Category Archives: hockey

Here We Go Again

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So here we are, 12 hours from the third NHL lockout in my lifetime… Third.

There wasn’t a lockout in the previous 70 plus years in the league, but since the reign of terror know as the Gary Bettman era the NHL has set a record in futility of the collective bargaining agreement.

You would think the league would’ve learned after the last lockout which cost them the season and alienated an entire fan base. The sport had already been blasted out of the national spotlight and was passed in popularity temporarily by NASCAR.

It took the NHL a while to get their feet back under them but they did with the birth of the Winter Classic, and a young core of stars that has brought new fans to the game.

And here they are about to throw it all away… Again.

Seriously?

So no one cares about the fans here I guess. No thought is given to the fans in Columbus who’ll miss out on an all-star game, or the fans in L.A. waiting to raise a banner on a long sought after title.

The greed of the owners in this league is sickening.

Seven years ago yes the league needed a proper financial structure. Contracts were getting out of hand and the big guys were eating up the little ones. That lockout was worth it in a sense. The NHL in a better financial state than years prior even though most teams in the southern states continue to lose money.

Here’s a thought for the owners, stop giving out these ridiculous ten plus year deals and have normal contracts then you can save yourselves money. The contracts given to guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Roberto Luongo don’t make a lick of sense and will eventually kill the owners pockets.

However, that’s not even the largest crime here, it’s the lack of urgency in the owners or Bettman to make anything happen.

Three days ago the Bettman ok’d an agreement to lockout the players if a greener wasn’t reached by tonight. Nothing has happened since. There has been little bargaining and little caring.

Why isn’t Bettman putting pressure on either side? Doesn’t he realize another lockout would possibly kill the sport for good? Losing the Winter Classic this year would be a huge blow especially since in Michigan where the Red Wings are king.

Bettman is the ultimate owners pawn. He has no backbone to tell them anything and offers no real solutions in any form other than sitting there and doing what they say.

He is once again the champion of the world as the worst sports commissioner, possibly of all-time. His constant bumbling is about cost the NHL more fans, more credibility and more money.

And we can’t do anything about it because the owners would be stupid to fire him.

So here we are hockey fans looking at another lockout shortened season.

No banner raising in L.A., no Rick Nash debut in New York, no excitement in Minnesota with the acquisitions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise… Nothing.

For the third time commissioner Bettman and the owners will cost us hockey for an extended period of time and we have to sit here and take it.

If Gary Bettman doesn’t fix this and soon then he’ll be another fan short. As much as I love my Rangers I won’t go through this again, I’d rather take my jersey throw it away and never look back.

Yeah, I’m at that point with the NHL right now.


Nashville Has To Keep Weber

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You lose Ryan Suter your second best defenseman and arguably one of the top 5 defenders in the league, you can get over that.

You lose Jordin Tootoo a resident tough guy and fan favorite, that’s ok he’s replaceable. You can get over that.

Losing Shea Weber, your heart and soul, your captain, the man that represents Nashville hockey and is quite possibly the best defenseman on the planet.

That’s another story.

Yet that is what the Nashville Predators are facing right now. The Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to a 14/ $110 million dollar offer sheet in an effort to steal Weber away from the only team he’s ever played for.

The Predators have only five more days to match and the question that’s swirling in my head is why they haven’t already matched it?

You don’t let players like Weber walk away. This isn’t like the Knicks and Jeremy Lin. You can get another guard that does the same things as he does and plug him in easily.

Weber is a different story. He’s one of if not the best defensemen in the NHL. He’s a former Norris trophy winner who will win about three more before his career is done. He’s a natural born leader as captain and with Pekka Rinne leads possibly the best defensive team in the league.

To let him leave would mean to let everything that Nashville built go to waste. Yes they would receive four first round picks, but does that really add up to what you lose in Weber?

Coming into this offseason you knew that Nashville was going to lose either Weber or Suter to free agency due to money. They can survive without Suter, but losing both he and Weber would be too much to overcome.

For Nashville’s sake I hope that they match Weber’s deal no matter the cost.
Weber is the face and leader of their franchise. Losing him would mean missing the playoffs, falling into the lottery of the draft and starting over when you were considered a possible Stanley Cup contender.

Something’s you can get over, losing Weber is most definitely not one of them.


Bruins Fans Go Too Far

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I am a black man. I love hockey. I hate the Bruins and the Capitals for different hockey reasons.

I hate the Bruins because I’m a New Yorker and hate anything Boston. I hate the Caps because they’ve bounced my Rangers in the last 2 years that they’ve played in the playoffs.

