yankee hockey

HOCKEY: APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD

Posted in Carolina, NY Islanders, Philadelphia, Players, Surprise of the Week, Vancouver by yankhockey on October 30, 2008

Before you read this post, watch this video of Doug Weight hitting Brandon Sutter:

This hit has caused a lot of discussion about the role of checking in the game of hockey. This hit was a frightening moment for everyone, both on the ice and watching the game. However scary it was, though, it was still a clean hit. It’s hard to call any blow to the head clean, and I don’t mean to support high hits. It’s clean because according to the rules of hockey, no illegal action occurred during that hit. The puck was within reach of Sutter, and he was reaching for it, and Weight neither left his feet nor lifted his elbows. The reason this hit occurred the way it did was because Sutter was reaching forward for the puck and had his head down, and if there is one thing that every hockey player must learn, it’s keep your head up or this will happen.

Hockey is played by large men standing on thin blades on ice. Anyone who has had the misfortune of driving on a cold morning after a snow fall can tell you that if you’re going one direction on ice, you’re going to keep going in that direction. That these kinds of hits don’t happen more often is a testament the skill on skates that these players have. But all the skill in the world can’t change the fact that skating with speed on ice is far from a controllable act. That’s part of the reason hockey is so exciting. Hockey is taking something chaotic, ice, and tries to make something controlled out of it. When you are watching a player fly down the rink at full speed the entire time you’re thinking to yourself “Can he stop in time? Can he turn away from the boards?” And when you see that two men are about to collide you feel a rush of adrenalin because you know just how frightening and exciting it can be.

This is why many people complain that hockey is too violent (well, that and the fighting). I consider that very hypocritical since the most watched game in the States is football, a game no one calls too violent even when necks are broken, because they understand that the violence is inherit in the game. Hockey is the same way, and like football you cannot take unfortunate events like these as standard.

Every time there is an incident like this, people begin to call for penalties on hits to the head, regardless of whether the hit is clean or not. This just can’t happen, you can’t penalize people for accidents. Look at Doug Weight during the clip above; he’s not happy with what he did, he didn’t intend to hurt anyone. It sucks blaming the victim for the hit, but Sutter should never have had his head down like that, and there is no way for Weight to change his direction… he’s on ice! Would you call a 15 yard penalty because a safety breaks a receiver’s ankle on a hit? Of course not, it was unintentional and more importantly it’s a part of the game that all the players are fully aware of. Every time a hockey player steps on the ice they know that all kinds of things could happen to them. They could take a puck to the eye, a skate to the throat, a stick to the jaw… the list of things that could go wrong is very long. A hit like Weight’s on Sutter is not like Todd Bertuzzi’s on Steve Moore which was certainly meant to injure. Weight’s hit was an unhappy accident where someone got hurt.

No one likes to see anyone get hurt on the ice, and most players would never think of trying to knock someone unconscious. You can’t call a penalty on a hit just because it’s to the head. If the player leaves his feet yes, or uses his stick sure, but not for what is obviously unintentional contact. The excitement of hockey is also the cause of plays like this, the uncertainty of playing a fast game on ice. If players are afraid to play hard just in case they will be penalized then hockey will lose it’s edge.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

How about the Rangers letting  Brendan Shannahan walk away? They just couldn’t make room for him on their staff. That’s good news for a lot of teams looking for some veterans and some scoring. Shannahan is still an excellent player, and absolutely one of the better leaders that a team can ice. I think he’s definitely got one more good year in him, one more year the Rangers probably could have used. This may be something that comes back to bite them. Looking to the future I see Vancouver being the most likely destination. They have a ton of cap space available and can beat any other offers, and they are in desperate need of both veterans leadership and a top six forward. There may be some issue where he doesn’t want to come out West, so if not in Vancouver I could see him in the Southeast, or if the Flyers could make enough room Philadelphia.

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AH FISH STICKS

Posted in Boston, NY Islanders, third jersey, What Going Right by yankhockey on October 29, 2008
Bill Guerin models the Islanders new third jersey

Bill Guerin models the Islanders' new third jersey

If I was the type of guy to use emoticons, I’d have a a teary-eyed face in the title of this post. Why New York? Why no Gordon’s Fisherman?

Actually, I’m more then alright with what came out of Long Island on Monday when the Islanders unveiled their new third jersey. Despite some talk about this being a “completely new jersey”, it’s basically the blue uniform they wore when they won four Stanley Cups, except with the Reebok Edge rounded hemline. Actually, and I wonder whether the jersey will sit like this, or if this is just how Bill Guerin likes to wear it, this jersey seems to sit tighter across the chest and shoulders like we were told the Edge was supposed to. I happen to like that look, it’s reminiscent of the sweaters of old which always look great. Forgive my aside for a moment, I just think the billowing, Olympic swimming pool sized jerseys that have been around since the late 80s just don’t say hockey to me, they sit more like basketball jerseys. Hell, if I had my way they’d all be wearing knitted wool sweaters again!

