Tag Archives: Sean Avery

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.

Hockey Holiday Highlights

Kicking off the holiday season, Chanukah starts tonight and the Christmas countdown has begun. Between your menorah lighting, your shopping panic and the family fun and frantic, the best gift to yourself is to take in some of the hockey highlights happening this week.

Hockey Santa
Tues. Dec. 20  7:00 EST
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils– Classic Hudson Valley rivalry as the Devils are on a four-game winning streak. The Blueshirts of Broadway have held their own, but King Henry has been iffy in goal lately. New York’s pesky agitator Sean Avery and Jersey’s rock-em-sock-em David Clarkson could bump into a brawl at some point. Great rivalry for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
Wed. Dec. 21 10:00 EST
Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks– Nothing is like watching the Red Wings at Xmas time. Santa suits on ice. Vancouver oozes talent with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The Wings boast Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. The list goes on and even Santa can’t keep up.
Thurs. Dec. 22 9:30 EST
Minnesota Wild at Edonton Oilers-Two of the hottest teams going with young talent at helm. Watch top draft picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins host Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak. Both teams are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Thurs. Dec. 22 10EST
Anaheim Ducks visit Los Angeles Kings– With plenty of talent, the Kings need to shake off their poor start and impress their new coach. The Ducks have weapons in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but can they surpass the goaltending of the Kings Quick? If you’re up wrapping present, catch this SoCal battle.

Fri. Dec. 23 7EST
Philadelphia Flyers at the New York Rangers– Precursor to the Winter Classic. The teams are pumped, so this is a Friday night celebration. Flyers Jaromir Jagr, ex-Rangers captain returns to the Garden for a holiday shebang. Settle in and check your holiday lists or exchange your Chanukah gift.

Fri. Dec. 23 10:30 EST
Los Angeles Kings visit San Jose Sharks- It’s the battle of SoCal vs. NoCal. Still wrapping and up late, check out this showcase of Sharks with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle as they blast their way to Hockeywood taking on Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson. Get warm and toasty and snuggle in.

No games on Christmas Eve or Christmas, but check your local listings for the week leading up to the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 when the New York Rangers travel to Philadelphia.

 

Crosby debut welcoming to Eastern Conference

Four points have Sidney Crosby back in the game. His debut on Long Island stunned  everyone leaving the Islanders blank. Was he that good or were the Islanders in awe of his return? Crosby’s return to the NHL was covered in the media as the celeb he is, humbled, but the pump was no fake. Sid the Kid delivered.

Meanwhile, in Washington the Caps are having Alex problems. When Alex Semin is a healthy scratch and Ovie lacks, where is the love in D.C? Good time to trade Semin in you fantasy league. Cup predictions for the Caps are in need of some serious tweaking.

The Rangers agitator Avery is back and the Blueshirts are tallying wins like the talented team they really are. If you are following the Brad Richards-Olivia Munn hoopla, then go read Puck Daddy who felt it was newsworthy. If you are a Rangers fan then the Avery bug bit you the most, not the love bug.

Now that the Eastern Conference has their guy back, let’s give some applause to the rest of the Penguins who have maintained the top sport despite playing without their top dog. Pittsburgh is rocking knowing that the Cup could be coming to their town if things hold up.

 

New York Skate of Mind

Finally, Rangers fans have their razzmatazz back on Broadway, or do they?  News out of training camp created an impeccable look into the metamorphosis of the New York Rangers. Despite a loss to the New Jersey Devils in preseason, the Rangers have an incredible group of players who will overcome any obstacle, particularly if coach Torts has anything to say about it. So why are they sitting last in the division?

Considered by The Hockey News for the Jack Adams award for best coach, John Tortorella won with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and he will win again. With the cast of talent in New York, the playoff run will surpass the past few season. Filling in the gaps will bring the Rangers the stature the team, Torts and the fans expect from an Original Six team. Fan-fave Sean Avery was given the boot and possibly took the energy with him. While Torts and Avery clashed, the talent on the team now did surpass Avery’s abilities over the long haul.

