Category Archives: Players

2013 NHL Draft: The Newark Shake

At the end of the Top 10 in the First Round of the 2013 NHL Draft, it all got shuffled.

The Avalanche sent Joe Sakic and Partick Roy out on the floor to pick the not-surprising offensive power rookie, Nathan McKinnon. Sakic is a classy guy, and I was disappointed by the NJ fans booing Sakic thanking Lou L for hosting. Boo you!

Surprise in the NO.2 pick, as Aleksander Barkov is selected by the Florida Panthers. That was a surprise, but Florida feels they need to beef up a line with a big Center.

Tampa Bay shook it up picking Joanathan Drouin, as Steve Yzerman likes the kid. Interesting pick as TB bought out Vincent LeCavelier, and indicating Drouin may see ice time next season.

While Seth Jones waited patiently, the Nashville Predators were making their plan and pressing the jersey for this defensive pick of the draft. At NO. 4, a defender is good, but are the D-men losing respect? Don’t forget how important the defenders can be when your offense sucks. Shea Weber and Seth Jones means Nashville has seen the light.

The Carolina Hurricanes at NO. 5 pick slot, did not trade up or down, but selected Elas Lindholm. A Swede who will go to train before joiing the team. He will play in Sweden next season.

In NO. 6, the Calgary Flames need to ignite their team and their quest for the Cup. So, as it goes, the Flames pick Sean Monahan. Expected pick who can overcome adversity, which really means that he played on bad teams before. Go Sean!

Edmonton has had the first picks for the past few seasons, and the fact that they are picking the NO.7 shows that top draft picks do make a difference. Darnell Nurse gets to go play with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins! A defenseman is exactly what the Oilers need. Darnell, you won the Lottery too.

Buffalo has had its better days.  With the NO. 8 pick there have not been many trades or dealings.  Many speculated the Sabres would make some type of deal or just pick a big player and defender…and they did in  Rasmus Ristolainen.  He’s a hard hitter with a hard shot and a great name.

And just as NJ Devils were about to make their NO. 9 pick, they trade it to Vancouver for Cory Schneider! Vancouver get the pick. Bo Horvat from the London Knights has been compared to Avs player Ryan O’Reilly.

And the final pick in the Top 10, goes to the Dallas StarsValeri Nichuskin is a strong addition to the Stars who already have Jamie Benn as a weapon.  The question is whether he will be on the ice next season.

That’s it for me. Follow more hockey info and in-depth article on the draft picks at The Hockey Writers.

Negotiations in Newark: Manufacturing the Perfect Team

NHL Draft 2013 has hit the Prudential Center in Newark. Whatever happens in a mock draft, may be true to the actual draft, however, surprises happen.

In a mock draft, the expected results for the top 5 draft picks are:

1. Nathan McKinnon (C) Going to the Colorado Avalanche, which was not what most suspect,  considering the Avs need to build up their defense. Originally, Seth Jones was selected to be the primary overall NO. 1 pick. The Avs like to pick offensive talent…Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, for example.
2. Seth Jones (D) Going to the Florida Panthers, which is a great move. The Panthers really bolstered their D and that move helped create a strength down their in the sunshine.
3. Jonathan Drouin (LW) Going to Tampa Bay Lightning, and many think he should have been the NO. 1 pick overall.
4. Aleksander Barkov (C) Nashville Predators pick a big center, after the Preds offense drizzled this season.
5. Valeri Nichuskin (LW) Carolina Hurricanes know this is a good fit with Alex Semin.
6. Sean Monahan (C) Calgary Flames need all the help they can get.
7. Darnell Nurse (D) Edmonton Oilers are adding some gritty defense to complement their offensive young guns.
8. Nikita Zadorov (D) Buffalo Sabres has had a good run with Tyler Myers, so the experiment continues.
9. Elas Lindholm (C) New Jersey Devils have a Swede!
10. Alexander Wenberg (C) Dallas Stars also know the Swedes are training and taking their hockey programs to the next level.

10. Alexander Wenberg (C) Dallas Stars also know the Swedes are training and taking their hockey programs to the next level.

Let’s see what really happens the 2013 NHL Draft! I will be updating this blog with twitter feeds from Dan Rice, a NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers.

Hey Hockey, What’s Up?

I’m really glad the NHL has returned. I missed the righteous slapshots of Pavel Datsyuk,the energy around Madison Square Garden on game day, the Enforcers, and my fellow fans- the best fans in sports.

