yankee hockey

EVERYTHING IS GOING AS PLANNED

Posted in Boston, Dallas, Surprise of the Week, Toronto by yankhockey on November 28, 2008

As the media has been reporting since last year, Brian Burke has finally signed a six year contract to become the new Leaf’s GM Thursday. Actually, I’m a little surprised, six years is a helluva long time to be the GM of one team, especially seeing as how his teams inevitably begin to tank two or three years after he arrives. But, in the long history of Maple Leafs missteps this one is can be classified as only mild and amusing, not entirely stupid or panic-inducing.

What can this mean for Toronto? Well, first off it means we’re likely to see Mats Sundin return to the fold. Make no mistake, Burke can claim his meetings with Sundin were innocent until the blue of his face matches the Leafs’ sweater, but the entire league knows what was going on behind closed doors. The only team that will be unhappy about this, though, is Vancouver, and they won’t be very unhappy. Somewhat annoyed is a more apt description. But they can take all that money they were going to offer him and get Mattias Ohlund under contract, which is much better for that team anyway.

It also means that Toronto is going to lose any young player they have in their system that can score goals. Burkie hates goal scoring prospects if his time in Vancouver and Anaheim are any indication. He’d much rather have young boxing types who are more likely to take a boarding penalty then get an assist. He enjoys trading them away for late draft picks and washed-up defensemen. Only then, in the upcoming draft, he’ll pick an undersized speedster in the first round who will forever be just on the verge of making the big show, but end up becoming a career minor leaguer.

And of course let’s not forget Burke’s love of conflict. It won’t take long for some personality in the team or media to get on his case and a war of words will ensue. Actually, if it’s a member of the team they better hope it’s just a war of words, Burke has been known to drive players to the airport himself to send them on their way to any other team he can find to take them. Just ask RJ Umber what it’s like to disagree with Big BB.

In the end it may actually mean a small improvement in Toronto. Burke’s love of hard hitting play actually ends up working for about a season. Toronto will become a harder team to play against, even if they aren’t exactly a better team. There’s no way he lasts six years. When he took over Anaheim he already had a skilled team in place and simply added some muscle to make them tougher. In Vancouver he had a very skilled team and on;ly managed to make them worse by giving up young talented players and drafting like he was stoned. In Toronto he has neither a good team, nor an entirely impressive group of prospects. Toronto is a basement team that needs intelligence and patience in management, and while Burke is certainly a smart man, he’s never been patient. Add to that his tendency to make stupid decisions based on his impatience and you’re looking at three years at the most.

What scares me is that he is short listed to build the US team for the 2010 Olympics. If there is one thing that never works in international hockey, it’s a smash mouth approach. I hope he is capable of collecting a group of skilled forwards and defensemen who can play with finesse, not just knock someone through the glass. Not only that, but I hope his love of veterans doesn’t lead him to fill the roster with old worn out hockey coots. There is a lot of young American talent in the league right now, and to pass that up would be a horrible thing.

Well, I’m full of turkey and stuffing (mostly stuffing), so I’ll leave it at that for this week. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you all on Monday.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

The surprise this week is that we’ve already made it to the quarter mark of the season. Man it seems like hockey just started a couple weeks ago, and already we’re at 20 games. At this rate it will be over too soon too. There have been a lot of good stories out of this first quarter, a couple disappointing ones too. But that’s hockey for you. All in all it’s looking like it’s going to be a good season with some absolutely stellar teams that will stay on top, and a lot of very good, very hungry teams battling it out for those last playoff spots. I’d have to say that at the quarter mark the two biggest surprises are Boston and Dallas. I made the mistake of putting Boston out of the playoffs this year in my predictions. I also thought that Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez would be sharing goaltender duties. Way to show me what’s what Thomas. As for Dallas, I did correctly predict them out of the playoff picture, but I thought for sure they’d at least be competitive this year. Believe me, I would have loved to have put them farther down in my predictions, but it just never occurred to me.


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WE SHOULD HAVE A HOLIDAY FOR THIS KIND OF THING…

Posted in What Going Right by yankhockey on November 26, 2008

Ok, I was being really mean with last weeks post. Really, it was all the black jerseys paraded out like they were something new and interesting when they each one looked more and more like the last. Well, after breathing deeply for a couple of days I think I’m over it. The meanness is out of me.

In fact, I’m feeling so good that I’ve even become thankful for hockey and third jerseys. Hey! Thankful? Why, isn’t Thursday Thanksgiving? That almost seems like a planned segway into a topic where I described what each of the 30 teams are thankful for this year. That’s a good idea, let’s do it.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are thankful that that only one other team in their division is capable of winning a game. They are also thankful that LA is capable of supporting two teams.

Atlanta Thrashers: Down Atlanta way they are just thankful that Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavele are doing as well as Kari Lehtonen was before he went down.

Boston Bruins: TIM THOMAS!? Ok, and Phil Kessel too.

Buffalo Sabres: Who wouldn’t be thankful for a goal scorer like Tomas Vanek? They are also thankful in Buffalo for having the best fans in the game.

Calgary Flames: Only that their veterans are still producing, only that.

Carolina Hurricanes: A smooth transition from the experienced team that they were into the young promising thing they’ve become. And their going to be even more thankful as the years pass and this team just gets better and better.

Chicago Blackhawks: Every      Single      Thing. Even Khabibulin has joined up for this years rocket ride to the stratosphere. They even get to play outside this year.

