KatsHockey

Let's Talk Hockey. News, Stats, Fantasy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

McKeen's Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook

He stared, nay, taunted me from the page listing the top 475 players. I didn't think he would perform anywhere near the level he did with the Hurricanes last season. By the end of the first few rounds of the draft, the picture of Eric Staal that graced the pages of the top 475 players, had two black eyes and 1920's style evil villain mustache.

Even drew in a goatee and two misshaped teeth.

I wrote the names Jason Allison and Patrik Elias over the sweater, for later rounds, and finished off with a giant feather flowing from his helmet.

In the eighth round, Eric Staal was finally chosen by a draft participant. And it wasn't me! The analysis proved right, but I dismissed it with my own preconceived notion. Yes, i kick myself.
Ever since I began my fantasy career, McKeen's Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. has been a staple. Most Fantasy-based magazines include predictions of player production, but they lacked. Mere predictions were not enough.

The analysis in the Annual Hockey Yearbook has guided me through some intense drafts and given me a valued head start above my competitors. Whether its a straight points league with no transactions, deep rotisserie or head-to-head leagues, the analysis per player, and prospects will be a guiding hand for all you who love fantasy.

My admiration for the magazine, led me to writing for the website, and becoming a Team McKeen's member. I now write fantasy for the website.

The newest issue features Alexander Ovechkin on the cover. Looking for an inside edge over your fantasy competitors? Check out the Yearbook.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pronger & Staios Do Wrestling Interview?

Ever witness a hockey interview that makes you want to reach in and choke the athlete? If interviews are going to be fake and somewhat scripted, then they should be done just like in wrestling.

Here's the scene, interviewer (let’s call him Ralph) is standing in middle of the frame talking about the upcoming Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Chris Pronger and Steve Staios saunter into the frame on either side, staring Ralph down. He looks up; fake startled at their presence. He asks Chris what he has to say about the game.

Dramatic pause. Staios is pounding his left hand with his right fist, a mean scowl across his face, and lightning (not the Tampa Bay kind) in his eyes.

Pronger turns slowly to face the camera and runs his hand along his jaw line, ending by rubbing his playoff goatee. An intense grimace of anger across his face, as he pauses just long enough.

"You know, Ralph, ever since this series started I wanted to crush that twerp. That gnat. Always buzzing around our zone."

Staios punches his hands hard, once. His lip curls into a look of disgust.

"Brind'Amour, better keep your head up coming down the wing. Cause if I catch you napping old-timer, I'm gonna make ya part of the advertising."

Staios agrees with slight nods, chin raised, now grinding his fist into his hand.

Ralph feigns shock.

"And if you think your girlfriend Erica-"

Staios lets out a hearty laugh and slaps Ralph in the back to the detriment of the microphone almost making contact with Pronger's mouth. Pronger scolds Ralph for being a fool. Ralph cowers.

"Give me that thing," says Pronger snatching the microphone from Ralph in disgust. "Who taught you to hold your phallic symbols? They should send you to a minor affiliate to learn how to use a mike, you glorified weatherman."

Ralph shakes his head, raises his arms and is greeted to a shove on the back by Staios. He turns to face the hulking defender, looking confused and frightened. Staios extends his arms and shrugs his shoulders, shaking his head. He ends the sequence pointing to his head, as if asking Ralph if he is dumb.

With the microphone in his hand now, Pronger starts again. "Now where was I? Oh yeah. Erica." Giggles and points to the camera. "Staal, if you think of sticking your nose into where it doesn't belong-" Reaches across Ralph, smothering his face from the camera with an 18-inch python and slaps his partner on his puffed out chest. "Well, the mighty Steve, the horse, the immovable object, will have something to say about that, won't you Steve?"

Pronger passes the microphone over to his partner, as Ralph makes a play to take hold of it again. Pronger stares down at him, while Staios starts screaming into the microphone facing the camera.

"That's right Chris! Stillman, Recchi, Wesley, that goes for you too! Don't let me catch any of you trying any funny business in our zone, you'll have to face the twin balls of rage, Chris Pronger-" returns the smack to his chest, " and Steve Staios," flexing his biceps. "Erica, I've been waiting for a long time for this." His voice intensifies with every sentence. The veins on his neck stick out as he screams into the microphone. "Now I get my chance, when you come over my blueline I am going to crush you." He turns to look at Ralph. "Perhaps the viewers need a sample."

