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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My favorite Canes by sweater number

This summer, one of the things that some bloggers have been doing is to list an all-time Hurricanes team. I didn't do that, but when I was messing around looking at the historical sweater numbers, I thought I'd list my favorite Hurricanes not by position, but by sweater number. Some of them are no-brainers because there's only one candidate. Others are no-brainers because the competition isn't much to speak of.

To be honest, there's quite a few players who I either can't remember, or I never heard of to begin with. Anyway, here's the list.

  • 1 Arturs Irbe wins this one easy. "The Little Latvian" was never a world-beater, and he cried like a little girl when he lost the full-time job to Kevin Weekes, but he had some fantastic games in the 2002 cup run, and he's been a great guy in his post-Hurricane days.
  • 2 Glen Wesley is the only candidate, but would win hands down anyway. No Hurricanes player will ever wear that number again.
  • 3 The late Steve Chiasson was and will be the only Hurricane to wear the number.
  • 4 Aaron Ward gets it.
  • 5 Despite scoring the Cup-winning goal in 2006, Frantisek Kaberle loses this one to another Czech defenseman, Marek Malik.
  • 6 Bret Hedican gets this. As much as I complained about him, when he was on, he was a marvel to watch.
  • 7 Nic Wallin. How many other guys have three playoff overtime goals? None.
  • 8 Matt Cullen wins a tight race with Sandis Ozolinsh.
  • 9 vacant --- Gordie Howe
  • 10 some guy named Ron Francis. Poor Gary Roberts would easily make this list if he had worn any other number.
  • 11 Kevin Dineen and Jeff Daniels put up some very tough fights, but Justin Williams wins this one.
  • 12 Eric Staal, easily
  • 13 It wasn't easy to give Bates Battaglia any consideration on this, and it goes to Ray Whitney in a landslide.
  • 14 This is a really tough one. I really like Sergei Samsonov, but it just wouldn't be fair to take it away from Kevyn Adams. K-Ads gets it.
  • 15 Tuomo Ruutu edges out Marty Murray
  • 16 Andrew Ladd wins this one, even though he was nothing more than a source of constant frustration.
  • 17 Rod Brind'Amour will certainly be the last player to don that number for the Canes. He wins this easily.
  • 18 Even though he was just a rental player, I gotta go with Mark Recchi.
  • 19 Although there are six candidates, Radim Vrbata wins it easily.
  • 20 Jan Hlavac beat out two other guys. He only played for the Canes for less than a full season, but he recorded a hat trick against Detroit in November of 2002 and became a legend.
  • 21 Ron Francis gets this one too. He had to wear 21 for a season because Gary Roberts was being unreasonable and refused to give up the #10.
  • 22 Sean Hill edges out Mike Commodore.
  • 23 Martin Gelinas.
  • 24 Sami Kapanen beats out Scott Walker.
  • 25 This will be Joni Pitkänen's number.
  • 26 Erik Cole takes it, but Ray Sheppard put up a serious fight. Sheppard was a beast in the 1999 playoffs.
  • 27 Although I don't remember it this way, Rod Brind'Amour wore #27 in 2000 because Jeff Daniels was wearing #17. However, I have to give #27 to Craig "Hands of Feet" Adams.
  • 28 This is a really boring one, and Andrew Hutchinson gets it for being the least boring.
  • 29 Martin Gerber. Easily.
  • 30 Cam Ward. Easily.
  • 31 Craig MacDonald. I have only a very vague recollection of him, and the only other candidate was Tyler Moss, who I've never heard of.
  • 33 Anton Babchuk is scheduled to wear this number this coming season. I'll give it to him instead of Dave Karpa.
  • 34 Dave Gove didn't get many chances to play, but he earned his paycheck.
  • 35 Tom Barrasso.
  • 36 I like Brandon Nolan here.
  • 37 Keith Aucoin really busted his tail and made the best of his limited chances.
  • 38 Tim Conboy made a big name for himself with his work ethic, and he'll have a bigger role this coming season.
  • 39 Brad DeFauw scored his first NHL goal in his debut game in 2002-03. He only played a few NHL games, but for that nifty feat, he beat out the Stanley Cup rental Doug Weight.
  • 42 Timmmmmaay Gleason easily beats out Jeff "cousin of the Staal brothers" Heerema.
  • 44 Patrick Eaves
  • 45 It pains me to say it, but David Tanabe is the best player to ever have worn the #45 for the Hurricanes.
  • 46 I don't recall him wearing this number, but Mike Zigomanis gets this one.H
  • 47 Brad Fast scored his one and only NHL goal in his one and only NHL game. He easily beats out Johnny Crackers.
  • 48 Anton Babchuk
  • 49 Michael Leighton (uncontested)
  • 51 Andrei Kovalenko
  • 52 Damian Surma (uncontested)
  • 53 Casey Borer
  • 55 Keith Primeau was the captain, but he doesn't win this one. Daniil Markov does, simply because he was the player who was traded for Justin Williams. Of course Primeau was traded for Brind'Amour, but Primeau also disgraced the team. Markov gets it.
  • 56 Brett Lysak (uncontested)
  • 59 Chad LaRose (uncontested)
  • 61 Cory Stillman (uncontested)
  • 62 Jaro Svoboda (uncontested)
  • 63 Josef Vasicek (uncontested)
  • 70 Oleg Tverdovsky (uncontested)
  • 71 Tomas Malec (uncontested)
  • 77 It's really hard not to give this to HOFer Paul Coffey, but I gotta go with Joe Corvo on this one.
  • 80 Kevin Weekes (uncontested)
  • 92 Jeff O'Neill (uncontested)

