cooking will help Kovalchuk and friends find the back of the net again.

18. (17) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets made a minor trade with St. Louis this week and have lost two of three. Despite their skid Mason has looked solid again and Rick Nash ended his goal scoring draught.

19. (24) Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens had won three in a row before Pittsburgh halted their streak at home on Thursday. Price has been playing better and they are starting to get some secondary scoring.

20. (19) Detroit Red Wings
The Wings have battled, but still have lost three of their four games in December. The team took another hit, losing forward Daniel Cleary for about four weeks. Detroit can’t seem to get on track this season.

21. (26) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have won four straight. Horcoff punched in two consecutive shoot out winners and Edmonton suddenly is climbing the standings.

22. (25) St. Louis Blues
St. Louis showed some offensive spark last week, but scored only one goal in their last two. Lucky for them Ty Conklin decided to shut out his former Detroit club in a 1-0 squeaker.

23. (18) New York Islanders
Tavares has been scoring goals in bunches but spotty defensive work by the rest of the club has spiraled the Isles into a three game losing streak…even giving the Flyers a win along the way.

24. (23) New York Rangers
Marian Gaborik has yet to score in December and the Rangers have only one win this month. See a connection? If Gaborik doesn’t do it, practically no one else will.

25. (21) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have won just one of their last five and must be thankful that Philadelphia is in a bigger slide to take some heat off. How long until “Vinny watch” starts in Tampa? What’s that? It already has?

26. (22) Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have to feel lucky that the Islanders took a night off on Tuesday, or they would be starring at a seven game losing streak. No matter… this Flyers team is still in a heap of trouble. Could the injury to Emery actually be a good thing?

27. (29) Toronto Maple Leafs
Winners of four of their last six the Leafs are… umm, hot? It seems crazy, but Toronto could actually get back in it!

28. (28) Anaheim Ducks
Getzlaf and Perry have been amazing, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that Anaheim notched it’s first win in December. The team is fighting and keeping games close, but they have not been able to get on the other side of those one goal losses.

29. (23) Florida Panthers
The Panthers have been victims of four straight losses. They are still getting extraordinary effort from their goaltenders, but cannot score. The once surging Florida team has only Carolina to cushion their fall.

30. (29) Carolina Hurricanes
Consecutive victories against Vancouver and Pittsburgh impress, but this team is going nowhere fast. Again it is hard to believe that this team made it to the Conference Final last season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Is Wrong With the Penguins Power Play?

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending champions.  They are tied for the league lead with 20 wins and are fourth in the NHL in goals per game.  They have two of the best players on the planet. Yet, the Penguins' power play ranks twenty-eighth in the league, converting on a pathetic 14.0% rate.  Contrast that with the league leading Capitals at 24.4% and one can really see how poorly the Penguins fare.

Let's go back to the 2007-08 season when the team was on their way to the first of two consecutive Stanley Cup Final runs.  Pittsburgh finished that regular season fourth overall with a 20.4% power play conversion. Last year they dropped to twentieth at 17.2% and now have fallen even further down the chart.  Why?

There are two main differences between the power play units of '07-'08 and today. 1. No Petr Sykora. 2. No Ryan Malone.

Although he struggle in other facets of the game, particularly once Dan Bylsma's system was implemented, Sykora was effective with the man advantage because he had a knack for finding shooting lanes and actually shot the puck. Consider two seasons ago when Sykora was second on the team in both shots and power play goals; and then second again in power play goals, third in shots last season.

Malone two seasons ago had 11 power play goals which ranked him third on the team.  With Tampa last season he was third on the team and ranks second on the Lightning this season.  Malone provided the Penguins with the all important in-the-crease presence that the team has not been able to replace.  He was the type of body that could absorb nightly punishment in front of the net and he had the hands to finish in tight quarters.  Like Tomas Holmstrom... five years ago. 

With the man advantage, Penguins are often accused of trying to be "too fancy" or looking to make "the perfect play," but without a gunner and a crease cleaner, are they not forced to attempt to dissect their opponents penalty kill?

