Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Press Box Hockey Talk 2010/2011

Press Box Hockey Talk: Pre-Season Thoughts

On My Mind

The Salary Cap

Believe it or not I was a big fan of the salary cap when it was implemented following the lockout. When discussions were ongoing between the NHL and the PA I was hoping that the league would win that battle. And this is coming from a LEAF FAN!! I loved the days during summer when I would wait to see what big name the Leafs could lure away from other teams and keep themselves in playoff contention by doing so. When the Cap was being discussed I wanted it so that other teams, smaller markets in particular, would be able to compete on a regular basis, year in and year out. I continue to hear people say that the cap hinders teams that draft well. Since the Hawks won the Cup, ‘Cap Haters’ have stated that now they have to trade all their good young players away and it’s unfair. True it is unfair that the Hawks had to trade away Dustin Byufglien, Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg, who they drafted and developed in their system, however, Ladd was not a Chicago draftee, nor was. And who told the Hawks to give out terrible contracts to Huet and Campbell at cap hits of 5.5 and 7.5 million per year? Maybe they could have kept their young players if they didn’t hand out such terrible contracts, which resulted in the trading of their own drafted players. In addition, Patrick Sharp was not drafted by Chicago either. I’m aware to get over the hump teams have to trade to add a few missing pieces, but don’t ignore the fact that some of these UFA signings to get over the hump cost the team their young players.

Another thing, I don’t hear Detroit Red Wings fans complaining about the cap. They go about their business by being thorough with players they pick up via trade or free agency. In addition, they use their young drafted players smart and as a way to avoid going over the cap. They understand player value better than any other team and don’t pay players unnecessarily or in long term deals before they have yet to prove anything.

Back to another reason I love the salary cap as a Leaf fan. I know it sounds crazy right! It’s because I love to get excited about a team’s farm system and young players. I know, I know, Burke traded 2010 and 2011 first rounders away but atleast it was for a very good young player in Phil Kessel. In addition, it was really enjoyable and exciting watching the Leafs draft Schenn and Kadri. It’s exciting to hear about (and you knew they were going to every summer) a big name free agent (albeit usually past their prime...ok always past their prime).

Right and Wrong

Alright, I can admit when I’m wrong. I hate when people are quick to ask for praise when they predict something right but are never heard from when they are wrong. First, where I was wrong....The Calgary Flames. I had these guys winning their division. It looked as if Kiprusoff wasn’t going to continue to decline, yet I still thought he had some gas in the tank, which he showed he did last year. The Flames would have found themselves a lot lower in the Standings without Kipper. In addition, how disappointed was in with their defense. I said their defense was the best in the league. On paper, I stand by comments, however, not according to their play. Bouwmeester looked nothing like the Bouwmeester they traded for from Florida. I didn’t think their forwards were the best but thought it would be enough to get the job done.. OK! I was wrong!

Second mistake. I picked the Flyers to win the Cup last year. I know, I know you’re thinking well not bad considering they made it to the Finals. Well....When Emery got hurt I sort of abandoned ship. I just didn’t think their goaltending would be up to par.

Now...where was I right? The Vancouver Cancuks! I always said they would be in the playoffs. I never disputed that but Canuck fans everywhere ripped into me when I stated they were never real threats to win the Cup. They would rip me up and down saying their forwards were one of the deepest in the leagues and they had Luongo. Yes, the Canucks have great forward depth and Luongo is a great goaltender (though the 09’ playoffs left some doubt in his playoffs ability), but my concern all year long was defence! They don’t have a true number one defenceman. No Lidstrom, no Chara or Pronger. And their depth on defence was questionable due to injuries. I stated over and over throughout the year this would be the downfall of the team...Glad Gillis listened to me when he decided to trade for Andrew Alberts at the deadline. Ok, enough sarcasm, but seriously, for all the people who suggested that defence wasn’t a concern, I guess that’s why they traded for Ballard and signed Hamhuis. This definitely makes the Canucks a true contender, and although they still have no true number one defenseman, hopefully these additions can give them the depth, which will compensate. In the West, they’ll be in tough though. That conference is scary deep.

Leaf Fan Rant!

