Monthly Archives: January 2011

All-Stars Shining Bright

The NHL All-Star weekend kicks off in Raleigh, and both Crosby and Malkin will be missing. This makes room for the Carolina Hurricanes to showcase the talents of Jeff Skinner and Jamie McBain. Skinner has been added to the Staal team, and McBain will participate in the skills competition. Nice to see Paul Stastny added as the second representative for the Colorado Avalanche, a fantastic model for the young gunners found in many new teams, including Carolina.

The NHL Network will have a two-hour special starting at 6 p.m. EST on Friday, then the skills competition on Saturday, followed by the 2011 NHL All-Star Game on Sunday at 4 p.m. EST.

While the festivities in Raleigh rage, the AHL is putting on the Ritz in Hershey Jan. 30-31. The 2011 AHL All-Star Skills Competition is at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 30, and the 2011 AHL All-Star Game at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 31. As a hockey enthusiast, the AHL weekend is a surge to highlight the players who may be sitting on an NHL roster near you. Included in the selections of 31 first-time AHL All-Stars and 11 rookies, with roots at the University of Denver and the Big Ten worth taking a look at.

AHL rookie scoring leader Rhett Rakhshani of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and formerly of DU is an exciting player to follow. His name sent a rush through the crowd at the Ritchie Center in Denver. I witnessed Rakhshani’s talent that was evident of a great future career in hockey.

Other notables to watch and take notes:
*Bobby Butler, leading rookie-goal-scorer of the Binghamton Senators
*Goaltender Jake Allen of the Peoria Rivermen
*Martin Jones, goaltender of the Manchester Monarchs.

Grand Rapids Griffins and former University of Wisconsin defenseman and Hobey Baker finalist, Brendan Smith, is absolutely a player to watch. He signed an entry-level contract in 2007 with the Detroit Red Wings, so keep your eye on his skills and his career.

Other notable players who played in the AHL All-Star game last season, and worth taking note:
*Syracuse Crunch goaltender, Kyle Palmieri
*John Moore, defenseman for the Springfield Falcons
*Corey Locke of Binghamton, who is the all-time leading scorer in the AHL All-Stars and the AHL leading scorer.
*Dustin Jeffrey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Center who has some time on the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguin.

From the Southeast Division, note these players with time in the NHL:

*Andrew Gordon, winger for Hershey and the Washington Capitals
*Bryan Rodney, of the Charlotte Checkers and Carolina Hurricanes

These AHL players are crucial to the success of the NHL and many have seen ice time with their respective franchises. Enjoy a weekend full of hockey!

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NHL All-Snub Game

Hey, NHL All Star Game– are you kidding me? His name is Jimmy Howard and you forgot to send his invitation.

Every year some player, who deserves to go, gets the snub generating drama to hike ratings. Red Wings fans are clambering for some justice. Right behind the Canucks in the Western Conference standings, the under staffing seems odd, yet the Canucks are sending three. With talent on both teams, it is strange that Detroit only has Lidstrom making the trip.  The NHL is bending backwards not to make this a Red Wings show, because they’ve slipped somehow and the injuries cannot look good for Detroit’s case. There is no doubt Howard has done his job and then some (22-7-3).

King Henry deserves a trip to Raleigh to showcase his tremendous skill for the promising New York Rangers but he’s propped up the Rangers for years. Fans of the Los Angeles Kings question the dismissal of goalie Quick, who has lived up to his name but not on the roster of All-Stars. Off to a great start, Quick has softened recently and reflects in his numbers (19-12-1).

The Western Conference rolls out Sharp, Kane, Keith and Toews in the Hawks section, who have the obligatory pass. Can’t snub the Stanley Cup champs. Patrick Sharp has had an outstanding year with 44 points. Vancouver gets a big nod with the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler. The Redemption for the NHL All-Star game this year is Dustin Byfuglien gracing the roster after last year’s snub.

