Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Three for one split in Beantown!

The Boston Bruins surprised most hockey analysts on Wednesday when they traded away their popular captain Joe Thornton. Shock is the word that has bounced around the NHL, as the Bruins marquee player was dealt away to the San Jose Sharks, for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart. With the trade, the Bruins dump a whack of salary as they cut 1.5 million off of their payroll, but have trashed all credibility in the eyes of Boston fans everywhere.

The two teams hold down similar positions in their respective divisions and have been sluggish and unproductive in the last month. So its not surprising that the two teams have made deals, but it is a shake up that will have hockey fans talking for most of the winter.

As the Bruins struggled in this early part of the season, many thought that the GM Mike O'Connell or coach Mike Sullivan, or maybe both were the ones on thin ice, nobody expected that it would be Thornton the captain of the underperforming Bears. It was only a few weeks ago that the Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, suggested that changes were going to be made. Changes that had many Bruins fans hoping for a positive addition to the line up. With apologies to the three former sharks on their way to Boston, the name brand recognition of the three combined is not the same as that of guy leaving town. Losing a player of Thornton’s caliber is not going to make their arrival in Boston an enjoyable scenario in the short term.

The Bruins have been involved in some huge trades over the years, trades that change careers and provide enough ammunition to Bruins fans to last a year. It will be interesting to watch what effect this has on the management structure in Boston, the coach and GM are not out of the woods yet. If there is not an impressive change of direction and attitude in the Bruins, the howls of outrage will be heard all the way out to San Jose.

Thornton appeared to be in shock as the news broke of his new work assignment, he recently had signed a three year deal with Boston and felt that he was in for the long run. Many compared him to a Cam Neely type, a lynchpin of the franchise and one who would bleed Bruin black and gold for his team. Instead he’s been sent to the far west coast, out of the division and far, far away from the Bruins faithful.

For the Sharks the deal gives them a solid asset at centre ice, a name that the fans can attach themselves to, something they haven’t really had since Owen Nolan left the Bay area for Toronto and what seems like inevitable retirement. As he joins the Sharks, Thornton should do quite a bit to bring back to life an anemic offence that has struggled in the first quarter of this season. He should give a boost to a struggling Sharks squad that needed a spark to get back into the race in the Western Conference.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson must feel as though he’s won the lottery and as we all know, if you don’t buy the ticket you don’t win the prize. Wilson bought his ticket, time will tell if he or O'Connell are the ones to claim a jackpot. The early odds say that Wilson is the one with the winner.

The troublesome case of Mike Danton

The CBC's Fifth Estate examines the controversial life of former NHLer Mike Danton, the young man presently serving time in an American jail, for putting a hit out on his former agent.

It's a convoluted story line, with former agent David Frost seemingly taking on a much more important role in the young mans life, much beyond that of an agent and former minor hockey coach. A situation that gave Danton's family cause for concern over the years.

FBI surveillance tapes will be featured in the CBC program, tapes which shows an unusual amount of control by Frost over the life of the young man who would eventually seek out someone to kill his agent. Interestingly enough those tapes include jailhouse conversations between Danton and Frost, shortly after he's been arrested for conspiracy to murder charges. It's certainly a strange situation when the target of a murder, continues to offer advice and representation to the person who tried to have him killed. A situation that has raised more than a few eyebrows and red flags over the last couple of years.

The background aspects of this story paint a picture of a troubled young man, who's family life seemed to disintegrate as his time with Frost went on. As time went on Danton would become self destructive and more distant from his family, eventually changing his surname from his birth name of Jefferson, to the name of Danton that he goes under now.

For his part Frost suggests that this story is not over yet by a long shot, stating that once Danton is back on Canadian soil the real story will come out, which according to Frost involves wrongdoing by the FBI. Danton, presently incarcerated in New Jersey, is seeking out the opportunity to serve his sentence out in a Canadian jail which he says was promised to him at the time of his sentencing, which is a regular practice when nationals of each country are convicted in the other.

The show airs across Canada at 9 pm local time on the national CBC. It should make for quite a bit of conversation over the next while, as the Fifth Estate investigates a troublesome relationship between player and agent.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Saskin's Troubles Continue!

Just when he thought he had quelled the rebellion in the ranks, more bad news came a calling to Ted Saskin on Sunday. The NHLPA’s director has had to fend off a bid by dissident Union members who are not fully convinced that his hiring was handled in a fair and democratic way.

Steve Larmer a high profile union member recently resigned his position in the union, claiming that the way Saskin had handled things so far was taking the players association back to the dark days of Alan Eagleson’s reign.

With a confirmation vote underway this month, Saskin felt he had dodged a bullet with initial returns coming in to suggest that he had done nothing wrong. But it’s that vote that has become the latest lightning rod for those unimpressed by the Saskin ascension.

Trent Klatt has been an outspoken critic of Saskins’ through all of this and he posted an open letter to union members on his website this weekend, in it Klatt questioned the “secrecy” of a secret ballot that has to pass through Saskin’s hands before making it to the players association’s accounting firm, which is handling the vote tabulations.

Ever since talk began to surface about the hostility by some towards Saskin, there have been sporadic reports of team dissent. One story last week had it that Saskin had been banned from the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs dressing rooms; such was the state of discontent from that local.

Those in the anti Saskin faction have filed a charge with the US National labour Relations Board over what they said was the improper hiring of Saskin, when Bob Goodenow “stepped down” from his position.

The latest broadside provides more ammunition to those observers that say the NHL players still have questions on the recently settled lock out. They claim that as the players come to terms with the reality of the new NHL it appears that the NHLPA is very much a house, if not divided, then rather fractured these days.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Nod to the North in the battle of Alberta

The Battle of Alberta revved up the engines once again and Edmonton claimed bragging rights for Friday night, with a 2-1 win over provincial rival Calgary. The Oilers depended on some stellar goaltending from Mike Morrison, who made 27 saves in the overtime showdown that went to extra shooters before victory was declared for the Oilers.

The sold out crowd at the Pengrowth Saddle dome sat through an enjoyable 60 minutes plus, with some back and forth hockey, highlighted by the goaltending strengths of the two players in the nets.

Fernando Pisani scored the winning marker with a shot between the legs of Mikka Kiprusoff. the Flames then sent Chuck Kobasew to take the final shot of the night which was turned aside by the very hot Morrison. His record in the Oiler net now stands at a perfect 4-0-0.

The win continued Edmonton's successful stretch, having won five of their last six games, good for a record of 14-10-1. Calgary takes a point and sport a record of 14-8-3 holding down fifth place in the very tightly contested Western Conference. Edmonton is sitting at 7th place only five points separating them and Detroit in first.

The West is a very competitive conference this season, a loss or even a tie could make the difference in positioning by the time the playoffs roll around in April. It seems that almost every game can change the order of the standings, sometimes two or three times in a night.

All Jacked Up!

Dick Pound launched a verbal missile over Gary Bettman and the NHL’s bow on Thursday and by Friday night the echoes was still being heard in every NHL city.

Pound who is the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency made headlines with his declaration that one third of all NHLers were taking some form of performance enhancing substance. With those words Pound found himself public enemy number one in all segments of the NHL structure. From League officials to union reps, all claimed that Pound’s numbers were way off base and his knowledge of the NHL and its players was so significantly lacking, that they rendered his opinions of no value.

The firestorm first broke on Thursday with an interview with the London Free Press; he then went on the Fan 590's Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and reiterated his claims, without providing any tangible proof to back up for his controversial and attention getting comments.

Pound has been having a running battle with sports for a number of years, always trying to keep his agency up to speed and ahead of the issue of performance enhancing substances. His comments on NHL players are probably designed to move the NHL more in line with his wishes for a comprehensive drug strategy for athletes. At the moment the NHL policy is for players are subjected to a minimum of two drug tests a year without warning. A first-time offender would receive a 20-game suspension. A 60-game suspension would be given to a repeat offender, with a permanent ban for a third offence.

In Pound’s opinion that is not near enough, to remove the temptation of performance enhancing agents. Never afraid to rattle a cage, his blazing headline grabber will no doubt have the effect he wishes, the topic of performance enhancing drugs will now become a much more prominent item on the NHL agenda.

Without substantial proof of his statistics it’s akin to pulling numbers out of thin air, no doubt even the most Pollyanna of NHL observers, would admit that some of the current players in the league are probably using drugs they should not be. But to use a broad brush and claim without proof that one third are currently juiced up seems a bit much.

If he has proof he should provide it, the idea of being guilty by association should have gone out of vogue a long time ago. If there is a serious problem in the NHL then it should be addressed, but dropping a bomb and then heading for the hills does nothing to create a sense of credibility for Pound. It doesn’t do much to further the debate, nor does it solve a problem if one truly exists.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Enjoy your Turkey!!

