Friday, March 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. Hockey

Floral, Saskatchewan's pride and joy turns 78 today and somehow you get the feeling he'd probably still be able to dish out a mean elbow if he had to. Born on March 31, 1928 Howe began his love of hockey on the frozen ponds of the prairies.

Gordon Howe was a force to be reckoned with in the NHL, holding down the right wing position in Detroit for many of that franchise's glory years.

While his scoring statistics are legendary it was his personna on the ice that defined him as a player.

Long before the term power forward became the word of the day in the NHL, Howe was bulling his way through the opposition with only one destination in mind, the front of the net and the puck inside of it.

In addition to his amazing tenure in the NHL, Howe gave credence to a newly formed league the WHA when he joined the Houston Aeros and then Hartford Whalers, sharing a long held dream to suit up with his sons Mark and Marty.

To read up on the history of Howe is like a primer in what has made the NHL a successful league over the years, there are hundreds of websites dedicated to his career and achievements, including one created for him and his wife Colleen. On the mrandmrshockey website, you'll find all sorts of gems about his career and how he and his family continue to work with Colleen as she battles dementia, it's well worth your stop on the Gordie Howe memory parade!

One destination to visit is that of the Hockey Hall of Fame website which includes a look at his biography, stats packages and a collection of pictures of Mr. Hockey in action.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Call him "Clutch" Carter

Anson Carter's reputation in Vancouver continues to grow, besides being the missing piece of the Sedin's puzzle of the last few years, Carter has also proven to be a rather big play kind of guy of late.

Wednesday night at GM Place it was Carter's goal with only 6.1 seconds to play in the third that sent the Canucks on to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild and helped to give themselves a bit more room to maneuver in the NHL Western Conference playoff chase.

Carter has been the main ingredient to the increased profile of the Sedin twins in Vancouver, his passing plays setting up the Swedish brothers time and time again, making the second unit in Vancouver the more prolific of the lines of late. Wednesday night it was Daniel and Henrik returning the favour in the set up department on the winning goal of the night.

Carter's goal Wednesday, his 30th of the year provided the Canucks with a key two points in the playoff hunt, when combined with an LA loss earlier in the night to Calgary, the Canuck's can now see the Kings falling a little further behind them in the rear view mirror. One less combatant for that final couple of spots in the West.

The only drawback to the Kings loss is the fact that the Flames won, giving them a bit more room on the Canucks in the battle for the NW division title and a seeding in the top three spots in the playoff round.

With the win Wednesday, Vancouver claimed a piece of 6th place tied with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. They can add to their point total again on Friday when they take on the Wild in the conclusion of the two game set once again at GM Place.

The Thinning blue line in Bytown

It's not the time of year that you want the injury bug to bite, but for the Ottawa Senators March is going out like a lion. The latest of the Senators wounded is blue chip blue liner Chris Phillips, suffering a knee injury that will keep him out of the line up for at least 3 and maybe more weeks.

Phillips joins fellow blue line defenders Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov in the whirlpool as Bryan Murray tries to cobble together a defensive corps to hold the line until everyone is healthy again.

The Sens cruised through the season for the most part with only Martin Havlat on the injured list up until the Olympic break, but since then it's been a red cross ward at times in the Sens dressing room.

Goaltender Dominik Hasek is apparently almost ready to skate with his equipment on, a sign that he may be preparing to test out his groin and see if he'll be able to contribute to the playoff action in three weeks time.

Information on Chara is not as easily available, with just a generic thought that he'll be ready sooner than later. His absence is perhaps the most damaging of the list, a solid blue line force his ability to clear out the front of the net has been missing in the Sens last few games.

Volchenkov may return to the line up as early as tomorrow night and injured winger Mike Fisher is also listed as a possible returnee shortly.

Murray is no doubt hoping that the injury parade of March won't sidetrack a possible Stanley Cup parade in June!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Flyers come out flying!

It was a first period from hell for Senators Goaltender Ray Emery and his Ottawa Senator team mates. The Sens walked into a buzzsaw of Philadelphia Flyers and didn’t seem to catch their breath until the second period.

The Flyers took the play from the outset and stormed the Ottawa end of the rink, gaining a 4-0 advantage before Emery was allowed to rest for the night, sending former Oiler Mike Morrison into the breach of a Flyer assault. By the end of the night Morrison would surreder two more goals but the Sens would claw their way back half way with three of their own, but make no mistake this was an all Flyer win by a score of 6-3.

The first period however was all the Flyers would need as they controlled every aspect of this game and sent the Senators on to their next game with New Jersey with a bit of a bruise to their division leading egos.

In a rough and tumble affair, as is the norm with the Flyers and the Sens the absence of Senator Zdeno Chara proved to be a key ingredient in this one. Without the big rear guard to clear the front of the Sens net, the Flyers could set up shop and take advantage of rebounds and passes without too much fear of a reprimand.

