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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Floodgates about to open, still no d-for-d trade.

The opening of the free agent market is less than 24 hours away, and it promises to be a doozy of a first day.

All week long, there has been speculation and rumor that Carolina was attempting to negotiate a trade with Philly wherein Carolina would send defenseman Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin and would receive the rights to UFA defenseman Joni Pitkanen. That rumor fit right in with Jim Rutherford's idea to move one of the "defensive" defensemen for a "puck-moving" defenseman. As the eleventh hour is upon us, and Pitkanen it about to be in the free market, this trade seems less and less likely.

This trade would have rid the Hurricanes of all things Swede, and therefore would have significantly reduced their evil quotient.

It's unlikely that Carolina will pick Pitkanen out of free agency unless they trade away one of their existing d-men, and it's also unlikely that they'll trade with whoever picks him up. Consider this deal dead.

I'd still like to see some sort of trade that nets Carolina a defenseman with offensive upside, but we will probably have to wait.

In the free agent market, Carolina is looking for a third line center, and RBH is solidly in the Todd White camp. At 32 years old, he's no spring chicken, but he's a solid centerman with consistent offensive output of around 40 points a season. He's smallish and quick, which means he'd fit right in. I'm guessing that he could be had for less than $2M, which would fit in nicely under Carolina's self-imposed budget of $44M. It would also give some wiggle room for Carolina to orchestrate a trade where the new guy has a healthier contract.

There are a few other names on Carolina's "wishlist", but I can't be sure who they are.

The Sabres have yet to offer a qualifying sheet to Dainius Zubrus. That certainly is an interesting possibility. However, Zubrus might require knee surgery, which makes him a significant risk. I wouldn't roll the dice on that.

Jiri Novotny, who was traded to Washington for Zubrus has not been given a qualifying sheet, and will thusly become an UFA. Not very interesting if you ask me. He's a young cat, and quite big, but he doesn't have much offensive upside. He's almost a carbon copy of Big Joe "Lord of Evil" Vasicek, which is not what the Canes are looking for. Both players are Czech. Vasicek is 26, Novotny is 23. Vasicek is 6-5/215. Novotny is 6-2/204. Vasicek had 22 (6/16) points with Nashville/Carolina last season. Novotny had 19 (6/13) points with Buffalo/Washington last year. Vasicek is slow and lazy. Novotny is slow and lazy. No sale.

The Caps have also declined to qualify Kris Beech, who was scheduled to become a RFA. Now he will be an UFA, and could be had for peanuts. Another big-ish young guy with minimal (but sufficient for third-line pivot) offense. It wouldn't be a "sexy" move, but it would leave a ton of room under the cap for a trade deadline move.

Speaking of the Capitals, they have a TON of room under the cap, and could easily sign Briere or Drury. I don't anticipate Drury playing for any team not named "Buffalo", but Briere is probably gone.

Mike Comrie would be a solid pickup for the Canes, but would be a little too expensive. Plus, it might be a little confusing to have Commy (Mike Commodore) and Comrie. Added to that, he kinda looks like Craig Adams, so that would be additional confusion. Last summer, there was some Comrie talk, but not much.

Peca? Forget about that. For his diminishing skill set, his price tag is wicked high.

Denis Arkhipov? Lazy Russian.

Robert Lang? Everyone loves a Czech, but he's old. Almost as old as Glen Wesley.

Bryan Smolinski? Not bad. Again, his age is a concern. He's 35, which isn't exactly ancient, but I think the Canes already have enough old dudes on the team. For all my worries, though, it would be hard to complain about getting 40 or so points out of a guy for right at $2M for a one-year contract. Bubba from Canes Country is a fan of Smolinski. Read his take on the matter.

Byron Ritchie? Not really an NHL-calibre player. Would be a downgrade from Vasicek.

Carolina is not in the sweeps for any of the big buck guys like Briere, Drury or Ryan Smyth. Of the above mentioned lot, or any others who have been talked about in Carolina, the only one I really like is White.

Don't forget, Carolina now has three NHL goalies on its payroll. I don't think they'll trade Michael Leighton, since they went to the trouble of acquiring him in a draft day trade. I think Laviolette likes Crackers too much to get rid of him, and Cam is the franchise goalie. I'm guessing Leighton goes to Albany, and we trade away one of those prospects.

Tomorrow I'll be glued to the computer screen all day watching the market frenzy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Your 2009 Kansas City Predators???

