Tag Archives: fantasy hockey

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!

Don’t forget your Enforcers

Matt Cooke, Todd Bertuzzi and all of those tough guys with bad reputations are turning a new leaf; they have to or face public outcry and discipline. New NHL disciplinarian and ex-Red Wing Brendan Shanahan will make it so. If an illegal hit surmounts to a suspension, the league will release a video of the play, then break it down to formulate a proper decision.

Pittsburgh Penguins pesky winger has been the target of resentment from fans everywhere for his hit on Boston Bruins Marc Savard, who is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Bertuzzi has toned down his sock’em robot imitation after the Steve Moore incident, and touted his skills in Detroit significantly scoring last season.

Cooke has been a consistent 30 points scoring for the past few seasons with the Pens, but his reputation needed some TLC. Last season his penalty minutes climbed as his suspensions and poor public profile contributed to his need to reiterate that he was not a nasty guy rather a caring family man. As Sidney Crosby’s health has been disruptive to the Pens and its fans, Cooke still may drop the gloves or take a hit but his role as enforcer must tame for the success of the team. Giving up penalties won’t help Pittsburgh, particularly if Crosby sits out most of the upcoming season. Don’t shy away from Cooke, but give it time for his new face to form.

For Detroit Red Wings fans, the signing of Bertuzzi was a surprise and caused some grumbling. Bertuzzi put up a solid 40-plus point and often scored the game changer. As a fantasy league option, the winger was a hot pick mid-season. His numbers are expected to be fair for the 2011-12 season, yet the 36-year old may be running low.

Bertuzzi and Cooke will meet as the Red Wings travel to Pittsburgh Sept. 21 for a preseason game.

The unfortunate passing of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien has brought a lot of attention to enforcer forefront. Though fighting and hits were not the cause of death for either player, it is a reminder to all hockey followers that these tough guys have a purpose and a place on the team. As the New York Rangers rebuild from the tragedy and acquire a tenacious team, both Sean Avery and Brandon Prust are ones to keep an eye on.

Avery has always been the Rangers bad boy
. From his “sloppy seconds” comment creating a surge of bad PR, Avery has rebounded to support same-sex marriage publicly and was recently redeemed from an interaction in Hollywood. Having a tough guy reputation attracts more trouble than these guys stir up. As a scorer, Avery had a great start to the 2010-11 season. His charisma boosts the Rangers to turn up the heat.

Brandon Prust excelled last year. Prust was Boogaard’s roommate on the road, so this season his play will be dedicated to the loss. Prust sat on my roster and produced with 29 pts., 160 PIMS, and 161 hits. If you play in a league that doesn’t reward for hits or penalty minutes, find a new league.

In Philly, your best bet is Scott Hartnell, who also snapped to it early in the season. New Flyers to take a look at include Max Talbot with 66 PIMS and 154 hits; Wayne Simmonds with 75 PIMS and 125 hits; and don’t forget your Chris Pronger who is capable of some enforcement.

In New Jersey, the Devil you may look at is David Clarkson. Though Clarkson tamed his temper last season, he still acquired 116 PIMS and 170 hits.

If you are still on the New York Islanders float, consider Travis Hamonic with 103 PIMs and 118 hits. Hamonic was a late addition to my team and he made the difference in those categories.

If you hold grudges and cannot get over Matt Cooke’s issues, then take Kris Letang as you Penguins pick. The defenseman posted 101 PIMS and 167 hits last season.

Defenders can supply your team with assists and goals, so don’t forget to support your local enforcers.

Netminder or Nevermind in Hockeytown

It’s the end of July and hockey topics are thin at best. Numbers crunch, save percentages waged and other pertinent stats hit the street to make light of some hockey news, any hockey news at all. Thus we come to the new debate formulated by those stat geeks who can’t stop picking at the numbers. I like the stat geeks. I enjoy their mathematical brain and revel in their statistical evaluation of key players and future Hall of Famers. Apparently, Detroit’s Chris Osgood is the most recent target of the fame or lame game.