To the HockeyNation browsers from below the 49th and to the upper left hand side of the map as well, a Very Happy Thanksgiving Day.

American Thanksgiving is truly one of those amazing holidays where Americans travel some great distances to share turkey, football, parades and friends and family. Think Planes, Trains and Automobiles to understand the length that some Americans go to in order to be home for Thanksgiving.
If you have a friend in the USA perhaps send them a card to celebrate the big day, but don't expect a reply until the days of sloth die down.

May the family be well, the Turkey well done and the football entertaining.

The above item first appeared on my A Town Called Podunk blog, my general interest blog check it out for a wide variety of topics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Canucks stop Black Hawks

Ryan Kessler broke a scoring drought and the Canucks kept on the winning track as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Chicago Black Hawks 3-1 at GM place on Tuesday night.

Kessler who had gone scoreless for eleven games found his range in the second period with a go ahead goal that secured victory for the Canucks. His goal followed Markus Naslunds tying goal by sixty seconds. Naslund picking up the goal after Mark Bell had given the Black Hawks an early lead. Henrik Sedin scored the insurance marker for the Canucks in the third period.

Nikolai Khabibulin did his best to keep his team in the game, turning aside many Canuck opportunities. He was matched in the nets by some solid play by the Canucks Alex Auld.

For Vancouver the win keeps them on a winning track after a weekend victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Chicago which had been rather successful on their western swing head for the airport disappointed at the outcome, but vastly improved from their horrendous start of the season. The Hawks have a few days off before they take on the LA Kings on the 26th, in Los Angeles. The Canucks wait for the Sharks to arrive in town for their next action at GM Place on Thursday night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sidney takes round one

The showcase of the soon to be stars went as advertised on Tuesday night, and for those keeping score at home, game one went to Sidney.

Sidney Crosby faced off against the other high profile youngster in the NHL Alexander Ovechkin on Tuesday, and for the Penguins Crosby it was a rewarding night. Crosby picked up two points on some pretty plays as the Penguins edged out the Capitals 5-4, in front of a sold out arena in Pittsburgh. The Penguins capitalized on some defensive miscues in the first period scoring four goals only to watch the Caps come back in the third. It took a no see em pass from Crosby to Palffy to salt away the victory for the Pens and give the edge to Crosby in the debut appearance between the two young phenoms.

Ovechkin had a pretty good game of his own, but was limited to one assist as Pens goaltender Sebastion Caron held off Ovechkin's attacks time and time again. But he showed many flashes of greatness and leaves us all hungry for more.

Hockey fans in Canada did not see the debut, the NHL spent a good part of the last two weeks promoting this match up, but in the end it never made it to television in Canada. A situation which is too bad since if these two youngsters are going to be the future of the league, we should see as much of them as possible.

Tragedy strikes the Senators Family

The Ottawa Senators played the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, but for the majority of the team their thoughts were no doubt hundreds of miles away in Owen Sound, Ontario.

Chris Neil left the Senators on Tuesday, faced with dealing with the loss of his mother. Neil's Mom was killed in a single car vehicle accident north of Toronto. As can be imagined Neil was devastated by the news, as were his team mates when informed of the death at the morning skate.

With Neil flying off to Ontario, the Senators dedicated their game Tuesday night in support of Neil, with Neil's best friend on the Sens Mike Fisher, having a particularly inspired game.

The Sens won over Carolina 5-3, but there was no realy sense of victory on Tuesday, just respect and concern for a friend going through one of life's toughest moments.

The HockeyNation extends its sympathies to Neil and his family.

The future is now

Tonight the NHL showcases it's two top youngsters in a head to head battle, hopefully to be televised across Canada. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin may play their hockey in lukewarm locations but in Canada the battle of the phenoms is gaining a fair amount of attention. The two meet in Pittsburgh in the first of what many hope will be years and years of competition.

The two players who were number one picks in the last two NHL drafts had best get used to the frequent comparisons, as both play an exciting style of hockey that demands attention.

While it's early yet, some commentators suggest that the days of Ovechkin and Crosby may be this generation of NHLers version of the Gretzky/Lemieux debates. The NHL can only hope that this proves true over the next ten years.

The league needs players to grab that spotlight from time to time, able to pull the game above the bar and put it on a pedestal for all to see.

I'm sure I heard last week that TSN was planning on picking up the feed of this game, yet a scan of their website shows no game scheduled. Perhaps I heard wrong (it's been known to happen!) and all my expectations will be dashed. Hopefully, the website info is incorrect and this game will be broadcast across Canada. If not there is always the NHL radio feature and those golden days of radio!

With these two explosive players gaining attention across the country, it would seem a natural fit for TSN. The buzz about Crosby and Ovechkin is that they are the real thing and are poised to take that next step in the NHL. It sure would be nice to see what all the chatter is about! Here's hoping my hearing was correct and that it's game on at 7:30 EST, 4:30 PST!

Sometimes the game IS secondary.

The Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators did not finish a hockey game on Monday night, they didn't even finish the first period. The NHL game was called off at the thirteen minute mark, as a more serious situation developed on the Red Wing bench.

Defenceman Jiri Fischer, collapsed on the bench causing grave concern for his health as medical workers worked furiously to try and discover what had happened. Fischer suffered a seizure while on the bench, which resulted in his heart stopping. That sent the medical staff to work with CPR and defibilators, racing to re-start Fischers heart and get him to a hospital.

Fischer was later reported to be in stable condition, breathing on his own and receiving visits from fellow Red Wings who had rushed to be by his side.

The drama unfolded at the Joe Louis Arena after fisheries sixth shift, having logged four minutes and fifty two seconds of ice he was on the bench for a rest when he suddenly suffered the seizure. The Red Wings alerted the on ice officials to the emergency and both teams were sent to their respective dressing rooms. A number of the Red Wings stayed behind to watch, Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan assisting Fischer's fiance across the ice to be by his side.

As time went by, decisions were changed and instead of carrying on with the contest, it was announced that the game would be re-scheduled at a later date. It's probably the first time in current memory that a game has been called because of a medical situation, but more than likely the proper decision was made.

Fischer had previously been diagnosed with a heart abnormality and has had a number of tests done to determine if he was healthy enough to continue his career. With Monday nights incident, it's expected that Fischer will be given a new battery of tests to be sure of his health.

In the end, it's only a game, at 25 Fischer has much more time to spend on our planet, with or without an NHL career.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Player of the week repeat winners

It's an honour to be named the leagues player of the week, recognition for hard work and outstanding performance over the last seven days. But to become a repeat winner, puts you on a completely different pedestal.

Not many can rack up the votes to be a repeat winner, these are the players in 2005-06 that have managed to achieve success and recognition more than once.

November 21-- Bryan McCabe, (2nd selection this season) Maple Leafs Bio

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Can somebody please explain to me why Saturday night after Saturday Night, the rest of Canada must sit transfixed to the big screen TV, watching the Maple Leaf Nation's skating warriors. When did Hockey Night In Canada become Toronto Night in Canada? Yeah Ok, don't answer that I already know the answer, it always has been, but surely some forward progress can be made in 2005!

HNIC has followed the Leafs each and every Saturday night it seems, since the new NHL kicked off this 2005-06 season. We see so much of the Leafs on a weekly basis, I'm beginning to think I should be hitting the showers with Mats, Tie, Eddie and Bryan after the final whistle on Saturday nights.

You know I've heard these rumours that there are other Canadian teams in the Eastern half of the NHL, matter of fact I've even seen them on occasional Saturday nights, but then of course they were playing the Leafs at the time.

Tonight is a prime example of how this CBC House Team, has taken control of our clickers. The Leafs hosted Atlanta, which might be ok for a diversion but as far as end to end rushing and entertaining hockey, well geez somebody find us that well known offensive power the New Jersey Devils.

Oh wait, they were in Ottawa on Saturday night, a team that despite it's rather remarkable record thus far in the year, rarely gets to the national audience unless the Leafs game ends early. And well those guys in Quebec, remember them? Some team called the Montreal Canadiens? Well, perhaps the CBC knows something the rest of us don't. Maybe Quebec is planning on separating after all, so in order to cushion the blow were not to see any more Habs games (out of sight, out of mind). There have been Mobsters in the witness relocation program that have received more exposure across this country, than the Habs do these days.

Nope for Canada that early game has to be Leafs game, even if it's the lamest, most tedious game on the night's schedule, we won't be denied Bob and Harry and the quaint love affair they have with those Blue and White Bud boys.

