Sunday, August 31, 2008

Now This Is Hockey!

"He watches a lot of hockey, so he knows about Milan. We said we're going to set up a Lucic-Phaneuf fight. When we go to Calgary, Jarome said he's going to do his part to get Dion all fired up. We'll get Looch the same way. No problem."

- Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, speaking of former Calgary teammate Jarome Iginla and joking about scheduling a Milan Lucic-Dion Phaneuf bout when the Bruins play the Flames Oct. 30.
The NHL needs more stuff like this to not only happen, but to come to light. It builds rivalries and draws fans. Thanks to the Boston Globe for it.

Save Your $$$

Yet again the Sporting News came up way short on their NHL season preview issue. It is an utter and complete waste of eight bucks with outright mistakes and insane rankings. As you can imagine, I read as many season previews as I can get my hands on and this rag is by far the worst. A few examples:

*Even though the issue mentions that Alexei Zhitnik was bought out in their Atlanta Thrashers preview, the Rankings By Position on page 12 has him ranked as the 25th best defenseman in the NHL, ahead of Michal Rozsival (37th), Lubomir Visnovsky (44th) and Brent Burns (47th). Luckily he is behind No. 11 Keith Duncan (it's Duncan Keith morons) and No. 15, Florida's Keith Ballard (what??). Ballard, who by the way, is ranked one better than Chris Pronger.

*Also notable/curious in those Rankings is Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen at 16th among goaltenders, ahead of Carey Price (22), Ilya Bryzgalov (25th), Tim Thomas (26th) and Cristobal Huet (30th).

*The Rankings were all sorts of screwed up as they put Alex Kovalev ranked 31st among wingers, 28 positions behind Dany Heatley. Now, I don't think Kovalev is nearly as good as Heatley but seven pages later Kovalev was selected over the Sen as the All-Northeast left winger.

*The two-page spread on the Swedish influence to the Detroit Red Wings has eight Swedes in the picture, yet the article talks about the nine on the team and the seven who played a big part of the Wings Cup run. Pick one or the other you clowns.

*After being disgusted by all that, I jumped right to the Rangers page but couldn't get past the opening paragraphs:
"When three of your five leading scorers vanish into the thin air of unrestricted free agency, the general manager better have a backup play he believe in."
Really? I recall that all of the Ranger free agents were waiting on Glen Sather to make his move, not vice versa. Shanny still hasn't gone anywhere as he waits for an offer to come back, and both Jagr and Straka wanted to return but Sather didn't give them what they wanted ... so they didn't vanish by any means.

I am sure I can find many more faults and fallacies in this joke of issue but let's just get to the point, DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON IT!!!

Let's face it, all of these preview magazines are out of date by the time you get them so you are better off sticking to the world wide interweb. The Hockey News issues are both rushed to the newstand so they hit the street in early August - two months before the season starts. Also, their fantasy guide neglects to include shorthanded points, which is a make-'em-or-break'em category in many leagues. For all of the gloss, FaceOff's is bland and boring while McKeens does a pretty good job but they are almost impossible to find (click on the link to order it). The internet is a big place with a lot of sites that you can turn to for good, up-to-date info and, with thousands of obsessive armchair GMs like me around to call bulls--t, there are a lot fewer inaccuracies.

You would think I would have learned by now ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008


They're hip, their cool, all the smart kids are doing them. And because of such, I decided to add a poll to the right side of the page. This first one is just for the aesthetics of the site but future ones will be far more entertaining.

But that doesn't make this one any less important! Let me know what you think about the layout of the site. I am likely going to change the masthead at the top in the near future, but should I change everything? New colours? New layout?

You tell me, I am a man of the people ...

NHL Four-cast: New York Islanders

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Because minor league hockey is always entertaining. Turn them on, turn the audio off and play the Benny Hill music. If you want me to be serious, and it is difficult considering this is the Islanders after all, then tune in to watch the development of Kyle Okposo. The kid has some serious skills and let's face it, he has no pressure on Long Island as expectations are rock bottom. You just have to be patient.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. They banished Ted Nolan after all he did was keep them respectable and now they have a AHL coach to coach what is essentially a AHL team. They let former sniper Miro Satan, Ranger-killer Ruslan Fedotenko and steady defenseman Aaron Johnson all go while bringing in a way, way past his prime Doug Weight, the overrated one-year-wonder Swiss Miss Mark Streit and goon Mitch Fritz (traitor). And golden boy DP's medical chart is getting longer and longer ...

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? No one. Stay away like the plague, much like hockey fans do on Long Island. Okposo might put together a 50 point season but his plus/minus will be dreadful. And unless your league counts games lost to injury, then DP isn't worth your time. He will get most of the Isles wins - however few they may be - and probably will have a good save percentage but his g.a.a. will blow.

4 - Will every Islander game this season resemble this? I certainly hope so!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thought Of The Night

This being the internet and all, there should be a Hall of Fame-esque place where the NHL, NHLPA and hockey fans everywhere can honour players. The Hockey Hall of Fame is pretty limited to top players (Dicky Duff and Bernie Federko aside) and most franchises are pretty stingy with their retired numbers (Boston and Montreal being allowable exceptions).

But where can fan and player favourites go? Yes, fans who watched him play will remember Stu Barnes for his class, professionalism and dedication to the game. But what about everyone else? Outsiders look and see that he played for five franchises and he never won a Cup. His 14 or 41 won't wave in the rafters of any building.

And there are plenty of other players out there like Barnes that just take the jersey off and become their statistics on Hockeydb or Hockey-Reference; Dallas Drake, Wes Walz and Sean Burke to name three (even though Drake went out a champion).

Perhaps it should be something undertaken by the NHL, NHLPA or HHOF to create a place for players like them, even if it is just in the ether of the internet - a place where the stories, reputations and contributions of these guys can live on.

They deserve it ...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Broadway Burnaby Joe

Joe Sakic re-signed with the Colorado Avalanche yesterday with a one-year contract worth $6 million that will bring him back for his 20th NHL season.

It is scary to think that Sakic was thiiiiiiisss close to being a Ranger 11 years ago. Unfortunately the Aves matched the Rangers' offer sheet and New York was doomed to seven years without the playoffs.

Had Sakic headed for Broadway, who knows what would have happened. At the least, New York would have remained competitive against the stifling Devils system. Sakic would have been the crown jewel in a rebuilt Ranger roster and found immediate comfort thanks to the signings of his Colorado teammates Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland. Sakic could have helped keep Theo Fleury on a leash and perhaps Valeri Kamensky wouldn't have been as big of a bust.

And Rangers wouldn't really have missed the five first round draft picks that went the other way, as they pissed them away themselves by drafting Manny Malhotra (1998), Pavel Brendl (1999), Jamie Lundmark (also '99), Dan Blackburn (2001) and Hugh Jessiman (2003). They didn't have first rounders in 2000 and 2002 ...

