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

Monday, June 30, 2008

It's over (and it never really began)

On Monday, the Avalanche re-signed John-Michael Liles to a four-year deal the day before he would have become a sought-after free agent. This ends all speculation that the Hurricanes have him on their shopping list.

There will still be lots of quality defensemen around when the free agent "frenzy" starts tomorrow, but Liles is the one that Canes fans have been salivating over for almost a year now.

Meanwhile, down in the City of Tampa, they've gone wild with their signings and acquisitions. They signed both Ryan Malone (7 years/ $31.5M and Gary Roberts (one year $1.25M + bonuses). They have also acquired the rights to Brian Rolston. They have Vaclav (who I still refuse to call "Vinny") Prospal back under contract and there is talk of making Vincent LeCavalier a "Bolt for Life".
Somehow, amongst all of this, the Lightning aren't really in danger of coming near the cap ceiling. The trouble is, they're going to have to go all out and spend too much money on a goaltender.

Carolina has their work cut out for them. They need at least one defenseman out of the free agent pool. Some fans are clamoring for the return of Mike Commodore. I'm not crazy about that idea. They will also need at least one forward. A fourth line winger.

It seems likely that Chad LaRose will accept his qualifying offer and stay on for one year. He is scheduled to become a RFA, but because his salary will fall below the $863,156 mark, the Canes would receive no compensation if he signs elsewhere.

While the Canes bloggers have been relatively active during this extremely dead time, we haven't heard a word from the professional journalist. What gives?

Tomorrow's the big day. Paul Kukla had a great line about tomorrow, the beginning of the free agent signing period:
"Have plenty of food by your side, you won’t want to leave the computer. While your family and friends are celebrating Canada Day or a long Fourth of July holiday, you will be ridiculed, laughed at or just ignored. But don’t give in to their request to join in on the holiday fun, you see, this is our hockey holiday."

In a cruel twist of fate that only the famous ironist O. Henry would appreciate, I don't have to "work" tomorrow, which is the perfect day to have off. However, I have to tag along with the owner of my restaurant so I can assure him that I can handle the paperwork aspect of things while he's on vacation next week.

Happy Canada Day! Happy Free Agent Day!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

AHL to experiment with one-minute minors in OT

Greg Wyshynski, over at Puck Daddy, has reported that the AHL will, at the behest of the NHL, experiment with one-minute minor penalties in regular season overtime games next season.

The theory is the same one that Jacques Martin has used every time his Panthers team commits a penalty in overtime. The four-on-three advantage for a full two minutes is usually too much for the offending team to deal with. He links to an article in the Toronto Star, which tells us just how damaging that scenario is:
This season, 39 per cent of the penalties in OT that have resulted in a 4-on-3 power play have produced the winning goal in NHL games. It stands to reason, Campbell said, that one-minute penalties will produce fewer goals, and therefore more games will go to shootouts.

He goes on to bring up another of the points behind this experiment. A two minute minor in regulation is 10% of a period, or 3.33 % of the entire game. A two minute minor in overtime is 40 % of the period. The argument is that the punishment is much more severe for the same crime.

The way it would actually be practiced is kinda silly, especially in regards to carry-over penalties. Any remaining time from a regulation penalty would be cut in half entering the overtime period. If a player commits a hooking penalty at 19:20 of regulation serves the first 40 in regulation, then only has to serve 40 more seconds in overtime as opposed to the 80 that he actually owes. Wyshynski tells us what he thinks of that:
"Raise your hand if you think a defensive player might kill or maim to prevent a goal knowing that his team would only be shorthanded for, at most, under a minute in the OT?"

I'm with Puck Daddy on this one. I don't like it. You put youself in a serious hole if you commit penalties in overtime, so the solution is to be better disciplined. In my opinion, that is exactly the point. It should be set up so that you're very much behind the eight-ball if you commit an overtime penalty. That's the beauty and the difficulty of it. Every mistake is magnified.

I don't like the idea of comparing overtime to regulation. They're not the same. Nothing about them is the same. We all know that officiating standards are not the same in the extra frame as they are in regulation. Teams are already getting a break on law enforcement, and I don't think they should get an additional break on sentencing.

I suppose the next thing will be to play the full overtime period instead of sudden death. Either that, or they just stop playing overtime altogether and go straight from regulation to shootout. I'm against both of those ideas. They seem like ideas that might be brought up in rules committee meetings, but I hope they never are. The first quote that I lifted seems to suggest that the NHL wants more games going to shootout. They think that the fans and players like it. They think wrong.

In addition to the one minute minor experiment, the AHL is going to modify its rulebook to parrot that of the NHL. Specifically, they're going to change their rules about icing, high-sticking and delay of game (puck over glass).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tanabe challenges buyout

On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes officially bought out the contract of Jeff "Green Eggs and " Hamilton. David Tanabe challenged his buyout.

This comes as no surprise. Tanabe's official status is "injured", but the Hurricanes believe that he is fit to play. I suppose the next step is to call in an independent, non-biased physician to examine Avi.

We are not surprised at this turn of events, and we want to reiterate this one point. Tanabe repeatedly failed to show up for numerous meetings with coaches and other Hurricanes front office staff. He repeatedly failed to do these meetings via conference call. He repeatedly failed to make any effort to meet with the team. He found time, though, to drag himself out of bed to remove all his gear from the RBC Center way before this buyout stuff happened. He also found time (very quickly, I might add) to meet with the NHLPA to protest this buyout attempt.

Call me a jerk or whatever, but I still say that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ruutu signs; Tanabe and Hamilton clear

On Tuesday, David Tanabe and Jeff Hamilton both cleared waivers. The Hurricanes will set the buy-out ball in motion. Tanabe will have to be examined and deemed healthy before this can take place, but the Hurricanes are taking the position that he is in fact healthy.
Jeff Hamilton seemed like a nice guy, and he got off to a roaring start here. However, after he settled down, things just weren't working. After notching 12 (4/8) points in the first 15 games of the season, he only mustered 12 (5/7) in the next 44 games. He also spent some time in the press box and some time soldiering away up in Albany. He had nine (3/6) points in nine games with the River Rats. Sadly, he and his smoky visor won't be back in Raleigh.

