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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

horrible looking third?

Today, the good folks over at Icethetics were able to present some visual representation of the third sweater desriptions given by Toronto Maple Leafs beat writer and pal of Eklund Howard Berger.

Keep in mind that the image you see is only an artist's rendition of a questionable description given by an unreliable source.

If the desription that Berger gave is accurate, and this rendition is a fair rendition of what he saw, I've gotta say that it looks horrible. There's no way in the world that I'm going to shell out a hard earned $200 or so to get one of these. There is nothing good about this rendition. The stars are crap. The white triangle is crap. The traditional logo inside that white triangle is crap. The sleeves look halfway decent, but the rest of it is crap.

I'm hoping that Berger's account was completely wrong, and the forthcoming thirds feature the "storm warning" secondary logo on a black background. No white triangle and no stars.

We won't know for sure until September 21, but I'll tell you right now that I hate the way that rendition looks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wild waive their only native son

On Tuesday, the Wild announced that they were placing right wing Mark Parrish on waivers. If he and his three-year $8.35M salary commitment aren't picked up on Wednesday, he will be bought out. At which point the Kings (or whomever) can get him for much less than the $2.85M he was scheduled to get this season.

I can't pretend to know everything, or really anything about the Wild, but it's a bit sad to see this happen. Parrish is the only native Minnesotan on the team. GM Doug Risebrough said that Parrish was simply a "victim of the salary cap". Based on this story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the comments, Parrish was a bit of an enigma for Wild fans. He used to be a good player, but wasn't playing up to his potential. There's a common sentiment that he just wasn't "fitting in" and spent a significant amount of time in coach Jacques Lemaire's doghouse. Fans wanted to like him for a number of reasons. One of them was that he is a native son. However, it just wasn't working out.

I looked around the Wild blogosphere for reactions to this. Sadly, I don't have any of these fine bloggers in the blogroll, but that'll change soon.
Kirsten from Land of Lakes and Hockey, is one of Parrish's biggest fans, and is pretty irritated about the matter. She went the extra mile by cursing Risebrough's name (and Lemaire's) in both English and French.

Fellow Wild blogger Hitting the Post chimes in with a little "Don't drink the kool-aid" action:
As neat as it is to have "one of our own" on the squad, perhaps we should apply a little perspective to their on-ice contributions to-date before we yell ourselves hoarse clamoring for DR to sign another one.

Fair enough, but it's just odd to see a guy go from being the Wild's Captain during the 2007 playoffs and one of the alternating Captains this season to the waiver wire.

There's no way any team picks him off waivers. Instead, he'll become a free agent and will likely end up in the City of Angels. By the way, has anybody told the Kings that it's damn near August? When are they gonna sign anyone?

Checking out the Wild's salary commitments for the 08-09 season, they don't have a whole lot of wiggle room, and they don't have a full roster either. If they feel the need to sign a Minnesotan on the cheap, there's two perfectly good, um ...good, er ... serviceable, uh ... available native Minnesotan blueliners who have just left Carolina's fold. If they want Kristy or Snuggles, they're both there for the taking.

Speaking of Snuggles, it's been a full month since we've heard a single word about him and his NHLPA appeal of the Canes buying out his contract. I wonder what's going on there. He's disappeared from the Canes page, and the NHLPA lists him as "unsigned". Has anyone heard anything?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New sweater design leaked???

Although we won't know for sure until September, our friends at Icethetics have an inside man, and he has a description of all 18 alternate sweaters set to debut this fall. The Hurricanes alternate isn't quite what we were expecting.

Here's what their inside guy says
Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes will introduce a black third jersey, with red and white trim – different than their customary red home uniform with the black and white trim. Each arm will sport red and white angular stripes. The bottom of the jersey will feature a narrow white stripe and a thicker red one. In between, will be 10 white stars. The club’s red logo on the uniform front is placed within a white triangle, presumably to honor the famed Research Triangle that dominates the Raleigh-Durham area.

We were all expecting the alternate logo to appear on the crest and the main logo on the shoulders. This description doesn't indicate whether the "red logo" refers to our traditional crest logo or our alternate "storm warning" logo. Either way, the "white triangle" is a bit unexpected, and the "ten white stars" come out of nowhere.

No pictures are available, although their inside guy says he's seen evidence. Now, to be fair, I should point out that the "inside guy" is one of Eklund's lackeys. Therefore, this shouldn't be trusted just yet.

Here are the details about the other 17 sweaters.

The description of the Sens new third makes it sound an awful lot like the all-star sweaters from last season.

I can't wait to see these. Especially the Hurricanes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is hockey Brett Favre's next move?

By now, even if you're not a football fan, you've heard that Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre won't be back on the frozen tundra next season. Although he's technically retired, he's got two years left on his contract with the Packers. He's hinted at a desire to come out of retirement and he's demanded an unconditional release. There's been a huge soap opera between Favre, the Packers front office and the fans of the other 31 NFL teams, all of whom think that the Mississippi native is coming to play for their team.

Today, there came another rumor about Favre. Well, not really a rumor. More like a harebrained idea. Some folks think that he'll be able to make the transition from "frozen tundra" to "frozen pond". The AHL Iowa Chops (Anaheim's team) have offered the 38-year old a contract, which I'm sure went directly into Favre's agent's trashcan.

Chops' president Steve Nitzel said:
“We can offer him plenty of bone-crushing hits, read-and-react plays, and thousands of fans cheering for him, so what’s not to like about that? All we have to do is sharpen his skating skills and after that, his athletic instincts will take over and he’ll be one heck of a hockey player.”