The night featured the usual scraps that these teams seem to gravitate towards, the main event being a lengthy and vibrant battle between Brian McGratton and Donald Brashear. Chris Neil also gained some revenge on Denis Gauthier over a questionable hit earlier in the game.

For the Flyers it was a return to a more or less healthy line up (or at least as healthy as its going to get) and an announcement that they may wish to make some noise in the playoff rounds to come.

For the Sens, it was just a blip on what has been a rather extraordinary run of late. It was a bad game, for a tired team who had a long night in Buffalo the night before. Best for them to shake it off and prepare for the next game and then for the playoff rounds. A match up with the Flyers will be something many might wish to see, with the physical play and speed and scoring punch both teams have, it could be the marquee series of the post season. However, if it does happen it most likely wouldn’t be on tap until the later rounds.

Three games later, not much change

The Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers wrapped up their three game mini series Saturday night at GM Place. It was a fairly good display of what would be some fine playoff hockey should the two teams ever meet up in the post season dance pool.

However the two teams are so close in play and in the standings, the chances of them meeting up for a playoff round are rather remote.

Saturday night it was Edmonton’s turn to claim a victory as the Oilers played a pretty solid road game on the way to the 3-2 victory, and good enough to keep the Canucks from coming back to score the tying goal in the third period.

Dwayne Roloson gave Oiler fans hope for some stability in the Oil net as he kept the Canuck scorers at bay in the third period, benefiting from a few missed nets and some solid clearing from his defensive squad.

For the Canucks it was another positive effort, coming up a little short on the scoreboard. Todd Bertuzzi continued to regain some of his earlier power forward form, though a couple of costly penalties put his team in the hole. For Bertuzzi it seems that sometimes his reputation gets him penalties that others might be able to get away with, his size and power seems to be a magnet for a ref’s arm to go in the air. Conversely when he’s hit, tripped and such the other team seems to get the benefit of a doubt, a situation that must frustrate both Bertuzzi and coach March Crawford.

Saturday night’s game followed the script of the previous match up between the Oilers and the Canucks on Thursday night, a tight two way match that went down to the wire. Thursday night it was a shoot out in overtime, Saturday night we were one re-directed shot away from a similar outcome. Such was the closeness of the play.

The outcome of the three game series is one single point for the Canucks, gained in Thursday nights shoot out, the rest is a split between the two clubs. Both of whom are still in the battle for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

One if not both of them should make the playoffs, which is good. Unfortunately that means a match up with one of the higher echelon squads. And despite the entertainment of the last three games, neither squad is really showing the kind of domination needed to take on the big guns.

The high pace of the action and the physical nature of the play was a complete turn around from the listlessness that both clubs seem to have exhibited in the last three weeks, giving their respective fans a bit of hope for a playoff run. Both teams showed a fair amount of confidence in the last three games, which was a much needed ingredient to their play.

With that confidence both teams should be taking positive points from their last three games. Games that were good enough to not only get them back into the playoff hunt, but perhaps making sure they make it over the hump.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Leafs set the table for a two game showdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs battled back to take a hard earned 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. It was a game which was vital to the teams’ playoff ambitions. Taking on the high flying Hurricanes and taking the two points from them certainly should do much to boost the confidence of the folks in Blue and White.

The Maple Leafs benefited from strong play by Jason Allison (who scored the winning goal), Alexander Steen and Alexander Khavanov, they also found dependable goaltending from Mikael Tellgqvist, who once again stepped up and had a strong game for the Leafs.

Heading into play on Tuesday the leafs were guardians of the 10th place spot in the Eastern Division, as they Leafs watched the standings and out of town scoreboards wondering how the Habs, Bruins and Thrashers are doing on a game to game basis now.

The Leafs can do much to aid their situation on Thursday and Saturday when they play the Habs in a back to back series, two wins for the Buds or two wins for les Canadiens could pretty well spell the end of the playoff chase for the other team. This probably means we’ll see the two teams split the series, leaving us to watch the Thrashers make the move up the Eastern division.

Quinn put it best with his comments after the game about the place the Leafs find themselves in at the moment. "We just have to take care of own business and not worry about anything else," said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "Because we have to climb over two clubs to get where we want to get to."

Thursday night will continue the path to where they want to get to, as it launches the fourteen game countdown for Toronto, as they seek to keep themselves in the thick of the race in the East!

The Building Block

Things are down to the old cliché of one game at a time and on Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks claimed one of their first of the one game at a times.

Vancouver came out flying in the first period, playing the body with more authority than of late, their four lines were involved for that first twenty minutes and assisted by a serious case of the brain cramps by the Oilers, they quickly took the lead and never looked back on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

It wasn’t at all what many of the Canuck faithful was going to happen, the play of late had many wondering if the Canucks would be able to hold off an Oiler team that seems to have had their number this year, up until Tuesday night.

Alex Auld held his own in the Canuck net, making key saves and not giving up any troublesome rebounds in the Canuck end of the ice. Todd Bertuzzi was more involved in the flow on Tuesday, delivering some bone crusher hits and setting up shop in front of Dwayne Roloson, wreaking much havoc in the Oiler end of the rink.