Just a few weeks after it looked for all the world like the Predators would be sold to Jim Balsillie and moved to Hamilton Ontario, Predators owner Craig Leipold has put an end to that. On Thursday, Leipold sent a big "Up yours, buddy" to Balsillie by saying that he will refuse the $238M offer. Instead, he is prepared to accept a $188M offer from William DelBiaggio, who plans to move the team to Kansas City.
TSN Story here

I love this. Balsillie has proven himself to be a giant bag of Summer's Eve, and deserves this Karmic payback for what he did with the Penguins. Unfortunately, the people of Hamilton will suffer. I feel bad for them, but they have Balsillie to blame.

The shiny new Sprint Center was built in Kansas City, Missouri for the express purpose of luring an NHL or NBA team to the city. It will open this year, and will most likely be the home of an expansion franchise of the Women's National Basketball Assosiation. This arena is ready to go, and would be available if there was an immediate relocation. There would be no need for a temporary home.

Good for Kansas City!

Here's the weird part though. From that same TSN article:
Kansas City, which recently built a brand new downtown arena, has been searching for a permanent tenant and recently made a pitch to try and lure the Pittsburgh Penguins to Missouri. The arena is managed by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is owned by L.A. Kings owner Philip Anschutz.

DelBiaggio has an agreement with the Anschutz Group to own and operate an NHL franchise in the new arena.

So, in a sort of stretched out way, one NHL team would be paying rent to the owner of a different NHL team. I wonder how the concessions revenues would pay out. The Kings owner profiting from sales of Scouts merchandise? I'm sure they'd work somehing out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A quick note about the draft

At the NHL Entry Draft last weekend, we narrowly missed what would have been a hilarious Princess Bride moment.
During the first round on Friday night, two mid-term favorites fell pretty far down the draft board. Some were surprised. Most weren't.

Alexei Cherepanov was once projected to be the #1 pick. Angelo Esposito was also once projected to be the #1 pick. They fell to #17, and #20, respectively. Esposito because his work ethic has brought the phrase "mails it in" to mind, and Cherepanov simply because he is Russian, and very well might be held at ransom by Russian mob bosses.

In the bleachers of the Nationwide Arena, both players looked angry. Not frustrated or disappointed, but angry.

In the Versus booth, Pierre McGuire was whining like a little girl. Repeatedly, he cried out

"This is unconscionable!"

With the passing of each pick, McGuire's whining became more and more comical, and he kept saying things like "I know he's Russian, but I don't care!", and kept repeating, like a mantra:
"This is unconscionable!"

Who, besides me, was hoping for someone to lean in and say:
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Carolina gets a Sutter, (sort of) unveils new sweater

On Friday night, Carolina selected Brandon Sutter with the 11th overall pick. This was a bit of a surprise. I thought Angelo Esposito would be the guy, but he fell off the board because of his alleged work ethic problems. He hit a wall in January or so, and mailed it in the rest of the way. The former top-ranked North American skater slipped all the way to #20. Also, the former prohibitive #1 rated player, Alexei Cherepanov slipped all the way to #17. His fall was largely due to his Russian-ness.

The Kings pulled a shocking move by going WAAAAAAY off the board, selecting defenseman Thomas Hickey with the #4 overall pick. Many prognosticators had him pegged as a late-first round or even a mid-second round pick.

The Sharks also pulled a bit of a head-scratcher when they went with centerman Logan Couture with the ninth overall pick.

Since there were two head-scratchers and the dropping stock of Esposito and Cherepanov, the Hurricanes were afforded the opportunity to select Brandon Sutter with the #11 pick. Everyone had him pegged as a top 10 pick, and his last name is Sutter for cryin' out loud. I don't think there's such a thing as a better hockey pedigree. In case you don't already know, his old man is Brent Sutter, who was the best of the six Sutter brothers.

He probably won't play in Raleigh this October unless he has a phenomenal training camp, but there's no doubt that this kid is special. After he gains a few pounds and develops a little more, he's going to be a very good NHL player.

Here's the other big thing. I first read about this on "Teh LGC", but apparently I get to break this. The N&O is mum on this. The Hurricanes official website is mum on this. The other Hurricanes bloggers are mum on this. Even 850 the blog is mum on this, but apparently the Hurricanes have unveiled their new sweater.

They didn't show the sweater at the draft, or in the gift shop, or on their website, or any of these, but EA's NHL 2008 has some screenshots of four new sweaters. Three were unveiled at the draft. Boston, Washington, and Columbus all presented their draftees with their new sweater.

Carolina is the other one that EA is showing us. They say that it's all official. Anyway, here's a glimpse of the new Canes sweater. Above is a shot of the front. No major changes. Just a stripe, or some piping along the collarbone and around the back. The primary and secondary logos remain the same, the font of the numbering and lettering remains the same. The "storm warning" flags along the hem remain the same. Some people are beat up about the fact that there wasn't a serious overhaul, but I like it. This second shot shows the back of the sweater with the piping/stipe going right over the nameplate. It's worth pointing out that this is the first time that EA has gotten the Brind'Amour half-tuck correct. They've traditionally depicted him as a full-tuck kind of guy. We all know that he isn't.
Click on either of the images for better detail.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Draft begins today.