This is obviously a gimmick. There's no way anyone expects Favre to sign the contract. This is a ploy to drum up ticket sales for the newly renamed team.
When NBA legend Michael Jordan came out of retirement to play minor league baseball for the Chicago White Sox affiliate Birmingham Barons, it was a huge success at the box office, but a disappointment on the field. Jordan obviously has tremendous athletic instincts, and he already had a background in baseball. However, the gap between a standout high school ball player and a Double-A ball player is too broad to fill in with "instincts". The gap between someone who probably has very limited skating skills and an AHL player? Well....

Next week, the ECHL Charlotte Checkers will announce that they are offering Indy car driver Danica Patrick a contract. I kid.

Glove tap to James Mirtle , who had a nice line on this:
Maybe they're looking for someone to quarterback the team's power play.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bomani and the survey

I didn't really want to get involved in this, but there's not a heck of a lot going on, and Bomani Jones keeps pushing the Caniac Nation's collective buttons, so I'm gonna give my two cents on the recent poll that everyone's talking about. Some "summer fellow" (i.e. intern) with some group called "Public Policy Polling" conducted a telephone survey which yielded some results that are getting some snickers from some folks. This poll "found" that 18% of the 500 respondents were unaware of the Hurricanes existence. Six percent of the respondents from within the 919 (Raleigh, etc.) area code didn't know about them.

The complete "findings" are available here in pdf format. What it shows is that 500 people were polled. How these people were selected isn't known. All that's known is that there was an automated questionnaire. "Is this a scientific poll? Press one for 'no', two for 'yes' or three for 'I like Fig Newtons!'"

That, in itself, makes the whole thing suspect to me. First and foremost, though, is that the entire sample size was 500, and that was meant to be representative of North Carolina as a whole. North Carolina has 8.9 million people. 500 represents less than one one hundredth of one percent. That's not a good sample size.

I might contact the guy who did the survey just to find out what his methods were? How many people declined to participate? Where did they get the pool? Seriously, they couldn't have possibly cold called people during the dinner hour. Could they? Did the results take into account for people who just pressed buttons quickly to make the survey end? Where were the dummy questions to determine whether people were paying attention? Why did the survey assume that the respondents cared about sports at all? Every one of the 15 or so questions had to do with sports.

Anyway, Bomani Jones has taken this and run with it. He's a local radio journalist who has a history of taking potshots at the Canes, most notably a piece that appeared on ESPN Page 2During the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. Jones asked two of his buddies if they liked the Canes. They said no. He used this sample size of two to postulate that nobody in North Carolina cared about the Canes. Then he went to a couple of bars in Durham and reported that he couldn't find a single Canes fan. Jones, who is black, lamely threw out the race card.
you've probably heard that Durham has a lot of black people. And as you might expect, hockey's not really their bag.

Lame. And from that point on, it doesn't matter because he's revealed his bias.

He decided that he'd be fair about it and go to Raleigh. Instead of going to known Hurricanes hot spots (all Carolina Ale House locations), he went to some "family establishment", then to an NC State bar (remember, school wasn't in session, so the place was dead anyway). He proudly proclaimed that he still couldn't find any Caniacs.

My favorite bit is when he simply made stuff up. After naming every other place he went to and every person he talked to, he said that he went to a bar in Raleigh where the manager insisted that he and the establishment remain anonymous. He described it as a ghost town. Yeah, that's great. If there were zero customers in there anyway, what difference does it make that zero out of zero were Hurricanes fans. Try going to a busy place.

I can make stuff up, too. Watch this:

People in Dallas don't care about the Cowboys. It's true. Some guy I met in an airport said so.


Anyway, Bomani, who writes for 850 the Blog, proudly pointed to that PPP survey and in a blog post said, essentially, See! I told y'all crazy crackers. Nobody cares!. He thinks that all of us are "missing the point", and when readers took him to task, asking "okay, what is the point, sir?", he refused to answer. He pledged to go on the radio and answer calls about this hullabaloo. That was supposed to happen today, but he decided to postpone, citing some "We need to make sure it runs smoothly, and now isn't the time for this" excuse. The real reason is that he realized that he didn't have a point.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Miller signing has major implications in Carolina

On Friday, the Sabres announced that they have signed goaltender Ryan Miller to a five-year contract extension for a total of $31.25M. His current contract runs through this season, and he will make $3.5M. When the new contract begins, he will make $6.25M for each of the next five seasons. Crunchy is also an internationally renowned master of the pan flute, an accomplished amateur photographer, and has twice hiked the entire 2174-mile Appalachian Trail. Only one of those things is true.

This means a lot to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the summer of 2007, Carolina netminder Cam Ward was given a three-year deal that was EXACTLY the same as the three-year deal that Ryan Miller had been given by Buffalo. Cam Ward's contract runs through 09-10, and it seems likely that they will have no choice but to continue to use Cruchy's contract as a template. Barring a complete disaster, massive injury, or a late meteoric rise by Michael Leighton, Cam Ward will need to be pegged as the franchise goalie. Truth told, he's already been pegged as such. It's becoming more and more obvious that a franchise goalie is gonna have to get paid Kiprusoff money even if he can't carry a Brodeurian load.

The summer of 09 will present a much bigger challenge: Eric Staal. Hopefully, Jim Rutherford will break the silly franchise rule of not extending contracts until the final weeks before expiration. There is no doubt about the fact that Eric Staal is the face of this franchise, the captain-in-waiting. Hopefully he will be a Hurricane for life. Hopefully, they will get something worked out sooner than later so we don't have to fret about it next summer.