    All numbers not listed have never been worn.
  • Saturday, August 30, 2008

    Sweater numbers

    The other day, James Mirtle wrote a post about the best players by sweater number last season. He pointed out that there were seven numbers between 1 and 98 that no player donned last season.
  • 62
  • 66. Nobody's really gonna try to wear that number ever again
  • 69. Only one player has ever worn that number. For good reason.
  • 86. Only a player with a great sense of humor would wear that.
  • 90
  • 95
  • 98

    Using the sweater number archive at Hockey-Reference as a guide,we can see that since the 1998-99 season, no player has ever worn the number 98. That's the only number not to have been worn.

    We can also see that only two non-goalies have worn the number 30. Andrei Zyuzin, who wore #30 as a defenseman in Tampa for three seasons (1999/2000-01/02) and Jean-Francois Jomphe who in 1999 played six games at center in Montréal with the 30 sweater.

    Their sweater number archives don't go further back than the 1998-99 season, but it can be a fun way to waste some time.

    I have some amateur plumbing to take care of in my bathroom today. I'm 100% confident that I'll mess it up. At some point later today, I'll go through the all-time Hurricanes sweater numbers and pick my favorites.
  • Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Jeff O'Neill at Camp Brind'Amour

    By now, everybody in the hockey-watching world has heard that Jeff "public urination" O'Neill is back in Raleigh fighting for a chance at a job in the NHL. He left Carolina after the lockout ended, spent two seasons in Toronto and one out of hockey completely.

    I've heard numerous reports about how O'Neill is working hard at the unofficial practices with Rod Brind'Amour, Chad LaRose and a motley crew of others, including Bates Battaglia. One thing that I find slightly amusing is this quote from Brind'Amour, which I've seen in a number of places, but I'll attribute to Chip Alexander's article:
    "When you're a smart player, and he's always been a smart player, you're always going have that. He's always going to have that ability to see the game, and his skating looks fine. He looks like he did when he left."

    And Cam Ward with a similar quote:
    Nothing has changed. He still looks like the same old self.

    This is meant to be praise for O'Neill, who spent last season skating and working out, but not playing. However, those of us who remember what O'Neill looked like when he left might get a chuckle out of that. O'Neill was overweight, lazy and a bit of a bad banana when he left. Even before the second DUI and the comedic arrest for public urination, he had fallen out of favor with the Hurricanes faithful. By the end of the 2003-04 season, I was booing him with regularity, and I wasn't the only one doing so.

    Since the DUI, Jeff has changed a lot. His brother was killed in a car crash, which prompted him to request a trade to Toronto. He got some of his game back, but nothing like the 67 (41/26) he scored in 2000-01. He followed that season with a 31-goal season, and a 30-goal season, but in that terrible year when he got fat and drunk, he scored just 14. In Toronto, he had a 19-goal and a 20-goal season before "retiring" prior to last season. So he was back on track a little.

    In addition, O'Neill is older and calmer. He is married now, and his wife is expecting. That'll get just about anybody to straighten up and fly right.

    Still, despite these votes of confidence, O'Neill isn't banking on anything and he's not looking for any special treatment. Paul Branecky had an article on the Hurricanes main page today, portraying O'Neill as a cautiously optimistic guy on a tryout. The article is a good read, but here's the money quote, from Jeff himself:
    This is not really that big a deal. This is just a tryout where we’ll see what happens. If I play well and it looks like I can play, maybe something will happen. If not, it’s not going to happen... Jim Rutherford and Ronnie Francis, I consider them friends of mine and I think they’re going to be straight-up honest with me. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, they’re just going to tell me it’s not going to happen. It’s as simple as that.

    When O'Neill was given the invitation, the prevailing thought was that they were bringing him in strictly as a potential River Rat. Now, the rumor is starting to spin around and it seems like some of the talk is about him being on the big team. It's extremely unlikely, mostly because of the contract status of all the guys. If anyone's going to Albany, it's gonna have to be O'Neill.

    My guess is that he'll either be picked up by someone else out of training camp, or he'll be signed to a two-way contract and immediately shipped to Albany.

    One of these days before official camp opens, I'm gonna try to get out to "Camp Brind'Amour" to see for myself.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    RIP Julia Rowe

    On Tuesday, some sad news rocked the Hurricanes players, coaches and fans. Young Julia Rowe, who was an inspiration for the team in their 2006 Stanley Cup victory, lost her life-long battle with Leukemia. Julia was just eight years old.

    The Rowe family are neighbors with coach Peter Laviolette, and in 2006 he became very close with them. He was moved by Julia's strength as she fought off a very aggressive form of Leukemia. He started a crusade with the red "relentless" wristbands, which were sold at Hurricanes home games, raising more than $60,000. In addition, trainer Pete Friesen has raised over $42,000 for LLS through his annual 5K road race.

    Luke Decock wrote a very nice article today about Julia's passing.

    It was a bottle of wine donated to the team by Rowe's father and autographed by Julia that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff referred to as "champaign on ice" during games 6 and 7 of the 2006 ECF.

