A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Canes win in shootout

This is the 100th post!

The Hurricanes topped Florida on Thursday night, thanks to a shootout marker by Matt Cullen. Although Cullen "lacks a scorer's touch", he has thus far established himself as a very good go-to guy on the shootout.

In the second period, we got a short-handed goal from Niklas Nordgren, who is one of the "on the bubble" guys. He's one of a few guys who will be competing for the last roster spot, a decision that will probably be made tomorrow night following our pre-season finale at Tampa. The final cut,which will get us down to the maximum of 23 players, will be either Nordgren or Chad LaRose. There is quite a bit of speculation that Nordgren will be kept on the Carolina roster even though LaRose may be the "better" choice for the final spot. It's very doubtful that Nordgren will play at Lowell if we elect to keep LaRose. He has a provision in his contract allowing him to return to Sweden if things don't work out. So there's that. Both players have been impressive this preseason, but Nordgren only has one point to show for it. The coaches have said that he gets better every day and has looked very impressive on the ice, making a strong case for himself.

From the looks of the Superstats, Josef Vasicek did not play. I didn't hear anything about an injury, so I'll assume that he was a healthy scratch.

One bit of great news is that we finally got Ray Whitney on the ice. He logged just over 16 minutes of ice time, but was unable to take any shots on goal. Everything that I've read indicates that he's feeling great and looking great.

Tonight the Canes will finish their preseason in Tampa. They will return home for a final batch of practices (and roster cuts), then they will go right back to Tampa to open the regular season on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Canes ink Ladd

On Tuesday, the Hurricanes finally came to terms with 2004 first round pick Andrew Ladd. Ladd signed a three-year deal that will pay him $688,940 at the NHL level this season and next, plus $984,200 in 2007-08. These are the maximum allowable salaries for rookies drafted in 2004. He also receives a signing bonus of $590,520. Additionally, he has $850k worth of performance bonuses written into the contract. If he should end up being sent to Lowell, he will make $70,300.

The 19-year-old had a sensational rookie tournament outing, scoring seven points (4G, 3A) in four games. He's been sidelined with a rib injury that he sustained in the Canes first pre-season game. Only two preseason games remain, and it's uncertain if he'll play. My guess is that no matter what happens in those two games, Ladd will begin the season at Lowell. If we have an injury and/or Ladd shines in Lowell, he'll get the call-up pretty early.

Either way, it's great news that we finally got him signed. I'm hoping that we get to see him sooner than later, but at the same time, I hope we don't rush him.

Now that this is out of the way, I hope we can get "the other Andrew" (Hutchinson) signed. He's been nothing short of spectacular thus far in the pre-season.

On a housekeeping note, I'd like to welcome "Odd Man Rush" and "The Puck Stops Here" to the red and black hockey blogroll. Also, I've eliminated the Eklund link.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Devils shed Friesen, still over the cap

In a move that had to come sooner than later, the New Jersey Devils finally started to shed some of their players in an attempt to squeeze under the cap. Jeff Friesen was dealt to the Caps for a conditional pick in next year's draft.
Friesen should be able to make a huge splash on the Capitals, who have a serious lack of NHL-experienced players.
As for the Devils, they've still got some work to do. Right now, they're sitting on $41,468,929 for only 20 players. You can't carry fewer than 20 players, so they're going to have to make some pretty serious moves to free up the remaining $2,468,929. Carrying only 20 players is dangerous, so they'll have to add players while shedding money. I don't know how they're going to do that. Even if you temporarily ignore Hepatitis Boy's $4.18M, they've got a roster concern.
It'll take more than an ultimate set of tools to fix this.
Hello, fire sale!
How does a straight up Krispy-for-Gomez trade¹ sound? C'mon!! You're desperate! The season's about to begin and you're way over cap.
¹ that was meant as a joke. please don't scream at me about the ludicrousness of that trade scenario

Derian Hatcher still suspended for elbow.

Former Red Wing Derian Hatcher will have to sit out three games for his vicious elbow to the jaw of Calgary's Matthew Lombardi during the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs. This Philadelphia Inquirer article¹ reports that his three game suspension is going to be enforced this year, his first season with the Flyers.
The punishment wasn't handed down until a week after Hatcher and the Red Wings had already been eliminated from the 2004 Western Conference playoffs. Hatcher was under the impression that under the old CBA, the league had to hand down suspensions within 48 hours of the offense. Thus, he thinks the suspension was illegal in the first place. The league and the NHLPA both deny that such terms existed in the old CBA. A grievance by a player without support from the NHLPA? Doesn't look good
Said Hatcher: "What, they think I just made this stuff up? I saw it. It said 48 hours."
Yeah, Derian. That's pretty much the gist of it. You're making this stuff up.

Hatcher continued to "make stuff up", stating that he thought the suspension was going to be pro rated.
"Second, if there was a lockout, the suspension was prorated," he said. "If I came back last year, it would have been prorated. So, let's say we missed 50 games. I would have missed one game. If [the season] was canceled, the whole thing was supposed to be a wash. That is what I was told" in Detroit.
Because of that bit of nonsense, he thinks that the suspension, even if "legal", should have been cancelled out by the lockout.

Here's where I have a problem: Hatcher's suspension carried over; Todd Bertuzzi's did not. HOWEVER, the terms of the Hatcher suspension were clear: three games. The Bertuzzi suspension was the vague "indefinite". Mr. Bettman has used a great deal of discretion to determine that the period ofindefinitenessy has expired. On the other hand, Hatcher's "three games" have not. For the record, I was against the terms of Bertuzzi's suspension from the moment it was handed down. I thought there should have been more precise terms. Like, say, "82 games". Although I'm upset that Bertuzzi is being reinstated, I understand.

