Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Adios MexiCan't!

I was in good spirits coming out of the movie theater this evening, after spending two and a half hours with my brain shut down enjoying Transformers. I stepped into the light and turned on my cell phone to find a dozen texts and voicemails - all telling me of the wonderful news:

Scott Gomez is gone.

While I won't take back all of the bad things I have ever said about Glen Sather (Wade Redden is still a Ranger), this definitely lightens my outlook. And for him to get back a return - any return - for Gomez is just stupefying. So this is why he is in the Hall of Fame. Wow.

No more smiling after losses. No more attacks aborted by a moronic offsides. No more skating into triple coverage to dump the puck five feet away and run for the bench. No more Scott Gomez.

Oh, happy day!

And all it took was Michael Busto and Tom Pyatt? Two of Tom Renney's prospects who had no future in the Ranger organization - Jess from Prospect Park held just short of calling Pyatt a bust just the other day.

But wait! It gets better! We get the capable Chris Higgins, bluechip blueliners Ryan McDonagh and Doug Janik, some Russian Pavel Valentenko and roughly six million dollars in cap space. Folly, thy name be Bob. How Gainey could make this trade is beyond me. But I love it.

Of course, the Rangers still need top line talent but this was a wondrous move. HOWEVER, I wouldn't be me if I didn't temper my excitement with a some cynicism. This transaction is the first domino to fall ... which one tumbles next?

Heatley? Dealing Gomez away means that it would be foolish to let Dubinsky go as well but he can put the puck in the net. And he wouldn't have to drive, living in Manhattan and all ...

Sedin twins? Having Hank here has to be alluring to the Swedish studs and Cally would look pretty spectacular on a first line with them.

Hossa? His brother was jeered here (and for good reason) but in New York he will get to challenge the Pens and their fans.

Sundin? He was awfully close to coming here earlier this year and, on a short term stint, he would certainly fit into a plan of win-now and let the kids develop blueprint.

Gaborik? The risk/reward ratio is nearly even and Sather is a gambler ...

Honestly, I am not about to guess because the Gomez giveaway sure-as-hell came out of nowhere; I'll just sit back and enjoy the show. As I just saw in the Michael Bay blockbuster, a lot of flash and bang makes for one fun diversion.

A Cynical Summer Night

It's Monday night, the temperature is way too warm for me so I figured I would go to my happy place and think about hockey. Yay. What better way than to take a pre-Wednesday look at the 2009-10 New York Ranger roster? This is based on what-seems-to-be the certainties that Antropov, Betts, Sjostrom, Orr, Mara and Morris are all gone for good. I will be around for much of Wednesday and will bring my usual commentary, but I must offer a warning - I don't see Sather doing too much. There simply isn't the money or the talent out there worth wasting what cap space there is. That space will be worth so much more come the trade deadline and next season's free agent crop. So, without a big trade or signing, here's the roster as I see it:


Gilroy/Potter/Sauer-Heikkinen/Sanguinetti/Del Zotto


Looks grim, huh? I mean, it's nice that a half dozen or so new youngsters will get spots but this team looks like one in transition - maybe by the time the MSG renovations are done in 2012, it will have some firepower and be one helluva a team to watch (the building blocks are there). For now, notsomuch.

I was having a chat with Mr. X of the Blue Seats who laid Tortorella's plan out thusly: "As was his M.O. in Tampa,the extra players have no roles and the high end players will eat every available minute." I happen to agree with him, no matter what Mr. U.S. Assistant Coach claims in the press. If he didn't say the kids would get a look, they wouldn't work hard. If he didn't say they had just as much opportunity as the vets, then us season ticket holders would be outraged and not re-up. When the shined up p.r. drivel loses it's luster, it is almost certain that we will see the desperate coach go back to his old ways and means. That means, with the roster as is, we can look forward to another season where Gomez gets 24+ minutes to circle incessantly before going offsides. Wade Redden eating up power play minutes and giving up shorthanded goals. Hank being ran with no repercussions. Few goals and fewer fans in the seats.

Sather told Newsday that "I thought [Redden] played very well in the playoffs. When we signed all these guys, everybody was excited about them, you guys included." I'm sorry, I don't think I know a single person who was excited about signing Redden. I know plenty of folks who were pumped for Drury and Gomez but, at the same time, I wasn't one of them and I know a good number of others who agreed. But if Sather thinks that Redden and company are worth playing, you can be sure that his coach will play them. Being fired sucks.

Now, all of this could change - Sather could shock the world, blow up the roster, get some big-name bodies that are worth the jersey he puts on them and Tortorella may shock us all and be true to his word. We could see big budget players getting the minuscule minutes they deserve and accountability for folks not named Avery and all of that other heart-warming rhetoric Torts has spewed. But, call me a cynic, but I just have a hard time buying any of it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Campin' Out

"New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club will hold the 2009 Prospect Development Camp, Monday, June 29th – Friday, July 3rd, at the Madison Square Garden Training Center. The camp will bring together the team’s 2009 Draft Picks and other top prospects."

The following players are expected to attend the camp:

Bourque, Ryan Beverly, Massachusetts 1/3/1991 USA U-18 (USDP)
Campbell, Max Strathroy, Ontario 12/21/1988 Western Michigan (CCHA)
Chappell, Chris Pickering, Ontario 3/21/1988 Saginaw (OHL)
Crowder, Paul Victoria, BC 2/12/1985 Hartford (AHL)
Cunningham, Craig Trail, BC 9/3/1990 Vancouver (WHL)
Daavettila, Trent Howell, Michigan 9/3/1984 Kalamazoo (IHL)
Grachev, Evgeny Khabarovsk, Russia 2/21/1990 Brampton (OHL)
Kreider, Chris Boxford, Massachusetts 4/30/1991 Andover (HS-MA)
Maccarone, Matt Whitby, Ontario 3/23/1984 Tulsa (CHL)
Pither, Luke Burketon, Ontario 4/26/1989 Guelph (OHL)
Soryal, Justin Newmarket, Ontario 6/29/1987 Hartford (AHL)
Stepan, Derek Hastings, Minnesota 6/18/1990 U. of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Werek, Ethan Markham, Ontario 6/7/1991 Kingston (OHL)

Curadi, Luke West Point, New York 5/14/1991 Hartford (ATLH)
Del Zotto, Michael Stouffville, Ontario 6/24/1990 London (OHL)
Dowzak, Tysen Fergus Falls, Minnesota 3/8/1988 Hartford (AHL)
Gaulton, Mitch St. Catharines, Ontario 4/25/1990 Erie (OHL)
Gilroy, Matt North Bellmore, NY 7/20/1984 Boston Univ. (NCAA)
Heikkinen, Ilkka Rauma, Finland 11/13/1984 HIFK Helsinki (SM-liiga)
Klassen, Samuel Watrous, Saskatoon 1/1/1989 Saskatoon (WHL)
Kundratek, Tomas Jrinec, Czech Republic 12/26/1989 Medicine Hat (WHL)
Maggio, Daniel Windsor, Ontario 3/4/1991 Sudbury (OHL)

Kinkaid, Keith Farmingdale, New York 7/4/1989 Des Moines (USHL)
Scrivens, Ben Spruce Grove, Alberta 9/11/1986 Cornell (NCAA)
Stajcer, Scott Cambridge, Ontario 6/14/1991 Owen Sound (OHL)
Yonkman, Travis Saskatoon, Saskatoon 4/17/1988 Swift Current (WHL)

Wouldn't something like this be perfect p.r. for the franchise to invite season ticket holders and bloggers to? Seems it would be ideal to draw interest and at least attempt to prove that the general manager isn't a complete fool...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NHL Draft '09 Late Reaction

Since I posted earlier, the Rangers drafted four more guys and made a pair of trades. Let's take a look:

Fifth Round
127th overall - Roman Horak - A Czech who played for HC České Budějovice last season, he saw some guest action with the men but primarily played junior. Hockey's Future makes him sound like the second coming of Nik Zherdev - good skills but unmotivated. Great.