The big question, which is a bridge we're gonna have to burn when we get to it, is "at what cost Ward?". Assume that Staal gets a raise into the neighborhood of $6.5M. If Wardo is given the same contract and Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen's massive blueline contracts are taken into account, something's gonna have to give. "New, more fiscally responsible NHL"? What?

Three summers in a row since I've been paying close attention, Darcy Regier has let players walk away or slip through the cracks. This time, he did the right thing. He did the right thing by locking down their franchise goaltender, and it's a bit of a surprise. A surprise that Regier worked something out, and a surprise that the contract is as long as it is.

The only trouble is, Regier's play will force Carolina into a tough spot in the summer of 2010 when they need to re-ink Ward.

Out with Scorpions, in with AC/DC

Finally, on Friday we got some semi-official word about the third sweaters that have been speculated upon for the last two years. Luke Decock spoke with Jim Rutherford on the matter, and JR has indicated that the third sweaters could be worn as early as October 13, against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.

Everyone has speculated for years now that the third sweater will be black and will flip-flop the primary and secondary logo. Rutherford declined to comment to Luke about that, but it seems like one of only two options. The other being a diagonal wordmark "CAROLINA", similar to the one the Rangers wear, or the Penguins used to wear on the Avalanche used to wear as thirds. The picture above is from a concept gallery at NHL Tournament of Logos, (which has since migrated to the new website, Icethetics). It's not dramatic, but it's the one that most of us have imagined ever since we first started dreaming about a third sweater.

In Luke's article, Rutherford indicated that the team hopes to unveil them at the Caniac Carnival in September, but they won't interfere with the pageantry of opening night. They'll wait a little while, but it sounds like he's pretty set on debuting them on October 13.
Having obtained NHL approval for the alternate jersey, Rutherford said they could be seen on the ice as soon as the Detroit game, when owner Peter Karmanos figures to be in the stands. League guidelines encourage teams to use the alternate jerseys no more than 10 times per season.

"We wouldn't wear it opening night," Rutherford said. "Our jerseys as they are now are really nice jerseys in red and they're really popular. ... It could be [Detroit]. It won't be opening night, but after that sooner rather than later, probably. We haven't made that decision."

"Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the German hair band Scorpions, has been the Hurricanes semi-official theme song since day one. Except for the 2005-06 playoffs, it has been played as the players hit the ice and during the starting lineups. It will almost certainly be supplanted by the over-used in sport "Back in Black" by AC/DC.

Like Dave over at Carolina on Ice, I can't wait to snap one up. Every day at work, I get a few free dollars. Literally a few. Never more than six; never less than two. Instead of passing this money through my liver and kidneys, I've been quietly squirreling it away. Three dollars here and five dollars there doesn't sound like a lot, but in just two months, I've stashed away $192 of free money that would otherwise go to beer. That's my sweater money. If I have to buy an authentic, I'm about two-thirds of the way there. If they produce replicas of the third, I'm already there. Since I'm already squirreling the money away, I'll just keep doing it, and call it parking and gas money.

According to the same article, as many as 18 NHL teams will have alternate sweaters this season. Last year, with the rollout of the "RBK system", no team had an alternate. This will be the first time the Hurricanes have had an alternate sweater, leaving Detroit and New Jersey as the last teams standing to have never had one.

Fun with Justin Williams

Yesterday, after a long day at work, I went out with the intention of buying one of those cheap box o' hockey cards. Instead, I bought one of the slightly more expensive boxes with 12 packs of 2007-08 Fleer Ultra cards. Out of all the cards I've been getting in the box o' cards, I like the Fleer Ultra the best. I think they're good looking cards for the collector without a ton of money. Also, the bonus inserts, like the gold medallion parallel set and the rookie set are very cool for such a reasonably priced card.
As I opened the box and felt each of the packs, I noticed that one was considerably thicker than the others. That's a good indicator that there's a special card, like an autograph card or a jersey or stick card. I saved it for last. Out of the other 11 packs, there were a couple of pretty cool limited run cards, including a Sidney Crosby "Difference Maker" card that might be worth as much as $12, and a Michael Nylander gold medallion parallel card that, for some reason, could be worth $10. Right there, if I were into card dealing, the box has paid for itself. I had no idea how completely awesome the special card in that last pack would be.

If you know me, you know that Justin "Viva" Williams is my favorite player on my favorite team. So you can imagine how excited I was when I got this:

I'm really new to card collecting. When I bought baseball and football cards as a kid, I wasn't really "collecting" them. I had no idea about things like "complete sets" and "rookie cards". Of course, that was in the '70s, before card collecting became the beast that it is now. The point is, I'm really excited about that card, and it couldn't have been more perfect. For me.

Also, since we're already on the Justin Williams topic, allow me to share this video that I've wanted to share for some time. It's from the "ask the Canes" in-game feature from the last home game last season. Watch how quickly Viva answers "What's your favorite section?" with "Section 112", as if to say "Of course it's 112. Why would it be anything else?" 112 is, of course, where I have sat since 2002. All the more reason to love 112. As if the bar within the section wasn't enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy birthday to RBH (and Japers' Rink, and Casonblog)

I nearly forgot all about it, but today is the third birthday of Red and Black Hockey.

Japers' Rink just turned three this week, and BFLOblog will be turning three in September. Oddly, the only reason I remembered was a post that Kevin made at BFLOblog, congratulating JP on three years in the blogosphere. Let me be the second, or fortieth or whatever, to also congratulate JP, even if it is a few days late.

