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Friday, February 05, 2010

1-976-Paul-Coffee Only $8.33 per minute!

Thanks to Chris Nilan and his business partner, you can now dish out $8.33/minute* to talk to Paul Coffee on the phone! Not so much into Coffee? No worries, there are forty-or-so other former NHLers available for similar prices. Stu Grimson and Kevin Stevens are bargains at $6.67/minute*!

It’s good to know that for just a few dollars, you can connect to hockey stars that will pretend to care while you fawn over them with your wallet wide open.

Go to www.vizzitt.com (Get it? Visit!) Right now if you can’t wait for this 1-976 hockey opportunity. Don’t have too much expectations, though, as the last news on the site are over 1 year old and you get a “Please check back for availability” message when clicking on a player. At $499.99/hour, you’d think that they’re all standing by the phone!

*Minimum 30 minutes, apparently to give you time to really become best buddy with your new former-NHL friend.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Atlanta Thrashers: Will the Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights?

Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the folks at Philips Arena, in Atlanta, don’t bother turning on the impressive wall of hundreds of Philips television monitors showing sporting events on the way between the upper and lower concourse during Thrashers’ games.

Makes you wonder if management has not already given up on the franchise when it doesn’t even bother turning on a huge display of products from the arena sponsor! It sure conveys that message.

We can just imagine the meeting before the season:

“OK, we’ll unlock the doors and have a few beer stalls for the last few coming to games. Send Larry to the gift shop; maybe we can sell a few Kovalchuk jerseys before the trade deadline.”
To be positive, let’s hope that they just decided to be very green by using less electricity and power for frivolous reasons. But, really? The company that paid big money for the arena’s naming rights would forego a spectacular display of its products to go green?

Will the last one to leave please turn off the lights?

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

How To Pronounce Ovechkin & Kovalev - Who Cares?

Apparently, everybody pronounces Kovalev and Ovechkin incorrectly. Much like the name of many other NHLers. Sadly, most of these players just don't care either and won't ask or teach announcers and broadcasters to do it properly.

Why bother? Call them all Moe Smith if you like. As long as the checks don't bounce.

Just in case you care, though, it's "Aeyvitchkin" and "Kovalyov."

2 down, 134 to go.






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Friday, November 27, 2009

You Might Be a Redneck - Niedermayer Stick & Mugshot

You might be a redneck if you go to a hockey game and come back with a Scott Niedermayer stick, black eye and mugshot.

What's up with that? The SoCal Jerry Springer Fan Club managed to get tix by the glass?


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alexander Steen Needs New IKEA Couch

Any reader, with an IKEA-employee discount, can help Alexander Steen from the St.Louis Blues? See, thanks to the "National Conversation" on Twitter, we all know that Alex needs a new couch. And more supervision for his 3-year-old Kingston. We'll leave the latter to Super Nanny but a brand new couch is needed.

Isn't progress great? Just look at this picture from 25 years ago, when Alexander was born and his dad was playing in the NHL. Since then, we have ads on the boards, got rid of the goofy Jofa helmets, shipped teams to lucrative American markets, and are directly connected to players so they can tell us, in real-time, what's really important.

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Byfuglien Not Suspended for Charge on Wild Mascot

No suspension for Hawks' defenseman Dustin Byfuglien after this charge on Nordy, the Minnesota Wild mascot. Once again, lax NHL rule enforcement that keeps hockey from being taken seriously in the land of NASCAR.


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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Halak's Agent Bashes Carey Price

Allan Walsh, the agent - for now! - of Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak had a simple comment on Twitter a few moments after a 3-1 Habs lost where struggling Carey Price was the goalie:
In response to negative reactions, and realizing his faux-pas, he started to backpedal and posted the following comment which doesn't seem to make anything better:


Interestingly enough, those Tweets ended up being scrubbed from Twitter later on as if they were never made. Not sure how that was achieved given that what happens on Twitter supposedly stays on Twitter.

Mr. Walsh might have stated the facts properly in his Twitter comment but he apparently forgot that he has to keep a certain level of professionalism as Halak's agent. Not sure that Halak is very happy about the episode.

There are comments that you keep for yourself and broadcasting them on Twitter is not exactly the way to do so. Anyone wants to bet that for a while, Walsh will use Twitter - as most do - only to let the world know what he had for breakfast?

Aren't you glad we follow Twitter for you?

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Blackhawks Nostagia: Back in the 70s

Little bit of nostalgia, here, watching four old-time Chicago Blackhawks as they prepare to take the ice before the 2009-2010 opening game in Chicago: Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, and Denis Savard. Savard kind of sticks out a little, though, being younger and having retired just 12 years ago.

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Mario Lemieux as the Joker

In the hockey bobblehead department, were they trying to turn Mario Lemieux into the Joker on this one?




Email us pictures of your most interesting hockey bobbleheads and we'll publish the best.


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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mike Modano at Age 55

Hockey bobbleheads. Aren't they fun? Yes, they are. Because we say so. Some are weird, creepy, ugly, strange, or funny. Or all of the above.

Email us pictures and we'll publish the best.

To start, we have one of Mike Modano. Or, to be more specific, of how Mike Modano will look at age 55!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Tie Domi Begging for Votes

Is that really what it comes down to? You have a 10-year NHL career, you retire after earning nearly $15M, you enroll into some cheesy TV figure skating competition, and you beg for votes on Twitter and Facebook in exchange for autographed photos (click on screenshot below to enlarge and read)? Sad.

PS: Yes, using the words "NHL career" for Tie Domi is weird.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Spell Cammalleri?

How do you spell the last name of the Habs' new #13? Ask his teammates and...

Camalerri, Cammelari, Camellari, Cameralli...



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Friday, October 23, 2009

Gretzky & Lemieux Born 10 Years Too Soon!

HockeyZonePlus.com has updated its unique NHL salary history database to include 2009-2010. It is interesting to note where Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux rank in the overall fortunes accumulated playing in the NHL: While Jaromir Jagr is still on top, with nearly $100M, Lemieux is 40th with $48,926,829 while Gretzky is 65th with $40,521,616. Talk about being born 10 years too soon! Not that it would change the lifestyle that much, mind you.

Overall, 30 players have accumulated more than $50M while 151 accumulated more than $25M (if Glen Wesley can make a comeback long enough to justify a $5,000 payckeck, that would make it 152.)

Sergei Fedorov has made $65,519,036 but apparently managed to "invest" and lose most of it.

The Small Print: Figures in US$. Salaries paid in Canadian currency by Canadian teams, in the early 90s, were converted to $US as per the January exchange rate of the given seasons. Some players have two-way contracts and have received lower salaries than those listed when playing in farm clubs. The listed salaries were gathered from different sources and while they closely reflect reality, they are not necessarily exact. Of course, that is from their NHL salaries only and it does not take into account any other revenue streams such as endorsements, summer jobs, business ventures, being a Mary Kay independent consultant to supplement revenues, etc. Base salaries are usually shown as bonuses are generally not made public. Totals do take into account the fact that players received only +/-58% of their salary during the 1994-95 season because of a strike (48 games played instead of 84). Some players possibly had contracts stipulating that they were paid despite a strike but we have no information in that regard. During the 2004-05 lockout, some players joined various teams in North America and Europe and were paid to do so. It is not included in the Grand Total because we have no information about the salaries they made in those leagues. Figures shown represent earnings; investment results may vary - ask Sergei Fedorov. Still reading? How is your 401k/RSSP doing?

Photo credit: Flickr/Joits

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Brodeur Leads Top 10 NHL Goalie Fortunes with $62M

HockeyZonePlus.com has updated its unique NHL salary history database to include 2009-2010.

