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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Carolina wins fight-filled shootout.

On Friday night, the Hurricanes closed their preseason schedule with an exciting shootout victory over the Blue Jackets. Andrew Ladd ended the nine-round shootout with the only goal, and the Hurricanes emerged with a win, but they can't be all that happy about it.

Carolina mustered just 21 shots on goal. This is unacceptable. It has been an ongoing problem during the preseason. Tonight they had the exact same roster that they'll have opening night, so you can't chalk it up to "a bunch of kids trying to make the team but not trying hard enough".

I didn't watch the game, and I couldn't get a radio feed here in Greensboro I'm just going by the statsheet and the real-time scoring, which I was following the whole time.

Apparently, the game was very chippy. There were four fights including two as part of an apparent brawl at 19:37 of the second. There were two game misconduct penalties assessed there (presumably for second man in) and three other major misconduct penalties issued (two to Carolina and one to Columbus).
Columbus was whistled 18 times for a total of 64 penalty minutes. Carolina was whistled 21 times for a total of 78 minutes. 142 total PIM. That's almost two and a half hours to you and me. Not surprisingly, many of these penalties overlapped.
Carolina had five power play opportunities, and could not cash any of them in. This is also unacceptable. I think the word "anemic" suits the power play, which has been something like 4-45 during the pre-season.

On the flip side, there was good news. Columbus had 14 power play opportunities totaling 18:55. Carolina only allowed one of those to convert. Particularly good is that the Dinner Jackets had a total of six minutes of five-on-three, all of which was killed. In fact, if the scoresheet is accurate, the Canes only allowed one shot during those six minutes. For this, the defense should be applauded.

Judging from the stat sheet, the game wasn't just fight-filled and penalty-happy. It was extremely physical. Carolina doled out a whopping 37 hits. Timmmmmmaaaaay Gleason led the way with six. Again, I didn't watch or even listen to the game. I'm all for physical play, but if it's undisciplined physical play, there's where I have a problem.

Carolina finished 4-2 in the preseason, which is nothing to sneeze at, but they need to get their offense in gear or they will struggle terribly once the games start to count.

Cam Ward has been quite good, and will probably shoulder 75% of the goaltending load this season. The blueline, which was presumed to be Carolina's weak point, has also been pretty good. The rest of it needs to take shape, and in a hurry.

Opening night (and my birthday) is just five days away now!

More on Karmanos

The Hurricanes organization was rocked yesterday by the sudden resignation of VP and assistant GM Jason Karmanos. A very vague "It's for personal reasons" was offered, and there was a ton of speculation as to what it meant to the future of Hurricanes ownership.

I speculated that it might have been due to health reasons. I speculated that it might have been due to some other venture that JK had lined up. I speculated a few other things.

In today's N&O, Luke Decock sheds a little more light on the situation. A little more.
"It's something I've been thinking about for a long time, for a variety of personal reasons," said Jason Karmanos, 33. "It's not health-related. I just decided it was time to make a change."...

Jason Karmanos, who lives in Wake Forest with his wife, Christy, and three young daughters, served in the same role as Rutherford's chief deputy for his entire tenure. He said he plans to remain in the area....

Eventually, Jum Rutherford will have to retire, and Jason Karmanos, who is only 33, seemed the obvious choice to take over. He never liked that idea, and in 2003, he said:
"I would like to be a part of making this thing work as a business," he said. "If that's the case, it means the ownership of the team stays within the family. I don't think, in my own humble opinion, having a GM who is part of or somehow tied to the ownership group makes a whole lot of sense."

It's unclear what comes next for Jason Karmanos or for the vacant position. When asked how the vacancy would be filled, Jim Rutherford said:
"I'm going to take a little bit to think about it," he said. "I'm going to walk through it as to whether we'll handle this from within or go outside. But I don't want to leave it too long. I'd like to make the decision in the fairly near future."

I think we all know what "handling this from within" means. However, I don't know if Ron Francis would want that job.

Jason Karmanos has denied any knowledge of a forthcoming sale.

making some changes

I've been pondering this for some time. For a few different reasons, I've gone ahead and purchased a domain name. For the time being, I'll stick with using blogger to publish this blog, but I'll have a fancy new url. The old one will still work, and the new one doesn't work yet, but it will be:

Bear with me as I try to tidy things up around here. These damn guys with their saws and hammers are making an awful lot of racket, and they get started much too early in the morning. They'll be done in a day or two, but for now, please bear with me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why are we in this handbasket, and why is it so hot?

Here's another indicator that the NHL is screwing up. I got this from James Mirtle's blog today.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Sean Hill was suspended for 20 games by the NHL for failing a drug test. We still don't know what "positive" result came back, but the League immediately hit him with 20 games. Of that, he served one game, and still owes 19. We all remember that. That's not the point.

The NHL decided to forbid him from participating in preseason games. Meanwhile, it has decided to allow the Islanders' Chris Simon to participate in the preseason even though he is still under suspension for his violent attack against Ryan Hollweg of the Rangers back in March.

As I pointed out on Tuesday, Simon's participation in a preseason tilt against the Rangers resulted in a huge brawl. I wondered on this page why he was allowed to play, and many people answered "because these games don't count". Of course I understand that, but I was (and still am) of the belief that a suspended player shouldn't be allowed to participate in any games (real or preseason) until he has served his suspension.

The problem here is that there's a double standard. The NHL has responded to this by saying "Terms of suspensions are case specific. Sean Hill's does not allow him to play" in the preseason.