    You can purchase a red "relentless" wristband here , or if you think that whole wristband thing is played out, you can still make a donation to the LLS of Eastern North Carolina by visiting this page.

    Friesen's third annual "fun run" will take place on Sunday September 14, and information about it (including a registration form) can be found here.

    Just a month ago, the Penguins community lost a young friend and inspiriation for their Cup run when 18-year old John Challis passed away after a life-long battle with cancer. Post-Gazetter has the story here.

    Two seasons ago, the Senators had a heartbreaking loss during their own Cup run when three-year old Elgin-Alexander Fraser died from a form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma. Here's how I relayed that story.

    Hurricanes winger Justin Williams became friends with Julia's family, and he has been pretty shaken up. He was quoted by Chip Alexander:
    It's really heart-breaking for someone so young to go so early... In her own way, she was a part of the team. She really touched our lives. It's an extremely huge loss for everyone.

    My heart goes out to the Rowe family for their loss.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    RBH predicts player performance

    Yesterday, I picked up The Hockey News special fantasy hockey/pool edition. It breaks down the top 100 players and also predicts the point production of most players. Just for fun, I'll compare what they predict for Hurricanes players to what I predict.

    This is simply meat and potatoes. No analysis for right now. The players are arranged by where I think they'll fit on the depth chart:

  • Ray Whitney. THN sees a 68 (27/41) point campaign. I've got him at 61 (25/36)
  • Eric Staal. THN has 79 (35/44) points for him, while I have 93 (42/51)
  • Justin Williams. THN predicted 63 (30/33), and I went for 73 (36/37)
  • Sergei Samsonov. THN said 51 (22/29), and I think it'll be 55 (25/30)
  • Rod Brind'Amour. THN predicted 74 (24/50) for the Cap, but I predict 68 (27/41)
  • Patrick Eaves. THN picked 30 (15/15), and I said 34 (16/18)
  • Tuomo Ruutu. THN went with 43 (15/28), but I went with 33 (11/22)
  • Matt Cullen. THN forsees 49 (15/34), and I'm going with 46 (21/25)
  • Scott Walker. THN said 45 (20/25), and I say 44 (17/27)
  • Chad LaRose. THN predicts 25 (10/15), and I'm going with 30 (15/15)
  • Brandon Sutter. THN predicts 20 (9/11) for the rookie, and I'll say 29 (12/17)
  • Ryan Bayda. THN doesn't have Bayda on the chart, and I'm predicting 13 (4/9) for him

  • Joe Corvo. THN sees 54 (14/40) in his future, and I see 65 (15/50)
  • Tim Gleason. THN predicts 21 (4/17), and I think he'll have 19 (6/13)
  • Joni Pitkanen. THN has him for 34 (9/25), and I've got him for 35 (8/27)
  • Nic Wallin isn't on THN's radar, but I'm predicting 13 (4/9) for him.
  • Frantisek Kaberle. THN thinks he'll put up 25 (3/22) points. I'm not sure he'll be on Carolina's roster, but I'll pick 12 (1/11) for him.
  • Anton Babchuk. THN picks him for 16 (3/13), and I pick him for just 9 (2/7)
  • Tim Conboy isn't on THN's radar either. I think he'll have 8 (3/5) points.
  • Dennis Seidenberg. THN predicts 20 (3/17) for the German, while I see only 11 (2/9) points for him.

    There will be other players who come up from Albany, but these will be the mainstays.

    Also, the goalies:
  • Cam Ward THN sees a 37-win campaign, while I've got him down for 38.
  • Michael Leighton THN thinks he'll win 10 games, but I think he'll win 7.

    I'm predicting Carolina to have a 45-28-9 season. Sadly, 99 points won't win the division, but it'll be good enough for a #5 spot in the playoffs.

    Any thoughts?
  • Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Tanabe situation gets murkier

    On Friday, Chip Alexander reported that David Tanabe is still suffering from concussion-like or post-concussion symptoms. It has now been seven months since his mysterious injury and two since the Canes attempted to buy out the remaining year on his contract.

    I have openly questioned the validity of his situation, and I have been unimpressed with the "details" that have emerged. This doesn't accord with my outspoken support for taking concussions very seriously, but I'm just not making heads or tails of this situation.

    The occurrence of the injury itself can't be pinpointed, but we know that he was taken out of the December 18 game against the Leafs and never returned during the 2007-08 season. Had he been injured previously and some mild collision put him over the edge? Perhaps. That's the consensus. His refusal to go to team meetings and exit interviews has been well documented. His decision to clean out his own locker has been well documented. What has not been documented has been his medical status. The only details we have been afforded have been shady at best. Usually, injury status updates are more frequent and more detailed, but we went months without hearing a single word. Even now, we get some very unspecific news that Tanabe is "unfit to play".

    Unfortunately, we haven't been given any details. When someone has an issue with their foot, we usually get lots of details, such as with Ryan Whitney:
    Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney will be out three to five months following surgery to correct a chronic problem with his left foot... Dr. Robert Anderson operated Friday in Charlotte, N.C. The newspaper described the surgery as an osteotomy, defined as a procedure to shorten, lengthen or realign a bone or bones.
    (via Canadian Press)
    When Matt Cullen was out with a concussion, we were given nearly daily updates with specific details about what kinds of specialists he was seeing and what his specific problems were. Take this one for example, from the N&O on Feb 2:
    In addition to Mike Peters, the team's eye doctor, Cullen is also working with concussion expert Kevin Guskiewicz at the University of North Carolina and Cary neuro-optometrist Susan Durham.