140th overall - Scott Stajcer - A big goalie who managed a .500 record on a terrible Owen Sound squad in the OHL. Much like the second round pick Werek, Stajcer had to have a big CHL Top Prospects game to draw some heads and did. Being able to take advantage of big opportunities is a good skill and it is nice to see the Rangers recognize that. There is an interesting audio interview with him here.

Sixth Round
170th overall - Daniel Maggio - A decent-sized kid from Sudbury (6-3, 198), the defenseman is trying to get over knee problems and will definitely return to the OHL next season. I won't even begin to guess at skills and upside so make sure to head to Prospect Park later for a real evaluation as I am sure Jess actually saw him play.

Seventh Round
200th overall - Mikhail Pashnin - Pashnin was the first overall pick in the KHL draft so you have to imagine he won't be joining the Blueshirts. But, just in case, the Rangers added the rights to the slick-skating defenseman. Just in case.

*The Rangers dealt their third fifth-round pick, No. 151 overall, to Pittsburgh Penguins for a goalie: Chad Johnson, a 2006 fourth-round pick from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Just like Matt Zaba, this kid put up good numbers in college and received some accolades but still has a way to go before becoming a NHL goaltender. But, considering we were worried about organizational depth in net, getting Johnson and Stajcer in the same day was good work by the brass.

*The Rangers traded next year's third round pick to L.A. for former first round pick Brian Boyle. At 6'7, 250 Boyle is massive. He also isn't particularly good. For the Kings this is a steal as they get a return for someone who couldn't even make their terrible team despite a distinct hole up the middle. I had him in fantasy hockey and was all-too-often disappointed last season. For the Rangers, they get a big body to throw out on the ice to get pummeled in Colton Orr's place. Boyle will stand up for his teammates but isn't a enforcer. As a former defenseman, Boyle is more of a fourth line defensive center - essentially Blair Betts' replacement.

Zipay spoke to Sather, who said that Betts could be wooed by Edmonton. Yet again I get to watch my favourite player leave the team. And you guys wonder why I dislike this team so ... Sather also told Zip that he didn't qualify RFA Freddie Sjostrom so say goodbye to the NHL's top penalty kill. But considering that the team will be so much more disciplined - following the example set by the coach - we won't have to worry about killing penalties, right?

NHL Draft '09 Fourth Round Reaction

The Rangers didn't have a fourth round pick this draft. It marked just the second time since 2000 that they dealt it away (2007).

The fourth round has been pretty kind to the Rangers - Beezer, Mark Janssens, Tony Amonte, Marc Savard - and recent history hasn't been too bad either:
2003 - Corey Potter
2004 - Ryan Callahan
2005 - Tom Pyatt
2006 - David Kveton
2007 - No pick
2008 - Dale Weise
Since the Rangers didn't make a move to get into the round, let's look ahead. The fifth round is where we get even deeper into hit or miss territory but some names that have made it were Sergei Zubov, Dale Purinton and Nigel Dawes. Max Campbell was picked two seasons ago and has found some success at Western Michigan so we may yet see another name added to that this. We will see who gets their shot soon ...

On a personal note, I gotta step away for a few hours and will check back in later today.

NHL Draft '09 Third Round Reaction

"It starts now, it starts now."

Those were the words spoken by defenseman Ryan Bourque, the Rangers third round pick, when he was interviewed just after pulling on a Blueshirt for the first time. I love it.

The Rangers used the 80th pick on Bourque, one of Ray's son's. Like the second rounder Werek, Bourque decided not to go the college route - he decided against UNH to play for crazy Patrick Roy in Quebec. His dad also played in the QMJHL but his brother Chris, who will likely make the Caps this fall, spent a year in college. It is a tough call as the Quebec league isn't the most physical and Ryan is a small guy. In fact, his size is likely what let him slip down to the third round, but he is a Bourque so there is toughness in his DNA.

A solid skater with dual citizenship, Bourque went through the NTDP program and will play in the World Juniors for Team USA. It is fantastic top level experience to go along with league play for his dad's former teammate. From what I saw, he looks like his dad, and from what I read, he plays like his dad. Not a bad selection at all.

Before the draft a lot of folks (including myself) had the Blueshirts picking a goaltender in this spot. No netminders were picked in the first, two picked in the second and three before the Rangers picked. The Islanders grabbed two. I am still sure there will be a goaltender selected by the Blueshirts, but I'm guessing that one of the ones they wanted were picked so they figure they will bide their time.

NHL Draft '09 Second Round Reaction

The Rangers selected center Ethan Werek with their second round pick - the one they got as compensation for Cherry. Werek spurned BU to play at Kingston of the OHL last season - one of Sean Avery's OHL squads. Werek nearly averaged a point per game for Doug Gilmour's squad despite his team coming in dead last. He is a tough kid who is willing to get his nose dirty to score and defensively capable of playing against the opposition's top players.

His father is Israeli but he turned down the chance to play for Team Israel in the hopes that he would get a shot at Team Canada. Can't imagine why ... the Canadian Jewish News put together a nice article about him.

Werek is certain not to make the team this season but is definitely not a long term project like our first round selection.

By the way, I am (rightfully) known as being down on the Rangers - I admittedly dislike the state of the franchise at the moment - but eternal optimist Jess of Prospect Park (someone who knows far more about the 16-20 crowd than any of us) mirrors my thoughts that picking Kreider was a bad move.

Friday, June 26, 2009

NHL Draft '09 First Round Reaction

Much like the NBA on Thursday evening, the biggest news to come out of the night of the NHL's draft came in the form of a big trade. The Philadelphia Flyers dealt their future for Chris Pronger. Lupul, Sbisa and a host of top picks for Pronger, who is perfect for Philly. He is mean, he hits hard, he cheats and he isn't very bright. To quote Slap Shot, as I so love to do, "for the sake of the game, they oughta throw him in San Quentin. He is a criminal element!" Pronger is as much as a goon as Chris Simon ever was and has skated off virtually scot-free because he is one helluva hockey player.

And now he is in the Atlantic Division with us.

As my buddy Eric said, now we have to keep Colton Orr. Orrsie has always been huge in keeping the Flyers in check and always stepped up his play against them. And now they have a monster on defense. Not good, not good at all.

Speaking of not good at all, my loathing for the Isles knows no bounds. Forget Tavares, hearing them make deal after deal and then select an idiot who can't even put a hat on his head properly made my night. Calvin De Haan? Really? Terrible pick for a terrible franchise.

