Jul 152014
 

It's a Rant!

I have had a problem with no trade clauses (NTC) for some time. Basically ever since the Dany Heatley fiasco in the summer of 2009. Since then we have seen players hold their GMs hostage during trade negotiations. First they demand a trade and then they blow all of their team’s leverage by a.) going public and b.) providing laughably short lists of teams they are willing to go to. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Why are you hating on the players? It is the GM that agrees to NTCs. Well, you are absolutely right. Continue reading »

Apr 072013
 

1) Obviously this was a big week for trades in the NHL. But I was still surprised at how little was made of the Jay Bouwmeester move. St. Louis acquired the minute munching defenceman for a conditional 1st round pick (if the Blues miss the playoffs it becomes a 4th round pick this year and a 1st round pick next year) and two middling prospects. Bouwmeester has taken a lot of heat for his play in Calgary, but to be fair most of that is directed at his monstrous cap hit. On any team in the league he has the skill set to be a solid top pairing defenceman and should help secure a playoff birth for the Blues. In my mind, this was the most underrated pick up of the week.  Continue reading »

Jul 052012
 

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota, $98 million for 13 years each

What a haul. It was always assumed that there was a chance the two would wind up signing with the same team, but if that ever happened it meant that the two were looking for a Cup, and hence would’ve signed with a more competitive team like the Penguins.

If anyone thinks the Wild won’t challenge the Canucks for the division title, they might want to take a look at the Wild’s roster again. They’re at least the clear-cut No. 2 team in the division. The only real weakness on the Wild roster is on defense, where the team’s biggest minute muncher is the mistake-prone Tom Gilbert. The rest of the defense is young and will need at least a couple of seasons to mature. If anything, the Wild are now a playoff team (with Nashville quickly falling out of the picture).

Continue reading »

Mar 202012
 

If you haven’t already, watch this fight after the opening puck drop in a Rangers-Devils game.

Tell me that wasn’t entertaining.

But now, Colin Campbell and the NHL are discussing a new rule in which refs can hand out instigators for players who fight within the first five minutes of the game. Continue reading »

Mar 122012
 

The San Jose Sharks are lucky they’re in the Pacific Division. Despite sitting 11th in the West with 75 points, they’re only six points behind division-leading Phoenix with two games in hand. However, you can’t help but think that even if the Sharks clinch the division title and home-ice advantage in the first round, they’re a good pick to be upset in the first round by either Chicago or the underrated Dallas Stars, the two teams most likely to finish sixth.  Continue reading »

Jul 032011
 

Am I surprised Dany Heatley was dealt? Nope.

In fact, I wrote last month that if the Sharks were committed to winning, they would have a hard-time doing so when they’re paying a guy $7.5 million a season to score 3 goals in the playoffs (just 5 over 32 games in 2 years). Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton may be the biggest whipping boys in San Jose, in part because Thornton is a world-class talent and Marleau was the franchise’s longest tenured captain (along with Owen Nolan) but both have silenced their critics (somewhat – Marleau disappeared vs. Vancouver) with their playoff performances this year.

The Sharks may have only won just one game in the past two years in the Western Conference Finals, but the fact is only four teams out of 30 make the Conference Finals, so that in itself is quite a feat. Even still, Doug Wilson is under a lot of pressure to win now and clearly he felt, as I do, he couldn’t do it with Heatley in the lineup.

In steps Martin Havlat, yet another underachieving star who complains about not getting enough ice-time. There’s no question Heatley is the better goal scorer, but Havlat has also averaged BETTER than a point per game in his last two playoff runs. To be fair, Havlat hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009, so in reality there’s no telling what kind of playoff player he can be for San Jose, but there’s no question that both teams were fed up with the constant whining and low production from their big ticket stars.

More than anything, it’s a change of scenery, but from what I’ve seen from Heatley and Havlat, and I do see quite a bit of both, I’ll take the cheaper of the two. Heatley is owed $22.5 million over the next three years while Havlat is owed $20 million over the next four.