Maybe it is too early yet to judge their special teams performance just one-third of the way into the season, considering the injury issues they have faced.  However, if they never find a replacement for the elements that Sykora and Malone provided, they will continue to struggle.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I See (Nearly) Dead People: The NHL's Head Shot Criteria

The Blackhawks' Duncan Keith apparently will not be considered a candidate for suspension for his hit to the head on Matt Cooke... who incidentally was playing in his first game after serving a suspension for a hit to the head on the Rangers' Artem Anisimov.

Hockey Plumber has discussed this topic before.  The NHL clearly does not tolerate knee on knee hits as witnessed by the time outs dished to Georges Laraque and even superstar Alex Ovechkin. Yet, as the list of 2009 NHL suspensions grows, we fail to see any consistency.

Note that this hit DOES merit suspension:

This hit DOES NOT:

and we STILL cannot believe that this hit DOES NOT:

So what criteria does Colin Campbell use to determine if a shot to the head deserves consideration for suspension?  A dart board? His mood?  It's not the extent of the injury, because as seen in the last video David Booth is still out from the hit by Mike Richards which occurred on October 24th; and Anisimov played in the Rangers next game.  Does Campbell possess a sixth sense that can measure the perpetrator’s intent?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Power Rankings

You can also see our rankings at:

The Blackhawks stumble. The Pens and Caps keep climbing. The Blackhawks stumble while Philly and the Rangers nearly fall off the map.

1. (2) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have won three of their last four, losing only to St. Louis in a shoot out. Heatley continues to make San Jose glad they traded for him. The Fins climb to the top of the standings and the rankings.

2. (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens are getting healthier and have won three straight in dominating fashion. Crosby is absolutely on fire… even Mike Rupp has displayed a new found scoring touch nothing a hat trick on his sons birthday. “Thanks Dad!”

3. (6) Washington Capitals
Have won three in a row even with Ovie injured/suspended. Do they actually play better without him?

4. (5) Calgary Flames
Flames continue to follow Iginla’s lead and have won three of four. Like their captain, Calgary is scoring and beating teams up.

5. (7) New Jersey Devils
Aside from losing his showdown with Luongo, Brodeur has been shutting down opponents by standing up in net. Captain Langenbrunner has been supplying all the offense the Devils need lately.

6. (1) Chicago Blackhawks
After winning eight in a row the Hawks have lost three of four. Chicago signed three of their young guns (Toews, Kane and Keith) to extensions, but they fall this week in the rankings.

7. (9) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have won four in a row. Miller is All-World nearly every night. The U.S. Olympic team’s medal odds have to be getting better every week.

8. (10) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are also working on a hot streak. Kopitar is still not putting up the numbers he did when Smyth was in the lineup, but Drew Doughty keeps the Kings rolling.

9. (8) Colorado Avalanche
Colorado is getting worn out by their up-tempo style? There has to be a reason why the Avs have lost seven of their last nine games. Anderson was hurt against Florida, but Budaj played well in a loss to Pittsburgh in his stead.

10. (4) Nashville Predators
The Preds cool off a bit as they have reverted to struggling again in the goal scoring department. Tough to win when you don’t put the puck in the net. They have picked it up a bit in their last two but split those contests.

11. (18) Phoenix Coyotes
Jovo is back and the Coyotes have won three straight. Nearly as big as a surprise as Colorado this season, Bryzgalov and Co. make is extremely difficult on opponents to score.

12. (11) Dallas Stars
Dallas has split their last four beating weaker teams and losing to the better clubs. The Stars stay where they are.

13. (13) Boston Bruins
The Bruins had an up and down week. They were held to one goal in their two losses and scored four times in both wins. Note to Tim Thomas: Don’t give up more than one goal.

14. (20) Vancouver Canucks
Luongo had trouble with the Sharks but beat up on a pair of Atlantic teams in New Jersey and Philly. The Canucks are healthy and getting consistent play in both ends and contributions from nearly everybody. Vancouver starts its climb.