As much as I would love to see the Fishsticks jersey again (cause really, I love ugly things), this is a good direction to take for the Islanders. Like many teams in the expansion era of the NHL, the Islanders have had more then their fair share of bad jerseys. Also, like many expansion teams, their first jersey was their best. Those first sweaters were created before sports team logos and colors had to be louder and busier then the next team’s.  I’ve already gone over what I think about new logos versus the classic ones, so I won’t get into it here, except to say that in hockey, a simple logo works much better. Their current jersey design is actually very nice, I like the Cup stripes, I like the shoulders, I like the colors, but going back to a design more reminiscent of their original is a great idea.

I hope marketers from other teams are paying attention because this is how you do a third jersey. No flash, no gimmicks, real hockey. This is a sweater that players will want to wear on the ice, and better yet, fans will want to wear in the seats.

There really isn’t anything to critique here, and in this case that’s a good thing. The only thing I’d like to see is the Cup stripes. I really like that addition they made on the Edge jerseys and I think it would look pretty awesome on this one as well. However, you can’t fault them for wanting to create something more historically accurate. You wouldn’t know it looking at today’s team, but the Islanders were the powerhouse team of  the early eighties, and this is pretty much the jersey the wore. As much as I’d like to see players writing in embarrassment in the fish sticks jersey again… I have absolutely no complaints about this jersey.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

It took a little while to get going. After a shut-out on opening night, there really hasn’t been much in the way of goaltending prowess until the last week or so. It’s nice to see goaltenders start to keep pucks out of the net again, not that I don’t like scoring, but there’s something exciting about not scoring too. But how about Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins going two straight without letting a puck into the net. Not just two, two plus one overtime. Not just two plus one overtime, two plus one overtime in two days facing 59 shots over all. In those two games his team scored a total of two goals. I think it’s safe to say that without Thomas Boston could be considered to be struggling right now. I’m guessing he’s going to be one of the three stars of the week. What’s also nice out of Boston is that apparently Phil Kessel read that I didn’t think I would lead his team in scoring, cause somethings got this kid going right now. I’m glad Boston fans can watch this kid work all year, cause he’s a real hockey treat.

CANUCKNUCKLEHEADS

Posted in Retired Jerseys, This Weeks Questions, Vancouver by yankhockey on October 26, 2008
Canucks Retire No. 7 on Saturday Night

Canucks Retire No. 7 on Saturday Night

I’ve been planning on spending an entry for each jersey retired this year, and as such have the unfortunate responsibility of writing about what the Canucks pulled on Saturday. After a lot anticipation on the unveiling of the mysterious “7th Man” in Vancouver, they managed a beautifully choreographed pre-game disappointment. As everyone was anticipating, Vancouver’s seventh man is their fans. But don’t underestimate the ability of Canucks’ management to make questionable decisions. With the help of former No. 7 Cliff Ronning (whose game used signed stick sits next to my computer), the Canucks “retired” No. 7.

I’m not kidding folks. They even unveiled a banner with the slogan “We Are All Canucks” on it. Still don’t believe me? Here’s the video of it here (sorry, tried to embed the thing, but wordpress says no). The story is that, given the sellout streak at GM Place going back nearly five years now, that the organization wanted to pay respects to the fans they feel are the best in the league. It’s hard to argue when all the seats have been filled, even when Bertuzzin, Naslund, and Morrison stopped playing like the West Coast Express and started playing more like the The Amtrak Delay. Really, there are many ways to celebrate a great fan base, giving a fake number retiring ceremony seems kinda… I dunno… silly?

Two things come to mind: first, the Seattle Seahawks did it first, and it was stupid then. Second this is the most gimmicky thing I have ever seen in a hockey rink. Luckily the Canucks management isn’t completely off their rockers, the number is only “retired” until the end of the year, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Give the Canucks some credit, they played a great game on a jersey reitrement night, beating the Oilers 6-3 (no points for the seventh man, though they were +2). The seventh man in the stands certainly got into the game, cheering and chanting. In fact, some fans got a litle too into it, having to be escorted out for throwing objects onto the Oilers’ bench. The Canucks deserve this type of game December 17th when they retire Linden’s No. 16, a well deserved retirement.

I wish there was more to say on the subject, but it’s impossible to go back and look at the career of a teams fans. The number 7 has been worn by some good Canucks players like Ronning, Andre Bourdrias, and of course most recently Morrison, who I’m sure would have loved to be there. Retiring No. 7 for the fans though? It’s something I could see happening in Atlanta or Phoenix, but the Canucks like to think of themselves as one of the classy teams of the league, and this just isn’t classy, it’s cliche.

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

When will the Oilers stop their skid? Will the Flyers continue their sudden winning streak? How many goalies will St. Louis lose, and will even prevent them from winning? Will Marian Gaborik be healthy in time to be traded? Will either of the Sedin twins ever score another goal? Will Keith Tkachuk ever be kept off the scoresheet? Will goal scoring in the NHL continue the trend that saw a 6.5 goals-per-game average on Super Saturday? And, the most important question of the week: Will the Islanders be bringing back the fishsticks jersey tonight!?

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SENIOR MOVEMENT

Posted in Philadelphia, Surprise of the Week, Veterans by yankhockey on October 24, 2008

I already gave some love to the youngsters in the league, but they aren’t alone in making an impact. There have been a few veterans this year who have shown that they can still play the game. A few vets have even shown that they can still be on the top of their game. Here are five players over 35 who are creating a real buzz in the NHL this year.