While most of us are sitting at home, the guys from Army of the Ohio and the guys from End of the Bench will be partying inside Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The draft starts tonight at 7:00 with the first round, and it may or may not be covered by Versus. On Saturday, the fun continues with rounds 2-7 starting at 10:00 am. Again, Versus is supposed to cover it, but perhaps we shouldn't hold our breath.

The boys in C-Bus have decided to throw a blogger meetup. I won't be going, but Acid Queen will be representing the Caniac Nation. Read about their plans here.

Here is an article about the Canes "short list" of players they think will (or might) be available when their turn comes at #11. Hurricanes VP Jason Karmanos had meetings with these players, and he offers his take on each guy.

Last year, Carolina did not have a first round pick, because they traded it away to rent Doug Weight. In 2005, their first round pick was wasted on Jack Johnson, who got all Eli Manning on us and used "college" as an excuse to refuse to sign Carolina's contract offers.

Here's a quick peek at the last 20 years of Whaler/Canes first round picks. Some of it, quite frankly reads more like a "Who?" than a "who's who":

Nikos Tselios was the Hurricanes first ever draft pick. He's a cousin (or something) to Chris Chelios, but didn't really pan out. The next season, Jeff Heerema was a bit of a bust with the 11th pick. After going a year without a first round pick, the Canes snagged "Snuggles", only to be a little confused and frustrated with his lack of progress. He has only just now blossomed, and I think wherever he lands, that team will be happy with him. I'm still hoping that the Hurricanes deal away Andrew Hutchinson and find a way to keep Snuggles, but time will tell. Knyazev never played a single second in the NHL, and only a handful of games in the AHL. A huge bust.

They had some nice runs. Pronger, O'Neill and Giggy in consecutive years, then Ward Staal and Ladd in consecutive years. It's doubtful that this years shallow draft will produce many NHL-ready players, and especially not as late as 11th. We can just hope to stock the River Rats.

In 1991, Poulin was an odd pick. He didn't pan out, Brian Rolston was still on the board, is also a LW, and was in the Compuware system. I'm surprised that Pete Karmanos didn't have him high on the GM's watch list.

Anyway, I'll be working tonight. Have fun watching the draft on TV. If you're in C-Bus, have fun at the draft.

I'm hoping against hope that Angelo Esposito will still be on the board when Carolina's turn comes. His stock has dropped, but he's a darn fine player.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Scott Walker re-ups

In an unexpected surprise twist, Scott Walker re-signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. The former Predator agreed to a three-year deal at $2.5M per season. N&O Story here.

According to everything that we've heard, the sides were bickering over $500k. The team offered Walker 3 years at $2M per year, and he declined. Two years at $2.5, and he declined. It looked for all the world like Walker would become a free agent on July 1, and all of us Canes bloggers were starting to prognosticate JR's moves.

This certainly makes things easier.

Carolina will now need to pick up one player out of free agency, or through trade. They'll need a third line right winger, and will have about $2.5M to do it. Last summer I would have been all about Anson Carter, but in his short tenure here, he didn't click. I don't think they should even consider giving him a qualifying sheet.

Unfortunately, I have one foot out the door, so I can't give a more detailed post. More later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Brind'Amour -- funny videos

Thanks to Japers Rink for bringing this one to my attention.

At the NHL Award Ceremony the other night, Rod Brind'Amour won his second consecutive Frank J. Selke trophy for best defensive forward. In his short acceptance speech, it was no surprise that he thanked the fans and his teammates. Of course, no "I'd like to thank my teammates" statement would be complete without adding "Especially Ray Whitney". Once again, Whitney hijacked the spotlight.

Anyway, here's the video, and the best part is at the very end.

So what does Brindy's kid wear to the games? A BRIND'AMOUR sweater? Nope. He wears a WILLIAMS sweater. I always thought that was a bit odd, but at least in that case, he has the right team.

Just for funsies, here's another funny video featuring Rod Brind'Amour. It's a Nike commercial. Unfortunately, the owner doesn't allow embedding, but I HIGHLY recomment clicking the link to this 90 second ad:
Nike Goalie : "Bank Robbery"
A fictional Florida Panthers goalie named Lee Worley "turns to a life of crime" after he was "unable to stop Rod Brind'Amour". Obviously, it's quite old. Brindy was still with the Flyers.

Astute hockey fans will easily spot legendary NHL goalie Gump Worsley visiting Worley in prison.
My favorite bit:

Cellmate: "What are you in for?"
Worley: "Brind'Amour"

There was a whole series of clever Nike Goalie ads featuring fictional goalies moaning about their inability to stop certain players. The "Cab Driver" one is also quite good.