15. (22) Atlanta Thrashers
Atlanta closed out November with four consecutive victories; notching a pair of shut outs along the way. Max Afinogenov LOVES playing with Kovalchuk, and looks poised to have a career year.

16. (12) Ottawa Senators
The Sens appeared to have righted the ship but have had their butts handed to them the last three games, giving up four, five and six goals respectively. Adding insult to injury, Sens fans had to watch Dany Heatley and the Sharks torture Ottawa in San Jose.

17. (16) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets have been less than responsible defensively and have lost three of their last four including a 6-3 drubbing by Toronto at home. Has anyone seen Rick Nash lately?

18. (17) New York Islanders
The Isles beat the defending Champs one night and then got smoked by the Devils the next. Matt “the Destroyer” Moulson notched a hat trick in Atlanta and now has 14 for the season! That John Tavares kid is good too… but he’s no Matt Moulson!

19. (19) Detroit Red Wings
What the hell is going on with the Red Wings? They are ridiculously inconsistent. Shut out twice in a row and then score 8 in their next two games. It’s not too often that Detroit fans look to the Lions to help boost the sports fan morale… but, it’s an uncharacteristic year for these Wings.

20. (28) Minnesota Wild
The Wild’s newest additions Kobasew and Latendresse have sparked the team to four high flying wins in a row. They move up much because other teams have fallen so far.

21. (21) Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa has lost four straight. Time for another naked shoot out drill?

22. (14) Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have lost six of seven and look lifeless and confused right now. The fired coach John Stevens, but didn’t GM Paul Holmgren retool this club?

23. (15) New York Rangers
The Rangers spent the week getting schooled by the Penguins twice. Marian Gaborik keeps doing his thing while the rest of the team wilts around him.

24. (24) Montreal Canadiens
Les Habs ebb and flow. They shut down one opponent and then get blown out the next night. Maybe it’s all the long 100 year pre-game ceremonies. Maybe they are just not very good.

25. (25) St. Louis Blues
Blues still can’t win when they give up more than two goals. St. Louis has been especially tough on the top tier teams, but just so-so against the rest of the pack.

26. (27) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers lost Hemsky for the rest of the season. Does it matter? Another week of boom or bust.

27. (23) Florida Panthers
Goalies beware Florida blueliner Keith Ballard. In the midst of dropping five straight, Ballard hacked his own goaltender in the head while attempting to break his own stick on the goal post. The Panthers only win in their last seven came in a game when Ballard knocked Colorado (and former Panthers) goaltender Craig Anderson out of the game.

28. (26) Anaheim Ducks
After stringing together a few wins, the Ducks have stunk up December, losing the ageless Teemu Selanne for 4-6 weeks to injury.

29. (30) Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian Burke is a miracle worker again. The horrid Leafs have won five of six and are on the right track? Stay tuned.

30. (29) Carolina Hurricanes
Have lost five straight. Trade talks have started. Is it too soon for the Canes to forfeit the rest of the season? Injuries have hurt this club, but the team that made it all the way to the conference finals last season flat out stinks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Flyers Share Too Much: Headed For Destruction

The Philadelphia Flyers, everyone's vogue pick for the Cup during the preseason, are in a funk.  Third place in the Atlantic and ninth in the conference... and an apparent mess behind the scenes.

The Flyers have lost five of their last six games are reeling.  Coach John Stevens' job security has been put into question by the media, in the blogsphere and even a recently minted website:

Then, Chris Pronger and GM take it to the next level by quietly calling out team captain Mike Richards.

When the Flyers traded for Chris Pronger at the NHL Draft last summer, general manager Paul Holmgren said that the game's best defenseman would be expected would be vocal in the dressing room.

That he’d be someone 24-year-old team captain Mike Richards could lean on during hard times.

Pronger told on Tuesday that Richards has not asked for his help and that he is wary of “stepping” on Richards’ toes.

Holmgren added that now may be the time for Richards to trust his instincts, but the young centerman appears to be at a crossroads.

