Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Going To Party Like Its 1992


In 1992, it was a very good year.
I was 25 and all that entailed at the time. No money, no ambition, lots of fun fun fun. I was a slacker.
Quite a bit of drugs and rock and roll, even some of the sex if I recall correctly. I was poor, stinky and happy. Good times.
The 1992 Stanley Cup finals featured a really quality Chicago club that came into the finals having won eleven straight games. Their opponent was the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had won seven straight themselves as they defended the Cup.
I remember a cartoon from just before the series showing two steamrollers heading right for each other.
Pittsburgh ended up sweeping the Hawks - the scores - 5-4, 3-1, 1-0, 6-5
Now with the exception of the Habs/Flyers series it appears we have three steamrollers heading to the conference finals. The Avs have been beset by injuries but even if they were healthy they just don't appear to be in the same league as Detroit. Meanwhile Ron Wilson sees his job slip away and Dallas gets ready to sweep the Sharks. One thinks that there may be second thoughts about a big contract for Brian Campbell and that Doug Wilson may make some drastic changes to this club this summer in an attempt to put them on the path of Detroit (talented playoff failure in the early 1990s) rather then Ottawa. Games one and three might have gone either way certainly but the Sharks look done. Again.
Out east its looking like the Pens are golden. After the first round I figured the Rangers to be the biggest threat to The Crosbies (or is it The Malkins?) and while the games have been close (does anyone remember the 3-0 lead the Rangers had in G1?) mario jr. can talk all he wants about how the series isn't over. Its over. By the way, nice hands by LeGG on his goal last night.
Anyone think the Penguins aren't going to the Final? Anyone think, like me, that they may actually might be even money with whomever comes out of the west? They're a damn talented club.
As for the Habs and Flyers I watched Game 3 and this one is some fun to watch. Interesting to see our hero Patrick Thoresen playing with Mike Richards and Joffrey Lupul. I'm sure with Knuble's return tonight he will be dropped back to the fourth line but good on the intrepid swollen balled Norwegian for carving out a role on this club. He is averaging over ten minutes a game in icetime and is on one of the three Flyer PK units. He was actually on the ice for Richards' shortie in game two. Playing on the fourth line his Corsi numbers are terrific, the ice is tilted in Philly's favour for sure. Playing with Richards and Lupul against tougher opposition his numbers aren't as good but they are still reasonable. The kids is effective and on a team with a lot of guys who can score he is a fit. Its like the great glove shortstop who can't hit a lick. Its ok for a team with a loaded lineup to carry a guy like that but a team that has more of an issue scoring might replace him with a guy like Glencross or Brodziak who will also tilt the ice in a good way but will score you double digit goals as well. Thoresen showed that limitation in game three when he had a gimme and couldn't finish it.
No doubt that Stevens trusts him and that he has earned a spot on this team. Its too bad that it didn't work out in Edmonton but the kid has a career in front of him I would say.
The Flyers are a weird team. A lot to dislike, exemplified by the usual Hatcher cheapshot last game. A lot to like, starting with Thoresen and Smith who is a true beauty of a player. He's lost a step for sure but he is out there grinding it out every shift, punishing guys, facewashing, throwing himself in front of shots, bleeding profusely. He's something else and I wonder what some of Montreal's dandy youngsters think when they look at him. Probably a lot of underwear being changed in the Habs' dressing room between periods.
Montreal has looked a step behind all spring and the Flyers are running them every chance they get (notice Richards' sneaky shot on Halak) but if Higgins had scored when that puck bounced over his stick then last game may have gone the other way. All it takes is a bounce.
That and some goaltending.
Additionally - In the Sun today an article that says that a deal with Glencross is imminent (his agent says it will happen) and that a one year deal for Pitkanen is likely as he tried to hit that home run and have a season that would justify a huge longterm contract.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Looking For Stanley

When the Rangers won the Cup I was still a Blackhawks fan although by that point it was almost over. I was cheering for the Rangers that spring. I hated Jersey (already) and I also wanted to see the drought end for New York. I was a fan of thsoe great Oilers' clubs and wanted to see all of the ex-Oilers hoist the Cup one more time.

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

Crumbs


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.

Oh well.

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

Hey Marty! Congrats on Becoming a Proven Playoff Performer!