Tanabe's health continues to be a mystery. While I have certainly suggested that he's milking the injury for all (or more than) it's worth this move has nothing to do with Tanabe's injury. The CBA is quite clear about buying out injured players. Even when healthy, Tanabe would be scratched while guys like Tim Conboy were recalled from Albany.

Fortunately, fans of Tuomo Ruutu were able to finally stop holding their breath. Sort of. Today, he was signed to one of those dreaded one-year contracts. He'll get $2.25M. Ostensibly, this was done because it was, as Luke put it "the path of least resistance". The two sides have been unable to find a common ground on salary and duration of contract, so they just did this to get something done. Next July 1, he will be eligible to become a RFA. That aspect of the deal works out better for Carolina, but they had to pay a little more up front than they really wanted to.

After being acquired via trade with the Blackhawks, Ruutu quickly became a crowd favorite and he put up 11 (4/7) points in 17 games.

Coincidentally, Andrew Ladd (whom Ruutu was traded for) re-signed with the 'Hawks yesterday. In 20 games with Chicago, Ladd notched 12 (5/7) points. He was signed to a two-year deal, which will pay him $1.45M in 08-09 and $1.65M in 09-10.

With Ruutu signed and Hambone gone, Carolina still has 10 forwards and four defensemen signed. I suppose Chad LaRose will be the next to re-sign. Then defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. There are several free agents-to-be who need to be signed for Albany's sake, but they are all RFAs, so there's really no rush.

After LaRose and Seidenberg, the next order of business will be to wait till July 1, then go after a name-brand blueliner in the FA market. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Brandon Sutter will be the last piece of the puzzle, and he'll be snapped (forced) into place after the pre-season exhibition games.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The David Tanabe plot thickens

On Monday, the Hurricanes placed winger Jeffrey Hamilton and defenseman David Tanabe on waivers. Presumably, they will both clear, and the idea is to buy out both of their contracts. Each player has one year remaining on his contract.

As you probably know, the CBA does not allow a team to buy out the contract of an injured player. David Tanabe has been out since December with concussion-like symptoms. He's failed to show up for any year-end interviews or other meetings with team staff. While his camp is still saying that he's not well enough to even leave the house, the Hurricanes are confident that if it comes down to it, a doctor will deem him "healthy". If that turns out to be the case, the buyout will be legal and Carolina can move on.

It's no surprise that Carolina is buying out Green Eggs and Hamilton. Even when the Canes were banged up with injuries last season, he was finding himself in the press box as a healthy scratch pretty frequently.

This Tanabe thing has been a mystery. The "injury" itself is mysterious enough. Nobody was ever able to ascertain exactly when or how he sustained the concussion. All we know is that it happened in "the Alexei Ponikarovsky game" wherein the Canes made a miraculous comeback from two goals down with 85 seconds to play to win the game. He left that game at some point in the first period and never came back I reviewed and reviewed the game tape, and there was never any hit that would have caused a massive concussion.

I'm not saying that he made the whole thing up. I'm not saying that he had a major row with coach Laviolette. I'm not saying that there was a false injury. I'm just saying. This whole thing is pretty weird.

When Snuggles didn't show up for the team photo at the end of the year, everyone thought it was a little weird. When he didn't show up for his exit interviews, everyone thought it was even weirder. When he repeatedly missed meetings and didn't return phone calls, everyone started to wonder what the heck was going on. All along, we were fed the same line that he couldn't even see straight, let alone play hockey.

This talk of buying out Tanabe came up a few months ago. Of course it all went by the wayside because the CBA forbids the buying out of an injured player's contract.

Today, Luke Decock reports that the Canes are gonna do it anyway. He says that the Tanabe buyout will cost the Canes $600k and the Hambone buyout would cost $533k. For 2008-09, if both players are bought out, Carolina would take a salary cap hit of $416,667.

Tanabe has been nothing but trouble. After being selected 16th overall in the 1999 entry draft, Tanbe had two tenures with the Hurricanes, but never quite lived up to the high expectations. Instead, he lived up to the nicknames "Snuggles" (for being soft) and my personal favorite "Avi" (David - D = Avi). His second time through, he was easily Carolina's worst defenseman on a very bad blueline. Even when he turned the corner around Christmas of 2006 and showed marked improvement, he was still pretty bad and extremely soft.

Immediately following the game in which he was injured, I pointed out that I couldn't tell how he got hurt and I joked:
"At some point in the first period, "Avi" Tanabe suffered a concussion, but nobody knows how or when. I assume he concussed himself when he considered actually hitting someone."

There is no doubt in my mind that Avi will be well enough to file a grievance with the NHLPA. As of today, we're getting a "no comment" from Tanabe's camp.

If this saga were going on with some other team, I'll admit that I would be crying about how unjust and callous it is for the team to try to buy out the injured player's contract. However, this has gone on long enough, and has had so many odd turns that I'm having very serious doubts about the magnitude of Tanabe's injury. I'm not at all suggesting that he has personal problems and cried "injury" to cover them up. I'm just saying.

Other teams will have until noon on Tuesday to pick up Tanabe or Hamilton. After that, we might see some fireworks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Canes draft defenseman with famous name

In the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Hurricanes went with a defenseman, Michal Jordan. Because he's a Plymouth Whaler, he's a guy they already know. Because of his name, he's already famous. Even if he doesn't spell it the same.

This season, the 6'2" 185lb blueliner from the Czech Republic played in 39 games for the Peter Karmanos-owned Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. He registered 22 (5/17) points and 32 PIM.

Carolina gets another Zac

In the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, with the 45th overall pick, the Hurricanes selected center/wing Zac Dalpe. He will join first round draftee Zach Boychuk and the two of them together will be called "Zax".

Dalpe was projected by many to be a first rounder, so this is a nice pick. He was just 5'6" earlier this year, but has had a growth explosion to 6'1". He weighs just 175, so he obviously needs to put on a few, but a year or three at Ohio State should help him in that regard.