Top Ten Accumulated Fortunes by Goalies:

  1. Martin Brodeur ($62,653,018)
  2. Patrick Roy ($56,771,988)
  3. Dominik Hasek ($55,942,300)
  4. Curtis Joseph ($51,438,000)
  5. Ed Belfour ($49,633,000)
  6. Nikolai Khabibulin ($46,356,518)
  7. Olaf Kolzig ($43,810,000)
  8. Mike Richter ($43,620,000)
  9. Jose Theodore ($39,619,968)
  10. Roberto Luongo ($35,532,500)
The Small Print: Figures in US$. Salaries paid in Canadian currency by Canadian teams, in the early 90s, were converted to $US as per the January exchange rate of the given seasons. Some players have two-way contracts and have received lower salaries than those listed when playing in farm clubs. The listed salaries were gathered from different sources and while they closely reflect reality, they are not necessarily exact. Of course, that is from their NHL salaries only and it does not take into account any other revenue streams such as endorsements, summer jobs, business ventures, being a Mary Kay independent consultant to supplement revenues, etc. Base salaries are usually shown as bonuses are generally not made public. Totals do take into account the fact that players received only +/-58% of their salary during the 1994-95 season because of a strike (48 games played instead of 84). Some players possibly had contracts stipulating that they were paid despite a strike but we have no information in that regard. During the 2004-05 lockout, some players joined various teams in North America and Europe and were paid to do so. It is not included in the Grand Total because we have no information about the salaries they made in those leagues. Figures shown represent earnings; investment results may vary - ask Sergei Fedorov. Still reading? How is your 401k/RSSP doing?

Photo credit: Flickr/Patxi64

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Jagr Leads Top 10 NHL Fortunes with $98M

HockeyZonePlus.com has updated its unique NHL salary history database to include 2009-2010.

Top Ten Accumulated Fortunes:

  1. Jaromir Jagr ($ 98,038,851)
  2. Joe Sakic ($93,174,047)
  3. Nicklas Lidstrom ($87,965,000)
  4. Paul Kariya ($82,686,100)
  5. Keith Tkachuk ($80,498,674)
  6. Rob Blake ($80,487,982)
  7. Mats Sundin ($79,669,132)
  8. Chris Pronger ($78,700,500)
  9. Mike Modano ($74,587,650)
  10. Pavel Bure ($66,369,794)
The Small Print: Figures in US$. Salaries paid in Canadian currency by Canadian teams, in the early 90s, were converted to $US as per the January exchange rate of the given seasons. Some players have two-way contracts and have received lower salaries than those listed when playing in farm clubs. The listed salaries were gathered from different sources and while they closely reflect reality, they are not necessarily exact. Of course, that is from their NHL salaries only and it does not take into account any other revenue streams such as endorsements, summer jobs, business ventures, being a Mary Kay independent consultant to supplement revenues, etc. Base salaries are usually shown as bonuses are generally not made public. Totals do take into account the fact that players received only +/-58% of their salary during the 1994-95 season because of a strike (48 games played instead of 84). Some players possibly had contracts stipulating that they were paid despite a strike but we have no information in that regard. During the 2004-05 lockout, some players joined various teams in North America and Europe and were paid to do so. It is not included in the Grand Total because we have no information about the salaries they made in those leagues. Figures shown represent earnings; investment results may vary - ask Sergei Fedorov. Still reading? How is your 401k/RSSP doing?

Photo credit: Flickr/CS Smith

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Keith Primeau: One of the Most Decorated Players in NHL History?


According to Steve Silver, of the Las Vegas Sun, Keith Primeau is "one of the most decorated players in NHL history." Only in Vegas! Apparently, we've missed a few issues of The Hockey News between 1990 and 2006.

You would think that this is just a lazy journalistic job where the bold statement came straight from the Las Vegas Wranglers' press release announcing Primeau's nomination as Special Assistant to the General Manager / Director of Player Development of the ECHL team. After all, press releases from minor league pro hockey teams are notorious for their hype. But no!

Maybe it was just copied-and-pasted from Primeau's page on Wikipedia? You know, a Wikipedia contributor - Primeau's wife? - could have hyped the profile and Mr. Silver simply taken the statement from there. We all have deadlines. But no!

Keith Primeau: one of the most decorated players in NHL history. Really?!

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Early Returns, Part 1: The Best of Free Agency '09

It's virtually impossible to correctly gauge the positive or negative impact a free agent signing might have on a team before he's actually played a game for them. Talking wins and losses in free agency at this point, well, it's a sucker's game, purely a thought exercise, a matter of arranging player names on a piece of paper or computer screen with no real significance.

But hey, let's not let that stop us. Here's some early winners from the moves and signings teams have made since the entry draft and the start of free agency last Wednesday. Look for our list of free agency losers sometime in the next few days.

Free Agency Winners

Chicago - Ok, the Marian Hossa contract was easily twice as long (12 years) as any reasonable person might expect Hossa to be an impact player for and could hamper Chicago's efforts to sign young core players Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrik Kane when their contracts all expire next summer. But a $5.23 million cap hit is really not that much, and adding Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and defensive centre extraordinaire John Madden (in a highly underrated move), as well as getting young centre Dave Bolland signed to a long-term deal, gives the Hawks quite possibly as solid a group of forwards as there is in the league. How about sliding Hossa into Martin Havlat's vacated spot with Bolland and Andrew Ladd, Calder finalist Kris Versteeg playing with developing starts Toews and Kane, and Madden centring big Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp, who missed 21 games last season and still scored 26 goals? That doesn't even include Kopecky, tough guy Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer, who had some success playing with Kane and Toews as well, agitator Adam Burish, and prospects Jack Skille and Kyle Beach, both of whom might be ready. Sure, the 'Hawks aren't far from the salary cap, and Brian Campbell's long term, over $7 million per season deal signed last summer looks like even more of an overpayment, but Campbell, Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and possibly prospect Jordan Hendry give them a core on defense that's mobile and improving. Don't be too surprised to see Sharp and his $3.9 million salary moved for a tough defense-minded defenseman before the season starts. One of Skille or Beach could be used to sweeten the deal too, and defensemen Cam Barker and Brent Sopel both might be dealt for additional cap relief. If Cristobal Huet plays as well as he's capable for a full season this will be a very tough team.

Vancouver - The city of Vancouver's love-hate relationship with the Sedin twins will continue, at least for the next five years, as the Canucks managed to get Daniel and Henrik signed to identical $30.5 million contracts. It's not so much what the Sedins got that makes this a good deal as what they didn't get; most reports suggest the twins asked the Canucks for deals that were twice as long for more than twice that much money. The fact that Vancouver held firm with a more reasonable 5-year offer is a win. Most critics of the Sedins point out that they've never been great in the playoffs, but hey, neither was exactly bad last year either, and they used to say that about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg too. A quick glance at what other players were getting on the free agent market (Mike Cammalleri: $6 million/season, Marian Gaborik: $7.5 million, Martin Havlat: $5 million, Brian Gionta: $5 million) shows just how hard replacing scoring forwards of the Sedin's calibre would've been this summer, had the team chose to let them walk. Couple that with reports that the Canucks are in talks with superstar goalie Roberto Luongo on a long-term extension and signing former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson, who should look good either on the Sedin's right or the second line with top prospect Cody Hodgson, to a reasonable 3-year deal and the Canucks are in a very good position for next season and beyond. Now, if they can add a defenseman to replace the departed Mattias Ohlund, so much the better; recent rumours suggest they may have already talked to the Leafs about trading for Tomas Kaberle.

Toronto - Like the Sedins and Vancouver, the Leafs won for what didn't happen as much as what did. Fan interest in Toronto is extreme right now. People were salivating like dogs when GM Brian Burke promised he'd try to move up in the entry draft and get John Tavares. When it didn't happen, their eyes naturally fell onto free agency. It would've been so easy for Burke to give in to public pressure and outbid Montreal for local boy Mike Cammalleri or throw $8 million a season at Marian Gaborik. Trouble is, neither of those moves would've put the Leafs much ahead of where they are now: a bubble team that might squeeze into one of the last playoff spots in the East, but probably won't. Maybe it's that the players Burke really wanted didn't make it to market, as rumours suggested he was interested in Jay Bouwmeester and the Sedins, and maybe making either of those moves if they were possible would've been worth it. But in the absence of players he really wanted, Burke resisted the temptation to instead splurge on inferior replacements, adding only tough defenseman Mike Komisarek and enforcer Colton Orr by free agency and defenseman Garnet Exelby in trade. He also cleared significant cap space by moving Pavel Kubina to Atlanta. His team might not be much better, but they're tougher, so their handful of developing skill players won't get pushed around, and they've got cap space to add talent in the future. All they really need now is a young star forward to build around. Let the rumours of Burke trying to get Taylor Hall begin...