Now I am not about to say that the signing would have brought Stanley back, but I am sure that the Aves would not have won the 2001 Cup. Sakic had 118 regular season points and 26 more in that magical Run For Ray Bourque. Bourque left Boston to take one last run at a championship and if Sakic was in New York, maybe he would have chosen the Rangers. Could you imagine a Blueshirt blueline with Bourque and Leetch? And think about a one-two punch down the middle with Sakic and Messier, who had returned from Vancouver by then. How scary would that have been?

But I have to say, even scarier is the thought that the Rangers' offer of three years $21 mill was extravagant at that time. Now say that it was worth it and take the dream of Sakic as a Ranger a step forward and say that his addition would indeed have brought another Cup to New York. Now there is nothing that can replicate the boom in popularity that breaking the curse at 54 years brought to the NHL, but another Ranger Cup would have served the league much better than the wins in Colorado, Dallas and even Detroit. If the Rangers won at the turn of the century, would we still have lost the 2004-05 season to a lockout? Would the lockout have come even earlier or would it have not happened at all?

Something to ponder ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NHL Four-cast: New Jersey Devils

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you enjoy Beijing? If so, then the second best diver in the world will be in the crease for the Devils. Fatso puts on a show every night, the overrated, classless ass. Other than Mmmmaaaarrrrttttyyy, the less-famous John Madden is really a defensive genius and Brian Gionta proves that members of the Lollipop Guild can make the NHL. And if those three are enough to convince you to watch these guys, then have fun with the other thousand or so Devil fans who sit in the empty Prudential Center. Hey, I never said these Four-casts weren't going to be unbiased - this is a Ranger blog after all.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. Bobby Holik is happy to be back in Jersey - I can't imagine why after a stint in Atlanta - and you can expect him to play happily and well. Holik, when used properly, is the best shut-down center in the league and that includes Madden, Draper and Datsyuk. Brian Rolston also is making a return to the Garden State and he adds a little offense.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? I said Rolston adds a little offense and that is it. Do not expect him to improve on his 59 points from last year, not in New Jersey. Zach Parise should be good for 70 points and Patrik Elias, aka Hepatitis B, should hit the 65 mark. If Gionta can find any chemistry with Rolston, then he could regain his 30 goal form. Jamie Langenbrunner showed signs of breaking out in coach Sutter's system so keep an eye on him. If you are in a deep league and PIM is one of many categories, then David Clarkson is worth picking up - 20 points, positive plus/minus and plenty of penalties as the only tough guy on the team. John Oduya should continue to improve across the board and get 30 points, plus 30 and 50 PIM. As for a dark horse, Noah Clarke played one NHL game and scored one goal and has a injury-filled-yet-solid AHL resume that had 230 points in 314 games.

4 - What are five ways that the Devils can sell-out the Prudential Center? 1 - Play the Rangers 41 times, 2 - Have Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen play during the intermissions, 3 - Slot machines since New Yorkers aren't willing to go all the way to AC, 4 - Free tickets for the mentally challenged, and 5- Cheap beer, E and bad techno music could bring da guidos in from da Shore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yay Newsday!

While I feel that Newsday is inherently biased towards the Islanders - seeing as the Isles are a major advertiser and the Mausoleum holds the most viewed ads for Newsday - they do have Steve Zipay, who breaks most Blueshirts news before anyone else on his blog.

Today Steve had the roster for the Ranger prospect team that will play in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. While they may not be good enough to win the championship again, it will be interesting to see how they play since there are a lot of questions there. Does Artem Anisimov or Bobby Sanguinetti have the skill to play in the NHL? Was Michael Del Zotto worth a first round pick? Did the wheels fall entirely off of last year's second pick, Antoine LaFleur? How has Tommy Pyatt and Ryan Hillier bounced back after injury-marred seasons?

We will certainly find out, and if not at Traverse City, then during the preseason, which Zipay found out will be broadcast in its entirety. That includes all six games over here and the two games in Switzerland, which is awesome news for us Ranger fans.

On a personal note, I will likely be attending those games in Switzerland, but not the season-opener in Prague which I spoke about so much in the past. The Rangers aren't making game tickets available for the NHL Premier games, just ridiculously-priced packages that cost more than season tickets. I'll have to pass ...

NHL Four-cast: Nashville Predators

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Well, I watch to see former Ranger Jed Ortmeyer (get well soon!) but for someone not in the Jed fanclub, you should tune in to see Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo is the Little Ball of Hate for the new generation and is a little crazy to boot. Other than that ... well, I donno what to tell you. They play some up-tempo hockey but don't necessarily have the guns to pull it off, at least not yet.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. They gave away puck-mover Marek Zidlicky, goaltender Chris Mason and tough guy Darcy Hordichuk while acquiring a few minor leaguers and some draft picks. And you can't forget that sniper Alex Radulov jumped ship to go to home. So all of that adds up to one happy fanbase. All five of those guys must be pissed!

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott are both good for 70 points while the streaky Martin Erat should come in around 60. Ryan Suter is on his way to becoming a top flight defenseman and he is good for numbers across the board - points, plus/minus and PIM. Shea Weber will get a lot of ice time as well and he likes to shoot the puck. Dan Ellis put up some magical numbers last season so it will be interesting to see how he handles the burden of being a starter. If Steve Sullivan can actually make it back to the NHL from the back problems that kept him out of the league last year, then he will certainly be worth grabbing. But he is no Mario so I don't think we will see him again and that is a shame because he was a helluva player.

4 - What should we re-name this team ('cause Predators is lame)? Back in the early '80s there was minor, minor league hockey in Nashville named the Southern Stars. Why the hell didn't they go with that? It would have been fantastic and endearing and I would imagine that the jersey wouldn't end up on a zombie somewhere.

Monday, August 25, 2008

5 Ways He'd Change The NHL

Puck Daddy is making its way around the world with their list of five things, but somehow they have omitted a very important person's opinion - the former player/coach of the Charlestown Chiefs, Reggie Dunlop. I looked him up and got his list ... here's what he had to say:

Thanks kid for asking me. That Wysh-whatever-the-hell-his-name-is didn't give me a call but I got good ideas, ya know? Look what I did for the Chiefs! Champions of the Federal League! How about that? Sure the team went down the tubes, but the mill closed, what can you do? You'd better watch out, 'cause that kind of thing could hit the NHL, what with the the economy and stuff. Now, I never saw myself in one of those bullshit nine-to-five jobs but I can brainstorm with the best of 'em. The Minnesota Night Hawks are kicking some heads in, and that's 'cause of ole Reg here. So here is how I do it:

1- Personal bounties on the head of opposing players. Fans go f**kin' wild when your boys are out to kill.