Keith Tkatchuk age 36: It’s been more then ten years since Tkachuk has scored 40 or more goals. This year, seven goals in six games. Are you kidding me? Keith Tkachuk? This isn’t the same Keith Tkachuk that arrived in training camp out of shape a couple of years ago, this is a Keith Tkachuk that aims to be one of the best players in the league again. Right now he’s on pace to beat Gretzky’s single season scoring record. Not that I believe he’ll even come close, but wouldn’t it be exciting if he could manage 50-in-50? I remember a commercial for hockey, possibly for a video game, where Tkachuk described his name as the sound of a puck hitting the back of the net. Well goaltenders, that’s true again this year, so be careful when playing against the Blues.

Joe Sakic age 39: Burnaby Joe Sakic has never had a bad season in his entire career. With eight points in seven games this year it doesn’t look like he plans on slowing down. He still has the most glorius wrist shot in the league. He’s still the scariest player on the Avalanche, and that’s saying a lot. This guy has been the face of the franchise since it was The Nordiques! In an age of heavy player movement, that’s is truly the most incredible part of his glorious career. I truly believe that this is Sakic’s last year, and not because he’s too old to play, but because I think he wants to move into the off-ice part of his career. Not only that, he doesn’t want to be like Brett Hull and go out with a whimper. If this is his last season he’s going to want to be huge.

Rob Brind’Amour age 38: With three goals and one assist in five games, Brind’Amour is poised to have yet another season of over achieving. The thing about Brind’Amour is that he’s been a pretty solid point producer his entire career, with a few off years, but no one really gives him much credit. At 38 he should be on the decline of his career, but this guy never declines. He won’t score more then 82 points, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a big part of this team if the Hurricanes are going to go to the post-season this year. He’s the best leader this team has had and there will be a large vacuum when he departs, but that won’t be for a couple seasons I’m sure, so he’ll have time to groom another.

Niklas Lidstrom age 38: I remember reading about how, when Olympic hockey comes to Vancouver in 2010, Lidstrom was going to be 40 years old. “40?” I said, “That can’t be right.” But sure enough, it was. I can’t believe this guy is already 38 because he plays like a teenager. He has so much energy, so much speed and strength, and so much innate skill, when you watch him on the ice he looks 20 years younger. When you look back through the years you suddenly remember that he’s been dominating this league for a long time, but then you watch him again and it’s like the first time. With two goals and four assists in six games it looks like it will be another point producing season for the old timer, but you must always remember with Lidstrom that it’s his defensive play that wins him the Norris Trophy every year.

Martin Brodeur age 36: Ok, I was fighting this because it just seemed to obvious. But what can I do? The best goaltender in the league is at it again, already posting two shutouts, a GAA of 1.30, and a win/loss record of 5-1. There’s no getting past the fact that Brodeur is the BEST player 35 or older playing in the NHL. He’s outplaying everyone this year, and I’d like to say I’m surprised, but the only thing that surprises me is when he gives up more then two goals. How can a goalie be that good? How many years are we going to measure every other goaltender to Brodeur? Everyone we’ve tagged as his successor; Luongo, Turco, Kiprusof… have been having way below par years, but Brodeur just keeps on rolling. That’s why he’s the ultimate hockey old timer.

Now I have a question for ESPN.com. Have you guys been reading my blog? Less then a week after my Youth Movement article, the front page of their hockey site has the exact same headline, though their articles are formatted differently. Still, is it merely coincidence that my interest in hockey’s youngsters pre-dated ESPNs by mere days? Well ESPN, if you are reading this, there’s no need to steal my ideas, you can always just put me on the payroll. And if you are not reading this, why not? It’s a good blog with a lot of cool hockey analysis, you should be reading it.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

This weeks surprise are the still winless Flyers. This is a team I believed was going to be a contender in the East. Not that it’s too late, but going winless through six is no way to start off as a playoff contender. This is a better team then 0-3-3. They have some small goaltending issues, but their offense and defense are sound. They’ve been outplayed, badly.  They aren’t the only team off to a slow start, and as the year goes on things will begin to even out, but if it wasn’t for the World Series sports fans in Philly wouldn’t be too optimistic right now. Management may feel the need to shake things up, if I was John Stevens I’d be doing everything I could to inspire my team to grind out a win before I’m out the door.

WHO RULES THE NHL

Posted in rulebook, What Going Right by yankhockey on October 22, 2008

For the most part I think the NHL is well policed. The rules all work together very nicely, and the officials don’t miss too many calls. Not only that, unlike every other sport, the officials get to decide whether to let the teams play or call it close, which I believe gives hockey an additional level of excitement. But there is one rule that hasn’t once been called right since it was created: the diving rule.

