yankee hockey

THE SEASON THAT WAS

Well folks, the end of the season is upon us, and the reason for the season is about to start, so what better time then now to look back on all the significant events that have transpired through 2008-2009 in the NHL.

Injuries Galore:

There are injuries every season, but has any season seen an IR list like this year? It started small with Erik Johnson of the Blues hurting his knee by getting his foot stuck between the brake and accelerator of a golf cart during spring training. The knee required surgery and he was out for the season. Then Burnaby Joe Sakic ended up hurting his back big time, missing a significant chunk of the season. And then, with his return on the horizon, he gets his hand stuck in a snow blower, requiring surgery to repair it. Sakic is hoping to play the last three games this season. I had believed that this would be his last season. I think now he’ll come back, he wants to end it on a full season. But the Avs trouble didn’t end there, their young star Paul Stastny ended up getting injured not once… but twice! The first time missing more then 20 games, the second time… well he’s still out. Mike Richards, he of post-season glory and expensive off-season contract, ended up breaking his wrist early in the season and missing a lot of games. Then, in his long anticipated first game back… he broke his other wrist, out for the rest of the season.

In the goalie category the league lost it’s two best goaltenders long term to injury. Martin Brodeur tore a tendon in his elbow and lost 16 weeks to injury, the longest period of time he’s been out in his career. On the other coast Roberto Luongo suffered a pulled groin muscle, and after reaggravating it a few weeks later trying to come back early, ended up missing more then two months. Will it hurt his Vezina chances? Maybe. And then Ryan Miller goes down at the most inopportune time, leaving Buffalo without a solid netminder, and out of the playoffs. And I think we’re all done talking about DiPietro and his injury problems. How’s that fifteen year contract going Long Island?

In the Sharks category… who hasn’t been injured? Their entire D-corps has been out at one point or another, their starting goaltender went down… hell, I’m surprised HP Pavillion hasn’t been placed on the IR. The worst of it has been happening recently. That’s what we call a case of BAD TIMING.

Record Breakers:

Brodeur came back into the spotlight by winning his 552 game, breaking Patrick Roy’s all-time record. I’m sure New Jersey was expecting to celebrate that earlier in the year, they should be glad they got to celebrate it at all. In Washington Mike Green managed not to just break the team goal scoring record for consecutive games… he managed to break the league record (for defensemen). Green is a phenomenal offensive player… will it be enough to garner him a Norris Trophy? Also in Washington, Alexander Ovechkin became the first player to score 50 goals three times in a Capitals uniform, further justifying his “Greatest-Player-In-The-Game” status.

Melrose, we hardly knew ye:

In the most celebrated coaching hire in decades (at least, if you work for ESPN), Barry Melrose started the year behind the bench in Tampa Bay. After trying to prove to both the fans and the players that old school, hard-working hockey is better then flash-and-dash hockey for about a week, he was fired and allowed to go back to hockey analysis where he really shines. Meanwhile new coach Rick Tocchet has managed to keep them in the Tavares hunt, apparently to management’s great satisfaction.

The trade that wasn’t:

For a year… A YEAR… all I heard about was how the Panthers were going to trade Jeremy Bouwmeester. Oh how the excitement built up as the trade deadline came close. Oh how the fans of teams in the hunt held their breath trying to imagine Bouwmeester on their blueline. What’s that? The Florida held onto him for their playoff run? And now they aren’t even in the top eight with only a few games left to play? And they’re going to lose him for nothing in the offseason? Way to go Florida… way to go.

Toronto institutes a “No Stanley Cup Ever” program:

Brian Burke, fresh off riding another GM’s players into the Stanley Cup, left Anaheim and moved over to Toronto where he immediately began to trade off players. The thing about Burke is, he hates prospects. Just ask Vancouver where his handy work left them hard pressed for the kind of young talent most other teams have in their line ups. Unfortunately for both Burke and Toronto, there isn’t a Stanley Cup winning team already in place for him to leech off of. You know what, as long as he can build a decent US Olympic team I’ll forgive him anything… not sure Leafs fans will though.

Wait a minute… penguins can’t fly!:

Oh, how much joy I had when I thought the Penguins were going to miss the post-season. Alas, you just can’t stop a team with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, no matter how much the rest of the team might try. Still, it is better for the league to have this team in the playoffs. Just please please please not another Stanley Cup appearance… I don’t think my delicate constitution could take that.

To celebrate, or not to celebrate:

Don Cherry stuck yet another foot in his mouth (how many does he have in there now… fourteen?) when he started complaining about Ovechkin’s exciting, over the top goal celebrations, and lauding Crosby’s stoic “Oh, did I just score? How intriguing.” nothing celebrations.  We all get that you enjoy things that blend into the background quietly Mr Cherry, especially your clothing (want some more examples). Look Grapes, anyone who watches Ovechkin score a goal… or a linemate for that matter, and doesn’t get excited for the game of hockey is either dead or a xenophobic loud mouth. And to think, because he’s on the CBC, Canadian citizens pay his salary.

