Sunday, September 30, 2007
Though there are penalties in ice hockey, for high-sticking, for holding and holding the stick, there are no penalties for body checking your opponents at full speed, into a wall. Indeed, that kind of behaviour is rapturously applauded by knowledgeable fans. Such fans will need no explanation of the finer points of the game. Which is just as well. This is a sport of speed, power and violence, played without the inconveniences of offside or touchlines or namby-pamby referees. Indeed, ice hockey referees may well be the least namby-pamby officials in the sports world, since four of them must not only share the ice with two teams of aggressive hulks, but sort out the game's near obligatory brawl.
There was one of those last night, and highly entertaining it was too. The fight ended as an honourable draw, with one player from each side sitting out a five-minute penalty. The match? Oh yes, the match. The Ducks won that 4-1, revenge for defeat by the other home side on the previous evening. That match also finished 4-1, which is curious, and neat. Not entirely unlike exhibition matches after all.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Colorado: Jose is French for backup?
Minnesota: Wake me up when Lemaire finds some offense.
Vancouver: Well there's Luongo and then there's....?
Calgary: When will Mount Keenan erupt?
Edmonton: Glory years available on Betamax.
San Jose: No backbone, no Cup.
Anaheim: Don't open till Xmas Day, Teemu, Niedermayer.
Dallas: Play for the shootout.
Los Angeles: JS Aubin, need I say more?
Phoenix: Wayne Gretzky and Mickey Mouse together again.
Detroit: Running up score on stiffs.
St. Louis: Best of a bad lot.
Nashville Moving vans packed for KC.
Columbus: Try 7 years out of the playoffs.
Chicago: Wirtz is gone, but same result.
Buffalo: No Drury, no Briere, no problem.
Ottawa: My favourite choke team.
Boston: Just revoke the franchise.
Montreal: "Heart-and-soul" Samsonov gone.
Toronto: Gilmour and Clarke late camp invitees.
Pittsburgh Penguins: This year's Sabres.
New York Rangers: Expensive FAs never worked before.
Philadelphia Flyers: Only when Hatcher "the Anchor" is cut loose.
New Jersey Devils: Team built for a Sutter.
New York Islanders: Still begging for players.
Carolina: Was Stanley Cup a dream?
Washington: Where is the defense?
Atlanta: Basillie's next target?
Tampa Bay: Who needs goaltending? Not Tortorella.
Florida: Ominous sign: the rats have left.
Los Angeles is a disaster with Jonathan Bernier, Jason LaBarbera, and J-S Aubin competing.
It's rare for a Stanley Cup contender to have no number 1 goalie going into the season but thats Ottawa right now. Emery's offseason surgery has opened the door for Gerber and Emery took some heat for a weak showing in the playoffs.
Phoenix is looking at David Aebischer, Alex Auld, and Mikael Tellqvist. This could be a career killing situation for at least one of them.
Tampa Bay is another contending team with no clear starter with Johan Holmqvist, Marc Denis, and Karri Ramo auditioning.
Friday, September 28, 2007
The Guardian ran an amusing beginner's guide to the NHL today that you can see online here. It truly is worth reading.
Audiences will be in for quite a shock when they realize that American hockey (that's what they call it) has no grass. Hope Canada's hockey goodwill ambassador, Todd Bertuzzi behaves.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
However, the NHL has permitted Islanders forward Chris Simon to play despite having five games left on his 25-game suspension for swinging his stick at Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg's head in March.
Mark Bell pleaded guilty to drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident and will serve jail time. He was give a 15-game suspension. He cannot play in preseason games.
In Hill's case no other player was harmed although, in addition to breaking the rules, he tarnished the reputation of the game. In Bell's case, the courts have dealt with his criminal activity. Simon viciously injured a player and may have further tarnished the reputation of the game. Simon is a risk to other players on the ice.
So where is the logic? Well, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune, "Terms of suspensions are case specific. Sean Hill's does not allow him to play."
Thanks for clarifying that Bill.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I think the Leafs led the NHL in games lost to injuries last season. This season looks to be a repeat so far, Wellwood had to get surgery, Colaiacovo is not healthy (he rarely is) and Bell is suspended. Let's hope this is it for a while.