Sidenote: The Wild and Sharks completed a blockbuster earlier in the year at the draft for Brent Burns. Moving Heatley was not discussed at the time because Heatley has a no-movement clause and only supplied a 10-team list on July 1.

“His last 26 playoff games he’s had 28 or 29 points.” Doug Wilson on Martin Havlat.

Not hard to read between the lines in that one.

Mar 242011
 

It took Matt Cooke five suspensions to come out to say he was sorry and that he needed to change his game. Dany Heatley, the San Jose sniper who isn’t very popular in hockey circles because of the whole Ottawa debacle, apparently is taking the long route to learn his lesson as well.

In a March 15 match-up between Pacific Division foes Sharks and Stars, Dany Heatley’s elbow to Steve Ott’s head cost him two games, despite his please that it was “all body,” a hit merely to the shoulder and neck. But the video evidence suggests otherwise, and keep in mind that these two have a prior history from Heatley’s days as a Senator.

Saying Ott’s never going to be a Lady Byng candidate is a huge understatement, but he’s one of the more respected grinders in the league, often donning the ‘A’ for Marc Crawford’s squad. Ott was fair game to be hit – he was caught with his head down and admiring his pass – but what Heatley did was a cheap shot. He made zero attempt to make contact with the shoulder. It’s as blatant as the come. It also came at the worst possible time – the Sharks were on a roll and the GM meetings had headshots as the number one priority.

You’d think with Cooke’s lengthy suspension and the 80+ concussions suffered by NHLers alone this year would serve as a deterrent to dangerous play, yet in his first game back Heatley took a dangerous boarding call on Mark Giordano (not his first, either, see picture below) and the ensuing powerplay led to Jarome Iginla’s 34th goal that tied the game at one apiece. The Sharks eventually won the game 6-3 anyway, but solely on the backs of Patrick Marleau and Torrey Mitchell, both scoring twice, while Heatley was held pointless and had just two shots.

Giordano wasn't the first - Jovanovski after being boarded by Heatley

Did the suspension really do anything? Heatley’s lucky that Giordano didn’t hit his head against the glass or the edge of the boards. It could’ve ended up a lot worse. Having just come back from a two-game suspension you’d think he’d be a little more careful, but that boarding hit just re-affirms Heatley’s status as a selfish player who has no trouble finding excuses when things aren’t going his way and his clear disregard for other players.

Mar 222011
 

Not very often does the NHLPA and the league agree on things. It’s led to two lockouts in the past fifteen years but public enemy no. 1, Matt Cooke, looks like the bridge between the gap. For the first time, in a much publicized event, the PA nodded at the league and quietly accepted their decision to suspend Cooke for the rest of the season and the first round of the playoffs. Matt Cooke has no defenders anymore.

Cooke is no first-timer – he’s a repeat offender who’s effectiveness and skill as a hockey player, like Sean Avery, is overshadowed by his antics. Cooke’s decision to lay out that type of hit was such an absolute bone-headed error in judgment. I have no sympathy for Cooke either, but it was also the worst time to make that kind of hit, amidst suspensions to both Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand and the GM meetings.

When Lemieux criticized the league for not punishing the Islanders’ puke-inducing buffoonery harsh enough, people called him a hypocrite because he’s Cooke’s employer. But Lemieux’s the owner of the Penguins – did you really think he was going to come out and say: “Matt Martin? 4 games? That’s fair! Awesome!” Of course not.

Just because Lemieux criticized the league for letting his opponent get away with a dangerous sucker punch doesn’t means he’s dancing with glee when Cooke gets off easy. He’s not complaining about the league being harsh on his own players, which is usually what GMs and owners whine about (Boudreau on Ovechkin’s 2-gamer), he’s complaining about the league being too lenient on other players. Those who do think about criticizing the league about being too lenient on their opponent stop just short, like Jacques Martin on Zdeno Chara. That his team was on the receiving end of a brawl gave him a chance to speak up. Lemieux collectively spoke the mind of all the GMs. Lemieux’s a good owner and good owners protect their players (case in point, the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, who famously ran onto the court to stop a fight. God, I wish he buys the Stars – imagine the entertainment value). And we’re faulting Lemieux for that? C’mon, man.