2- Let 'em know there's gonna be blood in there, you know, better advertising. That old bastard McGrath never listened but put some tits in there! Sure, I'm sexually liberated, I don't care who's gay, but tits are good, tits draw! If people aren't showin' up to Saturday night games, threaten to move and put a 'For Sale' sign right on the poster, let 'em know you mean business! And those writers who follow the team? The good ones like Dickie Dunn, they can help you out by capturing the spirit of the thing.

3- No fashion shows, no radiothons, no recycled jockstraps. Do it up first class all the way.

4 - Get some good guys in stripes out there. They aren't running some goddamn dance floor, they are supposed to be callin' the damn game!

5- And play old time hockey. Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore ... we aren't clowns, we are hockey players. Sure folks come out to see freaks in f**kin' sideshows but it's still hockey. Play like the greats and they will come.

You stick with Reg. I'm on a roll ...

NHL Four-cast: Montreal Canadiens

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Because they are pretty damn good and if destiny has anything to say about it, they will win the Stanley Cup in their Centennial season (even though there is controversy over this as they don't turn 100 until December 4th, 2009 and the lockout robbed a year). But whatever, they decided to celebrate it and have more Cups than anyone else so what better way to celebrate than to add another one? Along the way, you should also watch Long Island boy Mike Komisarek, who is steadily becoming the best defensive defenseman in the NHL. Komisarek plays his position strongly, blocks shots and makes some huge hits. They really need to start giving out the Rod Langway Award.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. I don't think Alex Kovalev will slack off like some pundits are predicting and they added Alex Tanguay to help carry the offensive burden. They also added big Georges Laraque, the top tough guy in the NHL and a gentleman to boot. The Kostitsyn's are only getting better and Carey Price now has some actual experience under his belt - even though I think he will prove to be a modern day Steve Penney. It's true that Mark Strait has left to piss his career away with the Islanders, but I wouldn't be shocked if they make a deal to replace his offense from the blueline by the deadline.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Tomas Plekanec is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. He works hard, goes to the net and does well on both sides of the ice. He should put up a point per game this season, as should Kovy and Tanguay. The Kostitsyns should be good for 60 points or so, as should Andrei Markov - a solid offensive defenseman. Buyer beware with their goaltenders as Price could well be supplanted by Jaroslav Halak (who subbed in for a game in the playoffs) and don't be shocked if Marc Denis bounces back to push them because he used to be a helluva goaltender when he had no pressure in Columbus.

4 - Is there any way they can top last year's Comeback? I really don't think so. As a Ranger fan, it was one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen, utterly disgraceful. As a hockey fan, it was one of the most remarkable. Watch out NHL, no five-goal lead is safe when the Habs are around ...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Minnesota Wild

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Marian Gaborik can put the puck in the net, at least when his groin is feeling alright, Brent Burns is growing into a all-around defensive dynamo and you just can't beat the Boogeyman.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. Andrew Brunette is solid but no Brian Rolston and they didn't even bother replacing Pavol Demitra - a player who Gabby clearly enjoyed playing with. Marek Zidlicky should add to an already mobile defensive corps but who knows, he could get injured early and often like Kim Johnsson or Kurtis Foster. Antti Miettinen, Mark Parrish and Owen Nolan will be fine additions to their system but none of them bring anything new to the table. Edmonton should give them a run for the division title this season.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Even without Demitra, Gabby is good for a point per game. He has all-world talent and one shudders to think what numbers he would put up away from Lemaire's system. Burns will get you points and PIMs from the blueline, while Zidlicky and Foster should just get points (figure 40 or so each). Mikko Koivu was headed for a huge season before the Ohlund incident last year so who knows just how high he can go? I will definitely be targeting him in some of my drafts. Pierre Marc Bouchard also has a ton of offensive skills but he signed a big deal so beware of complacency. Niklas Backstrom is one of the top goaltenders in the game and has the assistance of the Wild's not-so-wild system so he should be among the first goaltenders taken (Brodeur, Giguere, Lundqvist, Nabokov, Osgood and then him).

4 - Will the Wild ever be as beloved as the North Stars? Inside Minnesota, sure. The team sells out every game with what I hear is a fantastic crowd of hockey fans. But outside of Minnesota? Notsomuch. They play some pretty boring hockey and have no characters. There is no boy model Modanos, no gold medal Brotens, no missing Links and no tit f--ker Bellows. Sorry guys, we still love the North Stars.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Los Angeles Kings

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Dustin Brown is six feet tall, two hundred pounds and hits like a Mac Truck, Patrick O'Sullivan has some serious skills and Anze Kopitar is growing into the roll of a NHL superstar. Oh yeah, and they have the next generation's Scott Stevens in Jack Johnson.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? You know, I think they got better. Sure they shed proven scorers Mike Cammalleri and Lubomir Visnovsky but they brought in decent young talents Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll as well as solid defenseman Denis Gauthier. They also sucked bad enough to get Drew Doughty in the draft, who scouts have raved about and expect to contribute immediately alongside '07 pick Thomas Hickey.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? If you play in a league that has plus/minus, you might want to look elsewhere - even though Kopitar put up 77 points, he was -15. You can expect him to top 80 this year while Brown and O'Sullivan will come in around 70. Alexander Frolov was shockingly +1 while putting up 67 points in 71 games so he is the closest thing to a safe bet on this squad. While it would seem like common sense to avoid their goaltenders at all costs, Swedish netminder Erik Ersberg showed up late last season and played in 14 games. I watched several of them and can say that he played even better than his impressive numbers showed - two shutouts, a 2.48 g.a.a. and a .927 save percentage. If he can bring back the same poise and maintain it over 45 or 50 games, than the Kings won't suck as bad as everyone is saying they will.

4 - How can the Kings become relevant again? Let's face it, falling short to the Habs in '93 signaled the downfall of this franchise. John LeClair's overtime heroics helped get the ball rolling that ended up in Wayne Gretzky and Barry Melrose leaving a few years later. Once Luc Robitaille retired, this team hit rock bottom. Having a terrible team in a major market like LA hurts the NHL as a whole so what can be done? They are on a good track with solid young talent coming through the system but that doesn't mean fans will come. So how to make them relevant? Play 10, 20 regular season games in Las Vegas. They have played preseason games at the MGM Grand for years, so it isn't like they are unfamiliar with the town. Less games in L.A. should result in higher demand for the ones still there and the team expands their fanbase to another big city. Offer free bus service to Vegas for season ticket holders or just cut those games off of their packages. The NHL has flirted with the idea of a Vegas franchise for years, so why not?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Foreshadowing Or A Mistake??

With today's announcements sealing the honours for Graves, Bathgate and Howell, the Rangers will have retired seven numbers: 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 11, and 35.

However, on the Ranger homepage, there is a new poll that says, "By 2009, eight Rangers' jerseys will be retired. As of right now, how many more would still merit this honor?"

Does this mean that we will finally be seeing a official retirement ceremony for #99 this season?? Perhaps when Gretz comes through town with the Yotes on November 24th?