In otherwords:
We spun the wheel of disciplinary fortune, and Sean Hill hit a whammy while Chris Simon landed on "get out of jail free"

(Please pardon my mixing of two game shows and one board game to make that example)

Here's where it could get even trickier. Steve Downie from the Flyers will have a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Colin "Clownshoes" Campbell on Friday for his violent check of the Senators' Dean McAmmond. If Downie is suspended, Colin Campbell will have a lot of explaining to do in how he doles out the number of games and the remainder of the preseason.
Since these games "don't count", couldn't one make a silly argument that his potential suspension should only be for other exhibition games? Obviously that's a farce, but it would fall suit with the mutual exclusivity of regular season and pre-season rationale that allows Simon to play in the preseason.

You've probably seen the hit by now, but please check out this clip of it because it has a gem at the end.

There is no audio in the first 25 seconds of that video, but the bit that really gets me is Sens coach Bryan Murray talking about a "lack of respect" among players. He essentially calls Downie a "dirty player".
Hey Bryan... You ever hear of a guy named Chris Neil? Check your team's roster.

I will be very curious to see how this all pans out.

Jason Karmanos resignation

On Thursday, the big news in Raleigh was that Vice President and assistant GM Jason Karmanos resigned from his post. He cited "personal reasons" for his departure. The youngest son of Hurricanes owner Pete Karmanos had held that position since 1998. In addition to assisting Jim Rutherford with player contracts and things of that nature, he oversaw the operations of both the Albany River Rats of the AHL and the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

Many rumors have started spreading that Karmanos bailed from a sinking ship; that his departure signals a forthcoming sale of the team. A lot of people have started to drink the kool-aid on that one. I just don't see that.

In addition to his Hurricanes duties, Karmanos is an investment banker. Perhaps he wants to pursue that a little more.

Since he cited "personal" reasons, maybe he wants to spend more time with his family. Another "maybe" is that he could be having trouble at home. Another "maybe" is that he could have some medical issues.

If there was a forthcoming sale of the team, he probably wouldn't have said it was for "personal" reasons.

One other possibility is that he has an investment lined up for himself that would be difficult if he was affiliated with the Canes. Maybe he wants to be part of a group to buy another team.

There are quite a few possible explanations for his sudden departure. Obviously, a forthcoming sale of the Canes is one possibility. That scenario would upset me very much. Personal feelings aside, I'm just not ready to buy that one.

We'll probably know in a few months or weeks, but I just don't see that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Explain something to me

Maybe I'm just a dimwitted southerner, but here's something I don't get. I would appreciate any help in this matter.

Chris Simon is still suspended, right? When he lost control against Ryan Hollweg last March, he was suspended for the remainder of the 2007 season and the playoffs. The length of the suspension was supposed to be "a minumum of 25 games", with the stipulation that if the 25 games was not served, it would carry over to this season.
He served 15 games in the regular season, and five in the playoffs for a total of 20 games. His suspension should not be over. To my knowledge, it hasn't been commuted, either. He should still have five games remaining on his suspension, then a possible reinstatement by Gary Bettman.
I realize that these preseason games aren't "actual" NHL contests, but I don't understand why he's allowed to participate. He participated and played a major role in the brawl on Lawn Guylund.

Am I alone in thinking that he shouldn't be allowed to play in pre-season games either?
And am I also alone in thinking that his involvement in the brawl should play an aggrivating role in his quest for reinstatement?

I didn't watch the game, so I can't possibly know all the details, but when I read about it and his high profile involvement in the brawl, I was very confused.

In the NFL, players who are under suspension when training camp opens don't play in preseason games. In extreme circumstances (read: Micheal Vick), they're told to stay away from any NFL facility. This should be the case in the NHL.

In this exact circumstance, Ted Nolan should have had the foresight to scratch Simon from the game. There was a lot of completely senseless aggression going on in a game that doesn't count for anything. Had Simon not been there, it probably wouldn't have happened.

Obviously, there would have been (and still will be) some bad blood between the Islanders and Rangers when they first meet on November 6 on Lawn Guylund, but that's a bridge that will have to be crossed when they get to it. By allowing the suspended player to participate in that preseason game, in that highly volatile situation, that was only asking for trouble.

I just don't get why the suspension doesn't also include exhibition games.

last chance to get in on fantasy hockey

The fantasy hockey league I've set up drafts tonight at 8:00 pm eastern.
There's still two spots open. Please hop on in.

over at Yahoo, the details you need are:
league id#: 12001
password: whalers

If you need further details, check other posts about a week back. I'm late for work.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Four more sent down, Sutter next

On Saturday, the Hurricanes sent four more players back to Albany, trimming the roster to 28. Brandon Sutter is still in camp, and he has been impressive, but he will be sent back after tomorrow's game.

Forwards Keith Aucoin and Patrick Dwyer along with defenseman J.D. Forrest and Noah Babin are the latest cuts. The River Rats open their training camp on Tuesday and their first preseason game will be on Friday.
Ryan Bayda and Trevor Gillies are competing for a spot as the first call-up. Gillies is a tough guy and won't have a prayer, so it's pretty much Bayda. On the blueline, it's Casey Borer and Brett Carson.
Nic Wallin, Mike Commodore, Tim Gleason, Dennis Seidenberg and Glen Wesley are all healthy. Frantisek Kaberle is nearly fully recovered from surgery. Bret Hedican is looking good, for the most part. That's seven defensemen, which is what Rutherford wants. One of the aforementioned Borer or Carson, my guess is that Borer will be the last cut.

Brandon Sutter is still in camp, but will be sent back to Red Deer after tomorrow's scrimmage with the Caps. He has been a pleasant surprise, but he needs development. He is too young to play in the AHL, so he must be sent back to Red Deer.

Michael Leighton is being given another look. He'll start between the pipes on Tuesday. John "useless" Grahame hasn't been good in camp and Leighton is giving him a run for his money. Unfortunately, Grahame has a guaranteed contract which means that if Carolina wants to send him to Albany, they must still pay him the entire $1.4M. Additionally, he would have to clear waivers before being demoted.