Well, there’s been plenty more including a great Winter Classic, some incredible rookie sensations, a few veteran comebacks, and even a fight or two. But there is one event that we should not, ever, let slip past our notice this season.

Colleen Howe, Mrs Hockey, passed away at the age of 76. They say behind every good man is a great woman, and never was it more true then in this case. Mrs Hockey not only supported her husband emotionally, she supported him professionally too, acting as his manager. She was instrumental in getting hockey players the kinds of competitive contracts they have today. When she began as Gordie’s manager he was the third highest player on the team, despite being by far the best. Thanks to the negotiating skills of Colleen, the Red Wings were forced to give him the raise he deserved. She’s been honoured more times then I can list, and her death is likely the reason that the Hockey Hall of Fame will, from now on, be allowing women to be honoured. The passing of Mrs Howe is a sad and tragic event for anyone who loves hockey, and so it is with great regret that I make it the final moment of note this season.

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CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES C’MON!

Posted in Players, stats, Washington by yankhockey on March 26, 2009

We’re back! After a week off Yankee Hockey is rested, rejuvenated, renewed, and ready for action. And what kind of action? I’ve spent the entire week, a week leading up to the post season with lots of great story lines hearing only one repeated over and over and over again. That story is the fierce criticism, or defense, of Alexander Ovechkin’s celebration upon scoring his 50th goal.

For those of you fortunate enough to have escaped this story, here’s what happened: After scoring his 50th goal Ovechkin dropped his stick and mimed that it was too hot to pick up. It was something a teammate (Green or Semin I don’t remember) suggested to him. Since then the question on everyone’s minds is “How will my team do in the playoffs?” while the question being posed by media everywhere is “Was Ovechkin’s celebration over the top?”

Let’s end that debate right now, hell yes it was. Of course it was over the top, he used his stick as a prop to celebrate a goal which in the conservative world of hockey is very over the top. It’s over the top even in the liberal, me-first world of the NFL, enough that they charge a penalty for that kind of behavior. It’s also, however, totally innocent. The man scored 50 goals, he’s the first one in the league to do so (maybe only?) and he’s done it three times now which is an incredible feat. He’s the best player in the league. Proof? This is like the fourth or fifth article I’ve written about him already. Sidney Crosby maybe has two or three, along with Broduer and Luongo.

Ovechkin has never once in his entire career done anything out of selfishness. This is a guy who’d likely take a teammate’s stick and drop it like it was burning him if a teammate scored fifty. He loves the game, he loves to score, and his much maligned celebrations are simply a product of that. I wish every player in the league loved to play the game as much as Alex. Alex is the type of guy that, if he wasn’t good enough in the NHL, he’d spend his entire career in the ECHL making barely enough to live on and having to work fast food in the off season just so he could play the game.

The thing about hockey is that it has a long history of stone-faced stars. You can bet Maurice Richard didn’t even smile when he scored his 50th goal… of course the fact that hockey players have no teeth may be one of the reasons. A lot of the old school guys, and by old school guys I mean specifically Don Cherry, think that celebrating goals is childish and  selfish. They are dead wrong. Celbrating goals means that you are proud of what you have accomplished, excited to have done it for you team and fans, and enjoying your the time you are spending on the ice which is exactly how grown men being payed to play games should act.

Having said all that there is a time and a place. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are done by three+ goals. No one needs to celebrate a goal when they are up three+ goals. Those kinds of actions certainly scream a “me first” sort of attitude. Ovechkin’s goal was neither of these things. That doesn’t mean it’s totally innocent, however. If I was the Tampa Bay Lightening watching Ovechkin drop it like it’s hot I’d certainly want to pop him one. Oh hey! Guess what? That’s perfectly within the rules of the game. Wanna know why they didn’t? Cause he would kick their collective asses. You see, he’s not just a goal scorer, no sir. He’s a big guy who plays a complete game, and that includes dropping someone to the ice if need be.

If goal celebrations like that become an epidemic then the league will certainly do something about it. The league might support players being excited that they scored, but they are uninterested in showy theatrics like that. They allow Ovechkin to do it because he is the most charismatic man ever to play the game, but if he does it again or other players take his lead expect penalties to be called.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get a chance to hear his response to the criticism, it’s timeless Alex Ovechkin:

“It’s a big number, I think for everybody. If I get it, why [can’t I] celebrate? If you win the lottery — a million dollars — you go to the bar and drink a lot. I scored 50 goals, I just celebrated.”

yes you did Alex, yes you did. And your stellar play, charming personality, and endless wit make you just about everyone’s (Crosby and Cherry excluded) favourite player.

COAT TAILS

Posted in Boston, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Players, predictions, Washington by yankhockey on March 17, 2009

Martin Brodeur’s recent record breaking performance has led me to think about the records sitting on the other side of the puck. The list of all-time points leaders is topped by two significant names; Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Gretzky tops the list by nearly 1000 points with 2857 points in just 1487 games. For those of you counting that’s nearly two points a game for an entire career. Messier comes in a distant second with 1887 points in 1756 games. The current player closest to that number is Joe Sakic with 1641, and he’s a year at most till retirement.