The forwards as a group are adequate. I'm puzzled by the Blake signing. Sundin has never had a big scorer on his line so why now. Their big weakness at forward is at centre. Sundin is 36 and has a bad hip. Wellwood has a wonky groin and they did not resign Peca. The Leafs needed to sign an eventual replacement for Sundin because none exists in the organization. So the Leafs may start the season with Kilger as their 2nd line centre. The Leafs offense was 8th overall last season which is pretty good. But to generate offense their powerplay needs to be better than decent. Without Wellwood that is not likely going to be the case.
I think everyone would agree the defense is greatly over-rated and hugely overpaid. The most expensive defense in the NHL is porous. None of the defense are overpowering in the defensive end of the rink. Most are weak on one-one, in particular McCabe since he can no longer utilize his can-opener move. Kaberle stands out because of his skating and puckhandling but he too is easily knocked off the puck on the forecheck. Too many offensive defensemen and not enough defensive ones.
If you have a great goalie then you can often get by with less than stellar defense. However, the Leafs do not have Cujo at his prime or anyone else like that. We all know what Raycroft can do. Toskala has looked shaky in exhibition games. Now these games don't count but his play hasn't exactly been inspiring. I know he is better than Raycroft but he is still unproven at the age of 30.
Special teams make or break you in the NHL. The powerplay will be weaker without Wellwood but it still has Kaberle and McCabe at the point. Tucker and Blake will be dangerous down low. The penalty killing was awful last year and with no Peca I don't see it being any better.
So if you're thinking the 41 year drought will end this year...not likely. Philadelphia and Florida will be stronger this year and push for playoff spots. Tampa Bay upgraded goaltending and Montreal as well. So I just don't see how the Leafs will slip in this year. So perhaps it will be the end of the line for JFJ finally.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Ian Scoggins, 12, is basking in the glory of his achievement but was in hot water at the time as he didn't tell his parents what he was up to.
His mother said: 'He only went to cheer his dad on and run the first bit with him, but then he vanished. 'After 45 minutes he still wasn't back so I started panicking.'
Dad Ian, who finished in 1 hour 45 minutes, said: 'I saw him behind me after about two minutes, then looked again and he'd gone. I assumed he'd gone back. The frantic parents enlisted the help of police on site to search for Ian.
Then all of a sudden he appeared at the finish line all red-faced. 'We asked him where he'd been and he said he'd run the half marathon. We didn't believe him, then people kept coming up and patting him on the back saying how well he'd done.
Ian said: 'My legs are really hurting now. I thought I might get lost on my way back, so I kept running. Then once I'd started I wanted to finish it.'
Monday, September 24, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Globe and Mail: Toskala's debut among the worst
Globe and Mail: Toskala shaky in Leafs debut
CBC - Toskala lets first shot through legs and loses 3-2 in his Leafs debut to Coyotes
Toronto Star - Tough start for Leafs' Toskala
Toronto Sun - Welcome to the jungle - Fans show no mercy for the new guy as Toskala hears boo birds in Leafs debut
Friday, September 21, 2007
Lot of good things were on display on the ice last night: good team speed, very aggressive forechecking by Maryssa, Marley and Sheri, some signs of strong playmaking by Mari and Genevieve and plenty of enthusiasm.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
It is a good assumption to make that the cap would not have risen to $50.3 million without the increased value of the Canadian dollar since league revenue is reported in U.S. dollars. So struggling U.S. based teams are having to pay higher player salaries to stay competitive without necessarily seeing an increase in revenue. It is likely that there is a fair amount of price elasticity when it comes to ticket sales so if teams increase ticket prices to meet the higher salary demands it will eventually impact on future sales. At some point in the future (when the Canadian dollar stops increasing or possibly falls) revenues could fall which will create a dilemma for players because it will require a drop in the salary cap. Teams with a lot of long-term contracts will be really be squeezed.
There is another possible impact which will likely appear this season. Canadian-based players have actually be taking a pay cut as the dollar rises. Since Darcy Tucker lives full time in Toronto but gets paid in U.S. dollars, his buying power has been falling. This will likely become more evident to players should the Canadian dollar rise above the American. The CBA prevents agents from negotiating contracts in Canadian dollars so will Canadian teams be a less desirable destination?