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brainy Monkey's Second Round Predictions

The brainy monkey is back for the second round. Let's just say that with 6 series predicted properly in the first round, some "hockey experts" are probably dusting off their resumes.Remember, our inability to actually find a monkey forced us to devise some other method to randomly crank predictions. But we're pretending that they were made by a brainy monkey because we're marketing geniuses.

Here goes for the second round:

Boston vs Carolina = Carolina in 4
Washington vs Pittsburgh = Pittsburgh in 7
Detroit vs Anaheim = Anaheim in 7
Vancouver vs Chicago = Vancouver in 4

Remember, 2 points for predicting the correct team. 4 points for predicting the correct team and duration of series. Later on, we'll analyze the predictions of some Self-Proclaimed-Hockey-Experts vs Brainy Monkey

Drop the puck!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brainy Monkey's First Round Predictions

For fun, we decided to have a brainy monkey make predictions during the playoffs this year so we can compare them, later on, with what the so-called experts predicted. Unfortunately, on such short notice, we couldn't find a brainy monkey. Or just a regular or dumb monkey, for that matter. So we had to use some other method to randomly crank predictions. But let's just pretend that they were made by a brainy monkey to make it fun. Here we go:

Boston - Montreal: Montreal in 7
Washington - NY Rangers: Washington in 7
New Jersey - Carolina: Carolina in 7
Pittsburgh - Philadelphia: Pittsburgh in 6
San Jose - Anaheim: Anaheim in 5
Detroit - Columbus: Columbus in 6
Vancouver - St.Louis: Vanvouver in 5
Chicago - Calgary: Chicago in 7

2 points for predicting the correct team. 4 points for predicting the correct team and duration of series.

Self-Proclaimed-Hockey-Experts vs Brainy Monkey; let the playoffs begin!

Image Source: Flickr/thousandshipz

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Head May Roll in Alberta, Lecavalier Rumours and more

Some quick hits today as the NHL regular season winds down:

I can't be the only one thinking that if the struggles of both of the NHL's Alberta teams continue that heads will roll. In Edmonton, the Oilers front office put the sights squarely on head coach Craig MacTavish by adding two scorers at the deadline. The message was this: if you can't get this team into the playoffs after we've added just the thing you've been complaining you needed all season, you're gone. Whether the old-boys-from-the-glory-days network in charge of the Oilers will follow through if the Oilers don't make the playoffs is another question.

Conversely, I can't help but think that Calgary GM Darryl Sutter put the sights not on his head coach, but squarely on himself with his deadline moves. Dealing as many draft picks and younger assets as Sutter did to get Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold badly depletes an already thin Flames system. Not only that, but Sutter is the one who committed nearly $6 million a season for six years to goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who's struggled badly down the stretch run. He also inexplicably handed journeyman defenseman Jim Vandermeer, who's played only 37 games, a three year deal worth $2.3 million a season, and committed big money to defenseman Cory Sarich, who's not one of Calgary's top four defensemen, and centre Daymond Langkow, who's now making $4.5 million a season to play on the second line behind Jokinen. These are all deals that run past next season, when the league's salary cap is expected to go down for the first time. If the Flames fail to make it past at least the first round of the playoffs, Sutter will have quite a mess on his hands here, and may well pay the price for it. And he does have a coach in Mike Keenan who has on more than one occasion gone from behind the bench to the GM's job when his boss couldn't cut it...

Is there anyone out there willing to bet against New Jersey coming out of the East in this year's playoffs? Anyone? Anyone? No, I didn't think so.

Somebody suggested to me the other day that with Zach Parise emerging as a new American-born star in the league that the NHL should be making an effort to market him to help sell the game in the United States. But if the NHL could never follow through with that line of thinking when Mike Modano was in his prime, an American-born player who was not only talented and fun to watch, but was (and still is) one of the most handsome guys you're ever likely to see, why would they get it through their heads to do it with Parise? With all the league's somewhat meagre player marketing push behind poster boy Sidney Crosby, we've already seen what can happen when an equally talented player such as, oh, Alex Ovechkin tries to hog some of the spotlight (see above). A better question is this: why can't the NHL seem to market more than one player as it's poster-boy at a time? Other sports manage it.

What happened to Florida's playoff chances? Not so very long ago it looked like they were a lock, and that they might finish as high as 5th in the East. Now they're floundering in 9th and might not be able to catch New York or Montreal. I don't see a lot of Panthers games here in Toronto, but I understand that Jay Bouwmeester's play since the trade deadline, when he figured into a lot of rumours but wasn't moved, has just gotten worse and worse. It must be driving his agent nuts. He used to have the hottest commodity going heading into this season's free agent period. At this point, though, how can a team not look at Bouwmeester's play in the latter quarter of the season and wonder if he just can't handle the pressure when the games get tough?

Finally, I understand that the Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal rumours just won't die, with yet another story in the Montreal Gazette today about them. But here's something for Montreal fans to ponder: there's a pretty credible line of thinking that says that Lecavalier hasn't put up great numbers this season and has struggled the last quarter of the season or so because his shoulder and wrist are hurting. Lecavalier had surgery on his right shoulder last summer, and because of it a scheduled surgery on his right wrist had to be cancelled. If Lecavalier's shoulder and wrist are both bothering him this season, well, those are problem that are over a year old, and thus are starting to look like chronic injuries, and quite possibly things he'll have to deal with the rest of his career. Lecavalier's 28 years old, and his 11 year contract extension with the Lightning begins this summer. Leaving aside just how asinine it was to sign him to that extension in the first place, we can now see several reasons why Tampa Bay might want to deal him, the first two being those injuries and their need to surround star in the making Steven Stamkos with talent closer to his age. But should Montreal really be anxious to add Lecavalier, especially if it costs them a couple of first round draft picks and either prospect PK Subban (who skates as well at age 18 as almost any player I've seen) or Max Pacioretty, plus a player or two off their roster? That's the kind of package Montreal media people were suggesting in January, and it's an awful lot. Especially for a guy with a guaranteed 11 year contract worth some $78 million and a growing history of shoulder and wrist problems. Even if he is French Canadian.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Ovechkin Story That Just Won't Die

I don't know if the manufactured furor over Alexander Ovechkin's celebration of his 50th goal (youtube video of it here) is a league-wide phenomenon, or if it's just here in Toronto that it's been kept alive in print and TV and sports talk radio for far too long, but it's hard to disagree what Bruce Boudreau said to a scrum of reporters the other day.

"It's 10 friggin days since it happened," said Boudreau "We have talked to Tampa's coaches, we have said our speech. The people that are bringing the crap up are you guys. Nobody cares about it anymore. You guys want to bring it up because you want to see a riot, then you want to talk about retribution. It's the dumbest thing in the world. You gotta have better stuff to talk about.

"You guys coming from Toronto to find out an answer on retribution where there should be no retribution at all," he continued. "He scored his 50th goal in a zero-zero game. It wasn't 8-0 where he made a mockery. If Tampa scores a couple of goals and wants to do a celebration, go for it. We have talked to everybody we can talk about. It's a done deal as far as I'm concerned."

This story is over, and I'm not only surprised people are still bugging Boudreau and Ovechkin about it, I'm surprised it caused such a stir in the first place.

The arguments I've heard most about Ovechkin doing his choreographed goal celebration are three-fold. First is that it sets a bad example for hockey playing kids who now might do their own big goal celebrations and show poor sportsmanship. Second is the Don Cherry argument that he's become nothing more than a clown, that people are laughing at him, not with him. Third is that he's embarrassed the Tampa Bay Lightning and made them feel bad.

My take on it is this: Alex Ovechkin is 23 years old. If showing a little youthful exuberance at accomplishing something great, something that no one else in the league is likely going to accomplish this season (Jeff Carter and Zach Parise are tied for second in goals with 41 each, both with just nine games left to play), is wrong, I don't want to be right. If you're a kid playing minor hockey and you score a big goal, go ahead and celebrate it, just do it in the same spirit as Ovechkin: do it because you're having great fun playing a game you love to play.