So who can give Gretzky a scare? Which player playing today is going to supplant the Great One on the point throne? The answer, or course, is no one. Gretzky scored over 200 points four times, only one other person (Mario Lemiuex) has even come within one point of getting there. But someone could certainly take a run at Messier’s coveted number two. So let’s check the line-up.

Sidney Crosby:

He’s 21 and he has 384 points. If the Penguins can keep him surrounded with players who can turn his passes into goals, or give him the feeds he needs to score, then it’s unlikely that the torrent pace of points will stop. The one thing Crosby needs to worry about is his health. He’s had some injury problems, and if those problems turn into an annual occurrence it will severely stunt his numbers. However, modern medicine being what it is, it’s likely that even with injuries he is capable of a long career, so don’t expect 200 points in a year, but do expect him to be knocking at the 2000 point door at the end of his career.

Evgeni Malkin:

22 years old and he is knocking on Crosby’s door with 288 points. This is his best season however and he is handily beating “The Kid” in the points department, and I’m thinking that’s going to be the way of things as long as these two are playing together. Two reasons: 1) he stays healthier, and 2) he’s a better goal scorer. Both of these players seem to feed best off each other, whether it’s on the same line, or competing within the team. If the Penguins can’t hang on to them both (and I see no way they can) it may mean a significant drop-off in points. The other thing I see in Malkin’s future is a trip home. Europeans tend to have shorter North American careers, and with Russian money being almost as good as American money these days there’s nothing much to stop him from playing at home for the same wage.

Paul Stastny:

This wunderkind was having an awesome career until injuries dragged him and point partner Joe Sakic through the mud. Still, with genes like this (his father Peter ended his career with 1239 of his own points), he’ll certainly make a run at the points record. He’s 23 and his career is poised for the upswing, making his 185 current points a small percentage of his eventual total.

Marian Gaborik:

Ha ha, just kidding. If he even manages 800 games in this league I’ll be surprised.

Alexander Ovechkin:

He’s a little older then Crosby, and his point totals are barely more at 399, but Ovechkin seems to me to be the biggest challenger to Messier’s numbers for three reasons: 1)He stays healthy, 2) he keeps getting better every year, and 3) he’s done it with absolutely no supporting staff. Crosby at various points has had Mario Lemieux, Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa, and Evgeni Malkin to raise his game. Ovechkin has had Mike Green, Alexander Semin, and Sergei Federov who are all good to great to used to be great players, but not nearly on the level of talent Crosby has had to work with. The other thing about Ovechkin is he loves playing in the NHL. He loves American media, he loves American culture, and he would love nothing more then to win the American championship. He’ll be in the league for a long time, and if at any time Washington manages to get another star for him to play with he may even skirt the 200 point mark (not really, but he’s certainly capable of 70+ goals which hasn’t happened in far too long).

Of course, the real threat to Messier’s numbers, maybe even Gretzky’s numbers, was Bobby Orr. Orr had 915 points in only 650 games. That is almost a thousand less games then Gretzky played, and a lot of those games were being played while he suffered from horrendous knee injuries.  His knees kicked him out of the game at the young age of 30, and in those final three years he scored only 45 points in only 36 games. That means that from the age of 18 to the age of 26 he scored 871 points in 624 games, or 1.4 points per game. Messier’s was 1.07, Gretzky’s was 1.92. However, Orr’s best years were ahead of him. If not for his knee we may be talking about Orr’s record tonight instead of Gretzky’s. Also, he was +124 one year… that’s the most insane number I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

GOALIE GODS

Posted in Buffalo, Calgary, Columbus, Dallas, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Players, predictions, Prospects, Vancouver by yankhockey on March 16, 2009

Martin Brodeur tied Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record over the weekend. Add to that the fact that he is only a few shutouts behind the current record and there is little you can say against him being named the greatest goaltender of to play the game. Some people might say that he is a few Stanley Cups away from being the greatest, but consider the era he plays in. There are thirty teams in the league now, and all of them are competitive. In years past, when the league  expanded, the new teams suffered from a lack of available talent, but with the arrival of European players, as well as better youth programs in the US and Canada, the talent pool is so big that many players of an NHL level of play are playing in the AHL or European leagues.

But I’m not here to argue Broduers case, he’s argued that enough with his play, I’m here to argue whether any goaltender we’re watching now will ever beat his wins total. So let’s look at the usual suspects.

Roberto Luongo:

The heir apparent of Brodeurs goaltending kingdom certainly has made a case for himself for the last four years. The problem is, unlike Broduer, Luongo spent a lot of time backstopping a horrible team; the Panthers. He just racked up too many losses in his early career to catch up. Ever after winning more then thirty (more then forty even) games in the last four seasons he still has a losing record.

Brodeur’s first four full seasons looked thusly:

27-11-8, 19-11-8, 34-30-12, and 37-14-13

Luongo’s:

12-24-7, 16-33-4, 20-34-7, and 25-33-14

Miikka Kiprusoff:

He leads the league in wins this year, but don’t let that fool you. He’s fallen off his game since he backstopped the Flames to the finals. As of the writing of this column, in the last four games he has let in well over twenty goals. He was doing the same thing at the start of the year, giving up twelve goals in his first two games alone. He’s done people, his fifteen minutes are up.