It will be bad news for a lot of people -- especially Beth, but Crackers will be the second goaltender in Raleigh this fall.


I'm still having problems with my feeder, and it looks like I've been AWOL for a week. I had it fixed, but I screwed it up again. I hate this.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dan Boyle pulls a Brian Griese

On Saturday night, defenseman Dan Boyle from the Lightning was injured in a freak accident in the Bolts locker room following their 2-1 loss to the Capitals.
Apparently, he was trying to hang up his skates and "got distracted". A skate fell and ended up severing a tendon in his left wrist.

"Distracted"? I wonder by what? Did Mark Messier and Gary Coleman pay a visit? If you're faint of heart, you may want to avert your eyes at this point.

No matter how many times I see that picture, I laugh. And at the same time, I'm creeped out on multiple levels. Moose has what appears to be a Red Stripe in his left hand. What the hell is he doing with his right hand, and what's that look on his face? Gary Coleman is in the locker room and has what looks like an autograph book in his hands. But he's got a pencil. A pencil? Who the hell gets things autographed with a pencil? And Coleman himself was a pretty big star back then (presumably around 1984 or so). What's he doing getting autographs?

Anyway... back to the point.
Boyle is hurt. He's having surgery today and will be out of the lineup for about eight weeks. I participated in two fantasy drafts yesterday, and I picked him in one.

I wonder why the vague "he was distracted" explanation was given. At least when former NFL quarterback Brian Griese fell down drunk and broke his wrist in 2002, he came up with something creative. He said that his dog came barreling down the stairs and knocked him down. He later "tripped" in Terrell Davis' driveway, suffering another "freak" injury.

I'm not saying that Boyle was drunk or that he's trying to hide something. If he was distracted by something, they should name the thing. We wanna know. A naked lady? An awkward moment between Mark Messier and Gary Coleman? A joke told by Paul Ranger?

While we're at it, if you look at the TOI stats, you'll see that Boyle played for 32:20 and Ranger played for over 30 minutes in a freakin' EXHIBITION game. What's that all about? Maybe Boyle wanted some rest, so he "accidentally" cut himself.

Boyle was fourth on the team last season and first among defensemen with 63 (20/43) points. He was fifth on the team with 62 PIM and fifth on the team with 203 shots taken. He was fifth on the team with 10 power play goals and third on the team with four game winning goals. This will not be an easy task for the Bolts to replace him.

My fantasy team has replaced him with his Tampa Bay teammate Filip Kuba.

Friday, September 21, 2007

new NHL.com scoresheets

The tekkies at NHL.com spent a lot of time and effort this summer revamping the on-line score sheets. For the most part, they have not gotten high marks.

On the "official score sheet" page, there are WAY too many categories. I'm not sure that I need to know how many defensive zone faceoffs the Hurricanes took in 4-on-4 situations.

What I DO need to know, though, is how many shots my goaltender(s) faced. I'm not sure why that important statistical category isn't on the sheet any more.

For right now, I'm not liking the spreadsheet style of the score sheet. I liked the older, cleaner version.

I know I'm not alone in disliking the new score sheet, but there is one huge improvement that I love. The TOI sheet is way easier to read and is a much more useful took in that regard. No more scrolling down an insane amount and reading a two column document. Huzzah on that one!

Also, the play by play sheet (something that I very seldomly refer to) looks much better than it did last year. It's more informative, cleaner and more concise. Huzzah on that one as well.

Hopefully, the score sheet is a work in progress. I'd hate for that to be the way it is now.

If all you've looked at is the style of the new score sheet, I strongly encourage you to look at those other things.

Probably because it's the preseason, the sheets will be full of errors, like when Brandon Sutter was listed as "#14 Chad LaRose" for last Sunday's game. There were no fewer than four errors on the Caps roster. Reports from other bloggers indicate that this was not an isolated incident.

Anyway, the changes are neither all bad nor all good.

Fantasy hockey looking for a few more teams

I have a couple of fantasy hockey leagues set up over on Yahoo. The season is about to start and there are a couple of vacancies in one of the leagues.

To join, just go to the Yahoo fantasy hockey page, sign in (or start a free account) and use the following information to jump in:

league ID#: 12001
password: whalers

The on-line draft time is set for 8:00 pm (eastern) on Tuesday night. There are currently eight teams in and four spots open.
We're set up to have kind of a deep roster. The draft will be 25 rounds, and each team will start 20 players. EAch team will also have room for up to two players on injured reserve.

We will use head-to-head matchups and rosters are submitted once a week with the weeks starting on Mondays.

Your starting lineup will have
3 centers
1 left wing
1 right wing
4 wingers (right or left)
1 forward (any forward position)
6 defensemen
2 "utility" players of any position at all
2 goalies

5 players on the bench
up to 2 players on injured reserve.

Jump on in!

I make no promises, but there may be a prize of nominal value to the winner.

Canes final roster starting to take shape

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Hurricanes played red-white scrimmages. After Wednesday's session, 15 players were shipped to Albany. Four players had already been sent to their respective junior teams. The training camp roster now stands at 33 players.
Surviving the first cut was Brandon Sutter. Because he is under 20 and came up through junior hockey in Canada, he is ineligible to play in Albany. It's either the big club or back to Red Deer for him. There are different provisions for European players under the age of 20, but North Americans have age guidelines.

It's not likely that Sutter will make the final cut, and frankly I'm a little surprised that he made the first cut. He will need to gain about 25 pounds before his body will be ready. He'll also need to develop as a player a little more.

Of the forwards who are still in camp, the most likely final cut survivors are Keith Aucoin and Ryan Bayda. Both had great years with Albany last season. Aucoin had 99 points (27/72) in 65 games and Bayda had 54 (29/25) points in 55 games. Bayda recorded a goal and an assist for two total points in nine games with the big club while Aucoin had one assist in ten appearances with the Canes.