If you have a grievance with the league, and the Player's Association won't even back you, you're pretty much an idiot.

Lots of other crazy stuff today.

¹ This article is available to registered users, but you won't need to set up an account. Login information (via Puck Update) is available here

Canes lose again

On Sunday, the Canes were topped by Nashville to the tune of 4-2.

Erik Cole had an early unassisted goal, and my guy Big Joe Vasicek scored our only other goal mid-way through the second. Unfortunately, Andrew Hutchinson was unable to find his way onto the scoresheet. In fact, he only had one shot on goal.

I listened to most of the first and second periods. Our local Canes station isn't airing pre-season games, and there isn't a station in the network that webcasts, so I had to listen to a Preds webcast. Their guys were actually pretty good, but I just didn't enjoy it the way I enjoy listening to Chuck Kaiton. From what I could tell, the encouraging thing about yesterday was that Mikey C was out there crushing everything that moved. On at least three occasions, I heard the Nashville announcer say "and he's leveled by Commodore". He only took one penalty in his 21 minutes of ice time, and the Preds announcers actually disagreed with that call.

On Saturday, the Canes lost to the Thrashers by the same 4-2 tally. In each of these 4-2 losses, we let in an empty-net goal. Saturday's goals came from Eric Staal (with helpers by Josef Vasicek and Mike Zigomanis) and Chad LaRose (with helpers by Mikey C and Danny Richmond)

Two more pre-season games for us: at Florida on Thursday, and at Tampa on Friday.

With just nine days to go before the season starts, we still need to make a couple of signings. Andrew Hutchinson is still playing without a contract, but he's been so darn impressive, I know they're working hard towards getting him signed and keeping him on the big club. Andrew Ladd's future is still somewhat in question. I think we could use him on the big club, but others think he still needs some time. Either way, he isn't signed yet.

There may be a trade in the works, involving one of our veteran defensemen, but I have no factual basis for this.

Once we get Hutchinson signes, I'll try to create some sort of a stats tracker for him. Jes Gölbez; is so sure that Hutchinson will be less effective in 82 regular season games than he was in the first three pre-season games (8 points), that he's offered the following:

Yep, defenseman Andrew Hutchison of the Carolina Hurricanes leads all scorers with 1 goal and 7 assists for 8 points. I bet a hot dog with cheese that he won't even get 8 points in the regular season.

He's found quite a few takers on that bet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Martha Burk is at it again

Remember Martha Burk?

Sure you do. She's the lady who staged what she thought would be a mammoth protest at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta GA a few years ago. She thought it was horribly unfair that the private Augusta National Golf Club had no women as members. She envisioned some "million woman march" on Augusta where they would lock arms and hold the tournament hostage. The "protest" amounted to about 40 people hanging out in trees, waving signs and whatnot. Few people took her seriously.

She then took it upon herself to go after some of the corporate sponsors of the event. Some got scared while the likes of Coca-Cola didn't bat an eyelash. She's worked really hard trying to get Augusta to change their policy, but they won't and they refuse to be intimidated by a few protesters.

Now she's "protesting" the NHL because of its new "My NHL" ad campaign, which features an attractive and relatively scantily clad woman helping her warrior get dressed and ready for action. Burk says this is demeaning and sexist and all this other stuff. She plans to write letters to the NHL and NBC, begging them to abort the ad campaign, which is scheduled to begin on NBC next week. She believes that the woman in the ad is nothing more than a "sexual ornament" and that the ad is sexually suggestive. NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur begs to differ with her. Mansur claims that the woman represents the warrior's "spiritual trainer" and "his mentor".

When I watched the ad, I didn't think that much about the woman. She's not the focus of the ad. I certainly didn't think it was even remotely, as Dr. Burk suggests, a double entendre when she asks "Ready?". It's crystal clear (to me, anyway) that she means "are you ready for battle?" View it for yourself here and make up your own mind.

I'm not explicitly suggesting that anyone write Ms Burk to tell her how much of an idiot she is for trying to take the NHL down. In fact, she's too much of a coward to post her own email address anywhere that I've looked, but the following contact information is available from the NCWO website:
To contact or schedule an interview with Dr. Burk, please call 202-293-4505 or e-mail Dr. Burk's assistant, Amy Mulry, at amym@ncwo-online.org.

Do whatever you want to with that information.

Big Joe shines again

Josef Vasicek had another great game Thursday night against the defending Stanley Cup champ Lightning. He scored two goals for the second day in a row, leading the Canes to a 5-2 victory in their final home pre-season game. He added an assist, but was inexplicably NOT named the game's first star (or second, or third). That honor went to defenseman Danny Richmond, who had a goal and an assist. Erik Cole had four assists and was named third star.

Also scoring for the Canes was Jesse Boulerice and Chad LaRose. Boulerice's goal came on a beautiful set-up by Cole and LaRose's came on a penalty shot early in the first period.

After the game, nine players were sent down to Lowell, including Keith Aucoin, who I once called "schmuck" and was taken to task for it by Heather at [so.very.obsessed].

Also in that group was the love to hate Pavel "Krispy" Brendl. Here's a guy with loads of raw talent, but very little desire. I've written this dozens of times. He signed a two-way contract where the disparity was significant. If he had made the big club, he would have made $899,745. Unfortunately for him, he didn't put forth any effort in training camp, so he will make a meager $35,000 playing in Lowell. I'm disappointed in his lack of effort, but relieved that he won't be on the big club, frightening us on a nightly basis. For Brendl, the lack of effort cost him $864,745. In terms that are easier for him to understand, that's 157,226 dozen original glazed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme ¹.