The Sedins and Anson Carter continued their effective play as a unit, benefiting from numerous power play opportunities to control the puck and take some scoring chances. Daniel Sedin scored twice on the night, once on the power play and once into an empty net at the end of the game. Trevor Linden and Ryan Kesler also contributed to the Canuck score sheet on Tuesday.

It was by far a much better team effort than what Canuck fans have seen of late, with only the general ineffectiveness of the Canucks power plays to worry about on the night, from 5 on 3 to 5 on 4, the Canucks continued to have their problems in creating scoring chances and directing shots on target. The Oilers dug themselves some deep holes, but the Canucks couldn’t shovel the dirt into the hole to totally rout them on Tuesday.

But in the end, it’s all about the two points and on Tuesday the Canucks collected two very important points in the west. They can add to their total on Thursday night and again on Saturday, when they face the Oilers again, in rare back to back games at home against the same opponent. It’s in effect a three game mini series, and so far the Canucks have taken a 1-0 lead in the face off with the Oilers.

“It's a little odd that we're nine games over .500 and we're making a coaching change.”

Yup, Dave tis true. Your team has a winning record, they’re in the midst of a dogfight for a playoff spot and you decide now is the time to dump the coach. What happens next is anyone’s guess, as hockey in Hollywood has always been a little bit different, once again the Kings have stepped up and made one of those decisions that have people shaking their heads.

The LA Kings handed Andy Murray and John Van Boxmeer their walking papers on Tuesday, as General Manager Dave Taylor decided the time for a “new voice” was at hand.

Taylor hollered out to John Torchetti to take control of the bench for the remainder of the regular season and any playoff games to come, should the Kings manage to make their spot in the final berths in the Western Division.

Torchetti is quickly getting a reputation as the interim coach at large; he last was behind the bench in Florida when he filled the spot on an interim basis. This year he had been a scout at large, apparently having provided Taylor with enough information to warrant a shot behind the bench in LA.

The Kings have slid down the standings for the last couple of weeks, having the double agony of watching their cross town rivals the Mighty Ducks move past them and up the standings to hold down sixth place in the West. If the playoffs were to start today Southern Californians would be following the Ducks on the path to Stanley, while the Kings cleaned out their lockers and booked their tee times.

Taylor says he’s been thinking of making the change for the last 20-25 games, but it was only with the recent slide that he felt things had deteriorated to the point of no return. There’s the old saying that you can’t replace the players, so you have to replace the coach.

The next four weeks will be a wild ride in LA, a new coach walking into a dressing room that seems to have lost its way. Somehow you think that the Kings have just given themselves an excuse for failing to make the playoffs. A change made in February might have been a smart one, but in this instance one suspects it’s more of a panic move than any thought out plan for success.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Slip Slidin' away

“the more you near your destination, the more you’re slip slidin' away”

Paul Simon perhaps best described the state of the 2006 Vancouver Canucks with his pop hit of the seventies. At the start of the season, the western favourites were far and away the Canucks, a team that had been assembled for success and seemed on the cusp of fulfilling former GM Brian Burke’s goal of a Stanley Cup parade for Robson Street. The year long labour disruption and the still lingering ramifications of the Todd Bertuzzii/Steve Moore incident seem to have cast an evil eye over this core group of would have been Stanley Cup champs.

Burke, who by the start of the season had been exiled to Anaheim, is busy in the process of rebuilding the team that Donald and Mickey built and it’s not lost on many in hockey, that it may be his Mighty Ducks that deliver the mighty blow of sneaking by the Canucks for the final playoff spot in the West.

Vancouver has been a troubled team since probably just before Christmas, with injuries to their goaltender Dan Cloutier and veteran defenceman Ed Jovanovski, they have been unable to get untracked since the holidays. While Alex Auld has stepped up to fill the Cloutier void, the rest of the team seems to have left him to his own devices at times.

The latest embarrassment and perhaps the definitive blow to their playoff hopes was Sunday night, a match up available only on pay per view (Suckers!!!) which featured a tired Detroit Red Wings skate into GM Place and provide a clinic in successful hockey.

By the time all had cleared, the Wings were winners by a score of 7-3 and the Canucks were an even more dispirited group than usual. With only a win over Columbus to show for their last seven games they’ve watched the Calgary Flames tail lights grow dimmer while the high beams of Anaheim and San Jose start to flash around the rearview mirror.

Once again the Canucks found little to be happy about in their effort, the first line, the big money line (or tandem as it’s become) of Naslund and Bertuzzi continue to struggle on the ice, if not for the second line of the Sedins and Anson Carter the goal scoring output would be even more anemic than it has become.

This team has been called fragile far too many times for one that was supposed to be of championship timbre, fragile is for teams that are just getting their act together, long suffering squads of youngsters and old guys looking for one last hurrah. That was not what Vancouver was supposed to be. They’re tentative in their play, stupid in their penalty taking and at times seemingly devoid of effort any more. It's as though they want the season to end and take their parting gifts to wherever they disperse.