Are you Swedish, sir?
No. I'm from Indiana.
That's good, because I'm not picking up people from Sweden. They remind me of Mats Sundin.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Flyers, Preds tamper.

On Monday afternoon, the Hamilton Predators and Flyers announced that they have negotiated a deal which returns a "conditional" draft pick from Philly to Nashville in exchange for exclusive rights to negotiate with Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Both are were considered to be high profile free agents-to-be.

The TSN story is here.

This isn't a sign-n-trade. Nashville didn't sign the players first. The players are still scheduled to and WILL become free agents on July 1. However, Philly will have "exclusive" rights to negotiate with them. No other team will have the right to tender a sheet at that point.

Does someone want to tell me why this isn't considered to be tampering? Collusion? If the other teams are locked out, isn't that tantamount to allowing Philly to tender a sheet before July 1? Am I missing something?

EDIT ---> Apparently, Philly has signed these two players to long-term deals. Hartnell : 6 years for a total of $25.2M. Timonen: 6 years for a total of $37.8M.

Remember, this isn't being referred to as a "trade". Trades are fine. This kind of negotiation smells fishy to me. Even if it is referred to as a "trade", this is still fishy as hell. Two top notch players for one draft pick?

As if there wasn't enough sketchiness going on in Nashville, now there's this.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Eric Staal on cover of EA's NHL '08

This week, EA Sports announced that Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal will be on the cover of NHL 2008, which will be released in September. People quickly started talking about the "EA Curse". I see no reason to be alarmed. It doesn't work with hockey games. This applies mainly to the Madden football games. The cover star of that game almost always goes on to have a horrible season or suffer a terrible injury that season. Or go to jail.
Mike Chen once wrote something about the EA Hockey curse, but I'm not buying it. Neither is "Stormbringer". In her words:
My personal take on a good chunk of the above is that a lot of it is *really* a stretch. To me, a "curse" would be solidified by the bad things happening to the cover boys in the season that their respective EA game is supposed to represent, NOT a few seasons later.

A few years ago, on the other blog, I wrote this piece to debunk the Sports Illustrated Superbowl Jinx. You can read about that here and also here.

For now, I'll just go over the EA NHL games since 1997, which was the first year that they used a "cover boy"

1997 -- John Vanbiesbrouck
After helping the Panthers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, goalie John Vanbiesbrouck had a slightly better season while he was featured on the game box.
His record went from 26-20-7 in '96 to 27-19-10 in '97. His GAA went from 2.68 to 2.29 and his save % went from .904 to .919. He had a few more decent seasons after.

1998 -- Peter Forsberg
Foppa's game was also slightly better while he was the cover boy. In 1997, he had 86 points (28/58) in 65 games. While he was on the game box, he had 91 points (25/66) in 72 games. The points per game production was down by a hair, but he was healthier, and being on the box wasn't anything like a "curse" that season.

1999 -- Eric Lindros
Big E's numbers went up pretty significantly after being on the box. In 1998, he had 71 (30/41) points in 63 games. After starring on the box, he had 93 (40/53) points in 71 games. It would be his last "great" season

2000 -- Chrissy Pronger
The former Whaler had his career best season while he was on the game box. He had 62 points on 14 goals and 48 assists. All of these were -- and still are -- career high marks. He also won the Bud Light Plus/Minus award for the second time that year, finishing the season with an amazing +52 rating. Also a career best.

2001 -- Owen Nolan
This guy had a bad season while on the box. He had a career best (playing over ability) 84 point (44/40) season the previous year, but was riddled with injuries and only mustered 49 (24/25) points in 57 games for the Sharks in 2001. Although his points were down, they were back on the "normal" level after the extraordinary season in 2000. Not so much a "curse" as a return to normalcy.

2002 -- SuperMario
Mario Lemieux played half a season in 2001, but still managed to put up awesome numbers with 76 (35/41) points in just 43 games. He beat cancer and came back with a great half-season, and it was an obvious thing to put him on the box. He suffered injuries in 2002, and was limited to 24 games. However, he tallied 31 points (6/25), which would be equal to having 106 points over 82 games. Not bad at all. He rebounded the following year some outstanding numbers, but his health caused him to be a shadow of the player he once was.

2003 -- Jarome Iginla
Iggy had a bit of a letdown after winning the Rocket Richard trophy in 2002. He went from 96 (52/44) points in '02 to a paltry 67 (35/32) points in '03. Like Owen Nolan, though, his big season was a flash in the pan, and the "letdown" was really just a return to normalcy. He did, however reach the 90 point plateau again this past season.