This ends any speculation that Carolina would add Jered Staal. They actually wanted to go with the youngest Staal brother, but that plan didn't involve Dalpe still being available. I'm sure the message board types are already crying in their Froot Loops over this. UPDATE Jared Staal was taken with the 49th overall pick by the Coyotes.

Carolina's director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald joked "We're all out of Zachs. No Zachs left". Carolina's next pick will be in the fourth round, number 105 overall. At that point, Zach or no Zach, the player is likely to be almost completely irrelevant.

Canucks rumors

During the first round of the draft on Friday, some rumors began to circulate that Jim Rutherford and Vancouver GM Mike Gillis were discussing the possibility of a straight-up trade which would send winger Erik Cole to the Nucks and defenseman Kevin Bieksa to the Canes.

The Canucks would love to have a guy like Cole, who is a perennial 30/30 scorer. He's listed as a left wing, but he can play either wing, and is actually better on the right side. Especially with the retirement of long-time Nuck Trevor Linden, the Canucks will be a little thin on the right side. Presumably, the interest in Cole is to plug him into the Sedinbot line, which is a role that they have had difficulty filling.

While the Nucks aren't exactly overrun with defensemen, their need to get a quality right wing is pretty glaring. While the Canes aren't exactly overrun with consistent 60-point performers, their glaring need is on the blue line.

It makes sense, then, that this rumor would fly around. Every year, there are rumors about Erik Cole. Most of the time, I have shrugged them off as ridiculous. This time, I think there might be something to it.

However, Alanah at Canucks and Beyond is suggesting that there are rumors that one or both of the Sedinbots are on the market.

She writes off the "rumors" much the same way I have written off Cole rumors in past years:
I’m curious about the source of this “speculation.” Something credible or just message board talk?

Personally, I’m betting on the message boards—or maybe just the typical Vancouver sports radio call-in-show blather that I tend to tune out. If it’s coming from someone with actual sources, I certainly haven’t stumbled across it.

It seems impossible to believe if you ask me. The Nucks went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure they could get both of the Sedins. Given the twins' insistence upon playing together, there's no way that one will be traded without the other. Who in the world would come up with an aggressive enough plan to get them both?

Maybe the Red Wings have a plan to send every one of their non-Swedes to Vancouver for the twins, but I'm only making a joke about that.

From a Vancouver perspective, that makes no sense. The Sedinbots have been the only consistently good things about the Vancouver offense for the last several years. Markus Naslund isn't getting any younger, and his production is tapering off. They need the Sedins. And the Sedins need someone to play with. I'm not sure that Cole is the best fit in the world on that right wing, but I doubt that he would be a terrible misfit.

I would be sad to see Cole go, but he's got loads of trade value. He's been a huge part of the Hurricanes team and one of the poster boys. And of course, he's been Carolina's ace in the hole whenever they play Montréal He's scheduled to be a UFA next July, and negotiations with him have always been difficult. It might be time for the Canes to pull the trigger. Cole-Bieksa would instantly fix a gaping hole in Carolina's armor. While it would certainly create a different hole, that one would be smaller.

Now, IF (and this is a big IF) Cole is shipped, that puts lots of pressure on the Canes front office to get Tuomo Ruutu and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose re-signed. It also pre-supposes that our 2007 top pick Brandon Sutter will be able to make the jump to the big team and make an impact.

More news from the draft as it develops.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jokinen sent to the desert

There were no fewer than 13 trades during the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Although none of them directly impacted Carolina, Caniacs everywhere let out a roar when Phoenix and Florida announced their trade very early on. Olli Jokinen, who is extremely unpopular in Raleigh (this may be an understatement) will be going to the Coyotes while defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton will be in Sunrise come fall.

RBH has never been a fan of Olli Jokinen, so we will shed no tears. He has been a bit of a Cane killa, racking up a ton of points against Carolina. More than that, though, he's been a general nuisance. Aside from having some really disturbing facial hair that makes him look like a child molester, he's been a loudmouth in the press. Along with Jacques Martin, he's been the one who says bad things about Carolina in the papers. At the end of the 06-07 season, he "guaranteed" a victory against Carolina in a meaningless game, and Carolina took great joy in showing him where to stick it.

During the IIHF World Champoinships this spring, Jokinen cheapshotted USA (and Carolina Hurricanes) defenseman Tim Gleason, knocking Timmy out of the Finland-USA game.

There were a ton of other trades on Friday, but most of them involved picks only. There will probably be more on Saturday, including some name-brand players.

Rounds 2-7 will be Saturday, beginning at 10:00am eastern time, and will be broadcast on the NHL Network.

All we can say about this is "Good riddance!"

Good riddance!

Canes select Boychuk

With the 14th overall pick, the Hurricanes selected centerman Zach Boychuk. The first preference was defenseman Colton Teubert, but he had just been selected with the 13th pick by the Kings.

Boychuk brings a ton of explosive speed and a moderate amount of offensive output. With his diminutive 5'9" frame and those traits, that sounds a lot like Ray Whitney. We should be so lucky. The TSN scouts have compared him to Jason Blake.

There has been some speculation, and it was perpetuated by the Versus draft coverage, that Carolina and Vancouver are talking about the possibility of swapping a forward (read: Erik Cole) for defenseman Kevin Bieksa. As far as salary is concerned, those two players would be a wash. With the likely addition of last year's first round pick Brandon Sutter and the probable re-signings of Chad LaRose and Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina will have a glut of forwards. I would be sad to see Cole go, but it's no secret that Carolina is in desperate need of some help on the back end.

There have already been a large number of transactions on draft day, and there should be some more on Saturday.

More on Boychuk and the possible trades later

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good day for Gleason, Canes

On Thursday afternoon, the Hurricanes announced that they have finally come to terms with defenseman Tim Gleason. The 25-year old, who was arguably Carolina's best blueliner last season was scheduled to become a RFA on July 1, but after months of difficult negotiations, the two sides have agreed to a four year $11M deal. Last year, Gleason made $1.175M.

Timmmmmaaay will make $2M in 2008-09, and his salary will increase by $500k every year, culminating in a $3.5M payday in 2011-12. His raise is well-deserved and his long term contract will be much appreciated by the Caniacs. Carolina's defense was, at times, dreadful last season. Gleason was the only player who was consistently good.