The next three games will surely tell the tale of this high budget but suddenly low expectation squad, by a quirk of the scheduling Gods the Canucks play three games in a row against the Edmonton Oilers. Their very own little elimination round, lose all three and they can surely let the blood letting to come begin early in Vancouver. Edmonton has the opportunity to squash the Canucks into the ice over the next three games. On the other side, the Canucks can shake the troubles off with a sweep of the Oil.

That may be asking for too much however, the Canucks don’t seem to listen to their coaches anymore; they surely don’t seem to care about their long suffering fans and by all accounts don’t seem to be listening to each other in the dressing room. Sunday night was an example of polar opposites in the world of the NHL, Detroit a long time champion and still the class of a league, a pure definition of a team if ever there was one. In some other part of GM Place were the Canucks, a team in name only which nowhere near understands the concept of the term.

There perhaps is no more dysfunctional squad in the league right now. So much potential at the start of the season is quickly free falling into disaster by the end of it.

Come to think of things, perhaps put away that old Paul Simon chestnut. A more appropriate tune could come from Tom Petty. They’re bad boys for breaking our heats, this skid continues and they'll be leaving the playoffs for a while. These Canucks’ are Free falling…. They’re just free falling.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The way the puck bounces

A win is a win, especially when they’ve become few and far between. The Vancouver Canucks benefited from a bouncing puck off a Columbus Blue Jacket defender, as they finally got back on the winning track and not a game too soon.

The game started off quite promising for the Canucks as they controlled the play for the bulk of the opening period and should probably have had more goals on the scoreboard if not for the outstanding goaltending from rookie net minder Pascal Leclaire, who faced 33 shots on the night. Each time Vancouver would get ahead the Blue Jackets managed to put it back together and pull up close and eventually tie the Canucks. Setting up an entertaining third period.

With play deep in the Columbus end of the rink, Brendan Morrison fired a shot that deflected off of Manny Maholtra and into the net, giving the Canucks a 3-2 victory and finally a chance to breathe again in the Western Conference playoff chase.

In the end, the Canuck’s could thank their own goaltender Alex Auld, who made a game saving save with twenty seconds to go to stave off the prospect of overtime and the horrors that could have provided for Vancouver.

In addition to Morrison’s winner, the Canucks found scoring from someone other than a Sedin on Friday night as they collected goals from Anson Carter (on a nice set up from a Sedin) and Mattias Ohlund who received a sharp pass from Todd Bertuzzi on the play. With the win, they finally brought to an end the troubling five game losing skid that had most of their fans in Vancouver is a severe funk Many in Vancouver sense that their team’s playoff possibilities are sliding away as the end of the season beckons, as they hold a tenuous grip on their eight and final spot.

Anaheim and San Jose have been closing up ground in the last couple of weeks and hold games in hand that could come into play by the end of the season. The Canucks now travel back across the continent for a game on Sunday night against the Detroit Red Wings; Detroit is playing the second half of the CBC double header on Saturday night in Edmonton.

For Vancouver Sunday night will prove to be another test for a struggling team, beat the Wings and maybe they’ll be able to claw their way back up the division standings and give themselves a bit of room to work with as the playoffs get closer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sens strike like Lightning!

It was a rapid change of attack and some quick goals that turned the game around for the Ottawa Senators, as the Sens capitalized on Tampa Bay Lightning turnovers to take a valuable two points away in the last second of play.

Ottawa came back to defeat the Lightning 4-3 on Tuesday night, frustrating Lightning head coach John Tortorella who had coached a pretty impressive road game for most of the night.

Tampa controlled a good portion of the play and held the Sens in check for most of the game, but a late goal in the second period set the stage for the Sens rally and a flurry of activity with fifteen seconds to go in the Tampa end of the rink sealed the night for the Sens.

With only seven seconds to go in the game, Captain Daniel Alfredsson was left alone in front of the Tampa net and had no problems directing a Jason Spezza pass in behind Tampa Goaltender John Grahame. It wasn’t a fair ending for the Lightning who seemed to find their style in the first two periods, but in the end it was probably much of the same story that Tortorella has been watching most of the season.

His team can’t seem to finish things off when they most need to kick it into a final gear.

For Ottawa the win was an important addition to the point’s totals, keeping them ahead of the surging Buffalo Sabres and close to the conference topping Carolina Hurricanes. Most importantly it was a solid come from behind effort for Bryan Murray’s team, who refused to be chased out of their own rink and found the missing connections later on in the game that changed the flow of the play. It also heralded the successful reunion of the Sens big line, a move which paid off quite nicely in this one.

At a time of the year when two points can make the difference between a good placing and a challenging one, the Sens kept the pace up with their nearest rivals, a situation that will no doubt have to continue right down to the final weekend of the regular season.

Canucks movin on up the dial!