Though I am wearing my Wings jersey, I really wanted to boycott the NHL and not watch a game. I don’t really care about all the past chaos, I’m just happy I can sit down and watch a game every night. All is forgiven. The lockout forced  me into a path that pays.

Blood, sweat and tears is the art of journalism. The drive is insatiable. No more up all night to hit the news wire, no more fantastic editors to work with….I’ve been so blessed, and no more play-by-play. I got a great marketing job, write for a local paper and get to interview people in sports, music and design….so, I think we’re okay.

I’ve covered the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Rangers and will continue to follow. I’ve had the privilege to attend University of Denver Pioneers games, watching Matt Carle and Paul Stastny. Michigan hockey and the Detroit Red Wings have my allegiance. I can’t quit hockey.

Living on the east coast does provide the hockey fan with the best hockey coverage outside of Canada. Almost every night, I have a choice of watching a Devils, Rangers, or Islanders game. The only deprivation I face now is not getting enough Red Wings.

Fantasy hockey owners are scrambling to repair broken teams as players face injuries getting back on the ice. This is the time to watch out for the newbies on the roster. The fantasy hockey portion of my blog will be up next week.

Welcome back hockey fans!

Thanks Joe!

Last night, one of the greatest hockey players to grace the ice, was honored as an inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Joe Sakic is a class act. His leadership in the sport of ice hockey has been monumental. He’s a great guy too.

Sakic was the gentleman leader who instilled playing an honest game with integrity. He was shy, yet always the ambassador to the hockey world. He brought the NHL and hockey to Colorado, where most poeple were transplants from elsewhere. I knew Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans converted into Avalanche fans due in large part to what heart Sakic and his team brought to Denver. They became one of us, on our team.

I remember seeing him ride along downtown Denver atop a fire engine hoisting the Stanley Cup. The thrill of hockey had been reborn in me. Coming from Detroit, I missed the games, the passionate fans, and the hockey players I followed. Joe Sakic became and will always be my favorite Avalanche player. I devoted much of my blog to how the Avalanche and Joe Sakic’s living legacy created competitive hockey and a strong community.

He had skeletons that he locked away and when asked about them in interviews, he would change the subject or conclude the interview. He was there to talk about his team, not a horrific day tha haunted him. Most journalists knew that event shaped his dedication and emotion for playing the game, and respected his privacy.

Sakic was a pioneer for the youth hockey advancement and development in Denver. Kids new to hockey looked to Joe for inspiration. Denver, primarily a football town, was unaware of young hockey stars in waiting.

The University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey team had a brighter spotlight as hockey rose in popularity. DU groomed two NHL stars in Paul Stastny and Matt Carle, and became NCAA champions. The Frozen Four would never had been hosted by Denver in 2008 if Sakic hadn’t created such an affection for local hockey.

Players respected and emulated him. Fans wore his jersey proudly. We all knew Joe. And we knew Joe saw us too. We were not just a crowd, we were a community. We were The Avalanche.

As a staunch Red Wings fan, Joe was the only guy who could tear me away from Detroit. When the Detroit Red Wings came to town, it was really a battle between Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. I was heartbroken that I had to choose between the two. Both men remain iconic representatives of a generation of NHL fans who can agree on their talented leadership and sportsmanship. Old school fans still ask, “Sakic or Yzerman?”

All the stats in his career can’t replace the years of happiness he has brought to the many fans around the world. He’s a class-act and his induction as a Hall of Famer is testament to the good guys out there making a difference. Thanks Joe!

Fighting Ends with NHL Lockout

The Ontario Hockey League(OHL) refuses to justify fighting and won’t allow it, and they’re fighting back. The NHL is listening and may follow the call.

“For years, Campbell and his staff in Toronto have chewed on the subject. The Rangers-Devils game last season, where three staged fights broke at the drop of the puck, was a black eye for the league and certainly caused some in-house deliberation at the NHL office.”

The influential intolerance of violence is trending as the NHL lockout lingers. Fighting is a problem in hockey, but just how much fighting is really happening?

Brandon Prust and Shawn Thornton are the two grinders who have racked up the most majors in the league. Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, accrued 156 penalty minutes. Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins racked 154 minutes of bad behaviour. Not all penalty minutes are for fighting, rather diving, tripping, misconduct, slashing, boarding, and high-sticking (which can rip open a lip, eye or nose).

Is this the death of the doomed fighting controvrsy to make way for a kinder, gentler hockey agenda? The lockout may be a contributing factor for initiatives to curb relentless fighting in the NHL. Players do not make a habit of fighting and the enforcer role has diminshed on every roster. With the NHL work stoppage, fans may expect to see a stoppage of the bloodbaths on the ice when the season returns.