The New York Rangers paid a pretty penny to secure dominance in the New York market with the addition of Brad Richards. Richards is excited to be playing in New York, but has he been distracted by the huge crowds eyeing his every move? Are the Rangers able to deliver on their preseason prowess or will they find Richards a bust in the Big Apple? Too soon to tell Rangers fans. Let Ryan Callahan lend his captaincy to the cause. The Rangers looked good and they have the tools to do it, eventually.

How about those Buffalo Sabres? Great team concept with Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Robyn Regehr and the entire cast of the Sabres who could become the New York team fans are cheering about on Broadway. Ryan Miller’s blueliners are showing more cohesion and so it was planned to stop that gap effectively showcasing Miller’s abilities. Be true Buffalo fans and allow those bandwagon fans to cheer because when was the last time that happened?

Tavares has brought the New York Islanders the franchise player the Island wanted. Not quite the fisherman of yore, but steering the boat nicely. The return of Evgeni Nabokov looks like a nice fit by the confidence in goal against the Rangers over the weekend. With Ricky D out again, anything can happen in net.

Fisherman logo

Islanders Vintage Logo

The New Jersey Devils are close behind with their confidence in their new coach and new system in play. The nagging issue remains in net with Martin Brodeur an iffy healthy mainstay. Johan Hedberg is no slouch. Hedberg served with the Penguins and is familiar with the demands in this division. Look for the Devils to add players as needed- recent rumor for Kyle Turris.

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins make this division an enticing race. With Jagr’s return and Sidney Crosby slated to return soon, the Pennsylvania teams will lace up and tighten the race for New York’s teams.

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.

Summer Hockey Hype

It’s only August and the hype has begun. After the woozying trades and trash, this summer read like more like a gossip column. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were expelled from Philly for bad behavior, LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi  was irked when he was traded damaged goods by Edmonton, and just recently Sean Avery was busted by the cops in Hollywood for shoving an officer.  

If you are sitting by the pool, then you have plenty of time to begin building your fantasy team. Whether you play in a competitive keeper league or drafting an entirely new team, consider the teams who have revamped their lines. However, buyer beware that not all top players perform as well as expected. Duncan Keith’s award-winning 2009-10 season did not carry the same weight in 2010-11. Sidney Crosby’s health is tenuous- one big hit and he could blowout.

Eastern Conference best bets:

New York Rangers- resigning Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were crucial. Both players have developed their game and are the workhorses of the team. With Brad Richards joining the mix, the Rangers will be a fun team to watch and get behind. With Avery and Brandon Prust, expect some tough guy presence stopping any intruders near Henrik Lundqvist‘s crease.

Philadelphia Flyers– sign Jaromir Jagr. Who knows what to expect? He could be great or gruesome, but you don’t want to be left behind on this one. He snubbed other teams to join the Flyers because of their Cup contention coup. Max Talbot, Claude Giroux and a roster full of hot taletn can be yours if you do your bidding carefully.

Buffalo Sabres- coach Lindy Ruff is still calling the shots on ice, and with newly acquired talents look out. In net, Ryan Miller is one of the best in the NHL. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr will lend the blueline some direction helping Tyler Myers this season.

Carolina HurricanesJeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart are just two young players to watch in Carolina. Skinner, who won the Calder for rookie of the year, is first line, Stewart 3rd or 4th. Other young talent, Jamie McBain and Chad LaRose need to go on a watch list.

Tampa Bay Lightning– re-signing Steven Stamkos was a necessary requirement before GM Steve Yzerman could go golfing. With Stamkos secured, the Bolts will be out for blood this year. Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis may be already drafted, so consider Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell for a stong support system.

Pittsburgh Penguins- with or without Sidney Crosby, the Pens put the pedal to the metal. All energy, all the time. Kris Letang should be on your list. Tyler Kennedy rocked last year and must be a consideration, same for Chris Kunitz and James Neal.

