Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scotty's Swiss Diary Part 4

8:58 pm, September 30th, 2008

Wow, where to begin?? Let's get the usual out of the way first. The Rangers sucked. They were terrible; they fumbled the puck, they blew scoring opportunities, they had bad defensive lapses and if they played an NHL team, they would have lost badly. Now the good thing: they didn't play a NHL team, they played SC Bern and won 8-1.

As the cute German girl who works for Ovation Sports said to me, 'its like a different level, with everything.' To find an equal for SC Bern, you probably have to go down to the ECHL. They were soft, they had trouble passing, their shot selection poor, their shot power poor, their positioning poor and their conditioning was terrible.

And the worse part for them? Don "Have another donut you fat pig" Koharski didn't do Bern any favours by calling a tight NHL game. He gave the Rangers two 5-on-3 power plays, he cut what little momentum they were able to build with dubious calls and his fat ass was in the way more than once.

Now for the good stuff. The fans were incredible. Once you got past the fact that they are snotty Europeans who smoke like chimneys (smoking was allowed in the arena and I nearly choked), they are as passionate and involved as any I have ever seen. Their team lost by seven goals and no one, NO ONE left. They sang, they banged drums and they waved flags. It was awesome and I can't even imagine a Garden like that at all. How sad, because Ranger fans are some of the most passionate in all of sport and if they channelled it properly, they would be the best fans in all of sport. Why hasn't the Garden bought the Misfits "I want to be a New York Ranger" song yet? It is perfect to sing along to and a fun song, look it up.

They played the Ranger goal song after every goal, but I didn't even cheer for the Blueshirts' second and third goals as Koharski basically handed them over. They resulted in a weird feeling for me that I have never had before - I felt bad rooting for the Rangers ... To properly capture the atmosphere, I would have to say that it was like someone told the SC Bern fans that Santa Claus didn't exist. But, like any kid, they bounced back and were happy to get presents anyway - singing all the way to the end.

And it hasn't ended yet - the arena folks don't throw people out when it is over. They are still serving beer and selling souvenirs as I type this - an hour or so after the game ended - and there are still people hanging out drinking, smoking and having a good time.

Tomorrow should be a better game but I am sure the fans won't be as into it. And who knows how many there will be? There were at least two sections of seating today that were empty (the standing room was utterly packed though) and they kept advertising the game against Metallurg on the big board.

Before I bounce, and if you are still reading this, some more quick things: the building booed when there were television timeouts, apparently they don't have them normally and they felt they ruin play (and they were right). There were more Ranger jerseys than I expected and believe it or not, I saw a 88 Lindros and a 20 Robitaille among them; weird. I mentioned drumming before, they have a permanent drum section in the standing room area with some tough-looking guys and girls going at it all game - so cool.

And, one last thing (for now): many of the standing room fans claim their spots by the iron posts with stickers and ribbons and take their time showing up. Some girl actually expected me to move because her sticker was there. Ha! Doesn't she know I'm from New York? Doesn't she know I'm Scotty Hockey? I would have felt bad but her boyfriend was right next to me and he didn't offer to move to give her the spot by the rail so I don't feel bad, she deserves it by being with a loser.

I'm sure that more will pop into my head later or tomorrow, so until then Es-C-S.C.B, Es-C-S.C.B!

Scotty's Swiss Diary Part 3

1:03 pm, Tuesday, September 30th
After much running around, I was able to find someone who would let me use my work ID to get into the Rangers morning skate. I don't like to pull out the ID, but its Switzerland - and that pretty much says it all for me. So while you guys get ready for work, or are at work, here are some notes:

*It looked like the whole team skated. Jim Ramsey passed by me and I asked if everyone was healthy and he gave the thumbs up but later I saw him talking to someone and pointing to his wrist, so maybe someone is dinged up. My ID couldn't get me in to the Renney presser, so I can't say for sure.

*I can say with certainty that Nigel Dawes, Markus Naslund, Marc Staal, Paul Mara, Henrik Lundqvist and Miika Wiikman won't be playing against Bern. They stayed for an extra practice with Mike Pelino playing the Herb Brooks "Again!" role for the skaters while Beniot Allaire first worked with Hank, then with Miika.

*The team skated hard, with Renney mixing things up - as per usual. He did a few two-man drills so I won't even wager a guess at the lines for this evening. He also pulled Dubi aside and did some extra face-off work with him.

*As you could see from the pictures earlier in the day, the building is really beautiful inside and visually it should be stunning on TV.

*Adam Graves and Rod Gilbert were lurking around, with Graves looking like he wanted to grab some gear and jump on the ice.

*While I saw the Jim Von Boxmeer, the SC Bern coach, they didn't have a large contingent hanging around. The Metallurg folks, however, did. Their team took the ice just now so I think I am going to run back across the street to the rink to watch them.

2:39 pm, Tuesday, September 30th

Well, that was dull. The Russians sleepwalked their way through an hour long practice. There were still a few guys out there working on skills, but being as I didn't recognize any of them, I left. If they play like they practiced, then they will be offsides on at least half of their rushes, and Hank won't have to take his stick off of the ice. They will have their deceptively-good goaltender A-Mezin in net so you never know what will happen. I saw Andrei play a half dozen or so games back in the UHL and he was a Ron Tugnutt kinda guy - sometimes good, usually average, occasionally bad but on rare occasions he was absolutely stellar beneath a barrage of shots, like Tugnutt in that famous Bruins/Nordiques game.

I wish I had gotten everything settled earlier in the day so I could have watched SC Bern, but what can you do? Apparently having a credential really didn't matter as the supposedly media-only skate had a dozen or so fans hanging out, trying to get autographs. For the most part, whoever they asked came over to sign and one lucky kid got Hank's old practice stick, which was very cool. Some other things:

*When I said construction was still going on, I meant it. There was a cacophony of buzzsaws, drills and cleaning machines that made it hard to eavesdrop inside and left a mess outside with nails and other construction garbage laying about.

*The media will have a sweet center ice view with press desks in the lower bowl - an even better position than the Rangers' old radio box and the Blog Box in the Mausoleum.

*The arena folks tested fog machines at one point ... that's right, fog machines. Looks like they will be putting on a show, should be fun.

*And when the players get penalties, they will literally go to the penalty box (where they will feel shame), check it out:

Just a few hours to go before gametime, woo hoo!!

PostFinance Arena

I got the camera working with the laptop and put up some random photos from here in Bern on my Flickr (link on the right). But I wanted to share a few here, after sneaking across the street to check out the venue:

This is the PostFinance Arena:

And, unfortunately, so is this:

The building is a complete construction site which, honestly, really bothers me. Why would the IIHF hold the Victoria Cup, something they want to be a big deal, at a arena that is a mess? I guess the Cup - which was meant to be a challenge between the European champ and the Stanley Cup champ - is as much a work in progress as the arena is ... but at least they have a nice logo:

Scotty's Swiss Diary Part 2

7:30 am, Tuesday, September 30th
My body is so twisted turned and upside down that I haven't been able to sleep much - thus I am awake at this hour. Actually, I've been up for four hours watching MTV Europe, CNN and German sports. There was a Swiss Sportscenter-ish show on another channel and it seemed to have a nice preview to today's Rangers v. Bern game and an additional feature piece on Christian Dube but both were in German, so I really have no idea. The Rangers homepage also has an article up on him here.