Ralph grabs the mike away from Staios. "Now, now gentlemen, these are formidable opponents who won't let you manhandle them in this fashion. But the question remains … who will win this game."

Pronger grabs the microphone once again. "Were you dropped on your head as a child, Ralph? Didn’t you see how responded after being down?" They both flex in unison. "They had us down, Ralph, do you need glasses? But they couldn't finish it. They weren't man enough for the job."

"They dropped the ball." He hissed. "Tonight, in front of all these fans, and the world …we will unleash a ball of rage. When we're done with these Hurricanes," more giggles, "they won't be anything more than a gentle summer breeze." He throws the microphone in disgust to the ground and walks out of the frame.

Staios growls through gritted teeth and poses, flexing his chest, showing off his pecs before he fakes a backhander to Ralph. Ralph flinches. He bends over to pick up the microphone.

"There you have it NHL fans, out in the open, tonight's game will be an all out war. Don't you dare miss it." Now tell me, wouldn't that make for a better entertainment product?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eagle Looking For Nest

The search continues for Ed Belfour. In a previous post I suggested he would end up with the Flyers. Still a possibility, although in all likeliness, Belfour is not likely to receive a contract with any NHL club.

Last season, besides injuries, Belfour was getting struck for a bad goal at a bad time. Regardless of his actual health, at this stage in his career, he is a liability, rather than an asset.

He in fact had this problem throughout his tenure with the Leafs. Yes, he stole some games, but overall, a case could be made to attribute Eddie as being the prime reason the Leafs lost both series against the Philadelphia Flyers in '02-3 and in '03-4. It was his penchant for letting in a bad goal that did the Leafs in.

It might take a while for the Eagle to find a nest, if at all.

Wang Has Christian Ways Backwards

Wow,

What a mess on the Island. I feel compelled to send out my own message to Mr. Wang.

The ritual is not to wait 40 days and fire the man.

Its's crucify the man, and wait 40 days.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Leafs Sign Mike Peca to One Year Deal

According to the TSN article, Peca agreed to a One-yr deal for $2.5-million.

This is a good signing for the Leafs, and JFJ continues with a decent effort after bombing last season.

Peca, who was instrumental in the playoff run with the Oilers proved that he can still play at an elite level and will be a good fit for the Leafs.

This signing still doesn't make Toronto any better than a one round team. Althugh they have shored up their dismal defense and goaltending, they can't be considered contenders. Peca will bring valuable experience, but there are still goals to be scored, which could be thin this season up front for the Leafs.

It still boggles my mind, how they let Lindros walk away, but that's a topic for the next blog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is Shanahan Worth $4-5 million?

Look at his point totals from last season.

14 of 40 goals vs STL, CHI CBJ
12 of 41 assists vs same teams.
Total points 26 of 81.

Take those totals away from the 81 total points and that leaves a 55-point total against other teams in the league.

Detroit played the Blues, Blackhawks, and Blue Jackets eight times each, for 24 games.
In the remaining 58 games he scored almost a point per game for 55 points.

The telling stat however is that he had one goal in Game 5 vs Edmonton in the First Round of the playoffs and one assist in Game One for a whopping total of two points.

Considering the pricing of the star players across the league, is Shanahan really worth signing to a $4-5-million dollar contract?

Being a fan of Brendan for years, he has always been the consummate performer, but with the new emphasis on the game, especially in a cap-era, where cap space is clearly precious, its hard to think that any team would take a chance at signing a potential 38-yr old for that amount of money.

Comments?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pride from the Portuguese

Essentially, this is a hockey blog, but fandom is fandom. We hockey fans share a similar passion to those of the soccer world. On a national level, we have similar attitudes as witnessed by the World Cup of Hockey and NHL players participating in the Olympics.

I asked a Portuguese friend, who is as heavy into soccer, as I am into hockey, his opinion of the Portugal/France game from July 5, 2006. He responded with an emotional diatribe with as much of an unbiased opinion he could impart.

Introducing Mark, from Toronto…


Ok, here it is.

First of all, I am extremely proud of the squad and could not ask any more than what they gave in this tournament. They showed unity and fierce competitiveness that I haven't seen out of that team ever before. It's the best team that I saw in my lifetime, even better than the squad that reached the final of the Euro two years ago (2004). It's only because of this that I'm so frustrated. But they are getting closer to that first championship and most of this team will be back in two years for Austria and Switzerland. If I have the cash by then, I will be there to support these guys because it seems that nobody else will. More on that later ...