The last time the Leafs beat the Sens there was one player who was unstoppable, a guy who almost singlehandedly lifted his team to victory. Every time he was on the ice he was dangerous and no matter how hard they tried, his opponents could not intimidate him. His team failed but he was terrific.
Marian Hossa.
Yet there was Pierre Maguire before the playoffs started ranting about Hossa's failure to perform in the clutch. Hossa had a poor playoff last year. Of course he also was playing on a bad knee. Minor detail as the narrative demands that he prove himself as a Proven Payoff Performer! Duh Duh Duh!
Marty Turco is a guy who has struggled in the playoffs but last spring he put on a stellar performance as his team fell out in the first round in seven games. Bill Watters who has been a player agent, a member of the Leafs front office and is now a Toronto sports media talking head - that's right he owns the Jerk Triple Crown - opined before this year's playoffs that Turco was a loser. When confronted with the fact that Turco's numbers last spring were Georges Vezina like Watters huffed that until he wins something Turco will always be considered a weak link come playoff time.
I don't like Marty Turco as a matter of principle. He plays for the Dallas Stars. But the idea that because his team won one more game this year then last spring suddenly makes him a reliable postseason stopper is, of course, ridiculous. Just as Patty Marleau who had a nice playoff track record until last spring suddenly is a choker and Joe Thronton's tip in suddenly made him a made man in terms of playoff bones, this whole thing is getting a tad silly.
The sports media, like all media, needs a narrative. We had a nice snowy winter here in Toronto and by March it became a little tiresome. Now, I grew up in Sudbury and the easiest winter I had growing up made this past one here look like a summer walk on the beach. I know my winters. But weather is the new Red Menace, along with the threat of pandemics, and whether the idea is to keep people scared or just keep their eyes glued to the set (local news channel boasted over a million viewers at some point over one storm's duration so I think there's the answer) the fact is that we were told that we were experiencing something unbelievable. Come March one paper crowed that one day we would tell our kids about the winter of 07/08.
Uh huh. Snow in Toronto, right Andy.
Now what I am saying is nothing new. Matt Fenwick, Tyler Dellow and Tom Benjamin all refer to this all of the time and certainly in a far more articulate manner then I. It just seems that this past weekend has made sure that there will be storylines for next season's playoffs already. Already Spezza and Heatley have been noted as playoff busts. The Sharks are one game away from having the collective collar hung on them. The Habs are under an awful lot of pressure to make things right tonight. Turco has become you know what but if he falters next round ...
Its easier to say that Spezza and Heatley can't take the heat then to figure out why two guys who roared right through last spring until the final suddenly are no good when the chips are down. Why have the Sharks struggled? Is it youth and a suspect D perhaps? Naw, they are heartless. Are the Habs a young team who are being outworked (and outcoached) or are they a bunch of soft Europeans?
Its been a terrific first round and there are a lot of stories still being written before we move on. It would just be nice if someone took a look and gave some thought to the writing.
By the by, how about Avs versus Rangers come June? Still a ways away and its for a new post but that Avs team is something else.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I Will Take What I Can Get

If life were fair and I was King of The World the first thing I would do is have the cops stop one of the idiots who thinks its a great idea to race up Danforth Avenue at 80km an hour. They would take him out of the car, execute him in the middle of the street and I would think that would be the end of that problem. I have a few other situations on my mind that could probably be dealt with in a similar manner.