Or will another former Ranger head to the rafters? Jean Ratelle, Frank Boucher or Lester Patrick perhaps? Or did the Rangers web monkey just forget how to count? What do you think?

Corporate Event Scheduled

New York, August 21, 2008 -- New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the organization will retire jersey No. 9 in honor of Rangers great Adam Graves in an on-ice ceremony prior to the Rangers – Atlanta Thrashers game on Tuesday, February 3, 2009. This will be the last number retired from the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship team.

"Adam Graves is one of the most beloved players to ever don a New York Rangers sweater," stated Sather. "Off the ice, there isn’t a finer person. His effort and production as a hockey player was nothing short of triumphant and, even today, his dedication to the community is incomparable. We are proud to have Adam join his fellow 1994 Stanley Cup Champion teammates Mike Richter, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch, as well as legends Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin, as his number is raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden."
And the Rangers blow another chance to properly honour a hero, instead going for a money grabbing midweek guaranteed sell-out against a terrible team. So predictable. So sad.

EDIT: Apparently I closed my e-mail too fast to post this because they also anounced the Bathgate/Howell event:
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the organization will retire jersey No. 9 and jersey No. 3 in honor of Rangers greats Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, respectively, in an on-ice ceremony prior to the Rangers – Toronto Maple Leafs game on Sunday, February 22, 2009.
"Rangers history is enriched by players like Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, who laid the foundation for what a Rangers player should be," stated Sather. "They will now take their rightful place in The Garden rafters alongside those players who have carried their tradition throughout the years."
I guess one out of two ain't bad ...

NHL Four-cast: Florida Panthers

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you ever wonder what it was like during Custer's Last Stand? You can see the hockey version of it in Florida where Tomas Vokoun stands alone amid attackers from all sides. Some of the greatest goaltending I have ever seen was by Curtis Joseph on a beleaguered St. Louis squad back in the early '90s; you can expect some marvelous displays by Vokoun this season.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. They gave away their captain and leading scorer for two mediocre defensemen and a draft pick. They replaced his offensive output with Cory Stillman, who was -8 in 24 games with Ottawa, something that extrapolates to -30 or so when you consider he will be with Florida this coming season.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Vokoun is the only fantasy stud guarantee. Even on a team as poor as the Panthers, he will get some wins and will have a fantastic save percentage. As I mentioned, they added more defensemen so his g.a.a. should improve from last season's 2.68. Jay Bouwmeester has something to prove as he plays for his next contract outside of Florida so I would say he is good for 45 points. Also, the Panthers may deal him so he may end up in a better place where he can get better numbers after the deadline. David Booth/Stephen Weiss/Nathan Horton will be the team's first line and will play in all situations so they should be able to pick up 55-65 points each. If Cory Murphy can stay healthy, he will be a power play point machine - he played just 47 games and had 17 points, 12 of which came with the man advantage.

4 - What city should the Panthers move to? Hamilton, Ontario. They aren't flashy enough for Vegas and don't have any marquee names. They don't have the work ethic that Kansas City would appreciate. They are fast enough for Quebec but don't play the beautiful game that old Nords fans remember from the days of Goulet. They aren't the Coyotes so they shouldn't go to Winnipeg (the Manitoba folks deserve their team back). So that leaves Hamilton. The folks there were willing to take the Preds when Vokoun was the backbone of that team, so they would be willing to take the Panthers. And they would probably help make Horton and Bouwmeester into the superstars that they can be.

NHL Four-cast: Edmonton Oilers

1 - Why is this team worth watching? They are young, they are fast and they have skills. However, you may want to wait to tune in as they headed to shootouts 19 times and won 15 of them. That's insane, but so were some of the moves that were made. And just look at/listen to the crowd, purely amazing.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. They picked up a great puck mover in Lubomir Visnovsky, who will join a healthy Sheldon Souray on what should be a top flight power play. Erik Cole replaces the grit lost in the Raffi Torres-for-Gilbert Brule deal and adds skill and experience. Brule was a top draft pick but has yet to show that talent in the NHL so I wouldn't expect much there. As this is a Ranger blog, I am of course going to mention Jason Strudwick. Struds may not play regularly, but he is a classy, intelligent veteran who will add poise and character to a pretty young roster.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Ales Hemsky has the skill and now the support to pick up 80, 90 points and he will be probably still be available in the late second or third round. Shawn Horcoff will be with him every step of the way, as long as he can maintain his health. Souray, who got hurt early last season should be back with his incredible slapshot in tow. Visnovsky will also get a good number of points from the point, as will Tom Gilbert, who is only getting better. As for the kids - Gagner, Cogliano, Penner and Nilsson - they may all get 50, 60 points but they are still learning so those numbers come at the cost of plus/minus. Garon will probably be the clear-cut starter this year, instead of platooning with Roloson but who knows how he will handle the workload? He is stellar in the pressures of the shootout but when given the chance to start back in Los Angeles ... well, he was notsogood.

4 - Are the Oilers the hippest team in the league? Very debatable, but they do go a long way with their awesome Oilers Guitar Hero Summer Tour. Rock out and get a chance to hang out with a player, how cool!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Detroit Red Wings

1 - Why is this team worth watching? The reigning Stanley Cup champs must do something right ... lol. They can pass, they can shoot, they can score, they can do everything.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? They did add the top skill player on the free agent market ... It's true that the Dominator is finally done, but he was their backup goaltender come crunch time and the Wings replaced him with the Conk-blocker. They also added skilled depth guys in Darren Haydar and import Ville Leino. Not a bad haul. The Cup is theirs to lose.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? I would say that 3/4 of their roster is worthy of picking up. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa and Lidstrom are all first round picks. Brian Rafalski wouldn't be bad in the second or the third. Many people like to hold off on goaltenders until at least the third round but Osgood should be among the first taken, just look at his numbers. Filppula, Franzen, Cleary, Kronwall and Holmstrom all will put up good numbers. Keeper league folks should take a close eye on Leino and Justin Abdelkader.

4 - Just how many Cups can they win in a row? As good as teams like Dallas and Montreal are and as good as teams like Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago will be, Detroit has the tools and personnel to win three in a row. Hossa and Z will both be free agents after this season but if you think Ken Holland will let them go, then you are sadly mistaken. The best GM in hockey has built the best team in hockey and I can't imagine them as a one-and-done team.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best Wishes Wade

Wade Redden apparently got hitched. Follow the link to Fanhouse, or you can go to right to a photog's blog with pics from the wedding. The pics are nice, and it looks like the day went off without a hitch. Let's hope that his time here in New York is as successful and now that he has some stability at home, he will bring some stability to the ice.

Thought Of The Day

Is it me or is the NHL really being petty over this Alexander Radulov situation? Now the Russians want to offer compensation and the NHL is stubbornly refusing and again demanding that Radulov return to the States.