Marty Turco:

An interesting case could be made for Turco. He’s been a solid starter since he started his career, and has played in front of a winning team that entire time. However, this year he has proved with his play that he benefited from Dallas being one of the most defensively responsible teams in front of him. With their defense older and depleted this year he has struggled to win games at times and has given up far too many goals. He just doesn’t have enough years left to pull out the 300+ wins he needs.

Ryan Miller:

In the last couple of years Ryan Miller has really shown himself to be an elite goaltender. The only problem is he’s already 28 and this is only his third year as a starter. Miller is good, really good, especially because he can make a bad team good. But it looks like it will be too little too late for Miller.

Henrik Lundqvuist:

Now things are getting interesting. Lundqvuist is a great goaltender backstopping the only team in the league who can both attract and afford star players. Even though the Rangers don’t appear to be poised to compete for the Cup anytime soon, let alone a division title, Lundqvuist can win 30+ games a season through talent alone. He’s young, he’s good, and if he can stay healthy he may be able to compete for the wins title.

Carey Price:

If he starts playing like he did last year and shows that this year is just a sophomore slump Price could made a go at the wins title. However, if he was simply playing above his level last year and we’ll be seeing the Price of this year continue into the years to come the he won’t even be close.

Steve Mason:

The young phenom that is Mason is the best chance, in my mind, to make a go at this record. He is only twenty and will end up winning thirty this year. Not only that, if his numbers continue to improve, he may even make a go at the shutouts record. If he wins 35 every year for the next sixteen years, bringing him to Brodeurs current age, he’ll have 560, beating what Brodeur has now.

DEADLINE SPECIAL

Welcome to the Yankee Hockey Trade Deadline Special! It was, as I expected, a not so crazy day where only a few teams managed to get everything on their shopping list, and many teams moved horizontally rather then vertically. So let’s get to it.

The Big  Winners:

Calgary: The Flames are the big winners not because of their biggest trade, Olli Jokinen for  Lombardi, Prust, and a 1st, but because of the trade they made earlier for Jordan Leopold for two fringe defensemen and a 2nd round pick. Calgary’s offense didn’t need any sort of boost. Sure, Jokinen’s big body is helpful, just hardly necessary.  Their one weakness this year (other then Kipprusoff being sketchy at times) has been a shaky defense. Leopold is a great defenseman with a high offensive upside, he immediately makes Calgary tougher to play against. Jokinen is a good player, but he doesn’t make Calgary intimidating like Leopold does.

Phoenix: So they lost Jokinen, so what? He was hardly a force to be reckoned with in the desert anyway. What they did do was get a first, second, and fourth round pick, a bunch of good forwards in Scottie Upshall, Peter Prucha, Brandon Prust, Matthew Lombardi, and Nigel Dawes, as well as a decent defenseman in Dmitri Kalinin. They may be out of the playoff race this year, but next year they will be retooled and better then ever.

Boston Bruins: Mark Recchi was a pretty good pick up. He’ll help them more in the post season then he will now, but they didn’t give up much for him and somehow managed to get a second round pick in 2010 to boot. The addition that makes them big winners is getting Steve Montador in exchange for the currently injured Petteri Nokelainen, who isn’t even that good when he’s not injured. Montador is a great defensemen and immediately makes the toughest team in the East even tough. With Recchi and Montador on their squad they should go very deep into the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets: They got rid of a goaltender they didn’t need, and in return got an experienced center they desperately need. This is a young team with almost not playoff experience, adding Antoinne Vermette, who went to the Stanley Cup finals two seasons ago, immediately makes this team a dark horse pick in the post-season.

Moving  Sideways:

New York Rangers:  Sure they got Derek Morris and Nik Antropov, and those two should shore up a bit of the holes in the Rangers’ ship, but what they really needed was a scoring winger. Antropov is both big and talented, but he’s a center who isn’t very good on the wing. They can’t put him with Gomez, and that’s really where they needed to add a player. Not only that they gave up young and talented Peter Prucha for Morris and that may end up hurting them in seasons to come.

Philadelphia Flyers: Already a scrappy team, I’m not sure why the Flyers felt they needed to pick up  gritty players like Jeff Carcillo and Kyle McLaren. With the most assets of any team in the league available for a big trade the Flyers fell surprisingly flat. Well, they didn’t need much, they didn’t get much, they are the definition of moving sideways.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sorry if I don’t think that addition of Bill Guerin for next to nothing is a winning move. The Penguins needed someone to add some life into their line-up. Guerin will add some goals, but he definitely won’t add any inspiration. What they have right now is Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cooke trying to breathe some life into this team, and that’s just not enough. Rumour was they were looking to bring back Jarkko Ruutu, and that would have helped big time. Guerin just won’t put them over the top of anything.