Colorado Avalanche: Maybe that Joe Sakic will be back soon… except there’s a good chance this is his last year. Maybe they’re thankful that they haven’t put out a black third jersey.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash! Oh wait, that’s me. Actually the Blue Jackets have a lot of promise this year, and I think by the end of the year they might be thankful that they’ve finally made it into the post season.

Dallas Stars: That the season will end eventually.

Detroit Red Wings: That the season won’t end until June again this year.

Edmonton Oilers: That they didn’t end up spending all that money on Dustin Penner…. Oh, wait, whoops.

Florida Panthers: That after this season they can finally begin to rebuild.

LA Kings: That they just keep getting better every year.

Minnesota Wild: That Jacques Lemaire is the eternal walking dead, and as long as no one stabs a stake through his heart this team will never miss the playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens: Montreal is thankful for 100 absolutely incredible years, and they are looking forward to 100 more.

Nashville Predators: The team is thankful that they won’t be in Nashville for long, and the fans would be thankful to have a team if they knew they had a team.

New Jersey Devils: It’s hard to be thankful when Martin Brodeur is not playing, but they can be thankful that Zach Parise is a goal scoring machine.

NY Islanders: They’re thankful that at one point in their franchise history they were the best.

NY Rangers: At Madison Square Garden they are thankful that they are no longer the laughing stock of the league.

Ottawa Senators: That Alex Auld has found his starting goaltender skills, albeit on a team that can’t win a game for him.

Philadelphia Flyers: That goal scoring will never be a problem this season, and each game will be exciting.

Phoenix Coyotes: That The Great One is still behind the bench. This guy could have jumped ship a long time ago, but he believes in his team and they will reward him soon.

Pittsburgh Penguins: That they carry the faces of the NHL, even if those faces don’t always deserve the honor.

San Jose Sharks: They are thankful that they are the unstoppable force this season… will they make it work in the playoffs finally?

St Louis Blues: They’re thankful that injuries heal. They’ll be more thankful once their goal scoring comes back.

Tampa Bay Lightning: That you can fire a beloved NHL personality and not feel a boatload of backlash.

Toronto Maple Leafs: That Leafs fans will never stop showing up, even if they dressed a team full of monkeys.

Vancouver Canucks: That no one has mentioned a lack of goal scoring once since the season started.

Washington Capitals: That all their big names are playing like big names.

Happy Thanksgiving readers, and happy Thanksgiving NHL

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

Back-up goaltenders are going right this week. And it’s a good thing too because there are too many damned goalie injuries right now. Curtis Sanford hasn’t lost in place of Roberto Luongo. Brian Boucher in San Jose has been keeping San Jose on top of the conference. Joey MacDonald is playing as well as Rick DiPietro ever did. Kevin Weekes is making sure that fans in New Jersey aren’t passing out from holding their breathes in anticipation of Brodeur coming back. And Dany Sabourin in Pittsburgh is holding his own in the crease. So everyone go down to your local arena and give your back-ups a hearty handshake and thank you for all the hard work they put into their jobs.

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WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON

Let’s see, what’s happened since the last post I wrote. Ok, we got five jerseys unveiled, two numbers retired, two devastating injuries, and a partridge in a pear tree. God, where to begin? Frankly, I don’t want to start anywhere because all of these occurrences just make me mad. The jerseys are horrible, one of the retired numbers doesn’t make any sense, and the injuries could cause their teams all kinds of troubles this season (for Dallas losing Morrow it could mean the deepest part of the sewer, for Vancouver and Luongo it may mean missing the post season). But, I am a hockey writer, and as a hockey writer I must remove my own misgivings to properly cover the news of the game, so let’s get on with it. Because of the length of today’s entry there will be no questions at the end.

IF INGESTED, USE THIRD JERSEY TO INDUCE VOMITTING:

In the weekend of weekends for third jersey fans five new jerseys were introduced. The Sharks started things off with their new horrorshow of a sweater. It even has a name: BlackArmor. That loud banging sound you hear combined with a throbbing pain in your forehead is you hitting your head against your desk. Don’t be alarmed, it’s a reflex like sneezing, yawning, or laughing at people who buy this jersey. I’ve never thought San Jose had a particularly good jersey scheme, but it has seemed to work if their continued use of teal is any indication. But this is so very lame. Not Dallas Stars lame, but pretty sad for a such a great hockey market. I mean, is black a theme or something? And giving it a name? Ugh. The logo itself looks too much like an AHL or ECHL logo for my tastes. Well San Jose, you didn’t do any worse then anyone else this year.

After the Sharks it was the Ottawa Senators’ turn to show how not to spend money. Also, is it just me or does Dany Heatley trying to look intimidating just look silly. The guy is a great hockey player, but he still looks like he’s eighteen. Wow, it’s black, and it says “SENS”… incredible. It must have taken a six year old four minutes with a crayon to work that one out. And what’s in this “Back in Black” campaign? I realize that the Senators have had black in their jerseys forever, but I thought the main color was always red. Am I wrong about this? Did they have a period of time when they wore primarily black? Whatever the case, I hates it.

Then the Coyotes came out and said “We want to do something different.” And something different they did. I’d like to take a moment to thank the Coyotes for doing something that’s been sorely missing from this alternate jersey season: create something entirely new. Oh, it’s plenty ugly, but it has a new main logo, new shoulder logo, and “Coyotes” script mark on the pants. I don’t know what’s up with all the black, I actually really like the Coyotes’ red. I lived in Phoenix for a time and I could say with confidence that the earthen red they wear suits the city. Overall the jersey is totally unremarkable though. The main logo is way to small, the little red sleeve forearms look pathetic, and seriously what’s with the black?