Then again, De Haan will actually get a shot at the NHL in the next two, three years. The kid the Rangers picked should make the team right around the time that Wade Redden's contract comes up. Chris Kreider may be the top skater in the draft but it has to be mentioned that he has looked so good skating for Andover - a U.S. high school - against kids two, three years younger and while playing just 26 games. Bring up Brian Leetch all you like, Leetchie dominated averaging three, four points a game and played in three World Juniors. He then played a year in college and a year against top competition with Team USA before getting an Olympics under his belt. This Kreider kid will not see anything remotely close to professional-quality play for a long time.

Maybe he will turn into a NHL star, maybe he won't - we all know this is a crap-shoot and I am not going to bet against him. My biggest issue with the decision to pick Kreider is that it shows that the Ranger organization has no feasible plan. No direction. Are they looking to win right now? Are they looking to win a few years with Callahan and Dubinsky? Is Sather just killing time until retirement? Which should come right around the time this project player is ready for the NHL (hopefully, then again Iron Maiden sang that 'evil seems to live forever').

The prevailing thought is that the Garden brass doesn't believe in rebuilding, they want a winner. If that was the case, then the Rangers should have dealt the pick. If Tortorella is to be believed in that they have to build a winner (and thus justifying his decision to bench Avery), then they draft to fill a need and a power forward like Caron or Ashton would have been ideal. If they have no clue, then they throw a dart at the wall and hope that it sticks. Tonight they went that way and the dart landed on a virtually-unknown quantity that is a American high school player.

As someone who bent over and took the MSG ticket increase right in the wrong spot, I am disappointed by the decision to pick Kreider. By the time he makes the team I will almost certainly be priced out of the building and will be that much more sore for having gone through the experience. Perhaps Sather and the Rangers will pull something off tomorrow or next Wednesday to provide some lotion heading into this season. Man do I hope, cause this hurts ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bronx Blueshirts?

Anthony J. SanFilippo of the Delaware County Daily News reported that sources confirmed to him that the Flyers are set to play the Bruins at Fenway for this coming season's Winter Classic (h/t Puck Daddy).

Wyshynski wrote that "Alexander Ovechkin will have to wait for Yankee Stadium or an outdoor date with the Pittsburgh Penguins (one imagines)." It is certainly no surprise that NBC and the NHL would love a Ovie/Crosby Classic but is it necessary? Does the outdoor match really need that extra layer of appeal? Would the ratings for that be that much better than a red, white and blue Winter Classic at one of the most famous sports venues on the planet?

Rumour has it that NHL lobbied for the Caps to play the Bruins this year but NBC was reluctant considering the first round ratings of Caps/Rangers. Those playoff games, however, weren't played in Yankee Stadium. I had the pleasure of going to cover a Yankee game last week and the new building is an amazing tribute to capitalism and greed. If it's not perfect for Gary Bettman, then I don't know what is.

With all of the other rumours of a major move by Glen Sather in the works, perhaps an improved Ranger squad - one that can score goals - could advance past the first round next year and become enough of a draw that NBC approves. At the end of the day, it is (sadly) all about NBC and, unlike James Dolan, the network cares about the on-ice performance of the team as it has a direct relation to ratings (however screwed up that measuring system is). So that leaves the ball back right where it has always been: in Sather's hands.

Who thinks he is going to fumble it?

Man Do I Get Around

I've been kindly invited to contribute to Cycle Like The Sedins in the past and was yet again. This time James asked me for some thoughts on the coming draft and the Rangers track record ... yeah. I managed to avoid all swear words too! I'm proud of me. Check it out here.

And, lest I forget, Patrick at Goal Line Report has linked and interviewed me multiple times so I want to throw a big thank you out there to him. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Is Going To Be A Long Summer ...

Anyone else feel that the season ended months ago? Or is it just us Ranger fans? Sure there is the draft and the opening of free agency in the next week but where they often bring joy and hope to so many, we have Glen Sather so they come with apprehension and a measure of dread. As Calvin at Rangerland wrote, it is tough being a Ranger fan.

*Maybe that is why they aren't having a draft party on Friday. Perhaps they don't want too many of us together to commiserate over how miserable we are, form some kind of boycott or something.

*I've dogged MSG quite a bit here on the blog and it is only fair that I highlight when they do something well. Well, they did something great. If you haven't seen the new MSG Vault, you have to tune in - if only to see the new set: MSG itself. They got rid of the cluttered attic look with the fossil in it (Stan Fischler) , they taped the new editions of Al Trautwig's show on the concrete floor of the Garden with the scoreboard and some banners lowered as backdrop. Add some dramatic lighting and good camerawork and you have one good looking show.

The Raucous Rangers edition is mediocre (missing some great fights) but the Brian Leetch episode is must-see tv for the True Blue. You get to see the U.S. National team take on the Rangers in a exhibition game that the Blueshirts actually stepped up and played hard. You get to see Leetchie's first ever game against the Blues - and hear the Potvin Sucks whistle ... some fantastic stuff. Al even manages to get some personality out of the humble, quiet Leetch as they set up and react to the archival footage.

*Speaking of Leetch, today he should get his ticket punched for the Hall of Fame. It is well deserved, just as his banner raising was. Leetch will join 10 other Ranger defensemen in the Hall: Art Coulter, Bill Gadsby, Doug Harvey, Tim Horton, Harry Howell, Ching Johnson, Brad Park, Babe Pratt, Earl Seibert and Allan Stanley.

*Several of those names are from the early era of Ranger hockey and for more info on that, I highly recommend folks find a copy of Frank Boucher's "When The Rangers Were Young." I just finished reading it and it was fantastic. Boucher was one of the original (and best) Rangers and went on to become coach and, later, GM. He spent nearly 30 years with the team and the book is his recollection of those years. Stellar stuff that gives a window into the birth of our franchise.

*Jess from Prospect Park will be over at Blueshirt Banter tonight at 8 edt to talk about the draft and the state of Future Blue. Perhaps he will explain why everyone is so high on Mike Del Zotto even though he can't crack Canada's lineup for the WJC. Maybe its that shirtless pic I found.

*Would you sacrifice Sanguinetti on the promise of DZ for a shot at Dany Heatley? Bobby's World may end up being north of the boarder as he is just the type of prospect the Sens need and we certainly need a player like Heater. Rozy and Z are not enough to pry him away so a blue chipper might be the answer. It would suck to see Bobby turn into a NHLer for someone else but at the very least, think of the black humour of watching Heatley skate on the Garden ice with all of the Geico advertising around ...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bring Back The Brawler!

Larry Brooks mentioned in his Sunday column that:
"The Rangers, by the way, have made no effort to re-sign Colton Orr, who will have no trouble at all scoring a multi-year deal within hours of the opening of the market. We're told Florida is keenly interested in the heavyweight."
Orr simply has to be re-signed by the Rangers. Sure John Tortorella doesn't care for fourth lines, doesn't care for fighters and wants to make the team faster. It doesn't matter: Tortorella and the Rangers need Colton Orr.

It is no coincidence that the first time that Colton Orr was scratched all season long was the only one where a Ranger was seriously injured. As I said back then, had Orr remained in the lineup Donald Brashear would have had someone to worry about on the ice. Instead he had free reign to hit whomever he liked and he did, costing the Rangers their top defensive forward and penalty killer Blair Betts.