As Kevin said, there was a batch of us who started blogging at the tail end of the lockout, and for some reason, those are the ones we feel more connected with. Obviously, I'm more connected with other Canes bloggers, which allows me to also congratulate Scott Cason on the third birthday of CasonBlog, which was just two days ago. I'm sure there are others whom I've forgotten to congratulate on their third birthday, but seeing as how I nearly forgot my own....

It's been mostly fun. I've gone through periods of taking this blog über-seriously. I've gone through periods when I wanted to give the whole thing up. I've gone thorough some personal highs and lows whilst writing this blog. On that day three years ago when the "new NHL", and this blog were born, I never imagined that I would ever have any readers. To my surprise, people keep coming back. Some of them by choice. I'm no James Mirtle, but it's really cool that anyone at all reads this.

My favorite blog-related moment was when I was on tee-vee with my horrible beard during game 7 of the 2006 ECF. People who read this blog recognized me just in that brief three or four seconds I was on screen, and I got a few emails and messages from complete strangers because of it.

Thanks again to the people who keep checking in here.

I raise my glass not only to myself, but to JP, Cason, and all the others who started blogging hockey back in July of 2005.

Schedule released.

The NHL released the schedules this afternoon. They've gone back to the "balanced" schedule wherein everybody plays everybody at least once and there are fewer intra-division games. As usual, there are a few quirks, and I'll try to cover many of them in this post.

The Western Conference teams that Carolina will play at home are:
Detroit on October 13, Erik Cole and the Oilers on November 1, Phoenix on November 21, Nashville on November 23, Anaheim on November 30, St. Louis on January 2, Columbus on Valentine's Day, Colorado on February 22 and Cal-Gary on March 6.

The Western Conference teams that Carolina will play on the road are:
Los Angeles on October 17, Anaheim on October 19, St. Louis on November 30, Minnesota on December 23, Vancouver on February 3, San Jose on February 5, Phoenix on February 7, Chicago on March 11, and Dallas on March 14.

The schedule features 14 back-to-back games. Five start at home, three start on the road, three are back-to-back road games, and three are back-to-back home games.

There are just two home-and-home consecutive games against the same opponent. Both are in November.

Unlike the past three seasons, the final month is not division-heavy. In fact, Carolina's final seven games are out-of division. Five of the last six are against Atlantic Division opponents.

Carolina will face the Flyers four times in a sixteen day span between November 26 and December 11, and the two teams will be done with each other.

As is usual, Carolina will go on an extended road trip early in the season due to the North Carolina State Fair. This season, that trip will be six games. There will also be a string of games in January where seven out of eight games between the 8th and 27th are on the road. In addition to the six game trip, there will be two four-game trips and three three-game trips.

Carolina's longest home-stand will be four games, and that will happen three times.

The traditional New Year's Eve home game will be against Atlanta.

Matinees are the thing. Carolina has traditionally had just one matinee home game, but there will be seven this year. Six of those will be 3:00 Sunday games. Four of those will be in November.

The Hurricanes will first face the Islanders on October 25, but not again until February 19.

The date of "Glen Wesley night" hasn't been announced, nor have any of the mini-season ticket packages. Even if it doesn't work out for whichever package I choose, count me in for opening night, Edmonton, and "Glen Wesley night".

Canes to open at home

The full schedules are expected to be announced today, but Hurricanes fans learned yesterday that they will open the season at home against the Panthers on Friday October 10. They also learned that the three "wildcard" teams from the West whom the Canes will play twice will be Phoenix, Anaheim and St. Louis.

This is the third consecutive time the Canes have opened the season at home, and the first time that it will be a divisional opponent.

Carolina fans may remember that FSN South signed a deal with the Hurricanes, pledging to broadcast 65 games this coming season, up from 60 in 2007-08. They also have pledged to broadcast "at least 70" Charlotte Bobcats NBA games. I did some research and discovered that last season, the two teams had simultaneous games 34 times, and each team had 44 nights when they were the only one playing. There were an additional four times where one team played early and one team played late. Supposing the common dates were split down the middle, that gave each team 61 broadcastable games. Including the "doubleheaders", there could have been 65 games for each team. All of this is, of course, using last year's schedules as a template. In any event, it doesn't seem possible for one channel to commit to as many games as they're committed to.

I've written to FSN South, asking them how they plan to honor both commitments when the schedules probably won't accomodate 135 different broadcastable games. I haven't received an answer.

The NHL also "officially" announced that the Winter Classic '09 will indeed be in Wrigley Field on New Year's Day between the Red Wings and Blackhawks. This came as news to nobody. I think there's some people who are holding out hope for a Winter Classic in Raleigh. It isn't gonna happen in our lifetimes, and if it does, I'll gladly eat crow.

The full 2008-09 schedules will be released at some point today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

O'Neill possibly making a comeback

I just got word via Dave from COI about the possibility that Jeff O'Neill will be donning the old #92 sweater in Carolina again. Luke has most of the details in his post over at LSB, but the gist of it is that they're looking to get some "organizational depth". Apparently, the Matt Cullen situation is still kinda shaky, and the Canes need to have an NHL-calibre center under two-way contract for emergency fill in.

"Yes, that Jeff O'Neill.

The Canes have talked to O'Neill and Jeff Taffe, Rutherford said, but both are holding out for one-way contracts. "


Yeah.... No.

Jeff O'Neill was a good player for a few years, and he is the franchise's leading goal scorer since the team moved to Carolina. For the record, O'Neill scored 176 for Carolina. Rod Brind'Amour has scored 149 for Carolina, and Eric Staal has scored all of his 124 for Carolina. Brindy should pass that mark this coming season, and Staal should pass it early in the 2009-10 season.