If memory serves me, Bayda scored a goal in his first NHL game. It was back in the abysmal 2002-03 season, and he was one of six Canes players to do the same. Brad DeFauw and Damien Surma were two of the others, and I can't recall the rest.

Less likely to survive, but still alive are forwards Jakub Petruzalek and Pat Dwyer.

Newly arrived "third" goaltender Michael Leighton has been impressive. This is much to the delight of some fans who wish Crackers would take a hike. The other goalies have gone their respective way.

With Bret Hedican's health still a question mark, there may be a roster spot open for a blueliner. Luke Decock of the News and Observer continues to use doublespeak on this subject. According to the steady steam of confusing reports, one day Hedican is in bad shape; the next, he's never looked better. The most likely candidates to fill a vacancy are Noah Babin, Casey Borer and Brett Carson. Babin has been all the rage of camp, and even if he doesn't make the final cut, the Floridian will likely be the first defenseman to get called up.

In the red-white game on Wednesday, Jeff Hamilton scored two goals. He's doing okay. Chad LaRose is already up and skating again. Frantisek Kaberle is up to full speed. Andrew Ladd skated. Justin Williams escaped serious injury after being hit on the ankle by a shot. As it looks right now, the injuries aren't going to be a factor on opening night.

Carolina will host Nashville on Friday night in its second exhibition game of the preseason. RBH will not have a presence there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Canes to have giveaways this season

For the entire time that the Hurricanes have been in North Carolina, they have been known for being less than generous with their promotional hand-outs at games. This season, they are stepping up. A little bit.
Some teams have frequent t-shirt giveaways. Most give away hats at some point. Some even give away replica sweaters. Carolina has given hats every year, and sometimes a sticker or a magnet, but nothing that the fans actually want. This season, in celebration of their decade in North Carolina, the team (in conjunction with St. Lawrence Homes) is giving away a house. One lucky fan will be the recipient of a brand new 3100 square foot home valued at $340,000. I don't know the details of how the contest works, but the home will be the grand prize, and 140 other prizes will be distributed throughout the season as part of the contest.

In addition, the Hurricanes will sponsor a few giveaways. Hat night isn't listed, but I know there will be one. According to the Hurricanes pocket schedule, there will be four promotional giveaways that might be interesting:
  • November 28 vs Philly -- Rod Brind'Amour collectible figurine giveaway
  • January 22 vs Islanders -- Ray Whitney collectible figurine giveaway
  • February 19 vs Boston -- Eric Staal collectible figurine giveaway
  • March 16 vs Ottawa -- Cam Ward collectible figurine giveaway

  • Make no mistake. These won't be on par with McFarlane figurines. )I haven't gotten or even seen one of the Staal McFarlane figures, by the way.) No. But at least it's something other than a poster.

    None of those four nights are in my package, so I'll most likely not get my hands on any of those.

    I think there's probably more planned than we know. And the house is a pretty big deal.

    Opening night (and my birthday) is just two weeks away!

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Sabres screw Numminen

    Darcy Regier can add one more thing to the growing list of things he has done to screw the Buffalo Sabres franchise. Hasek, Satan, Grier, Briere, Drury, and now Numminen.

    I'm not a Sabres fan, and I'm unqualified to speak at length about the above things, but this latest one is something that goes beyond being a Sabres fan, or even a hockey fan.

    On Thursday, the Sabres quietly announced that they were suspending Teppo Numminen without pay. They said that he failed to show up to camp in good shape. It wasn't that he had been eating Krispy Kreme all summer and was all overweight. It wasn't that he was drunk. It wasn't anything like that. It was that he needed to have heart surgery.

    This summer, the Sabres re-signed the 39-year old Finn to a $2.6M one year contract. Last year, whilst wearing the A, he tallied 29 (2/27) points in 79 regular season contests and added 10 assists in 16 post-season games. The previous season, he had 40 (2/38) points in 75 regular season games. Recently, he set the record for most games played by a European player.

    He has been the heart of the Sabres blueline.

    Heart. He has had two previous heart surgeries, and this one supposedly has nothing to do with correcting either of them. Nor is it for some new cardiac problem. This one is to correct a pre-existing condition. This pre-existing condition rendered his $2.6M contract uninsurable, so the Sabres wouldn't be able to recoup any of his salary from their insurance company. Their solution: suspend him without pay, citing some bullshit "out of shape" excuse.

    By last check, even when you include Numminen, the Sabres are well below the salary cap limit. This can't be about that. They still have six NHL-calibre defensemen, so it probably isn't about the need to sign someone else. I'm not sure what this is about.

    In situations like this, most teams would place Numminen on the long-term IR, which means his salary would not count towards the salary cap anyway. The Devils did this with Hepatitis boy. Even the Sabres did this before, with Tim Connolly and his concussion.

    This is about being cheap. And disrespectful. This is about kicking a man while he's down. Darcy Regier and Tom Golisano should be ashamed of themselves.

    The NHL Players' Association is investigating the matter, and should file a grievance on Numminen's behalf.

    In their defense, Regier and Co dug up some subsection to some rule in the CBA saying that a player must show up for camp ready to play and he must pass his physical. If he doesn't his SPC can be nullified. Tim Graham of the Buffalo News:
    “There’s a clause explicitly in the contract that states the player must pass the physical and be fit to play,” Regier said. “It’s the collective bargaining agreement, and in no way is it personal to Teppo.

    “I had the conversation with Teppo. He understands it’s business. It has a lot of implications on the salary side, on the cap side.”