Then it was time for the Kings to do something completely different. They said “We want to stand out from the crowd, be unique.” And so they went with black… Ok, maybe they did what everyone else did but they must have had a unique slogan…. right? Seriously… did all these teams hire the same damn people? I mean, is black the new black or something? Are they planning on rescuing some hockey players captured by the Vietcong in a daring midnight raid? The new logo is decent I guess, it’s more of a mish-mash of previous logos then something totally unique but it looks fine. I just swear, if I see one more black jersey I’m gonna punch Gary Bettman.

So then, on Sunday Tampa Bay ended the parade (well, not really, since the Bruins will be unveiling theirs later today). And all I can say about it is I LOVE IT! Sure, there’s a little black on the sleeves but look at all that blue! And if I’m not mistaken there’s a little bit of silver in there too. And white. Who cares if it’s the most boring piece of crap I’ve seen since Manos: The Hands of Fate, the colors make me feel so alive.

Alright, I’m done with that charade, it sucks, they all sucked, looking at them just makes me mad. So let’s move on to something more positive.

IF YOU DIDN’T REVEAL A THIRD JERSEY, RAISE YOUR BANNER:

On Sunday the Maple Leafs raised the number of former captain and home town favorite Wendell Clark. Cap’n Crunch’s number 17 went up into the rafters in Toronto to take it’s place amongst some of the games greats. He got the name Cap’n Crunch because of his brutal hits, as well as his awesome ‘stache. He was a scrapper, a body checker, and a bruiser. He could score some goals too, over 40 in ’93, but his role was the adrenalin gland of the Leafs. This number retirement is exactly what the whole concept was meant to represent. Clark is no hall of famer, he wasn’t the best player in his era. Hell, he wasn’t even the best player on his team. It wasn’t his point totals that retired his number, it was the love from his city, and his love back. This leaves Maple Leaf nation with a good feeling, they love Clark there, and have even after he left for other teams. That his number joins Ace Bailey’s is an honor well deserved.

In a more questionable retired Saturday, Montreal retired Patrick Roy’s number 33. We all should know enough about Patrick Roy to understand why they might do this, but for those new to the sport, let me give a brief history. Roy came into Montreal as a rookie and won the Stanley Cup right off. He won a bunch more games for them including another Stanley Cup (the last they have won). And then it all fell apart in one game. After letting in 9 goals in a period and a half Roy was finally pulled from the game. Feeling like his coach left him in just to humiliate him (they didn’t have a good relationship) Roy demanded and trade and never went in goal for the Canadiens again. He was traded to the Avalanche where he won two more Stanley Cups, became the winningest goaltender in NHL history, and uttered one of the best sports quotes of all time.

I can understand why anyone would want to retire Roy’s number. Colorado already has. The thing is… they hated Roy in Montreal for demanding that trade. After that trade the Canadiens had no success in the post season at all, if they even got there. It’s great that they are able to forgive, but you shouldn’t forget. A guy should go from arch-nemesis to in the rafters just cause his numbers are huge. Granted, he did a lot for that team while he was there, but he spit in their faces and stormed out. There’s no going back from that, or at least, there shouldn’t be. But, I guess love is blind and Patrick Roy is a French-Canadian hero. Just look at all the goaltender’s he’s inspired; Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore. Ok, I’ll let this pass this one time, but don’t be doing anything like it again Montreal!

ALWAYS STRETCH BEFORE EXERCISING:

Ok, I’ll be brief. Brendan Morrow and Roberto Luongo both left games on Saturday with injuries. Morrow’s requires surgery and he is done for the year. Luongo’s is still undetermined, he will be having an MRI on Monday, but walked unaided to a press conference after the game so it doesn’t look too bad. Of the two Morrow’s is by far the most damaging to his team, and not just because it’s for the entire year. Dallas needs leadership and scoring, and Morrow brings them both. Without him they will be completely disheveled, like the Lost Boys without Peter Pan. The Canucks will miss Luongo, he’s one of the best goaltender’s in the league. But in his place Curtis Sanford won his second game in a row, and the Canucks have an amazing prospect by the name of Cory Schneider who not only rocked the pre-season, but is making complete fools out of AHL shooters posting a record of 10-1 with a .945 SAV% and a 1.37 GAA. Frankly, I’d really like to see what the kid can do in the big show, and I think Canucks’ fans will too as soon as they stop hyperventilating.

REDISTRICTING

Posted in NY Islanders, Surprise of the Week by yankhockey on November 21, 2008

There are many aspects of the NHL that fans consider unfair: Bias towards the Leafs in Canadian media, size increases in goalie equipment, the instigator rule, the Western Conference travelling schedule… Oh wait, that last one really is unfair!

Every year we hear about how the teams in the West have to deal with a horrific travelling schedule, and how it affects their play. Not only that, every year some vaunted free agent refuses to sign in the West specifically because of the travel. Brendan Shanahan certainly won’t sign there even though there are teams who would love to have him on board, and it’s likely the reason Mats Sundin has yet to (and will not) sign with Vancouver. I’d love to call them stuck up prima donnas who need to shut up and play for who will pay them, but they’re right; the Western Conference travel is awful.