The Staal brothers are well represented minus Jordan. Matt Duchene and rookie Kevin Shattenkirk will be there for the Mile High club. No Stastny listed either. With the absence of Chris Stewart in the line-up, Duchene has become a stronger leader on the ice. Stewart will be there next year or this article will be about that snub.

The NHL All-Star game really isn’t a game, rather a showcase light on the PIMs. Kesler and Backes could throw down for a few and I’d enjoy seeing that. Regards to the rookies who made it including Taylor Hall (EDM), Tyler Seguin (BOS), Cam Fowler (ANA) and Carolina Hurricanes own Jeff Skinner. San Jose’s rookie Logan Couture also made the cut, as he has become quite a catch in fantasy leagues.

Despite the snubs, someone is always forgotten. Semin, Zetterberg and Tavares are the hyped snubs this year. Western teams have excelled in play and popularity. Eastern players sell more jerseys. Since the NHL is based in New York, no stun in how this has been spun. Heading down south, the NHL is placing the southeastern pack in the forefront. Look what that division holds in Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Yzerman as the Bolts GM. Right time, right place. Load up on the BBQ and grits and take a gander at the skills competition, which really is the best part.

NHL Resolutions and Hesitations

The NHL is doing great. As a corporation, the profits and media coverage sit at some of the highest levels in years. With the Winter classic tradition and the jump in viewing numbers for the Stanley Cup playoffs, hockey is doing well in the US. The Hockey News even sported a daring cover recently posing the question- is hockey dying in Canada? Could this be the beginning of an end of hockey dominance?

Sidney Crosby and the Winter Classic was the NHL’s love affair with Crosby. Then Ovechkin is the bad guy in this scenario. Pittsburgh has taken dominance in the hockey world with the likes of the Red Wings and the Rangers. The Capitals are a fantastically talented team with Ovi at the helm. Have they just begun to play with the expectation that they are destined to win the Cup? Entitlement is dangerous territory. Complacency. Ovechkin may just like the other attention he is getting. This may be the year of the Crosby-Stamkos rivalry. Future Winter Classics coming to a beach near you.

Let’s talk the Los Angeles Kings. Captain Dustin Brown has made me a believer in his skills. Then take some Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar shake it all up and you produce. The talent doesn’t stop there. After the Gretzky project, the Kings fell from grace but have been jolted alive by talented lines at every turn. Quick wears the name well. Lots of hype in LA at the start of the season and the love shows. How about those St. Louis Blues and the Steenster?  Making the playoffs would be a real kick for all those underdog teams.

Please Lou, fix the New Jersey Devils. I can help. When I get to the Shore, I’ll give you a call.

The New York Rangers are back on Broadway as the stars. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers have a major player in Brandon Dubinsky- he can fight, score and just carry the swagger of the Blueshirts. Avery is sporting a new and improved image and throwing down like old times. Brandon Prust has awed with varied talent from assists to roughing. King Henry rocks as usual. It’s been a good year for the New York Rangers.

Detroit has some special young talent who are taking their role as a Red Wing seriously. Patrick Eaves is dishing out the goods with a hat-trick. Eaves knows how to win with his dad coaching up in Wisconsin and all. Justin Abdelkader is a Michigan boy, and every kid in Michigan idolized the Wings. He absorbed it all throughout his childhood. Jimmy Howard has raised the bar for goaltenders. Young but well trained, the role of the goaltender has been destabilized by the show of success between the net. One day you’re in and the other you’re out. Howard is so in and will be until a puck decides his fate. Wings are soaring again.

The Ryans have struggled this year and it is surprising after a great USA Olympic run for the Silver. The show must go on even for Ryan Kesler in Vancouver and Ryan Miller in Buffalo. Spotty and soaked at times, the inconsistency has me worried.
Let’s look to 2011 to be an outstanding year for the NHL and hockey in America.  Stanley Cup predictions aside, the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals may have reached their peak.  The Flyers and Wings could be winners in the race for the Cup.