No secret I bleed the blue and white and although I do like alot of the moves Burke made in the offseason I still don’t understand why Kaberle is still a member of the team. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great player, but they really don’t need his skill set any longer with the emergence of Gunnarson on the powerplay. I don’t know what was offered but I figured even if just a 1st rounder was offered it would have been worth it.

Another thing regarding the Maple Leafs defense is the depth. I don’t remember seeing this kind of depth that the Leafs have on the backend in years. Komisarek, Beauchemin, Phaneuf, Gunnarson, Schenn, Kaberle, Lebda with Blacker, Aulie, Mikus all waiting for an opportunity. I know some think it might be crazy but if you could trade Schenn in a package for a top line forward, why not do it? The most I ever see him being is a Top 4 defenseman with limited offensive potential. The depth on defense allows the Leafs to do that especially considering their oldest defenseman is Kaberle at 32.

One last quick thought. Is Mike Komisarek the new Jeff Finger? Neither are terrible NHLers by any mean, and Komisarek is definitely better then Finger, however, for a 5 million dollar cap hit, Komi shouldn’t definitely be playing more than 13 minutes a night on the third defense pairing. Is Komisarek tradable? If so, is it time to explore that possibility after only one injury filled season in Toronto?

Now for my predictions...

**NOTE: All picks were made prior to the start of the season**


1-Washington – Hey, I’m not saying they’re going to win the Cup. I’ve lost some confidence in their playoff performance and it’s up to them to win it back. But they’re regular season powerhouses. The San Jose Sharks of the East as of right now, if you will.

2- New Jersey – Great goaltending, Solidified the defense, and offensive depth they haven’t ever had. This team makes the Atlantic Division one of, if not, the best divisions in the league. Loved the acquisition of Hedberg. Brodeur can get some rest without any hesitation.

3- Boston – Here’s hoping that Rask doesn’t suffer from the sophomore slump. Even though Wideman had an off year, his departure hurt their depth on the back end. Love the addition of Horton.

4-Pittsburgh – Similar to Washington, you know what you’re going to get with these guys. Still not happy they haven’t added good wingers yet, but it is about time they shifted Malkin or Staal to the wing so that they could both get top 6 ice time. Great defensive additions as well.

5-Philadelphia – Will miss Gagne when he wasn’t hurt. Zherdev should be a solid contributor playing with Briere, Richards or Carter. Good move to trade for Meszaros. He isn’t a top pair defender but in Philly he won’t have to be. They made their solid defense even better.

6- Ottawa – With Gonchar quarterbacking the powperlay that should definitely help Kovalev and Spezza get more opportunities. Time to see if they can find some consistency in goal.

7- Tampa Bay – I know. Seems like a bit of a jump from 12th to 7th but I love their depth up front, where Gagne makes them that much more dangerous. I believe that Hedman will emerge this year as a force on both ends, while I loved the additions of Clarke and Kubina. Bringing Ellis in is a win-win. Cheap price could pay huge dividends.

8- Buffalo – Although I think they’ll miss the departures of Lydman and Tallinder, I can’t find myself writing off Miller. And it’s not like they have to win the division. Just have to make it into the playoffs. Ellis should make an impact in the top 6 this year.

9-Toronto – Here’s hoping I’m wrong and they make it into the playoffs, but I just see too many teams in front of them to do so. I really like their defense. It’s too bad they weren’t able to build a package, including Kaberle, to obtain a top line forward. They need offense bad and don’t have much of a need for Kaberle anymore.

10-Carolina – Missed a chunk of the season without their top keeper and top forward. Atleast they saw that they had a keeper in Sutter. Depth will be the downfall of this team. They should do alright this year. He might very well get his shot this year, but even if he doesn’t Jeff Skinner is looking to be a great draft pick.

11-Montreal – I’ve said all along that Halak was their man. Not because I don’t think Price will be a great keeper but because he just won’t be a great keeper for Montreal. I thought that they could have got more/better for Halak but Lars Eller sounds like he could be a solid pickup. Depth may very well be an issue this year with injuries to Markov and Hamrlik (depending) already looking troublesome.

12- New York Rangers – Great goaltending, suspect defense, best player is injury prone. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

13-Florida Panthers – I’m counting them out this year due to lack of scoring and holes on defense. They’re in the rebuilding process though and should be dangerous in another 2 years. Hopefully they can trade Vokoun at some point this year for some draft picks or solid prospect(s) to help in the rebuild. Markstrom is knocking on the door!