2004 (a) -- Dany Heatley
We don't need to discuss what happened there. Actually, he put up pretty decent numbers after returning from the massive injury, and while he was battling inner demons the whole time.
2004 (b) -- Joe Sakic
Sakic had a big season for the Avs, maintaining his career average of slightly better than a point a night. He totaled 87 (33/54) points in 81 games.

2005 -- Markus Naslund
There was no season, due to the lockout, so we can't really comment there.

2006 -- Vincent LaCavalier
Before the lockout, the Horseman had a "fair" 66 (32/34) point season, but led his team to the Stanley Cup Championship. In '06, he put up 75 (35/40) points, but his best was yet to come. In '07, he tallied 108 (52/56) points and won the Rocket Richard.

2007 -- Alexander Ovechkin

AO's career has been too short to talk about things like "career averages" and things of that nature, so we'll just say that there was a slight decline in points production during his sophomore season. He put up 106 (52/54) points in his rookie campaign, then "dropped" to "just" 92 (46/46) points last year. Not enough of a drop to be worthy of note, and not enough data to make any other judgement.

2008 -- Eric Staal
Staalsy blew up in his sophomore season, hitting the 100 point (45/55) mark, but fell considerably to just 70 (30/40)points last season. We're looking forward to a return to the 100 point club next year.

No reason to sweat it. There's no curse.

Monday, June 11, 2007

File this one under: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Imagine you're a highly paid defenseman in the NHL, and you are about to become a free agent. You don't want to do anything in the summer to make yourself an unattractive item in the free agent market. Maybe your old team wants you to come back for another year. Maybe some other team will bid a lot for you. You want to be in the gym and in the rink all summer long, right?

If you're Patrice Brisebois, the answer is a resounding NO. Brisebois regularly competes in amateur Formula Un racing. On Saturday, he finished fifth in a preliminary race at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Am I being a prude, or is this the kind of activity that teams and player agents should find to be grossly objectionable? F-1 racing, even in the amateur circuit, is a very dangerous thing to do, and the team should be very worried about their investment (player). I should say especially in the amateur circuit, where the drivers are less skilled, and probably more likely to crash. I know drivers routinely "walk away" from magnificently fiery crashes, but it's probably not something that is smiled upon in the GM's office when he sees a player racing cars. Baseball players tend to be motocross fanatics, and I know that many players have clauses in their contracts expressly forbidding participation in such high-risk activity. Other professional athletes are usually begged by their team and their agent to not do things like ride motorcycles or anything else that could get them injured in the off-season.

Why does Brisebois' agent allow him to go in these races? My understanding of this is that this IS NOT a celebrity charity race, where they're going 58 mph in a Mazda RX-7. They're racing Ferrari F430s. Granted, this is a "road" car, but the stock specifications have this car going 0-60 in under 4 seconds and a top speed of 198 MPH. They're not racing stock versions. The ones they're driving are more powerful than that.

Like I said, I might be too much of a prude, but this seems like an overly risky thing to do, and I'm surprised the powers that be are allowing him to do it year. after year.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

An open letter to Bret Hedican

Dear Bret Hedican,

Please retire.
You've been a wonderful defenseman and a consummate teammate during your career here. We appreciate everything you've done, and you won't be forgotten.
However, injuries and age have caught up to you. Even if the docs can put your hip back together again the way they put SuperMario back together, there's still some question about your ability to play every night. Please do the right thing, and walk away. You will help the team more by freeing up two point five million clams than you will staying on board. It's not that we don't like you. We like you lots. It's just that it's two point five million donuts, and (ahem)... Well, it's just that think that your skill set is no longer commensurate with your pay. Especially if you spend the majority of the season in the press box.
You've made plenty of money. Kristi has made plenty of money. You'll never be in want. Please, please, please, for the love of Stormy, just hang 'em up. You'll be fondly remembered if you do. And if you want it, the team will probably find a job for you in the organization. You'll be vilified if you hang on for that last year just for the sake of hanging on, while costing the team some maneuverability in the free agent market.
That, Brett, is really the bottom line. The team would like to get a third line center and a third line right wing out of free agency. If you retire and free up the money, they won't be restricted to the bargain basement.

Thank you in advance.
Red and Black Hockey

Thursday, June 07, 2007

And Ottawa makes 18

The Anaheim Ducks have won the Stanley Cup, and two Stanley Cup trends continue. An old one, and a new one.

Ottawa became the latest casualty in a list of 18 teams. Not because Daniel Alfredsson touched the Prince of Wales trophy. That probably didn't help their cause, as it pissed off the Hockey gods. No. It wasn't that transgression that cost the Sens the Cup. It wasn't anything that happened on or off the ice.

Before I proceed, I should be careful to say that Anaheim was outstanding, and they absolutely deserved to win the Cup. They were one of the best teams all season long, and they were phenomenal all throughout the playoffs, mowing down each opponent in five games.