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

The End Of The Ottawas


So it ends, all of that promise of the last decade.
Leaf fans still call this team chokers although they went further last season then any Leaf team has gone in over forty years and Daniel Alfredsson had a spring last season like very few players ever have. Certainly Mats Sundin never has.
The Ottawas had such a terrific collection of talent back in the day but whether it was goaltending, lack of passion, lack of heart, coaching or just plain bad luck, things never came together for them. If Niedermeyer doesn't pop one off Lidstrom to force OT in Game 5 last year it would have likely been the Wings in the final and that is a series where matchups would have been more to Ottawa's favour then one against the Ducks, a team with a terrific shutdown line to play the Daniels.
Of course the ironic thing in all of this is that they said farewell to Bonk and Todd White and Havlat and Hossa and Chara and then they made it to the big one. Funny how that goes.
In the end though it was management and coaching that did them in, imo. The inability five years ago to address goaltending and the lack of muckers on the club. Jacques Martin's strange passionless coaching. And then when they decided to change the face of the club the thrashing about and questionable decisions, the biggest of which of course was choosing Wade Redden over Chara.
Now Redden will be gone too as will Emery. Alfredsson is getting up there and they have a pile of cash tied up in two guys who have, what, zero goals in their last ten playoff games? Something like that.
Last year's club played power vs power with the Pens, a little easier with a team that had no Hossa, no Sykora and an overwhelmed Malkin. Alfredsson's line faced Crosby, a matchup both coaches lived with for the most part. As the series wore on however there were times that Crosby took on the second line, Fisher, Schaeffer and Comrie, or a line of Kelly, Neil and Vermette.
A year later that whole second line was either gone or injured as were Kelly and Alfredsson. Not the same team and no surprise that the Pens wiped them out.
The question is what the future holds now for this franchise. The window for a team that had so much talent has now officially closed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yeah, Now You Can Laugh About It


As jokester Bruce remarked: Patrick Thoresen almost gave new meaning to going minus one.
But he's OKAY, which is great news. Certainly things could be worse.
Things can always get worse but in this case we're not talking about some vague, God could smite you at anytime stuff. We're talking about giving your left nut for the cause. Do you think if Bob Clarke was GM and Thoresen had the surgery that he would qualify him like Minnesota did for Foster?
Me neither.
Shit happens so fast in the first round. Turned on the TV last night and Calgary was down three. Turned to Jenn, said 'wow, they are done' and went to bed. Woke up this morning and found out that Ron Wilson is two losses from losing his job and San Jose is getting damn close to Ottawa and Vancouver territory - a talented team that gets labelled as playoff underachievers.
Jersey and Boston got the GIGANTIC goals in OT and tonight the Preds and Sens are going to try and save their seasons.
Ottawa is fucked. Game one was not even close and while they somehow snuck back into game two I would say that a sweep is a definite possibility. Crosby had the quietest four assist game I have ever seen. I didn't even think he had a point. Meanwhile Malkin is unbelievable. Nice gig Petr Sykora ended up with. Ottawa is done and then I would say Murray is gone and probably a few longterm Sens as well.
As for the Preds, well they are hanging in there. Saw their charge in G2 and they were peppering Hasek and the posts before the Wings put them away. Gutsy team but I think Detroit splits in Tennessee and then wraps it up at home. And if you are the Wings you're looking at San Jose and Anaheim and realizing that things may be falling your way this year. Finish the Preds off quickly and rest up.
I never count out the defending champs ever but Anaheim has been the suck. One guy they really miss - Andy MacDonald. And JS Giguere too. Too bad its Dallas laying the beating on them. I went heavy Ducks in my pool so that should have been the obvious death knell to their chances. Not alone in choosing them though.
The Avs and Wild have been terrific and this one could go seven except for the fact that the Wild are beginning to run out of Dmen. Back in Denver Quenneville will be able to dictate the matchups. I think they go back to Minny up three to one. The Avs are a deep team. Biggest surprise to me - Forsberg. He looks like he has turned back the clock ten years.
So it is now. By Friday everything may have been turned on its head.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thoresen


One of the few bright spots in last year's disaster was longshot Norwegian Patrick Thoresen. He made the team, coming out of nowhere, and had a nice start to the season. His numbers tailed off though and while he did a lot of nice work away from the puck it wasn't enough for him. Like a lot of young Oilers he was passed this past fall by the arrival of Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson and Brodziak. Throw in Glencross and Pouliot and the remaining vets and there was no longer a spot for the guy with a lot of heart but not a lot of hands.
Everyone loves an underdog and Thoresen further endeared himself to Oiler fans with his play in the last disastrous months of last season. Unlike many of his teammates he did not quit. Every game he gave it his all. Nice qualities to have.
I was disappointed when Thoresen lost his place with the Oilers and when he was picked up on waivers by the Flyers. Hard to argue with the move seeing that Brodziak can also handle tougher opposition, kill penalties, plays full out all of the time, in other words, do everything Thoresen could do. Plus he scores goals.
Its just hard to see a favourite go.
Its a measure of what the Flyers think of Thoresen that he was killing a penalty as they tried to protect a one goal lead last night. Its a measure of Patrick Thoresen that he fearlessly threw himself in front of a slapshot.
While he writhed in the ice in pain the play went on and the Caps tied it up.
I'm all for cock and balls jokes but Patrick Thoresen spent last night in the hospital, facing the real possibility of losing a testicle. That's not funny. Here's hoping he's ok and that next fall he's back out there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Gilbert Gilbert Signed ... And Nilsson Too




According to Mirtle Gilbert has signed with the Oilers. No details yet.