14- Atlanta Thrashers – Loved their off season pickups by taking advantage of the Blackhawks Cap misfortunes. Watch for Kane this year. Similar to the Panthers, a few years away but have solid pieces coming up.

15- New York Islanders – Solid pieces coming up but not their time yet. Here’s hoping that Dipietro can stay injury free for their sake. Losing Okposo leaves this team really slim up front. Love Garth Snow’s patience though. Hey, with nobody expecting anything big yet, why not take a Top 3 pick in 2011 where there looks to be some studs to be had.


1- Detroit – With Chicago having to trade away some of their depth and Detroit looking to be healthy for a whole season, they are primed to recapture their division. I’m banking on Howard not suffering from the sophomore slump this year. Additions of Modano and the return of Hudler from Russia should pay big dividends.

2- Vancouver – Loved the defensive additions. Thought they paid a bit much for Ballard. Now with great defensive and forward depth they should take a step forward in the playoffs this year.

3 Los Angeles – Up and comers should continue to progress this season. A battle, between Quick and Bernier, for the number one spot, should keep them playing at their best. The signing of Willie Mitchell should help an already solid defense.

4- Chicago – Although I don’t have them winning their division, they won’t drop off that much. Great, cheap, signing in Turco. Good drafting and trading should allow youth to continue to emergence as the Cap Crunch continues.

5- San Jose – Was worried they were happy with having Nittymaki and Greiss as their keepers for the year. Good idea to sign Niemi. Looking forward to seeing how their young defense does with the loss of Blake and how Logan Couture continues to develop.

6- Phoenix – Two solid years in a row have made me a believer. Great trade to acquire Wolski for Mueller who just couldn’t seem to get it going consistently in the desert. Time for younger players like Turris and Boedker to start paying dividends and showing their worth.

7- St.Louis – After an off year, they should show that they are progressing. With solid goaltending coming in with Halak and bounce back years from Boyes and some of the younger players, they should have the power to make it into the playoffs. Interested to see if Pietrangelo is able to take his talent to the next level. If so, having defense, including Johnson and Pietrangelo, are great building blocks to the future.

8- Colorado – Wondering if they can repeat their Cinderella performance of last year. Foote, Hejduk and Hannan are a year older but so are Duchene, Stewart and O’Reilly. Might all depend on if Anderson can put together another consistent year.

9- Calgary – I put too much faith in them last year. I do believe that Bouwmeester will have a bounce back year, but for a GM I used to think was solid, I’m starting to wonder if he’s all there mentally anymore bringing back Tanguay and Jokinen.

10- Nashville – Hard to push a team, who always proves people wrong, out of the playoffs but maybe this will be the year it catches up to them. Great defenseman in Weber and a solid signing in Lombardi, but I wonder if depth will be an issue.

11- Anaheim – Loss of Neidermayer should hurt A LOT! Health of the big guns, Getzlaf, Ryan, Perry and Selanne will determine how far this team can go. Have some solid young defenseman in Fowler and Sbisa coming along.

12- Edmonton – Similar to Florida, this team will be great in a couple of years. Goaltending and defense is the question mark. Hey, another top 5 pick (to use on a defenseman!!) won’t hurt. Any team with the names Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi seem to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.

13- Dallas – Turco looked average but to let him walk and put all your money on an injury plagued keeper is a dangerous game. Like the forwards, it’s the defense and goalie I worry about.

14- Minnesota – Liked the additions of Madden and Cullen for depth but their defense leaves a lot to be desired. Past Mikael Grandlund, this franchise is in desperate need to restock the prospect cupboard.

15- Columbus – For a team that looked like they were about to emerge a couple of years ago they took a step back last year. Mason should bounce back but it won’t be enough unless Nash, Filatov and Brassard have amazing years. Defense, in my opinion, is a concern.

I don’t know if I can pick the actual finalists for the Stanley Cup, but lets say for now Pittsburgh/Washington vs. Detroit/Vancouver

Thanks for reading! And whatever became of Aki Berg?

Monday, March 29, 2010

UFC Mania!

On My Mind

All in all I was happy with the performances at UFC 111. With too many hyped cards that don't live up to expectations this was not one of them in terms of entertainment value.