Jeff O'Neill is not remembered for his 41-goal season in 2000-01. He is not remembered for his other accomplishments, which put him near the top of every franchise statistical category.

Jeff O'Neill is remembered around here for very different reasons. He had a legendary row with former Hurricanes coach Chairman Mo following a bag skate. He had a couple of run-ins with John Law, including his arrest for DUI and public urination during the lockout.

O'Neill scored 60 or more points four straight seasons, but in 03-04, he stopped caring. He was lazy and sloppy on the ice. By the end of the season, he had fallen from fan favorite to pariah, often drawing boos for his listless play. I have never apologised for the way I felt about him.

After the underachieving 34 point season in 03-04 came the lockout. Instead of staying in shape and doing something good, he sat around with Bates Battaglia and got liquored up. I don't know for sure that O'Neill and Batesy were hanging out, but Bates has the reputation of being a party boy, and I'll make that assumption whether it's fair and accurate or not.

The DUI arrest was O'Neill's second. His shoddy play was enough to make him fall from grace, but the DUI was the last straw for many fans. After the Steve Chiasson incident, this organization is really sensitive about drunk driving.

The fight with Maurice, the lazy play, and finally the DUI pretty much secured O'Neill's walking papers. Then, in June of 2005, O'Neill's brother was killed in a single-car accident near Toronto when he fell asleep at the wheel. There was no suspicion of drugs or alcohol. Only fatigue.

Donny's untimely passing provided an excellent opportunity for the Canes to "trade" O'Neill to the Leafs. That was exactly what Jeff wanted and needed.

O'Neill had 38 points for the Leafs in 2005-06 and 42 in 06-07. Oddly enough, he ended up back with coach Paul Maurice, and the two let bygones be bygones. Although these numbers aren't quite up to what he's capable of, he was getting back on the right track. Until...

O'Neill didn't play at all in 2007-08. Not professionally, anyway. He played in a Thursday night beer league. For some reason, he thinks that he can go from once a night in a 30-and up league to a one-way NHL contract. Jim Rutherford has made his intentions quite clear.
"He's trying to work his way back but with him sitting out a year, his opportunity would be on a two-way contract, probably starting in Albany," Rutherford said. "Maybe even at center ice. He played there in junior. At this time, we're experimenting with a few things. Based on his career he feels the same way (as Taffe) — he would like one-way contract somewhere. If he can't we're willing to talk with him."

There are loads of other unrestricted free agents who could be signed to two-way deals. I'm not sure why O'Neill is being considered.

Seriously, I'd rather have Pavel Krispy Brendl. Speaking of whom, it looks like he's been doing okay in the Swedish Elite League.

I'm sure that when the dust settles, O'Neill won't have a contract with Carolina, but it gives us something to talk about.

Monday, July 14, 2008

off topic - music ... Los Campesinos!

Once again, I'm forced to bring non-hockey into this blog. I mean, I could write about how the Bolts have signed The Horseman to a life-long contract ala Rick DiPietro. I could write about the drama surrounding Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe. I could write about the drama with "Boots" Del Baggio. I could even write about the Carolina Hurricanes prospects camp that just happened. I won't. Today, I'm gonna go on about music. More specifically, I'm gonna go on about a particular music video.

I've become a sucker for anything that's on the Arts & Crafts music label. Canadian indie pop. Most of it's Canadian, anyway. One of the non-Canadian bands, Los Campesinos! are Welsh, and they are the very epitome of "twee-pop" that was so popular in Olympia, Washington back in the mid-late nineties. They have a new album, and a video promoting one of the songs. I'm sharing it here today, just like I did on my other blog because I can't get the damn song out of my head. I hope that I can get it to infect at least a couple of you.
I'm sharing it here also because even if you don't like the song, you might at least appreciate the uncanny resemblance of Ollie Campesinos (the guy wearing the green t-shirt) to a younger Eric Staal. Say the 2003 Eric Staal.
Anyway, enjoy the video. My Year in Lists by Los Campesinos!:

Incidentally, I think that Aleksandra Campesinos (the waifish redhead) is pretty hot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weird hockey card #3 -- Tuomo Ruutu

In what may or may not be a summer-long series, I've got another weird hockey card to share. I'm still buying these box o' card sets for $10, which is well worth it for the entertainment value alone. Most of the time, I'll get at least one that I think makes the expense worth it. I'm also getting pretty close to collecting the entire 262 card set of Bowman 1990-91 cards.

I was disappointed in this latest set when I didn't get anything that made me go "ooooooh". However, the closer I looked at the cards, I found one that at least made me chuckle. I present the Tuomo Ruutu card from the 2004-05 Upper Deck "Victory" set. Card #44, if you're scoring along at home.

Just a normal card, right? I don't own a scanner, and I'm not skilled enough to get a crystal-clear photo of the card, but if you look closer, you'll see why this card is weird.

Yes. That's right. "They could not have been more happier..." They also could not have been more grammatically incorrect. More excited? Sure. More impressed? Sure. Happier? Sure. More happier? No.

Speaking of Ruutu, here's a great video from the YouTubes. These little kids are great.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Demitra signs with Vancouver

Everyone's favorite Slovak -- Pavol Demitra -- signed with the Canucks today. No details are available just yet.

Okay, so he's not everyone's favorite Slovak. He's just Jes Golbez' favorite Slovak. Anyone who's ever read Golbez' blog knows that he's a huge Pavol Demitra fan.