Gleason will join Joe Corvo, Frantisek Kaberle and Nic Wallin as the top four defensemen. Carolina still has to get RFA-to-be Dennis Seidenberg re-signed and acquire one other defenseman via trade or free agency. There isn't a Hurricanes fan anywhere who would object to going after John-Michael Liles in free agency.

It's still very early, but I will continue to say, as I have said all along that Carolina is much happier with Tim Gleason than they could have possibly been with an arrogant, petulant player in Jack Johnson. Gleason hasn't fully ripened yet, and Jack Johnson probably hasn't even started, but I'll take Gleason any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jason Karmanos returns to front office

Less than a year after quitting his Assistant GM post citing "personal reasons", Jason Karmanos (son of Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos) has returned to the front office.

According to the N&O, the time away from the team only strengthened Karmanos' passion for the game. After spending quality time with his wife and kids, pondering a different career, he just couldn't stay away
"I honestly thought I might do something different," Jason Karmanos said. "But in relatively short order I found myself being pulled back by the team and my interest level in the game. It was good to step away. I took some time and found out this is where my heart is."

When he stepped away last fall, many of the mouth-breathing masses panicked. They feared that his departure was a harbinger of very bad things to come. They would all say "He must know something we don't. The team is about to be sold and moved to Winnipeg overnight!" Of course the more rational ones of us saw it as just some guy looking to change his career.

Yesterday, I watched a video clip of Jim Rutherford's "state of the franchise" address. One of the things he spoke about was the recent coaching changes. About Jeff Daniels he said "It'll be good for him because he gets to run the whole (Albany River Rats) team. He still has to answer to Ron Francis and Jason Karmanos..." I wondered if he had misspoken, but now it all makes sense.

Welcome back, Jason.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weird hockey card #2: Pat Falloon

In what may or may not be more than a three-part series, RBH takes another look at a weird hockey card. Tonight's oddity: 1992-93 Pat Falloon (Pinnacle #238).
Click to enlarge

Pat Falloon was highly touted and was the second overall pick in the deep 1991 NHL entry draft. Unfortunately, he didn't quite live up to the expectations. In nine NHL seasons, he played for five different teams, amassing 322 (143/179) points in 575 games. Not bad, but not exactly what you would hope for out of a #2 overall pick.

According to the card, which is valued at about 20 cents, Falloon spent off-seasons "riding a tractor on his family's grain farm outside Foxwarren, Manitoba". Yeah. I'm sure Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal still help out on Henry's sod farm during the summer, too.

This card has absolutely nothing, NOTHING, to do with hockey. Not only is it absurd because of that, but it shows Falloon wearing a San Jose Sharks t-shirt/hat combo that he probably didn't even own, and a completely ridicuous pair of white shorts. The back of the card says Pat Falloon, FARMER. There is no way that there is a real farmer anywhere in the world who wears white shorts. Real farmers don't wear short pants at all. I know it was the early nineties, but that's just absurd. Way beyond my willing suspension of disbelief.

For some reason, this card reminded me of a funny parody radio commercial I heard a few years ago. Somebody put it up on YouTube, and I feel obliged to share it. Be warned though. The material within the YouTube link is not appropriate for most working environments.

The next "weird card" in this series (and maybe the last) will be Jeff O'Neill. Look for that in the next couple of days.

I've also got some "random" cards of some of the potential HOF inductees. They're not weird in any way, but I might use them as well.

Getting to know..... Colten Teubert

Carolina is scheduled to have the 14th overall pick in the upcoming 2008 NHL Entry Draft this weekend in Ottawa. This is a pretty deep draft class, and there are quite a few names being bandied about in mock drafts as the 14th pick. One of those players, Colten Teubert, is featured today on NHL.com.

Teubert, a defenseman whom many are calling "mini-Pronger" is 6'4" and 185 pounds. The weight is obviously an issue, but a couple more years in junior hockey and another in the AHL should help him grow into his big frame. Although he doesn't quite possess the offensive acumen that Pronger does, he's got the hard-hitting, shut-down defensive style going.

It's extremely unlikely that Teubert would be NHL-ready, even to a team as desperate for blueliners as Carolina. That said, Carolina has no shortage of forwards in the system, so a defenseman will probably be the way to go.

When Carolina's two Mesozoic Era defensemen retired this month, it left a gaping hole in the blue line. Negotiations with Tim Gleason have come to a screeching halt, and I haven't heard a word about Dennis Seidenberg. Bret Hedican can be replaced with a traffic cone, but Glen Wesley will be impossible to replace. The Hurricanes have four defensemen signed for next season, but one of them is David "Snuggles" Tanabe, who suffered a mystery concussion back in December and has essentially vanished from the face of the earth. Injured players cannot be bought out, but Carolina can put him on the long-term injured reserve list, which would exempt his salary from counting towards the cap.

I've probably said this 999 times already this summer, but it is absolutely imperative that the Canes get some new blood on the blue line. I've started to hatch an armchair GM plan for the Canes to trade down in the draft for a young NHL-defenseman under contract. I've got a pretty short list of desired players and a couple of different scenarios. The more I think about this kind of thing, the more I think that it might be Carolina's best bet for shoring up the blue line. The Hurricanes have been clever, but never aggressive in the free agent market. There's only so many J-M Liles in the world and there's going to be a lot of teams showing up on his front stoop with flowers and candy. Jim Rutherford has never been the flowers and candy type of GM.

I'm REALLY bored, and the draft is four days away.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Weird hockey card #1: Martin Lapointe

Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are over, we have a long summer ahead of us. The entry draft is next weekend, followed by the free agent signing period beginning on July 1. I'm already really bored.

I have a few projects in mind for the summer to break the monotony of "and so and so signed a contract with such and such team for whatever whatever years at yadda yadda dollars." One potential project will involve the participation of bloggers for other teams.