The Canes continued their trend of pounding the net on offense while permitting few shots in their own end. The shot totals were 30 for the Canes and 17 for the Bolts.
Both clubs did a fairly decent job staying out of the box, picking up eight two-minute minors each. Carolina capitalized on only one powerplay opportunity, while the Lightning cashed in twice.
It was disappointing that Cory Stillman couldn't play against his former team, but he and the Captain were held out. Also held out was Ray Whitney, who still hasn't played all pre-season.
Worth noting is that the Canes faced a #1 keeper for the first time. In the previous three games, we've faced backups or try-outs, but last night, they had John Grahame in the pipes.

By the way, note to Tampa Bay Lightning website administrators:

¹ based on the local price of $5.19/dozen plus tax.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hutch doles out five assists

Again on Wednesday, Andrew Hutchinson had a terrific night. In their victory over the Thrashers the Canes scored five goals, and he had an assist on all of them. He has gone well above any expectations the club had of him. At this point, I would say that he's played himself onto the roster. By my count, he's got a goal and eight assists in three pre-season games. I'm still a little unclear about his status, though. We acquired him in a trade with Nashville, but is thus far without a contract of any kind. I would have to assume that we're working hard to get him signed because he certainly looks like he should be on our every-day roster. His stellar play has rekindled trade rumors involving Aaron Ward or Bret Hedican. Actually, there's a little talk that Hedican might hang 'em up. He's been battling injury for the past two seasons, and he's not getting any younger. It might be a little hard to find any takers in the trade market.
It's a little hard to tell in these split-squad games, but Hutch has been head and shoulders above the rest. The best thing is, he's a defenseman, and he's putting up crazy offensive numbers. The other pre-season standout has been Michael Zigomanis, who lit the lamp once and added an assist on Mikey C's goal.
My guy, Big Joe Vasicek lit the lamp two times and was inexplicably named first star of the game. I mean, two goals is awesome. It's hard to argue with that, but first star should be Hutch. It doesn't really matter, but that's my take on it anyway. Word on the street is that the Czech Condor was really out there owning the ice. Coach Lavi had a heart-to-heart with him before the game and asked him to really utilize his size and skill to his advantage. Boy, did he. We're anticipating a 25+ goal season for Big Joe, and I'm secretly hoping for a 40 goal season.

A bunch of our guys (Whitney, Brind'Amour, Ladd, Stillman) are on the mend. Frankly, there's no reason to send Stillman and Brind'Amour out there in the pre-season. They have nothing to prove and only risk unnecessary injury by going out there.

We've got one more home pre-season game tonight, then on the road for four. They say we're going to make the first round of cuts before we hit the road. I know one thing for sure -- Ziggy (who was already virtually guaranteed a spot) will make the final round of cuts. And I really hope Hutch makes the final cut, too. Actually, Mikey C has played pretty well, too. The positional battles are not that hotly contested with the forwards, but there's some good stuff going on with the D-men.

Tonight we've got the Bolts. I don't know if Stillman will be available to play, but if he is, he'll be something to watch in that game. If not, opening night against the Bolts is only 13 days away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

add THIS one to the WTF file.

After Moscow Dynamo and Avangard Omsk got into an apparent battle royale over Pavel Datsyuk, the little punk has decided to come back to the Red Wings after all. The whole Russia thing looked very dirty to me, and I have no idea what his motivation is for coming back to the USA, but I can guess fear. He was at the center of a very heated mob war, and may have feared for his life. I know that some of you will insist that the money is clean, but I refuse to believe that there isn't any mafia involvement. There are documented cases of mafia involvement in the Russian SuperLeague, and I would be very surprised if this was totally clean. Just one thing, Pavel. Make sure your family is safe. Your departure will probably make the mob bosses very angry.

This story on tsn.ca doesn't indicate any numbers, but the last offer the Wings made was for $3.8M, which in my opinion is too much. I'm imagining that they've raised the bar to entice him back, which is completely insane. On thing's for certain, though. He won't be getting $6M or more, and it won't be tax-free.

I'd love to know the real reason behind this. The other day, Dave, over at the great site sidearm delivery posted a story about this. The story indicated that Datsyuk was upset that the teams were fighting over him, and that he didn't want to go to an arbitration hearing. Does sidearm delivery speak Russian?

I wonder if he will be respected in Hockeytown. After all the pouting, the ultimatum, the departure, then the "oh, I was just kidding". If I was a RedWings fan, I would want to hate him, but I would probably also welcome him back. Lucky for me, I'm predisposed to hate RedWings anyway. Except of course when they had Brett Hull. You can't hate that guy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

B-team Canes lose in shootout

After decimating the Capitals on Friday night, the Canes sent in a different lineup against the Panthers. On Sunday, we didn't see Rod Brind'Amour, Corey Stillman, Justin Williams, Oleg Tverdovsky, Ray Whitney or Andrew Ladd¹. Those are some pretty key guys to miss, but that's what pre-season is all about; we've gotta give everyone a shot. We already know those guys (except Ladd) are on the team, and we already know about their work. We need to see what everyone else has.

Regulation and sudden death ended with the score knotted at 4, and we lost on shootout. Here's my observations:
Mike Zigomanis will definitely make the big team. He has been our best skater, bar none. In the first game, he had a goal and two assists. In yesterday's game, he added a really nifty goal and another assist. On his goal, he found a little hole of about six inches between the goalie's right leg and the near post. Aside from the scoring, he's out there really hustling, and it looks like he's got pretty good defensive skills, too.