San Jose Sharks: Here was a team that didn’t need to make any trade at all, and then they went and made two. They got rid of Kyle McLaren who is a good every day defensemen, and then picked up a poor replacement in Kent Huskins. And where exactly do they expect Travis Moen to play?

Anaheim Ducks: I really probably could have put them into the losing category because they didn’t pick up anything good, unless your idea of good is untested prospects. But they didn’t lose anything good either. Maybe… maybe Travis Moen, but he’s only pretty good. Now, they very well could have traded Pronger or Niedermayer and gotten a pretty penny back. That they didn’t means they must believe they can make it to at least the second round this year, but because they will probably be facing either the Sharks or the Wings if they do make it, I highly doubt that.

Big Losers:

Toronto Maple Leafs: They got rid of everything and got almost nothing in return. I know that Brian Burke loves picks, but he hasn’t often shown an ability to use them well. Vancouver still suffers from his drafting years, in Anaheim he benefited from the previous GM’s picks. If he thinks that Toronto fans will be patient as he tries to rebuild this team entirely from scratch he hasn’t been paying attention. Further, the two goaltenders they got, Olaf Kolzig and Martin Gerber, haven’t done anything to merit a starting job in a few years. What’s the plan there?

Florida Panthers: I appreciate that they want to keep Bouwmeester around for the playoffs. Getting to the post-season is a super big deal in Florida this year. I think they’re getting in with or without the guy, and they would have certainly gotten both players and picks for him. I’m sure they could have convinced either Philly or Vancouver who were both rumoured to be frothing at the bit for him to give up one of their roster defensemen in return. Bouwmeester is not going to mean the difference between the first and second round for Florida, they will be beat early on and then they will lose him in the off-season

Vancouver Canucks: So you see your divisional rival Calgary Flames make two excellent deals and you can’t do anything? Not a god damn thing? Look, I completely understand that if there are no good deals to make then you don’t make a deal, but you need a center and the Rangers pick up Nik Antropov for a second round pick. At this point GM Mike Gillis better re-sign the Sedin twins and Mattias Ohlund quick before fans start to think he is incapable of any action whatsoever.

Chicago Blackhawks: If this team wants to be considered one of the elite of the league then they needed to make a move. What move did they make? Sami Pahlsson? Really guys? Is that the best you can do? They have two starting goaltenders eating away at their cap space and they couldn’t rid themselves of either of them? This will come back to haunt them in the post-season.

Trading Day Oddities:

Dallas Stars pick up Brendan Morrison on the waiver wire: This is an oddity because Brendan Morrison is a Stars killer! He scored an awesome overtime goal a couple years ago against Turco in the playoffs that really killed the Stars. But, I guess keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer.

Three-way deal of nothing: The Kings, ‘Canes, and Oilers made what the most frustrating deal of the day with O’Sullivan going to the Oil, Cole going to the ‘Canes, and Williams going to LA. All three players aren’t exactly having banner years, emphasis on Williams and Cole there. O’Sullivan is the best of the bunch, and he’s going to the team least likely to make the playoffs. What an excercise in futility this trade was.

BUY OR SELL?

Posted in Players by yankhockey on March 3, 2009

As of the writing of this articles there is… 15 hours, 43 minutes, and 8 seconds until the trade deadline, and nothing of note has occurred. Well, unless you consider about 12000 man hours of coverage in the last week something of note.

This year the trading deadline is looking a lot like the world economy, fears of big money commitments and getting rid of an under appreciated commodity immaturely. With the deadline less then a day away there have been more players put on waivers then traded, many of them good players. Certainly you’d think that a player like Miroslav Satan or Brendan Morrison, both people who in deadlines past have garnered a lot of attention, could elicit at least a third round pick from a team looking for a proven point producer, but instead their respective teams have put them on waivers… and it doesn’t appear that anyone is willing to take them on.

The reason is the same reason why we may not see any big deals going down this year. Though Satan and Morrison’s contracts would hardly have been considered big money in years past, with a salary cap set to decrease in the coming year teams have to be much more aware of what exactly they are adding to their roster. Now, I expect at least Morrison to be picked up seeing as how his contract is finished at the end of the season, but picking up any player these days is risky.

If there is one big deal that is going to go down it will involve Jay Bouwmeester. Not only is he the best upcoming unrestricted free agent, he is the best unrestricted free agent by far. Not only that there is very little chance he will re-sign in Florida meaning the team had best move him because he is going to bring to them a lot of prospects. The big problem comes in the nature of prospects in today’s NHL. Many teams have used prospects to great effect instead of costly stars. It turns out you can pay a really good prospect 850k to score as many points as a veteran being payed 3.5 million. Not only that, their leadership skills are being utilized as well. Jonathan Toews is captaining Chicago in his second year. Mike Richards is captaining Philly and he’s only 25. And what about Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, they’ve been leading their teams since they came into the league. The league is looking younger and younger every year, except for Detroit which is looking older but keeps winning. Prospects may have once been something you could trade like hockey cards, but no longer. Now a prospect is a potential cheap point producer, and GMs are less willing to give one up, especially for a rental player.

