Tag Archives: Avalanche

Goons be gone

Fighting…it isn’t cool anymore. It won’t change the game, but maybe hockey fans need to change their perception of fighting. Very few hockey players earn the position of Enforcer. The tragic deaths of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard have raised serious questions on depression, drug abuse and violence. The focus needs to be on the individual certainly, but as a hockey culture the promotion of violence sells.

Columbus defender James Wisniewski has been suspended four times since March 2008. He’s a repeat offender because his job description implies this. The regular season hasn’t started, yet Wisniewski will sit out the rest of the preseason and eight regular-season games for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. Clearly, James needs a performance review. His job is defender not retaliator. But how far apart are those two skills really?

Minnesota Wild forward Brad Staubitz was suspended for the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cody Bass. His intention is as follows:

“I was on the forecheck, and it’s obviously not the outcome I wanted from the hit. I say I play hard but not dirty. … You’ve just got to be conscious all the time of what you’re doing. It’s tough. You’ve got to play hard, especially in the role that I’m in. It’s a narrow line.”

The Enforcers are the emotion of the team, raw emotion. These guys didn’t have character flaws as most read in tributes for Rypien, Boogaard and Belak. Their roles were to carry and defend the burden of the team’s angst. Being a defender isn’t being the emotional misfit of the team who can’t cope, rather they are the guys who go out every night watching the other guy’s back.

Rypien, Belak and Boogaard were the “burito” on the team. Teaching in urban Denver, I befriended many gang members who sat in my classes. These were not stupid guys, rather appeased at what their role was in society. “Burito” is the man in the gang who cleans up and does the dirty work, always involving someone who crossed the gang or a gang member’s family. That’s a “team” in North Denver who face poverty, murder and gun violence.

What about the team at the Pepsi Center? Cody McLeod is the goon for the Avs, and if you’ve ever seen him smile you’d doubt he’d pop a fist at all. The Colorado Avalanche are in no danger on the ice with poverty, murder or guns. Let Cody play his game, if he has one. Enforcers have a tough time breaking out of that role partly because their other skills on the ice don’t ring to the same tune as a Pavel Datsyuk or a Ryan Kesler. Both Kesler and Datsyuk have thrown down despite their excellent puck skills.  

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler

Once the fighting is gone, then the NHL will be healed, right?  Apparently, not so. Preseason hockey has left a few tough guys out of the first week of regular play via suspension for blindside hits. It all evolves from the same defensive job.

There are always the guys who have to do the dirty work. Belak said he was okay being the fighter because that was his place on the team. How many men and women in the military prefer the raw combat? Tough as nails ones do. How many cops are eager to patrol the beat in Bayonne? If it’s a spot on the force, then they do it willingly knowing it will harden them. Rookies in the NHL do not succumbed to the enforcement pact. Only experienced goons take the slugs. Rookies make hits, which leads to more hits.

Police, soldiers, and hockey players all play an emotional game. Each career choice asks them to hand over their heart and dedicate it for the team. The NHL needs to protect the Enforcers to save their lives, is the nature of this beast. Bear hugging has been the alternate for hits and to a brawl taking the NHL from pissed to polite. Good sportsmanship never gets old.

The NHL wants to monitor the physical and mental health of its employees; other companies could benefit from joining this bandwagon. Corporate values have always been about the money, and if you don’t think the NHL is a corporation then you haven’t heard: our society has moved to care about money, not people. In today’s workplace you are replaceable if you are mentally or physically not tough enough, so goes it on the ice.

Blood, sweat and tears.

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The coast with the boast

What’s with the love affair with the Western Conference? Los Angeles seems to be a hot bed for hockey now that Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Justin Williams is the supporting cast for Anze Kopitar- the depth of the bench holds great value. The youth movement hit teams like the Kings, the Avs and the Sharks. Couture is in, and the Blues are singing happy tunes.