Andrew Hutchinson has been amazing. Thus far, it looks like we abused Nashville in that trade. They got a third round selection for him, which they used to pick up a Finnish defensive prospect. I'm not sure I understand this. Hutchinson is young, and has already proven his mettle (at least at the AHL level),and is now proving himself to be NHL-ready. In Sunday's game for us, he continued to play a good brand of defense and he potted another goal, and an assist. His goal, on the power play, was a pretty easy one, but it sure was pretty. He found the goalie a little out of position, and buried it top shelf, glove side. Hutchinson has been the surprise of camp this year. We knew he had an offensive upside, but we certainly didn't expect this. And in his natural setting, defense, he hasn't given anything up. I know, I know.... It's just pre-season, but we're all very excited about the way he's been playing.

Martin Gerber did not give us the kind of game we were hoping for. I know he's maybe a bit rusty, and he may have been playing slightly hurt, but his play in periods one and two was shaky at best. He gave up lots of big rebounds, failed to freeze the puck a few times when he should have and failed to kick the puck into the corners when he should have. In the third period, however, I really liked what I saw. We'll need to take a couple more pre-season looks before complaining about his play. I like to think that he just had to shake the rust off.

Krispy is absolutely HORRIBLE. I focused on him for a little while, and I watched him hanging out by the Florida blue line, while Florida was down in our end having an unofficial powerplay. I'm not kidding. He was just STANDING there, 100 feet away from the action. He did this on two different occasions. He's a bum. A total bum. Oodles of raw talent, but no drive. We've been overly patient with this guy, and he hasn't paid dividends. We need to relegate him to Lowell, or maybe even release him outright.

By the way, all four of our goals came in the second period. Hutchinson, Staal, Wallin, Ziggy.

Next game: Wednesday versus the Thrashers and their new crew of Peter Bondra, maid Marian Hossa and Bobby Holik. For some reason, the Birds still list Ilya Kovalchuk on their roster. What's up with that?

¹ Andrew Ladd injured his back on Friday, and will be out for approximately one week. He remains unsigned, and the holdup appears to be in the area of performance bonuses.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Canes solid in preseason opener

I wasn't there, and I didn't even get to listen on the radio, but from what I've read, the Hurricanes looked VERY good in tonight's 6-0 shelling of the Capitals
Mike Zigomanis and newcomer Cory Stillman each had a powerplay goal and two assists to lead scorers. Eric Staal added another powerplay goal. Another newcomer, Matt Cullen, added the Canes' fourth man-advantage goal. Justin Williams netted a shorthanded goal, and former Capital Colin Forbes had the only even-strength goal of the game.

This is fantastic news. The Canes cashed in on four out of our 14 powerplay opportunities, or 28.6%. In 2003-04, our season total was 10.6%, dead last in the league. Meanwhile, we managed to stay out of the box, only getting whistled for four minor penalties.

In the "free sample" of shootout, the Canes were also a success, but at this point in time, I don't know any further details other than that Zigomanis found the net.

The other huge news is that our rookie sensation netminder Cam Ward stopped all 24 shots he faced, including some dandy breakaway stops. He didn't even know he was going to play until just before the game, but he obviously did quite well. Prior to camp, the expectation was that he would be the backup to Martin Gerber. Gerber has some sort of back injury, so we'll expect Ward to see some more preseason time. Possibly Kevin Nastiuk will find himself between the pipes. If all goes well, Ward might play himself into a bigger role with the team.

Erik Cole, Ray Whitney and Frantisek Kaberle sat out for Carolina, while Olie the Goalie, Andrew Cassels, and (I think) Alexander Ovechkin sat out for the Caps.

Friday, September 16, 2005

shootout to be used in ALL pre-season games

I read this earlier on the Hurricanes messagae boards, but I wasn't sure if it was true. You know how message boards get.
Somehow, I never noticed the story on tsn.ca, but here it is.

Regardless of the score at the end of regulation, ALL preseason games (which start tonight!!!) will feature a shoot-out. This will give the players and the fans some practice as to how everything works. I'm not going tonight, but I'll be there on Sunday. It should be a lot of fun.

Grrrr.. I just noticed that my opening night countown timer isn't working with Firefox. I have to go fix that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ronnie Franchise calls it quits

I am happy and sad at the same time about the retirement of Ron Francis. Not only one of the greatest players of all time, but one of the greatest ambassadors to the sport, Ronnie will be missed. Mostly by Hurricanes/Whalers and Penguins fans, but by any true fan of our sport.
Whenever you hear someone mention Ron Francis, you can't go more than a minute without hearing the words "class", "poise", "leadership", "dedication", "humble", "underrated". All these words describe the man inside the sweater rather than the sweater. Except this one: underrated.

Ron Francis quietly amassed 1798 points over his incredible 23 year career. Fourth only to Gordie Howe (1850), Mark Messier (1887), and Gretzky (2857). That's some pretty elite company.
He had 1249 assists, second only to Gretzky's 1963.
He had 579 goals, 19th on the NHL all-time list.
He was one of only two players in the history of our sport to record 20 20-goal seasons. That other guy was Gordie Howe.
He played in 1731 regular season NHL contests, third only to Messier's 1756 and Howe's 1767.
Somehow, despite all of this, the hockey gods only saw fit to name him an All-Star four times.

His three Lady Byng trophies can't come close to defining the level of class he played (and lives life) with. Ask anyone who has met him. Anyone who has played with him. Anyone who has played against him. Anyone who knows anything about hockey.

But "being recognized" isn't what Ronnie Franchise is about. He never cared about stuff like that. He loves the game and he loved being the terrific leader that he was, but he couldn't have cared less about the accolades. He always deflected praise and put the team above individual accomplishments. He is the perfect example of a franchise player. Team first. The kind of guy you want to build your team around. The kind of guy you need in the locker room. He made other players better, and he made the team better because of it. He may have even made players on other teams better. There's probably a ton of North American skaters in the league who would name Ron Francis as one of their boyhood idols.