It's not quite as earth shattering as it once may have been, but still when you leave a partner after 35 years people take notice.

It was announced today that the Vancouver Canucks will end their affiliation with CKNW and the Corus radio network at the end of this season. The long time home of the NHL in Vancouver was apparently outbid for the contract by all sports station The Team 1040, which will take over with the start of the 2006-07 season.

The Team part of the Chum radio empire is planning on expanding Canuck coverage during the day, providing a designated Canucks show to the programming line up and throwing it's promotional weight behind the Canuck's charitable causes.

In an era where most of the Canucks games are on television in some form or another, and now are featured on satellite radio, it may not be as big a loss as it once may have been. It ends up as more of a vanity loss than a structural one, NW has been moving towards an almost exclusive news and public affairs format over the last year or so, losing the Canucks may not be as traumatic as many may think.

Dan Russell who hosts the Sport talk program nightly from 9-midnight daily held an unofficial wake for his stations lost sons. No doubt casting a nervous look over his shoulder as his employer continues to shed its sports properties. It was a few years ago that the Lions moved away from 980 on the dial to head towards the growing sports presence at 1040.

Russell spent a good portion of his night backing up his current employer (probably not a bad employment strategy) and suggesting that life will go on. However, one wonders how long NW would want to keep a sports directed program in it's line up of mostly news and public affairs programming. Best case scenario for Russell may be a shift over the flailing Mojo franchise, worse case a sudden if temporary exit from the broadcast wars. Perhaps he too will migrate towards the Team and it's suddenly strong local sports presence.

For those that wish to listen in, the CKNW audio vault will have the announcement and the follow up program in its inventory for a couple of weeks.

Cat Food!

The slide continues for the Vancouver Canuck’s as the Nashville Predators handed them a 5-0 loss, sending the Canucks off to hang on tenuously to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western division.

Once again the Canucks failed to execute their plan of attack, as foolish penalties and poor play in their own end proved to be costly as the Predators loaded up and took their shots on Mika Noronen, who made his debut in a Canuck uniform.

Noronen was weak on a couple of the Predator shots but on the whole he could not be held responsible for the loss, as it was a team effort once again that finished off the Canucks for yet another night. Coach Marc Crawford seemed to hang the loss on Nornen’s head, but if he looks along that bench in front of him he could probably identify a few of the skaters who contributed to the shut out loss.

A telling point about this game and the losing skid is the fact that the Canucks were 0 for 8 on the power play and the losing skid has seen them score only once in twenty eight man advantage situations. That’s a lot of scoring chances that have gone by the wayside as the Canucks have tumbled from their perch in the top five of the conference.

At the end of the game, Crawford gave the usual statements about avoiding negative thoughts, learning from mistakes and yadda yadda yadda, only problem is it seems that the only people listening are the reporters, talk show hosts and fans at home, the guys in the dressing room don’t seem to be receiving the message from the Ministry of Truth behind the bench.

The next chance to get it back together comes up Friday night when the Canucks travel on to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets.

They have fifteen games to go, but have found themselves in the unenviable position of having competitors with games in hand now ahead of them or breathing down their necks. Losing many more of those fifteen could make a playoff spot a moot point by the time April’s playoff wars begin.

Bad Back Belfour listed as day to day!

Yesterday’s announcement that the Leaf goaltending tandem of Mikael Tellqvist and Ed Belfour would be sharing the duties for the rest of the year, caught a few Leaf fans by surprise. But as it turns out it was more of a necessity than a strategy by Pat Quinn.

The Leafs placed Belfour’s name on the day to day list on Tuesday, as the Maple Leaf Nations guardian of the nets continues to have problems with his back, a situation that has seen him in and out of the line up through the season.

With key games coming up (pretty well the entire schedule actually) it will be quite the test for Tellqvist who will face the double pleasure of not only having to keep his team in each game, but having each game possibly be the one that eliminates the Leafs from the playoff race.

The Belfour health problems put an exclamation point on his and the Leafs year, it seems that the aging and battered Leaf line up has suffered key injuries at the most inopportune time. They apparently have not been following the lead of the team in observing health living month!

For whatever reason the Leaf’s management chose to stay the course with their combination of ancient warriors and young untested kids, unfortunately for them the oldsters seem to be wearing out before the newbies have been broken in.

It’s all rather funny in a way, the way the Leafs continue to keep their goaltending situation under some kind of deep cover. Everything in Leaf land seems to be the thing of a John Le Carre or Tom Clancy thriller! Playing the game that they were planning on rotating the goaltenders down the stretch was a bit strange, as there’s no real advantage to be gained by misdirection at this point. Better to come clean, explain it all out for the fans and hope that the players respond to the desperate times.

The Leafs resume the quest to avoid elimination tonight, with a game against the equally troubled Boston Bruins. Tellqvist takes charge tonight, it will be interesting to see if his fellow Leafs pick up the challenge and rise to the occasion.

Muckler explained

The quiet GM of last weeks trading deadline has explained his methodology at deadline time to the Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson.