That said, it wasn't the Ducks' supremacy that made Ottawa lose the Cup.

It was destiny. It was part of the hockey gods' joke that they've been playing since 1989. Starting that year with the Montréal Canadiens, there have now been 18 consecutive DIFFERENT Cup runners-up.

I've mentioned this a number of times before, and I used this phenomena to correctly predict this outcome before the Conference Finals even occurred.

Here are the 18 different consecutive runners-up
  1. 1989 Montréal Canadiens
  2. 1990 Boston Bruins
  3. 1991 Minnesota NorthStars
  4. 1992 Chicago Blackhawks
  5. 1993 Los Angeles Kings
  6. 1994 Vancouver Canucks
  7. 1995 Detroit Red Wings
  8. 1996 Florida Panthers
  9. 1997 Philadelphia Flyers
  10. 1998 Washington Capitals
  11. 1999 Buffalo Sabres
  12. 2000 Dallas Stars
  13. 2001 New Jersey Devils
  14. 2002 Carolina Hurricanes
  15. 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
  16. 2004 Calgary Flames
    2005 (no Cup)
  17. 2006 Edmonton Oilers
  18. 2007 Ottawa Senators

If you're smart, you'll also take note of the other fun game that the hockey gods are playing. It works like this: A Cup winner is determined by who was the runner-up four years previous.

Carolina was runner-up in 2002, and was the winner in 2006
Anaheim was runner-up in 2003 and was the winner in 2007
Cal-Gary was runner-up in 2004, and will be the winner in 2008. The game will either end there, or Cal-Gary will be allowed to repeat in 2009.
Edmonton was the runner-up in 2006, and will win the Cup in 2010.
Ottawa was runner-up this season, and will win in 2011.

Since Calgary is obviously going to win the Cup in '08, you should bet $20 now. Go ahead.

The runner-up (who will then become the 2012 winner can only be one of the following six Eastern Conference teams: Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Thrashers, Lightning, Maple Leafs. My guess is that it'll be the Penguins.

Calgary, plan your 2008 parade route now. Calgary fans, start saving up for playoffs tickets. Gamblers, throw down a $20 or $50 bet right now. It's as safe as could be. Screw it. Bet a couple grand. It's a can't lose bet.

Pittsburgh fans, prepare yourselves for heartbreak.

Seriously, though, congrats go to the Ducks. Good for Teemu Selanne. Good for the Niedermayers. Chrissy Pronger can suck it, but good for the rest of the guys.

Earl Sleek and Christy Finn will see more traffic to their blogs today than they have ever seen. And they deserve it.

Last June 19, I had about quadruple my normal traffic after game seven.

Take care of the Cup, Ducks fans. We miss it already.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ducks take commanding 3-1 lead

On Monday night, the Ducks defeated the Sens 3-2 to take a 3-1 Stanley Cup Finals lead. Game five will be Wednesday night afternoon in Anaheim. Like Carolina last year, the Ducks will have three chances to finish this thing, and potentially two of them will be at home.

I don't think it will go that far.

Ray Emery was not good tonight. He made one or two good saves, but he didn't look sharp. He didn't have to be in the first period, as the Ducks only mustered two shots on goal. The rest of the game, he looked shaky, even bad. Several times, he got help from the crossbar or the posts.

Anaheim played well despite having their best defenseman in the press box. Pronger will be back on Wednesday, and the home crowd will be fired up.

There is a good chance that Ottawa will be without the services of their captain on Wednesday. At the close of the second period, Daniel Alfredsson fired a shot directly at Scott Niedermayer, who was NOT between Alfie and the goal. It looked pretty deliberate, and the commentators seemed pretty disgusted by it.
The play went unpenalized, but it will be reviewed by the League, and I guess they'll issue a one game suspension.

This. Is. Over.

Even if the Sens can pull out a victory in Anaheim, AND force a game seven, I just don't think they're good enough. For the third straight season, the Cup will go to a team from a "non-traditional" market, a sunny and warm place.

Hurricanes to move on without Walker

I guess you can say it's official that the Carolina Hurricanes are done with Scott Walker.

An article in today's News & Observer covers the fact that there are just a few pieces remaining in the Hurricanes puzzle. It points out that Walker has rejected offers from the Hurricanes, but does not suggest ongoing negotiations. The subtle suggestions over the last week are that the Hurricanes have made a final offer. In part, and in a nutshell, the article says:
"That leaves only the decisions on David Tanabe and Josef Vasicek, both potential free agents."