The worst part about the travelling in the West is it’s so damn easy to fix with a little maneuvering. What follows is my solution that requires only the slightest of adjustments to the way the Western Conference is set up. Let’s start the farthest West with the:

Pacific Division:

1. Anaheim

2. Los Angeles

3. Phoenix

4. San Jose

5. Vancouver

How easy was that? I agree that it’s nice to have all three Western Conference Canadian teams in one division so they play each other often, but how can you call the Pacific Division the Pacific Division without Vancouver and with Dallas. Last time I checked Dallas wasn’t even on the Western end of Texas. No need to worry about rivalries either. After their punch-you-in-the-jaw five game series against Vancouver, Anaheim would love to get their hands on the Canucks a few more times a year. And San Jose loves to play the Canucks cause every time I go to HP Pavillion to see them play the Nabokov puts up a goose egg (seriously, every time). And the Canucks finally don’t have to fly to Minnesota four times a year.

Mountain Division:

1. Calgary

2. Colorado

3. Dallas

4. Edmonton

5. Minnesota

Ok, I’ll have to work on the name a bit but the organization makes perfect sense. Dallas and Minnesota flying all over the damn country for inter-division games never made any sense. With this grouping you still get the awesome Battle of Alberta, you get Dallas and Minnesota clogging up the ice like my ex-roommate clogged up the shower eight times a year. And let’s not forget that Colorado and Dallas have never had the most friendly relationship so that should be fun to watch too. The best part is that the most any of them will have to travel is one measley time zone, and mostly they’ll be going North/South so that cuts back on travel time too.

Central Division:

1. Chicago

2. Columbus

3. Detroit

4. Nashville

5. St Louis

Already well grouped, so they can stay as they are.

And there you have it, I just solved a bunch of the problems with the travel conditions in the West. I even have an alternate solution for hockey fans that believe hockey only belongs in hockey markets.

Pacific: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, (Seattle or Portland), Vancouver

Mountain: Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Phoenix, Minnesota

Central: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, St Louis

See, no more Nashville and it actually works even better! And I’m just some jerk sitting at home pretending to know a thing or two about hockey, not some powerful NHL exec with many illustrious degrees in business management and sports entertainment. Of course, Seattle and Portland are merely suggestions based on population and location. Hell, I’d love it if they could bring one here to Sacramento, but most people here wouldn’t know ice if it was floating in their lemonade, so we’re probably looking at the former two sites. I think both cities would support the team at least better then they do in Nashville, and both of those places also have more Canadian transplants then Nashville too so you already have a fanbase waiting to happen.

Both of these solutions are doable, though I admit moving Nashville to the West Coast is more radical. But I find it hard to believe that simply moving two teams into different divisions is such a daunting task that it isn’t worth the trouble to help teams like Vancouver and Dallas not have to travel half the distance of North America to play within their own division. I can say with absolute confidence that doing something so simple as putting names in different places will vastly improve the way hockey is played out West.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

Well, it comes as no surprise to this writer that Dallas lost against Chicago on Thursday while wearing those absolutely awful third jerseys, and it’s no longer a surprise that Marty Turco is capable of allowing five goals, most of which should have been little problem for him. It was, however, a little surprising that the ‘Hawks were able to score a goal with less then a minute to go in each of the three periods of play. The real surprise this week is the play of Islander’s back-up goaltender Joey MacDonald who has had to step in for an injured DiPietro. After being more or less mediocre since taking over, in the last week MacDonald is 3-0, giving up only for goals and stopping 98 shots (including 38 in one game against Ottawa). The Islanders are a team looking for a hero, and MacDonald is showing he’s got the cape and tights to fill the role.

A WORD TO MY READERS:

This has been a very productive week at Yankee Hockey. The number of visitors I’ve had in the last week is more then a quarter of my total visitors. It makes me happy to see that so many people are reading my blog, and I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for showing up. I’d also like to encourage all of you to leave comments. It’s quite easy, you don’t even need to register with wordpress to do so, just a name and an opinion is all that is necessary. I even like contrary opinions because it is through discourse that new ideas are formed. So please, keep stopping by, I hope to continue to write new and interesting hockey stories for you all.

DALLAS AND PHILLY DISAPPOINT OFF THE ICE TOO

Posted in Dallas, Philadelphia, third jersey, What Going Right by yankhockey on November 19, 2008

It’s a sad day in hockey when Carolina is the best at something, but when it comes to alternate jerseys that is certainly the case this year. Ok ok, I’m exaggerating. Buffalo, St Louis, and Pittsburgh have put out some absolutely beautiful sweaters this year, but so far Carolina’s has been the most imaginitive and original. You can add Dallas and Philly to the ranks of the unimaginative as of Tuesday when they released their very uninspired third jerseys.

Let’s begin with the worst in Dallas where their design team apparently believes that simple changing the color of a previously existing jersey is considered a radical change. Oh daddy daddy! Get me the white Dallas Stars jersey!

Feh!

Who got paid for that? I should be paid just to take all those jerseys off their hands and give them away to needy children. I’m trying so hard not to go down the “all Texans are inbred rednecks” road here, but if one of these miserable excuses of a jersey sells it’s the fans themselves taking that road. I’d even like to say that it’s better then the uterus jersey they put out a couple years ago (cause let’s face it, practically everything is), but at least that jersey required an a little creative effort to design. The new jersey is just lazy. No, it’s beyond lazy, if there is a word that is lazier then lazy, someone comment on this entry and let me know because it will certainly describe this jersey better then I can given my apparently limited vocabulary.

Now, on to Philly where their new jersey, while also being a bit lazy, does at least come with a history. That’s fine with me, I like it when a team and its fans appreciate the history of the franchise. So why do I call it lazy? I call it lazy because what’s the point? It all just comes down to a money grab in the end. These teams like the Islanders, Canucks, and Flyers who have put re-released original jersey designs are just looking for a way to make a little bit more money. If you liked the design so much, stick with it, don’t trot it out years later as an “alternate”, especially not in the case of the Flyers and Islanders where it’s just your current logo with slightly different color management.