Bocek vs Miller

Great way to start off the main card with the fight going the distance. Alot of controversy surrounding the decision at the end of the fight with Miller getting the victory. The way I saw it was Miller and Bocek splitting the 2nd and 3rd rounds, thus leaving the 1st round as the deciding factor as I saw that round as the closest of the three. Did the cut leave an impression with the judges that Bocek suffered more damage? Did home field advantage sway the judges opinion? If you ask me it may have been all of the above. It wouldn't be the first time where the UFC has had a deicision swayed by a fighters home crowd or by a cut making it appear as though the person took more damage then reality.

Fitch vs Saunders

First thing I thought after Alves was deemed unable to compete Saturday was that I was really looking forward to his match against Fitch. Both fighters appear unstoppable in the Welterweight division (leaving out their losses against GSP) and it would have been interesting to see if Fitch would finally be knocked out by the heavy hands of Alves or if he would continue his dominance of taking his opponents down to the canvas and smothering them on way to another judges decision. Quite quickly after the Alves announcement Saunders and Fitch agreed to fight on Satuday (short notice? In terms of opponents I guess but both were already competing on the card). I didn't doubt that Fitch would win the fight, and felt bad for Saunders to an extent. Saunders, still a young fighter, was making quite his mark in the Welterweight division, however, had yet to fight any “big” name fighters. It was evident that Saunders was out of his league, with no solution to Fitch's usual strategy of taking his opponents to the mat at will as it was a re-occurring theme for the entire fight.

Pellegrino vs Camoes

Great fight in terms or excitement. The fight went back and forth until Pellegrino was able to sink in a rear naked choke causing Camoes to tap. Both fighters should be commended on a great battle, which is what Dana White loves to see from his fighters, win, lose, or draw. I look forward to seeing both men fight at future events.

Mir vs Carwin

It appeared to be a replay of the last Mir vs Lesnar fight. Carwin easily handled Mir by first pushing him up against the cage then delivering numerous uppercuts until Mir collapsed onto the mat where he continued the assault until the Ref called a stoppage to the fight. Carwin's streak of 1st round victories continues as Mir simply did not look good, and leaves me to wonder what Mir will do. A match vs Junior Dos Santos or Velasquez is not out of the question, however, it is apparent that Mir can not compete against either Lesnar or Carwin, with both defeating Mir in dominating fashions. The Carwin victory sets up a match that was supposed to happen back in November, in a unification bout. I think Showdown Joe described it best stating that if the fight stays standing then Carwin has the advantage, however, if Lesnar is able to take it to the ground he has the advantage. It just seems like great matches are falling into place for the UFC and I am one of the many who are excited for the Heavyweight Championship title fight, which appears to be slated for July 3rd.

GSP vs Hardy

Not surprising to many, GSP did what he does best, which is to take his opponent to the mat at will and dominate them for 5 rounds. Unfortunately for GSP, many fans are growing tired of seeing him dominate his opponents yet not being able to finish them, whether that be by submission or ground and pound. I don't know what it is. Does GSP just not have the killer instinct, as it seemed as though he almost stopped twisting Hardy's arm during one of the armbars, just as it appeared that Hardy had almost had enough. Maybe GSP just doesn't have the finishing part mastered, which would allow him to submit his opponents. He is obviously strong as he takes opponents down easily in many different forms and by many different methods and lifts his opponents up for slams easy enough. Obviously GSP, by his post match comments, would love to defeat his opponents by tap out or TKO instead of going to decision everytime, however, at the end of the day he is still dominating in a major aspect of the sport. In addition, its like White said after the match as well, maybe his opponents should learn some takedown defence.

Definitely looking forward to the next few months, which is full of UFC events. Key matches I'm looking forward to watching are Rashad vs Rampage (UFC 114), its always exciting to watch matches between guys who actually have a dislike for each other, Machida vs Rua and Cote vs Belcher (UFC 113). Machida has to make up for a lacklustre effort in their last contest, while Rua wants a chance to win the title after not getting the controversial judges decision in their last bout. Interested in seeing how Cote fairs after the knee injury he suffered during his title fight vs Silva. Here's hoping he can regain his form from before the injury and climb his way back up the Middleweight ladder.