OK, first let me express my thoughts on the game.

Full credit to France for making the most of their opportunities and showed that you can never count out the heart of a champion. I hope that Zidane goes out as a world champion but in my heart, I don't believe he will. Still, he's the best player of our era - yes even better than Maradona.

I will be re-living the missed Portuguese opportunities over and over again for a long, long time. From Figo's clear header that incredibly went over the bar to Maniche's superb strike that just barely missed the net. There was also the clear strike that cruelly fell to the feet of a central defender instead of one of their gifted midfielders.

As much as I love the guy, Scolari coached this game like he sh*t the bed. France showed no desire to move forward in the second half and with Portugal chasing the result, he wouldn't bring on that second striker. Why do you need two holding midfielders when France was only pushing one player forward? Still, he's done way more good than bad so I will not hold him responsible. At times France found it too easy to defend the box with only one (and at one time 0 strikers) on the pitch. I have no problem with the five man midfield in a tie game or while you are winning but when it's do or die, what difference does it make to lose 1-0 or 8-0??

The penalty (33rd minute)was deserved. It was technically a foul in the box, thus it's a penalty. It sucks to have the deciding goal awarded on a penalty that didn't take away a clear scoring opportunity. However, I don't buy into the theory that the penalty should be waived merely because it was a semi-final. A foul is a foul. Also, I find it bizarre that Portugal wasn't awarded a free kick just outside the box when Figo was railroaded by Viera. If you call it tight, at least be consistent. Also ironic that Henry dove like a swan yet nobody says bollas about French cheating tactics.

I also must vent at the English media that painted the Portuguese team in such a negative light. The biggest crime that Portugal committed against England was that they beat them twice in successive tournaments. What Ronaldo did is done by every team every time a violent foul occurs. If England wants to vent at someone, vent at the wild and undisciplined Rooney. He has a history of violence and that red card was not his first. The English team should have known that the official has a history of sending off English players and doesn't put up with bullsh*t. In the end, they created their own demise. A country with a population of 10 million people (roughly 1/3 the size of London, Paris, and Rome) should be regarded as the Braveheart of soccer and not the evil villains. I must say now that my second favourite team for a while will be anybody that plays England.

I'm also upset that the Portuguese team has received no respect for their performance, not only in this tournament, but in the last six years in total. They haven't been champion but are the only European team to appear in at least a semi-final three times in the last six years. That alone merits being mentioned as one of the best right now and not as perennial underdogs. The following article is the only thing in weeks that was written positively by the English media during the whole tournament and it was only upon their elimination that it finally came.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=373428&root=worldcup&cc=5901&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab1pos1

On a macro level, I believe that this showing will only lead to bigger and brighter things. It will lead to more government funding for the sport and will lead to developing more young stars to bring Portugal to the next level. I don't believe that this team has reached it's limit by being a perennial finalist but will eventually get their title as the Netherlands did in 1988.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Leafs Shore Up Defense

In a day that expected to be quite hectic, the announcement of deals is trickling.

Zdeno Chara signed with the Bruins as did Marc Savard. Jovocop went to the Dessert Dogs, which is a great addition for the Coyotes.

Tampa cast-off John Grahame signed with the Hurricanes and the Avalanche inked Tyler Arnasson.

The biggest suprise is the addition of Pavel Kubina to the Leafs as well as Hal Gill. That shores up the top four.

More analysis of the signings later.

Happy UFA day.

Oilers sign Roloson

That's a releif for a city that has gone from high's to lows, and now back to high. Pisani being signed is good for them too.

Poll: Which day is the most exciting

Only two more hours before the festivities begin...


I can't decide which day is more exciting. Opening day of the regular season, the trade deadline, or the opening up of free agency.


Today.


So let's do a poll.


What is the most exciting day in hockey?


a) Opening Day of the regular season
b) Trade deadline day
c) opening of free agency

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pronger Traded At Best Time

Chris Pronger could not have timed it better. This is not a salary dump. Discard the emotional backdrop and from a hockey perspective, the Oilers will benefit substantially.


The already have.


Chris Pronger was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a package of Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and David Lynch back to the St Louis Blues. Could that package fetch names like Tomas Kaberle and Jay Bouwmeester, in today’s market, to start? Add names like Steen and Horton and the value that goes back to the Oilers is considerably more than what would have been fetched on the open market. As a bonus, they’re trading his value after a monster playoff performance.


