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.

Advertisements

EVERYTHING IS GOING AS PLANNED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK:

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