Colt missed eight games in '07-08 and the enforcer role had to be passed around; the results weren't pretty. Remember Brandan Shanahan wrestling Steve Ott? Or Dubi holding on for dear life against Mike Komisarek? Horrifying.

Orr made $550k last season with a cap hit just under that. Aaron Voros made $1.2m with a cap hit of a cool mill - exactly what it will be the next two seasons. Waive him, send him to the minors and offer Orr that much money and the tough guy should stick around. Sather was willing to realize his mistake with Fritsche and Rissmiller, it is time he finished cutting ties with the triumverate of mediocrity.

Voros proved that not only can't he skate/stickhandle/score/pass/check but he can't fight either. Dane Byers and Justin Soryal both may be able to take care of themselves but they are both kids. Byers has the tools to be a power forward and shouldn't destroy his hands fighting every Flyer, Islander and Devil goon. Soryal might be able to turn into a major league tough guy but he has to get more experience and take his damned visor off first. No matter their youthful exuberance and willingness to throw down the mitts, neither one can step into the skates of a tough guy like Orr.

Orrsie is a top-five NHL heavyweight and in the seemingly never-ending grind of the regular season, having a player like that is invaluable in keeping the skill players safe and the fans interested. Sather shouldn't let him get away.

Friday, June 19, 2009

NHL Goes Bust In Vegas

Initially I was going to boycott the NHL Awards show for not giving Henrik Lundqvist a nomination for Vezina but I ended up watching anyway. What a bland, boring broadcast of what should have been a fun celebration. The house band played benign jazz but it could just as well been Muzak. Sure the league is loathe to promote the individual over the team but, just as with the All Star Game, this should have been all about the personalities that make up our game. Some more thoughts:

*You couldn't tell the show was in Vegas. Get a lounge act, Elvis impersonator, comedy act, hell, a white tiger or two. Not Chaka Kahn. As an entertainment reporter said to me, 'wow, big get, if it was 20 years ago.'

*Comedy would have been huge as the audience looked like a bunch of bored, mildly annoyed people sitting in a lobby waiting for a job interview.

*Things were so boring that I was hoping Jerry Bruckheimer would announce his intention to bring a team to Vegas while he was on-stage. At least then we would have something to talk about.

*And it looked terrible. Versus, or whoever produced it on site, had trouble balancing the bright colours and most shots looked waaaayy too saturated. Plus, like the Versus game broadcasts, the directors made many questionable camera cuts. At one point when Jean Beliveau was on stage they picked an overhead shot that looked down - we weren't trying to decide if someone scored, we want to see how well respected the elder gentleman of the NHL is.

*On that note, why were there no identifier lower thirds? They splashed this ridiculous thing that covered two-thirds of the screen when the winner was about to speak but not once did they show something that IDed whoever that smug host was (not Roenick). And why was that guy shaking hands afterwards? Is he running for mayor?

*This should have been on the NHL Network instead of Versus, or Versus should have at least allotted more time for it. They could have done so much more with the broadcast, gotten into more detail. Tim Thomas' Vezina acceptance speech (my favourite moment in the show) was truly touching when you consider what he went through to get to the NHL. But how many people know that?

*I know that the players themselves don't get to keep the original trophies - they get those small replicas - but you don't get those good photo ops where the winners would hold those up. Everyone took their little toy and walked away.

*It was incredible seeing Vlad Konstantinov on stage. He should have helped give out the Norris - but I understand the Russian thing early on. I do wonder what was backstage that distracted him so that Igor had to keep getting his attention.

*While hearing Pavel Datsyuk's broken english is amusing, perhaps it would be better to allow him to do his speech in Russian with a translator - then it wouldn't be so awkward. The bilingual Julien did a nice job covering both bases.

*BOOOOOOOO BETTMAN BOOOOOOOOO. Someone had to do it and apparently the folks who paid $500 a ticket weren't about to. What a loathsome little man.

*Kelly Hrudy had problems reading the prompter and Mark Messier ignored it. Mess ... dude, that was terrible. The Captain looked ready to break into tears (of course) as he reflected upon his career and the cold medicine trophy he was about to give out.

*Did I miss it or did they not announce the first, second and all rookie teams on the broadcast? That should have been part of the ceremony - if it wasn't, that's a shame.

And yes, I think Hank got screwed for Vezina. Sure, he didn't deserve to win - that rightly went to Timmy - but he carried a terrible team into the playoffs. Steve Mason had a better defense in front of him and Nik Backstrom's entire team played defense. Hank had Wade Redden. Ah well, there is always next year ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back In Blue?

Petr Sykora back on the Rangers? Why not?

Sykora thinks that it is time to part with the Pens and, while he is being wooed by the KHL, perhaps Broadway wouldn't be so bad. Sykora made a nice guest appearance here the second half of the first year out of the lockout and had 31 points in 40 games. Last season he scored 46 in 76 but fell out of favour with Dan Bylsma and played just seven playoff games.

He is getting older and a little slower - he is turning 33 this fall - but he is still a solid sniper, especially on the power play where he scored 19 of those 46 points. Sykora could prove to be a cost effective replacement to Markus Naslund. He scored the same amount of points as the Swede but made just $2.5 mill and certainly cannot expect a raise. Perhaps he could provide a veteran presence to help guide, shape and motivate Zherdev, since it seems like we will be stuck with the enigmatic Russian phenom.

The only question I have is would he be able to play in Tortorella's up-tempo attack system or will he be relegated to the press box like he was in the Pens Cup run?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Cup To Cup: My '08-09 Season

The NHL season has officially come to a close and what a season it was. For myself, it was one where I was insane lucky enough to go to 59 hockey games in four different countries. It started with the Victoria Cup and ended with the Stanley Cup. Since September I saw 25 NHL teams (missed the Sharks, Kings, Predators, Blue Jackets and Blues), two British Elite League, two EPHL, one Swiss and one Russian in person. This is not to boast or brag, but an attempt to reflect on the wonder that is our favourite sport.

I saw great goals, great saves, great hits, great hockey and great hockey fans. There were highs and there were lows. I felt the Garden shake amid a deafening roar in the playoffs, I heard the players' chatter from the empty upper deck in Newark as the Devils took on the Stars.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, my second game this season began with song ...

... and my second-to-last game of the season ended with song.

Last summer Tiger Woods said that he doesn't "think anybody really watches hockey anymore" but he was most assuredly proven incorrect. Aside from the thousands of folks at every game I went to, plenty of people would come up to me (as I am often clad in something with a logo on it) and want to talk pucks - from the conductors on the LIRR to street vendors in Bern, Switzerland.

Some say that the game is a niche sport but it really transcends gender, age, race and physical borders. I was sitting on the Amtrak train at the US/Canada border coming back from Montreal and the all-too-serious-looking Homeland Security officer came through the car, asking everyone a battery of questions. Everyone was quite quiet - either nervous or annoyed - and there was an uneasy tension in the air. When he came to me, the officer asked the usual questions about where was I from, where am I going, what I was bringing into the country and what did I do in Canada. I answered the last question "I watched the Rangers beat up the Canadiens. And it was terrific." The entire car erupted with laughter, the officer smiled and went on his way.