The lowest team in the East lags behind the wins in the West by seven. Toronto’s fall from grace was heard around the league, yet the struggling Rangers pulled their team up with their groomed talent in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. The West takes bigger chances. The East sticks to tradition. There is more pressure in the East to win, not so in the West. Ebb and flow. Los Angeles chose to rebuild and invest in marketing and public relations with the other Heidi. Colorado got lucky with some smart picks who were willing to take a salary reduction. Numerous reasons have put the West into high gear for now. The population influx in western cities is evident, but few are relocating eastward. Old school hockey fans live in the West now and expect a higher level of play from their NHL franchise. That’s how it goes in Denver, where you will meet people from the cold northeast looking for 360 sunny days a year in the Mile High City, and a hockey team. It’s the people who influence, the demand for the product. It’s pure demographics and market research before investing in the product. If the population pressures the management, more will be spent on building.

The Western Conference used to stop in Detroit. Since Chicago stole the show and grabbed the Cup last season, the westward migration continues. Vancouver, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix speak to the newest generation of hockey fans. Don’t get me wrong- the East is not dead by any means, but the trend shifts west for now. A generation has turned more aware of hockey, growing up with Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman as the superstars in the West. Gretzy in Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St. Louis brought more attention past the Mississippi.

Montreal, Philadelphia and New York have emerged recently to wow fans. Washington and Pittsburgh are no slouches, neither are Overchkin and Crosby, who still dictate hockey stats. Stamkos has become the new face of NHL hockey, and he’s in the East, and a beach league to boot. The expectations in the Eastern Conference are fierce and that has caused the stern look at the differences. The Western Conference has been under rated for so long, that the shock of their revival emphasizes the weakening of the East. Right now in the standings, in the West, Vancouver has 31 pts. and sits in the No. 2 slot, while Tampa Bay also has 31 pts. but sits in the No. 6 slot in the East. The consistency in the West allows an evening of the race in standings almost weekly. The hold on the top spot is tighter in the West, thus more competitive match-ups regularly. More attention to detail and fewer mistakes is a must if your team is facing stiff competitors.

The West has stayed competitive to keep up with the Red Wings over the years. Yes, I said it. Every team wants to keep up with the Wings, now and in the past. But for teams truly in the west, it seems ironic as the West touts the lone gunslinger mantra, yet the team concept translates well. Teams work well in an ambush. The East develops individual talent, so the team concept has dropped in significance, some have suggested. The Flyers seem pretty tight, as does the Rangers. Benchwarmers in the East aren’t as NHL ready as they seem to be in the West. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an eastern team benefiting from the knowledge through Steve Yzerman’s leadership. Stevie Y. learned from the best franchise team both on and off the ice.

Best bets for the Stanley Cup have pitted the Detroit Red Wings against the Washington Capitals. Another speculation could be Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Some exciting possibilities have been created in this fluctuating season sending fantasy teams into clunkers and numerous hat-tricks. Great games are great gifts for any hockey fan, so may the season be magical!

Praise the Porter and other Avalanche tales

Broadway bullets weren’t enough to stop Kevin Porter, who has five goals on the year. This is great. As a Michigan Wolverine fan, Michigan hockey fandom is awesome. It’s the same love of the game at DU Pioneer games without the rebellion. Michigan has claimed more NCAA hockey titles, 9, than any other team. Denver sits right behind Michigan with 7 titles. There’s nothing to do in the winter but partake in Palin winter sports. That’s why the pairing of former Michigan captain and Hobey Baker winner, Kevin Porter, makes a great addition to the young Avalanche corral. Porter has experience in the minors, not only with the Avalanche, but also with the Phoenix Coyotes. Porter has five game winning goals in seven games.

Matt Duchene has become as solid as a Crosby-esque mirage. No one is sure if he’s for real, but then the scoring says it all. Matt carried a goal and two assists when the New York Rangers graced the Pepsi Center. In other young gun news, Kevin Shattenkirk, former captain of Boston U has 5 points in 9 games. He sported two assists in Dallas. Though he looked shaky in training camp, the defenseman has taken his place in the NHL.

And then there’s David Jones, who has had great expectations met this season hitting all the fantasy columnists recommendations. Five points in the last four games suggests a talent unleashing. Last year’s frustrations reap this year’s rewards- “grab now or regret later,” the pundits preach.

