Tag Archives: Sidney Crosby

Goonbye!

Goons are quickly becoming extinct in the NHL. After years of reports on head injuries, concussions, and depression, the pestilence players have been demoted for their own safety. Bummed but not bruised.

The announcement glares from the hockey headlines that the Fourth Line needs skill, not sucker punches.

When a head coach puts a goon out on the top line to take a face-off, it can only mean one thing: an all out brawl. Goons know that is their workload. Goons starting the game sends a clear message to the opponent. However, it’s not a sportsmanlike message but a dirty one.

Goons are not to be confused with the Agitator or the Enforcer. Agitators skillfully stir up trouble, Enforcers fight when it’s a necessity. Both have a skill beyond the fighting. Goons were the guys who could typically skate and play, but the skill level wasn’t at the highest. Often, the Goons got their spot on the roster because of their brutality. There just isn’t enough room on the bench for the Goon in today’s game.

Sure, we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby fight, but he’s not known for that. Crosby isn’t a Goon.

Detroit Red Wings Niklas Kronwall is known for his hits per his namesake. Kronwall- not a Goon.

Agitators are forwards like Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler who likes to taunt players into starting something. Kesler isn’t a Goon, but some would debate that.

The NHL has drawn a larger audience and the demographics have changed. Youth leagues will not tolerate the fighting and expect a higher level of skill in all areas of the game. Women’s leagues are flourishing, and that’s all breadth of skill. The popularity of the NHL and its affiliates challenge the game to become more than just pond hockey.

Who is your favorite Goon?

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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.

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.

Juggling UFA’s and Jagr

To the chagrin or cheers of hockey fans everywhere, the mulleted wonder that is Jaromir Jagr has returned to the NHL. After snubbing a deal offered by his original team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jagr signing a deal at the other end of Pennsylvania resulted in a sweet deal for the Philadelphia Flyers and Jagr. The Flyers’ deal is worth $3.3 million.

Jagr Mullet

Jagr returns

The 39-year-old Jagr spent the past three seasons playing in Russia, but had kept the hockey world abuzz with rumors of signing with various NHL teams including the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers.

Jagr’s decision to play with the Flyers was a result of the savvy intentions to create a Stanley Cup contending team. Adding Ilya Bryzgalov in net boosts the Flyers ability to maintain a quality netminder and not succumb to the turnstile of past years. Perhaps this is the team where Kris Versteeg will land for longer than a stint. The Jeff Carter trade to Columbus brings Jakuc Voracek, while the Mike Richards trade brings two great players in Wayne Simmonds and top prospect Brayden Schenn.

Former Dallas forward, Brad Richards, will don a New York Rangers jersey as Chris Drury exits. The Rangers will be contenders this year and get past the first-round of the playoffs. The Eastern Conference will be compelling with Jagr, Richards and hopefully Sidney Crosby in the mix. Now the question is whether Patrick Kane’s mullet wearing for the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs will make a return,  if Jagr can get the Flyers back in the playoff  fun.  Let the players   rock the business-up-front, party-in-the-back look.  Let’s hope  the beard gets a rest.

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.

Let the Season begin….

The Colorado Avalanche stunned the Stanley Cup champs in the Avs NHL season opener.  Predicted to finish low in the Western Conference standings, the Avalanche took it to the Hawks with a win on the first day of the 2010-11 NHL season.

Winger Chris Stewart scored first for the Avs with an unassisted goal, after an opening power-play goal by Bryan Bickell. Goals by Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny put Colorado up approaching the third intermission. Patrick Sharp rallied for the Hawks making the game even. Forced to go into overtime, Paul Stastny scored the game-winning goal in the Avs season opener at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Continuing the celebration in the West, the Edmonton Oilers debuted their new look and new rookies. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi took the ice in the season opener in Edmonton. The Oilers are counting on rebuilding their team and fan base by highlighting an exciting list of young players expected to make an impact in the NHL.    Eberle scored a short-handed goal in the third period to claim his first NHL goal and Edmonton’s first rookie goal. Hall and Paajarvi did not score, but logged significant ice time for fans to view their future stars.  The battle of Alberta wasn’t even close with a shutout by the Oilers over the Calgary Flames.