I don’t hate anyone person on each team. Sure I call Alex Ovechkin names, don’t like Tim Thomas for not seeing president Barack Obama and I think Caps fans are bums but that’s just me being a fan.

The reason for this politically correct explanation of my hockey allegiances is because after last nights racist twitter bashing of Capitals forward Joel Ward I feel like fans need to get a grip on reality.

In case you missed it Ward beat Boston with a rebound putback in overtime to lift the Caps to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Almost immeadiately after scoring his winning goal angry Bruins fans took to twitter to bash Ward and mainly used his skin color as a target.

The word nigger was spewed in more tweets than I would like to remember and once again put Boston’s race relations in a bad light.

Boston has long had a reputation of racism towards black athletes and last night Bruins fans did there best in bringing them back to life.

The tweets were a reminder of just how stupid something like racism is and how even more stupid it is in 2012 in Boston where it’s most notable athletes are Paul Pierce, David Ortiz and has hailed guys like Deion Branch and Pedro Martinez in the past, all of whom are dark skinned.

I understand the anger associated with watching your team lose in the playoffs. Last year I blasted any Caps fan I saw for not being real hockey fans and for the Caps being lucky.

But it’s a game. What do you get for taking your frustration out on a guy who was just doing his job and scored the biggest goal of his life?

Furthermore why is his race such a big deal?

What’s the satisfaction gained from sitting in front of your computer and calling Joel Ward the N bomb on twitter, Facebook or any other social network?

It’s degrading, despicable and gives hockey another unnecessary black eye.

Hockey has had the worst race relations due to its lack of ethnicity and much ballyhooed moments of ignorance (yeah I mean you the guy who threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds in London, Ontario back in October). I know hockey isn’t the only place where incidents involving race happens (go to a Utah Jazz game in the NBA and see for yourself) but because of its demographic and history it’s always magnified when things like this happens.

In the heat of the moment as fans we all lose our cool, but to degrade another man because of his skin and ethnicity is unacceptable and intolerable.

I hope that the people who wrote those things take a step back and realize how awful it was to put those things out to the public and do their best to not do it again.

Does it anger me as a black man? Yes it does. But it won’t deter me from watching a sport I love and follow immensely.

I’m a huge hockey fan and will continue to be one. Incidents like these are not reflective of the league. I know how great a sport it is for all cultures that participate in it and hope that people find different avenues to express their frustration.

I also hope that if the Caps play the Rangers again that we kick their tails up and down the ice and get revenge for our last two oustings.

It should be hatred of team in sports not hatred of race.


The NHL Playoffs Are Out Of Control

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Playoff time in the NHL is the greatest time of year in any sport.

The action gets so jacked up and intense that you would think that games 1-7 are life or death. Year after year players leave everything on the ice whether you are an 8 seed or a 1 seed in the name of Lord Stanley.

Injuries don’t matter, hits are harder, everyone gets in the way of slap shots… it’s a daily spectacle that leaves you on the edge of seat and wincing at every bone-crushing check and unbelievable save.

You know this going into the playoffs and you adjust accordingly as a player and as a fan… However, this year’s playoffs?

Man, no one was ready for this.

Virtually every series except New Jersey vs. Florida has been hate-filled and angry.

St. Louis hates San Jose, Ottawa wants revenge against New York, Phoenix and Chicago have traded blows… Then there’s been the Philly and Pittsburgh series, where do we begin there?

These playoffs are on steroids, everyone’s angry at everyone, violence has been kicked up several notches and Brendad Shanahan hasn’t had much time to make a sandwich because he’s too busy looking over tape of reckless hits.

What the hell is going on?

In the first round of this year’s playoffs there have been more match penalties, more suspensions and more game misconducts than in years past… AND THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONLY A WEEK OLD!!

Look at these occurances and consequences:

Shea Weber fined $2500 for throwing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards

Carl Hagelin suspended three games for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head an giving him a concussion

Aaron Asham suspended four games for trying to decapitate Braydon Schenn

Nicklas Backstrom suspended one game for cross checking Rich Peverly in the head

Michael Shaw suspended three games for knocking goalie Mike Smith in the head

James Neal suspended one game for blindsiding Claude Giroux

Raffi Torres suspended indefinitely for concussing Marian Hossa…

And let me reiterate that the playoffs are only a week old.

I know that hockey is a violent sport and stuff like this happens, but not as frequent as this.