Looking at his posts with "Pavol Demitra" tags, you'll see things like
  • ...our master, lord, and saviour, Pavol Demitra...

  • Pavol Demitra is awesome at many things: passing, shooting, stick-handling, skating, fashion, and Sudoku.

  • November 29, 1974 is one of the most important dates in world history. Why? Because, in a little village in Northern Slovakia, Pavol Demitra, your lord and master, was born.

    This is one of those great moments when everything falls into place. Demitra has been Golbez' favorite player for a while. The Canucks have been his favorite team. Finally, the two have met.

    And there was much rejoicing in Vancouver.

    Demitra won't be able to fill the void left by the eternal Canuck captain, Markus Naslund, but he'll be a welcome addition.

    Now that Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund are gone, I'm not sure if Demitra will slide right into the captaincy. He wore the C in Minnesota, and he might be a good candidate, but maybe the Sedins will be co-Captain. I don't have my finger on the pulse of the Canucks, and for all I know, they've already made a choice.

    The hockey world still awaits news on Mats Sundin, and the Caniac world still awaits news on trading F. Kaberle to Tampa or Ottawa or Los Angeles or Chicago or Atlanta or anywhere.
  • Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    Sharpie signs the dotted line

    On Wednesday, the Hurricanes announced that they have finally come to terms on a one-year deal with winger Chad LaRose. The 26-year old Michigander will make $875k in 2008-09.

    LaRose, who had NHL-career highs in goals (11), assists (12) and points (23) last season, earned $500k while playing out his first one-way contract. Previously, the undrafted player had been signed to two-way deals.

    The signing means that the Hurricanes have avoided arbitration with LaRose. The Canes haven't had an arbitration hearing since Jeff O'Neill was awarded $1.5M in 2000.

    This is good news, but it puts the Canes about 4M over their budget. After Kaberle and his $2.2M get moved out, they'll be close enough.

    off topic - movies ..... Vertigo

    The summer of boredom continues. The Lighting continue to sign everyone who ever played on the Penguins forward lines, and they still don't have defense. October is a long way away, so I'm gonna spend my summer watching lots and lots of movies. The netflix cue should be hopping, and I think I'm gonna spend a small fortune just going to see classic films.

    The historic Carolina Theatre of Greensboro is just around the corner from my house, and they always show classic films on Tuesdays. Every summer, they kick the classic films into high gear, doing them most every night. Tonight, they're showing one of my all-time favorites, Vertigo.
    Vertigo is by far my favorite Hitchcock film, and it usually sits in my "top five all-time"

    As usual, Jimmy Stewart is perfect, and the stunning Kim Novak is amazing. Let's be honest, though. It doesn't matter how good or bad her acting is. She's just simply there, and she's beautiful. One of my favorite things, though, is the very underrated performance by Barbara Bel Geddes as Scotty's (Stewart) gal-pal Midge. I've probably seen this movie 20 times, and I never tire of it.

    Next Wednesday, the Hitchcock series continues with The Man Who Knew Too Much. I've never seen it, and I doubt I'll go this time. In two weeks, The Birds, with Tippy "Poor Man's Kim Novak" Hedren. I liked it a lot the first time I saw it, but not so much on subsequent viewings.

    Among others in the summer Hitchcock series : Rebecca, Rear Window.

    Among other classic films being shown that are worth mentioning: This is Spinal Tap, Princess Bride, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    I'm pretty excited about the lineup, and there's about 10 others that I didn't mention, but I'll probably go see most or all of these. Of course I own most of these on DVD, and it isn't as if they own film prints of these movies. They're just projecting the DVD version on the huge screen. Still, I'm gonna go. Y'know. Support the arts. The theatre is non-profit; it uses ticket sales to fund building renovation and upkeep. It's a beautiful 1920's theatre complete with balconies, private boxes, massive staircases, marble pillars, statues and all the other glorious fixtures that you would expect from that era. Oh. And a high-quality up-to-date sound system.

    As the summer wears on, I'll have more off-topic posts. Hopefully Frantisek Kaberle will get traded so I'll have something hockey-related to write about.

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Seidenberg re-signs, Kaberle becoming more expendable

    On Monday, the Hurricanes re-signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a one-year deal valued at $1.2M. This is almost half again what he made last season.
    The 26-year old German was hit hard with injuries, and appeared in only 47 games, but he still managed to have a career best 15 (0/15) points. His average ice time of 18:50 per game was second on the team among defensemen.

    Seidenberg has never played more than 63 games in an NHL season, and his health is a bit of a concern. He plays an unspectacular but fairly consistent game, and we're glad to have him re-inked.

    Despite the retiring of Glen Wesley and the moving on of Bret Hedican, Carolina has gone on a blueline signing frenzy. Now, they simply have too many defensemen. I've said before and I'll say again that Frantisek "Cup Winning goal scorer" Kaberle has got to be the odd man out. He just doesn't fit in with the "younger, bigger, more physical" look that the Canes are trying to give their back end. They need to trade him and his $2.2M for anything they can get out of it. Preferably a depth forward, but anything at all in return will be fine.

    Frankie's days are definitely numbered. If you were to make me guess, I'd say that he'll be out of here by the end of next week. I know there are at least two teams out there who are in dire need of defensemen, so I imagine JR will be on the phone with Ottawa and Tampa among others.

    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Sharpie files for arbitration

    On Saturday, Carolina forward Chad "Sharpie" LaRose notified the Hurricanes and the NHLPA that he has elected to take the team to an arbitration hearing. He is one of 15 NHL players to do so, and the only Hurricane.