John Muckler said he feels he already has the players required to make the run for Lord Stanley's Mug, the battle tested young veterans still seething over those playoff losses in years gone by.

While picking up a veteran such as Mark Recchi seems like a lost chance to many Sens fans, Muckler says not necessarily so. He feels that he already has that leaderhsip in his dressing room with the current crew and believes they will rise to the challenge whent he playoffs get under way.

He also has kept an eye on the future, which is why he chose not to trade off Zdeno Chara or Wade Redden during last weeks swap and shops. He says it's up to those two players to decide if they wish to stay with the Sens, but for the most part he will do what he can to make sure they remain part of the plan for a few more years to come.

The only move he made last Thursday was to pick up Tyler Arnason, an underperforming centre from the Black Hawks who is still young and learning his ropes. Perhaps re-locating to a classroom such as what the Sens have to offer will only prove beneficial for the youngster, who now finds himself about as far removed from the situation in Chicago as a player can get.

Once again this is the year that many expect the Sens to make the long awaited run for the Stanley Cup. The usual impediment of the Maple Leafs seem to be stumbling out of the playoff race, so that's one problem that won't pop up this year.

If Muckler is right and this is the group that has the skill, desire and work ethic to succeed, then that Stanley Cup parade day is going to be day to remember in the capital. His quote to put on the bulletin board was a simple one "Just get the job done". Five key words and a sentiment that all Sens fans hope is fulfilled by the time June rolls around!

An unexpected headline!

Jokinin credits Keenan for his confidence in the Panthers!

You kind of have to do a double take whenever you see the term credit and Keenan in the same sentence. For years, we’ve heard nothing but stories of Iron Mike’s reign of terror wherever he was and how players couldn’t wait to be out of his galaxy.

Keenan has been a fixture in the NHL since he first arrived on the scene in Philadelphia back in 1984, best known for being at the helm when the New York Rangers finally ended their Stanley Cup drought, stories of the mercurial nature of Keenan have been filing newspapers and broadcast reports for years.

The Keenan years in Vancouver are the thing of legend, the media and hockey fans of the West coast comparing it to the days of Genghis Khan’s rule of the Far East. By bringing in Mark Messier and banishing the ever popular Trevor Linden to the Islanders at the time, Keenan guaranteed that his stay in Vancouver would be a controversial affair.

As before his time in Chicago left bodies and blood on the floor, he would eventually find himself searching for a new challenge and new group of players to strike the fear of Mike into. The St. Louis days were a controversial stop on the path as well, with player revolts a common thing there. With his arrival in Florida and the subsequent dive in the standings, many thought that it was the same old Mike and the same old results.

A few heads were raised when Keenan brought in former Senators head coach Jacques Martin to take over the coaching duties. Martin’s Ottawa teams never could get over that bump in the playoff road (normally called Toronto) but few doubted his ability to put together a winning program in the regular season. Beyond that, he’s almost the anti-thesis of Keenan, calm, quiet and rarely if ever sarcastic.

The combination of the two must be like a passive-aggressive festival in the Sunshine state. Either that or the combination of old age and constant sunshine appeals to the mellower side of the Keenan personality.

These are interesting noises are coming out of Miami these days; Jokinen signs a huge contract and credits Keenan with his success. Sounding like the re-incarnation of Mark Messier (a long time Keenan favourite) Jokinen is busy suggesting that fellow Panther Roberto Luongo should sign on the dotted line and get ready for the ride to the Promised Land.

It’s expected that Keenan will be dipping into the free agent market quite heavily in the off season, those years of ineptitude and cost cutting leaving him with a bit of cap room for the year ahead.

He’s got Jokinen singing from the same song sheet and hopes to add Luongo to the choir as well. Considering the reputation of the man, the song sheet that once probably was akin to a thrash metal band, now features the sweet sing-a-longs of a Sunday morning choir service. Everything is Good, Everything is uplifting!

Tis a strange thing that can happen in the Florida sun, a strange thing!

Coach Killing Canucks?

During last week’s seven hour tribute to bafflegab, TSN brought a panel hosted by Dave Hodge to the broadcast, Hodge and his fellow Sunday regulars on the “The Reporters” held court during the infrequent trade announcements and wild speculation leading to that final hour energetic sweater changing.

During one of the early sessions, Steve Simmons a regular with the Canoe chain offered up the opinion that the Vancouver Canucks were a team divided up into cliques, one a group of two consisting of Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, the other all the other Canucks. The only thing all had in common, a no longer disguised hatred of their head coach Marc Crawford.

At the time no one gave it much thought, most likely they considered it just one of those throwaway quips one uses when there is really not much to talk about.

But, considering the won loss record of the last four games (0-4) by a team supposedly fighting for its playoff life, there may be some merit in Simmons comments.

There is something terribly wrong in the land of the Canucks, each night after each game Marc Crawford offer up the same observations that his team needs to play more intense, take less penalties and learn from their mistakes. Then the next game comes along, and all the same old problems cough themselves up again.

