yankee hockey

NEXT YEAR IN ZION

As of tonight the playoffs are pretty much set (with the seven and eight spots in the West coming down to the final two games). Some teams deserved a spot but couldn’t find one, some teams couldn’t fight through the rough patches, and some teams apparently were brought into the league from the ECHL without any of our knowledge. The year is over for 14 teams, but that doesn’t mean those teams should be out of our minds. Let’s see what non-playoff teams have in store for the off-season leading into next season.

NY Islanders:

The Islanders are a team mired in mediocrity. It’s sad that a team that dominated the late seventies/early eighties is now the laughing stock of the league. What with a 15 year contract for DiPietro (how’s that going Mr. Wang?), along with years of teams consisting of youngsters without mentors, there’s not much to look forward to. If GM Garth Snow is smart he’ll forego the siren song of Tavares and go for big defensemen Hedman who they need more. With Kyle Okposo, Bill Guerin, and Mark Streit leading the scoring department, Richard Park leading the heart department, and Viktor Hedman leading the defense they sure to finish better then last next year.

Tampa Bay:

They had a hickup this year. This team is much better then it’s record. What they really need is defense. They may be better off trading their early pick for a load of big NHL ready defensemen. If they can shore up their back end then they’ll be back in the playoffs next year.

Colorado:

Everything in Colorado depends on what Sakic decides to do this off-season. It’s my belief that he wants one more full year and won’t let this year be his last. Still, a year lost to injury could convince an older player that it’s time to hang ’em up. Even with Sakic back, there’s not much Colorado can do to make it back to the post-season next year, unless there’s a cave in the Rockies where a goalie and a defense is hiding.

Atlanta:

Like Colorado, there’s not much they can do in Atlanta to make it to the post-season next year. This is a team that requires a couple of years of building before it gets back into the playoffs. It all starts at the draft where they need to be smart, not popular. They need a Rick Nash or Shea Webber like player, not another Kovalchyuk.

Los Angeles:

This    team    is    so   good. Too bad there are at least seven teams in the West who will still be better next year, so it will still be a battle for them to make it into the playoffs. Still, you gotta think they’ll fight for Anaheim for that spot all year with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Quick.

Phoenix:

Like LA, Phoenix is a very good team. They have a very strong defense, they’ll have an older Kyle Turris, and hopefully they’ll still have Shane Doan. I’m not sure what happened to Bryzgalov this year, but he could get it back next year. I think they’ll be fighting for the eighth spot.

Toronto:

It’s another rebuilding year in TO. Unfortunately they have nothing to build with., especially since they traded almost all of their tradeable players before the deadline this year and really only managed to replace their second round pick. We’ll see if Brian Burke can prove he didn’t just inherit a champion team in Anaheim.

Dallas:

Things are looking old in Dallas. They need to get young and they need to get young fast. I expect them to be amongst the busiest traders come draft day. Will Modano stay another year? Will Turco flop again next year? They’ll need to improve a lot to make it back to the post-season, I expect a couple of years of rebuilding.

Ottawa:

Ottawa is a weird one cause they can score a metric butt-load of goals, but somehow they couldn’t score more then the opposition. They need goaltending and a puck moving defensemen. They can probably get both through trades alone. With those two things in place they should be able to squeeze into one of the bottom three spots in the East.

Edmonton:

For years now Edmonton has been the whipping boy of the Northwest Division, and that’s not likely to change. Their number one goaltender ends this season at 39 years of age, their young players aren’t playing well enough, and their defense is error prone. What they really need in the off-season is a Michael Peca-type leader, the kind you used to have in Ryan Smyth. If they can address that need (instead of trying to poach some untested RFA again) then they have a good chance to improve in the standings.

Minnesota:

One of the teams that may still make it into the post-season, Minny doesn’t stand a chance. In the off-season they will lose their most gifted offensive talent in Marian Gaborik, not that he ever could reach his potential because of injuries. That leaves them with talented, but not nearly talented enough Mikko Koivu. The Wild do not have the firepower to get back into the post-season, nor will they be able to find it in one off-season. I see in their future, the NY Islanders.