Can hockey survive a cultural shift so great to adapt to the new culture?

Fans have many options to watch hockey for less expense and travel time. This may be good for hockey overall to take us back to our roots in local ice arenas. The mention of the delapedated concrete building that house large ice rinks and skates, brings joy. It’s the environment where every hockey fan got the itch. It’s the same traits that bring fans to other arenas. It’s a hockey culture where your neighbors are enchanted with the scraping of skates, the whoosh of the ice, the cold, and the fortitude to watch every last minute.

A large part of that willingness, for hockey fans like myself, was the promise of a scrap or two. That culture is dying for the sake of a new breed of hockey player. They’re faster, analytical, and avoid roadblocks like a Prust or Thornton. The new skater must be keen and lean.

Growing up with the Detroit Red Wings, you knew that the Wings represented wth wheels of speed and innovation. Players like Steve Yzerman modeled the quiet, calm leader with the intelligence to create. The Wings moved like a machine. The story of the  tragedy and triumph of the Wings was your story too.

Now, living in New York, the glory of the New York Rangers is quickly falling. Talented players are exiting to play the game they love, and who can blame them? While most fans realize these players enjoy their job, they are men who have families to support. An energized city, an energized Madison Square Garden has dimmed for the Rangers fans this October.

The NHL has shut down neighborhoods.  Hockey fans are resourceful enough to know how to handle their hockey fix. “Run for the exits” is what the NHL has done to the fans.

I really don’t want to start a fight, so perhaps we will see you in the near future. I’m working on locating a KHL channel.

 

National Hockey Lockout

Award for lameness. The lockout will have reverberations in varied degrees depending on its duration. If players are bailing immediately, the fans are sure to follow. Maintaining a billion dollar industry with no provider and no customer won’t hold back a backlash.

NCAA and AHL hockey will see a profit, and those neighbordhood junior leagues will benefit from new spectators. The fans want hockey. The game of hockey is why fans pay to see the game,  not to buy a pretzel and a key chain. Going to a game, supporting your team is tradition for most recalling classic memories. If food and trinkets call you to the game, then you really are not a hockey fan.

This work stoppage has sent Evgeny Malkin and Sergei Gonchar packing for home signing deals with Mettalurg of the Kontinental Hockey League. The Pittsburgh Penguins roster got lighter as Sidney Crosby’s agent made an inquiry to the KHL so Sid the Kid won’t hit a skid this season. Yannick Weber and Mark Streit sign in Switzerland, Christian Ehrhoff heads to Germany, so who will next to send a message to the NHL?  Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin, that’s who. Patrick Berglund will play for free in Sweden and the exodus continues.

Shane Doan’s contract was wrapped up with a 4-year deal in Phoenix as the Coyotes arena deal looked positive and possible. Now, that’s all gone for those few fans who eagerly anticipated the return of their desert dogs.

The owners are the only people who really want this lockout. They lose money but hope to gain. This tactic is a way to keep the lid on grandstanding in the future with ludicrous multi-year contracts that escalate as the player deflates. Even NHL players are expendable. Perhaps this is a passive technique to rid the tough guy world of whiners and embellish-makers.

It’s a bittersweet farewell to NHL veterans Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson who will not get a grand farewell if the season isn’t salvaged.

We’ll all laugh about this went the lockout gives way by November, right? We’ll all be cautious and snagging some of those promotional tickets the NHL teams will have to fork over to win back the loyal.

The lockout is lame because it’s the same issue in any workplace- administration vs. staff. Rarely do the two sides ever see the same problem or the same solution. Negotiation must end on a win-win, and that is not happening soon at any percentage rate.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly will forego salaries this season, and the NHL employees will go to a 4-day work week to save money. The Florida Panthers let go of their mascot and the damages to the profits continue. What was the point of all of this again?

Remember these great moments?

or this great moment for the Rangers/Devils fans?


National Hockey Lame. Positives in all of this: no Paulina Gretzky and Nickelback.

Let’s Talk…..

The heat is on. Enter the Collective Bargaining Agreement to shake up your summer. The same waiting game on the CBA is exactly what was experienced by New Jersey Devils fans as captain Zach Parise’s fate was out of their hands. Let’s hope the hands holding the CBA’s fate ends in a positive outcome.

This summer Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Shane Doan will decide what to do with their 2012-13 season, depending on if there is a season. With the continual rise of hockey’s popularity, this lockout would change the momentum of the entire game, the NHL and its players. Fans are holding their breath.