Boston Bruins– I’d sweep up Dennis Seidenberg. Tim Thomas is an obvious choice, but secured by keeper leagues. If the Stanley Cup win was it, then don’t go overboard with the Bruins. However, there are some good bets here in Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron, don’t forget Brad Marchand. I’ve found Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ferrence to be good for fights and scruffy play. Milan Lucic and David Krejci have inconsistent seasons but make good trade fodder.

Western Conference best bets:

Los Angeles Kings-  has a great building process in Hockeywood.  Anze Kopitar will be ready come ice time, and with Mike Richards as the extra kick, look out! Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are key defensemen. Jonathan Quick in goal is a great pick. Captain Dustin Brown didn’t let me down. Justin Williams was the sought after Kings player in our league rightly so.

Detroit Red Wings– always on the list due to the talent they foster. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom are tops on any list if you can get them. Goaltender Jimmy Howard may be a task to acquire but worth if you can make a trade after the season starts- sell low. Johan Franzen and defensemen Niklas Kronwall should be noted for scoring and hits.

Vancouver Canucks– they just couldn’t wrap it up, but that has been their issue. Lessons learned may help Ryan Kesler and the Sedins in creative ways to win. Consider Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and don’t be wary of goalie Roberto Luongo if you can get him.

Edmonton Oilers– I say this because the whole world will be watching the Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dynamic. Grab either player and be patient. Hall took some time to warm up and was passed all over fantasy leagues as owners became restless with his growing pains.

Chicago Blackhawks “Car Bomb”Carcillo  will explode in Chicago enforcing the Hawks second revival. This is a tough team who wants the Cup badly. Patrick Sharp is signed and you should do the same. He’s a quiet player who has his ups and downs, but delivers overall. If you can acquire Patrick Kane of Jonathan Toews, then work your magic. Andrew Brunette is a watch list candidate to see if he can generate something.

St. Louis Blues– I pick them every year due to the talent that passes through. Chris Stewart stands out for the Blues. David Backes is a sturdy candidate but can be unpredictable. Kevin Shattenkirk,Alex Steen and Andy McDonald did well last season and are good choices in the second to third-round. Remember to put Alex Pietrangelo on your list as a stellar young defenseman, and keep an eye on Matt D’Agostini.

Don’t see your team? Oh, well, take a look at some of the choice picks to find your best bet:

Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)– The Sharks can beat the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs, but can’t seem to get further than that. Couture was nominated for the rookie of the year and deservedly so. Grab him before someone else does. Usually a second-round pick now that he’s on the radar.

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)– Benn broke out last year and was quite dutiful to fantasy owners. If he lands in your queue, consider if you need a productive 3rd liner.

Devin Setoguchi (Minnesota Wild) – great during the playoffs with the Sharks. Minnesota has been on everyone’s radar to be big but remains in the middle. Perhaps Setoguchi can spark some oomph.

Your dream team is in your hands. Not all goes as according to plan and your backup choices can make the difference in all areas from trades to suspensions of a key player. Study the new and improved rosters if you haven’t been keeping up with the transactions this summer.

Rangers Reroute

One of my New York Rangers fan groups has this ongoing discussion, for over a week, about Chris Drury’s leadership.  The call was to offer Drury for someone better.  That’s not a bad idea.  But recently rumors of trades have not involved the captain, rather performers Ryan Callahan and Ales Kotalik.  Really?  Allegedly. And what the Rangers will get in return is putting a big pile of mess on the ice at the Garden.

Talks with the Calgary Flames turned heads in New York as fans were hoping to get the call for Dion Phaneuf. Suggestions were Drury and Donald Brashear for Phaneuf.  Is that even an equivalent assessment?  I had to remind some of my fellow Rangers fans of the “sloppy seconds” debauchle involving Dion and Sean.  Phaneuf has been dealt out of Calgary, so the two bad boys will eventually have more battle time on the ice when Phaneuf plays the Rangers on March 27th.  Early blogs raised the question of the Ranger’s spark and was it possible to revive with a trade.  Maybe the wrong guy is being traded.  A captain’s job is to ignite the team into the best team they can be.  Drury seems like a nice guy, but a pushover.  Maybe he needs to go to Calgary.