Monday night in Dallas was a prime example of that. The Canucks battled back to tie up the Mike Modano led Stars, only to retreat into the pattern of badly timed penalties and expensive give aways. Making those mistakes to a talented and hard working team such as the Stars is only asking for trouble and by the end of play the Canucks were on the wrong end of the 4-2 score.

More importantly they have allowed the Ducks, Oilers and Sharks plus any other Western team coming up the thought to now consider seventh place as a possibility. Granted the West is a rather tight conference at the moment and with a few wins a row you go from almost out of the playoffs to leading a division, but at the moment the Canucks are showing no such danger of putting a few wins in a row together. In fact if this pace continues they could very well find themselves out of the playoffs, an unthought of situation at the start of the season.

There’s no real way to know for sure (unless he wants to play us some tapes) if Simmons is correct in his analysis of the state of the Canuck’s lineup and its relationship with their coach. But in the absence of any results on the ice, one has to wonder if Crawford has indeed lost the confidence of his players.

They’re certainly not showing that their paying much attention to him at the moment that’s for sure; listen in to the press conference after tonight’s game in Nashville. Should the Canucks go to 0-5, you’ll be hearing the same old mistakes outlined since it seems like December.

If you listen carefully you will also hear the sound of the Crow’s gotta go chorus warming up back in Vancouver, the media beast is already suggesting he’s a Dead Man Walking. If his team keeps playing the way they have of late, they’ll be the ones pulling the switch.

Really a simple BOO will Do!

Vancouver Police are investigating some rather unwanted fan mail directed to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Police officials are trying to determine what it is that caused the Hazardous Materials Unit to be called to GM Place, after an employee opened up an envelope with a letter that directed comments towards Canuck star Todd Bertuzzi.

Seven employees were quarantined for four hours, while the Haz Mat people did their thing, in an event classified as a level three hazardous material alert.

In the end, they were told that the substance could have been flour, perhaps rat poison at worst but still it made for a pretty unerving day at work for the folks on the front line in Canuckland.

They may wish to keep the mail at arms length for a few more days, the Canucks dropped their fourth game in a row on Monday night, dropping a 4-2 affair to the Dallas Stars.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bad hockey or bad parenting?

When it comes to what's is wrong with the Vancouver Canucks, it seems that everyone seems to have an opinion, some helpful, some destructive. The Canucks, a team many felt would be a main challenger for the Stanley Cup this year, have struggled far too much this year, losing games that they've had control of and finding their top line almost an anemic mess of late.

They sometimes baffle even their most loyal of fans with their scattered play and the sense that something just isn't clicking in Canuckland. But what it is, remains a mystery. At least until the Tyee went to work and decided it had the answer to all of our Canuck angst.

Bruce Grierson has put out an interesting article for the Tyee that suggests the Canucks are very similar to an adolescent, one which has not been benefiting very much from effective parenting.

With a family structure a tad dysfunctional, likening Marc Crawford to hot headed Hockey mom, while GM Dave Nonis is the suddenly distant step dad. It's a different take on the ever popular topic of what ails the boys in Orca blues.

The losses, the occasional temper problems it all comes down to home life and if Grierson's article hits a nail or two on the head, then the home sweet home of GM Place is not nurturing place.

Grierson offers up some helpful quotations from child rearing experts to assist the Canucks in their battle out of the growing years.

If the season is lost (and the Canucks now suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for playoff spots) then perhaps the best acquisition Vancouver could have made would have been a child psychiatrist, one able to motivate this gangly group into a more mature and successful unit.

The in vogue saying of a few years ago was that "it takes a village to raise a child" in Vancouver there's no shortage of "parents" willing to offer up advice. Perhaps they should be sent to their rooms, have their tv time cut back or their allowance reduced.

Whatever it takes to get things back on track, time is running short for step dad Dave to take control of his family unit!

Boom Boom and the number five now high in the rafters and beyond

Hockey fans across North America were saddened to hear of the passing of Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion. The former Canadien icon and trailblazer and ambassador of hockey to the deep south.

Geoffrion passed away on Saturday morning, hours prior to events in Montreal that were to salute his career and retire his sweater. It was a long overdue honour that sadly could only take place in memoriam for the always entertaining number five of les habitants.

Geoffrion's family was gathered at centre ice on Saturday night to receive the salute from the crowd and share their thoughts of the man that gave his all for his beloved Canadiens.

It's unfortunate that the Canadiens waited a bit too long and that Geoffrion could not have received one final salute from the city that he played so hard for in his storied NHL career.

Rink of Dreams

It's just one of those competitions that your average Podunkian can't take part in, the freezing season being what it is around these parts. But four hours inland and it's a whole different world and a championship one at that!

The John Taylor family of Smithers, are the big winners of the Home Depot backyard rink contest. The Taylor’s constructed a monument to back yard hockey with their rink and shack project, no doubt the envy of the neighbourhood.