There's also his play on the ice. The outstanding vision, the tremendous playmaking ability, the hustle, the two-way dominance, the ability to anticipate the location of the puck. All sorts of superlatives could be used to describe his play.

The little stuff. I can remember several times during the 2003-04 season, just watching him on the bench. He'd sit beside our rookie Eric Staal (who, incidentally, is sometimes described as a "mini-Francis") talking to him, coaching him. Staal looking at Ronnie the whole time, instead of watching the game.

I am very happy for Ron that he has his name on the Cup twice. As nice as it would have been for him to have stayed with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, during those 8 seasons, it was the best thing for him. We're just lucky that we got him back, and that he gave us a run to the Cup in 2002.
He will, like his friend and recent retiree Mark Messier, be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Although the Hurricanes site has no mention of his retirement, I would be VERY surprised if something isn't in the works for a sweater retirement on the night of our home opener. How perfect that our home opener is versus the Penguins, with whom he won two Cups. Fifteen years with the WhalerCanes and eight with the Penguins. A great opportunity for both organizations to send him off in style. Ironically, being sent off "in style" wouldn't be Ronnie's style. I think he'll humor us, though.

Thanks for the memories, Ron.

So long, #10.

It's official. Ronnie Franchise is calling it quits. Give me an hour or so to write a real post.

For the time being, read this story posted on tsn.ca.

I'm sure we'll do the right thing and retire the sweater on our home opener, which is, as fate has it, versus the Penguins.

There's no C in JAGR because there are three in CZECH REPUBLIC

Add this to the "WTF?" file.

After the great Mark Messier stepped away from the game, the logical choice to succeed him as Captain of the Blueshirts was Jaromir Jagr. Only thing is, he doesn't want the job.

He says it would be more suitable for a North American skater to be the Captain. Someone who speaks English as a first language. I'm not sure I understand, but in an interview, which you can watch over at tsn.ca, he muttered something about not being able to say what he wants to say. He wants to take on the leadership role, but he prefers to be the more passive Alternate Captain than to be the one getting in people's faces or to be the one in the spotlight.

TSN was speculating that part of the reason he refused the C is that New York is a very unforgiving market, unilke Pittsburgh, where he wore the C. They didn't quite say it, but they seemed to be suggesting that he doesn't want to be the fall guy when the team is playing poorly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bondra to Thrashers

Maybe I don't understand this, but the reports are indicating that Peter Bondra has signed a one year deal with the Thrashers for around $505k with loads of incentives packed into the contract.
The bit that I didn't get at first is that I didn't think it was permissible under the new CBA to offer performance bonuses to anyone other than rookies and guys returning from extended (longer than one season) injury. However, there is a provision for guys older than 35 who sign one year deals

Although The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting it, none of the hockey sites have picked it up just yet. In total, there are allegedly $2.5M worth of incentives in the contract. Although those incentives aren't known, it's believed that winning the Cup is one of them, and there are a few others that are not likely to be reached.

With the Ilya Kovalchuk situation being as muddy as it is, this will be excellent "insurance" against his possible absence, even though the club flatly denies such a notion. There is apparently an eye-popping, jaw-dropping offer on the table to Kovalchuk, but he is leaning towards staying in Russia where he and Pavel Datsyuk will be able to get very big mafia-backed tax-free paychecks.

I'm still scratching my head about why Bondra is still available.

Camp opens today for many teams, including my Hurricanes. I can't wait to see what happens. More info as it comes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Messier latest to quit. Francis next?

It comes as no surprise that the Rangers are not denying reports that 15-time All-Star Mark Messier will retire today. I think we all knew that the lockout would end his brilliant 25-year career.

Messier is one of those guys you have to love, regardless of your team affiliation. A paragon of class, Messier will also be remembered as one of the game's best scorers. His points total of 1887 is second only to the astonishing 2857 by #99. In addition, he was an iron horse, appearing in 1756 NHL games, second only to #9's 1767.

His name appears on the Cup SIX TIMES, and he's the only guy to captain two different teams(Edmonton and the Rangers) to Stanley Cup victories.

I had the pleasure of getting to see him play against the Canes a few times, and I specifically remember the New Year's Eve game on December 31, 2002, in which he scored a nifty goal. We had just begun a catastrophic tailspin in which we won only four games in a 30 game span.

Adieu, #11.

I don't think it's as if Ron Francis is sitting around waiting to see what everyone else does. He will play if he feels like he can be productive and enjoy it. My opinion is that the Messier retirement, which became official as I was writing this, will probably contribute to his decision making. Couple that with the opening of camp. I would be VERY surprised if he plays this season. As of right now, he doesn't have a contract, and the Leafs aren't really in a position to offer him one. IF he plays, the only teams I would feel okay with would be the Pens and the Canes. For obvious reasons. I imagine we'll hear an announcement today or tomorrow.

Leafs sign Czerkawski

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger Mariusz Czerkawski on Friday. Terms of the deal are not available, but most of the speculation that I heard is that he'll make somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2M. A good bargain at that price, but that number is purely speculation. The 33 year-old winger has been fairly consistent, netting an average of nearly 39 points per season during his 11 year career.
While this may cause a great deal of head scratching, this signing gives them some much needed depth at RW. I hadn't really noticed it before, but take a look at their corps of right wingers:

  • Jeff "Public Urination" O'Neill. Like almost everyone else down here, I turned on this guy big time. Before you get mad at me, it's not just about the DUI arrest. He had a breakout year in 1999-2000, scoring 63 points (more than double that of the previous year). He followed that with seasons of 67,64 and 61 points. However, in 2003-04, he played horribly all season and only scored 34 points. His play was characterized by sloppiness and laziness. His demeanor was characterized by apathy. He was beginning to be a really unhappy camper and was kind of vocal about it. The sudden death of his brother was indeed a tragedy, but the bright side is that it gave Jeff an excuse to get out of Carolina. I wish him well, but the Jeff O'Neill that I saw play in 2003-04 is not a very good player. He'll probably have 31-39 points for the Leafs.