Good management allowed for the transformation of the club, with Pronger being only the first step towards the Finals appearance. Jaroslav Spacek and Sergei Samsonov – prior to fizzling out – made contributions. Dwayne Roloson stood on his head many nights. Those players are unrestricted free agents on July 1, as is Michael Peca. The Oilers still have to plan for next season. Others to be signed include Shawn Horcoff a restricted free agent and Fernando Pisani scored him a raise in the playoffs. Craig MacTavish requires a new contract.


With no guarantees, and what looks like a struggle once again to build the team to be competitive, this is the best thing that could have happened for the Oilers. They move a top NHL defenseman with a favorable salary, considering Zdeno Chara will get offers in the $7-million range, for the next four years. Even after free agency floods the market, pitches will keep coming. Someone will give the Oilers what they want eventually.


Edmonton management had the good sense to go into last season with a plan. It included all the parts added along the way, as well as stepped up performances by many Oilers, not just Pronger. Next season’s team would look different, regardless if he was there or not. No guarantees of repeating the playoff run. The next one will look slightly different, but the energy and excitement will be the same.


This isn’t a salary dump like Doug Weight, Mike Comrie and many others, due to financial considerations. The nineties are gone, the salary dumps, gone. Current Oilers management can boast a good hockey operation. When they trade Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and David Lynch, for the second time, it will be a genuine hockey move that will bring back hard assets replacing the eligible cap space. The face going into next season with much the same obstacles as last season, rebuilding a team from the skeletal parts.


Only this time, they have more desirable assets.


*********************


Rumors linking defensemen, like Ed Jovanovski, headed to the Florida Panthers hears that the Panthers are in the hunt for Pronger. Where does that leave him? Tomas Kaberle of the Maple Leafs can’t wait for the clock to tick past midnight on June 30. He signed for 5 years to remain a Leaf, and before the no-trade clause kicks in, his name shows up in rumors.


Wonder what they privately think of this situation.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Leafs, Thanx! Goodnight NHL & Stanley Cup Winner



Thank you Maple Leafs. It is to you that I must credit for the enjoyment I've had this NHL season, one coming to a close tonight. A Game 7. Anything more befitting?

It was the inability of the organization to guage what was required to operate a genuine contender that finally made me realize what a waste it was to devote myself to the Maple Leaf fan base.

This season I became a free agent fan, looking at the new NHL with bright rosy eyes enjoying the spectacle once again. Had I been tied to your own brand of dysfunction, I would have been miserable all season.

I wish you all the success, but lets face it, that isn't coming any time soon. I hope that the organization, for its fans sake, realizes its mistakes from last season. They must get past the arrogance of believing NHL players will play for the Leaf on their chest. They need support. The Leafs have had all season to perform analysis, including an extra long period between the regular season and tonight, the final night of NHL 2005-06.

Good Luck. And keep developing Alex Steen!

Goodnight NHL

This is the third season in a row in which the Stanley Cup Finals are going to Game 7, but somehow this season is different. This is the New NHL. New product, new rivalries, successes and dissapointments. It all boils down to tonight's Game 7 between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Statistics at this point do not tell the whole picture. This is a game of emotion. Talk about game-plan execution and defensive mistakes all you want, this game is about a feeling for the rest of one's life. A winner of the Cup.

Or Finalist.

Some recent Finalists. Calgary 2004.

Beyond that, who knows? Who cares? No one cares about the Finalists, only the winners.

Tonight could be the greatest acheivement for many players in separate dressing rooms, or the biggest dissapointment to a brilliant run.

Each player knows exactly what they need to do, how to play, how to react. It all comes down to tonight. One chance for glory.

Good luck to both the Oilers and Hurricanes.

Stanley Cup Winner

It is hard to predict what is to happen tonight. How do you know which team will show up? Will it be the Oilers from Games 1 through 4 or from 5 and 6? The Canes of Games 1-4 or the recent version?

Tough call.

The Oilers will win tonight's Game 7. Despite Doug Weight's attempt at this morning's skate to try and work that 'upper body' injury, the Hurricanes look tired. The Oilers have worn them down throughout the series, something that if they had started doing earlier, may not have led to this crucial night.

Regardless, the Hurricanes are a resilient team that has found ways to win and may do so once again tonight. The first two game losing streak since losing the first two in Montreal must weigh into the room and they don't want that extended to three.