Lemieux still ended up donning the black and gold, though

Lemieux’s a good guy – he’s practically a Pittsburgh legend now that he’s got the city three Cup titles (two as a player, another due to Crosby) and saved the Penguins from extinction. I think Lemieux’s changed dramatically from the immature and grumpy 18-year old who refused to wear the Penguins jersey or shake GM Eddie Johnston’s hand when they made him their first overall pick because contract negotiations weren’t going well. He’s never been a dirty player. I don’t think he likes it when Cooke is elbowing guys in the head. But he’s not going to come out and say anything about it either, because believe it or not, Cooke can be an effective hockey player. The Penguins, on most nights, are better with him in the lineup.

But Cooke’s elbow on Ryan McDonagh signaled that enough was enough. Mario Lemieux just couldn’t stomach it anymore. He knew what was going to happen and he silently agreed to agree with whatever sort of decision the league comes up with. He knew the NHL had the golden opportunity to throw the book at Cooke and expected anything but a lenient punishment.

Even if the Penguins made it to the second round, I don’t think the Penguins will dress Cooke. At this point it just isn’t worth it. Cooke’s not a commodity any team will want because the headaches he causes aren’t worth whatever skill or talent he may possess. Matt Cooke is no Dany Heatley – which is why Cooke may have played his last game as a Penguin. It is also why Cooke may have played his last game in the NHL for the foreseeable future.

Overcompensating

 Posted by at 1:16 PM  No Responses »
Mar 192011
 

Last night’s tilt between the Coyotes and Canucks would’ve been a barn burner had veteran refs Dean Morton and Kelly Sutherland not ruined the game. The Canucks looked dangerous all night, firing 40+ shots and Jason LaBarbera played spectacularly in front of his former team and home crowd. Very, very rarely do I criticize officials, in part because in the grand scheme of things I don’t think refs in hockey fix games like Tim Donaghy and more often than not they’re fair. But one unexplored storyline about the NHL’s issue with headshots and concussions this year is the pressure it puts on the referees.

Fiddler on the ice after Burrows' hit. Image courtesy of Yahoo!

By no means was Alex Burrows supposed to be tossed from the game. Midway through the final frame, Vern Fiddler and Burrows were both chasing after the puck at the end boards, but a gentle, accidental shove from Burrows sent Fiddler face-first into the boards. I’ve played and watched enough hockey to know that it was accidental. At the most it was a boarding minor and Burrows knew it too – his hopeless expression said it all and his post-game comments confirmed it. But the referees somehow deemed it fit to toss Burrows from the game. Fiddler was okay on the play – he wasn’t injured and he wasn’t cut.

I get that the NHL is trying to cut down on dangerous play, but if there was a “hockey play” that just turned out kind of scary, that was it. Had Max Pacioretty not been run into the stanchion and cracked his vertebrae, Zdeno Chara’s hit would’ve just been a minor interference call (which is why the league’s decision to NOT suspend Chara was justifiable… but Pacioretty makes some great points in his rebuttal). The league’s image is suffering right now – what had been an outstanding season from Sidney Crosby and a riveting playoff race has now deteriorated into a nation-wide debate about concussions, in between rabid 911 calls to the Montreal police to arrest Chara and the thought of Crosby being unable to return until next year.

Because the league’s image is suffering, the onus is now on the referees to become more vigilant about calling shots to the head, in light of Dany Heatley’s blatant elbow on Steve Ott (the two have a history, going back to Heatley’s Ottawa days) and Brad Marchand’s run at RJ Umberger. Even in the midst of GM meetings, with headshots a hot topic, these NHLers were still running around taking shots at each other. When will they learn? The referees are clearly weary of missing any calls, and to err on the side of safety, they tossed Burrows from the game. Was Burrows, again, a victim of refereeing? Certainly, although it’s quite clear he’s innocent this time. Are the refs now going to toss one player each game? As rulemakers, GMs, referees, the PA, owners, and Gary Bettman can do so much – everything that happens on ice is on the players. Start taking some responsibility, NHLers.