    LaRose, who was undrafted, but played junior hockey in the Compuware system, earned $500k last season. He was given loads of ice time due to a plethora of injuries and was slotted as high as second line. He posted a career high 23 (11/12) points in 58 games played. In a crucial late season game, he posted his first career hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Lightning.

    Sharpie was given a standard qualifying sheet, but the RFA has yet to accept it. Jim Rutherford has indicated that negotiations with him are "going nowhere".

    In his three years with the Hurricanes, LaRose has built somewhat of a cult following due to his hard work on and off the ice. He has given this team everything that he has. When he wasn't getting any, he never once complained about ice time. Instead, he worked harder than almost anybody in practice. He was an excellent fourth liner, and when things got difficult due to injuries and illness, the hard-working midget was rewarded with an increased role.

    Carolina is nowhere near the salary cap, but they are already a smidgen above their own budget. That said, even if LaRose "wins" his arbitration hearing, it should be for less than a million dollars, and the Canes should definitely accept the ruling.

    I've am the proud owner of Chad LaRose's page at hockey-reference.com, so it goes without saying that I would be upset if things don't get worked out.

    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Tidying up, part III

    Okay, so I got bored and decided to mess around with a new template. I wish the changeover could have been fully automatic, but unfortunately, it involved a lot of cutting and pasting and manual entry of stuff from the old place to the new place.
    I hope that this site will be easier on the eyes, more functional, and will look decent in any browser. I know that the old place had issues for those who have a wide sidebar or those who use Internet Explorer. The new place should look fine with any of those.

    Some of the stuff got left behind, and some of the links still need to be added, but eventually, I'll get it all over here. Please bear with me in the meantime.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Canes sign Pitkänen, Melichar

    On Wednesday, the Hurricanes made two signings. One fully expected, and the other a bit of a surprise.

    The first of the signings was the surprise. Jim Rutherford went way off the rumor charts by signing former Penguin Josef Melichar. The rumors about him were that he was going to return to the Pens after spending last season in Czech and Swedish leagues. He spent his entire six-year NHL career in Pittsburgh, where he tallied 40 (7/33) points in 310 games. The 29-year old Czech was signed to a one-year deal at $1M. When Rutherford flat out said that he was gonna get another defenseman to get bigger and younger, then get rid of one of the existing ones, everyone pretty much assumed he was really saying "Frantisek Kaberle, pack your bags". I'm not sure what the Canes would be able to get for the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2006, but I'm guessing they'll get a prospect and a second round pick.

    Frankie has been so frustrating to watch. He can't seem to put two good games back to back. Most nights, he can't even put two good shifts back to back. He's been having lingering problems from the multitude of surgeries he's had, and at 34, he's just not getting any younger. I'd say his days are over in Carolina.

    The second was the big one. Joni Pitkänen was signed to a three-year $12M deal. The money is a bit more than I was hoping, but the length is more than I was expecting. For the most part, I've been hearing good things about him and his skill set. The question marks are on his health. From a Carolina standpoint, his health can't possibly be dodgier than that of Bret Hedican or Frantisek Kaberle. And he can't possibly be worse defensively than those two. And he definitely will provide more back-end offensive production than those two combined.

    Frankie and his $2.2M have got to go. If the Canes can get a depth forward out of it, hooray! Otherwise, shed the salary and stock up on draft picks. I'll always have the fond memory of Frankie scoring the Cup-winner on June 19, 2006 -- just a few feet in front of my face, but this team desperately needed a massive overhaul of the defense. It started with the brilliant Commy/Stillman for Corvo/Eaves trade last winter. These two signings pretty much finish that off. I still think Kaberle is a swell guy, but I also think that both the team and Kaberle would be better served if he was traded.

    The few of us who stand behind the team on this Cole/Pitkänen deal have been getting railed by the many who hate it. Make no mistake, I will miss Cole. He will continue to be one of my favorite players; he'll just be wearing a different sweater. I understand and appreciate what he did for this team. I understand it as much or more than the next guy. I'm not saying "Good riddance, jerk!" None of us is saying that. It's business. The Sliding Pokecheck put it quite nicely in her post:
    "The Hurricanes had a lot of good forwards and desperately needed to trade for a defenseman. Cole was the only one the team could afford to lose WHO WOULD ALSO get the team something of value in return. Someone had to go and Cole was a valuable trade option. There you go. It's business, folks. Much as you might get attached to certain players and want to keep them around for their entire career, it's not about you - it's about trying to put together a winning team."

    Carolina didn't miss the playoffs last season because they weren't scoring enough goals. They had plenty of offense. They narrowly missed the playoffs chiefly because their defense sucked. This will probably be a blog post of its own sometime in the near future. The chief goal this summer was to rehaul the defense even if it meant losing a star player. Feelings have been hurt, but that mission has been accomplished. The defense has been rehauled. Will it pay dividends? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see.

    If Pitkänen stinks up the joint, I'll gladly eat crow. For now, I'm totally behind this.

    As an aside, the Hurricanes website lists Melichar with the sweater #2. Obviously, that won't be his number. Since the Hurricanes are retiring that number for Glen Wesley, Melichar will be asked to pick something else. Pitkänen is shown with the #25, which will be just fine. I just hope he can be better in that sweater than Bruno St. Jacques and Eric Belanger were.

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    Ruutu, Pitkänen reunite

    I just listened to Jimmy Rutherford's press conference. Most of the questions had to do with Joni Pitkänen. How Cole took the news of the trade, how far along in the negotiations they are, how Pitkänen took the news, etc. One of the things that was revealed is that Tuomu Ruutu and Joni Pitkänen are terrific friends, aside from merely being countrymen.