Talk about all the stats, talk about systems, it all boils down to this.

Who wants it more.

And I happen to think its the Oilers.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Oilers Firsts


Oilers: Who’s on First?

The Edmonton Oilers passed their first test of elimination, while chasing another more important first in the 2005-’06 post-season. The First Stanley Cup Winners the season after the lockout.

History will look back at this season’s rebirth of a pre-lockout, offensively challenged game, glorified once again after a dismal lockout year. Hockey fans will recall this season, with its small market teams Finals, restored flow and grace and a fantastic run by both Finalists as a pioneering venture. This was a special season. The First year of the future of the NHL. Strict rule enforcement, better results, better game.

Surely, the question, “Which team won the Stanley Cup the season after the labour lockout?” is scheduled to weave its way into the realm of trivia.

The Oilers want to become the answer to that question, while the Carolina Hurricanes will do everything possible to usurp them as the answer.

On the road to the Finals, the Oilers racked up heaps of first time achievements. Chris Pronger, in Game One, scored on the first successful penalty shot in the Finals. This, after they had become first eighth seeded team to make it all the way to the finals, starting every series with a first game on the road. They were also the first Oilers team to come back from a two game deficit to win a series in Round Two versus the Sharks.

The Oilers added more firsts in Game Five. Edmonton scored first on Fernando Pisani’s first goal of the game, in the first minute, when he tipped in a Chris Pronger point shot sixteen seconds into the contest. They are 11-4 when scoring first.

The latest First achievement in the spotlight is Pisani’s fourth game winning goal, this one coming in overtime – the first shorthanded goal in an overtime game in the Finals – to force Game 6 Saturday night in Edmonton.

Edmonton’s hero scored his second game winner on the road in the post-season.

Another first may have been accomplished, although not registered as an official statistic but has definite bearing heading into Game Six. Establishing the physical game that brought earlier success, they extolled a punishment on the Hurricanes in Game Five. In the beginning of the third, Doug Weight was sandwiched between Raffi Torres and Pronger. He returned late in the game but did not take a shift the rest of the way. Mum’s the word on his status for Game Six. Even if he is inserted into the lineup, his health is a concern that can be exploited by the Oilers.

The Hurricanes have been fortunate enough to not suffer the same fate as their opponents, namely Saku Koivu for the Canadiens, four defensemen and a forward in Buffalo, and recently Dwayne Roloson in Game One of this series. Peter Laviolette had the luxury of sticking with the same lineup since the beginning of the playoffs.

Carolina has generated offense up and down the roster with a balanced attack. Three legitimate scoring lines may now have to be shuffled in case Doug Weight can’t dress Saturday. Either Laviolette will have to alter his lines, or play less of one to compensate. Another option is to dress a seventh defenseman, where the physical game took its toll on the defense corps as well.

Two heavy jolts from Raffi Torres in the first minute of the game, prior to the opening goal, knocked Aaron Ward out for most of the first and all of the second. Like Weight he too returned in the third with 12:07 remaining in the third. Ward had been arguably their best defenseman.

Craig MacTavish praised the physical work of Torres. “He got some big hits and he played terrific,” he said. Torres played the same physical game throughout the playoffs while knocking out Sharks Milan Michalek for two games. He continued through to the series against Anaheim, got knocked out with the flu and returned to score the series-clinching goal in Game Five.

The Oilers are still down. Another elimination game presents itself Saturday night. The game they have marked is back in Raleigh Monday night. Game Six is an elimination match.

Game Seven is a Championship game. The big one.

To participate, they must win the elimination game. They also want to be the first team in modern NHL to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win the Stanley Cup. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, after being down 3-0 in the Finals ever came back to steal the series and the Cup away from the Detroit Red Wings.

To do that, they will have to present to the Hurricanes their First three-game losing streak, which is a tall order. The Canes have not lost two games in succession since losing the opening two to Montreal.

If winning in overtime on the road didn’t make them feel better about their chances, then their play in the third period – powerplay aside – was a sign that the Hurricanes are in for a fight. The Hurricanes registered two shots in the final 23:34 of play. A total 12:40 had elapsed in the third before the first shot by Ray Whitney – Cory Stillman had the other. They didn’t register a shot in overtime, while Pisani buried the Oilers seventh for the winner.

The edge to the Hurricanes may have dulled through their own injury adversity. Adding to that is a confidence building four goals, scored on goaltender Cam Ward. If there was ever any necessity to take advantage of a swing in momentum, now is the time.