Thank God the CBC at least rotates the western games, considering the NHL schedule makers love for Minnesota and Vancouver I'm not sure I could take that firewagon hockey on a weekly basis. The rotation of Saturday's between Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton works just fine, don't change it.

In fact maybe expand the idea back east. Hockey fans can find the likes of Ottawa and Montreal at the top of the NHL standings, too bad we can't find them on Hockey Night in Canada from time to time !

Friday, November 18, 2005

Red Wing road woes continue

The Red Wings will be excused if they have unkind words about their Western Canadian vacation. They put a wrap on their tour of the North West's Canadian franchises on Thursday night and the stats will show that the Wings were 0 and 3 in the Great White North West.

The latest setback was a wild affair in Edmonton, which saw the Wings drop a 6-5 decision to the Oilers. Detroit gave up a 3-1 lead as the Oilers battled their way back into the game only to surrender their own two goal lead late into the third period. Steve Yzerman scored at the 17.42 mark to send the game into Overtime.

The Oilers didn't wait long however, to put the thing away. Jarrett Stoll scored the winner with a power play goal after only 33 seconds of the Overtime period. A goal that gave Edmonton its 11th win of the season. It's a great way to start a stretch of games which will see six of the next eight played at the Rexall Centre.

For Detroit it's been a horrible trip to the West, with losses in Calgary and Vancouver previous to the stop in Edmonton, the Red Wings have seen their points bulge for first in the Western Conference lessen a bit. Outscored in the three games by a total of 13-6 and with the three consecutive losses, the Wings are now only five points ahead of Los Angeles and Nashville in the West standings.

Fortunately for Head Coach Mike Babcock and his team there is a tonic on the way. The Wings return home to the friendly confines of the Joe on Saturday night. And as if sent by the hockey Gods, their competition will be the 3 and 12 St. Louis Blues. With all that built up frustration on this Red Wing team ready to explode, one wouldn't want to be wearing a Blues uniform on Saturday night!

Still Droppin' the gloves in the AHL

It's all fine manners and genteel behavior for Gary Bettman's boys, but down on the farm they're still settling their differences the old fashioned way, with a nightly dose of Don Cherry's Rock em Sock em.

While the NHL trumpets its stats that fighting is down by 42%, the AHL is home to the new tough guys, players not afraid to run up those penalty minutes. One player that seems on a pace to setting a new AHL record is Dennis Bonvie, who plays for Hamilton the Montreal Canadiens farm club. Bonvie has appeared in 14 games thus far in this years AHL season, spending over 103 minutes of them in the penalty box for a number of infractions. Should he keep that pace up over the entire season, he would be on his way to a 600 minute penalty year and a new record for the rough and tumble AHL.

Then again if Bonvie is going to find himself infamously in the record books, he's going to have to actually pick up the pace. At the moment he finds himself trailing the Penalty minutes parade by 6 minutes, as Grand Rapids Darryl Bootland holds court over the top of the penalty roost with 109.

As a form of comparison the top penalty taker in the NHL is Steve Ott of Dallas, this bad boy has played in 19 games so far this year and earned 60 minutes in penalties. Almost half of what an AHL enforcer might take to the box.

It's hard to determine why there is such a difference in the style of play between the two leagues, one theory is that many of the tough guys now in the AHL are placed there because the NHL has moved to a less physical and more punitive phase. Many NHL teams can't take the risk of keeping a roster spot open for a player who only can provide the fisticuffs over the finesse.

The only team that seems to have used a player considered to be a tough guy properly, is the Ottawa Senators Brian McGratton. He not only plays the role of a John Ferguson policeman type on the ice, he also contributes in the subtle art of creating some room for his team mates. So far he's managed to do that without a huge cost of penalty time checking in at fifth place with 53 minutes, a total that wouldn't even get him a mention in the AHL.

McGratton's spot on the Sens though is giving hope for a legion of tough guys in the AHL that there may be hope for a call up one day. But the word is out, a ticket back to the bigs takes much more than just a good set of fists.

Thanks for the memories, but you can't have the points

Jacques Martin returned to the team he called his own for nine years on Thursday night, as the Florida Panthers pulled into the Corel Centre for their first game in Ottawa with Martin behind the bench.

As the puck dropped the Senators put up a short note on the video screen at the Corel Centre which said; "Thanks for nine great seasons, Jacques." A sentiment that was echoed by the 18,650 at the Corel Centre with a loud and heartfelt ovation.

And then the family reunion ended and the Sens went to work. Perhaps it was all that good karma in the building, as the Panthers more than held their own for the first two periods of the game. But in the end, the new era for Jacques as a visitor in Ottawa, would be watching the new look Senators do what they have done most of this season, score goals and score quickly.

Ottawa exploded for four third period goals as they defeated Martin's panthers 4-1, Sens Captain Daniel Alfredsson claimed a new record for himself on Thursday, that of scoring the two quickest goals in a Senators uniform. Alfredsson scored his 17th and 18th of the season midway through the third period, the two goals came 20 seconds apart, eclipsing the record held by Mark Lamb by 11 seconds, a record that held since 1993.

With that it was farewell to Jacques, his new team losing yet another game, their tenth in a row. While his old one heads in a different direction, continuing on a roll that's making believers out of the fans in Ottawa and around the NHL.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trader Doug is standing by for calls

Doug MacLean is keeping close to the phone these days. The Columbus Blue Jacket GM who is not content to stand still with his acquisition yesterday of Sergei Federov, is working the phones trying to make another deal. MacLean placed Centre Todd Marchant on waivers today, hoping to entice an offer or two to help produce some room on the salary cap window and strengthen his team.

Marchant has a no trade clause in his contract, so MacLean will have to work hard to find a location for him that will meet with his requirements and give the Blue Jackets full value for their asset.

The other stumbling block for a trade is the room that other teams have to maneuver around the salary cap as well. No longer is a trade a simple matter of picking up the phone and moving player A to Team B straight up with no extra negotiations. Now salaries have to be compared and numbers juggled to make things work. One begins to wonder if the players actual skill level and what can be brought to a new team, fit in on the depth chart anymore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A forceful Hurricane blows through Ottawa

The Carolina Hurricanes arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday night and provided the Senators with something they haven't had to deal with of late, a loss. The Hurricanes played a perfect road game taking advantage of their opportunities and shutting the Sens down when required on the way to a 2-1 victory, the loss was only the third of the season for Ottawa.

Carolina received goals from Ray Whitney and Mike Commodore as a flustered Ottawa team got away from their traditional team play and turned to more individual tactics which didn't turn out particularly well for the home squad.

The only bright spot on the night for the Sens was the 600th career point for Daniel Alfredsson, who put the only goal of the night past a very solid Martin Gerber in the Canes net. The Senators power play was a cause for concern on Tuesday, in a league where power play goals are becoming as regular as line changes, the Sens blew all eight opportunities on the night with a man advantage.

The loss may actually help the Sens to get back to focusing on the job at hand. They have had such an easy run of things of late, that bad traits were starting to creep into the team play. The loss to Carolina may give them the incentive now to get back to their game plan and start another run of the schedule. They get their chance to get back on track on Thursday, when they play the Panthers at the Corel Centre.

Shuffling pennies and players in the NHL

Pierre LeBrun of the Canadian Press has a fairly indepth article on Canoe about the new NHL and it's fiscal certainty. A situation that has many a young minor leaguer getting frustrated about cross country flights and little ice time and veteran minor leaguers wondering if they'll ever get the call to the bigs again.

Le Brun recounts the bizarre story of the Vancouver Canucks, when Dan Cloutier was injured a few weeks ago many a Canuck observer expected to see Wade Flaherty with the Air Canada ticket on the way to the coast. Instead, it was youngster Rob McVicar who made the journey from Winnipeg to the coast. The reason is simple, if the Canucks had called on Flaherty there was a very good chance he would be snapped up off of waivers and be lost to the Canucks. Since McVicar did not have to clear waivers he was tapped for the trip. It's a strange situation when your most experienced farm hands cannot be called up to help the big team, but that's the way it is with the new CBA.

LeBrun also looked at the paper transactions that dot the NHL these days, players get called up to the big club, but don't play and then in order to keep the salary cap levels low they are returned to the farm the next day. They spend the night at home and then it's back on a plane to big team again, repeat two or three times before the scenario is complete. A smart agent these days isn't negotiating salary, he's working on keeping the frequent flyer points in the hands of the farm hands.

Now that situation might work ok for a team like Philadelphia or Toronto who wisely have their farm clubs in the same town as the big club, but for a team like the Canucks it's a trek half way across the country every time they have a call up.