One other project, which I'll introduce tonight, is very much inspired by an excellent series over at IPB called "Project Bicycle Spoke". Basically, they bought a bunch of 07-08 hockey cards, put them in a shoe box, draw one out at random and write a little bit about the player (and the card). This is a very entertaining series, and I highly recommend reading them all. IPB has become a daily read for me, and I suggest you all do the same.

For a few months, I've been buying these hockey card sets at Target that have four packs of cards from the 06-07 season, and also 100 completely random cards. These "random" cards are really really random. They're not just "assorted", they're random. Most are from a name-brand card company, and most are from at the very earliest the late 80s, but some are either from an off-off-off brand or they're more than 30 years old, or both. I've bought four of these sets, and to illustrate the "randomness" of it, one set had three of the exact same Eric Weinrich card from the 1990-91 season. This card is worth about 25 cents.

Anyway, there's usually one card in every set that makes me laugh. I'm going to try to share these with you. Unfortunately, I don't have a scanner, so I have to take a photo of the card, but I hope you enjoy. I don't know what I'm gonna call this project, or even if I'm going to give it a name, but without further ado, here is a very strange Martin Lapointe card:

First off, this is from a card company called "Arena Holograms", which I've never heard of. I guess this card had something to do with the entry draft that year. Presumably, they had everyone who was projected to be a first round pick pose for one of these cards wearing a tuxedo and a hockey stick. It looks like they had him pegged to be the #8 pick, but he actually went as the #10 pick to the Detroit Red Wings. At first, I thought the card was funny, but the more I look at it, the more I think it's creepy.
Despite the comparisons that were made to Mario Lemieux, Lapointe never really made it big in the NHL. He's still playing, and he's a player that everybody knows, but he never had the offensive output that people were expecting from him.

I've looked this card up in several databases, and nobody has it listed. At all. AFter a little bit of research, I found out that this was the first and only year that this series of cards was produced. Apparently, the #1 card in that series was a hologram of Pat Falloon, who went with the #2 pick to the Sharks, right behind Eric Lindros. Later on, RBH will bring you a goofy card featuring the very same Pat Falloon.

As an aside, that 1991 draft was pretty packed. Ray Whitney was the first pick in the second round (23rd overall), and there were some really good players deep into the third round.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another puzzle piece snaps into place

In a week of very boring Canes-related news, the latest is that goaltender Michael Leighton has been signed to a two-year NHL contract.

This move has been expected since about the middle of February, and it has finally come to pass. Leighton, who just turned 27, will make $600k, which is a savings of $800k from what they were paying Johnny Crackers.

Leighton was the best goaltender in the AHL in 2007-08, going 28-25-4 with a GAA of 2.10 and a save percentage of .931. He won the Aldege "Baz" Bastien award as the league's top netminder. He set an AHL record with 98 saves in a five-overtime loss in the Calder Cup playoffs. He also appeared in three games for the Canes, going 1-1-0.

This totally expected signing snaps another puzzle piece into place.

Carolina has two goaltenders, ten forwards and three defensemen signed for next season. The defense is the number one priority right now. The deal with Tim Gleason that was alleged to be "close" a few weeks ago has stalled. RBH is hoping that the two sides can agree to a long-term contract, but we're fearing that these negotiations will culminate in a one-year deal. We don't like one-year deals.

If both Gleason and Dennis Seidenberg are re-signed, there still leaves one spot to be filled. There continues to be loads of speculation that the Hurricanes are interested in John-Michael Liles. He is scheduled to become a UFA on July 1, and will probably have lots of suitors.

Brooks Orpik is slated to become a UFA and the word on the street is that the Pens won't be making extra effort to keep him. There are a lot of fans in Carolina who still aren't ready to let the Cole-Orpik thing go, but even the most unforgiving person would have to admit that Orpik is a good, tough defenseman that most teams would be happy to have.

Nashville's Shea Weber is a RFA-to-be worth pondering. I don't see a whole lot of other interesting (and affordable) options in the FA market.

Of course there's still loads of talk about moving one of the "extra" forwards for a high-profile defenseman in a trade. One rumor that has popped up is sending Erik Cole to the Canucks for defenseman Kevin Bieksa. I haven't studied the pros and cons of that one, but I do know that Bieksa just signed a three-year deal worth $11.25M.

The draft is just nine days away, then the FA period ten days after that.

Is it October yet?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Canes featured on NHL Network again

After a week of the NHL Network showing the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, they've got another bit of programming that features the Hurricanes. You've gotta set your DVRs, coz this isn't prime time.

As part of their ongoing "Classic Series" series, they're showing the 1999 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Bruins and the Hurricanes. It'll air Wednesday morning at 9:00 and again on Thursday at 3:00 am.

It was Carolina's second season in North Carolina, and they were still in their temporary "home" in Greensboro. Carolina was the Southeast division champs and the #3 seed in the east. Their mediocre 86 standings points would not have gotten them a wildcard berth, but thanks to a very weak division, they were in. Boston was the "road" team, but was favored to win. Carolina gave them more of a challenge than they expected.

Boston won the series 4-2, and the pivotal game was game five, in Greensboro. April 30, 1999. The series was tied 2-2, and after regulation, the game was tied 3-3. The crowd stood for the entire first overtime, which solved nothing. Again, the crowd stood for the entire second overtime. Anson Carter scored at 14:45 of the second overtime to win the game and, effectively, the series. Game six, up in Boston was a shutout, officially ending the Hurricanes playoff season on May 2.

While most teams would shrug it off as "just another playoff loss", this one was very hard to take for Canes fans. The team immediately returned home, and had a party at Gary Roberts' house in Raleigh. Defenseman Steve Chiasson had way too much to drink and made a very bad decision to attempt to drive himself home. Things didn't work out. Chiasson was in a single car accident in which he was killed instantly.

Bring up "1999 playoffs" to a longtime Hurricanes fan, and you'll probably get a very somber look.

I was at that epic game five. I walked up to the ticket booth and bought a lower level center ice ticket about an hour before puck drop. Officially, the attendance was just a hair over 11,000. Carolina's attendance woes during the "Greensboro years" are well documented, and this was one of the best ones. For the record, the Greensboro Coliseum is equipped to hold 20,000 for hockey, but seldomly had more than 5,000 for a Canes game. That's another story for another day.