Speaking of Christians, I sign on today and Backman had a goal and an assist for Columbus last night??? What is going on? Toots had a goal and two assists as well in the 7-1 blowout of the Hawks so congratulations to him. Backman ... *shakes head*

I also just read that the Islanders claimed Thomas Pock. It is a damn shame because I always thought Pock was a solid player and he gave the Rangers the option to move him to offense if pressed - like Jason Studwick last season. It is good for him and good for the Islanders but, of course, I loathe them so I hope they both rot. He will join Mitch Fritz on the fishermen, who I still can't believe jumped ship after collecting a Hartford paycheck last season while being injured.

More later!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Scotty's Swiss Diary Part 1

Hi folks, since you all have lives and jobs and couldn't join me as I flew to watch the two Rangers games in Switzerland, I figured I would give you a blow-by-blow, dear diary account ...

11:30 am, Monday, September 29th

I made it, I'm in Switzerland. After a sleepless night of wondering how and if I was going to make it to the plane from London to Zurich, I am aboard a train that I think is heading towards Bern - where the Rangers will play two more exhibition games tomorrow and Wednesday.

I am sweaty, I forgot my razor and haven't shaved in a week and I am pretty sure I just spoke jibberish to Al Trautwig on the platform at the station. But I am in a country where the people drive on the right side of the road, there were four different hockey magazines at the kiosk in the airport and it really is quite beautiful - lots of lush green grasses and rolling hills with that quaint European-style architecture you always see in photos.

Oh, and if you couldn't guess, I don't speak German. Or French. Or Swiss German. And, judging by my impression of my conversation with Al, I barely speak English now. But it doesn't matter, because I am in Switzerland and how cool is that??

12:00 pm, Monday, September 29th
It appears that I am indeed on the correct train. A conductor finally came by and I tried to turn on that Scotty Hockey charm asking her if I was in the right place because I have no idea, etc. and she simply replied, "Yes, you are ok." She stamped my ticket and walked away. Did I mention I really, really need a shower? That must be it ...

As some girl is rambling on on her cell phone in German, I almost can ignore her. The train just passed a stunningly green field filled with cows. Cows! Alongside a railway? Trippy ... if I had a better camera and wasn't on a train speeding through the countryside, I'd take pictures. For now, you will just have to take my word, it was bizarre and they didn't seem phased at all that a train was going by. Hmm, I wonder where I can get a good steak for dinner ...

7:30 pm, Monday, September 29th
As I mentioned the other day, the fine folks at Unprofessional Foul put my write-up of the Arsenal-Hull City match up, so feel free to take a look!

7:45 pm, Monday, September 29th
I almost forgot to keep the narrative going, sorry. So, miraculously I found my way to the hotel without problem, and the place is pretty cool. The Swiss are one of the leaders in modern design in Europe apparently and they seemed to have tried some modern designs in the bathroom of my room. There are some quite strange fixtures and lay outs - not three seashells strange, but still odd. And the tv here has more than twice the number of stations that my room in London had, but just one is in English (CNN) and I just landed on a channel where there is a man in a sequined cocktail dress serving dinner on a German language dating show. Yeah. And on that note, I'm off to find some food myself.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Vote 'o8

In honour of Paul Newman's passing, there is a new poll on the right side of the page to select his best line in Slap Shot. Feel free to select one of those few I picked or add a different one in the comments here. The winner will be the "Slap Shot Quote Of The Week" for the first month of the season. R.I.P. Reg ...

Covering Their Own Arse

The Rangers already got their P.R. machine going to make excuses for them after their desolate 1-5 preseason start. Just in case they look woeful in their two matches against European opponents in Switzerland (which I am going to see), they were jet lagged and they couldn't get used to the arena - both the ice size and the huge contingent of standing-room fans passionately rooting against them.

I'll do what I can to sway them, but a poor performance won't win the Rangers anymore fans on that side of the pond and will further infuriate the ones at home. After playing so poorly with a split squad in the first six, these throw-away exhibitions have become an important test to finally show fitness for the season to come, which begins in less than a week. Let's just hope that they don't play down to their excuses and dominate like they should ...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Reg

As it was match day here in England, the news of Paul Newman's death escaped me until now but I felt obligated to pop up and say something. As you can see by the quote of the week feature that I have had on this blog from the start, I love(d) Slap Shot. It was a great movie with a lotta laughs and hockey, most of which came courtesy of a certain Paul Newman. I also loved The Hustler and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I also liked Newman's salad dressing and his racing team, but not loved, but that doesn't matter. The fact is that Reg Dunlop is gone, but at least we have him on film so we can go back to it to enjoy him and his antics again and again (and again and again and again and again and even make up some new ones).

The really creepy thing about Newman's passing is that I was killing time Thursday evening in a book store and I picked up his biography of all things to see what was said about Slap Shot and the next day he passed.

*shudder* Creepy.

His bio is worth reading because it explains how Al Pacino was considered for the Dunlop role but Newman knew how to skate. Wild, huh? Could you imagine Serpico in Slap Shot?? Eesh.

The job went to Newman and Slap Shot became another great movie among the plethora that was graced by his skilled acting. RIP Reg and don't worry, we'll keep passing along your motivational words even though you are gone ...

Old time hockey!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Programming Note

I am flying to overseas tonight. I am (sadly) fully expecting to not be able to see MSG in London so don't expect game wraps of the rest of the exhibition games on this side of the pond. As per usual, I highly recommend the guys on the blog-roll on the right for updates. Sam from Rangers Report has been fantastic and looking over his stuff, we seem to agree on a lot of points.

As I don't want to chase you guys away, you should feel free to check out the Four-casts I did for each team and keep coming back here for some goodies: I will have my laptop with me on the old continent so I'll try to put up something from the two games in Switzerland, which should be wild. And there may even be a scouting report of a British Elite League game if I don't get lost in the English countryside. I also might pop in to Unprofessional Foul to share my first experience at a Arsenal match so keep an eye out for that. Wish me luck!

R.I.P. Oli

Condolences go out to former Ranger goaltender Jussi Markkanen and his family. Apparently Jussi's four-year-old son Oli was playing with his brother and fell out the window, dying on impact. Jussi was only in New York a short period - 26 games before the lockout - but he played well on a bad team and seemed like a classy guy ... not that that matters in an instance like this, but whatever. This kind of thing should just never happen. Can't imagine how difficult it is for Jussi so our thoughts are with him.

The real world sucks.

Preseason: Looking Good ...

The Rangers looked pretty good in their preseason bout with the Ottawa Senators tonight and pulled out a 2-1 win. It is reason to be giddy as these guys took care of business against an opponent they were supposed to beat - Ottawa's B-team. The boys showed some good chemistry and worked hard, which is all one can ask for. Some observations:

*I have to start with the biggest shock for me in this one: Nik Zherdev was fantastic. He showed some flash with his stickhandling (even if he looked like Alex Kovalev in getting around three guys and losing the puck out of the zone), he skated hard and he backchecked! Backchecked! With his reputation coming from Columbus, that was the last thing I expected and I really hope he keeps it up.

*Zherdev's linemates both played solid. Markus Naslund had two shifts where he turned back the clock to before the lockout and played with the strength and quickness that made him a NHL star. Scott Gomez was wearing the C (Drury had it Saturday) but didn't appear to play with the same effort that everyone else did, but that is just how he plays before he pops up and makes outrageous plays. The three of them were good on the power play, which is where they will be needed the most, but they still went 0-for-7 with the man advantage ...

*But I am still excited because there was actually cycling on the Ranger power play. Cycling! By the Rangers! What a beautiful thing.