In years past you would have seen many rental players like Bouwmeester being traded at the deadline, but now the only way it’s going to happen is if the team taking on the rental contract believes that that player is the difference between an early playoff exit and the Stanley Cup, or at least the division championship. Bouwmeester could make that difference to a couple teams, Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim could make that difference, but no other potential UFAs this year really have that kind of make or break presence. No, this year you’ll be seeing many players with contracts extending past this year being traded. No GM worth his salt is going to trade good prospects and young players for a rental, and that’s what teams are going to want back. The team paying the prospects will want at least another year of a reasonable contract or no deal.

In the end there will be some deals being made. Toronto will be broken up into little tiny pieces so Brian Burke can remake it in his image. Bouwmeester will find himself wearing different colors by the end of the day. And some team will stupidly give up a fine young player that hasn’t reached his potential yet for an over-appreciated veteran with the full support of the fans, until they realized what they’ve done. (I’m looking at you Vancouver). That’s the trade deadline for you.

So far the only thing of note was the Ray Whitney to Anaheim for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh which everyone immediately called a win for Anaheim. I disagree. Whitney is a fine offensive defenseman, but anyone who has really watched him play will tell you his defense has more holes than my sock once the dog’s gotten through with it, while Kunitz is a good young forward who easily has thirty goal potential. Oh, and guess what? Tangradi is going to be one awesome defenseman in the future.

Other then that, Montreal did great picking up Schneider. Comrie and Campoli  for McAmmond was a horrible move for Ottawa since they managed to give away their first round pick for Mike Comrie. And picking up Havelid just shores New Jersey up that much more.

Check in Thursday for a special “After Trading Day” Yankee Hockey.

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MARTY’S BACK

Posted in New Jersey, Players by yankhockey on February 26, 2009

So Martin Brodeur came back yesterday after missing pretty much the entire season up to this point and all he managed to do was shut out the Avalanche. Granted, it is the Avalanche without Joe Sakic and a just-back-from-horrible-injury Paul Stastny, but Brodeur hasn’t played a game since November 1st and he achieved his 99th career shut-out. Think he’ll get to 100 before the year is out? Uh, yeah. Not only that he is now only six wins away from the all time record in wins. Had he not been injured we would have been celebrating all this before Christmas and now it would have been forgotten in the midst of playoff hunts and the trading deadline, so it’s nice to have him come back strong now so our excitement for the end of the regular season can coincide with our excitement for Brodeur. There’s always something magical about people approaching milestones at the end of a season. Like Roger Maris hitting 61 on the last game of the season.

There’s little doubt that Brodeur is the greatest goalie of this generation. I’m well aware that Patrick Roy was incredible between the pipes, but even a man of his boundless ego would have to admit that Brodeur is better and more consistent then he ever was. Brodeur is not going to just beat his total wins record, he’s going to shatter it. The man will be 37 in May, and seeing guys like Eddie Belfour, Curtis Joseph, and Brian Boucher play well into their forties leads me to believe he’s got at least 90 more wins in him, and probably 15 more shut-outs. And that’s only if he starts to slow down in his old age.

What is almost lost in all this though is the treatment of Scott Clemmenson by the Devils. Clemmensen stepped in when Broduer went down and kept the Devils from falling down the standings. In fact, under Clemmensen’s backstopping they took over the lead in the Atlantic Division. And what do they do when Brodeur comes back to thank him? They send him down to the AHL. The Devils have apparently decided that Kevin Weekes will be Brodeurs back-up despite the fact that he has never done anything in his career to show that he is capable of consistently winning games at the NHL level, which Clemmensen certainly did. What are they worried about? That he’ll have to go through waivers? Trust me guys, no one is picking up his contract, you’re paying him regardless, might as well go with a winner.

Of course, the fact the Brodeur will play every remaining game probably was a factor. Why leave Clemmensen to rot on the bench when he could be getting valuable experience actually playing the game of hockey at the AHL level. Still, in thanks for everything he has done for you this year, you might as well leave him in the bench and allow him to soak up NHL glory. Even though he won more games for them this season (25) then he ever should have been able to, if they go on to win the Stanley Cup and he isn’t on the bench I don’t believe he gets his name engraved on it (correct me if I’m wrong though). That would be a true shame. Of course, there’s nothing to say he won’t make his way back up come playoff time, especially because I don’t see the Devils having any confidence in Weekes come post-season.

SHORT HANDED MAGIC

Posted in Philadelphia, Players, stats by yankhockey on February 22, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, you don’t want to go on the power-play against the Flyers. They lead the league in short handed goals… by a ton. And they are, in turn, lead by their captain Mike Richards who just happens to have tied a team record over the weekend by potting his seventh short handed goal this season against the Penguins. Oh yes, it was also his third game in a row with a short handed goal, and one of those three came while the Flyers were two men short which was the league record third time in his career he’d accomplished that. Oh yes, this is only his fourth full season with the Flyers.

