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

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Versus drops the ball on TDF

First off, Red and Black Hockey would like to congratulate Steve Montador from the Florida Panthers on his Tour de France victory. The grueling 2200 mile bicycle race ended this morning and the 27-year old defenseman won by a margin of 23 seconds over some Australian dude.
For some reason, the folks from Versus kept referring to Montador as "the Spaniard", and they were mis-pronouncing his name as if it started with a C. I always thought he was Canadian.
Montador joined Team Discovery Channel this year, and got that team back on track. Team Discovery Channel (formerly United States Postal Service won seven times in a row from 1999 to 2005 with Neil Armstrong leading the way for them. Last year, they did not win.

I think it's cool that a hockey player won the tour this year, but for some reason, Versus never mentioned it. I know TDF is their bread and butter, but they also have a hockey deal, so they could have at least mentioned it once. "Oh, by the way, this guy also plays defense for the Florida Panthers."

I'm surprised, but I'm not surprised. For seven years running, when Neil Armstrong won the Tour, the media never once mentioned that "And by the way, this guy was the first human being to set foot on the moon". Furthermore, they never said "and this guy is a celebrated trumpeter and has recorded such famous songs as What a Wonderful World and Mack The Knife and Blueberry Hill and Hello, Dolly!."
Going back a few more years, the media never pointed out that three time TDF winner Greg LeMond was also a champion diver, with four Olympic gold medals to his name.

Maybe these athletes like it better that way. Maybe they want their cycling triumphs to stand alone. Perhaps also, the network folks just don't know any better. All they care about is covering the bicycle race.

Okay, all funny business aside, the Tour concluded today with Spaniard Alberto Contador winning his first tour. The final stage is often considered to be ceremonial, but the Aussie was only 32 seconds back to start the day, so I think they went at it for real.

We've all come to know and love the fantastic coverage that Outdoor Life um OLN er... Versus has done for the Tour de France over the past several years. It is simply without compare. Because of their terrific coverage and their lack of dedication to anything else, the Tour is absolutely their calling card, their bread and butter, even their raison d'être. If they do nothing else right, they do this right.

They did not cover the NHL awards show as they promised they would. Their coverage of the NHL has been bad at times, dodgey most of the time, and once in a while, good.

Today, they dropped the ball big time. At a critical moment of their main event. The final day of the TDF features eight laps around the Avenue Champs-Élysées. On the final lap, with just about two kilometers to go, Versus lost their feed. The stage was still up for grabs. Anyone could have won stage 20. Even the entire tour was still up in the air. Contador had a 23 second lead, but anything could have happened.

Imagine losing the feed with about 90 seconds to go in a one-goal game in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. That's what this is like.

They got the problem fixed, and they showed us the exciting end, but it is not a good sign when they can't do everything right on the TDF.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cullen, Gleason enter second week of talks

Last week, Carolina re-acquired center Matt Cullen to the delight of many locals. The size of his contract raises some concern for some folks, as it might cause financial trouble down the road. Most fear that the only recourse to the increasing payroll is increased gate prices. For years, Carolina has had average ticket prices at or near the bottom of the league. Good for fans, but bad for the bottom line.
Even though salaries don't come from gate receipts, we'll pretend for a second that they do. In reality, gate receipts do have some relationship with salaries, but not directly and not exclusively.
Anyway, since we're pretending, let's say that the fans have to foot the bill for bringing Matt Cullen and his $2.8M contract. Over 41 home games, that's $58,292.68 per night. Assume that the Canes draw about 17,000 per night, and that total per fan per night is $4.02. Over a full season, that's $164.71 to the ticket package. Meh..

The bigger issue is that talks with Tim Gleason concerning the use of the number 8 have not come to a conclusion. Apparently, Cully "put in a call" to Gleason immediately, but there has been no word on how, if at all, this has been resolved.

I assume it goes something like this:
Cully: I'll give you fifty bucks.
Timmy: No.
Cully: Okay. $75 and a case of PBR
Timmy: Make it Miller Lite, and I'll think about it
Cully: I'll get back to you on that.

I'm guessing, in the end, it'll take $100 and two cases of Miller Lite, but Cully will be wearing #8 on October 3.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Staalsy gets rowdy, spends the night in the clink

According to an article in the N&O, Eric Staal had a bachelor party, got drunk, got rowdy, yelled at some passing cars, and ended up in jail.
Eric was cited with disorderly conduct and "obstructing the legal process", whatever that is. 14 members of his party were also arrested, including the Penguins' Jordan Staal. Baby Staal was given an additional charge for underage drinking.