Chris Osgood has expressed his interest in hanging out at Tigers games, and he will get his wish retiring from the NHL this month. Osgood played only 11 games last season for Detroit being sidelined after undergoing sports hernia surgery in January. Osgood has 401 wins in his career which is the 10th best in the league ever. Osgood’s netminding spanned 14 seasons, and he earned three Stanley Cups. Not bad. The issue is his clutch, particularly in the crucial Game 7s where Osgood’s record is 2-4 in six games, and his save percentage just .901. “Ozzie” is being passed off as an average goaltender hiding behind one of the best teams in the league. So. Most Hockeytown nuts are aware of that. He’s being considered because it is not an easy job to mind the pipes for the Wings. They win, so does the goaltender.

A few articles have expressed dismay at the Ozzie hype and his Hall of Fame candidacy. When Ozzie was in net, the Wings delivered a .629 win percentage and an improved .640 when he was not in goal. It doesn’t matter. Osgood stood in goal and backed the Wings through playoffs and Stanley Cup victories. He’s worthy of being looked at because he was the goaltender for one of the best teams in the league. This is a consideration and there has been no guarantee made for Osgood to make the Hall of Fame.

Netminder needs keep Joey MacDonald at Joe Louis Arena in the No. 3 spot. Not so spectacular, but it will have to do. The likelihood of McDonald seeing ice time will be minimal. The Red Wings turn out phenomenal talent, but are the goaltenders hiding behind the team? Could the weakest link of the Wings be behind the mask?

Detroit signed Howard to a two-year deal in February and will stay put for now. At least the deal was limited and not an extensive contract like that of Roberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million deal. Jimmy Howard has become legend in fantasy hockey leagues, yet many Wings fans are ambivalent on his work ethic and his abilities in general.

Ty Conklin signed a 1-year deal as backup for Howard. Conklin is no stranger to the Wings playing in 2008-09, going 25-11-2 with a 2.51 GAA. Conklin had 37 starts and 40 games with Detroit three seasons ago, which were both career highs. He has only appeared in two career playoff games, neither as a starter.

Goaltending hasn’t been a huge priority for the Red Wings because the emphasis has always been the blueline and production line. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen will again step into the powerhouse roles, and Jimmy Howard will dazzle or dwindle.

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.

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.

Best of Both Worlds

It’s absolutely frigid in the Rocky Mountains on a day of hockey feuding. Bound for Joe Louis Arena, the Colorado Avalanche are flying to Hockeytown.  The Detroit Red Wings sit as state heroes this year and every year before that. Diana Ross and the Supremes blast from the speakers in the aged arena, and every Detroit band has their moment when the puck stops at the Joe. Even if “we” lose, Wings fans never die. Yes, we. But the best of both worlds is writing about two hockey teams that have been influential for many years. Detroit is a historical legend, the Avs manifest destiny.

Newly anointed Avs  LIffiton, Van Der Gulik,  Dupuis and Mauldin have all scored their first NHL goal as an Avalanche player. Signs of growth and curiosity in a young team without pretense came to play the Red Wings on home ice. Wings fans span the US, so it’s no surprise to see a sea of red in Denver.  A power-play goal by Todd Bertuzzi got the game rolling. Todd would have been served a round of boos at the Pepsi Center for his crippling hit on, then avalanche center, Steve Moore.  Back from the KHL, Jiri Hudler scored his first goal back as a Wing. Despite the Avs looking dazed, they were able to score on a 5 on 3 power- play with J-M Liles scoring on the advantage. The Colorado Avalanche rank number one on the road in the West for points scored.

The series sits even. The Avs beat Wings in OT on October 12 in Detroit. 5-4. Detroit, winner of game 2, 3-1, ties it up for the next game after Xmas. The Avalanche hustled, but they were also puffing as Detroit was sprinting down the ice. The geezers were leading the chase. Here’s a blast from the past:

The Red Wings are hot right now, and in Denver the tone is that this game was a test to see how good the Avs really are. What they really are choking down is that the Wings are rocking the ice and humbled in the rivalry for now. Not saying the Avs aren’t doing well, but the Colorado boys are humbled by their youth and growth spurts. The youngest team in the NHL certainly is not the dumbest team in the NHL. What the Avs have are realistic expectations, but a positive cohesion.

Nudges and Nets

Vancouver’s Raffi Torres scored a hat-trick against the Oilers, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa made a dent in the stats with three assists. The Canucks have come out of their fog rising in the standings and taking control in the Northwest.