Peter Budaj

Budaj fills in for Anderson

Craig Anderson is back, but Peter Budaj is staying close. The story of the back-up stint had a happy ending, with Budaj carrying a load all the way to the bank with an 8-3-1 record. Budaj stood ground in Dallas netting up a win. Best-case scenario is that the Avalanche have cemented a goaltender duo for a winning season. If you look at the standings, this week the Avs sit in the third seat in the Western Conference.

The Many States of Hockey

I’m caught between two teams: my hometown team and my home team.  But, it’s an amazing opportunity to have been a part of both team’s histories and battles.  I feel lucky.

As a staunch Red Wings fan, I’ve been criticized for my lack of scope.  My hockey mom pal Michelle woke me from my one-sided love, “Oh Heidi, there’s more teams than the Red Wings.”  True.  She should know; she lives in Boston, is a Bruins fan, but loves her hometown San Jose Sharks.

So now that the Red Wings are pacing their stride in their division, the expectations that once were sky high have become a let down.  Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche are steamrolling through their division and have stunned many by exceeding expectations.   All of this doesn’t change the club, rather conveys the natural order of change.   I have been blessed with the Yzerman Era in Detroit, and the Sakic Era in Denver.  It is my sole purpose to glorifying two different types of hockey cities in this commentary.

Hockeytown will always be in Detroit.  The Red Wings are equivalent to the Canadiens for Montreal.  It’s just in our genetic makeup and we can’t be punished for sticking with the lifelong team, the team of our childhood.  My memories of hockey in Michigan are my foundation for my love for the sport and influenced my understanding of the game.  Respect is the name of the game in Detroit, and any hockey fan cannot forget that.  Detroit deserves a ton of respect, and that’s just good hockey.  Textbook hockey is what I hear from fans of the Red Wings.  Pure hockey fans love the Red Wings.  We’re the Yankees and Cowboys of the NHL.  But we’ve had our bumps.  The Wings went through a forty-year drought as a team, but the Wings fans held on.  Oh, and then there’s Gordie Howe.  Aretha Franklin wrote her iconic song Respect in Motown, Hockeytown.

When I saw Joe Sakic on a fire engine holding the Stanley Cup, I knew I was a fan.  Having moved from Ann Arbor to Denver, the Avs weren’t here yet.  A few years later, I was standing downtown watching the Stanley Cup parade go by.  What an awesome team the 1996 Avalanche were; truly, hockey at its best.  But Denver still isn’t a hockey town like Detroit.   I meet too many people who aren’t interested, yet the Avalanche fans are the most polite people I’ve ever encountered at a hockey game or hanging out with at morning skates.  When I tell them I’m also a Wings fan, they tell me they’re sorry, But they still talk to me about hockey.  DU Pioneer hockey has always been my link with Colorado, and the Pioneers just celebrated 60 years on ice. That’s tradition.

The series of playoffs games between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche were an exhibition of old-time hockey greatness.  Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic together on the ice fighting for a right to represent the Western Conference starting in 1996, is classic.  The Avalanche came in as the new kid on the block facing the tested and true Wings.

Avs fans love to razz me about the Wings mediocre season, and the Wings fans tell me I’ve “gone to the other side.”  I’ve always been diplomatic in my approach to relationships, and this is no different.  I like the New York Rangers too because my husband gave me his Rangers jacket from the 1980s.   My nights are spent watching hockey and writing about the sport I can’t live without.  I’ll watch any game, any team.

Avs in the Morning

It’s Tuesday November 24th and for breakfast I slam down a cup of coffee and head to Avs morning skate. The best breakfast ever.  I was glad to see twenty-five fans in the stands.  Play was lively and a lot of smiles.  The Colorado Avalanche have found their chemistry on the ice.

Defenseman Kyle Quincey and superstar rookie Matt Duchene chatted amongst themselves along the boards, while Adam Foote was supervising puck drills.  J-M Liles repeatedly plowed the puck toward the net, but frustration was apparent, as his shots didn’t fire head on.  With Liles on the IR twice this year, his spot on fantasy teams has caused frustration, me included.  Wojtek Wolski seemed tired, as I observed for my fantasy line-up and his potential against the upcoming Predators.  He was smiling and talking with Duchene between drills, so I hope he can hold my LW spot for Wednesday.

I was impressed with defenseman Ryan Wilson who had good shots and was extremely persistent in achieving an accurate shot.  His puck handling skills were tight and skilled.