Ovechkin has plenty of time to become the robotic player who does a simple fist pump then hi-fives his teammates player that Don Cherry and many hockey traditionalists who can't remember what it's like to be 23 years old and doing something you love to do well anymore want him to be. And Don Cherry is not a man who should accuse anyone else of being a clown, not while wearing the various costumes he's worn over the years.

And if the Lightning feel bad about Ovechkin celebrating on them...do something about it. There's nothing wrong with Tampa Bay wanting to show up Ovechkin the next time they play the Capitals by blowing them out, or catching him with a legal check, or keeping him from scoring another one. In fact, that's a good thing. One of the most common complaints about the game today is that there aren't enough rivalries. Well, these are the kind of things that create rivalries. If the Lightning player's self-esteem is so poor that they get depressed because of what Ovechkin did, they need to grow some thicker skin.

Image Source: Flickr / clydeorama

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

(Less Than) A Week from the Trade Deadline, Part 3

Our look at the players most and least likely to move at the NHL's trade deadline finishes today with the player's who aren't going to be dealt by Wednesday. In fact, we guarantee it (note: not a guarantee).

I
apologize for not finishing this trilogy of trade deadline columns two days ago, as promised. Bob Gainey didn't think my head was in the game and gave me a couple of days off to think about things (note to Panther fans: this joke works just as well if you replace Gainey's name with Jacques Martin's).

You can see our list of players who will be moving at the deadline (also not a guarantee) and the list of guys who might or might not be moving (which included Bill Guerin, who has been traded according to several reports but nobody seems quite sure where as yet). Today, our focus is on players who's names have been seen in trade rumours this season, won't be packing their bags on Wednesday. Probably. Their particular combination of high salaries, no trade clauses, their team's place in the standing, and their importance to those teams means they'll be staying put.

The "Not Going Anywhere Despite the Rumours" Guys:
Alexei Kovalev (Montreal), Ryan Smyth (Colorado), Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay), Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta), Ed Jovanovski (Phoenix), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay), Michael Nylander (Washington), Scott Gomez (Rangers), Jason Spezza (Ottawa), Nikolai Khabibulin (Chicago), Martin Havlat (Chicago), Nathan Horton (Florida), Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota), Chris Pronger/Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim).

- Alex Kovalev's name came up a few times in trade rumours, as his much publicized "time off" from the team last week had some saying he had played his last game in a Canadiens' jersey. Much as being sent home to think about things might seem the beginning of the end for some guys on some teams, with Kovalev and the Habs, well, it's a little different. Bob Gainey took a lot of heat for his decision to tell Kovalev to go away for a while; Gainey is not the kind of man who's going to set himself up for that much criticism without cause. If he were going to trade Kovalev, he'd have done it before sending him home. Besides, while Kovalev's play has improved since his benching, the Habs wouldn't get much more than a second round draft pick or so for an inconsistent 36 year old forward who's about to become a free agent anyway. If Kovalev can get his game back on track, and with seven points in four games since coming back that looks like a strong possibility, they're better off keeping him.

- Ryan Smyth's name has appeared in the rumour mill a great deal lately for some reason. While yesterday I mentioned that Colorado will be trying to lower their payroll by next season, and they're definitely a "selling" team at the deadline, what with being last in the Western Conference and all, don't bet on Smyth moving. This appears to be another one of those rumours that looks to have started in Montreal (though recent rumours also have the Kings interested in Smyth), probably when somebody said "wouldn't the Habs be a better team if they got 'Player X'?" and somehow by the time it reached a rumour web site became "Bob Gainey is interested in 'Player X.'" This theme will be evident with a couple of other players on this list as well. Anyway, the reality is, Smyth has a huge contract for three seasons after this one ($6.25 million a season), a no-trade clause, and even though he's having a good season, tends to be injury prone and is already 33 years old. Nothing about this suggests Smyth will be moved; the Avs would have to take a similar amount of salary back for this to make any sense for another team, and if they're trying to cut payroll, why would they do that?

- Number two on our list of "only being a trade rumour because it involved Montreal" (but number one in our hearts) is Vincent Lecavalier. The Lecavalier to Montreal rumours became a large sideshow around the All Star Game in Montreal a month ago, but even though some hockey rumour sites out there (not mentioning names) are keeping this one alive. Mark this down: Lecavalier is not being traded. Yes, it does seem that the mess of rumours about Vinny came about because Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton quietly let it be known Lecavalier could be had, for the right price, and that information leaked. But irate Lightning fans have apparently dissuaded Lawton to the point where he said last week that he would never move Lecavalier, and never intended to. There's still a slim chance somebody could make a move for him in the summer, but don't count on it. Let's just move on.

- Ilya Kovalchuk might be moved, but it won't be before March 4th. Kovalchuk can become a free agent in the summer of 2010, but that's not this summer. While Kovalchuk's given strong indications that he'll move on if he doesn't think the team is moving in the right direction, it would be foolish for the Thrashers to move him before they have even had a chance to talk to him about a contract extension. While it's possible he could be moved this summer, the more likely scenario sees him being traded before the deadline next season if Atlanta is once again a bad team next year. Stop laughing, they could be better next season. Really they could!

- As much as teams might want to add the talent of Ed Jovanovski, Martin St. Louis, or Michael Nylander at the deadline, all three veterans have no-trade clauses, and also make a lot of money for two more seasons after this one (quick quiz: which of the three has the biggest contract? If you guessed former league MVP and scoring leader St. Louis, you'd be wrong; Jovanovski makes $6.5 million in Phoenix, St. Louis pulls in $5.25 million, and Nylander $4.9 million). Phoenix's supposed desire to cut payroll motivated the Jovo rumours, but moving a contract that big just doesn't happen that easily. Pittsburgh was rumoured to be looking at St. Louis to play with Sidney Crosby, but after dealing Ryan Whitney to the Ducks for Chris Kunitz they may no longer be interested. As for Nylander, well, he's making nearly $5 million to be Washington's thid line centre right now, and it's starting to look like his free agent signing in the summer of 2007 was a mistake. But much as Washington might like to move him, that doesn't mean anyone will take him off their hands.

- Why has Gomez's name come up in rumours? Well, it appears to be because of New York's lack of salary cap space. The theory went that if the Rangers were going to make a move on somebody else, moving Gomez would be the prelude to that, giving them the salary cap space to do whatever they wanted, since Gomez is cheduled to make over $7 million for the next five seasons. But these rumours were mostly in connection with the Rangers either signing Mats Sundin to a free agent contract in December, which we all know didn't work out, or pulling one over on the Canadiens and getting Vincent Lecavalier, which is very unlikely. So it looks like Gomez is staying put, but unless he starts putting up better numbers soon, the size of his contract is going to look like a burden on the Rangers for a lot of years to come. As far as a lot of Senators fans are concerned, you could substitute Jason Spezza's name in that last sentence to describe how they feel about him in Ottawa right now. Spezza has a no-trade clause in his contract, which runs for six seasons after this one at $7 million a season, but it doesn't kick in until this summer. But it's littl emore than wishful thinking by Sens fans that he'll be moved by the deadline. Unless he and Gomez are traded for each other. Hmm...anyone know how to start a trade rumour?

- Earlier this season it seemed like a sure thing that Chicago would move Nikolai Khabibulin. After signing Cristobal Huet to a big free agent deal, Khabibulin looked like the odd man out. But the Blackhawks couldn't find a deal they liked and kept Khabibulin, which has looked like great strategy since Khabibulin and Huet have formed a great goaltending tandem. At this point the 'Hawks are still not going to find a deal they like for Khabibulin, not with his high contract and free agent status at the end of the year, but at this point they may as well keep him around.

- Martin Havlat is another one of those guys who's been persistently in trade rumours, but it seems like that's only the case because some who write such things think he'd be good for Montreal. But with Chicago firmly ensconced in a playoff spot and Havlat their second leading scorer, there's little to be gained in trading him right now, even if Havlat is a free agent this summer and might be looking for a raise on his $6 million salary. The Blackhawks are more likely to add a forward to play on Havlat's line than trade him. Trade rumours have seemed to dog Nathan Horton his entire NHL career, but like Havlat, he's currently one of the top scorers on a team that looks like a good bet for the playoffs. Unlike Havlat, he's signed long-term and still has a lot of room to improve his game. I've never really understood why his name comes up in rumours so much. He'll stay in Miami.