*High draft picks Artem Anisimov and Bobby Sanguinetti were practically invisible, while Doug Weise and Lauri Korpikoski were both solid. The Rangers signed Weise after Traverse City and tonight he showed why - he kept his skates moving, hit banged bodies and played his position, I'm a fan. Korpikoski, as we already knew, has NHL skills. His game-winning goal was a simple redirect through a stick-less Alex Auld but he swarmed the net and looked good coming off the boards.

*Jarkko Ruutu deserves a beating. That's all, just wanted to point that out ... again.

*There were two guys out there battling for the seventh defenseman spot in Brian Fahey and Thomas Pock. Fahey fell three times during one shift and had a few bad turnovers while Pock was quiet, yet steady.

*Two other defensemen need A LOT of work. Wade Redden seemed to coast through the game, did not play with the poise of a No. 1 blueliner and - if I am not mistaken - was the defenseman victimized on the 2-on-1 that resulted in the Sens lone goal. But as bad as he was, Dmitri Malik, oops, I mean Dmitri Kalinen was terrible. He turned over the puck, blew coverages, was knocked around by forecheckers ... he stank. Me'thinks he will follow in the grand tradition of Tom Poti and Marek Malik to draw the ire of the Garden faithful.

*It's funny, as much as I have professed my fandom for Voros, I don't think he will even have a spot on the team if Colton Orr keeps skating the way he has. Orr looks like a completely different player out there, we just need to see if he can still fight ...

*Brandon Dubinsky, by the way, continues to look like a different player - that Jagr guy. Dubi seems to be getting more comfortable with using his size to protect the puck and get through traffic to get off smart, high percentage shots.

*I managed to make it this far without talking about Petr Nedved but I just have to include him. What can I say? He partied like it was 1999. He definitely makes for an interesting conundrum - is he worth either bumping Selke candidate Blair Betts to the bench or sending Chris Drury back to the wing? Maybe, maybe ... I know I would rather see the latter as Bettsy is too important on the penalty kill and in the faceoff dot.

*There isn't much to say about the goaltenders, neither Hank nor Zaba were really tested.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Auld - 28 saves.
2-Lauri Korpikoski - one goal.
1-Petr Nedved - one goal.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Christoph Schubert - The German was the best player on the ice for the Sens. He played smart in his own end, he played physically and he made the all-important solid first passes.
2-Zherdev - I was going to put Nedved in here because he showed NHL form, but Zherdev really did everything well on both ends of the ice, even venturing into the corners and working off the short boards. Totally shocked, totally impressed.
1-Dan Girardi - Everything that Wade Redden wasn't on this night, Girardi was. Girardi played really good positional defense, he stood up Sens as they came across the blueline, he joined in the attack ... he was the No. 1 defenseman on the Rangers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Captain Conundrum

There is much debate of late over who will become the 25th captain of the New York Rangers. From all that I have read, and I am not about to link all of the pieces as both MSM and bloggers are weighing in on it left and right, everyone seems to think this is a two horse race: Chris Drury vs. Scott Gomez.

I find it remarkable and completely disagree with either choice. First off, let's look at why they are the leading candidates: Both have won Cups, both can put up some points, both are signed to well-paid, long-term contracts. The arguing points used by proponents of each against the other is that Drury is too quiet and Gomez acts too immature. Both statements are true, and that should disqualify each of them in the battle for the captaincy.

Markus Naslund and Wade Redden both have worn letters before but both fall into the same category as Drury as leaders by example. Captains of that ilk work in Detroit, in Colorado and in Ottawa but they don't work here. History has proven that.

New York needs a cult of personality to lead them, and none of the aforementioned 2008-09 Rangers qualify as that. Mark Messier, widely acknowledged as The Captain, was one. Neither his predecessor (Kelly Kisio) nor his successors (Brian Leetch and Jaromir Jagr) had the power to force their will upon others, to motivate others and to resuscitate others. They were great, great hockey players but they couldn't make those around them great.

And New York demands greatness.

Is that quality in the current Ranger locker room? In skill ... perhaps but, at least at the moment and at least on the surface, not in personality. Drury and Gomez are both good hockey players and proven winners but Drury keeps to himself and Gomez smiles in postgame interviews after losses. The short term solution for this is to spread three A's around until someone steps up and brings the team with them.

Perhaps the captaincy could go to Staal, Girardi, Dawes or Callahan but not yet. The C brings with it a legacy and it should not be tarnished just because fans or pundits feel that somebody has to have it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preseason: Penalty Party In Ottawa

Yay!!!!! Hockey's back! As you can guess, I am giddy to see the boys back on the ice. And let that serve as a warning that this game wrap runs a bit long as I took notes while I was watching this parade to the penalty box in Ottawa. The good news is that the Rangers' pk was solid, even if the team went on to lose 3-2.

But before I get to the game, I want to wish John Dellapina the best of luck. Dellapina is leaving the Daily News to join Bettman's staff at the league as the Director of Media Relations. His writing has always been exceptional and I, for one, will miss reading his work. Now onto my work:

*For all of the initial joy to see the initial opening animation to the game, seeing Joe Micheletti back when they first came on camera bummed me out. If you missed the broadcast, don't worry, Joe is still the same annoying, obnoxious dolt who has no idea on how to properly do colour commentary. And they came out of the first break with technical difficulties, what a way to start a season. They also lost a minute or two of the third period but luckily didn't miss much action.

*I find it remarkable that these professional athletes get tired after a 30 second shift. The Rangers took a bad penalty, got pinned in their own zone and stood around as the Sens scored a gimme goal by Ferrari fanatic Dany Heatley to go up 1-0. It was the same laziness that hurt the Rangers during Game 3 against the Pens last season, but at least then there was some understanding because it was late in a game in April. This is the first game after training camp. I just don't get it; these guys play scrimmages for hours and stop skating after 30 seconds in a game.

*We got out first peak at Mike "Pie F-er" Del Zotto in this one and I can't say I was impressed. He panicked and threw the puck out of the zone on his first shift, and took a silly penalty his second. He settled down later on but certainly is a year or three away from the NHL.

*Michal Roszival returned from surgery and looked to be in the same defensively-lacking form he was in before going under the knife. His ridiculous giveaway at the point on the power play gave Jason Spezza a breakaway and you just can't give Spezza a breakaway. 2-0 Sens.

*As they say, it's preseason for the officials, too. This game was a throwback to the games right after the lockout where they called most EVERYTHING. Nineteen power plays. 19! Painful!

*Something to contemplate: Was this split squad doomed from the start? Perry Pearn, the author of last year's awful power play, was the head coach ...

*Chris Drury wore the captain's C, but it was just a preseason game on a split squad so we will see who has it opening night. There will be a blog here on Monday about that matter ... oh, and speaking of blogs, you should check out Puck Daddy's Ranger preview - a fun snapshot of the team.

*Drury was forced to come down low and clear out the crease early in the second period and let's face it, that isn't his forte. 3-0 Sens.

*After getting knocked around on their first shift of the first period, Cally/Dubi/Voros looked good when they got some power play time later in the period. Voros went to the net, Cally dug the puck off the boards and Dubi worked the middle. All three stood up for each other on that shift after watching the Sens pick them off one-by-one on that opening shift.

*Dubi showed off what he learned from playing with Jaromir Jagr by powering through the Ottawa zone to score the first Ranger goal, 3-1. He did it again with a pin-point wrister to make it a 3-2 game with a shorty in the third off a great play by Cally, who had that same energetic form that he flashed last season.