This is why I started the post by stating that the Hurricanes are doing this best. They made something different for their fans. If i was a Carolina fan and I saw that jersey I might think to myself “That doesn’t look anything like any of my other jerseys, I might like to own that”. It’s an alternate jersey, make it something unique. Not Dallas Stars uterus unique or Boston “Winnie the Pooh” unique, but something cool like the Oilers did a few years back. Put something on the jersey that everyone can get excited about for ten or twelve games a year, and the rest of the year wear the classic jersey that your fans love.

The only teams I will let off this tirade this year are the Canadiens and Leafs who have had the same color schemes and logos since they played in Ancient Sumeria and are allowed to trot out throwbacks which bear resemblance to their current jerseys. To the rest of you teams; listen up! If you want to make a statement with a third jersey, make a bloody statement. Don’t make your fans continue to shell out cash for what amounts to slapping the same damn logo with a slightly different striping and shoulder pattern. And to the Dallas Stars – any money you spent designing your “third” jersey needs to be reimbursed, like now. I don’t see how any judge or jury could find that what you paid for could amount to a new jersey.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

Division leaders are going very very right. As of Tuesday night, the division leaders in the NHL are a combined 74-21-14. They are lead by San Jose and Detroit and Boston who have lost a total of only eight games in regulation between them. Since the new CBA was drafted there has been a lot more parity in the NHL. It seems now, more then in any other time of my hockey memory, teams have a better chance of beating any other team then ever before. The competition in the modern NHL is so good you almost forget that there are still dominant teams… until you look at the standings. But that’s exciting too. It’s exciting when your team is either one of those teams in the lead, or playing that team and keeping it close, maybe even beating them. There’s a lot of adrenalin flowing in any hockey fans veins when their team is heading into the third period up a goal or two on the Red Wings, it’s fun. But the best part is, regardless of how far ahead in the standings the Wings are, once the post season starts there’s almost no way to guarantee they will even make it out of the first round. And that, my dear readers, is what competition is all about.

MULLET POWER FAILS

Posted in Tampa Bay, This Weeks Questions by yankhockey on November 17, 2008

Anyone in the States who loves hockey was a little saddened in the offseason when Barry Melrose was hired as the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a commentator, there weren’t many who could reach Melrose’s level of charm and personality. Or, for that matter, his absolutely stubborn commitment to a mullet hairstyle. But that’s ok, he comes from an old school hockey background, and that means you either go the mullet route, or dress like a couch gone wrong like Don Cherry. Anyway, back on topic, we knew we would miss Melrose on television, but I think I speak for many hockey fans when I say that we wished him the best of luck behind the bench in Tampa.

Fast forward a mere 16 games and he’s already gone; fired for not producing up the the standards of fans in West Florida, a place that until recently wouldn’t recognize hockey if blew in from the Caribbean with 90 mile per hour winds. Ok, so a record of 5-7-4 doesn’t look great on a resume, but it’s not like they were playing a bad brand of hockey. The problem in Tampa wasn’t that they were being outplayed, it was that they were being outscored… and that my friends is a big distinction in hockey.

What I’m trying to say was that the firing of Melrose so early in the season was not just bad protocol, it wasn’t entirely justified. But, when ownership sees a team icing both Martin St Louis and Vincent Lecalvalier while also scoring very little that puts them a bit on edge. I’ve also heard rumours… rumours… that St Louis and a few other offensive players had complained about the style of play under Melrose; that it was more defensive minded then they would have liked. I don’t know how credible this may be, but from what I’ve seen St Louis has certainly had plenty of offensive chances, perhaps just not as many finishes as he’s used to.

A lot of this, I feel, is how the team is currently built. They got rid of Brad Richards last year which is a bigger loss then I think management realizes it is. He’s not just a skilled guy, he’s a big guy, a guy who can make room for their smaller, faster goal scorers. Malone seemed like a good pick-up, but without players like Crosby and Malkin around him he’s really bombing this year. That, and he was never an amazing player anyway, good sure, great no. They also heaped too much pressure to Stamkos to provide scoring this year. Stamkos is going to be very good someday, but he shouldn’t have to be in the top five in scoring on his team in his first year.

This team will get better, it’s too good not to. They’ve steadily improved the D since the season began, their forwards are starting to put points up like they should, and all the players seemed to finally understand Melrose’s game plan. And then he was fired. The team will still get better and I expect them to start fighting for a top spot in what is an even weaker division then I expected before the season. I look forward to listening to Melrose’s spot on analysis now that he’s free, and I hope this firing doesn’t prevent him from any further coaching positions because he’s a good coach too.

Hear this Tampa Bay: What you just did was unneccesary and will in no way help your team. Hockey is a game of patience, not just on the ice but in the board rooms as well. If your team starts to faulter, well, that’s the nature of the game. Every team experiences down time, even Detroit went through some sad sack years. When your team is playing good hockey but still losing, be optimistic. When they start playing like they belong in the ECHL… then you can justify firing a coach so early in the season, not before.

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

One simple question: With all-star balloting having begun, who do you plan on voting for? A few names come to mind over here. Tomas Vanek certainly. Roberto Luongo deserves a spot. How about Todd Bertuzzi having his comeback year in Calgary? Speaking of a comeback year, what about Teemu Selanne? How about the NHL all-star game is just as useless as every other all-star game outside of baseball. Well, at least it’s not football where the players voted in take the free trip to Hawaii and then don’t show up to the game. Well, the skills competition is actually pretty fun, I’d like to watch that.