How bug of a deal is seven? Well, the record is thirteen, set by Mario Lemiuex, and he’s unlikely to reach that. But at the rate he’s going ten certainly isn’t out of the question, eleven is probably in reach too. Only four players have ever scored more then nine; Lemiuex twice, Gretzky twice, Marcel Dionne and some guy named Dirk Graham who unfortunately scored his ten the same year Lemiuex scored thirteen thereby ruining a perfectly good opportunity to lead the league.

Scoring short handed is supposed to be a difficult thing to do, but the Flyers have been doing it like they’re on the power-play. Richards himself has nine short handed points, Simon Gagne has four goals and four assists, Jeff Carter has four goals of his own, even under achieving Glen Metropolit (who I continue to expect to pull out and awesome season and am continually disappointed by) has managed a short handed assist of his own. In total the Flyers have scored 16 short handed goals, which is ridiculous. Most teams, if they’re good at the penalty kill, and a little lucky, will pot eight or nine in a season total, the Flyers are looking at more then that from just one player.

I saw Richards’ seventh goal. It came off one of the laziest passes I’ve ever seen. I can understand that a team can get a little over confident on the power play, but when you know you are playing the best short handed scoring team in the league you have to know that you must be responsible. But then, being lazy and irresponsible, especially on the defensive end, has been the biggest criticism against the Penguins this year. In any case, it was a slow pass across the blueline that Richards picked up so naturally it almost seemed like it was meant for him. He was off then, all alone against Marc-Andre Fleury and with a slight nudge of his stick blade he sneaked the puck five hole. In the end it didn’t matter much, the Penguis won the game thanks to the Flyers’ goalie woes, but it was still embarrassing.

In fact, there’s nothing so embarassing in hockey then to let in a short handed goal. Unless you’re the team getting the short handed goal, then you can start teasing the opposing goaltender by chanting his name over and over and over again. The Flyers are a little unique this year in that scoring short handed goals seems to be part of their strategy. Most teams will take one when they can get one, but discourage most attempts because if you mess up the opposing team has even more advantage the other way. Something Philly is doing is right though, even with throwing caution to the wind they are still tied for seventh in the league in the penalty kill. I wonder how much of that is due to other teams being intimidated and trying to play it extra safe while on the power play? If the Flyers go far into the playoffs, I imagine that more teams will be trying to imitate that style in the future. They better hope they got a player like Mike Richards on their team if they do, though, because he may be the most powerful PK offensive machine tis league has seen in a very very long time.

TAKES YOUR BREATHE AWAY

Posted in Players, Washington by yankhockey on February 19, 2009

As I said in my last post, the whole point of hockey, of sports in general, is entertainment. It’s not about collecting stats, it’s not about breaking records, it’s not even about winning championships (though… granted those tend to be quite entertaining), it’s all about playing a game and making it enjoyable to watch so that fans will pay money for the honor of relaxing for a couple of hours and feel content that their money was well spent. In that regard, I have never seen a better player then Alexander Ovechkin. I have seen a lot of great players live; Pavel Bure, Mark Messier, Luc Robitaille, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thorton, Jarome Iginla, Roberto Luongo, Mika Kipprusoff, Evgeni Nabakov… but none of them offer me the pure hockey pleasure that I get every time I watch Ovechkin.

The reason I feel the need to go on and on about Ovechkin like this was the goal he scored Wednesday night against Montreal. If it was the first time he’d scored a goal that was nothing but amazing we’d be impressed, but he’s done it over and over and over again, each time being just as entertaining as the last. Well, take a look at the goal yourself and see what you think:

I’ve embedded the one with commentary from John Buccigross and Barry Melrose because Melrose says something very true, it’s the play off the wall that’s the most impressive. Not to say the goal itself isn’t awesome, especially when you watch it at different angles. At first it looks like he just pushes the puck along with his body into the net, but when you look at it from head on you see that the puck goes into the net long before Ovechkin skirts the crease, and that it’s the defenseman who knocks the net off, not Ovechkin. So not only does he perform an mind blowing spin-o-rama pass to himself off the wall, he manages to flip the puck over Carey Price while on his back, and at the same time changes his direction from into the net to across the crease! It’s like a ballet it’s got so many complex moves.

At the end he mentions Phoenix as being his best goal. That Phoenix goal was like Kennedy being shot, hockey fans everywhere know exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first saw it. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, allow me to show you this:

It almost hurts to watch. That’s the magic of Ovechkin, he makes your jaw drop almost every time he has the puck. So I thought it would be fun to go through some other stunning goals and talk a little about what makes them great.

Rick Nash Dekes Out the Entire Coyotes Team:

This goal demonstrates the reason I love Rick Nash. He’s the size of the Incredible Hulk, but he’s got the hands of a surgeon. He makes the Coyotes look like amateurs. Every turn of his stick makes you intake a little more breathe until he finally scores and you get to exhale in one long “wow!” Incredible goal that belongs on highlight reels from now until the end of time.

Pavel Bure Hits the Booster Jets:

Just watching Bure take speed to another level is impressive enough, but then the stick-to-skate-to-stick move he pulls? Forgetaboutit. That was like the Usain Bolt 100m dash of the hockey world right there. he was so far ahead of everyone he took the time to put a little dazzle on his goal.