Brian Burke has said he's not a big fan of making these money saving call ups and downs, but then again there probably wouldn't be much savings in the case of the Mighty Ducks. What they saved in salary cap space they would give up in travel costs, the farm club for the Ducks is Portland and it's not the one in Oregon folks.

Expect the call up dance to continue on for a while yet as each NHL team tries to figure out how to keep their rosters full while factoring waiver and financial issues. There is one positive thing about all of this though, if you're a fan of a farm club you probably won't need a program as much anymore. With your teams' stars sticking around for a while, you won't have to ask who the new guy is on the ice.

Brian Burke: O for Federov

If there was an over/under on the length on time that Sergei Federov would remain a Mighty Duck, the smart money would have been on his departure being sooner than later.

In the first major trade of the new NHL, the most expected of departures took place. A Federov and a Burke parted company. When Brian Burke was named GM of the Ducks, many figured that Sergei's days as a Duck were limited. Burke had many a run in with Sergei's brother Fedor while Burke was running the Vancouver Canucks, Fedor would show the odd flash of potential and then return to a lethargic way of play, banished to Manitoba for most of his time as a Canuck. Fedor is presently toiling away with the New York Rangers, appearing in three games so far with no points as of yet. Fedor is described in his bio as a durable player who has an excellent team attitude, something which would never have passed a proof reader named Brian Burke!

As Burke arrived in Anaheim, many hockey observers wondered if the equally enigmatic 15 year veteran Sergei, would mesh with Burke's hard nosed work ethic. For those doubters it would seem the answer to that is No. But Burke had nothing but kind words to say about Sergei, he did admit however that the trade was a financial instrument for the Ducks, giving them some room to maneuver through the season.

Sergei is off to the Columbus Blue Jackets taking his 6 million dollar salary off to the Midwest and freeing up some valuable salary cap space for the Ducks. Coming to Anaheim is forward Tyler Wright clocking in at 945,000 dollars a year and rookie defenseman Francois Beauchemin who takes home an annual paycheck of 500,000 dollars.

The Blue Jackets are hoping that acquiring Federov will help them pick up their scoring while they await the return of the injured Rick Nash. If Doug McLean is really in a gambling mood he should track down Fedor and make the Rangers an offer to take him off their hands. Putting the Federov boys together might be an interesting tactic for a team trying to keep its nose up in the standings. It might be the spark to get Fedor's career back on track, or take the Jackets down the road to ruin for this year.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blues Back on the block

The saga of the St. Louis Blues continues to drag on and on. The latest suitor for the stumbling Blues, Dave Checketts of Madison Square Garden fame, has decided to pull out his bid for the team. Checketts' was apparently not impressed with the negotiating style of the Blue's management and let some words of disappointment leak out, through his old friend John Davidson over the weekend.

The team which is owned by Bill and Nancy Laurie has been on the market since June but has yet to find someone willing to give the Lauries their asking price. Considering the state of the team it's not surprising, St. Louis is off to one of its worst starts in its history (11 losses so far and counting) and with an asking price of 150 million dollars, the line up for potential tire kickers is getting shorter and shorter.

The Lauries are adamant that the Blues will stay in St. Louis, and their representatives today continued to toe that line, even if there doesn't appear to be any local people inclined to buy the team at the moment. (Anybody in Saskatoon got 150 million kicking around? It Could be time to rekindle Wild Bill's Dream!)

Vancouver sports fans can help folks fill in the blanks about the Lauries, should anyone be interested. Think back to the days of the Vancouver Grizzlies, at one time the Lauries were involved in a purchase of the Grizzlies from current Canuck owner John McCaw. At the time of that purchase there was talk of the Grizzlies re-locating to the City with the Arch, but as time and history would show, Michael Heisly ended up in the ownership box and he took the team on a dog an pony show, eventually deciding on Memphis as a home. It was a scenario that left a bad taste in Vancouver sport circles for years and to this day has Vancouverites suspicious about McCaw and his commitment to the Vancouver market.

As in many ownership situations, all the participants begin to resemble similar Peas in a pod and all of that. Bottom lines and secret deals are of far more importance than franchise history or dedication of fans.

Own a Piece of the Oil

The order has been placed and in a couple of weeks the Edmonton Oilers will bring down the banners. However, hockey historians should note it's only a brief bit of down time, about as long as it takes to put on a new clip and raise exact replicas of the 22 banners currently hanging from the Rexall Centre rafters.

The 22 originals have started to show some age, so the Oilers have put up the cash and put out the contract to replicate those golden moments one more time, this time hopefully with a sturdier version of hockey history. The original supplier is once again providing the finished product using more modern material and dyes for a longer lifespan.

The original banners will be auctioned off at a memorabilia auction with the proceeds going to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. With so much hockey history tied up in the storied banners it's expected that the Foundation will find a pretty good pot of gold at the end of the bidding.

The new banners go up on November 21st when San Jose comes to town, with 22 banners to be raised, the Sharks would be advised to forgo their usual pre game nap, they'll have plenty of time to get some rest while the Oilers and their fans celebrate the glory years one more time.

Oilers pull above .500 as they wrap up road trip

Seven games later, the Oilers can finally head for home. Edmonton wrapped up a long and exhausting road trip on Monday night in an impressive way. Putting the Colorado Avalanche away 5-2 at the Pepsi Centre in Denver.

One of the happier Oilers on the night was Chris Pronger who finally picked up his first goal in an Oiler uniform as he scored the third goal of the night and as it turned out the winning goal in the Oiler victory. Pronger has struggled so far this season to find hid scoring touch, having tallied nine assists but no goals prior to the Monday night.

With the win the Oilers finished the road trip with a 4 and 3 record and pulled ahead of Colorado for third place in the North West Division. The Oil started Mike Morrison in the nets, his first start in the NHL facing 33 shots and turning away 31 of them, including a second period 5 on 3 blitz that tested him a fair amount.

Morrison was called up from the minors to fill in for Ty Conklin, his performance for head coach Craig MacTavish should help make MacTavish's job a little easier knowing that he has some solid support in the back up role.

For Colorado it's been a rough couple of nights against Alberta teams, Saturday night they had tough time of things in Calgary and tonight the Northern Albertans continued bringing on the goals. Unlike Saturday night, David Aebischer played the full sixty minutes, suffering another poor performance by his blue line and forward corps.

Edmonton rests up a bit back home and then get back to work on Thursday, with the first of a three game homestand with the Detroit Red Wings making the drive up from Calgary to finish off their Western Canada swing.

Flames Fire it Up

Seven in a row and counting, the Calgary Flames put their October blahs behind them seven games ago and with Captain Jarome Iginla back on his game they look unstoppable again.

Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild were the latest to run into the red hot Flames as they dropped a 3-2 decision to Calgary at the Saddledome. Calgary came from behind to earn the win, spurred on by two and the game winning goal by their captain and some solid goaltending by Mikka Kiprusoff.

The game ended in a wild finish as the Flames found themselves facing two extra skaters, one due to a phantom call to Iginla followed by the Wild pulling Dwayne Roloson for an extra attacker, making for a frantic bit of action in the Calgary end as the clock ticked down.

Kiprusoff held off the Wild attack and the Flames took another two points to the NHL Standings bank. The unbeaten streak now at seven and a chance to tie a team record coming up on Wednesday night when the Red Wings arrive to continue their western swing.

Calgary has caught fire as their Captain has recaptured his scoring ability, with eleven points in his last thirteen games, Iginla is starting to dominate games again. This was his fourth consecutive game with multiple points and when he gets on a roll his team seems to build its confidence from him and take the play to the opposition.

The win pulls the Flames even with the Canucks in the Northwest, both teams tied at twenty-four points with the Oilers three points behind the leaders. With all three Western Canadian teams laying on the points of late, the North West tours are going to be a Bermuda triangle for many of the NHL's visiting squads.

Sludge in the Oil in Chicago

Edmonton gave up three goals on five shots in the first period, an amount that was more than enough for Chicago to pick up a rare win on Sunday.

The Oilers who did not get off to a very good start in this one, found themselves behind for good by the time the first intermission rolled around. Nikolai Khabibulan earned his pay in this game as he turned away 26 of the 27 shots the Oilers eventually got around to taking on him. Khabibulan who has been slow to showing his Stanley Cup winning form of late, has been cursed with a defence that occasionally forgets how to keep the opposition away from his end of the ice. The situation wasn't much different on Sunday as the Oilers stormed back after Jussi Markkanen gave up the three first period goals, by the end of the game the Oilers had 27 shots to the Hawks 19, but Khabibulan was the difference in this one, as the Hawks held on for the 3-1 victory.