3’S COMPANY plus VANCOUVER GOES BACK IN TIME

Posted in Chicago, Players, Retired Jerseys, Surprise of the Week, third jersey, Vancouver, Veterans by yankhockey on November 14, 2008

On Thursday the Chicago Blackhawks lifted number 3 into the rafters. They did this to honor two of the great defensemen in their history, Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson. Pilote played 13 seasons with the Blackhawks, and Magnuson 11. In total they scored just 637 points in the NHL, but that only proves that statistics tell only part of the story.

Pilote was an incredible defensemen, one of the best of his day. He won the Norris trophy three years in a row, and in an era of low scoring defensemen put up decent point totals his entire career. In 1961 he helped his team win the Stanely Cup. The next year he was appointed captain, an honor he would have for the next eight years. He was considered, even during his time, one of the more epic defensemen the game had seen. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

Magnuson was less of an offensive threat, he was really just a threat. In a period of play where big bruisers dominated the game, he was one of the most feared. He had only 14 goals in 11 seasons, but a whopping 1400 penalty minutes. His gutsy play, and leadership on and off the ice led him to be named captain in 1976, a title he would hold for three years. Though he never won a Norris trophy, nor a Stanely Cup, he helped the ‘Hawks reach the finals twice, and defined an era of Blackhawks’ hockey.

Pilote was there for the honor, unfortunately Magnuson was killed three years ago in a car crash. Both of these men were loved in Chicago, heroes in their own right. It is not for me to say anything bad about these two, or to imply that this honor was not well deserved. However I feel that the tradition of retiring numbers has become less and less exclusive these days. If you look at the history of retired numbers, until the 90s you didn’t get too many a year, if at all. Suddenly we’re having them by the truckload. This season we are having seven numbers retired. SEVEN. How can anyone feel like this is a truly exclusive, rare honor, with so many numbers going up into the rafters. Certainly these men do deserve to be honored, and Magnuson’s memory especially, but the last time either man played for this team was 1980, 28 years ago. You’d have to think if Blackhawk nation really felt that 3 should go up to the rafters that they would have put it up there already. Well, it’s made many Chicagoans happy so there’s just not much to criticize.

THIRD JERSEYS KEEP-A-ROLLIN’ OUT:

Vancouver released their third jerseys last night, and I wish there was a lot to say about them, but we’ve seen it all before. I feel for Vancouver, I really do. In the entire history of this franchise they haven’t found one decent logo. They love the stick-in-rink logo because it’s the closest thing they’ve had to a worthwhile insignia. The colors are great. I really think the blue and green says Vancouver, as well as being acceptable colors for hockey anyway. The logos they’ve trotted out over the years? Not so much. How great would they look with just a V? And I don’t mean that horrible black orange and yellow garbage they put out in the early 80s. I mean like the old Vancouver Millionaires that won the cup way back in the teens. Not only that, but burgundy and white are cool hockey colors too. There is actually one really awesome thing that came with these jerseys: Luongo’s new helmet (scroll through at take a look). Holy shit that looks awesome! He needs to wear that all the bloody time.

WHAT THE HELL ESPN:

Remember that article I wrote about goal scoring being up? Well it appeared on the ESPN hockey homepage yesterday with Pierre LeBrun as the author. Check it out. Not only is it the same subject, he even notes the exact same reasons I did for why hockey scoring has been up this year. He has one advantage, he gets to actually interview hockey players so he can quote them saying what I said. Like I said ESPN, if you want to use my writing on your site, just hire me. I’m sure I come cheaper then Mr. LeBrun.

THIS WEEKS SURPRISE:

I’d love to say Brian Burke stepping down as GM of the Ducks is a surprise, but anyone who follows hockey has seen that coming since summer. Roberto Luongo setting the franchise mark for shut-out minutes? No, that’s not a surprise, he broke his own record he set last year. How about the fact that so far, since they began testing, five players in the KHL have been found to have heart defects? That’s a helluva lot of players. I wonder if the NHL does similar testing. You can’t assume this is a local phenomenon in Russia, certainly some players here must have some possible problems as well. Of course, the danger is, can you allow someone with a heart defect to continue to play hockey? Certainly there have had to be many players, many good players too, who have played entire careers with heart defects. It’s very hard to say exactly what kinds of problems a heart defect can cause. There are different levels of heart defects, many of them somewhat benign. There are a lot of us sitting at our computers reading (or typing) this right now who were born with minor defects we aren’t even aware of. This will become on issue of rights of privacy because insurance companies will be wary of insuring hockey players with defects, even if those defects would never cause a life threatening condition. But at the same time, are we obligated to protect our players? We can only hope we won’t see any more deaths or the end of any careers, because if we do there may be sweeping changes that began to infringe on the rights of our hockey players.

JERSEYS EVERYWHERE!

Posted in Buffalo, Carolina, Edmonton, St. Louis, third jersey, Toronto, What Going Right by yankhockey on November 12, 2008

So I was browsing the internet recently when I suddenly realized I had made a horrible oversight on Yankee Hockey. In my haste to cover every third jersey release this season I didn’t recall that a number of teams had already released their third jerseys either in the off-season or early in the season before I had started writing. In the interest of full coverage today’s entry will finally give those jerseys their due, albeit more brief then I’m sure fans of those teams would like. So let’s get started with the:

Buffalo Sabres: If you read my report on the new Penguins sweater then you know I love shield logos on hockey jerseys. This jersey is so awesome it’s near perfect. The buffalo over two sabres is so very much better then the buffaslug they’ve been wearing for the last little while. It’s the exact kind of logo you’d expect from a team that wants to be taken seriously, for a team with smart hockey fans, for the Buffalo Sabres. The colors are great too, dark blue mixed with a deep yellow. None of this bright color garbage that so many teams have these days. Ok, so the Sharks and Canucks look pretty good in non-traditional colors, but that’s the West Coast, in the East you gotta look more dabber then that. Good for Buffalo for taking a step in the right direction.