According to rule 52, added to the rule book for the 2005-06 season:

  • A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (“diving”).
  • Regardless if a minor penalty for diving is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury.
  • The first such incident will result in a warning letter being sent to the player, the second such incident will result in a $1,000 fine, the third such incident will result in a $2,000 fine and the fourth such incident will result in a one-game suspension.
  • And that’s all well and good, but it’s not really ever called right. The practice in the NHL is to call one player for diving, and then a player from the other team for the infraction that the player diving was embellishing. My question to the NHL refs is; how does calling it that way discourage divers? So what you’re telling me is that, if I’m Derek Boogaard and I make like Jarome Iginla has just tripped me, I can take him off the ice during a four-on-four situation? Bullshit.

    There are some people (I’m talking about you Don Cherry) who like to claim that this is a softy European phenomenon. I’m definitely not one of those people. I’ve seen Todd Bertuzzi dive so many times I figured he was hallucinating he was at the pool. And dare I mention Syd the Kid’s penchant for falling at a feather’s touch? It affects all-stars as well as also-rans, and it’s shameful nature is the reason that a specific rule was created to make it illegal.

    The problem, of course, is that whether a player has dived or not is a judgment call. Refs don’t want to get it wrong so they play it safe and send both players to the box. I understand that, but I think that may even encouraging diving. Look, hockey fans hate seeing soccer flops on the ice, and we all know one or two players from rival teams that do it all the time (our own teams, of course, are clean as a freshly bathed baby). If you start calling it straight diving, with no call on the opposing player, maybe you’ll miss a few, but you’ll also encourage players to stay on their skates instead of allowing themselves to fall. There’s nothing more frustrating then watching one of your favourite players fall to the ice looking for a call that isn’t coming and then not being in the play to cover his man who ends up scoring a goal. At the same time there is nothing that makes you prouder as a hockey fan than to see one of your favourite players fight through the hook and actually get the call because the ref saw his effort.

    Diving is occurs all over the place in the NHL. Look you guys, you’re gigantic men pushing each other around on ice, we know that falls occur, as do real penalties. But we’re smart fans, the smartest in fact. We know when you act like a fish freshly caught writhing on the floor of a boat that you’re faking it, and we don’t like it.

    The GMs are meeting tomorrow and they will surely be talking about rule changes. First off, please don’t widen the nets, this isn’t soccer and we don’t need to pump up players stats that much. Secondly, figure out how to correctly call the diving penalty so we won’t see any more of these ridiculous calls.

    WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

    This week, it’s American hockey. Ryan Miller is keeps on winning. Ryan Kesler is the best player on the Canucks right now. Mike Modano is scoring goals like his younger self. And how about Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel and Zach Parise? USA hockey is going to have a hard time leaving out anyone from their Olympic roster if the Americans keep playing this way. And as an American writing about hockey, well, I’m damn proud. Teach ’em how it’s played boys!

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    YOUTH MOVEMENT

    Posted in Players, Prospects, This Weeks Questions by yankhockey on October 20, 2008

    Long gone are the days when teams would stock up on high scoring vets in order to become successful in the NHL. Thanks to the CBA and teams like Pittsburgh showing how it’s done with young players, teams are trusting their young players with more responsibility, both on and off the ice. We’re looking at a new generation of stars people, and here are the most important players under 25 on each team. These are the players we will still be hearing about for the next 15 years.

    1. Anaheim: Corey Perry age 23: Like the rest of the Ducks, Perry has had a very slow start this year, but don’t let that fool you. He’s huge (6’3″ 209) and still growing. But he also has a pair of sweet hands. He’s the kind of player that will play very well until he hits about 25-26, when all of a sudden he’ll be scoring 40 goals, 100 points. Ryan Getzlaf may hold the “A”, but Perry will hold the scoring title.

    2. Atlanta: Kari Lehtonen age 24: Just take a look at the stats. Lehtonen has a winning record on the Thrashers! Luongo didn’t have a winning record on a better Florida team, DiPietro doesn’t have a winning record on a better run Islanders team. Lehtonen and Kovalchuk carry this team, and Kovalchuk is 25. This is a goaltender who could win 40 if he played on a better team, and he’ll probably get his chance before his career is done.

    3. Boston: Phil Kessel age 21: Kessel will never be he highest scorer on this team. He’s not even their highest scorer under 25. He’ll score plenty, but his role will be more important then that. Kessel is the future of Boston’s leadership. This guy plays with a lot of grit and heart on a team that appreciates grit and heart. He plays a Boston type of game, and it’s unfortunate that it may take a couple of seasons for the management and fans to notice. There are a lot of rumours that he is may be traded, and I think that would be a big mistake for Boston to make.

    4. Buffalo: Thomas Vanek age 24: Is it fair to call a current star a future star? I think in this case it is because Vanek is not about to slow down. What a great pick up for the Sabres. This kid is amazing and he’s only going to get better. 5 goals already this year!? His presence is what keeps the Sabres competitive, and his goal producing madness is what keeps them in the running for a post season berth.

    5. Calgary: Dion Phaneuf age 23: Is there really any other choice here? Phaneuf plays one of the most complete games of defense in the league, and he’s only in his fourth year. He hits, he fights, he scores. He’s a nightmare to play against. On a team that isn’t strong in the young stars department, they rely heavily on their youngest everyday player.