Do You Believe In Miracles?:

Do I even need to explain this goal on a site called Yankee Hockey? US college players, Soviet Red Army team, Eruzione scores in the third to win. Maybe the most exciting goal of all time.

Peter Forsberg Goes for Gold:

Maybe not the most exciting goal ever if you are only looking for something flashy, but consider the context. Sweden going for their first Olympic gold in their own country against a powerhouse Canada team. Young Peter Forsberg, not yet a household name, comes in and squeeks one by for the win. They made a postage stamp in Sweden to commemorate this event. Also impressive was Tommy Salo who’d never be able to live up to this moment again, especially a couple of Olympics later when he let in a goal against Belarus at the blue line.

The Goal:

It’s “The Goal”. There’s almost no topping this. Arguably the best player to ever play the game, at the top of his game and at the defining moment of his game. Nothing says hockey like

There are plenty of more goals out there that have stunned hockey fans from around the world, these are just the few that have stunned me. If there are any goals out there, dear readers, that have taken your breathe away, please let me know and I’ll try to highlight them in a later post.

BATTLE OF THE TITANS

Posted in Pittsburgh, Players, Surprise of the Week, Washington by yankhockey on January 16, 2009

For those of you who do not get ESPN, or simply choose not to watch it, there is a very popular show which the station airs called Pardon the Interruption, or PTI. On it two sports columnists, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, argue about current sporting issues and events. It’s really a damn fun show to watch because it accurately portrays what every sports fan does with other sports fans: yell as loud as you can to be heard. These two guys have been talking and writing about sports for longer then I’ve been alive, and they really know their stuff. Well, they really know their stuff… except for hockey. It’s not their fault really, hardly anyone in the states really knows about hockey. Read any AP Wire Service game recap and you can tell the author has absolutely no idea what two teams were even playing the game. Anyway, the two men, though they both admit to attending many Capitals’ games, couldn’t talk hockey to save their lives. Thankfully the producers rarely give them hockey to talk about, unless someone does something exceptionally stupid or violent.

So I was a little surprised yesterday when they not only had a hockey topic to talk about, but that they got it right on, despite the fact that they disagreed with the majority of hockey experts. The topic: Is Alexander Ovechkin better then Sidney Crosby? Now they were talking about this because the players met on Wednesday where Ovechkin potted two goals, and added an assist, while Crosby skated away with a respectable two assists. Against the flow of the show, the two men agreed on this topic. Both men declared Alexander Ovechkin is better then Sidney Crosby despite Canadian and NHL media trying desperately to insist otherwise. And you know what my friends, they are absolutely right.

This debate has been going on since the first year these two began playing. Too be sure, they are both phenoms. They are both incredible, once in a lifetime type players. But Ovechkin has shown over and over again that he is a better hockey player. Watching Ovechkin must be similar to what it was like to watch Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, or Mike Bossy. He is a beast on skates. He hits people with such a flourish that if you missed the number 8 on his back you’d swear you were watching an enforcer play. He’s so strong on the puck that once it’s on his stick it’s only coming off at the time of his choosing. Before one of the goals he scored Wednesday, a defender had three or four whacks at the puck on Ovechikin’s blade before he scored. The guy actually defended himself out of the play trying to move Ovechkin off the puck. He’s got an unnatural ability to put pucks in the net. On his other goal of the game he went to pass across the crease and ended up knocking it off a defender’s skate and into the net. It’s not because he has the greatest hands in the world, his stick work is pretty good but far from the fanciest I’ve seen. It’s his pure determination. It’s like all he sees is pucks and nets. I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Jimmy Hendrix and his guitar, Ovechkin sleeps with a stick.

Crosby is a great player, better by far then 99% of the players in the league, but he just doesn’t stand up. Even Ovechkin’s off ice time is better then Crosby’s. The man is the most personable man I’ve ever seen in sports. He’s like Terrel Owens without all the baggage. he’s charming, witty, and he bleeds excitement regardless of what he is talking about. The one area where Crosby is certainly better is passing. Ovechkin has good puck handling skills, and is a good passer too, but Crosby is even better. Crosby’s ability to pass is what really makes him a phenomenal player.

Now, there is a lot to be said about the different positions they play. Ovechkin is a winger, while Crosby is a center. The two positions have different responsibilities, and different styles. Crosby is probably currently the best at what he does, but that doesn’t make him better then Ovechkin.

The PTI guys said something else that surprised me, something else right on the ball. They said that Crosby wasn’t even the best player… on his own team! They said that Evgeni Malkin was the best player on the Pittsburgh team, and they’re right, he is. Malkin is an extraordinary player who doesn’t play with the same zest and lust that Ovechkin does, but has noticeable more skill the Crosby. Crosby may be the best Canadian player in the game today, and even if you weren’t sure about that any discussion of the top three would have to include him, but sorry Canada, he’s not the best player in the game today.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

I must say, I am quite taken aback by the resurgence of the Dallas Stars. They are 5-3-2 in their last ten, which is hardly great, but by their standards it’s incredible. They are fighting their way back into play-off contention, and you know what, they just might make it.