*Of all of the intermission interviews I've seen, Aaron Voros' might have been the sweatiest. He was dripping between the second and third and I do not envy the audio guy who has to wipe down those headsets. After spouting some cliches he finally showed some personality in admitting that he was a 'stupid' (as in huge) fan of Mark Messier when he was a kid.

*Greg Moore had a really solid game for the Blueshirts. He seemed to hustle every second he was on the ice and made a good statement, even without getting on the scoresheet.

*Miika Wiikman looked a lot better in net for the Rangers than Valley but that is not unexpected. Valley is a career backup goaltender while Wiikman is a future NHL starter. But at the same time, it wasn't like the Rangers gave Valley much support either while they settled down as the game went on and played better in front of Wiki.

*How were there no fights in this game? The closest we came was when Danny Bois bounced back from getting hit by Dane Byers and went after Colton Orr in the third. Now Bois had turned away from the Ranger and towards the boards but Micheletti cried that it was a penalty because Bois was helpless. Luckily, the refs didn't see it that way (the wrong way) and they didn't make the call. Bois raced up-ice to go after Byers, collided with Orr and the linesmen jumped right in before punches could be thrown. That's half the fun of preseason! Hopefully Monday we will see some fisticuffs.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Martin Gerber - 23 saves
2-Brandon Dubinsky - two goals
1-Dany Heatley - one goal

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Jarkko Ruutu - I hate you Jarkko! And that is because you are so damn good at being such a pain in the ass. Ruutu was disruptive and physical early and it threw the Rangers off their game.
2-Heatley - He can't drive but he sure as hell can play hockey. Heatley skated a game-high 24:10 and worked hard on both sides of the ice while playing a physical game. There is a reason he is one of the top 10 talents in the NHL ...
1-Dubi - As I said earlier, I think he really showed off what he learned from Jagr: how to use his size to his advantage while keeping the skills and quickness of a smaller player.

NHL Four-cast: Washington Capitals

1 - Why is this team worth watching? AO. When you have a player who can do this, and this, and this, and especially this and enjoys it this much, you have it made. Ovechkin's enthusiasm is infectious and a true pleasure to watch.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. Yes Ovie and Backstrom and Semin all have more experience under their belts but they don't play defense. Letting Cristobal Huet go and replacing him with Jose Theodore is a definite downgrade, especially as Theodore stepped up his game purely to get a new contract, and he didn't even do that great in going 28-21-3 with a 2.44 GAA and .910 save percent. Huet, who went a remarkable 11-2 with a 1.63 and .936 in 13 regular season games with them, is still proving he is a top goaltender in the NHL and this team needs a star in net, especially with their poor defensive corps. Mike Green was a revelation last season with his offense from the blueline but there are no Rod Langways, Scott Stevenses or Brendan Witts back there to help out the netminder. Letting Ollie the goalie go is just depressing as he was synonymous with Washington for a long, long time. They still have the rock solid Brent Johnson as a backup but they had better pray that their offense can average at least four goals a game ... And I don't understand why they let Matt Cooke go to Pittsburgh, he added good grit to a pretty soft roster, especially with Chris Clark injury-prone.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? I had the first overall pick in one of my (many) leagues and picked Ovie. Backstrom and Semin should both be good for 70 points. Viktor Kozlov is still dangerous and good for 50 points, and Michael Nylander will get that number easily if he stays healthy. If. Mike Green had a spectacular year and a lot of people think it was his arrival. Some people also draft Tom Poti for blueline points but I want to punch those people in the face. I hate Tom Poti. A lot. And, as you could guess, I wouldn't put much faith in Theodore either. Keep an eye on the Caps depth chart because Brooks Laich had a strong finish to his season and if he gets on a scoring line, he may be able to keep the momentum. While I am a fan of Clark, with his injury and the progress of the other forwards, he may have lost his spot among the scorers so he isn't likely to bounce back to his 30 goal form.

4 - "Maybe next year the Stanley Cup?" Sorry Ovie, you can keep winning individual trophies but it doesn't look like your team will take the hardware this year - not unless they make a big trade at the deadline and get a 2002-esque performance from Theodore. I think they can in a few years, if Ted Leonis can accept a few seasons of first or second round playoff exits and keeps Bruce Boudreau around while prospects like Simeon Varlamov, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Chris Bourque grow up. The first three will secure the Caps end of the ice while Bourque will be another sniper up front to help draw attention away from Ovie.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Open Letter To Those Players At Camp

Hello, and welcome to the New York Rangers,

There are some things you need to know before you get the 2008-2009 NHL season started as a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. I will attempt to lay them out for you to make your transition to New York easier. If you keep these in mind, your stay will be an enjoyable and, hopefully, productive one. Best of luck.

1- First and foremost, being a Ranger requires respect. Respect for your teammates. Respect for the jersey. Respect for the fans. Respect the Rangers. Everything else on this list falls under this dictum. Respect. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a complete way of being that will require hard work but the payoff is virtually limitless.

2 - I mentioned hard work. That is what is expected of you. Anything less - let up for just one moment of one shift - and the results would be disastrous. During that lapse a goal may be scored against the Rangers, or it may not. Either way, someone will notice. The Rangers are the most scrutinized NHL team not in Canada, both by the media and by the fans. You do not want to let up in this town. At the same time, even if things aren't going your way - go without scoring for games at a time, whatever - if you are visibly working hard you will given a pass. You may look around at the fans by the ice and see the nice clothes, the Blackberries and the models, but this is a blue collar fanbase that expects and appreciates hard work.

3 - Meet the fans, greet the fans. They are your best asset on the ice, better than any newfangled composite stick or heated skateblade. You may have played in the Garden in the past, you may have not. But you have never felt anything like it when you have 18,200 people getting your back, helping you up, pushing you forward. At the same time, that 18,200 can be merciless. This goes back to No. 2, if you don't show maximum effort, you will face the ire of the fans and trust me, you won't like it.

4 - Do anything but sit back and watch when the Islanders, Devils or Flyers are in town. Those are the times to be proactive. Very proactive. There is no faster way to the hearts of the fans than through the franchise's biggest rivals. In this day and age of free agency (which may have brought you here), rivalries are harder to cling to for players - you may have friends on the other team - but they are grossly important to the fans. Go out to dinner with them, go on vacation with them, whatever - from the second that puck drops, you had better be out for blood. Players come and go but that jersey that you pull on has been around for a long time and that means something. Pulling on that jersey comes with the baggage of hatred for wrongs past. It may sound petty, but it is a part of life. And, if you use it right - through the aforementioned hard work - then it is a very, very good thing.

5 - On February 3rd Adam Graves' No. 9 will be raised to the rafters. Pay attention. Pay attention not just to the testimonials and not just to the sheer adoration that will thunder through the Garden. Pay attention to Adam Graves. You will not find a better role model in your search for what it means to be a Ranger. Words cannot do him justice, just watch and listen.

6 - Always, ALWAYS have your teammate's back. There is nothing worse than seeing a player get hit in a vulnerable position without retribution. That especially goes for your goaltender.

7 - Give not to temptation. New York never closes and there is fun to be had no matter what your vice may be. But if you give in to it, then you are breaking No. 1 on this list. There is a time and place for everything, and while you wear that jersey the time is not right for nefarious activities.

8 - Spend some time reading up on the past. The more you read about the 82 year history of the franchise, the more you will understand just how important No. 1 on this list is. A lot of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into building the Rangers and the least you can do is know who they were.

9 - Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Honesty is the best policy. Silly, right? Not at all. When speaking to the media or to the press, one of the worse things you can do is speak in benign cliches. There is no such thing as 110%. You can only take things one game, or one day, at a time. And you don't always get the bounces. We know that; tell us how, tell us why. You can't be afraid to show your personality, because that is who you are.