Making Good on Second Chances

On My Mind

I wrote an article a few months ago hoping that Mike Danton would turn his life around and that someone would provide him with an opportunity to do so. I was very excited when I heard that St.Mary's was giving him that second chance and I was even more excited when I heard (I don't follow the CIS very closely) that St.Mary's had a shot a making to the National Championship, which just to add icing to the cake, they ended up winning yesterday. So here is my follow up congratulations to Mike and hoping he continues his journey to playing pro hockey again, whether that be in the NHL, AHL or over in Europe. It's great to see someone doing something with their second chance.

On to NHL talk...The playoffs are so close I can taste it and I am really excited. What is happening with all the top teams in the West though? The only top team playing great right now are the Vancouver Canucks. Chicago and San Jose better get their acts together if they want any chance to compete in the playoffs because as of right now they just are not playing like cup contenders. Like most people, I like to be praised for my good predictions. Here it is: New Jersey wouldn't miss a beat this year unlike how so many critics suggested they would (some even suggesting that they would miss the playoffs). Similarly, I can admit when a prediction goes wrong: Calgary making the playoffs. Maybe it's because I am a huge fan of Iginla but I really expected them to be better than they currently are, which is simply put...AWFUL!

How about the Red Wings being one of, if not, the hottest team in the league right now. Great timing to put a streak together...At the start of the season I didn't have Howard in my top 3 predicted Calder finalists. At the half way mark of the season when I made my predictions I had Howard as my third choice in Calder voting with Duchene and Myers coming in ahead of him. Since, I think Duchene is my third choice with the winner coming down to Myers and Howard. Sure Myers has been crucial to Buffalo's defense, but how crucial has Howard been with the survival of the injury ravaged Red Wings. With the injuries they had, nobody would have been surprised to see them out of the playoffs, maybe even getting a top 10 draft pick. This may be the closest Calder race we've had in years.

Not that I had Mike Green winning the Norris, nor do I think he deserves it but give the guy some slack. He is +33 (+11 better than he was all of last season) on a team where goaltending is the major concern. I know offense isn't everything and I watched him in last years playoffs where I saw awful defensive coverage on his part, however, I haven't watched enough Capitals contests this season to make a comment. For all I know his defensive game may have improved. Speaking of the Capitals, I read that Ovechkin only has 11 power play goals this season (as of Saturday). How good is that!! For a guy who must strike fear into the other team's penalty killing unit, he does most of his damage 5 on 5.

Can't say that I feel bad for the Rangers missing the playoffs this year. Don't get me wrong, I have all the respect in the world for Glen Sather for his Stanley Cup rings, however, the game has obviously passed him by. He has made some very poor decisions when it has come to the players he has both traded and signed. Similar to the leafs he was saved for many years before the lockout at covering his mistakes by having a near unlimited payroll, however, signings such as Drury and Redden have simply made him look foolish and amateur. You could even argue that offering Gaborik a 5 year 37.5 million contract was a little on the risky side. No doubt Gaborik is one of the top pure goal scorers in the NHL, however, with a injury plagued career thus far it was definitely a gamble with the amount of money they signed him to.

Thanks for reading....And hey, whatever became of Dimitri Yushkevich?

Monday, March 15, 2010

To Suspend Or Not To Suspend That Is The Question....

On My Mind

Suspensions are the hot button debate on radio programs, television shows and message boards everywhere. I find it terribly unfortunate that there is so much discussion regarding penalties and suspensions. Hockey is a fantastic game that no other sport can match. It combines skill, stamina, strength, toughness and teamwork in order to accomplish your objective of scoring more goals than your opposition. I would rather talk about trades, awards, playoffs, and which team is the best but since we're on the topic, I'm going to chime in with what I think.

Should Cooke have been suspended? Yes and no. I think there should have already been a rule in place so that Richards and Cooke both would have been suspended, however, according to the rule book, because both players kept their elbows tucked and led with their shoulders, technically they didn't throw an illegal hit. Similar to the unsportsmanlike conduct rule, which was implemented right after Avery waved his stick in front of Brodeurs face during the playoffs, the NHL and NHLPA need to act immediately to implement a rule so that these hits are no longer legal. I'll be the first guy to encourage playing hard and I love a big hit, however, I'm not going to cheer or encourage hits that leave players unconscious or convulsing on the ice.