That is what it is all about: the smiles, as corny a thing as that is to say. We take this kids game - played by men who, frankly, aren't us - all too seriously all too often. But for all the moments of sadness and frustration - seeing Wade Redden in a Ranger jersey, seeing Brooklyn Aces goaltender Eddie Neville lying prone on the ice fearing the worst, seeing Cindy raise the Cup - I have to take a step back and remember the smiles.

-Adam Graves' sly grin as a 'Potvin Sucks' chant filled the silence amid the emotional banner raising ceremony.
-Jason Spezza laughing at my "Please Sens, Take Redden Back" sign before a game against Ottawa.
-A Swiss man enjoying the spectacle that was me jumping up and down like an idiot as the Rangers came back to win the Victoria Cup.
-The smile on my buddy's four-year-old son's face as I handed him a Ranger game puck provided by a kindhearted MSG employee.

Finally, my own. Minutes before I left Pittsburgh after Game 3 of the Finals, the last game I went to, I stopped in the media workroom in the hotel to check my e-mail. As I walked out to go catch my ride to the airport, I caught a glimmer of light out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked over to see that in a mostly empty ballroom there was Stanley. There is just something about that trophy that draws a crowd and I stopped to take a picture. Walking out I was sad that the Rangers went another season without getting it but I had to smile to myself because the quest continues.

Through all of the games, all of the ups and downs, I can say that Badger Bob was right: it is a great day for hockey.

Every day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Game 7 - THE Game 7 - Thoughts

I won't write a long diatribe about how wonderful June 14th, 1994 was. You know how awesome it was. It is regarded as the pinnacle of hockey's popularity and for good reason. It had two teams playing at the best of their ability in a seven game series that went right down to the wire with the specter of a 54 year curse looming over the World's Most Famous Arena. If you are a Ranger fan, and were old enough to remember watching it and young enough not to have seen 1940, then this was the greatest moment, most satisfying, redeeming, amazing, outstanding evening of your fandom.

It was also alarming, frustrating and nail biting as the guys on the other side of the ice were nothing to sneeze at. Something I know I lost in the moment and the glow of Stanley was the incredible performance by Kirk McLean. Trevor Linden gets well-deserved credit for his goals and leadership but McLean played the game of his life. The last of the stand-up netminders, he held his ground against a red, white and blue tidal wave to give the Canucks a chance at victory.

Chris Osgood received plenty of laurels for his performance in Game 7 Friday but that game simply does not compare to 1994. The Red Wings were out of gas and played on fumes for two periods. They found an extra gallon for the third period but the Pens played the entire game at the peak of their ability. Both Vancouver and New York did that back in 1994 and the game was much more physical. Say what you want about the infractions that were allowed between Detroit and Pittsburgh, most everything outside of manslaughter got through in the Garden. And each team still got their chances with the man advantage.

Gary Bettman and the NHL's marketing folks may have gotten what they hoped for with Crosby and the Cup this season, but it doesn't compare to Messier and the Blueshirts. Just as the current Rangers can't hold a candle to their predecessors.

Watching MSG's replay of the historic game, something I've seen dozens of times by now (it's on my iPod), I texted my buddy Eric and said how I felt bad for Linden. Ever the realist/pessimist, Eric said "feel bad for us." My initial reaction was to laugh but re-reading it again, I do feel a distinct twinge of sadness and self-pity. The 1994 Rangers never stopped. Not for a shift, not for a second. And the 2009 Rangers seemed to stand still for most of the season. There will never be (had better not be) another great team like '94, one that had to knock off the yoke of a 54 year curse to raise the greatest trophy in sport. But that shouldn't be the reason to accept anything less than excellence.

The Garden brass needs to see that. They need to understand that the bottom line shouldn't be the finish line. There is hope, but that won't get us anywhere. Action will, and that action has to happen as soon as possible because while Sam said "this one will last a lifetime," our patience won't.

10 Reasons Why The Pens' Cup Win Sucks

1 - Validation for Crosby lovers and man, do I hate Crosby lovers. As if the Caps bandwagon wasn't bad enough, this one is getting ridiculous. And Pens fans travel well so most every Eastern team will be stuck with them invading to chant for their boy hero.

2 - Now they will say Crosby's resume is complete, what with a Cup ring and all. Next stop? The Hall of Fame of course!

3 - Did you think all of those intermission features (even when the Pens weren't playing) were nauseating? Be prepared for more! Many, many, many more. Crosby's day with the Cup, Crosby's return to Cole Harbour as a champion, Crosby's first Cup vs. Gretzky's first Cup, Crosby and Malkin vs. Gretzky and Messier, Crosby's impact on ratings and sales, Crosby, Crosby, Crosby! Just shoot me now.

4 - We risk blindness every time Marc-Andre Fleury opens his mouth and unleashes that day-glo smile. It's just not worth it. And for that matter, Flower? The Flower won a Cup. No Mr. Zero, no China Wall, no Saint Patrick, no Dominator ... Flower. Gee wilikers.

5 - Hal Gill, Stanley Cup champion. 'Nuff said.

6 - Four former Islanders were on the Cup-winning roster: Fedotenko, Godard, Guerin and Satan. Seeing any Islander find success makes me feel ill; four of them? Hurl.

7 - On that note, the Pens were terrible and close to moving. They got a few top draft picks for sucking so bad and will get themselves a new building. If this means that the Islanders have another Cup in their future then I'm really going to be sick.

8 - Jordan Staal just got himself a Cup, joining his brother Eric. Now the two can gang up on poor Marc and he needs all the confidence he can get coming into Tortorella's no-defense-from-the-offense system this fall.

9 - Rob Scuderi's work in the Finals was outstanding. And how he will be a unrestricted free agent. If Jeff Finger could get $14 million over four years (and Redden $39 mil over six years), just imagine the payday for a legitimate playoff hero. And the lock out and salary cap were good things, right?

10 - And finally, every time the Rangers play the Pens next season it won't just be New York facing Pittsburgh, it will be the New York Rangers facing "the Stanley Cup defending Pittsburgh Penguins."

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Hope

Puck Daddy's playoff live blogs have been great fun and I highly recommend folks stop by tonight (Friday). Somehow during the Game 6 escapades, Morgan Freeman and Shawshank Redemption came up and it got me thinking.
I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.
I hope.
Well, this time of year for Ranger fans hope is the only thing we have to go on. These are some of the things I'm hoping for:

I hope: that our leap of faith to pay for our season tickets before June 22nd pays off.

I hope: the price increase doesn't force too many folks to give up their tickets, especially the kind people in 330 and 329 who listening to my rantings and ravings game in and game out.

I hope: that what they say is true - that a sucker is born every minute.

I hope: Glen Sather finds one of them to take Redden, Drury or Gomez off of his hands. I know not to hope for all three.

I hope: that in his quest to get John Tortorella his balls-out, all-attack, 'safe-is-death' lineup Sather doesn't forget that there are three zones in the rink.

I hope: Blair Betts will be back to help take care of one of them.

I hope: Derek Morris won't.

I hope: Nik Zherdev, if he returns, realizes that it will be his big, and likely final, chance at achieving NHL stardom.

I hope: Nik Antropov, if he returns, realizes that he has to be in better shape if he is to play for this club.