The group had rented out a space at a Minnesota resort, but was forced to leave after numerous complaints about noise. After they left, they lingered around Minnesota State Highway 61 and screamed at cars until 4 in the morning.

So basically, some guys at a bachelor party got rowdy. Who among us didn't get loud and obnoxious on the night of our bachelor party?

Neither Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford nor Staal's agent Rick Curran sees any need for concern. Rutherford:
"If there's more information as time goes on, we'll certainly follow it along as to the seriousness of the matter. If it is what I've been told it is, I don't see it being an issue."

Curran called it boys being boys:
I have no doubt there were probably a couple kids lipping off or something like that. Frankly, that goes with the territory. You get that many a group of kids together, somebody is going to say something stupid."

Curran further stated that the misdemeanor charges will probably be dismissed.

If the Minnesota SBI or the FBI finds out about the Staal gambling ring, there could be some serious trouble. More serious than that NBA ref. But for now, this is just a case of a rowdy bachelor party. Nobody got shot, nobody had to be tasered, there were no dog or cock fights.

Ed Belfour was not available for comment.

It's a slow, slow summer when this is what I have to write about.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RBH turns 2!

Wow. I didn't even realize it, but Red and Black Hockey just turned two.

On Tuesday, this blog hit the two year milestone. I guess I got distracted by the whole Matt Cullen story, and I kinda forgot my own birthday. Geez.

In those two years, it amazes me that I've had 95,281 visits. In my first year, my readership rose significantly during the Hurricanes run to the Stanley Cup, and I saw a HUGE spike the day after game 7.

This past season, my Hurricanes couldn't buoy my readership with another playoff run, but I held my own. My piece on little Elgin-Alexander Fraser was this season's answer to game 7. It marked just the second time that I've had 900 or more visits in a single day. I know that's small stuff, but I'm proud.

Once again, I'd like to thank the many regular readers for continuing to stop by. I'd also like to thank the many who served as inspiration to me and the many who have offered encouragement.

Now I'm gonna have some cake.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cullen returns to Raleigh!

On Tuesday, the trade that I barked about last week finally came to pass. The Hurricanes shipped defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, prospect Joe Barnes and a third round pick to the Rangers for center Matt Cullen. Cullen, of course, was on the 2006 Stanley Cup winning team and will enjoy a very warm welcome back. Ask anyone what the biggest difference between the 2006 Canes and the 2007 Canes. After pointing to the injuries, most if not all would say that Matt Cullen was the biggest difference.
Cullen had a career best year in 2006, finishing seventh on the team with 49(25/24) points in the regular season and 18 (4/14) points in the playoffs. When it was necessary to re-sign Justin Williams, Eric Staal, Rod Brind'Amour and Erik Cole to huge contracts following the Stanley Cup, Cullen became a casualty.
Last season, with the Rags, Cullen played a slightly different role. He played more on the PK, he took more faceoffs, and he thinks his all-around game has improved. The Virginia, Minnesota native totaled 41 (16/25) points in New York, and only missed two games.
Letting Hutchinson go is no surprise here. I thought he would have been dealt last season at the trade deadline. He's a young defenseman with some untapped offensive upside. A very capable point man. However, he spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch, and just didn't fit the system all that well. He's got a couple of young kids and I always feel bad for a situation like that, but it'll probably be good for him. Barnes is probably Carolina's best "in the system" guy. He's a project, but many think that he'll develop into a darn fine forward.

Cullen could see the writing on the wall when the Rangers went berserk in the FA market, picking up Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. It made him and his salary a bit of a burden. Jim Rutherford immediately talked to the Rangers, and apparently it took a lot of legwork to get the particulars right.

Rutherford wasn't happy about letting Cullen go last summer, but the Rangers' offer was too much. The fans didn't like it either. This move exceeds Carolina's budget of $44M, but not by much, and everyone knows that it's worth it to bring Cully back.

Cullen couldn't be happier, which makes this an even better story. In his own words, via the N&O:
“I’m thrilled, honestly. I had an inkling that it may happen but I know how hard it is in this day and age to pull off a trade. I’m absolutely thrilled to be coming home. It’s funny to say that, but it feels like it.”

I love that he played here for one year, and this re-acquisition is a "coming home" for him. On the other hand, it's not so much a surprise. Many NHL players chose to make Raleigh their literal home, even if it isn't their metaphoric one. An article in this morning's N&O was about just that. Aaron Ward, who was another casualty last summer went to the Rangers and was traded to Boston. This summer, after years and years of living in Detroit, he moved his family to Raleigh as a permanent home.

Home. I like that.