Luke Decock suggests that the Hurricanes have a few names on a shortlist for filling the third line center position. That shortlist consists of Todd White from the Wild, Michal Handzus from the Blackhawks and Mike Peca from the Leafs. Peca and Handzus both had significant injuries last season, forcing them to miss huge chunks of the season. They're both still serviceable, but at their age, and at Peca's price tag, you have to wonder if it's worth it. Like "Bubba" from Canes Country, I'm pretty into the idea of Todd White. He could be had for under $2M, and he had good third line numbers last season, amassing 44 (13/31) points and a +8 in 77 games. I say go for it.

It still leaves the right wing question up in the air. Now that Taylor Pyatt has re-signed with the Nucks, the UFA market is about dry. I like Scott Cason's idea about Jason Blake. I hadn't really thought about it until I read his post, but it's a fantastic idea. Again, he could be had for less than $2M (probably right around $1.75), and he's coming off a very good 69 point (40/29) season with the Isles.

Neither Todd White nor Jason Blake is a spring chicken, but they're both good players and could be valuable additions to the third line, which struggled all season in 2006-07.

The Hurricanes have around $5M to play with, and if they get one or the other of these guys (or hopefully BOTH) for around $1.75M for one year, they should be in good shape. If defenseman David Tanabe re-signs with a home team discount, it'll make a guy like Andrew Hutchinson expendable. There was some talk late in the season that the Oilers were interested in Hutch, so maybe we could enter negotiations with them for a depth guy.

There would still be around a million and a half to pick up at least one more winger. All this would fit under the Hurricanes self-imposed budget of $45M.

Who's got any thoughts on this matter?

Oh. Game four of the Stanley Cup Finals is tonight.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pronger suspended again

On Sunday, Chris Pronger was again suspended by the NHL for one game. The suspension was in response to anotherhead-high hit delivered by the hulking defenseman. Two minutes into period three of Saturday's game three of the Stanley Cup Finals, with the Ducks trailing 4-3. Dean McAmmond of the Sens carried the puck into the zone after a neutral zone turnover, fired a shot from the high slot, and was met with Pronger's left elbow.

In game three of the Western Conference finals, with the Ducks trailing badly in the second period, Pronger was part of a vicious incident also involving a head-high hit. For his role in that hit, Pronger was suspended for one game.

In the Pronger/Holmstrom incident, a penalty and ejection was issued to Rob Niedermayer. The Pronger suspension came after further review. Same story here. No penalty was given on the ice, although his actions should have warranted ejection.

I'm glad that the League has decided to suspend players for these head-high hits, but I will say again that it isn't enough. The one game suspension isn't enough. In this specific case, the one game suspension definitely isn't enough.

I would make a case for Pronger being a predator (small p). The Holmstrom thing looked like it was actually premeditated. This hit didn't look premeditated, but it certainly wasn't accidental or circumstantial. He deliberately raised his elbow, led with it, and followed through. This looked for all the world to be a deliberate attempt to injure, and it is absolutely disgusting.

Given his previous suspension for similar actions in this same playoff season, this makes him not only a predator, but a habitual predator. This should have absolutely been a multiple game suspension.

Dean McAmmond lay unconscious for a few minutes and had to be helped off the ice. He didn't return to the game, and wasn't really "there" in the locker room. He has a history of concussions, and this puts his ability to return to the series in question.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it was McAmmond who had scored the go-ahead goal on a fluky play at 18:34 of the second, which would turn out to be the game winner. From behind the net, he attempted a centering pass, which glanced off Pronger's skate and into the net.

Add that to the equation, and I just can't see how the elbow was a "mistake".

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle offered the following chickenshit explanation:
"We think it was totally unintentional. The league thought different. Chris Pronger is a competitive player. Some people will say he's using his size as an excuse.

The fact of the matter is his elbows are higher than most people's elbows. It's not like he raised his elbow to deliver a blow to the head."

This is almost identical to the explanation Pronger offered after the Holmsrom incident. And it's garbage. Chris Pronger is 32 years old. He has always been bigger than most players around him. He should know by now where his elbows line up to other players' bodies.

If we're to accept this bullcrap excuse, it would give smaller players like Scott Gomez and Ray Whitney license to go around punching everyone in the balls. "I can't help it if my fists are lower than everyone else's. I thought I was hitting him in the chest."

Boo on Chris Pronger. Boo on Randy Carlyle. Boo on Colin Campbell.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

More about the Hamilton Predators.

There has been a lot of noise made on this blog and others concerning the recent purchase of the Nashville Predators by Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie. There was also a bit of noise made (mostly by Mirtle) about Balsillie's recent land acquisition near Hamilton Ontario.

At first, I quickly drank the kool-aid on that one. After some careful consideration, though, that land acquisition seems way too small to have anything to do with the construction of an arena. Follow me for a second.