I hope: nothing happens to any of our draft picks like what happened to Cherry. Or to any other draft pick for that matter.

I hope: the Islanders do something stupid with their top draft pick.

I hope: the Rangers don't.

I hope the Ranger selection is less Pavel Brendl and more Pavel Bure/Datsyuk/even Demitra.

I hope: more of the recent draft picks are NHL ready come Traverse City and training camp.

I hope: the coming season doesn't come with as much of a feeling of dread as the last season left.

I hope.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dealing The Devil

My dislike for Scott Gomez is well know around these parts. First I disliked him because he was a Devil, then because he got a huge contract, then because he completely failed to play to said contract. He couldn't find chemistry with anyone. He couldn't score on his own. He couldn't maintain puck possession. He couldn't stay onside. He couldn't maintain any intensity when he was playing teams other than New Jersey.


While my thoughts of a deal to Colorado were quickly shot down in the previous post here, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN said today that Gomez may be welcomed in Lala Land (h/t to Kukla and PD).
Kings search for a star
The Los Angeles Kings have been linked all spring to Tampa Bay star Vincent Lecavalier, but we're told those talks have cooled off for now. One Eastern Conference source told us Saturday the New York Rangers have made Scott Gomez available around the league, but we're not sure how interested the Kings are in him. It's a heck of a big contract.
Now that is an understatement but the Kings have the cash. Despite the nasty looks that Mr. LeBrun seemed to give me for no apparent reason in Detroit and Pittsburgh (I even held an elevator for him), I have to say I like his proposition as it make sense on many levels outside of money. The Kings would get a Latino player to market to the nation's largest Latin population. They would also get someone who instantly would gain locker room respect with two Cups under his belt. And, finally and most importantly, he would help take some of the heat off of Anze Kopitar, who faltered a little bit last season after gaining so much attention with a 77 point 07-08 season.

Just how could this deal be made to work? I have my idea - which I'll pitch in a sec - but use the comments to take the cigar from Sather's mouth and make your proposal.

Now, get ready to rip me, but how about Gomez and a second round pick for the right to negotiate with RFA disgruntled defenseman Jack Johnson and a fourth round pick (LA has three)? We might have to pick up Tom Preissing as well as he has a long contract and was banished to Manchester but the Rangers can afford to pay him to play in Hartford. Of course, seeing as I can't find any indication of a prior relation with Glen Sather, I can't imagine Dean Lombardi making a deal with the Rangers but you never know! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed ...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Four Free Agents Worth The Fight

We all know the big names out there - Gaborik, the Sedins, Bouwmeester, etc. - but there are some others that are coming out of contract that could certainly help the Rangers. The hitch? The players have ties to their markets and might not be so willing to bounce to Broadway. Glancing at the list, I saw four guys I think that the Rangers should look at:

1- Steve Sullivan, Nashville: Let's get this right out of the way, no matter how well he says he is, Sullivan is an injury risk. He missed basically two seasons of hockey due to back problems and is beholden to Nashville for their patience in letting him take his time to make a comeback. He is also 34 and undersized at 5'9. However, he is a gritty hard worker who puts points on the board. He can score timely goals and kill penalties while setting a good example for teammates - basically a better version of the Chris Drury we had last season and he was only paid $3.2m. At his age and with his history, he should be willing to take a big pay cut while getting an incentive-laden deal.

2- Johnny Oduya, NJ: Sure the Rangers are deepest at defense, but you can't pass up the opportunity when a well-rounded player like him becomes available. Just 27 years old, the Swede is solid in all situations being smart in his own zone and a smooth puck mover. He made just $600k and even with a deserved raise should still be a bargain. And just think about how great it would be to take such a valuable asset away from the Devils! Poor Lou, it would be sweet justice for letting us take Gomez away (more on him later).

3- Chad LaRose, Carolina: A rough and tumble power winger who is unafraid to shoot or go to the tough areas to make plays, LaRose can't fight but shows a never-say-die attitude out on the ice. He is entering his prime at 27 and made $875k last year. He had just 31 points in 81 regular season games but stepped up his level of play in the postseason and collected 11 in 18. Canes fans call this guy the Chuck Norris of hockey and let's face it, that's pretty damn awesome.

4- Mikael Samuelsson, Detroit: This offseason will see just how greedy the former Ranger is. Because of the cap situation in Detroit, Samuelsson could very well be left on the outside looking in if he is hoping to double his $1.2m salary. But it is Detroit and most folks would be foolish to leave the best franchise in North American professional sports. At 32, the winger may have reached his peak as a secondary scorer but he is quite capable on the power play, something no Ranger was last season.

And while I am just throwing stuff out there, how is this for a trade proposal: Rangers trade Scott Gomez and one of their second round draft picks to either Colorado or Atlanta for their first round pick (third or fourth overall). Since Joe Sakic may just retire, his $6 mil will come off the Aves' books so they would be able to handle Gomez's contract and he could slide in behind Paul Stastny as the second line center he has always been with speedy wingers like Svatos or Wolski to work with. Bleacher Report had a post pitching Drury to be dealt back to Denver in a blockbuster with Bobby Sanguinetti for the pick and Milan Hejduk but I can't see Dru fitting in under the new regime, Bobby being traded or Hejduk willing to come to NY. In Atlanta Gomez would give Kovalchuk the puck distributor he has been missing since Savvy went to Boston.

As for the Rangers, they would get the game-breaking talent player they need so badly. If its the three spot, then stud center Matt Duchene would be the pick. Duchene has played with Future Blue Bobby and Evgeny Grachev and THN calls him "one of the best two-way prospects outside the NHL." If a deal with Atlanta goes through, the Rangers could grab Luke Schenn's brother Brayden, who can score and has his sibling's toughness. THN said scouts liken him to Mike Richards, and you all remember just how good Mike Richards is.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Z Returns To The Rangers

No, not that one.
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with goaltender Matt Zaba.

Zaba, 25, appeared in 41 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL), posting a record of 25-10-0, along with a 2.33 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and two shutouts. The AHL rookie ranked among the league leaders in several categories, including seventh in goals against average, tied for eighth in save percentage and tied for 12th in wins.
Since there isn't a whole lot of depth at goaltender in the organization, it will be nice to have him back, even if Jess at Prospect Park has concerns with his mindset. We need all the goaltenders we can get, especially due to the fact that 2007 second round pick Antoine Lafleur turned out to be a bust and is re-entering the draft. What happens if Hank gets hurt? Considering that Sather seems intent on creating a puck moving defense that is physically soft, Hank will continue to be a big target in net. He was run dozens of times last season thanks to no protection, so just how long will our luck hold out?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

For Sale

Over at Classicauctions.net:
Matched set of blue and white Vintage-style New York Rangers uniforms worn by talented blueliner (hahahahahahahahahahahaha) Tom Poti during the 2003-04 campaign. The white CCM is tagged in the collar in size 5g and displays the NHL's Vintage program crest on the upper chest. This Set 1 gamer was worn on January 19, 2004 against the Bruins at the Fleet Center and shows decent game wear with a number of black stick marks and some staining on both lower arms. The nearly identical blue example was worn against the Canadiens on January 17th, 2004 and shows light wear with a few marks. Both shirts come with MeiGray inventory tags and matching letters of authenticity detailing the games in which they were worn.
That there are three bids already - putting the price over $300 - troubles me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stanley Cup Final Game 3

"We're not going to get too down about one loss and not too excited about one win that's the way it is. It's just going to be good to come back on Thursday night." --Brad Stuart
Well, sadly I won't be back to see it but I am happy to have seen three great games in the Stanley Cup Final. Should they go seven, perhaps I'll hit it up but as of now, my experience at the pinnacle of pucks is over. It has been a wild season and one that I will sum up once the Cup is raised but that is another day. Here are some thoughts on tonight's action as the Penguins held serve, winning at home 4-2 to cut their series deficit to 2-1:

*The music director in the Igloo is a metalhead and it is awesome. White Zombie, Motorhead, Ozzy and opening with Slayer ... I rocked out. It was sooooo much better than the typical techno fare that the Garden provides. However, the Pens used the annoying old Gary Glitter "Rock and Roll Part II" as their goal song, which is pathetic. I guess that is one thing that the Garden has that can't be beat.