“Mike is an intelligent young man,” Holmgren said. “He knows that he has experienced guys around him he can lean on if he has to. But I also think he has to trust his gut in certain situations. Maybe that is where he is at a crossroads right now. He has to trust his gut and his instincts.

Pronger told he is walking a “tightrope” in the dressing room right now.

“He hasn’t asked me for any help,” Pronger said of Richards. “I’ve been in his shoes. It’s not [bleeping] easy. The expectations are high on him and on the team. We’re not playing to the best of our abilities, and a lot of that gets shouldered by the captain.

“Sometimes it’s fair and just and sometimes it’s not, and it’s hard to deal with that, especially at [his] age. You’re trying to figure out yourself. At 24, some kids are coming out of college, business school, some don’t even have a job at 24.”

Flyers fans: Blame Stevens, blame Richards if you must, but the problems begin with the GM Holmgren.  Why has no one pointed the finger at this guy?
Sure Holmgren has made many good decisions as Flyers GM.  He stole Braydon Coburn, and acquired Kimmo Timonen and has made wise draft choices; yet he is most responsible for the current status of the team. 

It was Holmgren that bought the oft-injured and massively overpaid Daniel Briere.  It was Holgren who decided to let Mike Knuble (precisely the kind of player the Flyers need right now) go in the off-season.  It was Holgren who over estimated Prongers value (no Mike, he is NOT "the game's best defenseman") when he traded for him and then made matters worse by saddling the team with another huge, long-term contract which Philly will be responsible to pay for when Pronger is in his 40's. It was Holmgren who let go of goaltenders Antero Niittymäki, who has been fantastic in Tampa; and Martin Biron who was spectacular for the Flyers the past two post seasons.  It was Holmgren that decided to instead rely his teams' chances on former clubhouse cancer and infamous hot-tempered Ray Emery.

Now, it's Holgren that has broken rule number 1: In times of trouble NEVER talk about it to the media!  If he believes that the team captain need to step up, great... talk about that behind closed doors.  Additionally, why foster an environment for Pronger to publicly speak out about the team struggles? 

This team is spiraling and there seems to be a loss of focus at every level, but it starts in the front office.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ovechkin Another Kind of Dangerous

Alex the Gr8 needs a sit down.  The NHL is not keen on suspending it's stars; nor is the League (as has been mentioned here) keen on knee on knee shots.  However, Colin Campbell, the NHL's disciplinarian, is now facing a quandary... he shouldn't be, but he is.

Does Campbell send a message that no one is immune to being suspended for "reckless" play, and at the same time sit one of the League's most marketable players, or not?

He had no problem telling Georges Laraque that shots to the knee are unacceptable. Like many lesser stars, Laraque, and a few days later, Matt Cooke with his hit to the head against the Rangers forward Artem Anisimov were cited for past incidents and consequentially suspended.

Yet, Ovechkin has had knee on knee contact that resulted in injury to Sergei Gonchar in last years' playoffs, and a "slew foot" on Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres this season may not be enough to cite Ovechkin for past crimes?  This should not be in question.

Ovie refused to address this incident last night after the game, but Carolina Coach Paul Maurice called the hit "dangerous." "I don't know how you want to define the play, but it's dangerous for both players."

Last night Caps coach Bruce Boudreau stated that he did not think the incident merited a suspension.  Why would he?  Yet today, even he offered, speaking of his star player to the media: "He's pretty reckless..."

In that same session Ovechkin offered that he didn't feel that he should be suspended, nor does he feel that he should have any reason to change his game.

It is for that very reason that Colin Campbell must suspend him.  Ovechkin, injured yet another player by carelessly extending his knee and colliding into an opponent's.  He injured himself as a bonus.  With all of his antics and over the top celebrations, Ovie's lack of "respect for the game" has been questioned by hockey purist, and attention whores like Don Cherry alike.

Yet, a lack of respect for his fellow players' well being, becoming a danger to himself, as well as others, should be questioned by the League and earn him some considerable time in the press box.