    So why now do we get the vaguest of details? All we know is that Tanabe went to an anonymous doctor at an anonymous clinic in Buffalo who gave the very broad prognosis: "not a clean bill of health".

    Anyway, Jim Rutherford has announced that he expects for Tanabe to report to camp and be monitored by official team doctors. This might help shed some light on things. I know concussions are hard things to work with because of the complexity of symptoms and the fact that they aren't as easy to diagnose and monitor as, say, a broken bone. Still, it's very frustrating to not know anything about the status.

    Summer doldrums continue

    This summer has been magnificently boring. The Olympics broke the monotony a little bit, but the stuff I'm interested in is over, so now I'm just counting down the days to when training camp starts, to when the preseason games start, to when the third sweater will be released, and finally to when the regular season begins.

    There hasn't been very much action at all. Some bloggers have been writing "five things I would change about the NHL" or "100 things about me" posts, just so they could have SOMEthing to write about. I've been thinking about writing a "one thing about me" post, or maybe some posts about music. I'll get to those later. Or not.

    I've been keeping half of one eye on the Kings this summer. They're well below the salary cap floor and there have been a number of rumors about how they're going to remedy that. I'm completely puzzled by the fact that they haven't re-signed the youngster Patrick O'Sullivan, who was one of their best players last year with 53 (22/31) points last year. They've already let Mike Cammalleri go, they're overstocked with inexperienced goalies, dreadfully thin on defense, and as September looms, they're still not doing anything about it.

    The most puzzling of all that is the O'Sullivan situation. I haven't heard a word about contract negotiations, and I've heard his name mentioned in a couple of trade rumors, but I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw "O'Sullivan wins 49'ers QB starting job" on my Yahoo NFL news. I thought "Wow, that's certainly a surprise", but then I quickly realized that they weren't talking about Patrick O'Sullivan. As it turns out, it's J.T. O'Sullivan, who has never started an NFL game in his six year career.

    This is what happens when you're desperate for some hockey news. You misinterpret things. One time, my friend Patrick saw "Shockey", as in Jeremy Shockey, NFL tight end, come across the ESPN crawl. Without pausing to think about it, he said "What the heck is ess hockey?"

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    N&O takes two steps backwards

    Late Saturday night, we Hurricanes fans got a huge shock. Our beat writer with the Raleigh News & Observer is moving along. Luke Decock, who has brilliantly covered the Hurricanes since 2000 has been "promoted" from being a Canes beat writer to a general Sports columnist.

    This is a shame. Luke is a very good hockey writer who is not only worshiped around here, but respected around the rest of the league. He will continue to contribute, but will no longer be able to devote 100% of his attention to the Hurricanes.

    In his place, the N&O has slotted former NC State Wolfpack beat writer Chip Alexander, who admits that he doesn't know a thing about hockey. This is a huge, huge mistake. There are other writers on the staff (I'm specifically looking at Lorenzo Perez) who are far more capable.

    Alexander made an inauspicious debut by bragging about his college basketball knowledge and bashing Luke for his lack of same. His transition was going to be hard enough, but he made it about 1200% harder with this pathetic introductory post. He hasn't exactly endeared himself to the masses. I hope it gets better before it gets worse. Alexander has had a history of being an infrequent contributor to the Hurricanes coverage in the N&O, and to hear the Acid Queen tell it, he didn't do a very good job.

    If I were a Raleighite and/or a subscriber to the print edition of the N&O, I would angrily cancel my subscription to the paper. As is, I will have to be a little upset about this changing of the guard.

    Alexander has already taken a wrong step with his unintentional slight of his brilliant predecessor. I might be overreacting or making an incorrect reading, but it also seems like he's taking a slightly confrontational approach to hockey

    There's a reason that Luke Decock is a frequent contributor to The Hockey News. There's a reason that he's well respected around the League. He's a great hockey writer. Heck, he's a great writer, period. I'm sad to see him take leave of his post. I'm skeptical about the N&O's choice to fill that void. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I'm going into this with low expectations.

    As an aside, Luke wrote a great piece today about one Canes season ticket holder who took the Cole/Pitkanen trade very hard. It isn't that it's a great hockey article. It's good writing. Although he won't be out of the fold completely, we're going to miss Luke's every day articles. Partly for his in-depth knowledge of the game and the players who play it. Mostly, though, because he's a terrific writer.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    ....Also a new league record

    Chad "Sharpie" LaRose just might have earned himself a new nickname: Nuke

    The Hurricanes centerman and fan favorite was invited to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Thursday for the Bulls' game against the Norfolk Tides. This is the 20th anniversary of the great movie "Bull Durham", and the Bulls have been celebrating this all season long. LaRose's appearance on Thursday had nothing to do with the Bull Durham celebration, but in an unintentional way, it did.

    From the movie, you may remember the professional debut of Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, the fireball pitcher with control problems, played by Tim Robbins. After his debut, the manager "Skip" (played by Trey Wilson) and the assistant Larry Hockett (played by Robert Wuhl) had the following conversation:
    Skip: He walked 18
    Larry: A new league record
    Skip: He struck out 18
    Larry: Another new league record. In addition, he hit the sportswriter, the public address announcer, the Bull mascot. Twice! Also new league records.