    6. Carolina: Eric Staal age 23: We all knew that Staal was going to be a star in this league, and he hasn’t disappointed yet. The oldest of the Staal brothers is also likely to be the most skilled. He’s more of a goal scorer then his brother Jordan, who also benefits from playing with people like Crosby, and Malkin, but he’s not as responsible, being a plus player only once in his career.

    7. Chicago: Jonathan Toews age 20: How much of the Blackhawks’ future rests on Toews shoulders? They made the 20 year old their captain. Make no mistake, not only has he earned it on the ice, his captaincy is supported by his entire team. Kane will probably score more points in his career, but Toews will be the face of Chicago hockey for many many years to come.

    8. Colorado: Paul Stastny age 22: I said it in my season preview, Stastny is the most ignored great player in the league, and not just because of his rookie record setting point scoring streak (which involved a couple phantom assists). This guy will quietly produce points by the bunches his entire career. He’s the exact kind of player that will lead the Avanlanche after Sakic retires.

    9. Columbus: Rick Nash age 24: When I began today’s entry I was sad because I didn’t think I would be able to write about Rick Nash. He’s only 24? Are you kidding me? It seems like he’s been the best player on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ since they entered the league. The league needs to advertise Rick Nash more, he’s such a dynamic, exciting, gritty, hard-hitting player. Watching this guy is like watching hockey poetry.

    10. Dallas: Fabian Brunnstrom age 24: Ok, this is just because of his first game. I don’t know exactly how good this guy will be, but he had a lot of teams trying to sign him during the off season so I’m not the only one expecting big things from him.

    11. Detroit: Jiri Hudler age 24: Thought I’d say Valteri Filppula? He’s a good choice too, but the reason I have picked Hudler as the future star of the Red Wings is because of the kind of player he is. He’s a Kris Draper kind of forward, which they love in Motown. Thanks to his responsible tough playing style, he’ll be a big part of the future leadership of this team.

    12. Edmonton: Kyle Brodziak age 24: It’s tough to pick one Oiler young player that I feel will continue to be a force in years to come because not one of their young players have played to their potentials yet. I chose Brodziak for two reasons, number one; he’s a local Alberta boy and the Oiler fans will always love him for that, and number two; even if he never becomes the scoring threat he should be, he’ll never be detrimental to his team. He’s a player you can count on, and that is important to every team.

    13. Florida: Nathan Horton age 23: If Bouwmeester hadn’t turned 25 this year there would be no question that his name would replace Horton’s here. Horton’s very good though, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t see him staying with the Panther’s longer then he has to, while I hope the Panthers will do all they can to keep Bouwmeester on the roster. Still, for the years that he’s onboard, Horton is going to be a fan favourite for his ability to score.

    14. Los Angeles: Dustin Brown age 23: ok, so he’s not Anze Kopitar, but people in LA love this guy. He can score quite a few goals, but even better, he can lead this team with his play on the ice. What a lot of hockey fans don’t realize is that you can change the game in more ways then just the scoreboard, and that’s what Brown does best. He’ll hit the right guy at the right time, fight to stick up for his team, he’ll kill penalties and score power-play goals. He’s a complete pakage.

    15. Minnesota: Brent Burns age 23: Is it any surprise that the most important player under 25 on the Wild is a defenseman? The scary part is this guy is just growing into his body. At 6’5″ he’s an imposing figure on the back end, but his 15 goals last year on the Wild of all teams shows that he’s a force on the blueline as well. After Gaborik leaves Minny, they’ll be rebuilding this team from Burns up.

    16. Montreal: Cary Price age 21:Canadiens’ fans love a good goaltender, and Price is a very good goaltender. Right now he’s all hype, but as this season continues, and the next, and the next, he won’t leave any room for doubts about his abilities to perform. Price will play a big role in cup contention while he’s in Montreal, and if he manages to back stop them to the Hockey Holy Grail then his name will be added to the long list of revered Montreal goalies.

    17. Nashville: Shea Webber age 23: Only 23 and already the top defender on his team. He plays so much bigger then 6’3″, you’d think he was one of the largest defensemen in the league. The really surprising thing about Webber is his offensive ability, which showed up out of nowhere his second year. Even better, though, is his ability to stay defensively responsible on a team that doesn’t seem to preach responsibility. When Webber’s contract runs out a lot of teams will show interest in this kid, Nashville would be smart to keep him around as long as possible.

    18. New Jersey: Zach Parise age 24: Parise is the most exciting player in New Jersey. He reminds me a lot of Joe Sakic in that he can score any type of goal. He’s got a great wrist shot, he can score on a slapshot, rebound, wrap-around, tip-in. He hasn’t even scratched his potential yet, expect some 40 goal seasons out of this kid.

    19. NY Islanders: Kyle Okposo age 20: He’s not on this list because of what he has done, but because of what he will do. Okposo will bring Islanders hockey back, or at least, I hope he will. He has a ton of goal scoring potential, and unlike some young prospects, will live up to it. The future of the Islanders starts with young Okposo, and it’s a bright future.