Mark Bell scored two goals within minutes of each other late in the first and Duncan Keith picked up the final marker for Chicago. Fernando Pisani scored the only Oiler goal of the game.

The win was Chicago's sixth of the season, four and six in their last ten games. The Oilers stand still at 9 wins thus far, six and four in their last ten. The Hawks can savor their victory for four nights, they play next on the 18th in Calgary, for the Oilers its on to Colorado and a match up with the Avs who will still be smarting from their loss in Calgary on Saturday night.

The Oilers will want to refrain from letting the Avs pad the lead as the Hawks did on Sunday, letting Colorado get on a three goal roll could result in double digits by the time sixty minutes is done.

Bertuzzi Breaks out

It's been a long time coming this season, a night that Todd Bertuzzi totally dominates a game. But Sunday at GM Place, Bertuzzi broke out of his personal funk and accounted for three of the Canucks four goals against the high flying Detroit Red Wings. The Canucks topping the Wings 4-1 in front of yet another sold out GM Place.

Bertuzzi's hat trick was just the trick to get his game back on track. Bertuzzi has glided in and out of play for most of the season so far. Some games he's looked like he's recaptured his old form, others he looks like he needs another four weeks of training camp to shake off the rust.

Sunday it was a case of returning to the game he plays well, that of the power forward heading for the net and setting up camp. Taking on the leagues leading goaltender in Manny Legace with a 1.87 average (a phenomenal stat considering the amount of scoring in the NHL these days) Bertuzzi seemed to score every time the puck crossed his path.

Bertuzzi's three goal performance was the fourth of his career and the first since St. Patrick's Day of 2003. Anson Carter picked up the other Canuck goal, while Dan Cloutier returned from the injured list to backstop the Canucks in fine form, giving up only one goal to the Wings who have made a habit of scoring of late.

For Bertuzzi the return to form comes at a good time for him personally and for the Canucks as well, who had recently run into trouble with games against Calgary and Colorado, losing in three consecutive games.

Canuck fans hope that Bertuzzi will keep up the high temp game now and help get his team back on track to the top of the North West Division and the Western Conference.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A most Cool Tool

While checking out the HockeyNation site meter page, I'm finding the HockeyNation is actually a more global affair than I first thought. There are many hockey fans living outside of the borders of the Great White North, looking for some information. From points near and far, from the Philippines to South America, India to Israel and Europe to the US Deep South to name a few, there are many folks looking for a hockey fix.

So I was rather impressed with a little language translator that I found from AltaVista, Babel Fish can translate your website into a number of different languages. So we'll give it a shot and see how things turn out.

Simply select the language from the options provided, cut and paste the text you wish to read and the fish will translate the web page for you. Not sure how exactly I get my message across since this blurb is in English, but I assume all will work out in the end.

Anyways give it a try, just to see what the HockeyNation looks like with a few different letters and such. You can add Babel Fish to your site for free, should it seem that you have the world clicking thru on a regular basis.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Concerned but calm at GM place

A three game skid, normally in Vancouver that's cause to trade the team on the Vancouver talk shows. But strangely, so far anyways, there's no wild trade Naslund/Bertuzzi/Cloutier rumour making the rounds of the over excited radio listeners of British Columbia.

That doesn't mean that people haven't noticed that the last few games, have not been much in the way of gems. The Canucks have gone into a mini slump, lethargic on the ice and empty on the scoresheets. Costly mistakes, giveaways and untimely penalties have all contributed to the recent decline of the Canuck play. Things that coach Marc Crawford will be spending more than a little time with in practice trying to turn around.

The latest worrisome sign, was a total lack of focus in the first period of Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs had a four goal lead before the game was fourteen minutes old. With the Canucks giving away so many points, so early on, the game was probably lost before the first intermission. The final score of 5-3 no way indicative of the control of play that Colorado exhibited in that first period of play. The last time the Avs and Canucks matched up, Todd Bertuzzi was under siege by journalists and gave a simple answer of "it is, what it is". Had he used that term for the first period on Thursday night, the it would have been translated as ugly.

The whole evening was not a lost cause, the Canucks did manage to battle their way back to at least keeping the game close, at some points giving the Avs the impression that a full takeover of the play was possible. But as the game wound down, costly mistakes would return the advantage to Colorado for good.

There isn't any panic yet in Vancouver, despite the losing skid, this is a rather talented squad that once it gets untracked will be back to filling the net regularly. Even with three games lost in a row, the Canucks still rule the northwest division, though that gap has narrowed to 2 points in the last three games. The power play needs to improve, its presently rated as 19th in the NHL and penalty killing also is a concern as the Canucks are currently ranked as the 18th most effective in the league. Championship teams don't generally live in the middle of the pack, so work needs to be done quickly on those two special team requirements. Add to that the mental errors they make and the penalty problems they find themselves in nightly, and Crawford has some work to do.

He'll try and get them back on track again on Saturday night, that's when the Detroit Red Wings come to town. They'll provide a pretty effective snap test for Crawford's students, one hopes they've been studying hard these last two days.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Survey says send Spezza a sweater

With Wayne Gretzky and the rest of the Team Canada braintrust preparing their list and checking it twice for that December 22nd Olympic team deadline date, Canadian Press offered up a few names to help out with the cause.

With 23 names to provide, CP suggested a trio of Sens to help out the Canadian cause.

Included in the must have list are Wade Redden, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. Spezza who has dominated the Sens line up this season so far, wasn't even invited to the early camps this summer. But with his stock rising daily it might be hard to overlook him when decision day arrives.

The usual suspects are included in the CP roster, the likes of Sakic, Thornton, Lemieux, Iginla, Jovanovski et al, but the CP crew felt that such names as Bertuzzi, Crosby and Kariya would come up just short.

A list is just a list, but this one should get the HockeyNation talking a bit over the next few days.

You've got mail, then again maybe not

Just a quick housekeeping matter. For those that may have been e mailing questions to HockeyNation of late, our apologies, we had a minor problem accessing our mail account.

So we've created a new account and welcome your submissions at the bottom left of our HockeyNation links.

Sorry about any problems this may have caused, you weren't be ignored, you just weren't being accessed!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The portable lawsuit

The Steve Moore civil court case will be re-introduced in a Colorado court within the next two weeks. Lawyers for Moore hope to appeal the last ruling made in Colorado, a ruling that effectively threw the case out of the jurisdiction of justice in Colorado.

At the time of the decision, the Judge Shelley Gillman, agreed with Todd Bertuzzi's lawyers that the case belonged in a Canadian court room, owing to the fact that the assault took place on a Vancouver Ice surface.

Should the appeal not be successful, the plan is to then introduce the case to a Canadian court, most likely in Toronto which is where Moore lives. Many thought that it would be a case sent to a Vancouver court, but Moore's lawyers beg to differ on that count.

With the evidence readily available on video tape and played over and over again across Canada, the lawyers feel that the case is best held in Moore's home town. They probably believe that the case would not get a fair hearing in Vancouver as Bertuzzi is still a pivotal member of the Canucks and has a fair amount of support in the city over the situation.

They have until March of 2006 to make their next move and file in Canada if necessary, keeping an eye on locations where they may have the best shot at a ruling in their favour.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Goal, goal, goal, goal, goal , goal, goal, goal.

It's a frantic pace that has everyone talking. Goal after goal after goal, it seems like the day of the 1-0 game is a goner. If current trends continue it may be a rather lengthy list of names of those chasing the Rocket Richard trophy at the end of the season.

Current projections suggest that at the current pace, thirteen players will score 50 goals or more by the time the first round of the playoffs get underway. It would rival that amazing season of 1992-93 when fourteen players broke the 50 goal mark. The turn around from the last full season of hockey is amazing to watch. In the 2003-04 season three players tied for 41 goals and a share of the Rocket's trophy. The way things are going this year, 41 goals means you've been a slacker.

The key to goal scoring so far this year has been to be on the power play. With the crackdown on fouls in the offensive zone, there has been a huge increase in the amount of power play chances each game. If a player is a key component of that power play then his scoring chances increase by quite a bit and so do his chances of holding the Richard trophy at the end of the season.

With 50 the benchmark for success and so many on a path towards it, the real debate now will be what will be the highest amount of goals this year? Some suggest that over ninety may not be out of the question. The way the scoring pace is going right now, even ninety might be a low ball figure. This could be the season where we have multiple 100 goal scorers.

One has nothing but empathy for the goaltenders union, this is a year that will test their resolve greatly not to mention leave them with many a sleepless night.

What's Swedish for "are you nuts"

The Swedish media have launched a crusade that if successful, should pretty well guarantee that Sweden won't be much of a threat at the Olympics in Italy next year.