    Incidentally, I've always had a serious problem with this opening baseball scene. The visiting team is referred to as the Peninsula White Sox on a few occasions, but they are very clearly the Hagerstown Suns. I'm just sayin'.

    Anyway, Chad LaRose went out to make the ceremonial first pitch, which sailed high and wide, hitting a little girl in the back. She was on the field, about to go play the National Anthem on her flute, or recorder, or tambourine, or whatever. That detail isn't important. Only that he hit her. Apparently, Nuke's pitch was not exactly a fastball, because the little girl was completely uninjured. LaRose told N&O writer Luke Decock that there were no hard feelings on her side and that he was pretty shaken up by the whole ordeal:
    "She came up to the seats and got pictures with me and everything," LaRose said. "I was the one more hurt by it than her, I think. … Everyone's fine except for me. I'm traumatized by the whole situation."

    This is where Nuke misses his buddy Mike Commodore. If Commy were still around, he would have been the one making that pitch, and it would have been much more successful. Commodore, who is a baseball nut, was a regular fixture at Bulls games while he was with the Hurricanes. No footage of Sharpie's fiasco, but here's some archival footage of Commy at DBAP:

    Jeez. I just wrote something about baseball. Is is October yet?

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    The most ridiculous rumor I've heard all summer

    WufPirate, over at Carolina on Ice wrote about this earlier today, and I feel compelled to join the conversation.

    Some rumor monger (no, not that one) is suggesting that the Hurricanes are in talks with the Wild about the insanely overpaid Marian Gaborik.

    With apologies, I'll paste the entire post from Hockey Leaks:
    Gaborik To Carolina?
    8/8/2008 Posted by Cjohnson202
    I spoke with a source today that confirmed for me that Carolina has had very serious discussions with Minnesota about aquiring Marian Gaborik. The Hurricanes feel that Staal and Gaborik could be one of the most lethal combinations in the NHL. The rumour I have heard would send Justin Williams, F. Kaberle, prospect Jamie Mcbain and a 1st round draft pick to Minnesota for Marian Gaborik and something else to be determined. The Wild continue to shop Gaborik around the NHL, as Gaborik has made it clear to management that he intends to move on to a more offense-minding team after his contract runs out following this season. The Wild would prefer to trade him prior to the start of the season.

    Carolina is already over their own budget, and this wouldn't solve matters. Carolina needs to get rid of Kaberle, but this wouldn't solve matters. Gaborik will make $7.5M this season, which is a gross overpayment if you ask me. Minnesota's cap hit on that is "only" $6.33, but I'm pretty sure that if any team takes him, they'd be on the hook for all of the $7.5.

    If you ask me, Gaborik is no more of a superstar than Viva, who is under contract until June of 2011 for an extremely reasonable $3.5M a season. Carolina would already lose even if it were a straight up trade. I'm not going to lose sleep seeing Kaberle go, but giving up the first round pick would be terrible, and I'm not keen on giving up one of our promising defensive prospects either.

    This rumor doesn't even make sense. Carolina can't afford Gaborik from a purely financial standpoint, and there's no way they can afford to give up what that rumor suggests they'd give up.

    Gaborik has already entered talks with Spartak Moscow of the KHL, and there have been rumors that Gaborik is headed to Florida for Jay Bouwmeester; that he is headed to Buffalo for Maxim Afinogenov and either Tim Connolly or Ales Kotalik; that he is headed to Pittsburgh; that he is headed to Ottawa; that he is headed to Washington. I'm sure you can even find rumors circulating that Gaborik is headed to Calgary or Philadelphia, both of whom are already over the cap ceiling.

    None of these make sense. Even the Moscow "Sparticus" are denying that they are seriously talking to Gaborik. Directly from the HC Spartak Moscow website was this tidbit. Through a rough translation of a Q&A:
    Is it true that "Spartacus" was negotiating with the famous Slovak forward Marian Gaborikom from Minnesota?

    - Его агенты интересовались возможностью выступать в нашем клубе. -- His agents were interested in the opportunity to speak in our club. Однако когда дело дошло до обсуждения зарплаты, была названа просто астрономическая сумма. But when it came to discussing salary, was called simply astronomical sum. Некоторые люди наивно полагают, что в России все клубы готовы платить огромные деньги. Some people naively believe that all clubs in Russia are willing to pay huge money.

    That sounds like the approach that everyone is going to take. "Astronomical sum". Sorry, Marian.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Olympic madness

    Have I mentioned that I love the Olympics?

    Some people say that watching swimming is boring. Not me. I love it. If you need any proof of why the swimming events aren't boring, all you have to do is watch the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. That was a thing of beauty. As a proud American, it's easy for me to say that, but it really was gorgeous.

    The French were heavily favored to win the event, and even ran some smack, saying "The Americans? We're going to crush them. That's why we're here.". Three legs into the race, it looked like they were going to do just that. Down to the last 50 meters, it looked like they were going to do just that. However, Jason Lezak swam an incredible final lap, smashing the previous record for best split, and helping the Americans win the gold in that event for the first time since 1996.

    Michael Phelps now has two golds in his quest for eight. This was supposed to be the hard one. When footage of the incredible finish is available, I'll post it.