10 - Don't believe the hype. Because of the payroll, because of the market and because of the ever-positive preseason expectations, there is going to be people saying that you will win the Cup. Don't let it get to your head. Things can go south, and quickly with the tough teams on the schedule throughout the first month of the season. Work hard, listen to the coaches and play your game to the best of your ability.

This list may seem daunting, but you will be pulling on a Blueshirt and these are the things that come with the jersey.

Let's Go Rangers.

-Scotty Hockey

Monday, September 15, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Vancouver Canucks

1 - Why is this team worth watching? I don't know about you, but identical twins always trip me out but I have to say, Vancouver's pair is pretty damn good at hockey. Roberto Luongo, despite a 'down' season of 35 wins, 2.38 gaa and .917, is still one of the best goaltenders in the league. As I've mentioned before, I personally enjoy watching Willie Mitchell work. And it will be interesting to see if Kevin Bieksa can recapture his form from two years ago.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Hard to say, because you just don't know which Pavol Demitra is going to show up - is he the slick playmaker that worked so well with Marian Gaborik, or is he a regular member of the injured reserve? He will expected to replace the oft-injured Brendan Morrison, just as Steve Bernier will be counted upon to replace Markus Naslund's offense - as limited as it was last season. Losing Matt Cooke to free agency will hurt but they still have the agitating Alex Burrows. They also brought in goon Darcy Hordichuk and former Leaf Kyle Wellwood, neither of whom will be counted on for anything more than minor roles.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy?Luongo is the only player worth a damn for your first round. The Sedins should offer up a point per game, especially of they mesh well with Bernier but they can slip as far as the third or fourth rounds. Don't get suckered in by Mattias Ohlund or Sami Salo ... trust me, I have - several times. They are just injured too often to be relied upon. If Bieksa can recapture his form then he will get you solid stats across the board. Two interesting youngsters to follow are defenseman Alex Edler and winger Mason Raymond. Edler will get you 25, 30 points but he needs to find some consistency and Raymond is fast as hell and a former college scoring star - with the right linemates and some power play time, he can reach 60 points. Burrows likely won't reach the 179 PIM he had last year with Hordichuk on board so don't waste your time drafting him, just grab him for Vancouver's grudge matches against Minnesota.

4 - Does any other NHL team have a worse reputation? Think about it, most every memorable Vancouver moment is negative - Roger Neilson surrendering (and thus starting the annoying towel waving phenomenon), breaking the Rangers' 54 year curse, Todd Bertuzzi ... having the ugliest jersey in history (I admittedly and proudly own a yellow Flying V myself). I mean, the only positive thing I can recall is the sendoff for Trevor Linden which, to me, was as much about Calgary's class as it was anything else. These guys need something good to happen, and soon ... perhaps Roberto Luongo will break Sam LoPresti's record 83 saves in a game?

Let's Get The Fan Club Going ...

I was quite pleased when the Rangers signed Aaron Voros and after reading the article on him on the Ranger homepage, I am positively pumped. Voros is saying all the right things and, having watched about a dozen Wild games last season, I think he will back them up on the ice. I even don't mind that he is taking John Vanbiesbrouck's No. 34. Jason Strudwick treated it well as a stand-up, hard working guy - even in taking on Voros last year - and Voros should continue the legacy. He has overcome bone cancer, is willing to crash the net and he defends his teammates.

So let's get this guy a good nickname and start the fan club.

How about "Vicious" Voros? You tell me, use the comments to add your $0.02!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hypocrisy In Hockey

The NHL has decided to allow goon Brandon Sugden to play this season. Sugden signed retirement papers with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006 but was invited to join the New York Islanders training camp. One little thing there, NHL rules state that a player must sit out a full year of professional hockey before being eligible to return from retirement. After retiring from the NHL, he "played" in the LNAH, that Quebec goon league. He had 37 fights in that league, 24 less than the leader but 10 more than Jared Boll, who led the NHL. All 30 NHL teams voted whether to allow Sugden back into the league and four said no. That should have been that but the league listened to his pathetic sob story and decided to break their own rules and let him back.

I know the Isles are left bottom trolling for talent, but to make a big deal of a minor goon like this clown is ridiculous. I am not heartless, I feel bad for his dad, but that should have nothing to do with it.

Bettman and the NHL are clearly against fighting (no matter what they say) so to let a former drug addict in just to make a dying man happy is insane. I don't know if they noticed, but Sugden was banned from a minor league for attacking a fan! The only thing Sugden is capable of doing on the ice is hurting players with actual skill. The NHL had psychos like him before - John Kordic, Link Gaetz, etc. - and have clearly discouraged one-dimensional maniacs since. So why now? Does the league really miss Chris Simon's inexcusable acts that they will allow another homicidal barbarian to join their ranks?

This is a tremendous mistake and I eagerly await the first Islanders/Penguins game so this lunatic can injure the NHL's golden child and give the league what they deserve.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Toronto Maple Leafs

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Are they? Um, let's see ... why to watch the Maple Leafs ... hmmm ... You can see the downfall of a once proud Original Six team as they try to break a 41 season Cup-less streak. Or catch the seminar on why teams shouldn't be owned by companies (not that solo owners are unimpeachable, but at least then there is a face to the franchise). Tune in to see what a $3.5 million third pairing defenseman looks like. And keep your eyes peeled for one of Borat's rare displays of talent.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Amazingly, yes, yes they are worse. As bad as they were last season, they fell even deeper when Mats Sundin just couldn't find the passion to return to see the new scoreboard at the ACC. While some may say they added by subtraction by sending Bryan McCabe packing, it really wasn't his fault ... except when it really was. Mike Van Ryn will have to bounce back from wrist surgery to make the deal worthwhile because McCabe logged a ton of minutes. And, having watched plenty of Toronto games with unbiased eyes, Raycroft wasn't as bad as his numbers showed. There is a certain upgrade with Cujo in his place, but you just can't bail out the Titanic with a bucket.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Is this question really worthwhile for these guys? Personally, I wouldn't bother with anyone. Borat and Alexei Ponikarovsky could get 60 points each, but there is no Sundin to get them the puck and draw the defense away so who knows. Their numbers will hinge on the progress of Mikhail Grabovski, who has serious skills but has only played 27 NHL games to date. The Leafs don't have an outright goon, but Ryan Hollweg should be good for over 100 PIM. If you draft a superstar goaltender early, you probably can pick up Vesa Toskala for your backup with a late round pick. Your star will help keep your team's GAA and save % reasonable while Toskala adds 30 wins - no matter how bad they look on paper (and sound in the Toronto media), the Leafs can't possibly lose every game. Can they??

4 - Can John Tavares save this franchise? It will be tough but it is possible. Even though critics say Tavares may not be the best person in his draft anymore, the Leafs will still go after him to try to satisfy the rabid fanbase. The thing is that the kid will have the weight of the world on his shoulders when he pulls on the blue and white, and he will have little help as he struggles to handle it. Gretzky didn't do it alone in Edmonton and Crosby has Malkin in Pittsburgh. Instead of drafting what could have been Tavares' Jari Kurri in Nikita Filatov last year, the Leafs chose Luke Schenn - a defensive defenseman, yawn. The only hope for Tavares is if Marian Gaborik is available and willing to play in Toronto when next July 1st comes around ... something I wouldn't bet on happening.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Honouring 9/11

Just wanted to put something up to remind everyone to hold their love ones a little tighter today and to remember friends and family that may have been lost that day or any day. Not necessarily because of the events of 9/11, but just because ...