And so it goes for Ed Jovanovski, a hat trick too. Despite the Coyotes successful season last year, there are some struggles in Phoenix with low attendance. Arguments range from the desert to lack of ownership. I’d say both. There are plenty of transplants in the Phoenix area that love their hockey, but they stand behind their original home teams if their new home team can’t win. Also, games are expensive and if the team is losing, then why spend so much? Really, if the NHL is a show, then the residents in Arizona would rather watch a sunset.

Joe Thornton had a misconduct call with the St. Louis Blues when he hit David Perron leaving the penalty box. Joe says it ain’t so, and claims it was not intentional, but the NHL is being overly cautious with these hits. Makes sense to encourage sportsmanship on the ice, but these are big guys who skate on ice at great speed bound to run into each other. Or maybe the players are frustrated and taking it out on everyone they can. It is a weird season. Notice how the Blues are steadily climbing up the ranks?

The Rangers are making headway edging Boston in the East. And Atlanta is cooking up some good players and some good hockey. They aren’t a joke anymore. Pittsburgh and Toronto are slipping. Buffalo has tanked with Ryan Miller out and now on IR and Tyler Myers suffering.

Colorado goaltender, Craig Anderson, is out leaving Peter Budaj to stop the pucks. Anderson should be back in a week, but until then the Avs are holding up under the pressure.

But saving the best for last, Detroit is back. Motown has been resurrected. Hockeytown prevails. It’s a tough division this year, so any week on top is a good week. Never mind one loss to Vancouver; it’s the long haul that counts.

Blood and Guts

Halloween treated the NHL fans to some classic matches, with plenty of blood and gutsy moves.

Fighting is still on deck in the NHL, with some misconduct calls this week including Scott Hartnell and Dustin Brown.  Calgary and Edmonton danced through 30 for fighting and a misconduct call for Colin Fraser.  The battle of PA came to town with brawls early on involving Matt Cooke and Mike Richards. That game followed through with 20 fighting PIMs in the first, then ceased. This week has ended with a 3-game suspension for Daniel Briere for a cross-check. Both Briere and Carcillo were served misconduct calls for Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

And so the standings jumble once again.  In the East, Tampa Bay tops the list, followed by Montreal and Philly. Tampa Bay and Washington remain close in their division, as well as Montreal and Boston, and Philly is fighting tight with Pittsburgh. Toronto has dropped their jumpstart to saunter mid-pack, while the Rangers continue to fight their way above and beyond the Islanders and Devils.

In the West, Chris Stewart and Joe Thornton had hat tricks. The Blues Jay McClement also topped three in a win over Atlanta.  Los Angeles is proving to be a force, taking control of their division. Chicago is hanging in, but St. Louis and Detroit are driving hard. So that leaves Colorado and Calgary chomping on the bit in the Northwest.  With Avs goaltender Anderson out, Peter Budaj is in. Budaj was the starter a few years ago, and did well. He’s taken the reigns and delivered as needed.  Apparently, Budaj donates half of his yearly salary to charity. More reason to back him in goal.

But many of these kudos to the players go unnoticed, whether it’s on their own accord or it’s not highlighted as well as it should be by  PR departments.  For example, the Avs organization supports Full Strength, a fundraising program for youth hockey teams.  The program allows a team or association to sell Avalanche Game Magazines at a home game in order to assist with the costs of a hockey season.  In the first two seasons of Full Strength the program has donated over $95,000 to youth hockey organizations.  The Avalanche website has numerous resources provided for parents, coaches and kids in hockey.

Like most teams in the NHL, the Avs participate with Hockey Fights Cancer. So then why does the Avs PR department allow the promotion of elitism in one of the smallest markets in the NHL?  Publicly in the Hockey News, it states that the Avs have the least paid players and one of the lowest attendance rates in the NHL.   In such a small market, the  management is laughing all the way to the bank with fan’s ticket money because they can afford a luxury penthouse suite at the Pepsi Center that very few have been privy to. The Avs haven’t slashed prices in ways other teams have and now it’s clear why.  And they haven’t paid players their just dues.  The luxury suite penthouse bragged about in the Hockey News is not hidden rather juxtaposed with tales of other NHL players donating time and money for charity causes.   Most fans know the drill and perhaps that’s why attendance is so low.

But all is not lost; T. J. Galiardi gave an Avalanche jersey signed by the entire team and tickets to a game, to his favorite server at the restaurant he lunches at before a game. That’s a good tip.