To the best of my recollection, and please correct me if I am wrong, the Penguins didn't offer any compensation when they got a lawyer to help Evgeni Malkin to break his contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and come to Pittsburgh, right?

It just doesn't seem right. The NHL is coming off as the petty spoiled child in this one now that a prized toy was taken out of the box by another kid so they are throwing a tantrum ...

We Still Love You Jed ...

As I professed my fandom for Brendan Morrow in the Stars Four-cast, I figured I would take a look around to see if there was any update to Scotty Hockey favourite Jed Ortmeyer.

I couldn't find anything as to his progress recovering from ACL surgery but I was able to find something that flew beneath the radar: Jed doing a meet and greet and autograph session for some kids back in May. Glad to see Jed still carrying himself with class and doing the right thing. Best wishes for a full recovery and spot in the Predators' lineup come this fall ...

EDIT: Glad to see others miss Jed too ...

NHL Four-cast: Dallas Stars

1 - Why is this team worth watching? I thought they were fun to watch with psycho Steve Ott, Modern-Day Mr. Hockey Brendan Morrow (one of my favourite NHLers) and can't-stay-in-the-crease Marty Turco. But now? Two words: Sean Avery. Two more words: Ice Girls.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? While I don't believe in all of this Fabian Brunnstrom hype, I have to say that this squad is definitely better. Brunnstrom may prove to be something valuable, and if not he will replace Nik Hagman, who left town. Brad Richards will actually have time to acclimate with his new teammates - he has great skills and more exposure to the system down in Dallas will only do him well. And, did I mention that they have Sean Avery? As long as Brett Hull can keep a leash on him, Avery's impact will be measured in wins (as it was in NY, thanks Glen - we didn't like winning anyway).

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Morrow, Richards, Turco, Avery, Mike Modano and Mike Ribeiro are all gimmies. Jere Lehtinen, Sergei Zubov and Phil Boucher are both coming off injuries but should be able to step right in and produce. Stephane Robidas starred in the playoffs but should end up with a reduced role once Zubov and Boucher show their fitness. All in all, this is one really damn good team.

4 - Who will Avery fight with first? Dallas starts the season at home against Columbus so maybe Jared Boll or Raffi Torres or even Rick Nash but I wouldn't be shocked to see some intra-squad fisticuffs during practice, like Avery did while with the Rangers. Maybe Ott? Morrow? We'll see ...

Monday, August 18, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Columbus Blue Jackets

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Hitch is a helluva coach and he should be able to make his newly rebuilt squad into a winner - they even may make the playoffs! Oh yeah, and Rick Nash can play like a HOCKEY GOD.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Much, much better. They made a ton of moves and only one of them was bad - being stuck with Christian Backman in the Zherdev deal. Still they lost Zherdev's talent but also his moodiness and gained Fedor Tyutin, who can step right in and replace Adam Foote (that traitor). Columbus' other big trade was also a steal - grabbing gritty big hitter Raffi Torres for disappointing Gilbert Brule. These guys will also join their big signings, R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius. Umberger is a growing talent, as everyone saw in the playoffs last season and he should work well on a line with Huselius. And they also added the solid Mike Commodore to give them sex appeal.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? There is Nash, then Huselius and Umberger. Pascal Leclaire put up some great numbers last year and if he stays healthy, he should do even better. And if he falls, Fredrik Norrena is perfectly capable of putting together a string of good starts. Jared Boll will get you penalty minutes and a dozen or so points, which is always nice. But the one player to really keep an eye on will be rookie Jakub Voracek, if he makes the team. Voracek has mad skills and could turn into a Jagr-type player.

4 - Why don't more owners in the NHL act the same way the dearly departed Mr. Mac did? I wish I knew, I wish I knew ...

Thought Of The Night

Larry Brooks claims to have sources that say Mats Sundin wants to come to New York. His agent denies them. At this point, its all speculation. I wouldn't be shocked if Mats retires from the NHL and plays at home just long enough to captain Sweden to the 2010 Olympic gold medal. But if he does want to come back, and if it is to New York then the Rangers will be forced to make a move. Colorado fans on Hfboards broached the idea of taking Chris Drury off of our hands and that wouldn't be a bad idea for either team involved. The Rangers would get Sundin, while the Aves would get a fantastic replacement for Joe Sakic, should Burnaby Joe indeed call it a career. Drury put in a solid season on Broadway and could very well be the captain here should he stick around but he doesn't bring the star power (and offense) that Sundin would.

Personally, I don't care either way - I am still upset over the Zherdev deal ... and the Redden signing ... and the Naslund signing. But let's go Rangers!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Colorado Avalanche

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Because Scott Parker is on their team and he is one scary lookin' dude. But seriously, while I don't hail Paul Stastny as a all-powerful hockey god like Kevin over at BMR, the fact remains that Peter's son is pretty damn special. They also should have an agitating edge thanks to father of the year Ian Laperriere, who will be joined by the former chief punk on that Toronto team, Darcy "It is NOT a girl's name" Tucker. There may also be that Joe Sakic guy, but he appears to be undergoing a Selanne-esque crisis of faith, and that Peter Forsberg guy, but he just can't stay out of the trainer's room.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. Paris Hilton's boytoy Jose Theodore had some terrible seasons but he stepped it up last year (final year of his contract, typical) and actually played like a starting goaltender. He left to replace Huet in DC and the Aves replaced him with Andrew Raycroft. While I don't think Raycroft was nearly as bad as the Toronto media and fans made him out to be, unless he steps up his play significantly, Colorado is entering the season with two back-up goaltenders. And while super-skilled T.J. Hensick will get a legit chance to play with the big boys, the Aves didn't do anything to improve their offense or at least make up for the loss of Andrew Brunette. I guess they just hope that Ryan Smyth's head can be put back on.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Stastny is the only sure thing. Until they make public announcements, Sakic and Forsberg are tough choices. You would be gambling if you went after former sure-thing Milan Hejduk, who sees the end is near. Smyth, Svatos and Wolski could all provide some late-round points, provided they stay healthy. Hensick had six goals in 31 games, four on the power play, so if he has matured, he may be a good dark horse. Having Adam Foote on defense will be a good crutch for the goaltenders but Raycroft or Petr Budaj aren't worth more than a third-string spot on your team.

4 - What is the best instance of self-expression in the NHL? The back of Budaj's goalie mask. Budaj has Ned Flanders holding the Slovak flag - shows his patriotism, devotion to his faith and sense of humour all at once. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Chicago Blackhawks

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Because Jon Toews can do this and because Pat Kane can do this and because new addition Brian Campbell can do this. A young, exciting team, you need to Commit To The Indian as they revive an Original Six franchise.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Much, much better. The kids are a year older, Crazy Khabibulin has a motivated backup to challenge him, Soupy came from San Jose ... Denis Savard has them playing exciting hockey and I am more than willing to say that I am jumping on their bandwagon. After the Blueshirts I root for Original Six teams and these guys are making it really easy to join the fanclub.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Expect good offense - upwards of a point per game - from Campbell, Kane, Toews and Pat Sharp. I would add Marty Havlat to that but he is such a huge injury threat that you never know. If he stays healthy for an entire season, he could score 100 points easy; too bad that's a big IF. Robert Lang will be available later and will get 50 assists. On the blueline Dustin Byfuglien, James Wisniewski, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook would fit in great as second or third defensemen to get 40 points or so, some PIM and solid plus/minus. You will be taking a big risk drafting either Khabibulin or Huet early because no one knows how many starts either will get or when they will come.