In the East, some gains and pains. Pittsburgh opened their new season in a new arena, but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers by a goal. Crosby failed to score. Minnesota’s Guillaume Latendresse scored the first NHL goal of the season, but the Minnesota Wild could not win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The success of the Hurricanes continued winning their second game over the Wild. Toronto passes a huge roadblock by winning over the Montreal Canadiens at home. New captain Dion Phaneuf assisted on the opening goal.

It was an exciting opening night and many teams have taken the first step on their road to success, others fell short.

Beyond Fantasy: NHL season comes to a TV near you

Thursday night, the NHL season kicks off with an afternoon game- so consider calling in sick if you are fans of Minnesota or Carolina. The Hurricanes must gain ground this year after a let down last season. Carolina cannot look bad hosting the NHL All-Star game, either. Minnesota has had some buzz. At the Colorado Avalanche training camp, I overheard a conversation suggesting that the Wild looked good this year. As I turned around to see who would make such a statement, I found myself talking with Brian Engblom. Maybe, you want to take a look at the Wild this year, just in case.

If you have to make it to work,then rush home to check in on the Penguins home opener at their new digs against in-state rival, the Flyers. With that talent on both sides, this should be the kick-off game to your season, especially if your fantasy team conists of Sidney Crosby.

Then the Candians let loose: Montreal fights to keep their powerhouse positioned for the playoffs and Toronto recharges with captain Bling. The idea of having Dion Phaneuf as the masthead of the Leafs brings pure in-your-face hockey back to Toronot. But I’ll be watching Edmonton’s Taylor Hall. Colorado did it with Duchene, and the Islanders did it with Tavares, and so shall the Oilers. This kid is nothing to sneeze at. Hall will make watching Oilers games fun and interesting.

To close out the evening, the Stanley Cup champs come to Denver to face last year’s pleasant surprise. The BlackHawks are down a few players, but the base is still strong. Colorado hopes to climb higher than last year and regain more praise from the pundits. Chris Stewart was the star of the Avs training camp and everyone knew it. Look for a competitive game to round out the evening.

Hockey for the Holidays

As you share in your festivities and blessings, think of the great hockey games you can watch with relatives this season.  Nearing mid-season, the race is heating up.  Take some time for yourself between holiday shopping and holiday parties to watch some of these great games.

In the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres battle it out on Saturday the 19th to overtake first place Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference. Can goalie Ryan Miler keep Sidney Crosby out of the net?  With the Penguins’ list of injuries, the Buffalo Sabres have the depth to take the Pens apart.  But they’ll have to get by the New Jersey Devils first.

The mall is too crowded on Sunday, and you’d rather be home for the battle of the Great Lakes with Detroit coming to Chicago.  Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews will be taking it to ailing Red Wings.  Now with Henrik Zetterberg out for two weeks, veterans Todd Bertuzzi, Brian Rafalski and Pavel Datsyuk will need to play hard against the young Hawks.  Bundle up and watch out for the wind-chill factor.

On the 21st an inter-divisional rival match-up between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild should be interesting.  Colorado has not done as well as they’d like against the Wild, so look for the depth of Colorado’s bench to heat up the ice and plow the Wild.

If you have your shopping done, then cozy in on the 22nd when Matt Duchene, Wojtek Wolski, and Ryan O’Reilly welcome the spunky Anaheim Ducks to Colorado.

The last day of hockey before the two-day holiday break presents the best of the East and West match-up on December23rd. Buffalo Sabres stealth goaltender Ryan Miler goes up against Alex Ovechkin and the punchy party of players in Washington. Then put your game face on when the Chicago Blackhawks come to the spastic crowds in Detroit for the second meeting for the holidays.  Do you really have to go to that holiday party?]

Happy Holidays and be safe.  No slashing, boarding or roughing!