Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Most of all I wanted Steve Larmer to win it. Larmer was a great player, one of the most underappreciated players of his era. He did it all at both ends of the rink and when Chicago dumped him over money (what else?) that really was the beginning of the end of my support for that franchise. In my opinion Steve Larmer belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. It likely won't happen and I admit he is a borderline candidate at best but if Clark Gillies ...
Lowetide often brings up the example of Mark Howe as a guy who belongs in the Hall but whose career is underestimated because he never won. You can be sure that the aforementioned Gillies is in because of the Cups he won and Glenn Anderson will finally make it because of his. Winning a Cup tops off a guy's resume - he becomes a guy who knows what it takes, who has been there. the veteran presence in the room that contenders look for.
As an aside, Jerry Krause, mentioned in my last post, used that argument after he had broken up the Bulls. Trying to peddle a guy he would say "He's won three rings!". Said player might be the twelfth man on the roster, nailed to the bench, but Krause always tried to sell that point.
The second round of these year's playoffs looks to be as good as the first. The quality of hockey has been excellent. There are no Bettman teams still alive. You have three Original Six clubs, two of the most successful expansion clubs in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, two clubs who were big players over the last decade in Dallas and Colorado and a San Jose club with an interesting playoff history and a rabid fanbase. No Nashvilles or Floridas in this bunch. I'm not one to trun the TV off when the Oilers are eliminated. I don't watch every game but I watch what I can.
As a hockey fan I look at this list of teams and on almost every one I see a reason to hope for a championship.
The Avs - of course there is Ryan Smyth but seeing Forsberg, Sakic and Foote turn back the clock would be pretty cool too. Nobody I really dislike on the Avs but of course now that I am cheering for them the Wings are waxing them.
Detroit - Seeing Chris Osgood backstop these guys to a Cup would be pretty funny and seeing Cleary win it would be pretty cool. You also have the sublime Zetterberg and Datsyuk as well as Lidstrom. And for sheer comedic brilliance seeing Chris Chelios win one as he nears fifty would be hard to beat. Maybe he would slewfoot Bettman as he skated by.
San Jose - Joe Thornton seems like a guy who would be fun to drink beer with. Mike Grier is awesome. And Doug Wilson should have his name on the Cup. Big minus - Ron Wilson is an asshole.
Dallas - Dallas is Dallas. I like Brad Richards. I like Finland. Other then that, meh. Which means they are likely going all the way.
Pittsburgh - beautiful collection of youngsters plus LeGG and Gary Roberts. Also Ty Conklin, who even when he was pretty well humiliated in Edmonton never said a bad word. A true pro.
Montreal - Saku Koivu, the flamboyant Kovalev and Bob Gainey who has had far more heartbreak then any man should ever have
Rangers - Jagr's last shot and Shanahan's too. Marc Staal is going to be a great. Overall I am pretty neutral about these guys. Avery is a dick though.
Philadelphia - its probably going to be Philly/Dallas in the end. To see Jason Smith accept the Cup would be amazing. We all know how I feel about Thoresen's quest to finally win the Cup. Plus they have some nice players in Timmonen, Briere, Carter and Richards. But to see Lupul, Hatcher and Downie skate around with Stanley...
Yeah its going to be Philly.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Growing up I became a Chicago Blackhawks fan and then from there a fan of the Bears and the Cubs. So it worked out well that when I followed basketball for about a dozen years or so that Michael Jordan played for the Chicago club as well. Turns out that like many I was more of a Jordan fan then a basketball fan. When he left the scene the antics of guys like Iverson turned me off of the game pretty quickly. I can still tell you a little bit about what is going on but not much. When the Raptors lost badly to New Orleans in a game this winter I was stunned. I thought they were a bottom feeder. At the time they were actually first in the conference.
The GM of the Bulls during their glory years was a fat little man by the name of Jerry Krause. Krause hated dealing with the media - his favourite part of his job was scouting. His greatest coup, the one that made the dynasty, was finding Scottie Pippen in a little Arkansas college and drafting him. Pippen grew up dirt poor and was a pretty interesting person. He was a proud guy who at times had a prickly personality. He was known as No Tippen Pippen for his legendary cheapness. He also came up with one of the great lines, telling Karl Malone as the latter prepared to take a big foul shot in a Sunday matinee that "The mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays". He was also an amazing player in his own right. Without him the Bulls likely would not have won six titles in eight years, two sets of three sandwiching Jordan's first retirement.
Krause lived off the Pippen selection forever. I can't remember the exact details behind it but somehow he garnered the nickname "The Sleuth"; as a guy who loved scouting you can imagine what he thought of that nickname. The problem is that in following years Krause far too often tried to live up to that nickname, drafting unknowns, projects and longshots as he tried to prove his genius once again. When they tore apart the Bulls dynasty Krause figured he could build another one (he, like nearly everyone associated with the Bulls, was lumped in as a guy who would not have achieved what he did without Jordan) but he failed miserably. Years later they still wander the wilderness and Krause is long gone.