4 - What will the Winter Classic be like? It will be extremely difficult to get tickets; people are considering buying season tickets just for that game, then reselling it to pay for the season tickets. While I didn't want it in New York, you can be sure I will be doing my damnedest to get to Wrigley. After going to Buffalo and experiencing that wonder, you can be sure the Chicago version will be impressive. And it should have better ice as the league will have longer than a week to build the rink ...

Friday, August 15, 2008

MSG Fans' Most Wanted

I randomly got an e-mail from a random person who didn't put who they were working for alerting me, and all of you, to MSG's Fans' Most Wanted finale tonight with the all-time top six Rangers. Here is the e-mail:
Wanted to reach out to let you and your readers know that tomorrow (Friday, August 15th), there will be a very special episode of FANS’ MOST WANTED on the MSG channel. The show will be devoted to the Rangers all-time starting 6 as voted by the fans! Watch highlights of the dream team's greatest plays, biggest stars and nastiest rivalries on Friday, August 15 at 8:00 p.m. on MSG.
For photos, videos, and more info about FANS' MOST WANTED: NY Rangers, head here:
Also, here’s a link to a trailer for the show:
Have a great day!!
Carrie Lynch
Now, it is nice that this person has reached out, but it came in totally randomly and at the end of the season for FMW. The series, if you haven't watched it, is a random clip show hosted by Sam Rosen where they talk about the Fans' Most Wanted Rivalries, Goals, Saves, etc.

FMW is nice, except it didn't actually interview or include the fans or current players in the half hour shows. They put it together based on online polls and it was Sam talking to clips. How boring.

It was a fun way to keep hockey on the air over the summer but I think that MSG should put out programs to educate the fans. It is too late now, so for next year my pitch is to have a series of one hour programs called NYR Summer School. There is more than 80 years of history to cover that many people have no idea about and when better to educate people then when they are home?

But back to the present, and the FMW. I am going to miss it and catch a later replay but feel free to fill everyone in in the comments as to who the All-Time Starting Six are. My guess? Graves, Messier, Gilbert, Leetch, Beukaboom and Richter.

NHL Four-cast: Carolina Hurricanes

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Eric Staal is turning into a really, really good power winger and Rod Brind'Amour basically puts on a nightly demonstration of how to play the center position. Should Brandon Sutter make the team - yes, of those Sutters - he will be a pleasure to watch; the kid hustles, likes to hit and has fantastic vision on the ice. They still won't break into the college basketball/NASCAR demographic, but they aren't boring.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Should everyone come back healthy then they are definitely better. Their power play was pretty deadly with a resurgent Sergei Samsonov and a happy-to-be-out-of-N.Y. Matt Cullen. The additions of Joni Pitkanen and Josef Melichar as well as Corvo at the deadline will improve their transitional game. They didn't bring in a veteran backup but will use Michael Leighton to ride the pine behind Cam Ward. Leighton has big game skill and has a fun history with Ward ...

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? They have three good guys to get that are distinct injury risks nowadays: Brind'Amour, Cullen and Ray Whitney. Corvo comes in with great numbers from last year but he got them with Ottawa, his plus/minus might go down but he should continue racking up points - especially on the power play. Cam Ward is another of those workhorse goaltenders who put up average numbers. Staal is the only given - he averages a point per game, takes over 300 shots and gets timely goals both as game-winners and power plays - and he will be gone by the second round.

4 - If the Hurricanes were a NASCAR team, which team would they be? I don't know, I don't like NASCAR. If there are any good ole' boys readin' this blog, feel free to contribute ... is there a driver who is fast, has won a title, left his loyal team in a controversial move and races in front of a half-empty track?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Calgary Flames

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Jarome Iginla is one of the most dynamic players in the NHL. He scores, he passes, he hits, he fights and he oozes class. What he did for Trevor Linden at Linden's last home game was one of the most impressive, wonderful gestures I have ever seen in the sport. He is worth the price of admission on his own and getting Dion Phaneuf and Mike Keenan too is just a bonus.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. They lost Kristian Huselius, Alex Tanguay and Owen Nolan and replaced them with Mike Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi and Rene Bourque. Camms flashed his potential getting hot out of the gates last season but fought injury and inconsistency after that. Bert ... well, he hasn't been the same since he mugged Steve Moore. And Rene Bourque is a depth guy, nothing more. Huselius, while enigmatic, could create offense off the wing, Tanguay was a good soldier who also went through good offensive stretches and even in the twilight of his career Nolan was a solid lower-line power forward.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Iggy and Phaneuf are no brainers. Miikka Kiprusoff gets wins but last season his numbers dropped to 2.69, .906 - on par with Ryan Miller, who I said watch out for. I would give Kipper the edge between the two of them but he isn't the top-five or even top-10 pick he once was. Daymond Langkow quietly puts up solid numbers and should be around in the middle rounds. If you find yourself desperate for defense, after two injury-filled, disappointing seasons Adrian Aucoin bounced back last year and should even do better this year. You can pencil him in for 40 points with a solid plus/minus.

4 - Red Mile girls (NSFW), where have you gone? No, really, I want to know!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Buffalo Sabres

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Because you never know when Max Afinogenov will pull something like this or this. It doesn't happen all that often, but man is it fun to watch. Also, they re-signed Teppo Numminen and watching him play is a beautiful thing. Teppo, one of the few Jets left in the NHL, plays a silky smooth style of defense with poise and class.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Par for the course. They added Craig Rivet and Patrick Lalime so they are a little better defensively, but that is it. They didn't replace Soupy Campbell, they didn't replace the guy they got for him, Steve Bernier ... they just have to hope that their top guys - Vanek, Roy and Pominville - continue to grow and put the puck in the net. All three have the potention to score 40 goals (Vanek and Roy came close, Pominville needs to shoot more).

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Ryan Miller is a dangerous pick. He plays a lot, but he also gives up a lot of goals for an elite goaltender. He had a GAA over 2.6 and a save percentage around .900 ... not top tier numbers and even with Rivet in front of him, they won't get that much better. An extremely dangerous fantasy choice would be Tim Connolly. There is no mistaking Connolly's skill, but he has played 113 of 246 regular season games since the lockout. Jaroslav Spacek is also an injury case. If you have just to have to have a Sabre on your roster, stick with their top line guys.