    Beijing Olympics, and why I like Bela Karolyi

    I'm not gonna lie. I love the Olympics. Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics. It doesn't matter. I try to watch as much as I can, and this summer has been great so far.

    Everybody has their opinion about former US women's gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. I think he's great. When he was a coach, he pushed the girls really hard. He may have been verbally abusive. The verbal abuse isn't necessary, but the harsh reality is that if he didn't push them so hard, they wouldn't have been so great. His most famous proteges, Mary Lou Retton and the magnificent Nadia Comaneci have always come to his defense whenever people have harsh words to say about him. That's good enough for me.

    What I love, though, is that he's never shy about criticizing the IOC or the judges. Frankly, they need criticism, and tonight was certainly no exception. After Shawn Johnson was given a very disappointing score after a near-perfect routine on the beam, Karolyi didn't mince his words in an interview with Bob Costas. He sharply criticized the "system", which he says allows for bias, and he called out the Argentinian judge. Instead of hinting at it, he used the word "cheat". Wow. Of course tonight's routines were only for qualifying purposes, but it doesn't matter.

    Last night, I watched some of the men's qualifying routines, and I thought that there was some corruption on the part of the judges, or some bias against the US athletes. I talked to some people about it today, but unfortunately, nobody knew what I was talking about. Alexander Artemev had an amazing routine on the pommel horse, but was given a score lower than that of a Chinese gymnast who had a horrible routine on the parallel bars. I was blown away. Furious, even. And it was just a prelim event.

    This has always been the rub on events like gymnastics and diving and figure skating. It allows for corrupt judges to influence the results. Unfortunately, there's really no way to fix it.

    In the meantime... rock on, Bela.

    Saturday, August 09, 2008

    Kaberle might go to LA. Johnson might leave.

    While I was catching up on some of my blog reading, I found a short post over at The Battle of California about the Kings and their struggle to reach the salary cap floor.

    So far, the Kings have only $27.7M in salary commitments for the 2008-09 season. The salary cap floor is $40.7M. They have yet to re-sign RFA forward Patrick O'Sullivan, or the recently traded for Jarret Stoll and Brad Richardson. They have bought out goaltender Dan Cloutier, but still have somewhere between three and five goalies under contract. Granted, most of those contracts are two-way deals, so that money won't count against the cap. They have just four defensemen signed. The free agent market has pretty much dried up, so they're going to have to make some trades to get defensemen and possibly some trades just to take on some salary commitment.

    O'Sullivan had a pretty good season in the last year of his entry level contract. He put up 53(22/31) points, and stands to have a payday probably in the neighborhood of $3.5M. Even if that's the case, the Kings would be $9.5 below the cap, and they'll need defense. None of their free agent defensemen can command a big bucks payday, so they're still in trouble versus the cap floor. Why not trade some of their young talent and/or draft picks to Carolina for defenseman Franke Kaberle and his hefty $2.5M salary?

    Another interesting thing that's being discussed in LA is another trade that would be done for the express purpose of spending money. One of Carolina's favorite "I hate that guy" guys, Jack Johnson, is in the last year of his entry level contract and could be dangled as attractive trade bait to a team looking to shed some salary this season. Jim Kelly from SI.com suggests that the Blackhawks would make a good trade partner, but his suggestion of Johnson for Khabibulin doesn't make sense because the 'Hawks aren't deep enough in goal to do that, and I don't think Huet is ready to be anointed "the one". The Hawks (and Flames, and Flyers) need to shed salary, but I don't see that particular trade going down.

    As for the other? Picking up a veteran defenseman and a salary commitment? Absolutely! I'm not sure what Carolina would want in return if they sent Kaberle that way, though. Draft picks? A bag of pucks? 20 gallons of fuel for the Olympia? (Zamboni™ is a registered trademark, and Carolina's is not a ZAMBONI brand ice resurfacer).

    When the Kings traded away their best player -- Mike Cammalleri, it was evident that they're entering yet another rebuilding phase. Now, they have yet to re-sign one of their best young players --Patrick O'Sullivan, and there is talk of trading away one of their other young promising players -- Anze Kopitar or Jack Johnson. They're never going to get better if they keep doing that.

    Anyway, I hope the Canes can help them (and themselves) by sending Kaberle out there. Anything at all in return would be great.

    Fleer Ultra 2007-08 set complete

    I got my two boxes of Fleer Ultras the other day, hoping to come within a few cards of completing the complete set. I needed 73 cards, and I figured I would get loads of cards I already had. Instead, I nearly completed the set with the first box.

    I gave details on the first box break, but the second was a quest for just two cards. It turned out that I indeed had the Mike Cammelleri card that I thought I needed, and it took a little while, but I finally got card # 197 Chris Kunitz to complete the set.

    There wasn't anything worth getting excited about in the second box. Just a bunch of common cards, two dozen GPs that I needed and a couple of Ultra Uniformity "jersey" cards. No autograph cards, no numbered, low print cards, no more rookie redemption. It turns out, the one rookie redemption I got in the first box was Jonathan Toews. I have to wait 12-16 weeks for the card to be delivered.

    After filing the complete set away and organizing all the extras, it turned out that I was 44 cards shy of a second complete set. I gave the 156 cards, plus a few GP duplicates to my friend Patrick, who is an avid collector.