*Like you guys are going to feel bad for me, but the auxiliary seating they had for some of the media, myself included, was terrible. Obstructed view, ridiculously tight seats with a makeshift desk pinned into the same row and virtually no wifi signal. Detroit was much more accommodating and comfortable - they put the desk on the row in front. Perhaps the Pens didn't want to give up three rows worth of revenue, what with the new building on the way.

*Disappointingly, there were just a few old jerseys spotted in the building, aside from Lemieux. I caught just a Zarley Zalapski (awesome) and a Tom Barrasso (booooo). There were numerous Rimouski Oceanic jerseys though. Can you say "bandwagon" boys and girls?

*On the same note, the fans here really dislike Marian Hossa. But, frankly, I am not sure many know who or maybe which one he is. When Hossa touched the puck it wasn't like the whole place boos - some people started and then it grew louder each time, usually around the same time Hossa gave up the puck. He was underwhelming thus far and it is only a matter of time before Where's Marian? signs start popping up in this place.

*And I understand why they had Super Mario drop the ceremonial first puck, but c'mon - how corny. Yes he is the only legend the franchise really has who is recognizable to the fans but still, the guy owns part of the team! Roethlisberger would have been better and maybe even Jagr - could you imagine that?

*Verizon sponsored a tee shirt giveaway in addition to the rally towels. It was the first time I saw a white out in person and I have to say that it looks kinda ridiculous. Is this a way to sell more jerseys? Who do they think they are? Winnipeg? It is annoying to look at and I wonder why they continue to do it.

*Chris Osgood had his stick get stuck in the door coming out for the start of the game and I had a terrible deja vu feeling it was a Legace moment. Luckily, it wasn't. He played a pretty good game and couldn't be held accountable for two of the three goals he allowed.

*Ericsson looked fantastic while playing alongside Nik Lidstrom. When he was back with Brett Lebda, not so good. Either he feels more comfortable with Nik (who wouldn't be) or he just isn't that good. Mike Babcock seemed to juggle his defensive pairings a bit as he constantly played catch-up to the Pens' line changes. As we learned all to well watching Tom Renney's Rangers this season, messing with personnel during the action rarely works out and it ultimately cost Detroit the game.

*In the first period when Orpik was called for interference the play continued and, after puck came out of corner, Zetterberg was still along the boards and was hammered with cross check to lower back. The Penguins absolutely hammered the Wings with cross checks all night and the deciding call of the game - the Ericsson interference - was a dubious call (given the standard of officiating set thus far in the series).

*For the statheads out there, the Wings were outhit 36-17 with Chris Kunitz providing 11 of Pittsburgh's pushes. The Penguins blocked 18 shots while the Wings had just five ...

*During the first intermission I caught was a mid-20s blond lady walking the concourse with her boyfriend. Why is this notable? Well, she was rooting for the Red Wings with a Datsyuk jersey tied up beneath her ample boobage, she was wearing a jeans microskirt with a red thong intentionally sticking out above it and bright red five inch heels. Damn. Guys were going 'Booooo!! Oh, wow' left and right as they first saw the jersey, then noticed who was wearing it. She was quite the show stopper - sorry I don't have a better pic.

*Did I see it right? Versus dumped out of their post-game coverage to go to that awful Sports Soup, just to go back to do a post show after it was over? Is that ridiculous or what?

Well, that's about that from Pittsburgh. Thanks for tuning in folks. Don't tune out as I will continue to do some coverage of the rest of the series from afar while keeping my eye on the Blueshirts as they head into the draft and free agency.

Will We Learn To Hate This Man?

John Tavares, potential Islander, signs autographs outside of the NHL hotel.

SCF Game 3 Pregame

Welcome to the Igloo.

So this is where the Penguins play, huh? I thought the place was blown up in Sudden Death. Alas, it remains and really is quite the nice arena. As I mentioned back in Detroit, Joe Louis seemed like a warehouse crossed with the Nassau Coliseum. Mellon Arena just feels like a 70s-era arena - and there isn't anything wrong with that. It has that unique hockey atmosphere that I remember lingering in the old Commack Arena (even though it was a flea market when I was growing up). The seats are old and worn here, the place sucks from a tv and luxury point of view but the best way I can sum it up is that it is just a hockey arena. Then again, with all of the hundreds of steel cables hanging down from the roof, it may also host American Gladiators or the sequel to Beyond Thunderdome. But tonight it is the venue for Game 3 of the Cup finals and fans are already sitting outside tailgating. How cool. That is the one bad thing about the Garden - you have to hit some overpriced bar to pregame.

As for some other pregame notes from the Red Wings - I like them better than the Pens:

*Kris Draper feels well enough to play but leaves the decision to Mike Babcock. I know this because I went into the locker room with my trusty recorder and played reporter. it has been a long time since I did that and I forgot the unique smell of hockey locker room plus reporter sweat. Not pleasant.

*Draper, however, and Kirk Maltby are the consummate professionals. They both took a lot of time to make sure they answered everyone's questions, no matter how many times they had to answer the same basic query.

*Draper's daughter did these cute drawings for many of the players, and they had them taped to the wall in each of their lockers. The pic is the one hanging in Johan Franzen's spot. Very sweet.

*Maltby made a great point about trash talking - the Wings didn't really play the Pens this season and are only two games into the series so they don't have much ammunition yet but it will get ramped up as it goes along. But he was also quick to note that the Wings don't have any one guy who really is a talker - no Sean Avery or Steve Ott (he mentioned both by name) - and that Nik Lidstrom doesn't do that kind of thing.

*And I was correct yesterday - I did see Victor Hedman. The top five prospects for the draft are in the house. I stepped into a scrum around Hedman and asked him what he thought of his visit to Long Island: "It was nice, it was nothing what I expected. It was much nicer, I mean, it reminds me a little of back home with all the trees and the beach houses so I really liked it." Amazing how he didn't mention the Coliseum. Maybe Garth Snow is smarter than he looks and kept the kid away from the black hole of Hempstead.

Congrats J.D.!!!

I just grabbed a press release here in Pittsburgh (and saw up on NHL.com) that said that John Davidson will receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame!!

The Foster Hewitt is a pretty big deal, showing that the hockey world recognizes what we in New York knew for years: J.D. did an incredible job covering hockey. So congrats go out to J.D. for an honour well deserved.