There has been more goonery than actually hockey it would seem to the casual hockey fan. In an interview Dan Boyle said that it seems like guys are just trying to start stuff on the ice. Jonathan Toews doesn’t know what to expect right now… Both guys aren’t alone in their feelings.

At first I was loving the hate being spread around the playoffs. It felt like old time hockey and was great for the game. Now it’s getting out of hand.

The Torres hit should be the last draw for Shanahan and the front offices in the league. They have to start hammering guys with longer suspensions to get their points across.

Shanahan has been criticized for being to lenient on more skilled players like Weber and Backstrom and hammering guys like Asham and Hagelin who are either too young or not as skilled.

He’s got to make things fair across the board. Like Colin Campbell did to Matt Cooke last year Shanahan has to start doing to these players.

Hockey is a self policing game, however when there needs to be stiffer policing from suits in the offices.

Shanahan has to suspend Torres for the rest of the playoffs and encourage referees to get tougher on the ice. Referees have to call these games tighter, which means more penalties and control these games before they continue to get out of hand.

Games like Sundays Flyers-Pens free for all are great once in a while but they’re happening every night in the playoffs. The league has to get this over excessive play under control before someone gets really injured out there.

The over aggressiveness has taken away from some great hockey as well. Jonathan Quick has been putting on a show in the Kings-Canucks series, the Predators-Red Wings matchup has been great with Pekka Rinne dominating the action and game 3 of the Rangers-Senators series was non stop up and down hockey with great goaltending from both teams.

The playoffs have been their normal unbeatable selves, however the action has to be placed back on the skillful play and not on the over excessive violence that has stolen the headlines.

I’m all for a few fights and scrums but this has been ridiculous.

Hopefully we can get back to the great hockey that’s been played so far and not have anymore Marian Hossa incidents.


Is Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh’s Most Important Penguin?

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For the second time in his career Evgeni Malkin has had to the man in Pittsburgh…

For the second time Malkin has made me ask myself this question, who really is the most important Penguin in Pittsburgh?

Three years ago during the Pens title run Sidney Crosby missed 28 games due to injury and the Pens didn’t miss a beat. It was mostly thanks to Malkin who did his best Crosby impersonation by racking up points and making life miserable for defenders.

Malkin finished second in the league in scoring to Alex Ovechkin and was a Hart trophy finalist also losing out to Ovechkin.

Fast forward to this season and here we are again. Same scenario just a different year. Crosby has missed the majority of the last two seasons thanks to a concussion suffered in last year’s Winter Classic. The Pens were supposed to falter, they were supposed to be a middle of the road team without the league’s biggest star…

So how in the hell are they 1 point back of the New York Rangers for the best record in the Eastern Conference with they’re second straight 100 point season and are the hottest team in the league?

Geno Malkin of course.

This year more than ever Malkin has proven himself to be considered a franchise alpha dog and even the best player in the league. He leads the league in points, is second in goals behind Steven Stamkos and has turned James Neal into a premier goal scorer on his line.

The Pens have done more than not lose a step without Crosby, in fact they have taken a giant step. With Malkin steering the ship Pittsburgh has maintained its elite status and looks just as invincible as if Crosby never left. Even if they don’t overtake the Rangers for the best record in the East you would still have to say that they are the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

There’s no player hotter than Malkin in the league, Marc-Andre Fleury is finally playing at an elite level on a consistent basis, and Kris Letang, Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal have to be the most explosive role players in the league right now.

Adding Crosby to the mix now that his concussion has subsided makes them the scariest team on the ice right now.

However, down the road if you are Pittsburgh you have to ask yourself, is Crosby or Malkin your most valuable player?

Yes Crosby is a former MVP, gold medal winner, and captain of the Penguins, but is he their most important player?

Crosby has now missed big parts of the seasons due to injury. In all three seasons the Penguins have secured home ice for at least one round of the playoffs and Malkin has been the reason for two of those three occurrences.

Last year’s early playoff exit you can’t blame on Crosby’s injury or Malkin’s for that matter, but rather the lack of production from the wings. With the emergence of Neal and others the Penguins are cup contenders this year with Malkin leading the way and without Crosby on the ice.

If the roles were reversed could Crosby do the same?

Could Crosby make his teammates around him this good? Could he make the Pens a contender with Malkin? Could his goal scoring match his passing skills and get the Pens out of jams like Malkin?

Honestly I don’t think so.