  • Czerkawski. A solid pick-up. He had a decent season with a Swedish Elite club during the lockout, scoring 24 points in 46 games. His defensive game is a little suspect, but his offense is pretty good. He should score 36-44 points.

  • Alexei Ponikarovsky. Honestly, I've never heard of this player. He doesn't have very much NHL experience. What he does have that neither O'Neill nor Czerkawski has, is experience playing under Pat Quinn. His scoring isn't very impressive, but one thing that I like about him is that he's had a + rating in all but one season of playing hockey. This is either a testament to his ability to play a two-way game, a testament to his linemates, or perhaps a product of limited ice time. I honestly don't know. He should have 25-33 points.

  • Tie Domi. I've written about Domi before, and I would doubt that there's anybody anywhere other than Toronto who actually likes Domi. Sure, it's a tough racket being an enforcer, but he does it in a way that makes it easy to hate him. He works hard, but he doesn't have much of an offensive upside and he spends too much time in the box. He should have 16-24 points.

Beyond these four guys, their prospects at right wing are a couple of guys who have no NHL experience.

Assume that Czerkawski will make $1.2M. This puts their payroll at $40,377,600 with the salary of Brad Brown undisclosed. Something, obviously, has got to give. That figure includes the $5.627M for Owen Nolan, who was released "pending injury settlement". This is a situation that I don't understand one bit. In a very specific way, I don't understand whether the injury settlement would apply to the salary cap. I would guess not. In a more general way, I just don't understand how he can be asking for the full salary from the season that never was. That part of it makes no sense to me.

If Nolan is hard up for cash, why doesn't he just ask Ed Belfour if he can borrow one billion dollars? We know he's got it. Or at least, he had it in 1999.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I didn't know there were still that many of you using MSIE.

My statcounter service tells me that 82% of the pageloads of this blog are done with some version of Microsoft Internet Explorer. To all of you, I must apologize.
I recently wrote a post about all of the retirements that came this week. Somewhere in the post, I wrote some sloppy code which caused the page to load all messed up when using MSIE. I have fixed the mess, and I encourage those of you who couldn't see that post to read it now that it's tidied up.

If you're using Firefox (and as a recent convert, I say that you should be), there wasn't a problem.

To get Firefox, click the button on the right. It's easy, free, and better than IE. They also offer a seamless transition.

Canes finish rookie tournament with 3-1 record.

The Ottawa Senators Rookie Tournament concluded Saturday. The Hurricanes finished with a 3-1 record, good enough for second in the five-team round robin. Toronto went undefeated to win the tourney. Les Habitants went 2-2, the host team Ottawa Senators went 1-2-1(OTL), and the Florida Panthers stank up the joint, losing all four of their contests (one of them in overtime).

Most impressive was our 2004 first round draft selection Andrew Ladd, who had seven points on four goals and three assist. Also with seven points was Vince Bellissimo (two goals, five assists), who was actually drafted by Florida in the 2002 entry draft, but never signed. My understanding is that an unsigned draftee becomes a free agent after two years. Mike Stathopoulos had four points on three goals and an assist. Also with four points was Kevin "Don't Call me Erik" Estrada (one goal, three assists). After recovering from corrective vision surgery, Darryl Boyce had two goals and one helper. All in all, five of the top seven scoring players were Canes rookies. Seven of the players on the rookie team will be at camp, vying for a spot on the big team. If camp (and pre-season) goes as well as the tournament did, we may see Andrew Ladd in Raleigh sooner than we thought.

On the goaltending side of things, our guy Kevin Nastiuk had a 1-1 record, a 2.00 GAA and a save per centage of .957. He'll be among the seven "rookies" at training camp, and he has already signed a three-year deal with the club. However, it's most likely that we'll allow him to grow in the system, perhaps dominating the way Cam Ward did in the AHL last year.

The first pre-season game is only five days away, and I will be attending my first ever pre-season game a week from Sunday. Normally, I don't care about the pre-season and I forfeit my "free" tickets, but this year I'll be going. I'm very much looking forward to seeing some of my favorites as well as all of the new guys.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ron to retire?

Over the past few days, we've seen a number of name-brand players step away from the game.
First,the love-or-hate Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils. The 41-year old, who was responsible for many Chuck Bednarik-on-Frank Gifford-like hits, was forced by a karmically appropriate concussion to hang up the skates after 22 NHL seasons.

Vincent Damphousse, who last played with the San Jose Sharks has also called it quits. He scored 432 goals and 773 assists for a total of 1205 points in 1378 NHL games over 18 seasons.

The Buffalo Sabres learned today that 42-year old James Patrick will not be playing any more. After being selected ninth overall in the 1981 entry draft, the defenseman spent 21 seasons in the League, playing for the Rangers, Whalers, Flames and Sabres.

Also, 42-year old Al MacInnis will be quitting after 23 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL. He played with Calgary from 1983 to 1994 and with St. Louis from 1994 until his retirement, which will officially be announced tomorrow. As a defenseman, he put up very good offensive numbers: 340 goals and 934 assists for a total of 1274 points in 1416 NHL contests.

Around these parts, we've been speculating for some time that our beloved Ron Francis would be hanging them up. The 42-year old has tallied 1798 points on 549 goals and 1249 assists in 1731 NHL games. Most of those games were with the Hartford/Carolina franchise. I'm guessing that with this wave of retirements, he'll follow suit and we'll immediately retire the #10 sweater. He has a home here and has said that he wants to live here permanently when he retires. It'd be nice to have him on board with the team in some capacity, but we'll have to wait and see. He is, by the way, an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps a full post on Ronnie Franchise is to come.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More signings tidbits

After saying no to a 15 year deal in excess of $60M, New York Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro agreed to a one year deal valued at $2.5M. He will not have to buy his own insurance. DiPietro is in Colorado Springs hanging out with Canes coach Peter Laviolette at the Olympic Orientation camp.