    It CAN be but it doesn't HAVE TO be. I don't think the verbage suggests that the contract is automatically null and void. They are using this to weasel their way out of paying him. Under those same rules, the Oilers could have suspended Fernando Pisani when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (By the way, I hate to say I told you so, but Carter was invited to the Oilers camp). For once in his life, Kevin Lowe did something right. Pisani might miss the entire season, leaving the Oil on the hook for $2.5M, but Lowe et al refused to treat a sick player as a casualty of a business decision.

    After the Tomas Vanek fiasco, it seems funny to say this, but Darcy Regier needs to take a page out of Lowe's book. Lowe may be an idiot, but he's not a cold, callous, heartless idiot.

    Say what you will about the Sabres "doing what they had to do". Say what you will about this being a "business rather than personal decision". Say what you will about it being "fair" according to the CBA. This is a crap move.

    Kevin BFLOBLOG wrote about it here.
    Tom from Sabre Rattling has a more levelheaded approach. He always does.

    Some folks are comparing the Numminen situation to the Scott Niedermayer situation in Anaheim, but it isn't even remotely the same. Niedermayer, who is pondering retirement, didn't show up to Ducks' camp, and was suspended. This is very very different.

    With Drury and Briere gone and with Numminen suspended (and undergoing career-threatening surgery), the Sabres have nobody back who wore a letter last season. After everything that's gone on this summer, and especially the Numminen thing, more than a few feathers have been ruffled in the Lake Erie area.

    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    Canes eke out victory against Caps b-team

    On Sunday, Carolina defeated the Caps in overtime 4-3. Carolina played some of their stars. Washington did not. For about 48 minutes, Carolina looked pretty lethargic. Even bad. Somehow, they pulled it together down the stretch, and the end result, even though it doesn't count, was a win.

    First off, my new seat offers a good view, but it's way further up than I'm accustomed to. Yes, I'm spoiled. I spent the last season in the third row, sitting close enough to smell the players' breath. The previous two, a spent sitting close enough to at least see their eyes. I'm still in the lower bowl, and I can't complain about that, but I will no longer be able to provide decent photography. And I will no longer be able to harangue the visiting goaltender with any chance of him hearing me.

    The Hurricanes dressed nine regulars. Five forwards (Cole, Staal, Stillman, Viva and Letowski), three defensemen (Commodore, Seidenberg and Gleason) and Johnny Crackers. The Caps did not dress any of their top line (Ovechkin, Semin, Nylander). Still, their "b team" looked ready to play.

    Seeing the sweaters in action, I liked them quite a bit. The form-fitting business will take some getting used to, but overall I think they look sharp. I tried one on in the souvenir shop, and I like the feel. A lot. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to be able to plop down the $190 it would take to get one with a player name/number plus the commemorative patch. When the time comes, I'll get a "road" white one. Probably a WHITNEY 13. Part of me wants to just wait for next season's third sweater (black with the "storm warning" logo on the chest).

    The boys took a while to get things going, but when the Caps put their reserve backup in, the Canes had a better time. Johnson was good, as he always is against the Canes. With the Canes down by two, they scored two quick goals to knot it up midway through the third.
    My notes were crap, but the Canes scoring was thus:

    In the waning seconds of a power play, Noah Babin became the first native Floridian to score an NHL goal. It came at 7:46 of the third with helpers from Staal and Stillman. The "official scoresheet" lists this as an even strength goal, but it was most certainly a power play.

    Just 49 seconds later, Erik Cole made a textbook Erik Cole maneuver to tie it at the 8:35 mark. Again, the Canes were on a power play, after the Caps were whistled for delay of game (clearing the puck over the glass). Cole took a pass from Staal, broke in on net, sweeping through the low slot. As he moved from left to right across the goal mouth, he pulled it to his backhand at the very last second and easily beat Michal Neuvirth.

    Michael Leighton, who once fought Cam Ward as part of an epic bench clearing brawl in an AHL game, was quite good between the pipes. He made a couple of dazzling saves down the stretch including a sprawling save that was kind of reminiscent of Ward's save on Raffi Torres with about six minutes to play in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Obviously, the stakes weren't as high, but it was a nifty save.

    However, at 17:57 of the third, Ben Clymer tipped one passed Leighton to give the Caps a late lead. On the play, I felt like Brandon Sutter could have cleared either the puck or the player out of the goal mouth area, but he just watched as the goal was scored.

    As I was sharply criticizing Peter Laviolette for not pulling the keeper for a sixth attacker, the Canes mounted some late pressure deep in the Caps zone. I continued to implore the coach to pull Leighton, but it all became immaterial when my boy Viva scored a very easy goal at 19:00. Neuvirth had practically taken himself out of the play by falling down, and Ryan Bayda had the puck at the bottom of the right circle. He patiently held the puck, then dished it to Williams on the left side. As Neuvirth was down and out, overcommitted to the right side, all Viva had to do was tap it into the yawning net. Like the last game of the 06-07 season, the game would go to overtime.
    Like the last game of the 06-07 season, the Canes would be the benefactor of two quick penalties, which gave the Canes a rare overtime five-on-three. In overtime, both teams play with four skaters, and penalties are served as normal. With a second penalty against the same team, though, the non-offending team gets to bring an extra skater on the ice rather than going to a four-on-two situation. The Canes dawdled a bit, but they eventually took care of business. Erik Cole got the game winner at 4:12 of the extra frame. Eric Staal fired a shot from the right circle that Cole deflected in from the goal-mouth area.

    Carolina will travel to Nashville for a Friday exhibition. Between now and then, they will play some Red-White scrimmages on Tuesday and Wednesday. There is an outside chance that I'll head out there on Tuesday. On Friday, there will be a different group of players on the ice from what we saw today.

    Quick notes:
    *Staal looked a bit "off" at first, but came on strong in the third, putting up three assists.