Buffalo:

They really shouldn’t be on this list, but they are going to be playing golf this Spring instead of hockey so here they are. All they need is a full season from Tomas Vanek and Ryan Miller and they are good to go.

Florida:

Like Buffalo, they didn’t necessarily belong on this list. They will, however, next season if they can’t replace Jeremy Bouwmeester. This was their year and they just couldn’t pull it off. They’re going to need to get some tough defenders and some flashy forwards in the off-season.

There will be one more team to miss the playoffs, but at this point there are three tied at 88. Each of those teams has what it takes, for the most part, to make it. And all of those teams, for the most part, are primed to improve next season. Nashville found a great starting goaltender in Pekka Rinne. St Louis has an incredibly potent offense. And Anaheim… well if Niedermayer doesn’t retire and they keep Pronger there’s no reason to doubt they won’t be right back in the thick of things come 2010. The biggest question is who is in this year that will get left behind next year. Look out Montreal, at the end of the season all but ten of your contracts run out, and you barely squeezed in this year.

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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.

GIVING IT THE OLD COLLEGE TRY

Posted in column, Prospects by yankhockey on March 31, 2009

There was a little something you may have noticed going on for the past couple weeks, the NCAA playoffs. No, I’m not talking about basketball, but rather the college hockey tournament which pits the best 16 college teams against each other in single elimination MADNESS!. No really, it’s pretty fun.

This year was kind of an odd one. Many of the teams normally associated with the tournament, the U of Minnesota, Boston College, and Michigan State didn’t make the cut this year, while Air Force, New Hampshire, Miami (Ohio) and lowly Bemidji State not only appeared in the tourney, but managed to upset some tournament stalwarts.

This year Boston University was the number one seeded team, and it seems well founded since they haven’t had much competition so far. They will be playing Vermont, who has a very decent team, in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, in the upset bracket, Bemidji State, who beat surprisingly second seeded Notre Dame and college hockey powerhouse Cornell will be facing the out of no where Miami (Ohio) who had to beat Colorado and Minnesota Duluth, so either team coming out of the lower bracket this year will be a surprising one.

There are two problems with the Frozen Four that make it much less significant then the Final Four. One, they really don’t get the word out enough on the hockey tournament. I realize that hockey doesn’t have the across the board market that basketball does, but there still needs to be more talk, more advertising, and better television deals to really pique the interests of people out there. The second reason is that the best players of college age just aren’t in the NCAA college tournament.

The NBA has a rule that does not allow players to be join the league right out of high school, or even be drafted for that matter. The NHL does not have that restraint. The most significant 18 and 19 year old players often head straight into professional leagues right out of junior. A lot of this has to do with the nature of hockey in Canada, where many of the best players come from. Junior hockey in Canada is as close to professional as you can get without a paycheck. Children are recruited onto teams, often having to leave their homes and schools and live with a surrogate family in another city, they are traded like commodities, and most of all they are taught to see professional hockey as their only goal. In the States junior and high school hockey is not nearly taken to that level. Though some US players do go straight to the pros, many take the college route. Other countries are more like Canada, at least when it comes to college age players drafted into the NHL. Very few European born players come from the college ranks, yet many of the best young stars in the NHL are European born.

Because of all this, the best college age hockey takes place during the world juniors, when the best players under 21 meet in a winner take all tournament. The Frozen Four, by comparison, is little league.

Of course, this is all due to the incredibly international nature of hockey. Though there are a great many good basketball players arriving into the NBA from countries other then the US, the best players are still coming from the college ranks. In the NHL the vast majority of players coming out of college are US players, with Canadians coming from major junior, and European either coming from their own junior leagues, or occasionally the WHL or ECHL where they’ve come to try to prove they can play the North American game. Still, that doesn’t make the Frozen Four insignificant, just less notable, amongst the other college championships. Believe me, NHL teams are watching for that diamond in the rough, and you should watch too. Not because you’re seeing the future of hockey, but because these guys have worked hard all year to be amongst the elite of college hockey and they may not have another moment like this again as they leave with diplomas and enter into the non-sporting workforce, and they’ve earned your attention.

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.

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.

YOUTH MOVEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

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

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