In other strange news, I've heard some unconfirmed reports that the Moscow Dynamo has matched Avangard Omsk's offer to Pavel Datsyuk, and will thusly retain his rights. Datsyuk was the third leading scorer on the Dynamo during the lockout. This article, from Reuters, gives a very shaky account of the story. I'll wait for the word from tsn.ca or some other hockey source to get better details.

Actually, here is a story on iihf.com reporting that "with help from the club's sponsors", the Dynamo were able to match Avangard and retain Datsyuk. "Sponsors" = "Mob".
Did I say that out loud?

Ilya Kovalchuk? What's going on? We sure don't know.

Ladd has four points in rookie game

Andrew Ladd, the first round pick by the Canes in the 2004 entry draft, scored two goals and added two assists as the Carolina Hurricanes rookie squad beat up on the Florida Panthers rookie squad 5-2. This was the first game of the 2005 Ottawa Senators Rookie Tournament. Ken Preston of carolinahurricanes.com writes about it here. We're all hoping that Ladd has a great rookie tournament and a good camp. We'd love to see him in a Canes sweater, although the consensus is that he'll have to spend some more time with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He will turn 20 in December, which means, as I understand it, he's still not old enough to play at our AHL Affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters.

In other exciting news, I got my tickets today!!!
The UPS guy came yesterday, but I wasn't here. I had to set it up for me to pick my package, which turned out to be more of an ordeal than I thought, but all is well now. My camera has gone AWOL (actually, I know exactly where it is, but it isn't at my disposal right now), so I can't provide an actual image of an actual ticket, but some of the tickets have this image on them. Others have a picture of a generic player in a Hurricanes uniform. No face, just the upper body and a hint that the number 05 is on the sweater. Once I retrieve my camera, I'll provide pictures. They look better than it sounds.

To be honest, I'm not crazy about our new slogan "Here to play, here to stay", but I guess it might be better than 2003-04's "THIS is hockey". However, I've always loved our alternate logo, so I like that it's incorporated in our new slogan. If the day ever comes when we have a third sweater, I think it would be sweet to see that (the hockey stick with the "hurricane warning" flag) on a black sweater. Actually, in proper nautical usage, you would fly two of the black on red square flags on the same mast to indicate a hurricane warning. One flag indicates a storm warning, but that's just splitting hairs.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How did I miss this insanity?

I'm not sure how I missed this nugget of insanity, but it was brought to my attention by Steven Ovadia's post over at Puck Update.

The Islanders offered a 15 year deal to Rick DiPietro?! They are definitely insane. Of course, we already knew this. That was made clear when they signed Alexei Yashin to a 10-year, $90M deal back in 2001. They offered Michael Peca a similar deal, but he had the sense to reject it. You see, the NHL will only cover insurance costs for the first five years of a contract and the player is responsible for the balance. Yashin is in the last year of his "free" coverage and will find an incredible financial burden on his shoulders. DiPietro never seriously considered the 15 year deal for that very reason. Quite frankly, Yashin is a bit of an albatross around the neck of the Islanders. He hasn't quite performed up to expectations. In 206 games with the Isles, he's scored 73 goals and added 101 helpers for a total of 174 points. His salary this year will be $7.6M. Doesn't quite fit together does it? My understanding of this is that the contract cannot be re-negotiated. In this case (underperformance), the Islanders have really set themselves up for disaster vis-a-vis Yashin. He's untradable -- no team would be interested in picking up the rest of that contract, and they have no way out.
Now... what were they thinking when they made the DiPietro offer? Were they even serious with that, or were they just trying to make a point? Seriously... What were they thinking? 15 years for a total of $67.5M. That's just plain loopy. Why on earth would you pay a goalie that kind of money in the first place? And then tell him that he's on his own for medical insurance after five years?

The conversation might have gone something like this:

Charles Wang: Hey, Rick. We really want you to be a part of the future of this organization.
Rick DiPietro: Great! I'd like to be a part of this team for a long time.
CW : So, here's what we're thinking... We're prepared to offer you sixty seven and a half million dollars for (mumbles) fifteen years.
RD : What's that? Did you just say fifteen years?
CW : (Nods. Grins. Extends pen and thick contract). Yeah. Here's the, you know, contract. It's just your standard party of the first part and a bunch of heretofore and pursuant to stuff. It's all good.
RD : What's the catch?
CW : Catch? There's no catch. We love you and we want you here for a very long time.
RD : There has to be a catch. Like I have to give up my firstborn or something like that. That's a lot of dough, and I'm just a goalie.
CW : Oh. Well... There's the insurance thing. In seasons six through fifteen of this contract, you would have to pay your own insurance. The league dictates that.
RD : This conversation is over.

Something tells me that they were actually serious with this. I don't understand it one bit, but they must have been serious.

Any Islanders fans out there? Please help me to understand why Charles Wang likes to offer these ridiculously long contracts.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pavel Datsyuk has lost his mind

note to Pavel Datsyuk: GET OVER YOURSELF!!!
(Former) Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk wasn't bluffing when he set Labor Day as a deadline for the Wings.
He has turned down an offer of one year at $5M to stay with the Wings, and has apparently signed a one year deal with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Elite League. Datsyuk has been the subject of much speculation this summer. While many thought that the Wings wouldn't let him slip through the cracks, many others hoped the Wings would call his bluff. They called it, but he had a pretty good hand.
However, Datsyuk must be on some sort of designer drug to make the following comment:
"I think I am worth at least what (Dany) Heatley or (Joe) Thornton got from their deals," Datsyuk told the Russian media.