Michael Jordan's less flattering nickname for the rotund Krause was Crumbs due to the GM's tendency to leave bits of his meal laying about on his person.
Terry Jones' nickname is Mashed Potatoes, Stinky Cheese and Chocolate Pudding but I digress.
So here are my second round picks, keeping in mind that when it comes to this I quite often try too much to be like Jerry Krause and by ignoring what I know and what is smart, try to pick the longshot, in order to be able to say that I saw it coming. Or in the case of picking against the Ducks multiple times last season picking against a team because I don't like them.
6 and 2 in the first round, not too bad. Said at the time that I should have picked the Flyers and did not but an OT win in G7 is as close as it gets. As for Dallas beating the Ducks, other then Al Maki from the Globe who went eight and con first round, few saw that coming.
So here goes:
Penguins versus Rangers - Hard to say if Pittsburgh is that good or Ottawa that bad but their attack is certainly a lot better then what the Rangers faced against the Devils. The big question for the Pens is their goaltending of course and I think the Rangers are a damn good team. Wouldn't surprise me to see them win this one but having said that I think the Pens are too deep and have too many bigtime weapons. They bring cannons to a fistfight. Pens in 6.
Canadiens versus Flyers - Habs eked one out against the Bruins and it will be interesting to see if they learned anything from the experience.The Flyers can roll four alright lines and they have Patrick Thoresen, who has the heart of a lion, balls of steel and a sense of humour. I don't like the Flyers D much though and they sure had a tough time against a young Caps team that is not as deep as the Habs. Another tight one but in the end its Habs in six.
Sharks versus Stars - Sharks either look amazing or the shits and by my logic above the fact that they needed seven to beat a flawed Flames team should mean that they are going down, right? Naw. I think Dallas is a good team, for sure, but the Sharks aren't dummies like the Ducks and I don't see Dallas working the Sharks over like the Flames did. It won't be easy but Sharks in six.
Wings versus Avs - Here is where I'm going to outsmart myself and I already know it. I have a huge boner for the Avs and most of it is based on Smytty and so many old pros going for it one last time. Riversq made the point down below that the Wings secondary guys - Cleary, Franzen, Samuellson etc - are an excellent bunch, a whole lot better then a lot of name guys out there. He's absolutely right but I look at the Avs having four lines and a D where Hannan, Salei, Leopold and Liles are their bottom six and I look at Detroit's goaltending and I smile, give myself a stroke and say Avs in six.
Just call me Crumbs.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I would be a cruel yet fair overlord.
After I put my stamp on society I would turn to the NHL. Everyone who has watched the first round this year has been reminded about why this is the best game in the world. Its also the worst run league in professional sports. Here is what I would do:
1/ Fold Florida, Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus, New Jersey and Washington.
2/ Put a team back in Winnipeg. Put a second team in southern Ontario. We'll call them The Black Dogs of Aldridge Avenue.
3/ Roll with that 24 team league but be prepared to cut teams like L.A., Carolina, Dallas and Anaheim. No more trying to "grow the game". L.A. has had a team for forty years. People there don't care about hockey. That's fine. There are a rabid knowledgeable core of fans there and beyond that its just not part of the culture. I'd rather eliminate 92 players, thus increasing the quality of the game, then hope that someday people in Wichita will care about hockey.
4/ 60 game season. Last game of the playoffs is played April 30th.
5/ No more shootout. Ties are fine. No more talk about expanding the nets. A 1-0 game is just fine as long as the flow is there and chances are being generated. Having said that, shrink the goalie equipment. There is no need for gigantic billowing pads with the technology out there.
That's a start.
Of course none of this is ever going to happen so I will have to take what I can get and I'll start by cheering New Jersey's elimination. I have no idea why I dislike them so much. Their team first culture is rare these days and should be admired. They have always won by plain old hard work. Players who wanted more then they were worth, in Lou's eyes, were moved and the team kept winning. Even the old trap argument is a bit of a red herring. The teams that Sykora and Arnott were on were flashy and high scoring and the last few years they have had a whack of skilled little guys come on up to their club. I think it just goes back to the bad old days of the 90s. There has always been a trap but these guys refined it and other teams imitated their success. A boring club from a town where nobody cared winning Cups. What could be worse?
The other night, I believe it was G2 against the Rangers, I was flipping channels crazily, trying to catch what I can from every possible game. A 2-1 game, less then a minute left. Thousands of empty seats. So farewell Devils and good riddance. For years they were Cup favourites because they were the Devils. Now another early exit makes me smile.
As for the remaining matchups well I would say things are sussing themselves out but that's not necessarily the case. I think in every series the team in front should advance but I would not be surprised if the tables turned everywhere. Its been that close.
The biggest surprise has been Detroit trying to survive the Preds but while Ellis has been the difference we have also seen parity's effects here most of all I would say. Detroit is the better club but they have gone from a team that had three lines that could threaten to score at any time in 2006 to a two line team (and not a great second line) with suspect goaltending. Well ok, some things haven't changed.