One acre is equal to 43,560 square feet. 25.7 acres is a total of 1,119,492 square feet. Looking around the league at the size of the arenas, most of them are roughly the same size. Using the Bell Centre in Montréal as an example, it is 351 feet by 479 feet, or 168,129 square feet. This refers to just the arena itself. Many other arenas have outbuildings or annexes, but this one is just the single building.

If you built a building like that on the Balsillie plot of land, you're left with 951,363 square feet. That sounds like a lot, but it isn't. At least not if you want to have any parking. According to some research that I've done, you need approximately 325 square feet for every parking space. This accounts for the parking space itself, plus the driving lanes between the rows, and other space necessary to make the parking lot functional. If you slammed the parking lot smack up against the building, that kind of land allows for 2,927 parking spaces. That doesn't allow for any roads on the premises or any landscaping, or any bus parking lots, or anything else. 2,927 parking spaces is not nearly enough. Especially if you're talking about an area that isn't exactly urban.

Parking garages tend to be more trouble than they're worth, and moreso as their scale increases. A garage/garages capable of handling 8,000 cars would be enormous, and would create a world of headache for fans entering and exiting the structure.

None of this talk has even gotten into the other infrastructural things arenas need like landscaping and bus lots and roads.

Could the parcel of land host an arena and an enormous parking deck? Theoretically, yes. Logistically and realistically, no. That land is for something else.


Earlier this week, in Gary Bettman's state of the League address, he claimed that Jim Balsillie had no intentions of moving the Predators. We all know this to be false, but reporters somehow spun Bettman's words into the misleading "The Predators aren't going anywhere". Referring to the "cure" clause in the Predators' lease with Nashville, what he actually said was
"If the attendance mark is satisfied, even if it's not, or if the city cures what would then be the default, this team is not going anywhere"

Even still, it's apparent that Balsillie has other plans. On Thursday, it was announced the the city of Hamilton has given Balsillie a thumbs-up to take over the Hamilton Place and Convention Centre (which includes the 17,500 seat Copps Coliseum) if he brings an NHL team there. Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger:
He has assured me that he wants to secure a team and he is interested in bringing it to Hamilton.

Quite different from Gary Bettman's quote when asked if Balsillie wanted to move the team:
"He told me that he did not"

Forget about the land acquisition. This is where the Preds would play.

Move the Preds to the Northeast division of the Eastern Conference.

To make up for the Conference imbalance, move the Thrashers to the Central division of the Western Conference. They're further west than Detroit and Columbus anyway.

To make up for the division imbalance, two moves have to be made. Move Boston out of the Northeast and into the Atlantic. Secondly, move Philadelphia out of the Atlantic and into the "Southeast" division. It'll break up some of the traditional division rivals, but there might not be another way to achieve balance. Rename the division. Better yet, rename ALL of the divisions. Ditch the geographic names and go back to the old school.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Canes re-ink Wesley

On Friday morning, in following with the rumors, the Hurricanes re-signed defenseman Glen Wesley to a one year deal with a slight raise. Wesley uses the same agent as Cam Ward, and in yesterday's Ward deal, they set the table for the Wesley deal.

The 39 year-old defenseman will make $1.4M next year, which amounts to a 16% raise over the $1.2M he made in 2006-07. Last summer, after winning the Stanley Cup, Wesley surprised everyone by deciding to go another year. He ended up having a good year, finishing first on the team with a +11 rating and second on the team with 103 blocked shots. He's never been much of an offensive threat, but he managed 13 points (1/12) in 68 games.

Last week, Wesley indicated that he wanted to come back, if the Hurricanes would have him. Jim Rutherford said words to the effect of "As long as he wants to play, he will always have a place here".

With the signing, Carolina has eight defensemen under contract, ten forwards and two goalkeepers. Referring to the chart, Carolina has a "cap hit" total of $40.183M. The cap is expected to be $48M, but Jim Rutherford has set a budget of $45M. Carolina will need another center, another right wing (or two), and at least one other forward. All for under $5M.

I do not see Scott Walker in Carolina's future. I do see a trade involving a blueliner.

Carolina does have two additional players under contract, but they will both most likely be in Albany. Left wing Dave Gove and right wing Keith Aucoin each have two-way contracts which would pay $475K at the NHL level. Last season, Aucoin spent eight games on the Hurricanes roster. He worked hard, but amassed just one assist. Gove played one game with Carolina and did not tally any offensive stats. Both players also fall into that "waterbug" category, as they both stand 5'10" and weigh about 185. Of course Ray Whitney falls into this category, but he is much more talented than these guys.

Don't expect any more action from the Hurricanes until the first day of free agency. Perhaps we'll see a draft-day trade where the Canes give a defenseman and a second round pick for a right wing. Don't quote me on that, though.


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