Carolina Hurricanes: It might surprise you to learn that I actually like this jersey. It might just be because the normal Hurricanes jersey is so damn stupid that nearly anything would look better. They share their colors with just about every other team in the East (Devils, Panthers, etc…), and the logo certainly doesn’t scream hockey. The new logo, a tattered flag fluttering in the wind, is actually kind of interesting. And the colors, though still shared, are in better proportions then they were before. A nearly completely black jersey isn’t so interesting, but it is something the NHL doesn’t currently have which makes it much more entertaining to look at.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are getting back to what works. I’ll admit I actually like the oil drop in the cog logo, but there’s something about a classic look that trumps anything new you could create… hence the term classic I guess. The orange and blue are the colors that Edmonton came into the league with, they’re the colors that Gretzky played under, and they’re the colors that they won many many cups under. Like a lot of Northwest teams the jersey colors are based on the local scenes, blue and orange are working colors, Edmonton is a working class town.

St Louis Blues: Cool Cool Cool Cool Cool! These jerseys are so cool they absolutely belong in Music City. The shield is great, with the classic Blues logo in front of the Gateway Arch. The colors are great but we better hope they don’t play a game, alternate versus alternate, against the Sabres or we may have no idea which team has the puck. The best part about this jersey is how ugly St. Louis jerseys could have been, but instead they got these beauties. St Louis is taking a cue from the teams with history, shield logos are hockey perfection.

Toronto Maple Leafs: No surprise here, we’ve already seen this jersey from the Leafs. None-the-less it’s a nice jersey to see. It brings me back to an earlier time, a time when helmets were for the army, sweaters were sweaters, and six teams were all you needed. I’ve read a lot of reviews, both previously and in this newest incarnation, that complained about the wordmark in the Leaf. I actually like wordmarks on jerseys. It’s not just for baseball people. There’s something nice about seeing the team name and city on a hockey sweater, and it’s hardly a new phenomenon, rather it was common all the way up to the Original Six era. I think it makes a lot of sense both stylistically and historically.

And there you have it, a quick synopsis of all the new jerseys I have missed. And allow me to apologize for making the mistake of ignoring these jerseys for so long. Now that I’m caught up I can finally relax.

What’s Going Right:

Goaltending! Finally, after watching goaltenders struggling all year we’re seeing some stellar play from the goaltenders who were supposed to be stellar. Even without Brodeur, and with Turco playing like Swiss cheese, top-tier goaltenders are showing why they are top tier. Roberto Luongo might not let another goal in all year. Henrik Lundqvist is making sure the Rangers are the best team in the east. But what’s really fun to watch is the next generation keeping the crease free from pucks. Ryan Miller is playing like a man possessed, Alex Auld is the only thing Ottawa has the be optimistic about, and moving South, Mike Smith is making  Dallas regret letting him go. Suddenly goal scorers are facing goaltenders on their game, and that’s just as fun to watch.

THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF MARTY TURCO

Posted in Dallas, Players, This Weeks Questions by yankhockey on November 10, 2008

There’s been a lot of craziness down Dallas way, and I don’t just mean Mike Modana mouthing off about Sean Avery and Steve Ott. No, I’m talking about the uncharacteristically horrible season plaguing Marty Turco. In previous years Turco has been considered one of the most skilled players at his position, even posting the lowest GAA in the modern era (later broken by Kiprusoff). Just a few years later he set yet another record posting three shutouts in one post-season series against the Canucks (a series he and the Stars eventually lost). In general, he has been a thorn in the side of goal scorers everywhere… until now. As of Saturday, the Stars have given up an astounding 54 goals, leading the league in that particularly bad stat. Turco has been in net for most of those goals giving him a stomach turning 4.11 GAA, .848 save percentage. Worst part is, their back-up, Tobias Stephan, would barely be considered a goalie in the AHL giving them almost no hope in net at this point. Actually, check that; the worst part is their former back-up, Mike Smith, is absolutely tearing it up in Tampa Bay.

So let’s go back to Saturday when Dallas was visiting San Jose and the last vestige of Turco’s hockey skills went bye bye. The one huge advantage that Turco has always had was his ability to play the puck. Teammates often commented that having Turco in net was like having a third defensemen. So in the game against the power house Sharks in which he had played up to Turco-par, holding them to one goal through nearly three periods, and with the game tied 1-1 with 30 seconds left, Turco played a long dump in. Sounds innocent enough, certainly a goalie with the puck handling skills of Marty Turco could play a simple dump in. Play it he did, right into a charging Patrick Marleau’s skates. A moment later the puck was in the net and the Sharks were on their way to a victory they may not have deserved.

The big question in Dallas right now is; can the Cowboys win without Tony Romo? The question only hockey freaks and Canadians are asking is; what in the world has happened to Mr. Turco? Certainly the aging defense in front of him isn’t helping, nor are all the penalties his team is taking, but that shouldn’t equate to leading the league in goals against. It just doesn’t make sense, Turco was/is a wonderful goaltender. Sometimes guys have flukey years like Jose Theodore, but Turco was no fluke. His entire career as a starter up to this point has been nothing but brilliant, even a great defense in front of him couldn’t create that good of an illusion.