The snubbing of New Jersey by Zach Parise was a shock. It shouldn’t have been. Parise voiced his displeasure over the course of several seasons. The Devils were never seen as contenders without Parise. Now, without Parise, the team rebuilds with alum Scott Stevens returning as an assistant coach. Fans had faith that Parise would return….supposedly, he was a fan of the Shore. Career moves are nothing personal in the NHL, but those moves are taken personally by the fans.

Shane Doan’s fate in Phoenix is another conundrum. Doan has taken that community and ran with it. Doan and his family have been supporters of charitable organizations in the desert for some time. The impact of a Doan loss could cause a ripple effect on the deal to keep the team in Glendale. Fans are loyal but moody on attending games. Very few fans wait after morning skates to get a glimpse of their favorite ‘Yote. Doan may be contemplating the move for a last push on his career since the Coyotes did remarkably well in the playoffs.

Shane Doan after Morning Skate in Glendale (HPWerner)

Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Rick Nash just want to move on and feel appreciated. Semin needs a boost to his game and a new team may solve the problem. Ryan isn’t seen as a valuable asset as he once was in Anaheim, so off he goes to some lucky team (Let’s Go Rangers). Ryan is fresh, young and has the skill for a team to build upon.

And who can blame Rick Nash for wanting a change of venue in Columbus? Nash is an island in Columbus. Unfortunately, he’s the face of the Jackets and his departure will be felt heavily. GM Howson can’t replace Nash with another big name, rather a few newbies who will take time to grow. With a rejected trade offer from the Detroit Red Wings, it’s apparently clear that Howson doesn’t want to deal Nash to division rivals or western rivals. The San Jose Sharks, who are also in the Nash lottery, probably won’t land him either.

The CBA talks now coincide with TV deals and those logistics. Hockey writers shiver when the lockout is mentioned. It is debatable whether the strength of the current NHL will withstand the blow and recover. Let the GM’s do the talking until they’re blue in the face. This summer, patience is the new sunblock. Don’t get burned is the name of the game.

Relax, it’s Summer…Let the GMs do the Work

Hockey fanatics everywhere can’t let go just yet. Too many deals, trades and speculations are in works that leave the hockey community a little uneasy. The NHL Entry Draft, the July 1 free agent scurry, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming have descended upon backyard barbeques and the beach.

Relax, enjoy the summer and let the GMS, agents and players worry about the outlook for the 2012-13 season.

If you are a New York Rangers fan, then you have plenty to talk about as the Rick Nash acquisition conjures up “what could’ve been and what could be” talk. Scoring is needed for New York to move past their demons, but at what cost? Fans may have to bid adieu to Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, rookie Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto if they want the big name to save the day. Get ready to rock New York, because the shift is coming. New York has too many solid players and potential to go unnoticed.

In Detroit, it feels like when Steve Yzerman left the organization. with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Hockeytown is without another legend. A new arena and a new captain will recharge the Wings for years to come. The Red Wings will always be a constant influence in the hockey community, but now will have to rebuild mentally and physically.

If any fans are breathing a sigh of relief, it’s the Los Angeles Kings fans who are sitting at the beach. Congrats to a job well done. The Kings have been proactive in bringing their story and talent to the forefront. GM Dean Lombardi turned a dream into a reality. Jonathan Quick as MVP brought home the contributions of the goaltender back in vogue.

Dreams in New Jersey are still alive. Next up for GM Lou Lamoriello is to secure Zach Parise for another Cup run, if Parise isn’t snatched away. Parise has registered for many as a better deal than Rick Nash. As an unrestricted fee agent this summer, Parise will be able to pick his destination.

And then there is Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf who are in the mix. Around, around, nobody knows, where any one of these will go. Keep your hockey news source close at hand on the boat, at the barbeque, at the beach or at the ballpark. This summer will be a hot one.

Breaking the Ice: Brawlers with Brains

The blue line is what this blog is about. The brawler is also what this blog is about, so I will not give up on the enforcers in the NHL. The goon has almost disappeared and the hockey culture has been reborn in a kinder, gentler, business-like approach. The passion of the sport is purely in scoring. Fans don’t seem as eager to jump at the sight of a fight. Fans do however, still appreciate the posturing and the dropping of the gloves, but no further. Like any good business, bad PR and negative campaign ads can diminish the return on your investment.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) nears, and this is just the right time for players to behave and play to collect their piece of the pie. Just as any ruckus on the ice can put the power-play in motion, the ruckus from players must be substantiated by profitability they bring to the table. Popularity of players through Twitter lends the credible case for players to reap some rewards, but also gives personality to the cause.