On a side note, a few feet away from me Joe Micheletti just got a blueberry muffin. He wasn't given it. He wasn't bestowed it by a panel of peers as a reward for work well done. He just picked it up off of the breakfast table.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Early Observations From Pittsburgh

After two delayed flights and a lousy layover in Chicago, I made it to Pittsburgh. Driving through the hills of PA to get to the city left me with a pang of nostalgia for my college years in upstate NY but really, you don't care about that. So here are a few odds and ends that you might be interested in:

*Every public bus in Pittsburgh has Let's Go Pens on the electric readouts on the front above the windshield and many of the gates at the airport were plastered with Pens paraphernalia. Local talk radio was only talking Pens hockey. This is borderline city obsession - rivaling the playoff madness for the Sabres up in Buffalo, back when they made the playoffs (haha).

*I'm pretty sure I saw Victor Hedman checking into the same hotel as me. The oversized Swede and future Tampa defenseman is hard to miss but I was just checking in as well and, after all the travel, very easily could have been seeing things.

*The hotel here in Pittsburgh that the NHL is using as it's headquarters is quite the contrast to that in Detroit. In Detroit it was a modern architectural masterpiece of glass and concrete; here the place feels like it dates back 100 years (I wouldn't be surprised if my mattress was that old, ugh!).

*Former Daily News writer John Dellapina is here, of course. Working in his role as Director of Media Relations, he is kept quite busy. I managed to grab a second with him and let him know that Dolan raised prices again. He was less than surprised to say the least. I have to say that I really miss his writings - him and Sam Weinman really seemed to humanize the team and the game while relating with us fans (likely because they were fans as well). Their replacements have done the job, but it just isn't the same.

*For the baseball fans out there - and I don't know why anyone would be - you gotta come here. PNC Park is simply an amazing place to watch a game. As you could see from the pics I caught Mets/Bucs tonight and, thanks to baseball being such a slow, boring sport, was able to explore the park and sit in numerous sections to get a feel for it. The view is spectacular with the bridge and city backdrop. Behind the ballpark are some train tracks, and the squeal of the steel wheels was the only reminder that you were watching the game in a rust belt burgh. The park is tremendously clean with almost a minor league feel to it that is very fan friendly. I highly recommend it for baseball people - a smart August swing would be Citizen's Park in Philly, Lamade Stadium in Williamsport for the Little League World Series and here. There's no hockey in August, so what else will you do?

But there is hockey tomorrow so I'll catch y'all then!

Damn Dolan

Arrived in Pittsburgh to get a text from a friend and an e-mail from the team with bad news. Garden ticket prices have gone up again. Granted, it was completely expected, but still. After the hardest season to be a fan since the lockout, prices continue to skyrocket well above what they were prior to the work stoppage - when we were supposed to get relief as owners got cost certainty. Yet again, they lied. Yet again, we the fans get screwed. I don't have the actual prices, I will amend this post with them when I get a chance. To make you feel better, below is the farce of a letter from Glen Sather trying to justify the raise with how wonderful the team is ... I wonder if you subtract the remainder of Redden's contract, would it offset the increase?
Rangers Subscribers,

Five years ago, we made it our priority to build the New York Rangers team for long-term success by developing a core foundation of young players and adding key veterans as our youngsters matured. Our philosophy remains steadfast, and this past season, six young players whose NHL careers began here in New York played major roles in taking us to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

Although we were not satisfied with this past season's results, we believe we are on the right track. We continue to focus on the development of players and are excited about several talented prospects in our system. At the same time, we still have work to do as we strive toward our ultimate goal — to compete for the Stanley Cup each and every season.

Under the direction of our new Head Coach, John Tortorella, you will see a retooled Rangers team in 2009-10 that will feature a system that emphasizes aggressive forechecking and puck possession. This up-tempo approach has made John an accomplished winner in the NHL, earning a Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year and delivering a Stanley Cup to Tampa Bay in 2004.

The key objective for this off-season is to complement our strong defensive play and league-leading penalty-kill with more goal-scoring, stemming from this aggressive system. We are determined to add players who make significant contributions in 2009-10, enabling us to dictate the pace of the game on a regular basis.

With an All-Star goaltender, and a mix of accomplished veterans and hungry youngsters, we expect to make our fans especially proud this season. Your loyalty and enthusiasm has always made The Garden a very intimidating place for visiting teams, and you will see a team whose style of play makes it even tougher.

We remain humbled and thankful for your energetic support and look forward to seeing you at The Garden for a great season of Rangers hockey.


Glen Sather, President and General Manager, New York Rangers

Stanley Cup Final Game 2

Don't start talkin' sweep just yet. As Scotty Bowman pointed out, it isn't a series until the home team loses and Detroit didn't lose. Getting good minutes from young, fresh legs, the Wings handled back-to-back games quite well and took a 2-0 lead in the series with a 3-1 win. It also helped that the Penguins hit a couple of posts, got frustrated, stopped forechecking and rarely were able to force Chris Osgood to give up a rebound. Some more notes but no pics, sorry:

*Colin Campbell rescinded the mandatory suspension for Malkin, despite him clearly instigating a fight after a whistle in the final five minutes. Soupy said that "Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded." And thus the NHL avoids the likelihood of a second Richard Riot as the series heads to Pittsburgh. Can't have that happen.

*If Osgood keeps playing this well, you can just start engraving his name in the Hall of Fame. Aside from his 389 regular season wins, Ozzy is 10-2 in the Cup Final and holds a 1.47 gaa and .937 save percentage. The OZZY, OZZY chants were ridiculous and rivaled those that I have heard for the other Ozzy, the one that's the Prince of Darkness, who I have seen live about 10 times (and won't go see again, dude is losing it, it's painful to see).

*The roar in the building was remarkable as Michigan's own Justin Abdelkader scored for the second straight game. His first was a fluke fluttering puck on a rebound and this one was a great shot breaking in 1-on-2. While he clearly holds the hometown hero role, Darren Helm is heading for fan favourite with his dogged play. The guy has been a beast all over the ice and in all situations. He also went 22-10 in the faceoff circle with 15 hits over the two wins. Damn.

*There were certainly less Pens fans for this game than there were for two. The building was quite quiet through much of the first period and a half, something that could be tied to the fact that it is Sunday. As my buddy Tom said, beer sales were probably down too.

*No Pens players were brought into the main interview room; coach Bylsma was the only rep to the media. I'm sure they were less than pleased to be heading home in this manner. But, keep in mind, this was how it was last year too. Babcock said that he thinks that this year is "way different" from last and was quick to give his opponents credit - "every inch of ice is a battle out there with them." He also clarified a comment he made earlier that the Canadian press ran with: he said the series has been a battle of two stars (Zetterberg and Malkin) and wanted to make sure that everyone knew he respected Crosby, who is a "classy player who plays hard." No way in the world is this coach going to give the other guys bulletin board material.

*Gordie Howe was signing his book and the fans went wild. He even had his own police bodyguard helping control the crowd in between periods. Sadly, it was quite the contrast to Ted Lindsay, who was very accessible during Game 1.

And that is about that from Detroit. I head to Pittsburgh in the morning! How cool is that?!?