    *Erik Cole looked pretty sharp. His first goal was a thing of beauty, and the second was just a right place, right time kind of thing, but he still looked good. I liked the way he responded after he boarded a Caps player. The player went down awkwardly, and Cole immediately turned all of his attention to the health of the player. Fortunately, the player was uninjured, but Cole (who, of course, knows a little something about being boarded)showed class and sportsmanship.

    *Brandon Sutter was a non-factor. So much of a non-factor that the official "event summary" lists him as "14 Chad LaRose".

    *Wade Brookbank made a couple of sound defensive plays

    *Patrick Dwyer is throwing me off. He won't make the opening night roster, so it won't be a big deal, but he's wearing the #39 sweater, and I kept wanting to shout out "C'mon, Dougie!"

    *Johnny Crackers wasn't all that good. The first goal was cheap, and I thought (contrary to what Luke says) that he looked bad trying to handle the puck. It makes me nervous as all get-out to see him play the puck as much as he does, and to see him come as far out of the crease as he does, and to try the homerun pass as frequently as he does. There were no Conklin-esque catastrophic mistakes, but I just don't think he's a smooth puckhandler and it makes me nervous.

    Most importantly, today felt great. It felt great to go through all my game-night rituals. It felt great to see my hockey friends who I haven't seen in five months. It felt great to be in the building. It felt great to see the new sweaters. It felt good to feel the crisp air. It felt good to see the boys win. It feels good to know that the "real" games are just around the corner.

    Sutter to play today

    Today, when the Hurricanes open their preseason schedule against the Capitals, many Caniacs will get their first view of Brandon Sutter. The high-profile rookie will be part of the "game group" today, which is always a mix of veterans and camp invitees.

    If Sutter can play with the intensity that he displayed in the Super Series, it will be hard to ignore. Since LaRose is injured, there is one roster spot open, so he has a chance. However, as I said before, it's most likely to be Keith Aucoin.

    I'm not sure who else of the prospects will be skating, but the veterans will be Erik Cole, Eric Staal, Justin Williams, Cory Stillman, Trevor Letowski, Mike Commodore, Dennis Seidenberg, Tim Gleason and John Grahame.

    I'll be arriving a little bit early to drink a few adult beverages in the parking lot. Anyone who knows my number should call or text me.

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Dallas Stars adopt NBA look

    On Friday, the Stars unveiled their new sweaters. Theirs was probably the most drastic change of any so far.

    The road whites saw little change. The logo is still the traditional star. Thankfully they did away with the ridiculous "the whole sweater is an oversized star" motif, which left the sleeves on the road sweaters with a lot of green. Since the NHL has suspended third sweaters this season, we don't have to look at the ridiculous female reproductive system logo anymore. The shoulders on the new road sweaters have the secondary (or is it tertiary?) "lone star state" emblem, which I've always liked.
    Another change to the road sweater is that the player number is displayed in small numerals on the right shoulder (ala Buffalo Sabres '07). Several other teams have adopted this. My only beef with that is that it covers the spot where a Stanley Cup patch would traditionally go.

    The home sweaters saw a massive overhaul. The green, which they brought with them from Minnesota, is gone. Truthfully, the "Dallas" green was a bit darker than the "Minnesota" green, but it was still green. Anyway, it has been supplanted with black. Not a Spinal Tap "None more black" kind of black. In the pictures I've seen, it's not quite as aggressively black as all that; it's quite a bit more subtle. If that makes sense.
    Also, the logo has been removed and replaced with "DALLAS" in a slight arch, giving it an almost collegiate look. That feel is immediately washed away by the large numerals on the chest, where the team crest used to be. Suddenly, it looks like an NBA jersey. I'm pretty sure that I don't like this. The "lone star state" secondary logo, which used to be displayed on the shoulders of the home sweater, is gone. Now the shoulder logo for home sweaters is the traditional "Stars" logo.
    Yes, I'm pretty sure that I don't like the Stars' new duds. I'll have to see it in action, though, to be sure.

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Canes enter camp banged up

    Camp officially opened today, and already the Hurricanes are banged up.

    Andrew Ladd is still nursing some undisclosed injury and did not skate today.

    Newcomer Jeff Hamilton is also out with an undisclosed injury. What is this? The playoffs? What's this "undisclosed injury" thing? Forslund suspects that it's a groin problem. Nothing is known about when or if he'll be ready.

    Frantisek Kaberle is working his way back to shape after having some knee surgery this summer. He's almost there.

    Add Sharpie to the list. He caught a rut and threw his knee all out of whack. They're tentatively putting a window of 3-6 weeks on his return.

    Opening night is still more than two weeks away, but with Ladd, Hamilton and LaRose all out, the Hurricanes need some answers. Trevor Letowski just got a free pass out of the press box and onto the fourth line. Suddenly, the idea of Brendon Sutter being offered a 10-day trial doesn't seem so far-fetched.

    As a commenter rightfully pointed out, Sutter is too young to legally play in the AHL, so Albany isn't even an option. If you're under 20, that's the way it works. It's either the NHL, or back to your junior club. In his case, it would be the Red Deer Rebels. The team will still be owned by his dad, but obviously, Brent will be too busy coaching the New Jersey Devils to continue coaching the Rebels.

    Word on the street is that Sutter was having a hard time with the drills and that Harrison Reed looked way better than he did. Obviously, Keith Aucoin and Dave Gove are good choices for call-ups. They both shuttled between Raleigh and Albany last season, with Aucoin being the more impressive of the two. Aucoin put up a very impressive 99 (27/72) points in just 65 games with the River Rats and added a lone assist in eight appearances with the Canes last season.

    So the season will start with Sharpie on the shelf. It doesn't sound like Ladd and Hamilton have serious injuries, so they should be there. On the blue line, Hedican's status is still mysterious and Kaberle is on the mend. Snuggles Tanabe opted to attend the Blues camp instead of the Canes.