For some topical reading, here is an old article on how the NYPD and FDNY hockey teams honoured their lost. It mentions the stirring tribute at the Rangers opening night game, but as I am quick to point out to folks, the Rangers played preseason games against Jersey, Philly and Boston at home prior to that (on September 19, 23 and 29th respectively). The Garden was half empty for them but every time they showed a firefigher or cop in the stands, or person with a sign (I remember one little girl with a tribute to her dad, a firefighter), the whole place erupted louder than I had ever heard it before. To say it was 'moving' wouldn't do it justice. It was remarkable and something I remember with astounding clarity, perhaps because it meant so much.

And before I go wipe my eyes, I just want to mention my friend Paul, who was also lost in the attack. I worked with him at the campus radio station in Binghamton. He was a class act, a pain in my ass, but a classy, good-natured person nonetheless. As his memory still lives on with his family and friends, so does his own webpage. Wow, he is missed.

R.I.P. buddy ...

Tis the Season For Voting ...

Given the immediate backlash towards Wednesday's design, I figured I would try a different template this evening. This one isn't as jumbled or childish looking, at least so I think. But I am not sure on the background colour, you tell me! Comments below and poll on the right ...


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Here's a good laugh to brighten your Wednesday, courtesy of the great Kevin Allen:
The Atlanta Thrashers hope to land another defenseman, possibly even unrestricted free agent Marek Malik, although they are considering other options.
Let me recommend the other options ... although we do wish Mr. Malik luck ...

NHL Four-cast: Tampa Bay Lighting

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Apparently this Steve Stamkos kid has a guaranteed roster spot and he has some sweeeeeet moves. Then there are mighty midget Marty St. Louis and Vinny04, who have been reunited with Vinny Prospal to make one of the best lines in the league. Oh yeah, and they added former Crosby errand boy Ryan Malone, aging pitbull Gary Roberts and the classy Olaf Kolzig, who I still can't believe Washington wouldn't re-sign. And keep an eye on the monstrous Evgeny Artyukhin (6'4, 254), who has a wide variety of weapons in his arsenal.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? They were woeful last season. I mean like, really, really woeful. Could they be any worse? Not really, although the Islanders managed to do it so I guess the Bolts could have ... but they didn't. With new owners in town they went on a drunken spending spree and rebuilt their roster. And they did a decent job of it too. They will be in the hunt for a playoff spot and should play some exciting, defenseless hockey under Barry Melrose. Most pundits are jumping all over the fact that they didn't replace Dan Boyle but they did get Andrew Hutchinson from the Rangers and he had an incredible season in the AHL. He should work well to compliment and kick young Matt Carle into gear, just as Kolzig will mentor Mike Smith and Gary Roberts will show Stamkos what it is to be a professional.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? The MVP line are all top flight and Prospal may even fall to the mid-rounds of your draft. It's hard to imagine that neither Radim Vrbata nor Malone will be able to repeat their solid stat lines from last season but if Melrose does indeed go for all offense, all the time, who knows. Mark Recchi will be good for power play points, as he always has been, but don't expect too much. All of their plus/minus will suck. Well, maybe not all - Michel Ouellet somehow was a +11 last season, even though the Bolts blew. He also had 36 points in 64 games so if he stays healthy and is placed alongside Stamkos, watch out - he will be a good late round pick in deep drafts. Stay away from their goaltenders and, unlike the Tampa Bay owners, don't spend too much on Andrej Meszaros - at least until he proves himself. Meszaros received a ton of ice time in good situations with Ottawa and managed just 36 points. You can turn to Paul Ranger instead and he should provide a cheap 35, 40 points if he stays healthy.

4 -Why aren't more owners like Oren Koules and Len Barrie? Because all of the other owners are old white guys with no sense of humour. They like hockey so they bought a team. They like winning so they spent some of their money to do it. They have strong opinions and have no problem voicing them. And, most importantly, they are fans of the game and - at least for now - respect the other fans ... let's just hope it lasts ...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Congrats Corey!

Lost in the headlines today that Chris Chelios gave Father Time the finger again and Florida locked up their No. 3 defenseman for six more years, was the news that Corey Hirsch was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the their goaltending coach.

Hirsch, who was most famously posterized - or should I say stamped? - by Peter Forsberg in the '94 Olympics, is also a former Ranger. He was initially pegged as the goaltender of the future by the Blueshirts but they had that Mike Richter guy and the coaches wanted an experienced back-up.

Hirsch was dealt to the Canucks for Nathan Lafayette, who subsequently played 25 games as a Ranger and had zero points. Hirsch went on to rack up frequent flier miles over the next 10 years playing for Syracuse, Milwaukee, Utah, Albany, Cincinnati, Portland, Philadelphia (AHL), Dallas, Washington, Timra and Kassel. Well, it just goes to show that teams wanted him and saw something there worth paying for.

Now he is in Toronto where he will get to work with the Leafs prospects as well as Vesa Toskala. Hopefully in their relationship Hirsch learns a thing or two from his pupil, who was lucky enough to learn under the great Warren Strelow. Through all of his travels, Hirsch learned what it to be a professional and that is some knowledge that the woeful Leafs certainly could use ... Best of luck to him.

NHL Four-cast: San Jose Sharks

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Evgeni Nabokov is a superstar - if he wasn't Kazakh he would be a household name. Joe Thornton may not come through in the playoffs but he is still one of the best pivots in the league. Jody Shelley is a true heavyweight, Mike Grier is the definition of a professional and two more words: Jeremy Roenick.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Par for the course. They watched Brian Campbell go despite their best efforts and sold the farm to bring in Dan Boyle. Boyle is better but they did mortgage a chunk of their future to get him, but that is a problem for a few seasons from now. They did have to deal Craig Rivet, which was disappointing, but they added Rob Blake, who is still relevant after all these years. Devin Setoguchi, Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe all added more NHL experience but Setoguchi will have a tough time getting the ice time he needs, Murray won't be more than a third defenseman and Clowe is coming off of knee surgery.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Thornton, Boyle and Nabokov are all top flight guys. You may be able to get Boyle later than usual because he had 'just' 25 points in 37 games and was an awful -29, something that shouldn't be a problem this year. Jonathan Cheechoo killed me last year so screw him, but he should do better if Todd McLellan loosens the reins. Milan Michalek got his clock cleaned the last time we saw him so you are gambling if you think he will improve over last year. And if you really want to roll the dice, Patrick Marleau is your man. Marleau is incredibly skilled but has been the subject of rumour after rumour after rumour - it has clearly screwed with his mind but if McLellan gives him a vote of confidence, watch out.

4 - How cool would it be if Jeff Friesen could really come back? Very cool indeed. Now I don't think he can do it, considering the extent of injuries in his past and his age but Owen Nolan pulled the same thing and he is back to being a solid NHL citizen. At the most, Friesen makes it back and fills in Patrick Rissmiller's third/fourth line spot. At the least, San Jose did the right thing by giving a former player and a fan favourite at that a shot. Best of luck to him.