The last players on the ice were Ryan O’Reilly and Chris Stewart having a blast challenging goaltender Peter Budaj.

After the morning skate, I went to hang with the group of Avalanche fans eagerly waiting for the team to sign autographs and get pictures.  As each car crept through the gate, fans swarmed politely.  These Avalanche fans were very bonded in their love for their team and courteous to the players. As Budaj drove out of the gate, fans wanted to know if he would be starting against Nashville. He said he wasn’t.

I had a chance to give my blog card to Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly.  I approached Stastny as fellow DU alumni, while I approached O’Reilly with “you’re on my fantasy team.”  He liked that.  I asked them both to check out my blog.

Shout out to Cody McLeod who got out of his truck to take pictures with everyone.  We were all glad he didn’t fight with ex-Av Lappy on Monday against the Flyers.

I’m not the best photographer with my camera phone, but here’s a few photos of Cody McLeod, Darcy Tucker and Ryan O’Reilly.

Until next morning skate, don’t cross my blue line!

Who’s Got the Luck?

Week 7 of the NHL brings both talent and luck to the top of the Conference standings.   Shots on goal, staking claim on the blue line and goaltending has contributed to the unpredictable rankings as we move past the first quarter of the season.

Eastern Conference:

1.

The Washington Capitals top the Eastern Conference despite having lost Alex Ovechkin for a brief stint.  Enter Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison, among the few who had an opportunity to keep their team afloat.

Goaltending has been a round robin with Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov netting the top jobs, but thirdster Michal Neuvirth stepped into a game this week against Montreal. Neuvirth’s opportunity fell short with a loss of  2-3.

My prediction preseason comments:

Washington Capitals- Alexander Ovechkin rocks, we all know that, but I’ll be watching to see if the young goalie, Semyon Varlamov can hold it together.  Critics doubt the strength of this goaltender for the full-season impact, but what I saw last year in the unraveling of the New York Rangers was impressive.   And, Don Cherry loves to rip on Ovechkin for his grandstanding.  How ironic.

2.

When you talk about the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur gets the high five, but the Devils have a strong base and have climbed up in the Eastern Conference because of good play.   The depth of players such as David Clarkson has proven a wise investment with 7 goals, 8 assists and 33 PIMs.  Zajac and Parise have held a stake in the play, but new faces have emerged as pickups in the fantasy world due to productivity.  Right-winger Niclas Bergfors has 5 goals and 9 assists. Defenseman Andy Greene nabbed 3 goals, 6 assists, not the highest stats, but a name that is popping up more frequently in commentary during the game.

Goaltending by Martin Brodeur has been consistent and spot on with a 12-5-1 record.   With a 98% ownership in Yahoo leagues, he’s expected to be great and it’s showing.

Preseason scoop:

New Jersey Devils– So I’m more of a fan of those New York teams, but I have to give it up for the Devils.  Despite Brodeur, I like most of the players.  Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and David Clarkson have all caught my attention like no other New Jersey team in the past.  I’ll be watching and drafting from this team.

3.

The Buffalo Sabres should have won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and I still have issues with that, therefore I am elated to see the Sabres sopping it up in the Eastern conference sitting in third.  Players like Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have provided a base, with Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford being picked up in fantasy leagues more frequently.

Ex-Michigan State Spartan Ryan Miller has been stellar for the Sabres.  His play has put the team where they are. His record stands at 12-3-2 with a GAA of 1.97 and two shutouts.

Didn’t see the Sabres as contenders but were interested in the team on my own accord.  My recommendations for Buffalo revolved around the D in Craig Rivet and Steve Mantador who have proven to keep the lanes clear for scoring.   Talent hidden in the depths of Buffalo

4.

Pittsburgh Penguins sits in 4th carrying a ton of injuries.  Sidney Crosby has done his best, but one man cannot carry it all. There are some lucky charms being utilized. Actually it’s amazing that they are holding on, but expect the Penguins to rise as soon as everyone is healthy.  Fleury could step it up a bit as his stats state 11-7-0 and a shaky GAA of 2.67.