    To fill LaRose's void, my money is on Aucoin. They're almost identical anyway. Both are tiny guys, standing five nine and weighing in at about 185 pounds. Both are very hard working guys with a surprising level of physical, scrappy play.

    Still, though, the fans will be very interested in the way Sutter develops during camp.

    I'm really looking forward to the first preseason game. Who wants to meet for beers?

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Hockey season is finally upon us!

    After a long, hot, uneventful summer, hockey is finally just around the corner.

    Football has begun. I like football, but each year I have increasingly viewed football as a temporary distraction until hockey starts. From this point forward, I will pay less and less attention to real football, and even less to my fantasy football teams.

    After some fitful, nervous waiting, my tickets have arrived. I had to downsize from my traditional 24-game plan to a more affordable and more logistically possible 10-game plan. Those 10-game plans get shipped out after all the others. Full season and 24-gamers have the privilege of selecting the exact seat they sit in all season. 10 gamers can only request a section. I have been in 112 for four seasons, and I didn't want to change that. However, since I was assigned my seat after the others were selected, I didn't get as nice a chair as what I've had in the past. I went from row M to row L to row J to row C (!), improving my view each season. This year, I'll be in row VV. I can't recall how far from the top of 112 that is, but suffice to say it's not as close to the ice as row C. I'll be on the aisle, which is pretty sweet, and I can't complain about a lower bowl seat. I wish I was closer to that row L seat because I have several friends in that area, but this'll do.

    This is the Canes' tenth season in North Carolina, and the ice has been painted with a special marking at centre ice. The players will all wear a commemorative patch on their right shoulder. The season ticket holders have been issued special bumper stickers in honor of this decade in Carolina.

    Camp opens for the Hurricanes tomorrow. Brendan Sutter will be in camp, but is not expected to make the roster. At best, most people think he'll spend some time in Albany. Barring a spectacular camp for him and some serious injuries to some other forwards, there's just no way he can make the big club. He was good in the Super Series, but I just don't think so. Cason pointed out that Alan Muir of Sports Illustrated has marked Sutter as a darkhorse candidate to make the big team. He marked 14 other "under the radar" type players in NHL camps who have a chance to make the big club on their respective team. He opines that Sutter might get a "10 game look-see". This is precisely how Jordan Staal made the Penguins roster last October. Started out as a doubtful, had a great camp, and blew everyone away during his 10 game free preview. Maybe Sutter can do this, which would likely leave Trevor Letowski out in the cold.

    The Hurricanes will open their pre-season with a game this Sunday afternoon. I normally don't care about pre-season hockey, but I'll probably go.

    Opening night, which coincides with my 36th birthday, is just 19 days away! I'm not about to miss that.
    If you're in the arena that night, I'll gladly let you buy me a birthday beer. One per customer, though.

    The Bret Hedican saga continues. One day, he's allegedly on the verge of holding an "I quit" press conference. The next, he's looking better than he's ever looked. The next, he's not practicing. The latest is that Luke Decock has called him "nominally" healthy.

    Other news: Andrew Ladd is nursing an undisclosed injury. "Snuggles" Tanabe has been invited to camp.

    More details later. For now, it's Scrabble night and I'm late.

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    us open

    Yet another non-hockey post.

    On Sunday, just before the start of the US Open Mens' Final match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the crowd was subjected to Liza Minnelli singing "God Bless America". I suppose they did that because of the anniversary of 9/11 coming up in a couple of days. I don't know.

    Was anyone else disgusted? First of all, Ms Minnelli herself is kind of an eyesore. Aside from that, I'm not sure what she was wearing. Were those clothes? And the headband? Who does she think she is? Olivia Newton-John? The only reward is that one can't help but think of her Arrested Development character, Lucille II.

    That's actually not the bulk of my complaint. If you're going to sing "God Bless America", you should sing the damn song in its entirety. She picked up, as most people do, at the second verse. The first verse, or the prelude, or whatever you want to call it, is kinda what makes the song. True, it's a bit awkward, but without it, I don't think the song is as powerful.

    That's not even the worst. I was completely dumbstruck when she broadway'ed it the second time through. Yes, Liza. We remember that you were the star of Cabaret, but that was 35 years ago and it's time to let go.

    I just don't like it when people make a theatrical production out of singing the national anthem or "God Bless America". It's not supposed to be about the performer. It's supposed to be about the song.

    I'm picky like that.

    On a related note that actually has something to do with hockey, Holly Wilver will no longer be a part of the Storm Squad. Presumably, this means that she will no longer be singing the national anthem(s) at Canes games. I've never been a fan of her or her singing, so I'm a bit relieved. I don't think the little girl is the answer, but they need someone to do it and do it well. Have I ever mentioned that I miss Karen Tulloss?

    Later this week, I plan to write about hockey.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Canes unis to be unveiled today

    The Hurricanes were supposed to unveil the new sweater on September 16 at the first pre-season game. They decided not to wait that long.

    At some unspecified time today (I assume 12:00 noon), the Hurricanes will hold a press conference to officially show off the new duds. By now, everyone knows about the piping along the collarbone and above the name plate on the back. If the EA Sports sneak peeks are accurate, that's the only change.

    Somewhere on the sweater (I'm guessing on the right shoulder, there will be a patch commemorating this, the 10th year for this franchise in North Carolina.

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Fantasy Hockey needs players

    I'd like to invite everyone to join a fantasy hockey league that I've set up on Yahoo.

    The league is set to be a 12 team league with head-to-head week-long games. Each team will consist of three (3) centers, one (1) left wing, one (1) right wing, four (4) wings, one (1) forward, six (6) defensemen, two (2) "utility" players, two (2) goalkeepers and five (5) bench players. The scoring details aren't really important right now.