Now I figured the Wings or one of the two California teams as Cup winners and I think the Wings and Sharks are going to move on still but I think its becoming clear that this year's tournament is one that nearly anyone can win. Its that tight.
The darkhorse is still the Avs. Deep and experienced and they are getting the goaltending. This is no longer Wes Walz's Wild, a bunch of nobodies who eke out wins on a wing and a prayer. They are a deep skilled team themselves. Koivu is terrific. But the Avs could knock them out this weekend and I don't know if I would be surprised to see them go far. They have three lines that can score and Lapierre leads a good bunch of role players. Solid veteran D led by Foote. They're scary.
Funny how Thornton is suddenly a playoff warrior after one game. Good thing he scored that goal! And even funnier is how Marleau is suddenly proving himself as a playoff performer. I seem to remember in the days before Thornton's arrival Marleau doing just fine in the playoffs. Makes for a better story this way I guess. As for the Flames they just seem to have too many passengers. And why is Phaneuf always on the ice when San Jose scores?
I'm not writing the Ducks off yet. Win in Dallas and they win the series I think. However its looking more and more like they might not have the guns up front. Moving McDonald for Weight may not have been such a great idea, especially considering Weight looks completely done.
Out east Chara and the Bruins are grinding down the Habs but its funny how one loss suddenly has everyone doubting the Montreals. A couple of odd moves in this one. Boston not dressing Kessel. And Montreal not dressing Ryder. For all of you Ryder haters out here check out sisu. Jeff has been an intermittent poster since he got married but he's back in the saddle this spring and he is one of my favourite guys to read. Terrific stuff.
And finally I think the Caps are almost done. I caught part of the last game and its really wonderful hockey but the Flyers have too much depth. Three lines that can do some damage and a nice fourth line and I'm wondering if the Flyers might be able to make some noise. I doubt it but wouldn't it be awesome to see Thoresen finally get his Cup.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
- outscoring the opposition's scrubs
- holding their own against top opposition when they get stuck out there in that situation
- setting the tone for the rest of the squad
- having players who can kill penalties
- having players who can step in and do a decent job if they have to move up the depth chart
Now a lot of this is pretty general shit but the value of a quality set of players at the bottom end of your roster became pretty clear in the past couple of months, right down to the second last game when Curtis Glencross scored two goals as the Oilers tried to eke out that last playoff spot.
Glencross scored fifteen on the year, Brodziak had fourteen. Along with Stortini it seemed that when they were on the ice it was tilted in the Oilers' favour. This wasn't the Great Winchester Trip of last season when Brad scored three in four games or whatever it was and then disappeared for the rest of the season. These guys did a great job once Glencross came over from Ohio.
The one thing the Oilers have had going for them over the last decade is a nice bottom six. Marchant, Moreau, Grier, Pisani, Rem Murray, LeGG, Cleary, Horcoff ...
Going into the next few years the Oilers look like they may be heading back to that model - having a bottom six which makes the opposition's life miserable while chipping in on offence.
Think it doesn't matter? Ask Matt at Battle of Alberta. Ask any Canucks' fan, if there are any left after that disgraceful performance last week (talk about a team with no heart). When you have very little coming out of half of your forwards you're going to have a tough time.
It loos like the top six for next year is set up front. The fact that two former second liners may be battling for icetime in the bottom six speaks to an improved roster and improved prospects for this club. It looks like Torres may be gone and maybe Stoll as well but for now those two, Pisani, Moreau, Glencross, Brodziak, Stortini, Pouliot and Reasoner are all in the mix. The math says one of these guys is gone for sure, maybe two.
Put it this way. If Marty and Stortini are the guys coming out of the bullpen that's a nice bottom six, presuming Moreau stays healthy. If Stoll stays and bounces back, things are looking damn good.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Well, its over but nobody in their right mind ever thought we'd care about game 81 this season, unless it was to get out of lottery territory.
Some good luck to get where they got to but a lot of bad bounces in these last few weeks. Funny that, some bad puck luck hurt them Tuesday night, against the Wild last week and in a few other cases as well.
And now Lowe has to make some decisions. Some look to be pretty easy based on what we have seen. Extend Horcoff. Sign Glencross. Sign Gilbert and Grebeshkov. Sign Pouliot (yeah I'm sold on him). Keep Marty as insurance on the cheap.
Some require more thought. What do you give Pitkanen? Do you extend Garon and for how long and how much?
One more for this list - Jarret Stoll. terrible terrible year. He got some tough minutes and he got murdered. He got to centre Penner and Hemsky and did nothing with it. Very little offence at ES. Just a bad bad year.
The Oilers can afford to pay him next year. Putting a kid in that third line spot won't be an improvement shortterm and maybe playing between Raffi and Fernando helps him get his mojo back.
Or maybe, as LT suggested in a recent thread, he might be done. Impossible? Look at Kyle Calder and Mark Bell.