Something is wrong, that much is certain, but what could it be? I’ve watched him play, and he doesn’t appear to be playing hurt. His range looks fine, as does his speed. His glove appears to be a little slow out of the gate, and he doesn’t have the same catching accuracy as he once did. He’s also giving up many more rebounds, and considering his defense is so much slower then the forwards coming into the zone that could definitely play a role. I think, and I believe that his mishandling of the puck against the Sharks is a symptom of this, I think that his confidence at this point is completely shot. He’s playing timid, and that’s no way for Marty Turco to play. Not only that, the goaltender behind him is even worse then he is so he has no real incentive to improve. He’s not going to lose playing time because of his on ice issues because they don’t dare give Stephan the starting role.

Is there a solution? Not a quick one. I believe this year may have to just be a bad one for Dallas and Marty Turco. They need to bring in some young defenders, this year preferrably to get them used to playing in the NHL. They need to get rid of people like Sean Avery who should have never been signed in the first place. And they need to get a first rate back-up so that Turco can relax on his days off, or should he get pulled at least believe that his team still has a chance because his back-up is capable of keeping a game close. I went way against the grain and picked Dallas to miss the playoffs this year, and it was precisely because of their age on D and their weakness in scoring. I never thought for a moment that they’d be in the bottom of the league because of their weakness in net.

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

Carle for Eminger and Downie? What in the world is wrong with Tampa Bay’s GM? Will Carle help Philly right the ship? Will Luongo break his own shutout record Wednesday against Avalanche? Will the Rangers get rewarded an extra pick in the upcoming draft due to Cherepanov’s unforunate death? How much will losing Brodeur cost New Jersey? Will Toronto continue to trend up in the standings? Will Alexander Semin continue to play this well and be the best player in the league this year?

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POWDERED PENGUINS

Posted in Pittsburgh, Surprise of the Week, third jersey, Vancouver by yankhockey on November 7, 2008

We’re back! After possibly the most aggravating experience in my life trying to get my internet back up and running I’ve finally gotten back online, and I should be on without incident from now on (but no promises). In the meantime there was hockey news to be discussed

The Penguins revealed their “new” third jerseys this week, and it actually doesn’t amount to much. I don’t say that because of my fore-mentioned feud with the Penguins, rather it’s because it’s the same jersey they played in for the Winter Classic game. Now, even I have to admit these are some really sweet jerseys. I love the powder blue, I love the stripes, and I love the shield on the front.

It’s totally classic, which is why it was both perfect for the Winter Classic as well as for the regular season. You had to know that this was going to be the third jersey the moment that they reintroduced third jerseys, just like you know whatever Canadiens jersey is the most popular of their centennial set will be their third in the coming years. My bet is the Barber Jersey (the one with all the stripes).

As for the Penguins new third, I wish it was their main jersey. I’ve never really liked the Penguins jersey much. I mean, it’s ok, but black and gold makes it seem like an NFL jersey, or a high school jersey. And the penguin on the front just doesn’t do much for me, it seems so entirely tame that it’s practically unnoticeable.

I have an replica Bure (Pavel or Valeri who knows) Soviet Red Army Penguins jersey and there is just so much more going for it then the Pittsburgh club’s. First of all, the penguin itself looks way more awesome. Add to that the star in the background, which makes the penguin look much more dynamic, and looks better then a big ol’ gold triangle, and it makes the entire logo look like it’s in action, and it is immediately noticeable as a better logo.

The Penguins logo looks like it was made to be inside a shield, cause when it is it looks really friggin’ awesome. You look at the old logo after looking at the third jersey one and the most immediately apparent thing is that within the shield the triangle looks like it should be there, on the normal logo it looks like a really odd after thought. The best thing I can say about this jersey is that it looks like it belongs on the ice. Watching the Winter Classic last year the thing I thought about most was just how much fun it was to watch the Sabres and Penguins play in those jerseys. I’ve been accused many times of having been born in the wrong era, and the way I felt watching two teams play like it was 1920 just made me believe it even more. It was a joy to watch then, and it will be a joy to watch the Penguins play in those jerseys in the coming years.

The Penguins aren’t the only team that could use this kind of touch up. How cool would the Panthers look with a shield? Or how about the Leafs? The jersey shield is such a hockey institution that, frankly, I can’t think of one team that I wouldn’t love to see in one… except maybe Detroit.

Well, suffice it to say that the Penguins will look great this year in this sweater. There’s really nothing to critique about it, and I’ve been praising it for awhile now so I believe I may have said enough already. I’d love to see every team get one classic sweater to wear with classic colors, classic shields and word marks. How much fun would it be to see the Sharks and Kings play in jerseys that look like they are 80 years old? A ton of fun, that’s how much.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

That I’m back online? Well, that’s the surprise in this house anyway, but the hockey surprise would have to be Kyle Wellwood. This is a guy who Toronto kicked out, didn’t make a Canucks team out of preseason despite the fact that they were desperate for scoring, cleared waivers twice, and now leads the Canucks in goalscoring. Some GM out there is banging their head on their desk, while Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis is chuckling and wringing his hands. If Wellwood can keep this up, and there’s no indication that he won’t, he might be the biggest surprise of the season. He’s certainly the biggest surprise in Vancouver (if you don’t count Luongo giving up six goals a game). Whopps, spoke too soon, second shutout in a row.