Back to the epic game five. Steve Chiasson scored the game's first goal. Nobody had any way of knowing it, but it would be his last.

I've turned my pigsty of an apartment upside down looking for the ticket stub to that game. I'm a bit of a packrat, and I did dig up some other tickets to other hockey games before my season ticket days. Also, I found some NFL football tickets and some movie tickets and some airplane boarding passes and some ten year old gas station receipts and various and sundry garbage. I remembered why I kept most of them, but there were some real head-scratchers in there. Anyway, I had no luck finding the stub to that game. For that matter, I couldn't find any remnants of "the Greensboro years".

One very cool sidenote about the Chiasson saga is that he and Cory Stillman were teammates in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. They also both grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. The town of Peterborough erected a small statue of Chiasson in one of its parks. As a beautiful gesture, Stillman used his day with the Stanley Cup in 2006 to visit that statue of his friend and teammate.

It'll be interesting to watch that "Classic series", but very hard at the same time. It was very exciting, as new hockey fans in North Carolina were introduced to playoff hockey, but it culminated in tragedy. That series, and more specifically, the Chiasson tragedy, was one of the most defining moments for this franchise. Every team goes through the loss of a playoff series, and must learn to do so gracefully. That's the easy part. Dealing with the death of a player is the impossible part.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An open letter to Flames fans

Dear Flames fans,
Don't be alarmed. Put away the razor blades. Get off that ledge. Everything is gonna be okay. Dion Phaneuf isn't doomed for failure. This isn't the NFL. Everything is gonna be okay.


To explain: Dion Phaneuf has been selected to be the cover star for EA Sports' NHL '09 video game. If this were the NFL, there would be cause for alarm. No Madden cover star has escaped without going on the IR or to jail. This, however, isn't the NFL.

Last summer, when it was announced that Eric Staal was going to be the cover star for NHL '08, I did some exhaustive research, and I concluded that there is no "curse". In fact, starring on the cover of the EA hockey game has generally been a good thing.

The first EA NHL game that used a "cover boy" was NHL '97. Here's how things worked out:

1997 -- John Vanbiesbrouck. The goalie for the Panthers saw his numbers improve slightly over the previous Cup-run season. Cover boy done good!

1998 -- Peter Forsberg. Foppa's productivity was slightly up during the 1998 season. He went from 86 (28/58) to 91 (25/66) points, and was healthier than he'd been in years. Cover boy done good!

1999 -- Eric Lindros. "Big E" went from 71 (30/41) to 93 (40/53) points. Cover boy done real good. The only thing is that it was his last really good season while he was on the box.

2000 -- Chrissy Pronger. Prongs had the best season of his career that season, so EA was good to him. Cover boy done real good.

2001 -- Owen Nolan. This was the best example of EA being bad to its cover boy. After a career best season (by far) in 2000, Nolan came down to earth. He went from 84 (44/40) to a more characteristic 49 (24/25) points. CURSED!!!

2002 -- SuperMario. Lemieux was plagued with injuries in 2002 and only played in 24 games, but he still put up SuperMario-like numbers, tallying 31 (6/25) games in a quarter of a season. He was never fully healthy again.
No ruling on this one.

2003 -- Jarome Iginla Iggy won the Richard trophy in 2002, but had a letdown of a season in 2003. He went from 96 (52/44) to a less exciting 67 (35/32) points. He was in the 70's the next season, then the '60s in '06, then in the '90s in '07 and '08. The box was unkind to him, putting him on a three-year skid. BADLY CURSED!!!

2004 (a) -- Dany Heatley and 2004 (b) -- Joe Sakic. The game had already hit the shelves when Heatley had the car crash that killed Dan Snyder. After returning from his own massive injuries, he played well, but it's fair to say that he was CURSED TIMES INFINITY!!!!
The Heatley box was pulled, and the replacement was Sakic. He went from 58 (26/32) in an injury-shortened season to 87 (33/54) points, which was very close to his career average of 1.2 points a game. Auxiliary cover boy done good!

2005 -- Markus Naslund. NHL players were locked out. Coming out of the lockout, he was pretty much on par with his career numbers, but since then, he's had a sharp decline in production. Since there was the lockout, there's no judgement on this one.

2006 -- Vincent LeCavalier. He had a marginally better season while on the box than the season before. He won the Richard trophy the following season and kept that pace in '08. Cover boy done real good.

2007 -- Alexander Ovechkin. Ovie's '07 numbers were just barely less than his '06 numbers, but not enough (from 106 to 92) to be concerned. He bounced back the following year with 112 (65/47) and the Richard trophy. Cover boy done good!

2008 -- Eric Staal. After having a "letdown" season in 2007, being on the box did him some good. He went from 70 (30/40) to 82 (38/44) and his third straight season with 30+ goals. Cover boy done good!

For the 2009 game, Phaneuf becomes the second Flames player and only the second defenseman in the series. He'd be hard-pressed to do much better than the 60 (17/43) that he put up from the back end last season.

The point is, there is no curse. If anything, it's been a good thing (for the most part) to have been the coverboy for the EA NHL series. I think Heatley's case stands out as an extraordinary counterexample.

Canes have their own little coaching carousel

On Monday, the Hurricanes announced that they will be making some coaching changes within the organ-eye-zation. Peter Laviolette isn't going anywhere, but there were two significant changes that look to be beneficial for everyone. Long time Hurricanes AHL affiliate head coach Tom Rowe has been called up to be Peter Laviolette's assistant. He will both replace and be replaced by Hurricanes assistant coach Jeff Daniels. That's right. Daniels and Rowe have swapped jobs.

Daniels, who very inconspicuously played parts of six seasons with the Whaler/Canes between 96-97 and 02-03, went immediately from the ice to the bench upon his retirement. The anonymous left winger played 272 games with the Whaler/Canes, which was the bulk of his NHL career. He notched just 20 (8/12) points with the organ-eye-zation, but was always well respected for his ice smarts and his work ethic. For what it's worth, he was always my ex-girlfriend Eleanor's favorite player. She hated Justin Williams from the word go just because he wore Daniels' number 11 sweater.