I think this is Malkin’s ship and Crosby is along for the ride. If I’m Dan Bylsma I wouldn’t mess with the chemistry of his top line by inserting Crosby back in. Yes you aren’t supposed to lose your starting role do to injury but why mess with something that’s working so well?

Watching the Pens over the next few weeks will be interesting. They’re peaking right before the playoffs, their special teams are working and with Crosby back in the lineup it makes them even more lethal.

However, this is due to the play of Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has made them a contender, the most lethal offensive team in the league and has them staring at a second Stanley Cup in the last four years.

He is going to win the points title, he is the MVP of the NHL, and most importantly he’s the most valuable Pittsburgh Penguin on that roster.

They’ve proven that they can live without Sidney Crosby time and time again, if they were to lose Malkin I don’t think the results would be the same.


The Nash Ultimatum

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As you recall I wrote a blog last year on why Rick Nash should pull a Carmelo Anthony and force a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets to a contender.

My reasoning is that Nash, who is one of the most physically skilled players in the NHL is wasting away in Columbus and deserves to play for a team that has a shot at a Stanley Cup every year.

In his now nine year career Nash has been to the playoffs once, a four game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s been through rebuilding project after rebuilding project. He’s gone from number one pick, to Maurice Richard trophy winner, to team captain, to possibly becoming just another good player on a crappy team.

This year the Jackets tried to put some pieces around him to make the team respectable. Their additions of Jeff Carter and Steve Wisniewski we’re supposed to add some fire power to their offense and make the Jackets a playoff contender… It’s been a disaster.

Wisniewski has been out for most of the year with either injuries or suspensions and Carter has been a shell of his former self. The Jackets are last in the NHL looking at another number one pick and another rebuilding process… and it looks like Nash wants no part of it.

What started as rumors is looking like a reality. Nash gave the Jackets a list of teams he would wave his no trade clause to play for if they were going to trade him. That’s the most polite trade demand ever.

He’s had enough, enough rebuilding, enough losing, enough mediocrity. He’ll be 28 in June and doesn’t want to spend the rest if his 8 year contract rebuilding again.

You can tell that this whole process is finally starting to take its toll on him. Nash is on pace for his worst statistical season in his career and at times has looked non-existent on the ice. He needs a fresh start and a chance to succeed and he needs it now.

Now comes the hard part especially for me. Nash’s short list for teams are the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and… The New York Rangers.

As a fan I’m torn. I love Nash, I think he is one of the game’s best players, I would love to have him in our red, white and blue skating alongside Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, however the Rangers don’t really need him.

Sure he could play one of John Torterella’s top two lines and make the Rangers the favorite in the Eastern Conference, but do you know what the Rangers would have to give up to get him?

Columbus would need a quality starter, a top prospect and a pick. If it’s the Rangers were talking about Brandon Dubinsky or Artem Anisimov, then a choice of either JT Miller, Tim Erixon or Chris Kreider and a draft pick. From what organization insiders are saying, those three prospects could become serious contributors and possible all-stars…. Now you see the concern.

Trading Dubinsky would be heart breaking, next to Ryan Callahan he personifies this team’s toughness and heart every time he steps on the ice. I’ve watched Dubinsky since the lockout when he first came up and have loved every second he’s been out on the ice whether it’s scoring goals or fighting Alex Ovechkin or Mike Richards. Letting him go would be like losing a brother to be honest.

The way the Rangers are right now works. They’re a tough defensive minded team that can score enough goals to win games with a goalie that only needs one or two to do so. If we trade for Nash then we lose a little bit of that identity for the sake of a few more goals.

So what’s it gonna be, break up the band for one of the game’s best forwards or stay the course and do what’s gotten you to this point?

Interesting indeed.

There are only 7 days before the trade deadline. Rick Nash is available and could put any contender over the top for the right price.

His time in Columbus looks like its finally coming to its merciful end and he will finally have a chance to play meaningful hockey.

His wish list has been notified, prospects are in place and there is anticipation as to where he’ll end up if he actually gets traded.

One of those teams is my Rangers who are having their best season in years. Nash could either put them over the top or cost us our future. What will the Rangers do?


What’s Happened To The Montreal Canadiens?

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In 1993 the Montreal Canadians sat atop the hockey world as NHL champions for the 24th time after the beat Wayne Gretzky and his Los Angeles Kings in five games.

At the time they were the most storied franchise in sports holding more titles than any other franchise and a history that is only comparable with The New York Yankees in terms of legendary.

19 years later the Habs have gone from powerful to a punch line.