The media contributors have decided that Sweden might be better off without the likes of Marcus Naslund wearing the Tre kroner jersey into International competition. The controversy apparently got its start in the lock out season, when Naslund was back home in Sweden. He was asked if he would play in Sweden again, to which he answered that it was doubtful that he would ever play in the Swedish pro leagues once his time in the NHL had come to an end.

With that statement a brush fire was launched that has the potential to burn bridges and torch the aspirations of a country that once was in the forefront of International hockey. While it seems like a sensible thing to North Americans, as Naslund figures he has a few more good years left in him and then retirement will beckon, some of his fellow Swedes are talking treason.

The reporters want to have him banned from any further International competition wearing a Swedish sweater, which seems a tad ridiculous for an observer from the other side of the pond. Leaving someone of the calibre of Naslund off of your Olympic roster makes not much in the way of sense, a sure fire ticket to perhaps plying your future International hockey in the relegation pools.

The key to Naslund's statement is that he said he probably would never play in Sweden not for Sweden. The idea of dropping him from the Swedish Olympic roster should be dropped as quickly as it was mentioned. Though one doubts if Swedish Head coach Bengt Gufstafsson gave it much consideration anyways. If only for self preservation reasons alone, a smart coach would never turn down one of the most prolific scorers to ever call Ornskoldsvik a home. Just ask Gustafsson's predecessor Hardy Nilsson, if he had a few snipers in his line up he might not have met his fate. Although his departuree was a symbol of how much influence the Swedish media has on the Swedish hockey powerbrokers.

The Swedish media is notorious for its hard lines and outrageous commentary, with the crazy idea to drop Naslund from the Olympic team, they also show that they don't really know much about hockey either.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hockey welcomes three more inductees to the Hall

Cam Neely, Valeri Kharlamov and Murray Costello, three new names for the Hockey Hall of Fame. The annual celebration of achievement played out in Toronto on Monday night in a nationally televised broadcast of the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Former NHLer and Amateur hockey executive Murray Costello joined the Hall, Costello had a brief career in the NHL, with stops in two NHL cities before hanging up his skates and heading for law school. He found his days with hockey were only starting though, Costello would go on to work for the CAHA revamping the way minor hockey was structured in Canada. He introduced Women's hockey to the world, a portion of the sport that grows in leaps and bounds each year. His programs and ideas have led to successive championships in Junior, International and Olympic tournaments, all of which are a testimony to his good work on behalf of hockey in Canada and for the good of the game world wide.

Valeri Kharlamov, nobody knew anything about him in August of 1972, by September he had become a household name. The star of the Russian Red Army squad came to North America for the eight games that change the sport. That Canada/Russia series of 72 alerted Canada that our game had found roots in other countries and those roots apparently had become quite deep. On a September night in the hallowed Montreal Forum, Kharlamov took charge of a game and left many Canadians wondering where he had come from and where he and his team mates might be taking the game. Those eight games were akin to a war, and it took a drastic measure to slow down Kharlamov, Bobby Clarke's two handed slash took Kharlamov off the scoring sheets in the final games, yet his reputation would continue long after that 72 series came to an end. Monday night Kharlamov took his rightful place in the Hall of honour.

The ultimate warrior finally is at home. Cam Neely, perhaps one of the most beloved of Bruins since Bobby Orr, took his place at the Hall of fame Monday night. Neely was the definition of heart for the Bruins, scoring, character and physical play were just three of the key ingredients to the Neely legacy. Obtained from Vancouver in perhaps the worst NHL trade in history (for Vancouver anyways), Neely stepped up into the Boston lineup and led by example, if he couldn't go around a defenceman he would go through him, if a team mate found himself in trouble it usually was Neely there by his side to keep things honest. He represented the best Canada could offer to the game and the qualities that Boston fans admire the most, hard work and a never give up attitude. By placing Neely in the Hall of fame, a new standard has been set, beyond the statistics the size heart of the player in the player is just as important an asset for consideration. No player had a larger heart than Cam Neely.

Three worthy candidates make up the class of 2005, find out more about this years inductees here!

Players of the Week for November

Here's our list of Players of the week for November. Click on the link for a bio and stats.

November 28 Centre, Jason Spezza, Ottawa
November 28 Goal, Mike Morrison, Edmonton
November 21, Goal, Curtis Sanford, St. Louis
November 21, Defense, Bryan McCabe, Toronto
November 14, Forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta
November 14, Goal, Marty Turco, Dallas
November 7 Forward, Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa
November 7 Goal, Mikka Kiprusoff, Calgary

Not only does he pass the puck, he passes that hat!

Not content to be the set up guy for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mats Sundin now takes on a new challenge, that of the set up and collection guy for Ken Dryden.

Sundin will be the co-host for a fund raising dinner this Wednesday for Liberal MP (and former Maple Leaf executive) Ken Dryden. The Dinner to take place at the Hockey Hall of Fame, will help to build up the election chest of the Liberal MP and with election rumblings getting louder each day it's as welcome as a power play goal in Overtime.

For only 350 dollars you can drop in for a bite and a chat with Mats and his pal Ken. Hockey or politics the topic possibilities are endless. It would seem the Leafs have made the Liberals their party of choice as not only Sundin will be in attendance, but so will current MLSE executive Larry Tannebaum. A sight that probably would have ole Conn Smythe spinning in his grave, Smythe was never particularly fond of the Liberal brand.

If the Leafs thought that they were a hated organization nationwide simply by representing Toronto in the past then things are going to get a whole lot more exciting. Just imagine when word gets out that the Leafs have a soft spot for Liberals. Maybe now we understand the new scheduling, the Leafs wanted to keep close to their constituencies, the two groups may have more in common than they thought! If current trends continue, there will be no votes and no fans West of the Lakehead.

The above post first appeared in my A Town Called Podunk blog, a clearing house for political and general interest thoughts.

A Dissenting vote on the New NHL

While Gary Bettman extols the virtue of the new NHL, the fast paced action, the reduction in fighting, the changing of rules to speed up the game, there are some that suggest all is not positive with the new brand.

Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald dissected the play of a recent Bruins game, his opinion is that with the increase in penalties and power play opportunities, the idea of five on five hockey is an endangered species. It's an argument recently proposed by Pat Quinn, which unfortunately for Quinn cost him a few dollars. Harris gets a paycheck for his ideas.

With the crackdown on hooking and such, the offensive zone is much more of a free fire zone on the goaltenders, incoming wingers can't be slowed down anymore, free to crash the net, if a defender should get in the way it's off to a penalty box and a two minute powerplay.

Harris suggests that the new NHL resembles the free flow of an all star game, those notorious no hitting affairs that regularly fill the net and leave the goaltenders wondering when their twenty minutes are up. A recent study of the scoresheets of a few games gives a bit of credence to that argument, in the last week the Ottawa Senators have scored over 25 goals in exhibitions that resemble the old showdown features on Hockey Night in Canada.

Harris says that this Harlem Globetrotters style of hockey may be an enjoyable brand but is it really entertaining the crowds. A valid point with over 20 penalties a night, the only overly enthusiastic fans would be those with power play specialists in their hockey pools.

No one wants to see the NHL return to the clutch and grab days of a few years ago, where play dragged on and on, players with limited skills latching onto the skill players and dragging the game down with them. But do we really want to see the equivalent of taking shots in the driveway, or the wide open days of river hockey.

It's a brand new NHL, some good changes have been made to make the game entertaining. But as with anything changed, sometimes you have to work out a few of the bugs.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Habs hold onto conference lead

Montreal kept its hold on the Eastern Conference Saturday night as Les habitants sent the Sabres back home to Buffalo by a score of 3-2. Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednick did the scoring for Montreal and Jose Theodore held the Sabres off the scoresheet when it counted on the way to their 11th win of the season, and the second one against Buffalo in as many nights.

Montreal is off to the kind of start that Bob Gainey and Claude Julien could only have dreamed of prior to the start of the season. With an unbeaten road record and a pretty strong record on Bell Centre Ice, the Habs are looking a lot like the grand ole days of Le Glorieux.

With 23 points so far they are only 2 points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the overall lead in the NHL. Their divisional rivals in Ottawa trail them by 1 point, if this trend continues through this week and next the November 29th match up in Ottawa should be a must see event.

With Montreal showing the speed and scoring to keep pace with the likes of Ottawa and Detroit the subscriptions to RDS are sure to rise as the season moves on through the winter. There is less and less exposure of the Habs games to English Canada, now that the CBC French network has lost the broadcast rights to Saturday Night to RDS. A smart cable provider might add the French Sports network to its cable package, with Koivu, Kovalev, Theodore et al playing at such a high level there's an audience looking for a place to watch.