    Their friendship should make the transition easier.

    As an aside, I also found out in my research that fellow Finn and former Hurricane Sami Kapinen taught Pitkänen to speak English while they were both in Philly. That's pretty cool.

    Anyway, imagine that Pitkänen is Turk and Ruutu is JD, and enjoy this scene from Scrubs:

    Some reaction to the trade

    Edmonton has been pretty busy, orchestrating three significant trades over the last three days. Carolina has pulled off the trade that they were rumored to have been attempting for some time now. In December or January, this Cole-for-Pitkanen rumor started to gain some steam. Even last June, there was an effort to trade Nic ("No Trade Clause") Wallin for Pitkanen.

    As expected, the reaction around the Canes blogosphere has been disappointment. Not disappointment that the Canes are getting Pitkanen, but disappointment that the Canes are losing one of their longest tenured players. People are reserving comment for now, but it's clear that they're not exactly thrilled.

    Out in Oil country, Covered in Oil isn't exactly thrilled about losing Pitkanen, but sees that Cole will fit in well there.
    "Erik Cole is a more consistent, better version of Torres, albeit a version who also broke his neck a little while back and has only scored 30 goals once in his career. That said, he might be a nice fit on a top line, a shooter for Hemsky and Horcoff.Obviously, though, I'm not happy to see Joni Pitkänen go, and I expect him to promptly become a 50+ point defenceman for the next 10 years or so."

    In my brief, early scouring of the Oilogosphere, that's pretty much the consensus. They think they've given up a lot, but they're getting a lot in return. The difference is that Joni Pitkanen wasn't one of the faces of the franchise, as Erik Cole was here in Carolina. I'm hoping that after my peers take time to think about it before they rant. I'm hoping that they realize that Carolina is getting a good, young, big, puck-moving defenseman with loads of potential.

    What I'm really hoping is that they can get him to sign a multi-year deal for roughly $2.75/year. As I've said, I'm sad about seeing Cole go, but I'm pretty excited about the potential that Pitkanen has.

    Bayda, Brookbank, Conboy signed

    Before Carolina took care of their major business on Tuesday, they re-signed three players. Winger Ryan Bayda and defenseman/winger/tough guy Wade Brookbank were both signed to one-way NHL contracts. Also, defenseman Tim "We got us a great big" Conboy was signed to a two-way deal.

    Bayda and Brookbank were signed to identical contracts. One year at $475k. Conboy's is a two-year deal that will pay $475k at the NHL level or $100k at Albany.

    The Canes now have 11 forwards signed to NHL deals and five defensemen.

    Here's how things look:

    Ray Whitney / Eric Staal / Justin Williams
    Sergei Samsonov / Rod Brind'Amour / Scott Walker
    Tuomo Ruutu / Matt Cullen / Patrick Eaves
    Wade Brookbank / Chad LaRose* (Trevor Letowski*) / Ryan Bayda

    Tim Gleason / Joe Corvo
    Nic Wallin / Joni Pitkanen*
    Frantisek Kaberle / Anton Babchuk (Dennis Seidenberg*)

    Cam Ward
    Michael Leighton

    Pitkanen hasn't signed anything yet, and LaRose is a free agent.

    I don't think the Canes will be making any moves in the market other than to re-sign their own RFAs. Look for Dennis Seidenberg and Trevor Letowski. They may end up elseshere.

    More later.

    Canes re-acquire Babchuk, trade away Cole

    On the first day of free agency, Carolina has done two things so far that are not at all surprising.
    First, they reacquired defenseman Anton "Yentl" Babchuk. He's been signed to a one year deal for one million dollars.

    Second, they traded winger Erik Cole to the Edmonton Oilers for the rights to RFA defenseman Yoni Pitkanen. Carolina desperately needed to make this kind of trade, and it's been rumored to have been in the works since at least December.

    Erik Cole will be missed around here. This is one of the first times that a key player has been traded from the Hurricanes. Other teams know how to deal with these things, but Hurricanes fans, and especially the Johnny-come-lately ones, will have a very hard time dealing with it.

    What Carolina will miss will be Cole's speed and creativity. His questionable health and his reputation as a diver will be going with him as well. He will do well for Edmonton, and the fans will enjoy having him. He has one more year on his contract, and will make $4M.

    Carolina will be getting a puck-moving young defenseman that they need. He's just 24 years old, and is a pretty big guy at 6'3" 210lbs. He had a bit of a letdown last season, totaling 26 (8/18) points in 63 games. Prior to that, he was a consistent 40-point producer on the Flyers back end.

    Pitkanen made $2.4M last season, and is technically a RFA. Other teams are free to make offers on him. Based on that salary, the Hurricanes would be entitled to a second round draft pick if some other team steals him away. I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't have made this trade unless they were 100% positive that they could get him signed right away.

    I'm sad to see Cole go, but I'm excited to have a younger, bigger, puck-moving guy joining the blue line. I'm not crazy about Babchuk (and I think that's an overpayment), but at the very least, Carolina has finally shored up the defense. Assuming Pitkanen gets signed for less than $3M, they'll have saved money.

    Of course this leaves a hole in the forward lines. A big hole. Now they have just nine forwards under contract. I assume that Chad LaRose will re-sign at some point. I also assume that Brandon Sutter will make the big team. Will Carolina re-sign Trevor Letowski, or will they look elsewhere?

    My guess is that Carolina isn't going to take part in the free agent frenzy. If they do, it'll be for some third line winger.

    More details on Pitkanen later.


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