    I'm supposed to be recieving a hobby box of UD Victory 2008-09 cards any day now. They are rumored to be "in transit". That complete set is 198 cards plus two checklists.

    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Box break 1, part 2

    The first half of the first box break went so well, I thought that I would start pulling ice cubes out of the box for the rest of box one. Instead, that box remained on fire!

    I'll spare the pack-by-pack details, but in the 13th pack, I drew a Freddie Modin GP and a Rookie Redemption card! The first six packs were on fire, as I pulled stuff I needed, both for the regular set and the Gold Medallion parallel set. Things started to slow down around pack 19. There was one more decoy card, which I drew with pack 15 and an Alex Ovechkin Scoring King card.

    In pack 23, I drew some elusive cards: Erik Cole, Jason Pominville and Chris Neil, to finish off their respective team sets.

    At the end of that first box, I am only two cards short of the complete set. Card #107 Michael Cammelleri and card # 197 Chris Kunitz.

    As I was on fire, I was hoping to complete the set with the first box, so I could give away the second box, still wrapped. Such is life.

    On to box #2.

    Box break 1, part 1

    I just opened the first 12 packs from the first of two 24-pack boxes, and things have gone very well so far.

    The first pack yielded a David Vyborny Gold Parallel card and four regular cards that I already had. My hopes were in the gutter at that point.

    The second pack had a Kyle Wellwood GP and a Jonathan Sigalet rookie card, plus three regular cards that I needed: Dustin Boyd, Brian Rolston, Philippe Bouchard.

    Pack three had a Henrik Zetterberg GP and four regular cards I needed: Brad Richards, David Legwand, Freddy Modin and Dion Phaneuf.

    Pack four had a Sergei Federov GP and four cards that I needed: Mats Sundin, Georges Laraque, CuJo and Peter Budaj.

    The fifth pack had a Johan Holmqvist GP and an Alexander Ovechkin Ultra Action card that I already have. It also had three cards that I needed: Emmanuel Legace, Patrick O'Sullivan and Scott Niedermayer.

    Pack six had a Simon Gagne GP, a jersey/auto decoy and four cards that I needed: Johan Holmqvist, Ryan Smyth, Henrik Zetterberg and Tim Thomas. The Holmqvist card completed the Lightning team set.

    Pack seven had an Andy McDonald GP (as well as a McDonald regular card), one card that I already had and three that I needed: McDonald, Freddy Norrena and Paul Stastny. Stastny completes the Avalanche set.

    Pack eight had a Noah Welch GP and an Aaron Rome rookie card, two cards that I already had and one that I needed: Tomas Kaberle.

    The ninth pack had a Tomas Vokoun GP and four cards that I needed: Chris Clark (completes the Capitals team set, Doug Weight (completes the Blues set), Antero Niittymaki and Teemu Selanne.

    The tenth pack had a Tomas Vokoun GP, a Joe Thornton Season Crown (assists leader) card, and three cards that I needed: Darcy Tucker (completes the Leafs set), Rick DiPietro (completes the Islanders set) and Gilbert "shoulda been drafted by Carolina" Brule (completes the Dinner Jackets set).

    Pack 11 had a Joe Thornton GP and a Brad Stuart Ultra Uniformity jersey card. It also had four regular cards that I needed: Bill Guerin, Jay Bouwmeester (completes the Panthers set), Robert Lang (completes the Red Wings set) and Ryan Getzlaf.

    Pack 12 had a Patrick O'Sullivan GP and four regular cards that I needed: Dany Heatley, Jaro Jagr, Hepatitis Boy and Patrick Sharp.

    Of these 12 GP cards, I didn't already have any of them. I've had very good luck with the first half of this break, getting 37 of the 73 cards I was looking for, and only seven cards that I already had.

    I imagine from here on out, I won't be as lucky.. I'll be back in a little while with the second half of box one.

    Today is card day!

    Today, I received my shipment of 2007-08 Fleer Ultra Hockey cards. Today's shipment consists of two boxes of 24 packs. Each pack consists of five cards.

    I am 73 cards short of the complete base set, and maybe 120 shy of completing the Gold Medallion parallel set. After today's box breaks, I hope to be within 10 cards of the base set.

    With one Gold Medallion per pack, that cuts the number of cards down to 196. Maybe 40 of those will be some other special insert or parallel. If there are sweater or sig cards (and there should be two out of today's breaks), that won't effect the number of cards. So I've got about 150 or so cards to get the 73 that I need. Honestly, I don't expect to make it.

    I know full well that you can buy this complete set on ebay auctions for something like $20, but there's no fun in that. That's a bit like getting a mail-order bride.

    I'll break this down into four segments. No video. Just the written word. So far, I don't have any team sets completed. I need Erik Cole, Justin Williams and Mike Commodore to complete the Hurricanes set. I'll be looking mostly for those.

    Oddly enough, most of the ones I'm missing from the complete base set are ones that I have already gotten the Gold Parallel.

    More later.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    A/V club presents: Maurice Richard

    While the Mats Sundin/Joe Sakic drama plays on and the ridiculous circus that is the Brett Favre drama plays itself out, I've been wandering around the YouTubes for some fun stuff. Mostly, I've been watching Huckleberry Hound cartoons. You gotta love that guy. He's got the best intentions but the worst execution. Despite his incompetence, his foolish pursuit of sisyphean tasks and his magnificent failures, he never became flustered and he never quit. It's this "Never give up, never say die" attitude that reminds me of Maurice Richard. I'm going somewhere with this. Trust me. For now, allow me to digress. For his quixotic persistence, Huck is either an idiot or a hero. Or both. One of my favorite episodes was Fireman Huck. It's one of the few times where he looses his zen-like cool, and one of the first times we saw the dog that would become his nemesis. It's also one of the only times that he doesn't botch the words to his favorite song "Oh My Darling Clementine". Check it out.