4 - Is there anything more annoying than Rick Jeanneret's 'population of Pominville' call? I don't think so, unless you count Joe Micheletti's entire body of work. I find it dumbfounding that the people of Buffalo worship Jeanneret's loud, ranting, homer style of broadcasting, but whatever works, right? BTW - you too can work with him! The NHL has had the MSG director's position open for months now.

Gordon's Fishermen

The jokes just write themselves with these clowns. The Islanders hired Providence Bruins head coach Scott Gordon to replace Ted Nolan. The AHL coach of the year replacing a former NHL coach of the year. Well, it can be assured that the Islanders will be a disaster this season but they are on track to be good down the line. Under Gordon's tutelage, Brad Boyes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and even Andy Hilbert have learned what it takes to be a NHLer (although Hilbert has thus far failed at the execution part of it).

Where Ted Nolan ensured the Isles were a threat every night, Gordon will nurture the kids and boost their egos as they struggle as the doormats of the Eastern Conference. They will get Hedman or Tavares as one of the top picks in next summer's draft and hope that they are ready by the time the Lighthouse Project goes through (oh my, you have to go to the website and listen to the song! Priceless!!).

Until then:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Another) Thought Of The Day

Now I am not about to jump ship, ditch the Rangers for Avangard Omsk and start typing in cyrillic but I do have to hand it to the Russians at the Kontinental Hockey League: They named their four divisions after four Russians who were pivotal in the history of Soviet hockey - Vsevolod Bobrov, Valery Kharlamov, Anatoly Tarasov and Arkady Chernyshev.

Kinda makes you long for the days of Norris, Smythe, Patrick and Adams, huh? They were done away by Napoleon Bettman and would go far towards fans as a goodwill gesture after allowing his teams to rape fans with ever-increasing ticket prices ...

Congrats, I Guess ...

Today it was announced that former Rangers Brian Leetch and Mike Richter will be enshrined into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Cammi Granato and Brett Hull as the Class of 2008.

I guess that's a good thing? I mean, any time a player is recognized for his (or her) achievements it is an honour but the U.S. HoF is virtually a nonentity. It is a real Hall and it exists in Eveleth, Minnesota ... where??

Hmm, Toronto ... Eveleth ... something just doesn't match up there.

And the induction dinner, which may or may not be seen on the NHL Network (my money is on not) - is at the University of Denver of all places.

Are these guys even trying?

I know USA Hockey is fiercely proud of the grassroots nature of hockey in America, but something like their Hall of Fame should be made into a big deal, or it won't be treated as such. Like I said, congrats to all involved, but give me a call when Leetch and (maybe) Richter join Mess in the real Hockey Hall of Fame.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Boston Bruins

1 - Why is this team worth watching? They do play boring hockey thanks to former Devils coach Claude Julien but you never know when Milan Lucic will channel his inner Cam Neely and go nuts. The scary thing? He is still learning how to play in the NHL ... and their Ice Girls are pretty nice to look at.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? I would say slightly better. The Bruins bought out Glen Murray, who has slowly been getting worse as he gets older, but they didn't necessarily replace him by signing the enigmatic Michael Ryder. They did steal Blake Wheeler, and the kid has to be considered an early candidate for rookie of the year but, as with any rookie, who knows? Having Patrice Bergeron back from that concussion he got from that sick hit should help.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara are no-brainers. Bergeron claims to be in good shape which should translate into a point-per-game and he will slip under many people's radars. Lucic will get you numbers across the board. David Krejci should put up some good power play points as will Phil Kessel, who has something to prove in the last year of his contract. The opposite should be said for Dennis Wideman and Ryder, who both got raises, something that often leads to complacency - and they weren't that great to begin with. Tim Thomas may scramble alot to make big saves, but he still ended up with 28 wins and a .921 save % so he is a worthy second goaltender.

4- Who don't the Bruins ever want to face again? Montreal. Aside from the Ghosts of the Forum, the Habs, who beat them in a surprisingly close seven-game first round series last year, scored 58 goals against the Bruins in the 15 games they played over the course of last season.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Killin' Time: Friday Afternoon Edition

As I've done a few times in recent weeks, posts of random observations/news will be called "Killin' Time" because, let's face it - that is all we are doing at this point of the year. There is some hockey news but no hockey games ... and that sucks. So, onto this afternoon's edition:

*This week the NHL Network is commemorating the Gretzky trade with a week of Wayne programming and in response, Going Five Hole is doing a week of Super Mario. While they are both glorifying their heroes, I feel the need to point out that with the good, there was the bad. Gretzky used to cry and whine to the refs as bad as - if not worse than - Cindy Crosby. He also got the crap beat out of him when he tried to fight. As for Mr. Lemieux, 1984 was the first televised NHL draft and he refused to put the Penguins jersey on when he was picked first overall because he wasn't happy with how contract negotiations were going. These guys were both incredible hockey players, but they weren't perfect and history should remember that.

*I had the privaledge of covering FC Barcelona when they came to New York this week and there are a lot of similarities between the Spanish soccer team and the Rangers. The media and fans expect the team to win every year. They finished behind their rivals in the regular season last year and failed to win any trophies so they tore apart their roster and rebuilt it in the coach's image. Their best player, Ronaldinho, was allowed to leave and they set off on a ridiculous preseason tour that forced them to do a lot of travelling. The key difference? The players they brought in are all young with a huge upside.

*Every day this month Puck Daddy is putting up "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL" from random sports media and hockey personalities. Today's was from XM Radio's Mike Ross and I agree with all five of his. I don't know if referee communication would get into my five, but more access to players and less idiot fans are both huge.

*The coach of the Swiss team that the Rangers will play as part of their preseason tour, SC Bern, had a heart attack earlier in the week. Best wishes to John Van Boxmeer on a speedy recovery.

*NHL Premier is less than two months away and the Rangers ticket office still has no clue as to if they will offer packages or tickets to fans willing to fly halfway around the world to watch their team.

*I still have much love for Sean Avery. He and I seem to see eye to eye on the Ranger offseason moves. The Devils are lucky that even though they lose a home sell-out with the Rangers, they will likely get one with the Stars. Granted, it will still be a building full of Ranger fans but they don't care.

*And finally, for now, is it late August yet?

NHL Four-cast: Atlanta Thrashers

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Two words: Ilya Kovalchuk. He has been completely screwed being stuck in Atlanta - the most exciting player in the NHL not named Ovechkin, Kovy doesn't get the respect or adoration that he deserves. I am a proud member of the Kovy Army, you should be too. Btw - that KA logo comes from this, 2:40 or so in, one of the more awesome things I have seen in a while; hockey needs rivalries.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Marginally better but that isn't saying much. They added Ron Hainsey to be the defenseman Alexei Zhitnik wasn't and took the gamble that Jason Williams can stay healthy. Williams working with Kovy and Slava Kozlov on the power play could be magic. Marty Reasoner is the kind of veteran presence that every team needs and will do well with the kids - Bryan Little, Angelo Esposito and top pick Zach Bogosian (if he makes the club).