    20. NY Rangers: Nikolai Zherdev age 23: Zherdev is the youngest of a string of talented Russian players for the Rangers. Why he isn’t talked about like Malkin and Semin is beyond me. Like the two of them he benefits a little from playing with very talented partners up front. But like Malkin and Semin he can stand on his own as well. He hasn’t had the type of goal scoring season that he should, but just wait, this is his year, and once he hits 30 goals there’s no looking back.

    21: Ottawa: Alexandre Picard age 23: it isn’t often you hear a lot about a defensive defensemen, but Picard manages to get a lot of attention not from his point producing, but for his skills in his own end. He’s not that big, only 6’2″, but he plays large in the defensive zone. It’s amazing how little people in the media talk about defensemen like Picard, but Ottawa fans know all about him. He’s plays the kind of defense that can be the difference between winning and losing.

    22. Philadelphia: Mike Richards age 23: This young player is the surprise captain of the Philadelphia Flyers since he doesn’t seem at first to be a Flyers kind of player. He’s small, and his puck-handling skills remind one more of a finese player then the grinders that Philly loves. But don’t let his skills fool you, this guy is tough, Philly tough. It’s no wonder, on a team with a lot of leaders, then made this young man captain.

    23. Phoenix: Peter Mueller age 20: He may not be named Kyle Turris of Mikkel Boedker, but Mueller plays a very important role on this Coyotes team. I could have easily put Turris here because we all know that he’s going to be the best point producer on this team, but what Mueller brings is hard work. In a market that knows its hockey better then Phoenix, Mueller jerseys would be selling like hotcakes. He’s so good because he’s so consistant, and on a team that’s more important then scoring goals.

    24. Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby age 21: Seriously, who else am I going to put here. Crosby is synonymous with the Penguins. He did what Lemiuex could not, bring Pittsburgh back into the hockey elite. Penguin fans are hoping that, like Lemieux, Crosby will be retiring while wearing their jersey.

    25. San Jose: Marc-Edouard Vlasic age 21: San Jose fans are really loving this kid. He’s had a pretty good start to his career, but his potential is huge. He’s just the kind of defenseman who other teams hate to play against. He’s always in the right part of the ice, he’s got a busy stick, he’s tough in the corners, and he is a great passer. Once he grows into his role he’ll be one of the most stifling defensemen in the league.

    26. St. Louis: Patrik Berglund age 20: Again, it’s not what he’s done, but what he will do. A lot of people think he’s the next Johan Franzen, and I tend to agree. Just like Franzen he’s going to take a couple of years to really get his offense going, but also just like Franzen he’s going to make all the good players on St. Louis even better. He may always be the other guy, but he’ll be one of the best other guys in the league.

    27. Tampa Bay: Andrej Meszaros age 23: There’s a reason they wanted this guy from the Senators. Meszaros is going to be a frighteningly good offensive defenseman. Eventually title of best player under 25 on the Lightning is going to go to Stamkos, but until he gets his NHL legs Meszaros is going to carry that torch. On a Lightning team looking for something to be optimistic about, Meszaros is something to look forward to.

    28. Toronto: Matt Stajan age 24: Stajan almost doesn’t count because he turns 25 in December, but on a team full of people who just can’t live up to their potential, he’s the only one under 25 I see who will have a successful NHL career. Once he has some players who with skill surrounding him he’ll break the 30 goal mark, but until then he’ll still be a bright spot on the Leafs.

    29. Vancouver: Ryan Kesler age 24: There are a lot of interesting young players on the Canucks, like 23 year old Mason Raymond who, if his hands ever catch up to his feet, could score a ton of goals. But if you need to figure out which is most important to this team, look no further then the Michigan native who had a bunch of Canadian fans clamoring for him to be captain. Kesler plays old school hockey; gritty, hard fought, but with a touch of skill and speed that allows him to score some pretty goals. Don’t think the USA hockey isn’t watching, he’ll probably be wearing an “A” during the Olympics.

    30. Washington: Mike Green age 23: How in the world did I not pick Ovechkin here? Well, how about Green, one month his junior, and a defenseman, has more goals then him this year. This guy racks up points the likes of which we haven’t seen from a defensemen since Paul Coffey. His ability to put pucks in the net defies explanation. Look, Ovechkin is one of the best players ever, but Green plays defense like no one else in today’s game, that’s why he gets the edge here.

    THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

    What’s happening in Anaheim? Will Joel Quenneville’s Blackhawks win some games? Will the all-star goaltenders not named Brodeur start playing like all-star goaltenders? Will Vancouver’s first two lines start producing points? Will Crosby and Ovechkin start producing like they should? With some teams really struggling out of the gate, will we see some earlier player movement, or more management changes?

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    UPDATE!

    Posted in Columbus by yankhockey on October 17, 2008

    Michael Peca’s 10-game suspension has been reduced to 5 games. Chalk up one correct prediction for me.

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    NOW APPEARING IN TORONTO…

    Posted in Chicago, Dallas, Players, Surprise of the Week, Toronto by yankhockey on October 17, 2008

    So the big news this week was the arrival, in Toronto, of Mats Sundin. That’s right, the Mats Sundin. The same Mats Sundin who stubbornly refuses to admit that he’s going to rejoin the Maple Leafs in December despite the fact that we all know he will be. By we I meant everyone but Vancouver fans who are still hoping that $20million over two years is enough to entice him West.