- Again from the "almost unfathomable rumour file," we have Niklas Backstrom of Minnesota, who supposedly might be traded if he doesn't sign a contract extension by Wednesday (he's a free agent this summer). Why this rumour is ridiculous: The Wild don't have a hope of making the playoffs without him. Minnesota currently sits 10th in the Western Conference, just two points back of Edmonton and Anaheim, who are tied for 7th right now. As good as Wild backup Josh Harding's numbers are, he hasn't shown the consistency he needs to be a starting goaltender. He's not ready to take over from Backstrom next week; the Wild will have to gamble that they can either re-sign Backstrom before he becomes a free agent, or that Harding is ready to take over by the start of next season.

- Finally, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer's names have both been making the rounds of the NHL rumour mill during the last few weeks. The Ducks are probably looking at having to cut payroll by next season, and Pronger and Niedermayer would undoubtedly add a lot to any contending team's blueline. The Ducks are also probably looking at starting a rebuilding process soon, one that can only be helped by trading one, or both, of their two star blueliners. Some took it as a sign that when the Ducks traded Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi they'd be trying to move one of these two by the deadline. However, the more likely scenario goes like this: with the Ducks competing for a playoff spot (they're in 8th place right now), they keep both defensemen and see how things play out this summer. Niedermayer will be a free agent, but if he wants to keep playing he'll probably re-sign in Anaheim, though the decision not to retire took him five months to make back in 2007. The Ducks can't afford to wait that long for him to decide again, but have apparently already told Niedermayer he won't be traded. Pronger, meanwhile, has a contract for next season, but other than Whitney he's the only proven NHL defenseman the Ducks have that does. The Ducks will keep both at this deadline, unless they get a truly knockout offer for Pronger that they can't turn down (which would probably involve a younger top-four defenseman, a good prospect forward, and a first round draft pick, at least), push Niedermayer for a decision on whether or not he'll return next season early in the off-season, then decide whether or not to trade Pronger before next season starts. If Niedermayer returns, Pronger will almost certainly be dealt; if not, they may keep him around.

To everyone reading this, I hope you enjoy the trade deadline as much as I will.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Week from the Trade Deadline, Part 2

Yesterday, we posted our best guesses about which players you're most likely to see traded at this year's trading deadline, which is now less than a week away. In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that neither Chris Kunitz nor Ryan Whitney were on it, but that didn't stop them from being traded for each other today.

Today, we'll take a look at the guys who might be on the move. These are guys that, whether they have no-trade clauses, large contracts and underachieving seasons, or because their team is still the fight for a playoff spot, have some complications to be sorted out before they can be traded. The only really safe bet is that some of these guys will be moved; exactly which ones or where they're going, well, quite frankly, your guess is as good as ours. There are some big names here, some of whom have been in trade rumours for months, but because of the salary cap and their current team's asking prices may not end up going anywhere. The Whitney for Kunitz deal proves, once again, that while speculating on who's going to be dealt is fun, getting it right doesn't happen that often. Once again, some thoughts and analysis follow the list below.


The "Your Guess is as Good as Ours" Guys:
Jay Bouwmeester (Florida), Tomas Kaberle/Pavel Kubina (Toronto), Tim Connolly/Max Afinogenov/Ales Kotalik (Buffalo), Bill Guerin (Islanders), Milan Hejduk (Colorado), Brett Clark/Ruslan Salei/Scott Hannan (Colorado), Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis), Brendan Morrison (Anaheim), Samuel Pahlsson (Anaheim), Kari Lehtonen/Johan Hedberg (Atlanta), Antoine Vermette (Ottawa), Christoph Schubert (Ottawa), Alexei Ponikarovsky (Toronto), Matt Stajan (Toronto), Ian White (Toronto), Scott Upshall (Philadelphia), Matthew Lombardi (Calgary), Mattias Ohlund (Vancouver), Marian Gaborik (Minnesota), Sean Avery (Dallas), Olli Jokinen (Phoenix), Derek Morris (Phoenix).

- Jay Bouwmeester is the most intriguing case at this deadline. At the beginning of the season it was all but certain he'd be traded by next week, but most people making that prediction did it on the assumption that the Panthers would be out of the playoff race by now. With Florida in 7th place, one point out of 6th, do the Panthers take the chance that they can still make the playoffs without Bouwmeester, who's having a great season and is clearly their best defenseman? Or do they keep him, even though he's all but shouted from the rooftops that he will see what free agency brings him the summer, meaning they'd be losing perhaps their best asset for nothing? This is why being a general manager is hard.

- Both Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina have no-trade clauses and refused to waive them at last season's deadline when asked. Speculation is that Kaberle will do so for a particular list of teams this season, but Kubina won't. The asking price for Kaberle, however, will be steep; Leafs GM Brian Burke said recently he expects it would take a good young player, a top prospect, and a first round draft pick for another team to get him to move Kaberle. Whether anyone will come up with that kind of offer for a guy with 4 goals who's -12 is anyone's guess. However, both Kaberle and Kubina have clauses in their contracts that say they can be dealt this summer if the Leafs don't make the playoffs; if neither moves at the deadline, expect one to be traded then.

- As for some of Toronto's other players, well, the expectation was that when Burke took over he'd spectacularly blow up his roster and rebuild the Leafs from the ground up. That hasn't happened yet. The truth is that the Leafs just don't have that many players a playoff bound team would want, and while I'm sure Brian Burke wouldn't mind moving players like Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, and Ian White, the three most likely to go by next week, as well as overpriced veteran guys like Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn and even goalie Vesa Toskala, it remains to be seen if anyone will even bother to call him about them. It's a similar situation in Ottawa, but the players GM Bryan Murray is most likely to want to move, like Antoine Vermette and Christoph Schubert, and possibly Chris Kelly and Jason Smith, aren't going to command much attention.

- Buffalo has a trio of forwards with no contracts for next season, as well as defensemen Jaroslav Spacek and Teppo Numminen, but with the Sabres currently in the final playoff spot in the East they might not be trading anybody. The only reason they might move players out is the ankle sprain top goaltender Ryan Miller suffered last weekend; you have to think that with that injury, and with Buffalo holding onto the 8th spot by the skin of their teeth, the Sabres won't make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. Whether or not there's much of a market for the oft-injured Tim Connolly, the streaky Ales Kotalik, or the badly underachieving Maxim Afinogenov, the three Sabre forwards heading into free agency, is debatable anyway.

- Bill Guerin, Milan Hejduk, Mattias Ohlund and Derek Morris would all be great additions to a playoff-bound team, but all four have no-trade clauses and might not agree to a trade. Morris is reportedly trying to negotiate a new contract with Phoenix, but he makes nearly $4 million, will be 31 this summer and is -12 this season, all factors unlikely to result in a new contract from the rebuilding Coyotes. Ohlund plays in Vancouver, where it looks like the Canucks will make the playoffs, but it also looks like he'll move on this summer. There was some speculation linking Hejduk to Pittsburgh, but that's less likely with Kunitz becoming a Penguin, and Hejduk may not be that interested in leaving the only NHL team he's ever played on. And Guerin...well, if Guerin were that interested in playing for a contending team he wouldn't have signed with the Islanders in the first place. Keith Tkachuk, Brendan Morrison, and Samuel Pahlsson are veteran forwards who, like Guerin, will be free agents this summer but don't have no-trade clauses and might be on the move next week (edit: Tkachuk apparently actually does have a no trade. Also, Pahlsson has mono, so is probably not going anywhere).

- It does seem certain that even if Colorado can't move Hejduk that they'd like to cut salary. The Avalanche are nowhere near the playoffs and might finish last in the West. Some are reporting the team would like to move Ryan Smyth; we'll talk more about that tomorrow. Colorado would probably like to move at least one of high-priced veteran defensemen Scott Hannan, Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark, but all three have at least one year remaining on their contracts past this one, and another team coming to the Avs offering decent trade value for one of them may or may not happen.