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
This is an interesting development, especially considering Toronto GM John Ferguson was on sports radio all last week saying he didn't believe Bell would miss any time this season. I also can't recall if the NHL ever even dealt a suspension for off-ice conduct.
It would be incredibly naive to think there's not some connection between this move by the league and all of the off-ice discipline that's occurred in other major-league sports recently (eg., Michael Vicks, etc.), something that's been pointed to as a 'crack down' on the bad boys of sport.
I applaud the NHL for recognizing that off-ice conduct impacts on the league. But I see this developing into a real quagmire. What other types of conduct is deemed to be "dishonorable, prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey"? How about Rick Tocchet who was involved in an illegal gambling ring? Dany Heatley accidentally killed a team mate because of excessive speeding - doesn't that deserve a suspension? The NHL can't be proud of the drunken brawl (and underage drinking) that the Stall brothers got into this summer? Bobby Hull was a wife beater, isn't that conduct that would be dishonourable to the league? How about cheating on your wife? Punching an annoying reporter? I could go on and on. The NHL has a hard enough time be fair and consistent in handing out suspensions for on-ice conduct. This is going to be a lot tougher.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
"We are talking about going into a season where our expectations are making the playoffs and competing for the Cup. Clearly one has to precede the other, but we are not going to solely concentrate on qualifying. We want to consider making the playoffs something we pass along the way to accomplishing higher goals.
Last year was about making the playoffs. Our expectations, my expectations, are higher."
Going out on a limb aren't you Johnny? So adding Toskala, Bell and Blake make the Leafs a Cup contender. With the improvements made by Philadelphia and Florida, it will be a stretch to make the playoffs. But I will hold back any predictions until after training camp.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Just a few things ...
1. Canada vs. Russia doesn't have any mystique to it, anymore. Sure, beating up the Russians always feels nice, but it's no longer special. The Iron Curtain is gone, we've played the Russians many times, and there wasn't anything all that different from this game from previous Canada/Russia affairs.
2. "We wanted it more!" - This cliché was actually pertinent as the Russians didn't appear all that interested in breaking a sweat. The Canadians? Sutter had them playing with gusto from the first puck drop, and they just seemed to be a lot more interested in paying the price to win.
3. The only time the Russians seemed to care was in the last game, when they started throwing a few 'sore loser' cheap shots. Canada made them pay with power play goals.
4. Canada and Russia have generally been looked at as the top 2 hockey powers in the world. Well, we know that is a-changing, with the Americans producing many more fine prospects, and the Russians churning out ... not much.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
An investigation by the Canadian Standard's Association has found that WJD Pro Ice goaltender helmets and WJD Pro “Cat Eye” face protectors, failed CSA safety standards.Helmets and face shields worn to protect hockey players may actually cause serious head and eye injuries, the Canadian government warns.
Players should immediately stop using all WJD Pro Ice goaltender helmets and WJD Pro "Cat Eye" face protectors, Health Canada said Tuesday.
An investigation by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) showed the Canadian-made equipment fails safety standards. The helmets do not give enough impact protection from falls, collisions from other players or hits from pucks or sticks.
In a game which saw the Canadians out shoot the Russians by a huge margin (42-17) the story could have been the missed scoring opportunities by Team Canada.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
This week, they return to Canada for the final four games in what looks like a blowout. This series is helping to overplay and possibly burnout junior aged players before they have even entered the NHL and very little interest is paid on it. It appears to be a foregone conclusion who will win before the first game in Canada is played.
The Russian hockey system is currently in disrepair. The somewhat unstable political system has let it fall apart. The Russian system still produces some incredibly talented kids in Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, but most of the rest of the talent is getting lost in a leaky pipeline. They have not been much of a match for the Canadian kids. It has been made worse due to Russian injuries to top prospects Alexei Cherepanov and Artem Anisomov, who are some of the more talented scorers on the Russian roster.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
The incident occurred a day after Russian soccer hooligans disrupted another flight to Britain, reports said.
Bure filed a suit seeking 20 million rubles (C$822,000) in material and moral damages. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted his lawyer, Dmitry Ragulin, as saying he would appeal to a higher court to have the award increased.