    Of course, Mr. Sundin tells us that his coming to Toronto should not be taken as a sign that he’s going to come back to the Leafs. Apparently he’s merely checking on the status of his Canada house and will shortly be returning to his Sweden house. But really people, does he need to fly all the way across the pond just to check on his house? Certainly he must have friends, family, employees, who can do that for him. He came back because Toronto is his second home, and there’s no reason for him to think about leaving.

    Sundin has to be looking at players like Joe Sakic who are still having productive years playing for the teams they’ve led for years and thinking “I could do that too”. Sorry Vancouver fans, if he wanted $20mil, he’d have said yes. He wants to play for Toronto, even though they are going no where in the standings, even though they’ll pay him less, because they are his team. I know he hasn’t turned down any of the offers that are still on the table for him, but you have to think that at this point they are as good as gone.

    I have to be honest, I’m getting very tired of these will he/won’t he retire garbage that we’ve been getting from so many sports figures these days. I mean, it’s getting to the point where this doesn’t seem so unlikely. Sundin wants to play again, we all know he wants to play again, he needs to just put on a Leafs sweater so we can all start breathing again.

    SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

    FABIAN BRUNNSTROM! Wow, I’m thinking Canucks fans are a little upset about Dave Nonis’ departure right about now, see as how he practically had this kid signed before he was fired. Hat trick in his first game, only the third player to do such a thing. And to think the Stars have been sitting him… well not anymore. If he can keep playing like this he ads a new look to the Stars offense. He’s the kind of player who’s vitality can really spark something in the vets on this team. If he can keep the energy up, guys like Modano will feed off it and it may produce a kind of offensive year for the Stars that I certainly didn’t see coming. Brunnstrom is going to make the fans of every other team wonder how they could have missed out on this dynamic forward.

    Also surprising is the impuslive firing of Blackhawks’ coach Denis Savard yesterday. The Blackhawks were supposed to be one of the big players in the Central Division this year, but have started slowly. The thing is, they’ve been playing well, their defense and goaltending have let them down, and they’re a young team that needs a little time to gel. Anyone who pays attention to hockey could have seen a slow start out of Chicago coming, firing Savard is unlikely do have any positive effect. He was replaced by Joel Quenneville who is a good coach and will do fine this year, but he won’t do any better then Savard would have.

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    THRASHED!

    Posted in Atlanta, NY Rangers, third jersey, What Going Right by amanoidopera on October 15, 2008

    Is it just me, or has Atlanta managed to make a goofy team look even goofier? It’s bad enough we don’t even know what exactly a Thrasher is (and before anyone in Georgia gets insulted I know the state bird is the brown thrasher, but that bird looks more like this). Is a Thrasher a… bird-in-a-blender? Or maybe the birds head post blender?  Is a Thrasher some kind of futuristic railroad spike? You know what, maybe they’re just better with just the wordmark, less confusing that way (with thanks to icethetics for actually having an image of just the wordmark).

    I’m sorry Atlanta, but it’s an ugly sweater, and this team has a history of ugly sweaters. Need proof? Well, why not just click here for their original home jersey. Or, remember the time they decided to put the city name on the sleeve? Actually, given the simple, easy to follow design, this third jersey might even be the best of the bunch. It just really doesn’t have anything going for it. Tiny wordmark, HUGE numbers (on the front no less), really busy piping and coloring under the arm, and an overly large birds head on the shoulder. I know that sounds like I was wrong when I said not a lot going for it, but all these aspects of the jersey don’t really add up to anything. The only theme is red, unless big numbers up front is also a theme, in which case it’s simply a poor theme. But that could be said about all the jerseys in this teams history, no theme. Why a bird in a cyclone? Why are industrial-art style bird like design?

    The problem with this team is a lack of hockey pride. Don’t think they’re the only team to suffer from it either, so does Tampa Bay and Phoenix. These are places used to football and basketball jersey designs, they don’t understand how a good hockey logo is created. Look at Montreal, they have an amazing logo. It’s simple, a C with and H inside. It’s got a subdued color scheme, white background with blue and red stripes. It just says hockey. Look at Detroit’s logo. Red tire with wings that says “This is Detroit”. No crazy piping and shoulder logos. Red with white stripe, simple, memorable, perfect. If you want newer teams, look at Philadelphia, or pre-buffaslug Buffalo.

    If they asked me (and of course, no one did), what this team should have done is gone back to the roots of hockey in Atlanta. The Atlanta Flames, though they quickly left for Calgary, had a very solid uniform. Why not create something like a throwback for a third jersey? Obviously they couldn’t just wear a Flames jersey, though a Flames vs. Flames game would have been a treat to watch.

    WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

    It’s the middle of the week and we’re all waiting for the weekend to come. So to help us all focus on the positive, every Wednesday I will go over what’s going right in the NHL.