Six more for the Sens

The Ottawa Senators continue to dominate Saturday nights, last week it was 8-0 over the Leafs, this week it's a 6-0 shut out of the New York Islanders. Daniel Alfredsson led the way with two goals and an assist. The points add to Alfredsson's six game scoring streak and give him 26 points and a tie for the scoring lead with Eric Staal of Carolina.

The Dany Heatley points parade continued on Saturday as well, Heatley's goal and an assist helped him keep his points streak alive as Heatley has scored a point in all 13 Senator games this season. Chris Neil, Martin Havlat and Brian Smolinski rounded out the nights scoring for Ottawa. Domenic Hasek took care of the Ottawa end of the rink, turning back all 28 Islander shots and recording his third shut out of the season.

The Islanders had a fair amount of praise and respect for their opponents, suggesting that the Sens are the cream of the NHL this year. A point not many would argue with. Its certainly something the Ottawa fans would agree with, Saturday night set a new attendance record for Ottawa with 19,776 tickets sold, an increase in capacity this year gives another 1,276 Sens fans the chance to watch the team live. As long as Ottawa keeps playing their exciting offensive oriented style of play, those seats will be hard tickets to come by.

A bit of the Old NHL in the New NHL Saturday

Vancouver took to the ice in Calgary on Saturday night and it was like a trip back a few years in time. A low scoring game, lots of physical action and more than few dust ups that kept the crowd entertained through the night. Marcus Nilson scored the only goal of the game, leading the Flames to a 1-0 victory over Vancouver.

It was only a couple of days ago that Gary Bettman read off his list of achievements for the NHL this year, one of which was a reduction in the number of fights. It would appear that the fax machines in Calgary and Vancouver weren't working that day. Saturday saw a steady stream of travelers to the penalty box, four separate fights broke out in the first and second periods as the always intense rivalry between the two clubs flared up again. When they weren't fighting there was an increase in the stick work and unsportsmanlike penalties making for a rough and tumble match at the Saddledome.

The crowd went home happy as Kiprusoff collected his second shut out of the season and third victory in a row, as the Flames begin to shake off that early season lethargy. The two teams renew acquaintances on Monday night as the Canucks play again at the Saddledome, more physical play is expected and probably the odd fight as well. If Flame fans have their way, the game will end with another Flame win and an early season lead on the Canucks/Flames season totals.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Les guerrier de la rue

The Montreal Canadiens are finding that a little out of town bonding goes a long way to building a successful hockey club. Montreal's 3-2 victory over Buffalo Friday night set a record that will go back to the year of the franchises' creation in 1909. The win was Montreal's 6th road win of the season and with a record of 6-0-1 so far, the Habs are off to the best road start in the history of the team.

The win pushed the Habs ahead of Ottawa for first place in the Northeastern division, Montreal has won 10 of its first 14 games and have found that everything is coming up aces for them at the moment. If the game is a one goal affair, there's a very good chance that Montreal has come out on top, so far this season the Habs have won eight of ten one goal games.

For Buffalo the last four games have been nothing but a nightmare as they have dropped four of the last five and not looked particularly well while dropping them. The memories of their early successful start to the season are long forgotten now, clouded over by sloppy play in their own end and lack of scoring in the oppositions.

Montreal can add to the standings sheet on Saturday, Buffalo takes their show on the road to Montreal for a re-match. The smart money covers a Montreal victory by one goal.

Friday, November 04, 2005

One more valuable lesson from Jacques Demers

Jacques Demers was at a book launch on Wednesday, getting the word out about a biography of his storied coaching and media career and a whole lot more. It was a book however, which he probably could not read very well , but one which may help many others face up to the challenge of literacy.

Demers faced a media scrum in Montreal at the launch of his book Jacques Demers: En tout lettres. During the press conference, Demers confessed to something he had been carrying around with him for many years, that he is illiterate. Family problems exacerbated Demers problem growing up, including an abusive father who effectively stripped Demers of his childhood. Demer's formative years were viewed through a prism of fear, one which would result in him entering adulthood with little in the way of reading or writing skills.

As the years would go by, Demers arranged to cover his lack of literacy, having others handle his correspondences, hiring assistants to take care of the contract negotiations. He even had his wife fooled up to a point, his secret was discovered as cheques remained unwritten to handle household expenses, finally Demers had to come clean with someone, his wife. But many others would never know of the situation. It's amazing to many that he was able to handle the job without being able to read. In today's NHL e mails, scouting reports and many other matters are routinely funneled through a computer, it would be a daunting task today, but Demer's seemed so determined he would probably have found a solution.

Many will find it amazing that Demers has limited skills in reading and writing, one of the most engaging of coaches in the history of the NHL, Demers transferred that quality to the broadcast booth. He currently is one of the most astute observers of hockey in Quebec on television, still able to break down plays and explain the inner workings of a hockey team.

His book, which was written by Mario Leclerc, an editor Le Journal de Montreal and a former Canadiens beat writer, it features 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet. It's his hope that by allowing his guard to drop and sharing his darkest moments, that somehow he can get the message out to parents not to be abusive to their children, to leave them alone to grow up in a happy and learning environment.

It very well may be the best coaching advice this quality educator has ever given.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Good wind blows in Carolina

The two Erics had another strong game and Carolina's fans have yet to see their Hurricanes lose at home so far this year. Erik Cole scored the winning goal and Eric Staal recaptured the NH: scoring lead, as the Hurricanes defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.

Leaf coach Pat Quinn was less than impressed with the Maple Leaf effort in the last ten minutes of the game, a lack of back checking and lazy play by the forwards sealed the fate of Toronto as Cole went in for the kill with 1:34 left in the game.

Staal notched his 25th point of the season, putting together a three point night with two goals and an assist, with the offensive show at home Staal jumped ahead of Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson for the NHL scoring lead. With a record of 9-2 and 1, the Hurricanes are just one point behind Ottawa in the NHL East.

Carolina next sees action on Saturday night when the Florida Panthers come to town.

Red Wings find a mark in an unfamiliar column

For the first time in a month, somebody has to post a 1 for Detroit, in the L column of the NHL East standings. The Detroit Red Wings watched Raffi Torres put away the winning goal at 1:51 of Overtime as the Edmonton Oilers beat the Wings 4-3 and put an end to the Red Wings nine game winning streak.

Chris Pronger broke out of a slump with three assists on the night, as Edmonton played a fast paced game, keeping with the Red Wings stride for stride for the full sixty minutes. Red Wing coach Mike Babcock, felt that the Wings came to play for the most part, but a few lapses were all it took for the Wings to find themselves on the short end of the score board.

The win for Edmonton will be a huge morale booster, having struggled in the early part of the season, the last couple of weeks have seen the Oil begin to get untracked and play the kind of hockey that many Edmonton fans felt they would see this year.

Defeating the Wings, right there in Hockeytown should go a long way to helping the Oilers to pick up the pace and the wins through November.

Sens continue on a roll

If the road to the Stanley Cup indeed passes through Tampa Bay, then the Ottawa Senators put a down payment on the trip Thursday night. The Senators doubled the Lightning 4-2 as Ottawa became the first team in the NHL East to notch its tenth win of the season.

The Senators spread out the scoring a bit this time around, no four goal splurges by the stars. Though, Daniel Alfredsson continued on his scoring pace with a goal and an assist, Martin Havlat pulled in the reins a bit with only one goal tonight, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza also kept their scoring streaks alive with assists. Wade Redden and Mike Fisher scored the other Ottawa markers on the way to the victory. Domenic Hasek returned to the Ottawa nets for the win, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced.

Tampa scored their goals on two power plays, with goals from Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, who took advantage of five consecutive Senator penalties. But like every other night since March 1st of 2003, the Lightning could not pull out the win.

Over 18,000 fans took in the night at the Corel Center and once again they did not go home disappointed. The Sens now rest up for the New York Islanders who are in town on Saturday night, the Lightning travel on to Toronto and a Hockey Night In Canada clash with the Leafs.

The Auld Standard

Vancouver already has a quarterback controversy with its CFL team, the debate rages on day after day with the tandem of Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers finding equal amount of support in the city. Could it be that the Canucks are about to have a similar controversy on their hands?

Alex Auld held down the fort on Wednesday night as his Vancouver Canucks held on for a narrow 2-1 victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild. Auld has been given the starting assignments while Dan Cloutier recovers from the collision with fellow team mate Nolan Baumgartner on Monday night. It's not sure when Cloutier who is suffering from a concussion, will return but it's not expected to be a lengthy amount of down time.