Matt Cullen likes the number 5. He couldn't wear it here because of Frantisek Kaberle, so he wore 8. Tim Gleason wears 8 now. I'm guessing that Gleason surrenders the 8, but you never know. Last summer, Andrew Hutchinson gladly gave up his 24 for Scott Walker, but sometimes this kind of thing involves the passing of a few thousand dollars from one hand to the other.

My friend Jenn, of "Jenn and Andy" fame will be thrilled. We're all thrilled, but she bought a Cullen sweater at the end of the '06 season, around the same time I bought my Williams sweater. She never had a chance to wear it. We both rode the Vasicek sweater mojo all the way to the Stanley Cup.

Here's to hoping that we get to see Matty repeat that thing he's doing in the picture above.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Carolina could make big move today.

There's been some speculation all summer, and there's an article in todays N&O suggesting that Matt Cullen could make a return to the Hurricanes. After the Chris Drury deal, the Rangers don't have it in their budget to keep Cullen, and are rumored to be looking to dump him and his $2.8M salary.
Cullen was the player most missed from the Cup winning team in 2006, and the barometer used whenever Carolina looked for a third line center. Last week, Carilona signed Jeff Hamilton to fill that role, but he'll likely move down to the fourth line if Cullen returns.
Also, yesterday the N&O had an article about Erik Cole's lingering pain from his broken neck. The article pointed out that Cole will never regain complete mobility in his neck, and he'll always have pain. This was believed to be a mitigator for a "major trade" that a certain rumor monger has been talking about involving Carolina. I don't really buy any of that talk concerning trading Cole away, but we'll see.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2007-08 schedule out

On Wednesday, the NHL released the schedules for the upcoming season. We've known for some time that the Ducks and Kings would be opening the season in London, England. Now we know that it'll specifically be a two-game series on the 29th and 30th of September. Each team will have a "home" game that will be 5442 miles away from it's actual home rink. Do the season ticket holders get this game?

The Hurricanes will open their season at home against Les Habitants on Wednesday October 3. For the record, that's my 36th birthday. They'll follow that with a home game against the Penguins. Then a two-week road trip while the North Carolina State Fair is in town.

Obviously, opening the season at home on my birthday will be a big deal for me. The other highlight is that the Canucks come to town early in the season. Monday October 22.

I haven't had time to go over the schedule with a fine-toothed comb, but I'll have plenty of time for that later.

The traditional New Year's Eve game will be against the Islanders.

For the second year in a row, the Canes will conclude the season with a home game against the Panthers. I don't think we'll have ole Ed Belfour to kick around, though.

I'm scaling back from a 24-game pack to a 10-game pack, which means I won't get opening night. I'll be going to that game one way or another, though. Same thing with the Nucks. That game probably won't be in my package, but I'll find a way to be there.

Scott Walker's finest moment

The other day, I posted a Jeff Hamilton highlight reel. I got an angry e-mail from Scott Walker, who demanded that I post a highlight of his. So without any ado, here's Scott Walker's finest moment
-- "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"--

Okay. So the "Scott Walker" in the video isn't Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes. But this "Scott Walker", of The Walker Brothers, is pretty cool too.

Oh. I didn't get any e-mail of any kind from this or any Scott Walker. I exaggerated that bit. Just a note from a guy who knows a guy who lives at the corner of Scott Street and Walker Avenue.

Please forgive my hyperbolic tendencies.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A little bit more about Jeff Hamilton

When the Hurricanes picked up Jeff Hamilton last week, the general feeling shared by most Caniacs was "Who?!?!". We were mostly hoping for a guy like Todd White, with a more recognizable name.
After looking at his numbers, you couldn't help but be impressed. 18 goals and 21 assists for a guy mostly playing on the third line. The Blackhawks had some injury issues which forced Hamilton onto the second line, but his TOI average was just under 13:00.

High output with limited opportunity. I like that. I've mentioned it before, but I also like his quickness, his nose for the net, and his puckhandling ability. And he's quite good on the shootout. Carolina went to shootout six times last year. Out of 17 attempts, they only succeeded once. Once. Obviously, they didn't win any of those shootouts. Jeff Hamilton had ten shootout opportunities, and he succeeded five times. This is one of the things Carolina missed from Matt Cullen. In 2006, Cully went to bat nine times in the shootout and "scored" six times, including two game deciding goals.

According to this nifty thing, there were 70 hat tricks in the NHL last season. Jeff Hamilton had two of them.