Some enforcers have curbed their thirst for blood as they know their days could be few. Instead, these smart players circumvented their talents into a positive approach, especially as younger players enter the arena with little history of brawling in junior leagues. The unfortunate tragedies of Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien only reminded the crowds that the limits on the game went too far in many ways. Fighting cannot be blamed for every pitfall in the NHL. Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke, expressed remorse on the changing culture in the NHL for enforcers. Burke sent tough guy Colton Orr to minors for his diminishing role on the ice, despite having a key role in the team’s chemistry.

New York’s Carl Hagelin is an example of a player who has exemplified the meaning of defending with smart play. With his speed and ability to be a two-way player, Hagelin wins the race to the puck often and floats on by without incident.

New Jersey Devils star David Clarkson was good for a weekly fight the prior two seasons. After some cycling training with Lance Armstrong, Clarkson’s focus is maturing into more than just a brawler. Don’t get me wrong, Clarkson has racked up 88 penalty minutes thus far this season, including misconduct calls, but he’s not just all about the fighting. When you’re job is in danger because you are not changing for the times and the job description, re-training is in order. Clarkson was smart to recognize he’s not just a fisticuffs kind of guy.

Dropping the gloves creates a certain feel to the game of hockey that other sports don’t possess. This topic has divided the hockey world for the past few years, and the culture has changed quite a bit this season. Brendan Shanahan’s tight watch has players like Daniel “car bomb” Carcillo in trouble for his hits. The recent suspension of Alex Ovechkin has us wondering if his skill can overcome his physical play that leads him into troubled waters. Ovie’s physical thwarts are entertaining and just his make; the tragedy would be for him to tone down his fingerprint on the hockey world.

Sidney Crosby, arguably the greatest hockey player right now in the NHL, is suffering from a hit, not a brawl. Sid the Kid riled a few fights that were highlighted as an additional benefit to his talents.

Ex-Raners agitator Sean Avery’s skills are not needed in New York, but he’s moving on to other things. Avery was a guest judge on Project Runway’s All-Stars this past week. His input was minimal, but he’s rebounding with his fashion involvement.  It actually was a good opportunity for him, but kind of  sad moment to see his almost extinction from the NHL.

When will the hockey world really embrace a fight? When is it okay to let it rip? Obligatory violence is stupid, but fighting can be smarter.

Fighting for Fighting

During the Board of Governors meeting, not only was the NHL realignment discussed but also the controversial issues of fighting. Many hockey fans favor banning fighting citing brain trauma and poor examples for kids playing hockey. Others, such as this author,   believe it’s a turf thing- part of the game and can be acceptable if under control. Players can learn to be smarter when pulling a punch.

Crosby vs. Ballard

Sidney Crosby fights Ketih Ballard

Over the summer, three NHL tough guys died:  Derek Boogaard, who died accidentally May 13 at age 28 after mixing alcohol and painkillers; Rick Rypien, who committed suicide; and Wade Belak, who reportedly committed suicide, but others insist he died in an accident. All three reportedly suffered from depression.

NHL commissioner  Gary Bettman warned about making the connection on the deaths to CTE and the role of enforcers in the NHL. The NHL has criticized researchers at Boston University, where extensive studies have been produced, for making simplistic, sensational conclusions based on unsupported claims not based on science. Bettman also drew the line of the personal lives of the players in relation to the studies.

“Do you know everything that went on in their lives?” Bettman responded. “Were there other things going on that could also cause CTE? And until you understand that what exactly causes CTE, it’s speculation as to one or two elements in each case that were in common. The data is not sufficient to draw a conclusion, and our experts tell us the same thing.”

Experts consulting the NHL have said no one can draw a straight line from head trauma to CTE to mental problems because no one has proven what causes CTE, what its effect is or what the risk is of developing it.

“It is important not to over-interpret the finding of early CTE in Derek Boogaard,” said Robert Cantu, a co-director of BU’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. “However, based on the small sample of enforcers we have studied, it is possible that frequently engaging in fights as a hockey player may put one at increased risk for this degenerative brain disease.”

Certainly the enforcers may suffer from depression, which can lead to drug and alcohol abuse. Belak was a reluctant brawler because he knew that was his talent for the team. This topic will continue to be a factor in the future of the NHL and hockey in our communities. Everyone can agree that safety is most important in the battle against brain trauma. Keep up the good fight.