- Olli Jokinen's name has been making the rounds lately, and while I don't really think he'll be traded, I rather hope he does get traded. Why? Because Jokinen is now 30 years old, has played nearly 800 NHL games since 1998, and has never played a playoff game. Please, somebody, give the guy a break. He's a good player. Sure, he makes a lot of money this season and next (over $5 million) and Phoenix will be asking a lot for him, but come on! Show a little empathy!

- What's going on with Sean Avery? His troubles and suspension this season have been well-documented, and the expectation when he was assigned to the minor leagues by Dallas was that the Rangers would make a move for him. Although new Rangers coach John Tortorella was critical of Avery and his antics while working for TSN between coaching jobs, the Globe and Mail is reporting that coaching Sean Avery was a condition of Tortorella's employment. Adding yet another level of complexity to all this is that Avery isn't automatically going to New York; Dallas put him on waivers in order to send him to the minors, and have to put him on re-entry waivers before the trade deadline if he's going to play in the NHL this season. But re-entry waivers also means any team below the Rangers in the standings will have a chance to claim Avery before New York does. Does anyone else have the interest in committing to the three years Avery has left on his contract? Whew. It's complicated.

- Here are some other players in a similar situation to Avery, that is to say, players who have passed through waivers at some point during the season for various reasons (usually poor play coupled with a large contract) who have NHL-level talents who may be called up before the trade deadline for any team to claim, just like how the Rangers claimed Mark Bell from the Leafs the other day: Martin Gerber (Ottawa), Manny Legace (St. Louis), Kyle McLaren (San Jose), Peter Schaefer (Boston), Anders Eriksson (Calgary), Michel Ouellet (Vancouver), Jeff Cowan (Vancouver), Curtis Sanford (Vancouver), Danny Sabourin (Edmonton). The nice thing about these guys is that, unlike Avery, none of them (except Schaefer) are signed past this season, so if they don't work out, teams can just cut them loose in July.

- Finally, why list Marian Gaborik? Gaborik is a free agent this summer and it was thought that he would be a hot commodity to be traded by the deadline, but that was before he hurt himself (again). He's played just six games all season and might still be out as much as another month. However, with the offensively-gifted Gaborik said to be looking forward to the chance to sign somewhere besides Minny, where defense is the focus, and Minnesota unlikely to commit big money to a player who's hurt so often, this could very easily be Minnesota's last chance to get anything at all for Gaborik before he walks. And while any team trading for Gaborik would be gambling that he won't a) re-injure himself before the end of the season and miss the entire playoffs, and b) re-sign somewhere else this summer, despite being traded to a team other than Minnesota, it's still a gamble that could pay off very handsomely for a team willing to make a deal for one of the most explosive offensive players in the game.

Tomorrow, we'll bring you the list of guys who've been in trade rumours, but aren't too likely to be going anywhere.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Week From the Trade Deadline, Who's Most Likely to Move?

The week before the trade deadline has always been a fun time to be an NHL fan, but with the advent of so many hockey trade rumour web sites and television "insiders" who are always trying to get the latest scoop, deadline day is a bigger deal than ever.

Every year I scoff at the TV commercials from Sportsnet and TSN, I think "not this year" and pledge not to get up early and watch the coverage from the start, which this year begins on both the major Canadian cable sports networks at 8 AM ET, or that I won't be checking hockey web sites every five minutes to see if a new trade has happened. And every year, I fail in this pledge.

With rumours about what players might move seemingly everywhere, with some big names making the rounds, over the next few days we'll be posting our list of some of the names that have cropped up in rumours most often. We'll start today with the most likely to be traded category, and will follow with the maybe/maybe not and staying put categories later this week. These players have been sorted using a complex system of guesswork, common sense, and logic. But don't put money on who's being traded based on what's written below. Or if you do...don't blame us if you lose your shirt.

The "Most Likely to be Packing" Guys: Erik Cole (Edmonton), Colby Armstrong (Atlanta), Jordan Leopold (Colorado), Chris Neil (Ottawa), Nikolai Antropov (Toronto), Niclas Havelid (Atlanta), Sean O'Donnell (LA), Kyle Calder (LA), Ian Laperriere (Colorado), Dan Hinote (St. Louis), Radek Bonk (Nashville), Greg de Vries (Nashville), Ville Koistinen (Nashville), Gary Roberts (Tampa Bay), Mark Recchi (Tampa Bay), Filip Kuba (Ottawa), Dominic Moore (Toronto).

There's not a lot of big name guys here, and for good reason: these are the kind of players that move most often during deadline day. Yes, Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell and Brad Richards were traded at last season's deadline, but that was just three of the 25 trades that were done that day. For the most part, these guys have smaller contracts easy to fit under a buyer's salary cap that are expiring this summer, are playing on teams unlikely to make the playoffs and very unlikely to bring them back next season, and can fulfill the needs a lot of contending teams have at the trade deadline have, namely some depth at forward or defense and a few goals here and there, but they aren't top line players. Some specific thoughts:

  • If there's a player deserving of a "most likely to be traded" tag, it's probably Nik Antropov. Called out publicly by Toronto GM Brian Burke recently for his play, Antropov isn't going to be re-signed for next season by the Leafs, isn't needed this season by a Leafs team that doesn't have a shot at making the playoffs, and could look good on the second line of any number of teams.

  • Brought in in the summer specifically to play left wing on Edmonton's top line, Erik Cole couldn't make the transition from the right side, where he'd played his whole career, and despite a few good games recently, just hasn't fit in with the Oilers. His $4 million salary might scare off a few teams, but someone should find room, and Edmonton will want to get something for him while they still can. The only way Cole doesn't get dealt is if no one comes to the Oilers with a good enough offer for him.

  • Despite being over 40, Roberts and Recchi can still offer some veteran savvy to a team in a playoff spot. Recchi has even proved this season he can still play, especially on the power play.

  • Fun fact: when Sean O'Donnell was dealt from Anaheim to LA in the summer, the Ducks thought it was so likely the Kings would trade him before the deadline they worked the trade so that the draft pick they get will be higher if the Kings move him.

  • Chris Neil, Dominic Moore and Ian Laperriere are all reported to be negotiating with their current teams on contract extensions, but are also reportedly not close to signing. If no contract is made in the next few days, all thre will likely be dealt, as their teams will be trying to rebuild with younger guys next season. All three of them, along with Dan Hinote, Kyle Calder and Radek Bonk fit into the category of players who can play a third or fourth line role and play it well, especially on a good team.

  • Filip Kuba has a no-trade clause in his contract, but he waived it this summer so that Tampa Bay could trade him to Ottawa. With no contract for next season and any offer of such from the rebuilding Senators unlikely, Ottawa will want to move Kuba, but he'll have the final say.
If all goes as planned, we'll bring you our list of "maybe, maybe not" to be traded guys Thursday, with the "staying put" player list on Friday.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

All Star Game Needs Revamp

I'm a huge hockey fan. I love to watch the NHL on TV. Though I'm not a Habs fan, I have a lot of respect for the Canadiens, their history, and the city of Montreal. And I didn't watch more than two minutes of the All Star Game this past weekend in Montreal, and I didn't miss it.

Something is wrong with this.

I have no memory of watching it last year in Atlanta either. I'm sure I didn't the year before when it was in Dallas, when for some inexplicable reason the league scheduled it in the middle of the week. Both of the two seasons before that there was no All Star Game. I didn't really notice.

Oh, I used to like the All Star Game. I was at the 1989 game in Edmonton as a kid, when fans gave Wayne Gretzky, who had been traded barely seven months previous, a massive standing ovation. For years after that the ASG had a soft spot in my heart; I watched every moment I could, from the skills competition to the player introductions to the last seconds of the game.

But ever since the NHL started to tinker with the teams in 1998 with it's failed "North America vs. the World" format, the game has desperately needed a revamp.

Oh sure, some people say the game is just for corporate schmoozing anyway, that unless you're there for the fan interactive exhibits you can't get the whole experience and the TV broadcast is really secondary.