My New York teams sit in 9th and 10th.  The NY Rangers were expected to perform better, but their talent is not delivering. One exception for the Garden is Michael Del Zotto with an impressive debut showing 4 goals, 11 assists, and14 PIMs.  The NY Islanders put a great deal of hope in rookie John Tavares and that has proven to keep the team as swimmers, not bottom feeders so far.

Western Conference:

1.

In the Western Conference many fans out west would like to see the San Jose Sharks break their bad playoff karma once and for all.  This year may be it by the hardcore play and dedication towards the playoff run.  That is said every year, but acquiring winger Dany Heatley was a gamble that has paid with 17 goals, 9 assists and 18 PIMs.  Center Patrick Marleau has 14 goals and 12 assists, then you have veteran Joe Thornton with 30 points. This type of scoring creates star power.  Plus, add great depth players in Manny Malhotra, Joe Pavelski, and a strong blue line headed by Dan Boyle co-starring Jason Demers and M-E Vlasic wins games.

Evgeni Nabokov gets respect because he can complete the task in net.  So far he’s achieved 13-3-4 but needs to gain ground in his 2.2 GAA.  Not bad, but could do better.

This was my scope for the Sharks preaseason:

The San Jose Sharks-Because who won’t be watching? Now that Dany Heatley is in, and ineffectual Jonathan Cheechoo is out, the team may have a chance.  Players like M-C Vlasic, Ryan Clowe, and of course, Joe Thornton will try to gain back the fierceness in the Shark Tank.  All hope is on Heatley.  But that may not be enough.  I’m watching from afar.  I’ll be keeping track of Dan Boyle‘s stats.

2.

Now that everyone is using the title of young guns for the Colorado Avalanche, seems the team is losing some ammo power slipping to second place. Much hype has revolved around the new overhaul and future accomplishments of the new and improved Avalanche.   Panic attack or another victim of injuries?  J-M Liles was on rotating IR for a few weeks, T.J. Galiardi was out, Adam Foote was out, and so on.  The Avs reportedly have the one of the lowest SOG and GAA stats.  Good defense and goaltending has helped keep the Avs in place.  And they’ve gotten some lucky shots due to Matt Duchene’s accuracy.  Fantasy owners were warned about picking up Wojtek Wolski , but lucky owners have benefited with 9 goals and 11 assists.

Peter Budaj was out with the flu, but did that really matter?  The star of the Avs is Craig Anderson who hit a 12-6-3 record, but a 2.52 GAA, which has slipped.

No one can dispute the Colorado Avalanche are performing well, but so many would like to see them fall down.  Is it that unbelievable that a better mix of players and management can make that much difference?  If you can get the right chemistry, there’s no telling what you can do.

3.

Chicago is a great town and an awesome sports town, so it’s a plus to see one of the Original Six teams doing well. In 3rd for the race, the past is the past and the Chicago Blackhawks are here in the now.  Though Marian Hossa is out, the Hawks have the train rolling.  Great players and I’m a fan.

My thoughts on the team preseason:

Chicago Blackhawks– Take no prisoners.  Out for blood.  Now that the Hawks have Marian Hossa the team should be amazing.  Right?  Let’s hope so after all the hoopla surrounding the team or Toews, Kane and Keith and some other good players that don’t get noticed as much: Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook.  Deep dish pizzazz or digging deeper into a cheesy situation.

4.

Fourth place goes to the Los Angeles Kings who I enjoy seeing kicking the sand in everyone’s face.  A beach team has caught my eye with players like Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, veteran Ryan Smyth and numerous guys I had never seen but introduced to by their notable play: Michal Handzus, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds. Goalie Jon Quick is holding up with a 12-7-2 record, but will need to turn up the heat on his 2.62 GAA.

The St. Louis Blues got lost on their way to practice and sit in 13thplace.  David Backes has been a late bloomer and goaltending problems have been a shock to everyone.

Surprises?  The Detroit Red Wings rank 8th, while the Phoenix Coyotes are ahead in 7th.

Luck can be an amazing helper for teams with mounting injuries and sloppy shooters, but all teams have lucky games.  True skill and talent lie within all teams but don’t produce if the alignment is off or non-existent.  One top scorer can carry a team, but it’s the teams with depth taking it to the playoff run.