Jeff Hamilton isn't Matt Cullen, but he's damn close. Hamilton is a little younger, but Cullen has several years of NHL experience, while Hamilton has just the one. Cullen has routinely reached the 40 point plateau. In Hamilton's only full season, he sniffed 40. We don't know whether Hamilton played over his head last year, or whether he's just a late bloomer. We're certainly hoping that it's the latter.

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy this YouTube clip of Jeff Hamilton's highlights from 2006-07. It was posted three months ago, and the author of the video made the eerily prophetic decision to use "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by Scorpions as the music.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rangers strike twice

The Rangers landed TWO of the marquee free agent forwards within 12 minutes of one another.

First they signed Scott Gomez to a seven-year $51.5M contract.

Then they turned right around and won the Chris Drury sweepstakes with a five-year, $35.25M contract.


Added to that, the Flyers added SteveJASON "own goal" Smith and Joffrey Lupul from Edmonton in exchange for Joni Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson.

Say hello to the new Atlantic Division!

Now that Briere and Drury are gone, and the marquee FAs have been gobbled up (don't forget about Jason Blake signing with the Leafs), what the heck are the Sabres gonna do? Put the weight of the team on Drew Stafford's shoulders?

Canes sign Hamilton

This is NOT the news I was hoping to get today, but it'll do.

Carolina has signed Jeff Hamilton to a two-year deal at $800k per year.

Hamilton potted 39 (18/21) points on a very bad Blackhawks team last year.

The 29-year old Ohio native was undrafted, and entered the league after being invited to try out for the Islanders a few years ago.

39 points is 39 points, but I've never heard of this dude, and his profile on TSN makes him sound like a glorified AHL player.

>>UPDATE<< I just watched the NHL highlight reel for Hamilton, and I'm pretty impressed. He's got a lot of creativity, a deceptive shot, a nose for the net, and as Don Cherry would say, the guy can dangle. I think he'll be fine.

Carolina has accomplished the goal of picking up a third line center. Although he isn't of the "name brand" variety (ie Todd White, Brian Smolinski), he should fit in nicely. And at the end of the day, the Canes have come in $1.5M under budget.

Hamilton wore the unusual #51 for the Blackhawks last season. He can have it here, too.

Does this mean there could still be a movement of defensemen?

Briere a Flyer

Philly made the first big splash of the free agency period Sunday afternoon when they signed Daniel Briere to an eight year deal valued at $52M. He will earn $10M this year, but the cap hit will be just $6.5M.
Briere is a good player, but this is lunacy. Ten million dollars? This, I'm afraid, is the result of last year's $5M arbitration award. That should never have happened. The Sabres should have gotten him signed, but instead they find themselves in a tough spot. I said last summer that the award would cause problems, and I thought they would come up sooner than this. I guessed that they would walk away, and Briere would have signed somewhere else.
Even after his 95-point season and disappearance in the playoffs, nobody in their right mind would have guessed that he would be paid $10M. The average of his 8-year deal is $6.5, which I still think is a bit high, but it's much more reasonable than $10.

Now we're starting to hear rumblings that Chris Drury doesn't want to return to Buffalo and that he is being courted by a certain team who wears teal. We'll probably know more about that by day's end. If this turns out to be so, Buffalo will have to aggressively go after some of the other name brand players in the FA market. And they will have to reconsider their intentions for Dainius Zubrus.

Don't be surprised to see Scotty Gomez in Buffalo next season. He made $5M last year with the Devils. After a below average season, he's not in line for a raise, so consider him to be a downgrade from Briere, but for the same money (or maybe even more money). Again, this goes back to what I've been saying for over a year: they should have signed Briere to a long term contract instead of allowing him to go to arbitration.

Now. About Philly....

With the Briere signing, they come in at about a $48.6M cap hit, and I think they need one or two more forwards. They have made some very serious moves to improve their team.

Last I heard, they did not give Joni Pitkanen a qualifying offer, which means his status changes from RFA to UFA.

Thrashers sign White

This is what Carolina gets for playing the "wait and see" game.

Todd White has signed a four year deal with the Thrashers. The first signing of the free agent period. Carolina said that it would wait to see how things panned out before they got active, and according to today's N&O, maybe as much as 10-14 days. This is unacceptable.

Todd White was the player that I really wanted us to get, and now he's in the division, just not in the right sweater.

Obviously, Carolina isn't in the Danny Briere or the Chris Drury or the Ryan Smyth or the Scott Gomez sweepstakes, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be aggressive. I'm frustrated with this.

Now Carolina will have to go hard after Dainius Zubrus or Brian Smolinski.

Something tells me we'll end up with Bates Battaglia, which wouldn't even fit our need of a third line center.



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