Tom Rowe also spent part of his playing career with the Whale. Between 79-80 and 81-82, he played 115 games for the blue and green, notching 55 (23/32) points. He spent the majority of his playing career (off and on) with the Capitals. In 1979, he became the only American-born player to register 30 goals in a season when he had 31 in 69 games for the Caps.
Rowe joined the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters as an assistant coach for the 2001-02 season and became head coach in 2004-05. When the Hurricanes switched their AHL affiliate to the Albany River Rats, Rowe went with. In four full seasons as head coach, he's had a 156-130-5-29 record.

Rowe, who has done a good job in Lowell/Albany, knows and has coached many of the players on the Canes roster. He'll be getting an excellent chance to work in the NHL and position himself for a head coaching job somewhere.

In addition to becoming the new head coach of the River Rats, Daniels will also be the GM. Both will be new and exciting experiences for him and an excellent move for him career-wise.

A while back, I heard some speculation that former captain and all-around classy guy Kevin Dineen was being earmarked for a coaching position within the club, but it appears that he's staying put as the skipper of the AHL Portland Pirates. The Pirates, who had been affiliated with the Ducks are scheduled to announce a new NHL affiliation on Tuesday. It will either be a one-year deal with the Stars, or some longer-term thing with Florida.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Canes to revamp blueline

On Thursday, the Hurricanes officially announced two things that came as a surprise to absolutely nobody. First, Glen Wesley is retiring. Second, Bret Hedican will not be a Hurricane next season. Carolina currently has three healthy defenseman under contract for next season and will by default be a much younger group in the fall.

Just nanoseconds after the Wesley announcement, it was announced that the Hurricanes will be retiring his sweater number 2 at some point in the 2008-09 season. Wesley played 20 NHL seasons, ten of them with the Hurricanes. He also played three seasons with the Whalers before the team relocated to North Carolina. Before that, he played seven seasons with the Bruins

There are as many as seven former Whalers still in the NHL, but since Sami Kapinen and Glen Wesley both retired this week, just one is a Whaler/Cane: Marek Malik.

In 1994 Wesley was acquired from the Bruins for three first round draft picks. One of those picks would become Sergei Samsonov, who has resurrected his career with the Hurricanes.

Wesley played in 1,457 NHL games, which puts him at 16th all-time and ninth among defensemen. In terms of games played with the Whaler/Canes he had 903, which is second only to some guy named Ron Francis.

Looking at this list, he's in some pretty elite company.

One of my favorite on-ice memories of Wesley is from game one of the 2006 SCF. At the end of the first period and the Canes killing a penalty, Wesley blocked three shots in one shift, and they were all off his body. One on the ankle, one on the knee and one on the thigh. He limped off the ice and into the room, but returned to give everything he had. He ended the game with five blocked shots and a +2 rating.

That summer, he used his day with the Cup to visit wounded US Marines at Camp Lejeune.

The team announced further that it has hired Wesley to be the "Director of Defenseman Development". This is a position that was created out of thin air, but a very classy move by the organ-eye-zation. Wesley's work ethic has never been called into question, and he'll do a fine job developing prospects.

After Ron Francis, Wesley will be just the second Hurricane to have his sweater officially retired. Steve Chiasson's #3 has been "unofficially" retired, and the Canes have honored Hartford's retirement of the #9 sweater for Gordie Howe.

Like Francis, Wesley never cared about being in the spotlight and always deflected praise with class and compliments about his teammates. Whenever that sweater retirement ceremony is, I'll be there to cover the whole thing. "Ron Francis night" was excellent, and I expect "Glen Wesley night" to be just as good.

With Wesley (39) and Hedican (37) no longer in the fold, the Canes will need to pick up at least one defenseman through trade or free agency. Re-signing Tim Gleason is a very high priority. Tim Conboy acquitted himself quite well during his call-ups, so we should hope to get him re-signed as well as Dennis Seidenberg. Still, though, Carolina will need at least one, and probably two young NHL-calibre defensemen. There continues to be a ridiculous amount of speculation concerning a trade involving Erik Cole.

The draft is two weeks away. Then the free agent period begins on July 1.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

As god is my witness, I thought penguins could fly.

To toot my own horn, I predicted this a year ago. Sort of. I predicted that Pittsburgh would be the Cup runner-up, and the nineteenth different team in a row to do that. However, I was a little off the mark with my prediction of Calgary as the winner.

Apologies to station manager Arthur Carlson and the entire staff of WKRP for stealing their joke. Unfortunately, the punchline isn't delivered in this clip, but here's the setup:

The Red Wings captured the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night, winning the series four games to two. After game one, I thought it might not be such a good fight. After game two, I changed my pick to "Wings in three". After game three, which the Pens won, I was cautiously optimistic.
The Wings took the lead with about seven minutes to go, in game four, and it seemed like they would salt it away. However, their celebration was postponed when Maxime Talbot scored with about 36 seconds left to tie it and force overtime. It was postponed even more when Petr Sykora won the game for the Pens halfway through the third overtime period.

Henrik Zetterberg got the game-winning goal on a bit of a lapse by Emma Fleury, who made the stop but knocked it into his own net with his butt. By then, the Conn Smythe voting had already taken place, but getting the Cup-clinching goal certainly justifies what might have otherwise been a controversial award.

With the Wings win, one long NHL tradition ended. Nick Lidstrom became the first European captain to hoist the Cup.

Another completely ridiculous trend continued. Pittsburgh became the 19th different Cup runner up in the last 19 Cups. Although The Minnesota NorthStars (1991) and the Dallas Stars (2000) both lost during this streak which started in 1989, there were different fans, different cities, different arenas. Technically speaking, the Stars are and aren't a continuation of the NorthStars, but that's a different discussion. Check here for details about this streak of different runners-up.

What this means is that there are 12 teams who are not on that list. In order to keep the streak alive, one of the following teams must LOSE in the Stanley Cup finals next season:

San Jose
St. Louis
Minnesota Wild

My guess is the Sharks. Fans in San Jose should go ahead and prepare themselves for the heartbreak that will be theirs next June. Who will win? Perhaps Montréal.