    This week it’s the Phoenix Coyotes. As of today they are undefeated, and they are winning in exciting, promising ways. This is a team that reminds me a lot of the pre-lockout Penguins, or also the Blackhawks. This team has been bad for awhile, but until now it’s never seemed to pay off. Whatever changed in Phoenix, I’m happy it did. Young players like Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, and Kyle Boedker are not just playing, they are instrumental in this years Phoenix team. I believe that Phoenix is one of only two expansion teams that have really succeeded with young players, the other being Tampa Bay. Atlanta and Florida have been bad, but they don’t elicit the same exciting play from their young talent. Yes, I know Ilya Kovalchuk is an amazing player, but he doesn’t seem motivated to win. I think a lot of it has to do with the cities they play in, these cities just don’t create enough buzz about their young players, so those players aren’t inspired to play to their full potential. I like what Phoenix has done, and I hope they can keep it up because I’d rather see some excitement down there then see their young stars get shipped out to teams because Coyotes management doesn’t care enough to keep them around.

    SAD NEWS:

    As I was working on this entry on Monday, I was listening to Canadian radio for hockey news, when Alexei Cherepanov’s death came in over the wire. Cherepanov was the Rangers’ first round pick in ’07, and was playing in the final year of his contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, after which he was planning on crossing the Atlantic to join the Rangers. He was joined there this year by his favorite player, Jaromir Jagr, who was with him on the bench when his heart stopped during the third period of a game on Wednesday. In his rookie year he broke Pavel Bure’s record for rookie scoring with 18 goals, and scored more points then Alexander Ovechkin, Ily Kolvalchuk, or Evgeni Malkin. Reports from Russia are that he suffered a heart attack, and may have had a congenital defect similar to Sergei Zholtok who died in 2004 after suffering a heart attack in Belarus during a game. There are also reports that the ambulance that is normally on stand-by during the games had already left and had to be called back, meaning it may have taken more then 20 minutes to get him to a hospital. The NHL is worse off from never having seen this young man play, he certainly would have been an exciting and dynamic player. Hopefully a world-wide lesson is learned about how to keep players safe in this sport, and further tragedies like this can be avoided.

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    PECA PICKS A PECK OF PICKLED PENALTIES

    Posted in Columbus, Players, This Weeks Questions by amanoidopera on October 13, 2008

    Michael Peca was suspended on Saturday, indefinitely, for making contact with an official during the Blue Jackets’ opening game against Dallas. The incident began when Peca felt he was tripped while protecting the front of his net by Brendan Morrow of the Stars, who then went on to score a power-play goal while Peca was still getting off the ice. Peca chased after referee Greg Kimmerly after the goal pleading his case. From there things get a bit more iffy. According to the NHL Peca then hit the linesman with his stick. Peca told the Columbus Dispatch that he only grabbed his arm to slow him down. Whatever the case may be, the result was a game misconduct penalty, and an indefinite suspension which Peca plans to appeal.

    From the videos I have seen there is definitely a trip from Morrow, but unfortunately the camera on the NHL website takes an unfortunate angle and the last we see of Peca he is racing behind the net to follow Kimmerly, and the other one is from, I assume, a camera phone and there is very little detail. In the camera phone one you can see Peca reach out for the official. The difference maker here may be whether he reached out with his hand or his stick. So while there is curently no way to tell exactly what happened back there for us internet searching hockey fans, you know that the NHL execs have everything they need to suspend Peca for any amount of time they choose.

    The thing is, there’s never an excuse to contact an official, ever. Missed calls, especially for the hard fought space in front of the net, are always going to be a part of the game. Officials, like fans, are human, having only two eyes to watch an entire rink. If you think following the flow of the game is tough in the stands, try it at ice level. Not everything is called, and while it’s appropriate, especially for an assistant captain and vet like Peca, to argue missed calls, it is never appropriate to bump an official. And you have to believe that whatever Peca did, the official felt he was disrespected, because hockey refs are not known to hand out game misconducts willy-nilly, he felt that Peca had crossed the line.

    This is hockey, this isn’t baseball where officials get bumped all the time, there is no precedent for contacting officials in the NHL. Peca has played enough years, especially in a leadership role, to know this. If you’re frustrated on the ice, you take it out on your opponent. You run their goalie, hit their young stars, fight with their goon, you don’t ever take it out on the official.

    The real question at this point is how many games will Peca get suspended for. My feeling is that, since the official felt threatened that should be justification for one game. Of course, if he did do something as foolish as use his stick on the ref then you’re looking at more then ten. My gut is telling me that even if Peca just grabbed Kimmerly’s arm like he claims, the league is still likely to suspend him for five games so that they can show their officials that they’re being protected. The real question is whether this will set a precedent for the rest of the year. Will the league be suspending people left and right for incidental contact on refs?

    The official NHL highlight can be viewed here (it’s the second goal on the highlights list)

    The camera phone video can be viewed here

    THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

    Each Monday I will address some questions for the upcoming week in hockey. Here is the introduction to This Weeks Questions!

    Will Keith Tkachuck continue to score like it’s 1999? Will Jarome Iginla ever score a goal again? Will Calgary’s defense remember how to keep pucks away from their net? Will the Rangers ever lose a game?  Will a long road trip stifle the Canucks suddenly powerful offense? Who can backstop the Blackhawks to a victory? And finally, will Barry Melrose win a game behind the bench so his friends at ESPN don’t have to keep making excuses for him?

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