    Anyway, Monday happened to be the birthday of Maurice Richard. He would have been 87. One of the coolest things I've ever seen is this video of a very touching tribute at the Montréal Forum, back in March of 1996. Before the final game in the building, there was a magnificent ceremony honoring the building itself and the great players who played there. No matter how many times I watch any part of it, I'm blown away by the ovation that the crowd gave and the way The Rocket reluctantly but graciously accepted the loving gesture.

    Rumor has it that the ovation went on for up to 16 minutes. Clearly, The Rocket was humbled by the whole thing and he probably felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Check out how excited Saku Koivu looks at 1:14 and how dumb Gary Bettman looks at 1:28. Those two couldn't be further apart.

    I also stumbled upon this great 1983 commercial for Grecian Formula hair dye, starring Richard.

    That "Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!" line is a classic.

    Everybody's seen the classic cartoon "The Hockey Sweater". Even if you've seen it a million times, it's always worth another view. I just saw this impressive modern adaptation, which ties in Maurice Richard and brings this full circle back to Mats Sundin. Enjoy:

    I love how the "pear say queue shun" from the original made it to the remake. And the "one of the defensemen was Bertuzzied" bit had me roaring with laughter.

    Thursday will be the 21st birthday of Sidney Crosby. He will finally be able to legally drink beer in Pittsburgh.

    Happy birthday to the Rocket (RIP) and to the Kid.

    I've got loads of hockey cards arriving via UPS on Thursday. I'll do some box breaks of my quest to complete the 2007-08 Fleer Ultra set.

    Sunday, August 03, 2008

    The forgotten Sutter

    Mike Morreale at NHL.com recently wrote two fine articles about the future of the Carolina Hurricanes. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of emphasis on the Canes 2007 first round Pick Brandon Sutter.

    Hurricanes hope help is coming from kids
    Next generation Sutter aims for NHL

    In this second generation of Sutters, Brandon was the third to be drafted into the NHL, but he will be the first to play in the NHL. Barring a really unfortunate series of catastrophic events, he'll be lacing them up in Raleigh this fall and hopefully for a long time to come. For the record, the other two second generation Sutters are:
    • Shaun (son of Brian), who was a fourth round pick by the Flames in 1998 and is now playing for the Belfast Giants of the British Elite Ice Hockey League.
    • Brett (son of Darryl), who was a sixth round selection by the Flames in 2005, and is playing with the AHL's Quad City Flames.

    There's no need to link to the credentials of each of the first generation Sutters. Only to point out that they played a collective 4994 games, scored a collective 2934 (1320/1614) points and spent 7224 minutes in the box. That's five days to you and me. Between them, they won six Stanley Cups.

    We all know their names as Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich, Brent, Ron, and Gary.

    Wait. That's seven. There's only supposed to be six. Gary??? Who is this Gary character?

    He's the oldest of the Sutter brothers, and rumored to have been the most gifted of them all, but he never played in the NHL, or really any level of major organized hockey. He turned down an invitation to a tryout with the Red Deer Rustlers, at which Brian earned a spot. One by one, the brothers worked their way through junior hockey and into the NHL, and Gary had few regrets. He certainly never resented his brothers' success. Although Gary denies it, all of his brothers say that the reason he turned down the tryout was that he was very serious with a girl who he would later marry. And divorce. He says that he felt like he wasn't good enough. Everyone else begged to differ, but that's what he says.

    I found a fantastic article about Gary Sutter, which appeared in the 2005 issue of The Crow, which is the University of Regina School of Journalism's yearly publication. I highly recommend the story, written by Dan Kinvig, starting on page 14. (this is a pdf file)

    The article tells the story behind the story, but also points out that the story doesn't end when Gary found himself remarried, working in a lumber yard and living in a mobile home. Like so many other blue collar workers across the world, Gary entered a lottery ticket pool at work with a bunch of the guys. They won a $10M jackpot, and Gary's cut was $1.5M.

    Unlike many people who find themselves in the same spot, Gary didn't quit his job the next day. He continued to work there, despite his newfound riches. That's the "Sutter work ethic". Gary knows, as the other six brothers know, as the Staal brothers know, the value of hard work. The Sutter brothers grew up in a 800-square foot, two bedroom farmhouse in Viking, Alberta. They had no choice but to work on the farm from a very early age. Their father, who passed away in 2005, instilled in them a strong work ethic, which helped six of them have terrific careers as NHLers. We'll never know how good an NHLer Gary would have been.

    Young Brandon never had to get up at four in the morning to drive a tractor. He never had to bail hay until the sun went down. He never had to live in a cramped room with three brothers. No, his life has been much easier in that respect. However, the apple rarely falls far from the tree, and in this case he's falling from the (second) best tree in the lot. By anyone's account, Brandon's dad Brent was the best of the six, but maybe not as good as Gary.

    So far as we know, there isn't a fifth Staal brother.


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