Saturday’s game will be the first that Oilers have played where they are the ones on the verge of elimination. They would rather see it as another first of two more games.



ANOTHER FIRST

Game Five marked the first time in the Finals that captain Rod Brind’Amour (22:30) had not led his Hurricanes in ice time. Four other Hurricanes, Eric Staal (22:37), Cory Stillman (22:59), Brett Hedican (25:36) and Niclas Wallin (24:29) all played more minutes than the captain. Could there be more to than just the elevated play of the Recchi/Staal/Stillman line?

Those who live on the powerplay, die on the powerplay…

Sixteen games have been decided in overtime in the ’05-06 playoffs. Four played by the Oilers, with three wins and a loss. In two overtime wins, they scored at even strength while the latest was shorthanded.

Carolina has played seven with a record of 4-3. Two of the overtime wins were on the powerplay but they lost one shorthanded. They have scored 30 powerplay goals in 118 opportunities in the playoffs, including seven goals in 33 opportunities in the finals.

The Oilers have scored two goals in the Finals with 21 overall on the powerplay in the playoffs. They have had 32 powerplays in the Finals and 128 opportunities in the playoffs.

The powerplay is where Carolina has lived the whole season and playoffs. It goes to show importance of the powerplay to the success of a team, a lesson that has haunted the Oilers all series.

They finally scored one powerplay goal in Game Five while giving Carolina seven opportunities to score three goals of their own. The final opportunity came in overtime where Pisani ended it 3:31 of the first overtime period.

Those who live on the powerplay…


Touching Moment

Watching Matt Greene on the bench being comforted by Charlie Huddy after being victimized for taking two penalties that led to Carolina goals in Game five was the essence of the playoffs.

Sitting at the end, he almost had tears in his eyes and a look of sorrow and gloom. The classy Charlie Huddy was seen patting him on the back trying to calm down the emotional wreck that he had become.

There is a lot of emotion involved in the Finals. The image of a full-grown man almost on the verge of tears is enough to indicate the importance of winning it all. As fans, we see a lot of the good side of the game, the winning side, the glory and the fame. These touching little moments are ones that hold just as much substance.

Matt Greene is only beginning his career in the NHL. From his look of dejection on the bench after the second goal, it looks like he has learned a valuable lesson.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Selanne Signs With Ducks

Anaheim Ducks may not be Mighty next season, but they have ensured that Selanne will return to the hockey club for one more season, signing a $3.75 million US contract.

A good move by the Ducks signing the 35-yr-old Finn. He showed more Finnish Flash this season than any in recent past, including going on a monster point streak late in the season. he will definately help the younger forwards with his experience, but it also is an act of goodwill for other notable free agents that may want to bask in the California sun and earn a great pay-cheque doing so. The Ducks were not the Conference Finalists for nothing.

Signing Selanne ensures that there is a building block in place for another forward. Rumors have Sakic linked to the Ducks if nothing pulls through with the Avs.

Click on headline link for the whole article on SLAM! sports.

Canada's Game?

I think that I am officially sick of the notion of cheering for a team, because they are Canadian, or American.

The Edmonton Oilers, are a sports team. They represent the cumulative results of a management team that supplies the assets on the quest for a Championship.

The Carolina Hurricanes are a sports team, representing the cumulative results of a different management team, supplying its own version of assets in the quest for a Championship.

Nowhere, other than geographic location, do these teams differ. They both have similar structures, a coach and a GM. There are independent business units, and marketing units and any other units that one can think of. The hockey teams represent their respective cities, not the country in which those teams reside.

Allegiance to one team over the other is based on a set of values that each individual fan is required to analyze prior to making a decision. But the Oilers do not represent Canada, inasmuch as the Hurricanes represent USA. The World Cup of Hockey or Olympic Games is where fans can cheer on the national level. To reduce allegiance in this series due to a Canadian versus American team takes away from the make up of those teams.

The Oilers have 14 Canadians while the Hurricanes have five Americans. Do those numbers justify allegiance on the national level? Do you think the Swedes, Finns, Czechs, and Swiss on these teams represent the US/Canada, or the Oilers/Hurricanes. The players themselves aren't playing for Canada or the USA, only for the teams that they represent. When the Stanley Cup is paraded in Europe, are they asked what country they play for, or what team?

Perhaps it's just the attitude as exhibited by the fans of World Cup teams which are made up of national soccer players, fighting for a Championship on a national level, for a country to feel their own sense of pride.