Ovechkin suspension fair? I would say yes. I already stated that I predicted that he would get between 2-4 games (I was leaning closer to 2 games) as the hit wasn't quite as bad as the Lapierre one, however, still no matter how great a player is for the league (and I am a huge fan of Ovechkin) you can't let these hits go unpunished. I was relieved to see Ovechkin get a suspension though. I think people were starting to get restless after there was no suspension handed to Cooke.

On to better things

It looks like Stamkos will finish with around 90 points this year. I thought he would have a good year this year but I predicted that he would be a point per game guy. Breaking the 90 point barrier in only his second year is incredible and no easy task. If Tampa Bay were to make the playoffs he should definitely garner some Hart votes, however, if they don't leave him off the ballot. I'm a firm believer that MVP candidates should be required to be on a playoff team. How valuable is a player if their team doesn't make the playoffs? If your team doesn't make it then it really doesn't matter how close you were. Speaking of the Lightning, I had them making the playoffs last year as I thought last year was the team working on chemistry issues and battling through poor goaltending. I guess Mike Smith just isn't as good as I thought he was.

How good are the Detroit Red Wings playing recently? Since their injured players have come back they have looked awesome. Plus, Howard has also looked awesome for the majority of the season. I will admit that I was one of the skeptics who thought Howard would never materialize into that number one keeper after looking average for the majority of his AHL career. So far this year he has made me eat my words. There will definitely be some teams who wish they took advantage of Detroit's injury woes while they had the chance. Saying all this, do you think they'll make the playoffs? It's going to come down to Calgary and Detroit and while I have made it clear I like the make up of Calgary's team, I don't know if they'll be able to keep Detroit out. If Detroit does make it, I feel sorry for the number one seed in the West.

For years, people have stated that the Western Conference has been stronger than the East. This year is no different and if you're looking for proof just look at the true contenders from each conference. In the East you have the Penguins, Capitals and Devils, while in the West you have the Sharks, Blackhawks, Canucks, Coyotes (with their recent play) and Kings. On top of that, who knows what could happen if Detroit makes the playoffs. And if they do and beat anyone, would it really be considered an upset?

Thanks for reading....And whatever became of Steve Kelly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trade Deadline Duh...

On My Mind

The Trade Dealine
Like many people I spent las Wednesday sitting in front of the television and surfing the internet looking for the latest rumours and trades, only to be left with a feeling of disappointment. Not only because of the lack of big names involved in trades (aware that names such as Phaneuf and Kovalchuk were dealt prior to the olympic break), but also because I am surprised at how some teams stood pat with what they have.

I'm sure it's been overdone but here are some of my thoughts...

Washington did great!! Walker and Belanger are amazing additions. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is players like Walker who are major pieces in winning championships. Sure Malkin did have a great playoff last year but Talbot was incredible. Not only did he score the two goals in the final game but the Carcillo fight was a huge turning point in the Flyers-Penguins series. Unlike some people I am not as worried about goaltending, although I am surprised that they didn't try and get a top tier defensive defenseman, which I have mentioned I thought they needed. Corvo was a great pickup but I thought they could really use that 'shutdown defenseman'. I see this team definitely making some noise in the playoffs.

Penguins made some solid moves. Again, like Washington, I thought they could have used a defensive defenseman, as Rob Scuderi, was a key component in their defense last year, but Leopold is a solid depth defenseman and I think Ponikarovsky will fit in nicely on the second line.

The Devils obviously made their big splash before the deadline with Kovachuk, however, as I mentioned in a previous column, I really thought they needed another solid defenseman. Hamhuis would have been perfect, but I suppose after dealing for Kovalchuk they just weren't willing to deal anymore prospects or draft picks. I am a big Brodeur fan, and have gone on record saying that their great goaltending and defensive system will ease the pain of their lack of defensive depth, however, I think one more good defenseman would have put them over the top.

The Flyers did nothing. No clue what they are thinking. There are a select few teams, such as the Sharks, who were quite capable of doing nothing and look great going into the playoffs, however, the Flyers are not one of those teams. I read analysts suggesting that they needed another solid defensman...Come on! Sure everyone wants some depth but the second they knew Emery (who I thought might be barely good enough to get them to the finals) is gone for the season you have to make a deal for a goaltender! Leighton? Sure, he has played great since being acquired on re-entry waivers, but are you seriously going to bank on a goalie, who you claimed off waivers, to carry you through the playoffs? It's unfortunate because I really thought this team had a chance to compete with the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Now? Not a chance.