Monday, September 8, 2008

NHL Four-cast: St. Louis Blues

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you know Brad Boyes had 43 goals last year? Dude can score. Manny Legacy? Dude can stop pucks (I still don't understand why he was run out of Detroit). Barret Jackman and Jay McKee are two of the better defensive defensemen in the league. D.J. King is good at defending his teammates and Cam Janssen is insane.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. They did lose stellar penalty killers in class act Jamal Mayers and Ryan Johnson but they replaced them with younger grinders in Matt Foy and Brad Winchester. They gave the incredibly underrated Legace a safety net in Chris Mason, who flunked as a starter last year but was wonderful as a backup two years ago (some folks can't take the pressure I guess). Plus the kids they played last year have a year's experience and a new crop is already coming in - T.J. Oshie is a stud.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Boyes is the only guarantee. Erik Johnson hasn't grown into a power play QB yet but is getting there. Andy McDonald has gotta do better, he can't be as bad as he was last year ... -17 in 49 games? Eesh, but he did have 36 points. If plus/minus doesn't scare you the the over-the-hill gang of Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk should be good for the 60 or so points they put up last year. David Backes is growing into a Tkachuk-esque player (some points, some PIM) and Lee Stempniak is only getting better. Keep an eye on them and while you are at it, take a peek at David Perron - he scored 27 points in 62 games and somehow put up a +16 on St. Louis. St. Louis. That's damn impressive. Legace had five shutouts and 27 wins and probably will better each number as the young Blues mature.

4 - If this on-going rebuild fails, if it doesn't result in a return to prominence (the kind that 25 straight playoff years gets you), will John Davidson have ruined his reputation in hockey? I don't think so. Davidson built a one incredible reputation around the league as an analyst after an above-average career. Many people complimented him for reaching out and taking this job, as crappy a gig as it seemed. If he fails, and I don't think he will, then those same folks will still think he is a great guy. You can't wash away 30+ years with a few bad ones in this business - Cliff Fletcher just got rehired for crissake. But if I'm right, and the team does bounce back and start making the playoffs (say, two, three years from now), then J.D. should be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame as a builder ...

The Trial Of Brendan Shanahan

Hear ye, hear ye, will the First District Night Court of the Blogosphere please come to order!

The Honourable Harry T. Stone presiding.

Today we will hear the case of Brendan Shanahan v. New York Rangers. Mr. Shanahan will be represented by Mr. Scotty Hockey, while the Rangers will be defended by Mr. Glen Sather. The jury of New York Ranger fans will hear each of your arguments and decide the outcome of this case. Opening statements please.

Scotty Hockey: Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that my client, Mr. Shanahan has been disrespected by the defendant New York Rangers and seek to prove that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, they need to tender him a contract. Thank you.

Glen Sather: I feel that we, as an organization, have done nothing wrong, have no need to offer up a deal and will not do anything of the sort.

Judge: Alright gentlemen, I will begin hearing your arguments. The floor is yours Mr. Hockey.

SH: Thank you. I would like to submit into evidence Prosecutor's Item #1, the NHL Official Stats and Media Guide. Within it you will find the details of my clients famed NHL career. Take a listen to these numbers: 20 seasons played, three Stanley Cups won, 1471 points in 1667 games, including 120 in 160 for the defendants. And he got those while battling back from several major injuries that would have injured lesser players' careers.

GS: Your Honour, those numbers reflect the past, while we are an organization looking towards the future. Mr. Shanahan is 39 years old, there is no way he can duplicate those numbers now.

SH: I am just trying to present my client's history to show how much he has contributed in the past and the veteran leadership he can still provide.

Judge: I'll allow it. Want to see a magic trick?

GS: No, no I don't.

Judge: Yeah, I guess you see a disappearing act every day with all of that money you waste. Zing!

GS: Not funny your honour.

SH: [snickers] If it may please the court, I would like to summon a witness. Will Mr. Donald Brashear please take the stand ... Mr. Brashear, do you like the Rangers?

Donald Brashear: No.

SH: On the night of December 30th, 2006, what were you doing?

DB: Playing the Rangers.

SH: We knew that, I meant what were you doing during that game.

DB: The usual - hitting people, slashing, spearing, starting scrums after whistles. It's what I do.

SH: And what happened when my client, Mr. Shanahan, confronted you over your actions?

DB: He beat me up.

SH: Excuse me? Did you say that a 37 year old man beat you up?

DB: I'm not proud of it.

SH: Did you stop taking those aforementioned liberties? The hitting, slashing, spearing ...

DB: Yes.

GS: Your honour, if I may cross examine ... Mr. Brashear, the next time your played the Rangers, and every time since, did you continue to act the fool? I mean, did you continue to cause disarray on the ice by attacking skill players and starting confrontations?

DB: Of course, if I didn't, I wouldn't still be in NHL.

GS: I rest. If I may call my witness, Ms. Cindy Crosby to the stand? Ms. Crosby, when your Penguins beat the Rangers in five games last season, where was Mr. Shanahan?

Cindy Crosby: I don't know.

GS: She doesn't know. She DOESN'T KNOW! That is because Mr. Shanahan was invisible on the ice!!!

SH: Objection! Many of the Rangers were invisible in that series!

Judge: Sustained, prosecutor just present your case, don't make outrageous claims.

GS: Sorry your honour. I would now like to call Markus Naslund to the stand. Mr. Naslund, welcome to New York. Do you feel that you can still make an impact in the NHL?

Markus Naslund: I do. As you can see in that record book, I have played 14 seasons in the NHL and scored 823 points. I just got tired of Vancouver so I stopped playing as well.

GS: I find that hard to believe, as the captain of that team ...

MN: Hey, it's tough when your are the only scorer and opposing teams key in on you.

SH: If I may cross your honour? Mr. Naslund, you said you were the only scorer? Did you not play at times along the immensely talented Sedin twins?

MN: Well, yes but ...

SH: That is all, you may step down. Your Honour and members of the jury, Mr. Naslund scored 194 points over the last three seasons, had a plus/minus of -23 while playing in 245 regular season games. He also played in 12 playoff games and had just five points. My client, however, played in 222 games, had 189 points, was a plus +29 and did it while playing alongside several players less talented than the Sedins - Dawes, Callahan, Drury, Prucha ...

GS: But Naslund is younger and faster.

SH: And has never won a damn thing! Not to mention younger is meaningless when you signed the guy for just two years ...

Judge: [hanging gavel] Stop your bickering. You sound like Dan and Ms. Sullivan. Bailiff Bull, can you step in and separate these two? Geez. Once you two calm down you can offer up your closing arguments.

GS: It's my team and I can do whatever I want. Piss on old time hockey and piss on Shanahan. We don't need him, we have Mr. Naslund now. So suck on that Scotty.

SH: Ladies and gentlemen, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup this year and on their roster was a certain Chris Chelios. Chelios, an elder statesman who had already won two Cups, didn't play every game and scored just 12 points. But he was there when his team needed him and he provided the guidance needed to get that team to the promised land. This isn't an either/or thing with Mr. Shanahan and Mr. Naslund. We are stuck with Mr. Naslund after the drunken spending spree of Mr. Sather this summer so he will get plenty of minutes on the ice. But his presence doesn't render Mr. Shanahan useless. He wants to play in New York and he will do it at a discount.

GS: Bah, I already picked up Patrick Rissmiller and Dan Fritsche to fill out the roster and be useless grinders! I don't need Shanahan!!!!

Judge: Mr. Sather!! You already closed! Another word and I will hold you in contempt of court!