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Kovalchuk is the only certainty. Hainsey may be ok for a few points from the blueline but I would go with Tobias Enstrom over him - 26 of his 38 rookie points came on the power play. Colby Armstrong had 11 points in 18 games and was only -2 in that span since the Pens ditched him so a full season under his belt may be quite beneficial. Mark Recchi is a decent pick for some tertiary scoring as long as you don't care about plus/minus. Williams might be good for a late round pick but don't be upset when he gets hurt. I would avoid Kari Lehtonen like the plague - trust me, I've been there and had him again and again after he makes a great start but for every great one there are two bad and two missed because of injury.

4 - Who will try to kill Garnet Exelby first? XLB is a dirty player and has made no friends around the league. Colton Orr still wants a piece, as does former Ranger Ryan Hollweg. He has also attacked Blake Comeau and Tyler Arnason in the past. The guy has no class and no regard for safety - neither his own nor that of others. He goes flying towards the boards and has nearly knocked himself out missing hits. Moron.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Anaheim Ducks

Ah to step into the shoes of a meteorologist, you get to make predictions based on basic indicators and you somehow don't get fired if you are wrong. A blizzard is coming! Gale force winds! Sixty and sunny!


Here at Scotty Hockey the weather outside is frightful so we think of the time when it's delightful ... hockey season. And that time is coming soon. So to prepare for the puck to be dropped, I'll take a look at the 30 teams of the NHL, one or two per day and give you a Four-cast where I will ask and answer four questions about that team (get it? four-cast? I need sleep.):

1 - Why is this team worth watching?
2 - Are they better or worse than last year?
3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy?
4 - Random Question (differs per team)

As always, if there is something I missed, feel free to leave a comment ...

Anaheim Ducks

1 - Why is this team worth watching? They play power hockey. They won the Cup with big, strong forwards and slick puck movement and despite last season's disappointment, they were still fun to watch. Plus, you never know when Chris Pronger is going to try to kill someone next. Scott Niedermayer puts on a clinic every time he steps on the ice and George Parros - the Princeton Punisher - is worth the price of admission, if only for the mustache.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. They made it through the Cup hangover year and showed flashes of the team that won in the first place. The big parts to the puzzle are still there - Niedermayer won't be causing controversy this time around as he will play for sure - and they got rid of Todd Bertuzzi. In his place will be an older Bobby Ryan (the No. 2 pick from a few years back) who has something to prove. They also took a smart gamble on signing Brendan Morrison who is a solid second line center when healthy. When healthy. But they should make a good run in the West, likely falling in the conference semis.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Ryan Getzlaf = stud. Niedermayer = stud. J.S. Giguere = stud. Pronger is solid, as are Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz. Perry should become a point-per-game performer this season, even if he just signed a big money deal. Morrison has something to prove on a one-year deal but is a risk, as is Matt Schneider, who may be dealt before the season starts and who knows where-to. Dark horses are Ryan, who had 10 points in 23 games while getting his feet wet, and Jonas Hiller. The Swiss backup goaltender has a .927 save percentage through 23 games but who knows how much action he will get or when, depending on Jiggy.

4 - Where can I send them money? Here. Why would you want to send them money? If you go to that link you can see that some fans are collecting cash to give to the charity of the player who scores first against the evil Kevin Lowe's Edmonton Oilers. It is a wonderful idea that brings the fans closer to the player, adds more venom to the rivalry and helps out a good cause. Could you imagine the turnout if someone did this walking around the Garden asking for money before the first game against the Isles?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Brooklyn In Da House

Minor league hockey is coming to Brooklyn this fall in the form of the Aces of the new Eastern Professional Hockey League. The league is expected to be on par with the SPHL and the MAHL, which would make it 'single A.' These aren't guys who are going to grace the Garden ice anytime soon; they are players who didn't want to give up the game after college or juniors despite not having enough to make the show. They get paid to play (lucky bastards) and work hard to put on a good show for the fans.

The EPHL and the Aces websites are buggy as all hell and they never replied when I sent requests for more info on the team or employment but I was able to dig out some details. The league will mainly stick to the NHL's rule book with some exceptions: primarily a lessened instigator penalty (yeah fighting), no trapezoid, tag-up offsides and auto icings.

The Aces will be led by former junior coach Chris Firriolo, who will hold pro tryouts September 5–7. They will play at Aviator Sports, which appears to be a pain to get to via public transportation so beware. There are just four other teams in the league: the Danbury Mad Hatters, the Jersey Rockhoppers (who are based out of West Orange), the New Hampshire Freeze and the Rome Copper City Chiefs.

The schedule was just released and the season will start November 1st. Brooklyn's home opener will be on the 8th against New Hampshire (they play their first two on the road). Most games are on the weekends, and only five of the 25 home games conflict with the Rangers. Here is the full regular season home sked:
November 2008
# 7: Saturday 8th: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
# 9: Friday 14th: Jersey @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#10: Saturday 15th: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm) - Rangers play Boston
#13: Friday 21st: Danbury @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)

December 2008
#29: Friday 12th: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#33: Thursday 18th: Jersey @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#36: Saturday 20th: Danbury @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#38: Tuesday 23rd: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm) - Rangers play Caps
#42: Saturday 27th: Jersey @ Brooklyn (2:00pm) - Rangers play Devils at night

January 2009
#59: Thursday 15th: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#60: Friday 16th: Danbury @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#63: Saturday 17th: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#66: Friday 23rd: Jersey @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#69: Sunday 25th: Danbury @ Brooklyn (2:00pm)
#71: Thursday 29th: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)

February 2009
#80: Saturday 7th: Jersey @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#82: Sunday 8th: Danbury @ Brooklyn (2:00pm)
#92: Friday 20th: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#96: Sunday 22nd: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (2:00pm) - Rangers play Leafs at night
#97: Thursday 26th: Jersey @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)

March 2009
#112: Friday 13th: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#115: Saturday 14th: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#117: Tuesday 17th: Rome @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#120: Friday 20th: Danbury @ Brooklyn (7:30pm)
#123: Saturday 22nd: New Hampshire @ Brooklyn (7:30pm) - Rangers play Senators

Being in a major market like Brooklyn, this team is sure to sell out most games as long as they do a little bit of marketing. They need to improve their website so fans can follow easier and it wouldn't take much to broadcast their games - at least on tape delay on MNN. If you clicked on the link to the coach, apparently he spoke at a press conference but it never saw the light of day to my knowledge. But before anything, the EPHL needs to make sure that the foundation that they are building is a solid one.

The MAHL seems to be getting their stuff together after having to abort last season. No one wants the kind of publicity that they got and the Aces would do well to hire upstanding citizens so they can survive here where others could not.