I actually laughed out loud when I read that comment.
I'm not sure what newspaper he's been reading, but the deal that Detroit offered him is better than the one Heatley has with Ottawa If it's about the duration of the contract, he's got nothing to stand on. He was offered several deals ranging from one to five years, but turned them all down. If it's about money, comparing himself to Dany Heatley is retarded. Heatley has a three-year deal that averages to $4.5m/season over three seasons. This year he will "only" make $3.5M. The Winged Wheels were offering Datsyuk $1.5M more than that, but he wouldn't have it.

But since he brought it up, let's take a look at his NHL numbers when compared to those of Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley.

2001-02 82 GP ... 26G...41A...67TP...-19...56PIM
2002-03 77 GP ... 41G...48A...89TP...-8 ...58PIM
2003-04 31 GP .... 13G...12A...25TP...-8 ...18PIM

2001-02 66 GP ... 24G...46A...68TP...+7 ..127PIM
2002-03 77 GP ... 36G...65A..101TP...+12..109PIM
2003-04 77 GP ... 23G...50A...73TP...+18...98PIM

2001-02 70 GP ... 11G...24A...35TP....+4....4PIM
2002-03 64 GP ... 12G...39A...51TP...+20...16PIM
2003-04 75 GP ... 30G...38A...68TP....-2...35PIM

Where, exactly, does he find ground to compare himself to Heatley and Thornton? Because he's had ONE season in which he scored exactly 30 goals? Who in the hell does he think he is? His numbers don't even come close to comparing. Aside from the numbers game, maybe Pavel never noticed it, but there's a 3" capital C on the front of Joe's sweater. Those two things separate a guy like Thornton from a guy like Datsyuk. And although Thornton may throw like a girl, he doesn't cry like one.

Datsyuk is a whining prima donna that the Wings will be better off without. You can get those 30 goals elsewhere with less attitude.

This reminds me of when Keith Primeau was demanding a Jagr-like salary after he had ONE thirty goal season with the Canes, so I'll bring back the famous quote. The original quote was 'Canes owner Peter Karmanos, talking about his refusal to deal with Keith Primeau, but I'll edit the exact quote to make it fit with Datsyuk.

The exact quote about Primeau:

"We refuse to pay a prima donna, a petulant, pouting player who had 30 goals last year the same money as Toronto is paying Mats Sundin or Pittsburgh is paying Jaromir Jagr."

as could be applied by Wings owners to Datsyuk:

"We refuse to pay a prima donna, a petulant, pouting player who had 30 goals last year the same money as Toronto is paying Mats Sundin or Pittsburgh is paying Jaromir Jagr. Boston is paying Joe Thornton."

Enjoy your stay with Avangard Omsk, Pavel.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Bondra saga continues

After there were a whole boatload of rumors concerning Peter Bondra, finally one that makes sense. Actually, it's slightly more than a rumor at this point. The 37-year old winger has been offered a one year contract by his former team. The terms are unclear, but the 5-time All-Star declined the offer and made a counter-offer to the Capitals, asking for more money and longer terms. He's also asking for a no-trade clause, which for some reason, Ted Leonsis is not ready to give. Bondra has always considered himself a Cap and wants to retire with the team who drafted him in the eighth round of the 1990 entry draft. EIGHTH ROUND?!?!? He has played in 984 NHL contests, with 961 of them in a Caps sweater. His trade to Ottawa late in the 2003-04 season was one of many boneheaded trades that the Caps pulled off that year (see my earlier rant about Jagr-for-Carter and subsequent Carter-for-Aulin). In the Bondra deal, the Caps dealt one of the faces of their franchise for Brooks Laich, a young guy who has only played in a handful of NHL contests and who won't be likely to amount much of anything. If Leonsis is smart, he'll find a way to offer Bondra what he wants, and he'll include a no-trade. Even though the Soviet-born star is aging and has perhaps lost a step or two, he's still a very valuable guy to have. He's no longer a point-a-night kind of guy, but he should have at least 45 points and will, more importantly, provide leadership for the club.

Some of the other rumors (Atlanta, Philly) seemed okay, while the New Jersey rumor made no sense at all. I really hope this works out. It just seems right. What I'm afraid of, though, is that Leonsis will mess it up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

What can brown do for you?

I got an e-mail yesterday that made me VERY happy.
Dear Season Ticket Holder,
Your Carolina Hurricanes Season Tickets have been shipped to you via UPS.
The following Tracking Number can be used to track your tickets.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please send them to tickets@carolinahurricanes.com or call 1-866-NHL-CANES.
Thanks and enjoy the Season.

They've decided to take a different approach this year. The tickets are being shipped directly from the printer instead of going through the RBC Center. There really was no reason for them to go to the middle man, so it makes sense this way.

I just hope that I'm here when the UPS guy comes.

First pre-season game is two weeks from today!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sully named as assistant

Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan has been named as Assistant Coach for the 2006 US Olympic hockey team.

Sullivan, 36, is the youngest head coach in the NHL. 2003-04 was his first year at the helm, and he directed the Bs to a Northeast Division title. He spent 11 seasons as a centerman in the NHL, with stops in San Jose, Calgary, Boston and Phoenix, scoring just 136 points (54/82) in 709 NHL contests.

He and Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, who will be head coach of Team USA, both hail from Massachusetts. Lavi is from Franklin, while Sullivan is from Duxbury. A third Bay State native will also be on board; Keith Allain (Centerville), goaltending coach of the St. Louis Blues will round out the coaching staff.


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