Last June 7, I correctly predicted that Pittsburgh would be this year's runner-up. Today, I'm predicting that the Sharks will find themselves added to that ridiculous list. I'll write more about this later.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

An historical look at the Stanley Cup finals

Because there's an off day and I have nothing better to do, I did some research about the history of Stanley Cup finals. There's some interesting stuff about power outages, forced evacuations, neutral site games, entire series played in one arena, and even ties in the Stanley Cup finals.

Using this as a starting point, I did some investigating into how many times the team with "home ice advantage" has won and how many times the Cup was presented on "home ice".

In the "modern" NHL-only era, which began in 1927, the Cup has been presented 80 times. The best-of-seven format began in 1939, but it hasn't always used the 2-2-1-1-1 format. In 1944, for example, the series only needed four games, but it appears that the format would have been 1-2-2-1-1. In 1984 and 1985, they used the ridiculous 2-3-2 format which the NBA still uses. It gives the "road" team the advantage. Edmonton was the "road" team both of those seasons. Each time, they split the first two games, then swept their three straight home games for the "road" team. Thank goodness the NHL did away with that.

In 1988, there was an oddity in that game four at Boston was canceled when the power went out at 16:37 of the second period with the score tied 3-3. The series moved back to Edmonton where they played what was technically game five. They had three home games out of four official games, and completed the sweep.

In 1940, the Rangers only got two of six games at home despite being the "home" team. The circus ran them out of town, as they often did in the 1930's.

Between 1931 and 1938, a best-of-five series was used. Theoretically, the format was 2-2-1, but it didn't go that way very often. In 1932, 1933 and 1937 the Rangers were only availed Madison Square Gardens for one game while the circus held court. 1932 was especially odd in that game two between the Rangers and Maple Leafs was played in BostonIn 1928, the entire best-of-five series between the Rangers and the English-speaking Montréal Maroons was played at the Maroons' barn due to the circus.

In 1929 and 1930, the NHL experimented with a best-of-three format. Both years saw the winning team sweep the series 2-0.

In the first year of the "modern" era, Ottawa and Boston played a best of three series that required four games, and was won 2-0. Yeah. That's not a typo. In those days, if a game was still tied after one overtime period, it just ended as a tie. Even in the Stanley Cup finals. Games one and three ended in ties, but Ottawa took games two and four to win the best of three series 2-0 in four games.

Out of 80 cups, 55 have gone to the team who had home ice advantage. Nine in a row have gone to the "home team".

The Cup has been awarded on the winning team's home ice less frequently: just 48 times. Nine of the 32 "road ice" presentations occurred after a four-game sweep. The same occurred once after a two-game sweep of a best-of-three series.

Anyway, the point is that if the Penguins can rally, they will accomplish something that only the 1945 Maple Leafs and the 1971 Canadiens did. They'll be trying to win a SCF game seven on the road.

Of course, they still have to win game six at home for that last stat to be relevant. If not, the Red Wings will be the 33rd team to hoist the Cup on enemy territory, and the first since the 2000 Devils.

Click on the little image on the left for a full-size view of the spreadsheet I created after gathering the data.

Petr Sykora ends marathon game after calling his shot.

Petr Sykora was a hero on Monday night Tuesday morning when he scored the game-winning goal he promised Pierre McGuire he would score. He didn't quite point to the left field bleachers, but not far from it. During the second overtime, he pointed to himself indicating to NBC's ice-level crew that he would score the game winner. He did.

I'm amazed.

Amazed that he called his shot. Amazed that he came through with the promise. Amazed. Just amazed.

Way back in the third period when the Wings took a 3-2 lead with about seven minutes to go, I started writing a eulogy for the Penguins. Almost three full periods later, at 12:51 in the morning, Sykora forced a game six in Pittsburgh.

Emma Fleury was absolutely awesome. I hate that word, but in this case, I was literally awe struck by his play in periods three through six. The Wings were applying relentless pressure, crashing the nets hard and shooting a ton. Fleury answered the bell every time.

Pittsburgh still has a very steep hill to climb, but they are by no means out of it.

Game six will be Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.

In a lot of ways, this series is really reminding me of the Canes-Oilers series in 2006.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Zetterberg to get Conn Smythe?

With a possible Cup-clinching game five in Detroit on Monday night, it's a foregone conclusion that the Red Wings will eventually sew it up. It's a pretty common opinion that they'll do it on Monday night at home. There are, however, different opinions about who will win the Conn Smythe trophy. My vote is for Henrik Zetterberg.

If I remember correctly, the people who participate in the voting do so during the second intermission of a potential cup-clinching game. While the trophy most often goes to a member of the Cup-winning team, it has gone to a member of the losing team five times.

If Zetterberg wins the playoffs MVP trophy, he will be just the third non-Canadian to do so in its 43-year history. Fellow teammate and fellow Swede Nick Lidstrom won the hardware in 2002, and American Brian Leetch won in 1994.

Zetterberg has 23 (12/11) points in the playoffs, which is second to Sid Crosby's 24 (6/18). He leads all players in the playoffs with a +16 rating. He has also proven to be a very valuable two-way player. The play he made against Crosby during the five-on-three sequence was one for the ages. You know the one. That was an epic shift for him as he probably took away a goal with his stick-on-stick play against Crosby, then created a quality shorthanded chance (three on five, no less!).

There's also a lot of buzz about Chris Osgood, who has been sensational in the nets. In this finals series, he has only surrendered four goals. He has two shutouts in the Stanley Cup finals and one other in the playoffs. To be fair, though, Detroit's vice-like defense has made his job pretty easy, limiting the other teams to very few quality chances.

If Ozzy has a shutout going at the second intermission on Monday night, it'll be hard for the voters to dismiss him, but I still think Zetterberg deserves it.

All that said, I hope the Penguins can eke out at least one more win. Just to make it interesting.

If the Wings close it out on Monday, fans will witness the third Stanley Cup presentation at the Joe. If they need to take it to game six, it will be Mellon Arena's first Stanley Cup presentation. Both Penguins Cups were won on road ice.


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