Is the US going to party it up cause the Canes win the Stanley Cup?

Hardly.

Canada going to go nuts if the Oilers miraculously come back to win the Finals?

Hardly (times two).

For all those fans who are simply watching the Finals because they like the game, have fun, enjoy what has been the best season of NHL hockey since the implementation of the dreaded trap.

If you want to cheer for Canada or the US, wait for the World Cup, or the Olympics.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Game Four Prediction: Canes Road Scoring

There is one thing that the Canes have done throughout the playoffs and that is score well at home. When it comes to the road, that's a different story.

This game will be won on the effectiveness of Carolina's ability to score on the road. Eric Staal has dried up recently, after lighting it up with a 15 games point streak at some point, but there is still plenty of firepower left in the voracious Rod Brind'Amour, Cory Stillman and Doug Weight.

The Oilers scoring woes were lifted with two-point efforts from Ales Hemsky and Jaroslav Spacek, while Ryan Smyth scored a strange one. Shawn Horcoff broke out of a slump in Game Three as well. The Oilers better come out shooting on all cylinders tonight, cause its do or die.

This is a pivotal game for the Canes, even more so than the Oilers. Yes, the Oilers desperately need the win to stay alive. But if Carolina can bag that third win, they go back to a friendlier RBC Center, with a lightened load. If they lose, they go back to and Edmonton team that has perofrmed admirably on the road in the playoffs. Do they want to risk those chances? Highly unlikely.

As dismal as the scoring has been, the Canes still find ways to win, even low scoring, tight games. Having said that, I think that Carolina will win a 3-1 game tonight, to mirror the series lead at the end of the game.

Just a gut feeling.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rules Rules Rules

Creativity from Icing?

What’s the point of keeping the same players on the ice penalizing the team that ices the puck? Players have always been told to HOG (high off glass) the puck. If they are scrambling, in trouble in their own zone, they always have the option of getting it high off the glass down the ice. Now they are penalizing the player that did not make the best play, but relieved the pressure in their own zone by icing the puck. The face-off comes back into the defensive zone as a punishment for that action. Why the doubling of punishment?

How does keeping the same players on the ice enhance creativity? Gary Bettman even alluded to expand that rule to goalies freezing the puck. Enhance creativity by keeping tired players on the ice doesn't seem to jive with a logical progression of the game.

Double Punishment for Goalies

Keeping with the theme of rules, the no-touch zones of goalies is another ‘punishment’ but this time to the development of young goalies. Once again, where does this rule enhance offensive creativity? If anything, it is a detriment to not only the goalies, but to the defense as well. They are now facing more pressure, and being put in a position where they have to take the a hit for the sake of getting the puck out of the zone, or keeping it away from the opposition. Goalies alleviated this constant barrage of hits by playing the puck.

Goalies that have developed the skill to handle pucks is a major asset to any team. Brodeur and Belfour were great at handling pucks and turning the play around in transition. It was the fact that they were able to do so that enhanced their own team’s creativity, stopping the momentum of the forechecking forwards and sending your own player away up ice in transition.

What kind of message are we sending the kids beginning to play and develop? Don’t bother trying to handle the puck? And what happens if this rule is dropped, similar to the re-implementation of tag-up offside? There would be a generational gap of goalies that have not developed that skill that must pick it up fast.

The newly obstruction-less NHL can negate the argument of a goalie wandering for pucks into the corners, where the no-touch zones are currently placed. In previous seasons, with the implementation of the trap, opposing forwards were hindered on the way to the net. There is no more of that in today’s NHL. If a goalie wandered to the corner while leaving his net unguarded and a forechecker barreling in unobstructed, then it’s the 'tenders fault for letting in a bad goal.

One goalie that could definitely have benefited from this rule, would have been Arturs Irbe. He should never have left his crease.

Ever.

Lawsuits Limited

After watching the Sabres give up the game-winning goal to the Hurricanes in Game Seven on a delay-of-game penalty on Buffalo’s Brian Campbell, from flipping the puck into the stands in his own zone, I got to thinking. Was that rule instituted to truly deter a delay-of-game?

Or was it to minimize the risk of lawsuits from errant pucks going into the crowd?

Now Boarding…

There is a necessity of creating a clear-cut definition for Boarding, or hits from behind. The idea of hitting a player if they can see the numbers is good but players have got the message and some turn their backs prior to getting hit, or to avoid getting hit altogether.