Boston. Obviously, hey didn't do much, but I don't see it as a bad thing. I definitely thought they didn't get enough for Morris. Not that he is an all-star, but if guys like Moore and Sutton are getting 2nd rounders, then you would think Morris would be worth more than only a 4th. Here's my thinking. Sure, they need scoring help, but I didn't see any moves out there that would put this team back into contention this year. I really thought Boston should have sold off a few more assets like Recchi and Thornton (not that you would get too much for either) and prepare for next year. This team still has a solid YOUNG nucleus. I don't see the point of trying for it this year as there are too many concerns in the lineup. I heard people saying they should package a first rounder and Ryder to get his contract off the books. Why? He has one year left. If anything, with the emergence of Rask, they should be trying to get rid of Thomas. In any case, deal with it, and hopefully this year you get two top 10 picks in the draft, both of which could equate to really good players. Right now it appears that Boston management is content with being a fringe playoff team. Not sure why, as it will be a short lived playoff run for the Bruins this year. The injury to Savard (and I say this in nicest way possible, as I love Savard dating back to when he played for the Generals) might be a blessing in disguise. This team may as well pack in this year and Savard's injury (hopefully it isn't too bad though) might do the trick to have this team fall further down the standings.

In my opinion, the Canucks did not do enough. Alberts wasn't the answer on defense. Although there was talk that Vancouver needed more depth on forward (I was one of the critics), I am not as worried about it anymore and think the defense is the real question mark. If Mitchell is unavailable for the playoffs, I really don't think this team has the depth to make a real run. One thing they do have going for them is that they are still young and should be in the mix for atleast the next 5 years.

I don't think there is much doubt that Phoenix made the biggest splash at the deadline. Wolski and Morris are great additions for this team. Sure Morris is more offensively gifted than defensively, but I have always been a fan and think that his addition can only help. As of right now, Phoenix would be playing LA, although Colorado is right near them, which is unfortunate because all three teams are great stories this year.

Lastly, I would like to talk about Carolina. Obviously they made some moves, but why do they still have Ray Whitney? I'm not sure whether it was him not getting his extension or if Rutherford did not like the offers coming in but I hope for his sake that it was the extension holding up a deal. I know some are suggesting that it's fine because Whitney could re-sign with them but I have no idea where the logic is there. Carolina has some great pieces in Sutter, Ward and Staal but realistically, they won't be able to really compete for another couple of years. Thus, there is no need for Whitney, for the rest of this year or for the next couple of years, as he is 37 right now and won't be of any benefit in 2 years. Who cares if the deal being offered isn't the greatest, although I'm positive they were offered atleast a 1st round pick. I would have had no problem with Rutherford even not trading him until 2:55 pm trying to put the pressure on other teams, however, I see no reason in not trading him. Something is always better than nothing.

One last thing. I am aware of I have mentioned previously in this column that teams are young and will still being able to compete for years to come, but I think that the slogan “win now, while you have the opportunity” applies presently more than ever before. The league is so good and parity is so widespread that hoping for next year might equal to not being in the playoffs. Hopefully, there are teams who stood by and watched the deadline pass by, while doing no trading, who won't be regretting it this time next year.

Thanks for reading....And hey, whatever became of Rico Fata?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olympic Gold!!!

On My Mind

What else would be on my mind? Maybe Canada winning Gold? Obvious. Before I get back to writing my weekly NHL columns I have to get one last post in regarding the Olympics. Sure Canada didn't get the most medals but considering after about a week we were sitting in 5th or 6th in the medal count and most analysts were suggesting that we wouldn't come anywhere near our medal goal they sure are singing a different tune now. I didn't hear too many people suggesting that we still had a chance to be top 3 in the medal count let alone breaking the winter Olympic record for Gold medals. Another thing, is it just me, but when the Olympics started I couldn't stand that 'Believe' theme song, but now I love it and loved watching when a Canadian athlete won a medal and they would play it to a montage of the athlete(s) competing.