Lowe said in his post season wrapup that he was in talks with all of the Oiler free agents except Joni already and that he expected to have everyone done by Canada Day.

So it begins with Gilbert. Tom had a nice season. His play in camp earned him a spot and then injuries forced him into a bigger role. Facing tough opposition he did quite well. He struggled a bit as the season wore on but his overall season was terrific and he is likely going to make the NHL all rookie team, I would think. He scored 13 goals and added 20 assists, mostly at ES. Moves the puck smartly. Nice skater. Smart and efficient in his own end. No dummy penalties.

He's a smart well rounded player. Lots to like. Good signing.

ADDITIONALLY - so its a six year deal at ~ 4 million per. LT said that these guys (Gilbert and Grebeshkov) would likely get more then expected and I think that is the case here - I figured 3 to 3.5.

I would say Joni is goni.
AND FURTHERMORE - wow, Lowe was not kidding when he said that things were moving. Gilbert and Nilsson signings announced today and my guess is Grebeshkov is to soon follow. I don't mind either signing too much. I think both guys are pieces of a pretty nice puzzle. A little bit of an overpay maybe but not by much. This is what young players are getting now, for better or for worse. Its a gamble and I don't mind either bet, although some would disagree.
Mr. Debakey does a quick look at salaries in the comments section. They might be able to fit Joni in - I'm thinking it might be a one or two year deal. I would prefer that they keep him then deal him but I still think he's gone.
Stupid Souray contract.
A few things I do like - Lowe is moving quickly. I thought he dithered each of the last two offseasons (and seasons for that matter) when it came to just getting things done. Now I believe the whole RFA paranoia is way overblown but Lowe is being decisive and I like that. Secondly there is something to be said about locking up the team's young players. There was an article about the Jays today remarking on how their signing of Wells, Rios and Aaron Hill is important because it shows the franchise taking care of their own. We all know when it comes down to it its all about the green of course but a franchise that signs its youngsters is a lot more attractive then one which plays hardball at every turn. Further to that is that same point as it relates to we fans. Its nice to see the franchise spend money and its nice to know that they are on the way to locking up the young core of this team.
P.S. Please extend Horcoff