They’ve watched the Yankees win five titles reaching 27 total, and when I mean watch they have literally been in the backseat or on the side of the road watching them pass by.

It started with the infamous Patrick Roy trade to the Colorado Avalanche, which birthed a mini dynasty in Denver, and has since morphed into a smorgasbord of futility that has been rarely viewed in French-Canadia.

They’ve missed the playoffs 6 times in the last 19 years, in the previous 80 years they had missed the playoffs 7 times…7!!

They’ve had one trip to the conference finals, one division title, eight different coaches and not a lick of consistency behind the bench or on the ice.

The city that was home to some of the games greatest goal scorers and game breakers like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafluer hasn’t had any punch in their lineup since the late 70’s or so it would seem. Their last scoring champ was Lafluer in 1978, the last winner of the Norris trophy was Chris Chelios in 1989, last MVP was Jose Theodore in 2001. More on goalies later.

They’ve gone from great names who came through in great situations to relying on Scott Gomez to do their heavy lifting (ask the Rangers about how that goes).

What happened? When did the Yankees of hockey become the New York Mets? The Habs have gone from kings to jesters. The team that was feared by feared by many in the league are very close to becoming a doormat.

They used to own the Boston Bruins, their primary rival, they’ve lost two straight playoff series to them including a 2-0 lead last year. The Maple Leafs, who were in the same position last year are battling for a playoff spot and could appear in next years Winter Classic. The Red Wings have overtaken them as the standard for excellence in the NHL. It doesn’t make any sense.

Lets go back to the Roy departure for a bit. Roy was the face of the Habs after his remarkable burst onto the scene as a 20 year-old wunderkind who lead the Habs to a win in the 1986 Stanley cup over the Calgary Flames. His Conn Smythe performance earned him a place in Canadiens lore and he carried it with him into the 90’s which included another masterful performance in the team’s last Stanley Cup win in 1993 over The Los Angeles Kings.

Then 2 years later during an 11-1 beatdown in Montreal at the hands of the Red Wings, Roy was pulled after giving up nine goals on 26 shots. Stormed off of the bench and as he walked by Habs president Pat Jablonski he said “It’s my last game in Montreal.”

Four days later he was in Denver to begin a great run with the Colorado Avalanche and the Habs haven’t recovered since.

Ever since Roy’s departure not only have the Habs struggles on the ice but in net as well.

The franchise that brought us legends like Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Roy hasn’t come close to producing another great in net since Roy’s departure.

The fans in Montreal have been treated to the likes of Mathieu Garon, Cristobal Huet, Stephane Fiset and Jocelyn Thibault.

And yes I know Jose Theodore did win a Hart Trophy and a Vezina but Theodore was more fizzle than sizzle, hence why he lost his job to Huet.

Recently Montreal has been trying to sell itself on Carey Price who has had more ups and downs than any young goalie should ever have. His career has mirrored the luck of the Canadiens as of late, some games he looks like a Vezina candidate, others he looks like a career backup.

You can’t solely place the blame on Price, especially this season. Without him in net Montreal has only won 2 of it’s 17 games. His offense boasts only 3 ten goal scorers and is ranked in the bottom half of the NHL.

It’s been an abysmal wreck and it’s led to Montreal’s last place standing in the Northeast division even after two straight playoff appearances where it looked like Montreal was on it’s way back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Who’s to blame? The organization? The players? The high expectations of the fans?

Recently Mike Cammelleri lashed out at his Habs teammates for developing “a losing mentality”… he was rewarded by being traded to the Calgary Flames and was browbeaten in a French newspaper who’s headline read “One Less Loser.”

Yikes!

In Cammy’s defense what should he have said? He’s a leader, if you’re not playing well you deserve to be called out for it. What does it say about an organization when it trades a guy for giving an honest and truthful opinion about how his team is playing?

The Habs can’t be coddled like little boys, they are grown men that are wilting under the expectations the come with putting on that red, white and blue sweater. The organization can’t try to hide it or punish people for saying it, it’s right there for everyone to see.

Is this what it’s come to in Montreal? Greatness to mediocrity? The Canadiens are drowning in it and are in desperate need of a raft.

This team needs an identity, a face, a proper direction to be lead in because they’ve been going in circles for nearly 20 years.

The organization that at one time could say that they were on par with the New York Yankees is now lagging behind.

Can they recover? Can they ever find a coach that can withstand the pressure associated with the organization? What’s next for the Montreal Canadiens?

They better have some answers and soon. You can only wallow in mediocrity so long before everyone stops caring and then you become a team of losers.