On to the main event. GO CANADA GO!! Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Congrats to the Olympic men's hockey team for their win last night. Sure, I don't think this is the biggest win in Canadian hockey, nor would I argue that Canada wasn't the favourite coming in, however, there is no debating (in my mind) that this wasn't the most competitive international tournament ever played. You had the obvious favourites in Canada, Russia and the defending Gold medalists Sweden, however, you could never count out Finland or the United States with Miller in goal. In addition, with the play of Slovakia and the Czech Republic they showed they aren't slowing down and are in fact only getting better in developing their players. Plus, one had to be impressed with the heart Switzerland showed. I have to say, although just about everyone (including myself) suggested the U.S. would go as far as Ryan Miller could take them (and he did play amazing), but the rest of their team played really well and probably better than most analysts thought they would. In fact, my prediction for the next olympics (as long as NHLers participate) is another Canada vs U.S. showdown. I think Russia will definitely be a force to be reckoned with, but with Sweden and Finland getting older the top teams will definitely be shifting, with possibly Slovakia and the Czech Republic replacing them in the 'Favourites' category.

Back to reality...Can't say I'm that disappointed though, cause one of my favourite times of the year is nearly upon us...Trade deadline day!!! Super exciting, and I am very interested in seeing what moves are made. Especially this year as there seem to be alot more teams than usual in the hunt for playoff spots. I want to see who will be sellers and who feel like they can make one last push to the playoffs.

Hope everyone enjoyed the Olympics and we're not done yet. If last years playoffs were any indication, the best hockey of the year may yet to have come.

Thanks for reading...And hey, whatever became of Valeri Bure?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic Kickoff!!!

On My Mind

I was going to write an article this week about the main teams competing in the Olympics this year but I've seen so many columns written about it and so many shows on TV that when I saw Alexandre Bilodeau win Gold last night during the Men's Mogul Final I figured that he deserved this to be dedicated to him. I am fully aware that this is a hockey site, however, watching Bilodeau last night not only showed me how exciting other sports can be but also that there is so much more to life. If watching everything unfold during this event didn't pull at your heart strings and bring tears to your eyes, I'm not sure what will. Bilodeau winning the first Gold ever on Canadian soil during the Olympics was the perfect story. It had the Hero (Bilodeau), the villain (Dale Begg-Smith) and the feel good story (Alexandre's brother Frederic who suffers from cerebral palsy).

There is still a alot of mystery surrounding Begg-Smith who was born in Canada, but left after having a 'falling out' with the Canadian Government. He moved to Australia and now competes for them. He was unwilling to do any interviews with Canadian media making him appear even more ominous. Begg-Smith showed so much disrespect after the fact, that I am ashamed that he was ever associated with Canada. Winning Silver is nothing to be upset about, especially when the Bronze medal winner had a smile on his face nearly as big as Bilodeaus! He could have cared less and it definitely showed his lack of character.

After having 2 Canadians sit in 1st and 2nd place for the majority of the event, Bryon Wilson from the U.S. knocked the Canadians out. He was followed by Begg-Smith performing a nearless flawless run to take over top spot. While watching I was nearly heartbroken to see my least favoured competitor take the lead. However, like any great story the hero came in to save the day. Watching Bilodeau stand at the top of the ski hill (the 2nd last skier to perform) waiting for his run to begin gritting his teeth with his white mouthguard provided an eerie feeling in me that something great was about to happen. In fact, the second he completed the race I knew that he had won and for some strange reason, wasn't even worried about the last skier from France. I knew that this was meant to be.

Finally, the feel good story. I'm not sure how many people saw it played earlier in the day but there was a segment about Bilodeau before his event started. It talked about Bilodeau's heart and determination, but what it discussed, which was even greater, was how his older brother Frederic affected his life in such a positive and profound way. They told a story about how Alexandre, like most Canadian youth, wanted to be a professional hockey player. There was one problem. He wanted to participate in a sport where his brother could as well. Hockey was not a possibility, however, skiing definitely was. It led to him competing at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, where he finished eleventh. His motivation grew when that older brother who got him into skiing told him how proud he was of him for his performance. He never mentioned his position and that led to Alexandre promising Frederic that he would win Gold in Canada in 2010 for him.

This is dedicated to the Mr.Bilodeaus (both Alexandre and Frederic). An inspiration to everyone showing what heart really is, both in sport and in life. Congtatulations!

Thanks for reading...and hey, whatever became of Canada not winning Gold on home soil?..Oh, wait...