    The league is set up with Yahoo, and here's what you need to know to join:
    League name: The boys of winter
    League ID #: 12001
    password: whalers

    If you'd prefer, I can e-mail you an invitation with an easy to use sign-up form. Just leave a comment here or email me: redblackhockey (at) earthlink dot net.

    Don't pay attention to the draft time/date. That'll probably change.

    This is free to sign up, and as of this moment, I don't have plans to give prizes, but I won't rule it out entirely.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Pisani done, Carter might find work

    The news has come in that the Oilers's Saint Fernando Pisani will be out of the lineup indefinitely after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

    I'd never heard of it before, but I correctly guessed that it had something to do with explosive diarrhea. It is often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome for that reason. While I can't really speak to the medical differences, there are quite a lot, and we'll just say that Ulcerative Colitis (IBD) is much more serious than irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

    IBD is a cancer-like condition characterized by many things such as abdominal pain, arthritic flare-ups, deep vein thrombosis (Tomas Vokoun had this), painful skin lesions, and many others. The main manifestation, though, is blood-filled stool and chronic diarrhea.

    IBD is much more rare than Crohn's Disease, with which it is closely related. It strikes about 1 in 10,000 North Americans each year. The causes are unknown, but it is believed that people from northern North America are more likely to have it than others. Twins are a little more likely than non-twins. People of Jewish descent. People who have recently quit smoking are more likely to have it. Strange.

    This is one of those "diseases" that they can't really cure. What they hope to do is lessen the frequency and severity of the episodes.

    Pisani is known around here as the guy who scored the shorthanded overtime goal in game 5 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. He actually scored 14 goals that postseason, which led all scorers. He tallied 28 (14/14) points in the 2006-07 campaign, and was a fan favorite. He is known as much for his work ethic as his heroics in the 2006 playoffs. He will be missed by Oil fans.

    Anson Carter is still a free agent. He's probably the best available free agent, and he should expect his cellphone to ring early Wednesday morning. Carter spent a few years in Edmonton between 2000-01 and 02-03 and posted his career best totals those years.

    Sorry, but I can't help but think of that silly "misheard lyric" from the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". The real line in the song is
    The girl with kaleidoscope eyes"

    but people often mis-hear:
    "The girl with colitis goes by"

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Labor day in sports history

    Today is Labor Day in the United States, and I'll present another off-topic post devoted to another sport.

    Today, I watched a bit of the US Open, catching the instant classic match between James Blake of the United States and Tommy Haas of Germany. Blake won the first and third sets, then got smoked 6-0 in the fourth. I thought he was out of steam, but he was just pulling a Jimmy Connors trick out of his bag. After getting behind two breaks, he simply laid down, conceding the set and conserving his energy for the decisive set. It turned out to be a phenomenal final set in which Blake had three match points in hand. However, he couldn't convert them, then he let the tiebreaker game slip away, finally losing. In the very brief post-match interview, Blake looked almost as dejected as the University of Michigan fans in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

    This was an epic match, but it doesn't hold a candle to another epic match on Labor Day in the US Open.

    On Jimmy Connors' 39th birthday (September 2, 1991), he defeated 24-year old fellow American Aaron Krickstein 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). In that match, Connors essentially conceded the third set. The match wasn't as grand-scheme fantastic as the 1980 Wimbledon Final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg (which featured the famous "battle of 18-16" in the fourth set), but it was huge enough.

    Check out this clip of the highlights from that match. Man, I can't believe Jimbo was 39 and had that much energy. I love the way the crowd was totally on his side.

    Then, just a couple of days later in the quarterfinal, Connors met Dutchman Paul Haarhuis, and defeated him 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-2, earning a berth in the US Open semifinal. He lost in straight sets to fellow American Jim Courier, who in turn lost in straight sets to the "evil" Swede Stefan Edberg.

    In the Haauhuis match, Connors won what many people consider to be "the best point in tennis history". Take a look.

    I remember watching that one on teevee in the college dorm and thinking that it was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen.

    Jimmy Connors was way too old to be keeping up with those young guys, but he did it anyway. He entered the tournament with a wildcard berth, but ended up advancing to the semifinal. This is one of the things that makes Connors one of my favorite athletes of all time. I always put Johnny Mac In front of him simply because McEnroe was so damned good and such an entertaining character. After being reminded of the 1991 US Open, I might change my tune and put Connors above Mac in that list.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    The Big House Blitzkrieg

    On Saturday, the University of Michigan opened its 2007 football season ranked #5 in the polls and with high hopes of winning the BCS championship. Their opponent in week one was Appalachian State, a division I-AA team who was supposed to be a creampuff. Michigan found out the hard way that the Mountaineers are a very good team. It's no mistake that they won the national championship two years in a row. The Wolverines, and the 107,000 people in "The Big House" left with their tail between their legs when the final seconds ticked off and App State had won 34-32.
    Here's the highlights of the exciting conclusion:

    Also, check out the full highlights, including all the scoring plays. App State is no joke. They sliced and diced their way through a Michigan defense that had no idea how to handle the spread offense.

    Here's an awesome view from inside the big house, as filmed by an Appalachian State fan:

    You get a good feel for how dead silent the stadium went.

    Finally, be sure to check out this clip, which features the App State radio call. I love the reaction of the color commentator.

    I don't have any direct connections to Appalachian State University. Just that they're from Boone, North Carolina and that they were the extreme underdog. Most of the kids on that team are from North Carolina, and very few of them were given even a look by Division I schools.

    My friend Trish, who used to sit beside me at Hurricanes games is a professor at App State and a huge supporter of Mountaineer football. I know this is probably the second happiest day of her sports fan life. I think this might be bigger than winning the division I-AA national championship.


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