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Opening Round Stanley Picks


Picking winners in the NHL playoffs can be a real mug's game. I could have the big fella pick and the little guy and I would very likely finish third in that three horse race. TSN of course takes it to the limit by having a monkey and the village idiot pick series' winners. A couple of years back the monkey ended up with the best record overall.
Two years back I was seven and eight with the final being the tipping point into Loserville. Last year I went ten and five but that was a low mark in a year where favourites pretty well ruled the day. Trying to be clever I ended up picking against the grain a few times and losing. Sort if like Jerry Krause picking longshot bum after longshot bum to try and prove that Pippen wasn't a fluke and he was a genius.
Problem with the playoffs is all it takes is a simple break here or there. A dicey call, Niedermeyer glances a shot off of Lidstrom with the Wings less then a minute away from victory and it goes to OT. Ducks win and a game later the Wings are gone.
Williams' stick catches Koivu exactly wrong, Jay McKee gets a staph infection, Ladd picks off Roloson just the wrong way. Roloson robs Cheechoo and Horcoff gets the triple OT winner. In G7 the Oilers fail to clear the puck twice and it ends up in their net. The Oilers fail to score on a 5 on 3, Pisani gets stoned with 6 minutes left. You know the story.
By this point there is not a lot to choose from between the teams. Parity is making the gap between top and bottom closer and in a couple of years the eighth place team in each conference will likely be only a few points out of the top spot. Having said that I think the Ducks are the favourite with the Wings and Sharks the other teams with a shot at it. I actually would not mind seeing the Habs do it but I think whoever comes out of the East will be fodder again. I'm pulling for either Montreal or the Avs to go all the way but in both cases its unlikely.
Montreal-Boston - Even with their injuries Montreal is the superior team. They lack experience but Carbonneau is a guy I trust behind the bench. Habs in five.
Pens - Sens - Senators have terrible goaltending and have lost their three grittiest players. Without Alfredsson, Neil and Fisher they will be lucky to win a game. Pens have goaltending questions but they will fill Gerber or Emery. Pens in five.
Caps-Flyers - Interesting matchup. If I were commisioner I would fold the Southeast Division but I would let the Caps live if they went back to their 70s' unis. Flyers will try and play Ovechkin tough but they have to catch him. Flyers looked done just a while back - I say Caps in seven. This is the one pick that I'm going to regret, I know it.
Rangers-Devils - I would never pick the Devils. Weird because the whole team first ethos, hard working etc etc is appealing plus they are long past Trapville. Still I hate them and the Rangers are a pretty good club, I think. Better goaltending and deep up front and on the back end. Rangers in six, maybe five.
Wings - Preds - Wings will go down to the Sharks or Ducks methinks, once again they are a very good team but their point totals were inflated by divisional play. According to Matt Fenwick they did have an excellent record v the other playoff teams in the west. Anyways they knock the Preds out in five. No problem here.
Sharks - Flames - Good Flames or bad Flames? Who knows? Sharks have to go far or change is coming and I wonder if they are the Sens redux. Guess we will find out. I think we'll know early on if its Flames circa 2004 or 2007. I think its in between and the Sharks do them in in six.
Wild - Avs - After I contract the Southeast the Devils and Wild are next. All kidding aside the Wild have lost Foster and Schultz while the Avs look to be finally healthy. Too much firepower and a whack of Avs who know this may be their last shot. Avs in six as they try and win a cup for Smytty.
Ducks - Dallas - I wish both could be eliminated. Perry being out hurts Anaheim but Zubov being out hurts Dallas more. Plus Giguere or Turco? Turco was great last year but I think Giguere is likely the best goalie in the tournament. Ducks in five boring low scoring games.
This year will be a true test of karma. I went heavy with Ducks in my pool which would usually mean that they would get swept in the first round. But I loathe any team south of the border that entered the league after the Sharks (including Carolina and Dallas). Plus the Devils.
So it will likely be Devils/Wild and I will lose out both ways.
Fucking Bettman.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Go Deep! Scrubicide!

Having a great fourth line and a solid batch of scrubs isn't going to win you the Stanley Cup if you don't have topnotch frontline players but it can help you win a lot of games in a lot of ways. Let me count the ways:

- 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

Its Business Time

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.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Oldie But A Goodie


I actually first posted this on June 30th, 2006 but with it being April 1st and considering the rebirth of Stan Weir mania (Stania?) I think its quite apropos.
This was in the Toronto Sun today so take it for what its worth. I've summarized the key points.
The Sun sent a reporter to try and track down Pronger in Mexico to see if he could get the story behind his trade request.He checked into the resort and for a couple of days tired to observe what was happening with the Pronger family dynamic. While he saw Pronger by the poolside bar quite a bit there was no sign of his wife or children.He finally approached Pronger who at first offered a surly 'no comment' when the reporter identified himself. However the reporter bought the obviously distraught defenceman a beer and soon after Pronger opened up.
He loves Edmonton, the team, the organization, the city, all of it.When he signed the contract he never thought it would turn out like this; his intention was to retire an Oiler.Contrary to rumours, Lauren also enjoyed Edmonton. He is very upset at the rough ride she is getting in the newspapers.The reporter asked what the real reason was behind the trade request then ... and gingerly brought up the rumours circulating about the internet. Pronger angrily denied that anything untoward and happened.
And then a suddenly tearful Chris Pronger gave the reporter the true reason behind his trade request.Everything had been going swimmingly until mid February when after an Oiler alumni gettogether it appears that Lauren had begun an affair with a former Oiler player.You guessed it folks.Chris Pronger has requested a trade from the Oilers because his wife is having an affair with Stan Weir.Stan giveth and Stan taketh away.
*** And because I am a total and complete paranoid, let me note for any representatives of Chris Pronger, Stan Weir, Lauren Pronger, the Toronto Sun or for that matter anybody out there who is easily offended and / or duped - this is a joke, people! - call my lawyer - uh, are you a lawyer yet, Tyler? Hello?