His skills were apparent with his peak in Colorado, when the Avalanche had their dream team. He played against his former team Sunday night with a 3-1 win. Drury has landed his dream job, being a Connecticut native his aspirations as a kid was to play with the Rangers.  Could this mean that even a superstar such as Chris Drury suffers from complacency on the job?   What’s worse is his under par 19 points, then throw in his –11.  Go back two years previous when Drury posted 58 points.  If Drury can’t lead the troops into battle, then someone needs to suggest that another commander lead the call.

So if the Rangers bring in the big prize, Olli Jokinen, who has slumped lately can he become a team leader?   Good player at the start of the season as Calgary was displaying, but it went up in flames. Trade options for the Rangers are limited: Brashear’s a bust; the blue line is badly drawn, and seems to be invisible.  Sean Avery is battling back but frustrations are showing.  Acquiring a Center puts some pressure on Olli to come in, take the lead and prove he’s worthy.  It could happen if the trade happens, but some wheeling and dealing is happening to benefit both sides.  Fans are buzzing over the flurry.

The only saving grace of the Rangers, like last year, is King Henry.  The Swedes are all over the ice in domination, so let’s put goaltender extraordinaire Henrik Lundqvist in as team captain.  Honestly, look at what Roberto Luongo has done in Vancouver.  The goalie seems a natural captain.  The team puts the knuckles in the faces of those who greet Lundqvist brutally.  He’s the reason we were in the playoffs last year, he’s the reason the Rangers still sport some respectability.

Stay tuned for more drama from the New York Rangers.

Playing Rough Costing Players

Fines for players and suspensions are growing in the NHL, so is this a case of protecting the integrity of the game or funding the newly acquired Phoenix Coyotes?  Or something else?

Boarding, roughing, hits, that’s what you expect when playing hockey. Speed of the skater directly impacts his ability to control hits, but a skilled player should have the brake power necessary to avoid injury.  Things happen, though.

When Alexander Ovechkin became the latest player suspended for a hard hit, the debate turned to the physical type of play Ovechkin demonstrates.   He’s not a mean guy trying to take someone down, but rather athletically fast and dangerous.  Coach Boudreau has the greatest player today on his roster, but at what cost?  Ovechkin had to pay just shy of $100,000, however his reputation of being a good player hasn’t been lost.  Unlike other players whose paychecks include hits and big penalty minutes, Ovechkin should not be perceived as a fighter or bad guy on the ice.

Fans love the physical nature of hockey.  That’s why we watch Alexander Ovechkin play.

Don Cherry has criticized Ovi in the past for grandstanding, and his egotistical emphasis of his play.  But when you are born to play, the play becomes you.  Alexander Ovechkin maintains his identity in truth.  Some have jumped on this suspension as an opportunity to vilify one of the greatest players to play hockey, in other words, “we told you so.”   The stance taken is that Ovechkin would eventually crash and burn because of his charismatic style of play and his karmic attitude toward life.

The NHL wants to be a positive influence, especially for the younger crowd, so Ovechkin’s nonchalant attitude needs to be reprimanded before kids seek him as a role model. Too late.  Good sportsmanship is not Ovechkin’s problem.  His problem, apparently, is that he doesn’t care what others think about him.  To kids this means he doesn’t buy into peer pressure or conformity to be true to who he is and who he has become.

Yes, Alexander Ovechkin plays aggressive hockey and a suspension isn’t surprising at this point in his career.  But the villainous character of Ovechkin only exists in the imagination.  His hit on Tim Gleason is just many that will happen in his career.  For any player a hard hit will occur and a scandal will brew on whether it was a low blow or accident.  Hockey fans have lost count of the suspensions this year due to nasty hits, and frankly support those deserved suspensions.  But these players are not evil.

Hockey has always had the defenders as the tough guys; the blue line was the dangerous point of no return, but as hockey has evolved all players are expected to defend their zone.  Look at left-wingers Sean Avery and Daniel Carcillo, who are the scrappers and cause chaos on and off the ice.  Perhaps the NHL is trying too hard to present Disney on Ice rather than Rangers vs. Flyers, or Capitals vs. Canes.