That's all well and good, but when players are declining invites to the festivities en masse, injured or otherwise, and the league is responding by suspending players, well, something's got to be done. Instead of forcing guys to participate, the league should be looking for new ways to make the game fun for the players and relevant for the fans again. Here's a few suggestions:

1) Come up with a new format every year, unique to the city the game is in. The first idea that comes to mind, with the game in Montreal? French Canadian players vs. everyone else. That's right, we're celebrating cultural and language differences with the All Star Game. Fans all over Quebec would completely eat it up, and would go wild if the French team won. You could even give the French side Sidney Crosby, since he played his junior hockey in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, despite being from Nova Scotia.

For a game in California, you could have players from the three California teams against the rest of the league. Game in Buffalo? Players from teams in cities as cold or colder than Buffalo vs. players from everywhere warmer. In Colorado, play Joe Sakic's favourite players against Peter Forsberg's favourite players, and have the two icons coach the teams. Maybe not every venue would suggest an All Star Game idea very easily, but the point is, be creative and have some fun with it. Have five suggestions, and have fans vote for their favourite.

The game is in Phoenix, where Wayne Gretzky is coach and part owner, in 2011; why not have guys who idolized Gretzky growing up against guys who idolized Mario Lemieux?

2) Eliminate the All Star Game entirely, and have the Outdoor Game the centrepiece of the NHL's showcase weekend. The majority of players seem to like having a weekend in the middle of the season off, and the league's new annual outdoor hockey game, this past year held January 1st in Chicago, has already surpassed the ASG in many ways, including the amount of American TV ratings and goodwill it generates. Sure, only two teams play, but where's the downside in that? You'd still do the weekend the same way; shut down the regular NHL schedule for five or six days and include all the exhibits, events, and corporate schmoozing you would in a normal All Star Game weekend, and no players would back out because it's still a regular season game for the two teams playing.

You'd still do the skills competition, but it would be by invitation or fan voting, which might be better for the skills competition anyway because a lot of guys who could compete for titles in the individual events don't make the All Star teams. Imagine a fastest skater competition where the players invited are Calgary's Matt Lombardi, Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano, Columbus's Jason Chimera, and some of the other guys who are fast but don't have the hands to be All Stars. It might be lacking a bit in star power, but you might actually get an answer to the question of who's really the fastest skater in the league.

3) Pick the best 40 players in the league, throw their sticks in a pile in the middle of the ice, and divide them up shinny style, throwing one to each end until they're all divvied up. Sure you might get nine defensemen on one side and only three on the other, but man, would it ever be fun. Coaches would have to do some quick thinking and put their lineups together fast. You could tie the player introductions that always seem to take forever at the start of the game broadcast to the stick throwing and spice them up a little. And there could be a contest to be the lucky fan who's blindfolded at centre ice and gets to throw the sticks.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Lecavalier & St.Louis; Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

In a Hockey Night in Canada segment, Tampa Bay Lightning's stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis play the "Know Your Teammates" game and answer questions to see how well they know each other. Starting at the 1:30 mark of the 2:20 clip, Lecavalier is totally oblivious about the possible meaning of his comment about "having a song" with St.Louis while Martin is fidgeting and tries to backpedal.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.



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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mr. Sakic, Please Share the Wealth!

So, Joe Sakic was injured while using a snowblower at home. He is to miss over three months after breaking three fingers and damaging tendons. The good news is that he’s fine. But, one has to wonder what he was doing cleaning up his driveway himself. Or was it his outdoor skating rink? He racked up over $87M in career before this season and people with 5% of his net worth don’t touch a snowblower or lawnmower. You earned it, Joe. Really. Share the wealth. Most teenagers in his upscale neighborhood would probably never be caught dead cleaning a driveway for $20, as they drive around in the Hummer daddy gave them for their 16th birthday but there has to be a few guys, in Denver, that run a snow plowing business out of their 2 pickup trucks and shovels.

Share the wealth. Please.

Photo source: Adrenaline Werks on Flickr

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Flashback: Loom & Gloom - Salaries Must Come Down!

In the 1979 edition of the Hockey News Yearbook, Norm MacLean signs an article entitled Want to Own Your Own Hockey Team? Better Be Prepared. It's High Finances And The Profits Are Small Whether It's The NHL Or The WHA. Or, if you prefer the short version: Loom & Gloom - Salaries Must Come Down!.

The feature starts by highlighting financial issues with the NY Islanders following a string of events that included loaning money to the New Jersey Nets basketball team, losing a lawsuit initiated by Cablevision, and lost revenues after an early playoff exit. The article then broadens into the general financial situation of NHL teams. The average salary of NHLers was $US 92,000, compared to $US 42,000, before the arrival of the WHA seven years earlier (equivalent to 2007 salaries of about $263,000 and 208,000, respectively, according to www.measuringworth.com).

While different than most other industries in pretty much all respects, the sport-industry is no different than others when it comes to ownership talking about salaries. Loom and gloom news about the company and industry.

"Salaries have dropped a bit, but they must come down if the weaker franchises are to stabilized," says former NHL President Clarence Campbell in the 1979 article. "Player salaries must come down - and long multi-year guaranteed contracts have to become few and far between."
"The other owners in the NHL don't help their partners who are in trouble," said Jack Vickers, owners of the Colorado Rockies that were subsequently moved to New Jersey, "Football is better organized than hockey. It may be true the owners had an advantage over the players at one time, but that is long gone. If salaries don't come down, along with other overhead factors such as arena rental, then we may see an eventual shrinkage of the hockey map in the United States."
Thirty years later, there are 12 more NHL teams in the United States and the average salary is estimated at $US 2,215,000, more than 8 times more that 30 years ago in today's value. Shrinkage?

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Flashback: Yan and Paul Stastny with Dad Peter

Talk about a hockey family! In the early 80s, Czechoslovakian brothers Anton and Peter Stastny defected to Canada to join the Quebec Nordiques. They were followed the next year by another one of their brothers, Marian.

More than 25 years later, Peter's two sons, Paul and Yan, are playing in the NHL for Colorado and St.Louis, respectively. His two daughters, Katarina and Kristina, both played high level competitive tennis while attending University.

In that picture, taken in 1990, Peter's kids are visiting Slovakia for the first time, a few months after Peter returned to his home country for the first time since defecting. From left to right: Yan, Paul, Kristina, and Katarina.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Pat Burns Won't Sing God Bless America in Iraq Anytime Soon

Former NHL coach Pat Burns is a regular contributor to CKAC, a Montréal-based all-sports radio station. When asked to comment on the threatment that some of the thousands of Habs fans got at the Boston Garden when making the road trip for game 3 and 4 of the Canadiens-Bruins series, Burns declared something along the lines of: "If you go to a party in Iraq and start singing God Bless America, you're in trouble."

He then followed up saying that Boston fans are pretty tame and that's nothing compared to what would happen if fans were to show in drove in Habs gear in Philadelphia or Washington. "Washington has one of the worst murder rate in the US."

Good Old Pat needs to have a closer look at the crowd in DC and he'll notice that fans cheering for the opposition, wearing their jersey, are often there in large numbers. To the point that Caps owner Ted Leonsis and the marketing department devised ways to try to make it harder for rival fans to get tickets.

One thing is for sure, Pat will always be colorful.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Who's Sidney Crosby?

"Who's Sidney Crosby?" asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer with a deer in the headlight look during a panel discussion about the upcoming Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania in The Situation Room.

The question came after Dick Armey, former Republican House Majority Leader, said: "I think it's sort of a monthly thing. Count Senator Clinton out, and watch her come back. I think she would get Sidney Crosby to come out strong for her; he could sew up the whole state. Right now, he's probably the most popular person in the entire state.

The 40 seconds Crosby snippet starts 1:40 into the clip below:



Picture source: SouthCentral on Flickr

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Inbred Referees - Leonsis' (in)direct Criticism of Refs Trigerring Fine from NHL?