GS: [stamps feet, chomps on cigar]

Judge: I thought so. So I leave it to you, Ranger fans of the jury, to deliberate and determine a verdict. Place it in the comments and we will determine the sentence at a later date.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Pittsburgh Penguins

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you enjoy Beijing? If so, the Cole Harbour Crybaby is one helluva diver (and, I must grudgingly admit, a decent hockey player). Brooks Orpik is capable of more rock n' roll shifts like this, that Kris Letang kid is a shootout ace (even if he is a little weasel the rest of the time) and that Malkin guy ain't half bad.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Worse. Gone are key wingers Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa, who were replaced by two Islanders - Miro Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko - because when you think scoring, you think Islanders /sarcasm. Gone is the Conkblocker, who picked up the team on his back for several months, and in his place is Dany Sabourin, who isn't very good. And gone is the league's best enforcer, Georges Laraque. In his place? Eric Godard.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? There is that Malkin guy, and that Crosby girl. Sergei Gonchar puts up huge points from the blueline every season. Remember, Ryan Whitney is out for a while. His replacement on the power play will likely be Letang, who does have some good skills and should have a breakout season. Petr Sykora slowly but steadily puts up his 50 points per year. I am not sold on Jordan Staal, but I will allow that he may have just had a sophomore slump last season. Staal should do better than 28 points and -5 but I don't expect a return to the 29 goals he scored his rookie year. Marc-Andre Fleury won over a lot of fans with his play during the postseason but keep in mind that he did it after missing months of action with injury. He put up some great numbers though and will be relied upon to play 65 or so games so he is still worthy of a second-starter position on your team.

4 - Is this the year Cindy Crosby finally becomes a man? Nope. She is too wrapped in a cocoon of sycophants who worship the ice she skates on. Sadly, they include a legion of parasites who depend on her happiness for their livelihood: Bettman, NBC, Versus, Pittsburgh, even Don Cherry ... someone to get in Cindy's face and explain to her that it isn't honourable to dive, it isn't honourable to take cheap shots and it isn't honourable to run to the refs demanding protection.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Killin' Time: Friday Night Edition

Some Friday night randomness:

*As I mentioned in the last blog, I will be heading to Switzerland for the two Ranger games so if there is anyone in Bern, or has been there, please feel free to share your knowledge. According to the Times, SC Bern won their regular season opener in front of a packed house. Judging by the highlights, they play a end-to-end game, have choreographed fans and play the Rocky theme when they score.

*Speaking of the Rangers, they have a whole section of their website dedicated to training camp coverage. As they don't let fans into the training center, I am sorry to have to steer you elsewhere for coverage - Dubi at Blueshirt Bulletin is already on the beat. I have to ask, why did they offer Petr Nedved a tryout at camp and not Brendan Shanahan?

*And how great is this? If only Rozy really spoke out, and did so in that manner ... maybe we wouldn't hate him ...

*The Pensblog rules sometimes:

*Glad to see that no matter the continent, Chris Simon is still a brainless goon.

*Yahoo's Fantasy Hockey is finally up and running. A word to the wise, do your own pre-ranking because the default is ridiculous. ESPN finally made their game free but considering all of the problems I have had in the past over there - especially when I actually paid for teams - I would recommend sticking with Yahoo.

*Speaking of Yahoo, on Puck Daddy Sean Leahy pointed out that Montreal may have an outdoor game next year. That's awesome, and something I would definitely want to go to, but when will they say enough is enough with the outdoor games? Do we want it every year, would it be too much of a good thing?

*Just seven more teams to go in the Four-casts. I should be able to get that done in two weeks, right?!? I'd better get crackin' ...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Interesting Note ...

NHL.com put up a preview article for the Victoria Cup, the match between the New York Rangers and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Switzerland on October 1st. The full text is here but the best news is this:
In order to foster the best competition, Szemberg said a provision was added to the contract stating how many rookies or minor-league players the Rangers would be allowed to play. That alleviates any concern that New York would treat the exhibition as a showcase for some of their up-and-comers while resting some of their regulars.

"This is specified so a team can't come with their America Hockey League lineup," Szemberg said. "When discussing this, the Rangers and the NHLPA people said, 'We are not bringing over a minor-league team.' We realize that if the Rangers want to test a promising rookie, why shouldn't they? But, they not test 11 promising rookies."

I had pulled out my new Hartford Wolfpack jersey to bring with me to Switzerland but I can rest assured that I will indeed be watching at least some of the big boys. And you can expect my usual post-game insight/ramblings here from Bern as I will be there for both the exhibition against SC Bern and the Victoria Cup. As I mentioned before, I had to pass on Prague because the Rangers couldn't guarantee tickets without me buying a $3 or 4k package ... Booooooo.

Quick Thought Of The Night

The Rangers should hold a viewing party at the Garden for the season opener in Prague. According to the Garden's website, both the Theater and Garden proper are booked for the season opener but MSG is free on Sunday ... they could make an occasion of it like they used to do for the draft - rod hockey games down on the floor, photo opportunities with the banners, team alumni and tours of the locker room ...

Just a thought ...

Btw - what happened to the Rangers summer BBQ/meet-and-greet at the training center for season ticket holders? I missed it last year because I was sick and just realized that they didn't hold one this year, right?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Phoenix Coyotes

1 - Why is this team worth watching? There are so many reasons ... I heart Dan Carcillo. Dave Strader and Darren Pang are probably the best announcing pair in the NHL. Gretzky freaks out with the best of them. Shane Doan holds the flag as the last Winnipeg Jet with the franchise. He is joined by a ton of young talent and play a fun up-tempo game. And let's face it, even when they are bad, you never know what wonderful things can happen.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Definitely better. Phoenix shipped two mediocre defensemen to Florida for Olli Jokinen, who will easily put up a point per game alongside Doan. He will be a better scorer than Radim Vrbata, who jumped ship to Tampa, and probably the best playmaker the team has had since Alexei Zhamnov or even Dale Hawerchuk. And while it may have hurt to deal away Keith Ballard, the Coyotes turned around and picked up a more-than-adequate replacement in Kurt Sauer. Brian McGrattan will be their first heavyweight since Georges Laraque left and he should help keep Carcillo in the lineup.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Ilya Bryzgalov had a 2.42 g.a.a. and a .921 save percentage with Phoenix last year. Look at that, he is incredible and incredibly underrated in most drafts. Carcillo was a stud last season grabbing points and PIM and even with McGrattan he should do well again. Jokinen and Doan are both quality and Peter Mueller should only improve upon his 54 point rookie campaign. All of the hype around Kyle Turris is well deserved; he is definitely a early candidate for the Calder, especially with Doan and Jokinen around to show him the ropes.

4 - Do they have the funniest promotion in the NHL? Perhaps ... On November 29th, the night they play the San Jose Sharks, the Coyotes will give out winter gloves. Winter gloves. In Arizona. Yes, the desert temperatures can dip to the low 40s, but they are giving out winter gloves. In Arizona.

Congrats Trevor!

The Vancouver Canucks announced that they will retire Trevor Linden's No. 16 this season. As I mentioned in the past, I have always been a fan of his and this honour is well deserved. It also comes on a night where the Canucks play the Edmonton Oilers, a rival.

That just makes me angry; I am still dismayed over the Rangers' choice of nights to put Adam Graves in the rafters of the Garden. I was looking at the schedule and the random February 3rd date against the awful Atlanta Thrashers ensures that Graves' former teammates Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and Wayne Gretzky won't be around to partake in the festivities (Edmonton plays Chicago and Phoenix plays Nashville) and, even worse, John Davidson won't be available to MC them (St. Louis plays Columbus). It isn't a knock against Sam Rosen, but John Davidson proved to be the better orator of the two and he was around for all of Graves' great NY years.

Had the Blueshirts done the right thing and scheduled it on November 10th against Edmonton, then all four of those guys could have been around to honour the consumate Ranger.

What a shame.