Players will always find ways around established rules, (for evidence see games played with the neutral-zone trap.) An opposing player bumps goalies coming high out of the safety zone of the blue iced crease and they get the goaltender interference penalty.

The NHL rules committee will have to figure out a solution to this problem. It has always been a problem, but no one should have to risk getting crippled and ruin a life in order to fish a three-inch black disk from an ice surface.

Gary Roberts, Erik Cole and even Wayne Gretzky, (courtesy of a cheap Gary Suter hit from behind in the Canada Cup) have been hit from behind and suffered damage, among many others.

© Gus Katsaros 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hurricanes Lucky; Horcoff Snake Bitten


Hurricanes Lucky Lady

Credit the Hurricanes for what they have accomplished this post-season. There must be a feeling of invincibility that comes with a 2-0 series lead. Give them their respect while keeping in mind some of the stranger incidents in the post-season.

In Round One the foot was on their throats the same way they now have it placed on the Oilers. They were down 2-0, reeling in a goaltending issue after Martin Gerber didn’t perform as expected over the first two games. The Hurricanes needed to make a decision.

They went with rookie Cam Ward in Game Three and now they are ahead two games on the happy side of the ledger in the Finals.

Saku Koivu had an errant stick hit him near the eye, knocking him out of the Round One series.

Canes win in six.

Four defensemen and Tim Connolly was too much adversity for the Sabres to overcome, however it still took six and two-third games to put them away.

Canes in seven.

Roloson is gone after playing fifty-four minutes in the finals and watched the Game Two shellacking.

In three series a key player or more were missing from the opposition lineups. Beside the loss of Erik Cole, Carolina has been fortunate not have to go through their own injury spell this post-season.

They have been great throughout the post-season and that can be partially attributed to not having to alter the lineup every game due to injury.

Glen Wesley almost became the first casualty when he took a shot on the outside of his right knee in the first period of Game One. He got up and back into the play, in enough time to get another shot off the same knee, on the same play. He hobbled to the bench in obvious pain, but he’s a trooper and came back in the second period. Commitment like that is how you win championships.

Thank goodness for Lady Luck.

Snake bitten Horcoff

Shawn Horcoff was one of the players who suffered from that strange bug that went around the Oilers dressing room in the Western Conference Finals against the Mighty Ducks. A six game point streak (6 4-4-8) was snapped in Game Two of that series and he has two assists in the past six games.

He was robbed twice in the third period of Game One by rookie phenom Cam Ward. Once, with three seconds left on the clock. That goal would have forced overtime and swung the momentum back to the Oilers side after losing Roloson only five minutes earlier.

Cam Ward stopped him with the same glove hand both times around the midway point between ice-level and crossbar. It seemed to be Ward’s range.

In Game Two he missed his third glorious opportunity in the Finals to get the Oilers on the board when he missed an open net in the second period. Having been robbed twice at that height, did he have it in his head to shoot higher? Did Cam Ward’s glove haunt him?

A goalmouth scramble squirted the puck onto his stick just above the crease. He turned and fired it over the net. It was still 2-0 at that point with the game still within reach. He scores it’s a different game. He missed.

The Oilers need more production from their whole lineup, but those chances have to be buried in the Finals.

He’s not the main culprit. Horcoff is caught in the same funk as the other big guns. The Oilers will have a home crowd on their side for two games. They went home down 2-0 to the Sharks in Round Two.

In that series a similar funk surfaced in the first two games. It was Horcoff that scored the marathon overtime goal in Game Three to kick-start a streak of four goals in four games and turn the series around from a two game deficit, into a four game win streak.

He is definitely due, and a breakout is desperately needed now. Its déjà vu of San Jose. Last time, he stepped it up. Circumstances have slightly changed, but he must be looking at the overtime goal as inspiration for Game Three against the Canes.

Maybe he should ask the Canes for a cup of that Lady Luck…

© Gus Katsaros

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Islander Bring Smith, Nolan Into Fold

The New York Islanders have called a press conference Thursday to announce that they have hired Neil Smith as GM and Ted Nolan as head coach.

Both Smith and Nolan have been out of the NHL for some time.

Click on the Link above.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yet Another Commandment

Further to the Commandments that were set forth in a prior post, this is the latest addition:

THOU SHALT NOT KNOCK THE OPPOSITION INTO YOUR OWN GOALTENDER!