After a 2-1 loss in Boston, Washington Caps' owner Ted Leonsis posted two entries on his blog criticizing the referees. The first one had a relatively mild comment about the refs. Leonsis' second entry though, simply entitled "A Perfect Blog Post", only said "Says it all" and linked to a third-party blog post entitled "Inbred Referees 2 / Caps 1" which had as only content the following YouTube clip:




Chances are that if Leonsis had made a comment to the media along the lines of that blog post, the NHL would fine him. Probably the same if he had posted that clip on his blog. One wonders if only linking - and obviously publicly agreeing - to a third-party blog with that clip and title will also trigger a fine from the NHL.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Darren McCarty's Locker Room Dance

Darren McCarty is on fire while with the Calgary Flames! No, not on the ice. In the locker room! Did he just look at his bank account? Actually, no. He has filed for bankruptcy...

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Timing is good too as he's just back in the NHL.


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Activision: The Granddaddy of NHL08 & NHL 2K8

Interesting screenshot and ad from the 26-year old granddaddy of NHL 2K8 and NHL08: Ice Hockey by Activision.

Look at those graphics. Had to be a riveting game with bone crushing bodychecks and... yes, even faceoffs! To top it off: no referees - not a game for the faint of heart.

Who's that at center ice? Looks like a pixelated slim rookie Chris Chelios.

Rip This Magazine in Half.

A Though Tryout for Ice Hockey by Activision.

You can't be nice on the ice. You have to be tough. So, we've devised this little test to find out if you're tough enough for Ice Hockey, Activision-style.

It's one of the most head-to-head competitive video games ever designed for the Atari or Sears games systems.

How tough is it? Face-off. Breakaways. Stick-checking. Body-checking. Tripping. Battling the boards. And no referees.

So, go on. Give this magazine your best shot. We know it won't be easy. But then again, neither is our game.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fashion Police: No More Kovalchuk White Tape!

The NHL needs to step in and tell Ilya Kovalchuk that he's not playing in a garage league. Or in Russia. What's with this white tape he's been using most or all season on his socks? They ran out of transparent tape? No teammate will share? What next? USPS tape like 45-year-old guys with beer bellies use in beer leagues?

The NHL Fashion Police needs to step in.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Former NHLer John Anderson Gets Makeover: Career Move?

Yes, this is hockey-related. John Anderson getting a makeover. That's the story on the website of the Atlanta Thrashers' AHL affiliates, the Chicago Wolves. For the local ABC station, he's getting a new hairdo, new clothes, new look, and will be presented to several players to see their reaction. Will anybody cry?


Remember Anderson? He played 12 years in the NHL. Mostly for the Maple Leafs but also for Québec and Hartford. After retiring in 1994, he started his coaching career and has been head coach of the Chicago Wolves, in the IHL and now the AHL, for 12 years. Despite his decent record and winning 3 championships, he hasn't been able yet to step up to the NHL. Despite two head-coach openings with the Thrashers. What's going on?

Maybe the Extreme Makeover or Queer Eye route really is a last attempt at jump starting his NHL coaching career?

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Movie on Bernie Nicholls' Career

Bernie Nicholls won't make it in the Hockey Hall of Fame but he had a productive 18-year NHL career with the L.A. Kings and 5 other teams where he racked-up over 1,200 points. Apparently, 9 years after his retirement, some people felt that it was time to give him credit and make a movie on his career:

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Hockey Pet Peeve #72: Walking in front of the Interviewer

Why do hockey players have to walk between the camera and the interviewer, while still on the air, immediately after completing an interview during intermissions? Sure, they are busy, tired, and important. But that busy or tired? Can't wait 12 seconds? What's going on in the lockerroom that they really can't miss?

TV networks can't position the camera in such a way that the player-in-a-hurry will walk away from the camera on his escape route to the lockerroom? They can't beg them to stay still until they go off-the-air? They need to make that part of the next CBA.

This is Hockey Pet Peeve #72: Players walking in front of the interviewer.

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All-Star Game: Players and ShowBusiness

NHL hockey is a sport. It is also showbusiness. The players certainly master and understand the "business" part of showbusiness. After seeing the SuperSkills competition and the All-Star Game, it is clear that they need to improve the "show" part of showbusiness.

First, the SuperSkills competition and its last event, the Breakaway Challenge. This is a new event where a panel of judges award points on the artistry and creativity of a player on a breakaway. Scoring doesn't cut it. Fancy doesn't even cut it. We're talking about creativity, here. Something totally out of the ordinary. Kolvalchuk tried a little, shooting while on his knees. St. Louis at least tried something spectacular but totally failed. Getzlaf had faint attempts and once skated behind the net before shooting. Others barely tried to be fancy. Luckily, Alexander Ovechkin was there to spice things up. The bottom line is that the players generally didn't seem to get the point of that Breakawat Challenge and the NHL obviously didn't brief them properly. Next time, hopefully, they'll do better.

Second, the players' presentation before the All Star game and before each event during the Superskills competition. They barely cracked smiles, let alone show any emotion, acknowledge that they were being presented, or try to connect with the crowd and viewers. When they are presented during the playoffs, they have the excuse that they are in their zone before an important game. The All-Star game is a party, though. Wave at the crowd! Nod! Smile! Something. Anything. Again, you'd think that the NHL would give some directions to the players, asking that they at list show that they're alive when their name is announced.

We'll give it to Scott Gomez who said "Hi Mom!"

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fortune Accumulated by 2008 NHL All-Star Game Players = $870 Million

Based on its extensive Salary History Database, HockeyZonePlus.com estimates that the aggregated accumulated fortunes of the players participating in the 2008 NHL All-Star game is almost $US 870 million.

The Western Conference players have a total of $473,670,000 while the poor Eastern Conference players tally up $395,920,000.

Nicklas Lidstrom leads the pack with $73 million, followed by Chris Pronger, with $66 million and Martin Brodeur with $52 million.

Paul Stastny will be the poor man on the ice with an accumulated fortune of $1.22M. Guess who'll be asking for a doggie bag at the All-Star Game VIP Dinner Party!

Details are provided below with 2007-08 salaries followed by individual accumulated fortunes. Clicking on a player's name will lead to his specific salary history. The HockeyZonePlus.com Database provides salary history information from 1989 to the present on over 2,600 past and current NHL players.


The Small Print: Salaries paid in Canadian currency by Canadian teams, in the early 90s, were converted to $US as per the January exchange rate of the given seasons. Some players have two-way contracts and have received lower salaries than those listed when playing in farm clubs. The listed salaries were gathered from different sources and while they closely reflect reality, they are not necessarily exact. Of course, that is from their NHL salaries only and it does not take into account any other revenue streams such as endorsements, summer jobs, business ventures, being a Mary Kay independent consultant to supplement revenues, etc. Base salaries are usually shown as bonuses are generally not made public. Totals do take into account the fact that players received only +/-58% of their salary during the 1994-95 season because of a strike (48 games played instead of 84). Some players possibly had contracts stipulating that they were paid despite a strike but we have no information in that regard. During the 2004-05 lockout, some players joined various teams in North America and Europe and were paid to do so. It is not included in the Grand Total because we have no information about the salaries they made in those leagues. Still reading? Tax season is coming up soon. How is your 401k/RSSP doing?

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Questioning Marc Savard's IQ

In its 2006-07 edition, The Hockey News' Ultimate Fantasy Guide -- "Pool Guide" for the Canadian version, eh -- presented its annual High I.Q. (Intimidation Quotient) ranking based on some formula they came up with ([goals x 3] + [PIM minus 10-minutes penalties]) many years ago. To be eligible, a player must have a minimum of 20 goals and 80 amended penalty minutes in order to weed out guys with a boatload of goals and no PIMs or the other way around.

After the 05-06 season, only 20 players qualified and Sidney Crosby was first, followed by Brenden Morrow, Eric Staal, and Brendan Shanahan. To justify Crosby, the Bible of hockey went out of its way to explain that there was a power shift underway in the NHL. The term 'power forward' used to be reserved strictly to guys with hulking frames and fine hands. Not anymore, apparently. Really?

Now enters Marc Savard, former Atlanta Thrashers who joined the Bruins in July 2006. Savard was ranked 9th right after Iginla, Arnott and Bertuzzi. Time to rethink the formula! Savard can be described in lots of ways but the words "power forward" and "high intimidation quotient" just don't cut it.

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