But even if it is, the Canucks don't seem to have too many worries about their own net, Auld performed impressively against the Wild, keeping their scorers at bay time and time again. While the game started out slow, not quite the explosions we've become used to of late, things did begin to change as the third period arrived.

The Canucks managed to get themselves into some serious penalty troubles as the third period hit the fifteen minute mark, a bad penalty by Todd Bertuzzi began a parade to the penalty box for the boys in Blue. While killing off that penalty Ryan Kessler of the Canucks took a delay of game penalty which left them two men short as time was winding down, then Sami Salo missed on a clearing attempt resulting in another delay of game penalty. Just to add to the excitement the Wild then pulled their goaltender for a 6 on 3 for the final minute of play.

Through it all, Auld held his ground making save after save and gaining a bit of luck from a goal post or crossbar or two. The Canucks survived the mad scramble at the end, Auld facing 31 shots turning back 30 of them on the way to the Canuck's 9th win of the year.

Auld's performance will serve as grist for the goaltender's mill in BC, over the last twenty years the Goaltender job has been the most discussed position on the team. Year after year the debate rages, do the Canucks have what it takes between the pipes to go the distance. Many Canuck fans have been worried about the potential for Cloutier to take the team all the way, now with Auld showing some promise they may have some ammunition for their argument. The only answer to that will come with a Stanley Cup parade down Robson Street.

Auld may have made a case for his seat in the parade, should the day ever come!

Rookie of the Month for October

November 2, 2005 - Sidney Crosby, began what is expected to be a long line of achievement in the NHL with the announcement, that he is the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October. Crosby has had a fairly good start to his NHL career, accounting for a fair amount of scoring on a struggling Pittsburgh team. Crosby has 14 points over 11 games, 2 goals and 12 assists, which highlights how much of a team player he has become in a short period of time

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sens do the Buffalo Hat Dance

The Ottawa Senators hit double digits Wednesday night, as the return of Martin Havlat to the line up proved to be one of many problems for the Buffalo Sabres. Havlat who finished off his five day suspension, put all that rest to use with four goals and 40% of the Sens scoring on the night. Also filling up the Buffalo net was Daniel Alfredsson who also tallied another 40% and four more goals to the cause. Dany Heatley added 20% and two goals to finish off the scoring parade and a 10-4 win over the Sabres.

It was the first time in Sens history that they have had two four goal scorers in the same game, the ten goals are the highest in the NHL so far this high scoring season and the second highest total in Sens history.

The Sens were dominant from the very start of the game, they had four goals on seven shots in the first thirteen minutes of play and seemed to leave the Sabres standing still for most of the game. The Sabres were missing the scheduled starting goaltender Ryan Miller who was injured in the morning skate, Martin Biron was put into battle to start but had a short night as the goals piled up. Biron was pulled after the first seven minutes, giving way to Mika Noronen who suffered four more goals through the second period. the Sabres came close to getting back into the game in the second as they closed the gap to 5-3, then four unanswered goals put the game away for Ottawa. In a sign of mercy on Noronen, Biron then re-entered the game for the third, giving up two more before the night mercifully came to an end.

The Sens looked by far to be the better team, showing the same kind of domination that they exhibited last Saturday in the 8-0 crushing of Toronto. In the last five nights the Senators have scored 21 goals with their high flying style. While many marvel at the scoring punch of the Sens, Captain Daniel Alfredsson offers up some advice, the best is yet to come. Alfredsson says the Sens are just hitting their peak, and can get even better.

The Sens style of play is certainly great for the fans, not since the Oilers heyday, has a team seemed to have so much fun on the ice while putting points on the board. While it seems to be fun for the Sens, it's decidedly not good news for those members of the goaltenders union.

Flames show some spark

It's taken a bit longer than the Calgary faithful might like, but finally it seems that the Calgary Flames are shaking the cobwebs from their heads.

Tuesday night saw the Flames shut out the Minnesota Wild 3-0, as Mikka Kiprusoff faced 23 shots on his way to his second shut out of the season. More important for the Flames was the continued improvement in the play of Jarome Iginla, who picked up two goals in the Flames victory.

Iginla has been off to a slow start this year, and as goes Iggy so went the Flames it seemed. for the first few three weeks of this season they've had a terrible time getting untracked with a record of 5-7-2.

The troubles in scoring and keeping the opposition out of their end has been the talk of Calgary in the early days of this new NHL. A team which came up a little short in the last Stanley Cup contest has had its problems getting things in gear in a this new season.

With Iginla starting to find his range again though, the Flames are finding more confidence on the ice which should soon translate into more wins and a steady climb up the standings. The Flames hosted their fifth consecutive sell out on Tuesday, a crowd that liked what they saw from the home side. There are big expectations in Calgary this year, the taste of playoff success left a pretty good feeling around Southern Alberta, a feeling that kept hockey alive during the lengthy lockout.

If the Flames can get things back on track, the disappointing start will soon be all but forgotten in the rush to get back on the Flame bandwagon. There's a sense of unfinished work to be done in Calgary, the players know it, as do the fans. It's only one win, after a string of losses, but some positive signs were there for the fans. A top scorer finding his scoring touch, the amazing goaltender recording another shut out and some strong youngsters making their mark.

All in all, hockey just may be on the right track again in Southern Alberta.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The retiring Russian Rocket

Pavel Bure has called it a day, the mercurial on ice career of Bure came to an end on Tuesday, when Bure announced he was retiring from active play to take over the reigns of the Russian Olympic hockey program, just in time for the Turin Olympics.

Bure who shone brightest in Vancouver and then left in a cloud of acrimony was one of those players that made a fan stand up to watch. He frequently was the lead story on many a Vancouver sportscast, with his nightly scoring exploits. But in the end his days in Vancouver were controversial ones, with accusations of double dealing from management and some serious confrontations with the Vancouver media.

Bure never really seemed to feel comfortable under the intense spotlight that the Vancouver media scene exists under, his final days in a Canuck uniform cloaked in mystery and sourness.

Regardless of his off ice developments, when he was healthy and on the ice, not many could compare to his stats. Back to Back 60 goal seasons, and stints as a two time winner of the Rocket Richard trophy for goal scoring are among some of his accomplishments. He helped lead a determined Canuck team to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final agains the Rangers before losing to the Blue shirts. Had the Canucks won that game and Bure's relationship in Vancouver would have been cemented for life regarldess of the mess that would follow.

His departure from Vancouver registered shock waves around the NHL, but did set up the Canucks nicely for years to come. One of the key aspects of the Bure trade was the acquisition of Ed Jovanovski, who still patrols the defence for Vancouver.

Bure played 702 regular season games and 64 playoff contests before heading home to Russia, he has not played a game since 2003 when he injured his knee while playing for the New York Rangers.

His new duties will include trying to rebuild a Russian hockey team that has been steeped in dysfunction and distrust the last number of years. Bure has promised that the team he selects will want to play for Russia. Russian hockey officials will be hoping that he can provide an exciting team and will return Russia to the highest points in the world of hockey.

It will be interesting to watch Bure on the other side of the negotiating table with the Russian team. One of the concerns of fans in the past has been the impression that Pavel was only in the game for Pavel, it seemed that his concept of team was a tad different than those that share a locker room with him. He will have to be a quick study, his Russian squad needs some serious team building to take place and rather quickly, many will be waiting to see how many of his fellow Russian hockey players accept his calls and respond to his requests.

Headlines of November

The stories that make the news in November.

November 30 Thornton to the Shark Tank
November 29 Eddie the Eagle climbs the ladder
November 28 Spezza wants a spot
November 27 Rocky Mountain Let Down (again)
November 26 Ten for Sens
November 25 Heatley continues on hot pace
November 24 Dick Pound targets Hockey
November 23 Bruins give owner a reply on the ice
November 22 Sid One, Alex Zero
November 21 Fischer collapses, game suspended
November 20 Ted Eagleson/Alan Saskin
November 19 Hawks dominate Alberta
November 18 Hawks put out red Hot Flames
November 17 Guess You Can't Go Home Jacques
November 16 Flames On Fire
November 15 Sergei gets a Blue Jacket
November 14 Islanders win marathon shoot out
November 13 Canucks break losing skid
November 12 Flames Burning Through November
November 11 Grumpy Gretkzy gets results
November 10 Sidney stops the Habs
November 9 They really do have the St. Louis Blues
November 8 Turgeon tops 500
November 7 Three for the Hall
November 6 The Gunslingers posse comes up short
November 5 Kiprusoff shuts the door again
November 4 Bettman basks in early season success
November 3 Oilers ground High Flying Red Wings
November 2 That's a Big 10-4
November 1 Bure becomes the Bossman