For their troubles they have won tickets to the Stanley Cup finals, which still give them a bit of time to enjoy the rink. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Taylor rink will probably have turned into a baseball or football park. But for now it's the rink to beat above the 49th.

All the glory and prizes are not bad, considering there’s nary a Home Depot for four hours away from the town.

If you’re passing through Smithers over the next couple of weeks, bring your skates you never know maybe you can share in the Taylor’s rink of dreams.

The above posting first appeared on my general interest blog A Town Called Podunk, for more thoughts on a variety of topics be sure to check it out!

Three days on and not much change

The much discussed trading surge of Thursday has done little for the hopes of a couple of teams that many thought had done well at the deadline.

By the time the dust settled on trading day, the consensus was that three GM’s made the best moves of the trading day phone calls.

Edmonton for securing a goaltender and a possible scoring machine were tapped as winners on trade day as Kevin Lowe solved two problem areas of the Oilers in a two day trading fest.

Rookie GM Dave Nonis of Vancouver likewise shored up his rather young and nervous defence with some proven veterans and finally found someone to spell Alex Auld off from time to time. With his moves on trading day, quite a few said he’d done the best in a bad situation for a Caunck’s team that has been hit hard by injuries in the last two months.

Carolina also were hailed for their genius in bringing in proven winner Mark Recchi in from Pittsburgh to provide some scoring, maturity and most of all leadership as the Hurricanes make the run for first overall and a playoff run.

But if the weekend’s action is any indication, Edmonton and Vancouver are going to have more of the same as the season’s end comes a calling.

Vancouver dropped their third game since the return of hockey after the Olympics, the latest a vital game against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, as Mike Modano fired up his skates and scored twice to top the Canucks 2-1. Despite the presence of Keith Carney and Eric Weinrich on the blue line, it was the same old fate for Vancouver as their top line failed to return to form and the Canuck’s turned over a lead into a defeat.

Much of the same in Edmonton as well, were Dwayne Roloson the new puck stopper in town had a rough introduction to the Oilers game, as his old team mates from Minnesota showed no mercy on their old friend, peppering him with shots and taking the win with a 4-3 victory. The Oilers, who are holding down the last playoff spot in the west, now have to keep a cautious eye on the charging Anaheim Ducks winners on Sunday and now only 2 points behind the Oil for the last playoff spot.

Carolina as well has struggled since the day of the trade, dropping two games to the lowly Florida Panthers on Friday and Saturday. Though there probably is not the same kind of panic setting in over the Carolinas as the first place Hurricanes have built themselves a pretty nice cushion between penthouse and outhouse in the East.

They Hurricanes are in no real danger of missing the playoffs and once Recchi gets his game back on track with the Canes, the wisdom of the deal will show great benefits during the stretch and playoff rounds.

But for Vancouver and Edmonton things are much more worrisome, the Canucks have been on a skid for too long now, a combination of bad breaks and lackadaisical play. Too many nights see too many passengers on the good ship Canuck, with not everyone pulling on their oars at the same time.

For Edmonton the problem was goal before, Lowe and the Oiler fans can only hope that the problem won’t carry through into the stretch drive. They like the Canucks have a fairly solid lineup at the front and on defence, they have played much below expectations for most of the season, With Roloson in the nets, they’re hoping that the questions in the back end will take care of themselves. If not, the Ducks will be coming up on the inside track and could shoot by the Oil in short order.

For those HockeyNation followers hoping for a heavy Canadian based team process in the playoffs, the results thus far, post trade deadline are not positive developments for Canadian content come April.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Observations of the Trading floor (Segment 4 the race for the wire, 11am-1 pm)

We headed into the final hour of the trade deadline by dropping in on a press conference in Vancouver. Coach Marc Crawford is saying nothing really substantial about the day’s events, he doesn’t the mention Bertuzzi rumours and welcomes the newest Canucks to the lineup. Unfortunately no one asks him to comment on Steve Simmons’ comments regarding the love fest that doesn’t exist in the Vancouver dressing room.

The tenth deal of the day takes place around11:15 when Jamie Rivers suddenly realizes that he can get an early start on his golf game and no longer needs to worry about Stanley Cup ring sizing, Rivers is traded from Detroit to Phoenix. Rivers is the seventh defenceman of the day traded.

Dave Hodge is back with his gang, they spend this segment discussing the move of Recchi to Carolina if it happens (Geez, somebody make a decision on this thing please). They go on the assumption that it’s a go and marvel at the trading smarts of the folks in that hockey hotbed of Carolina.

My Blogger system is suffering some kind of spastic attack all of a sudden, taking forever to post these little updates, probably overwhelmed by the volume of trades!

TSN’s capologist returns for another lesson in financial trends for us neophyte GM’s. He explains that remarkably only 4% of the cap space has been used so far in the deals done today. I have no idea what that actually means, but since math was never really my subject it sure sounds real impressive!

TSN points out that Calgary is the only Canadian team not yet to make a deal.

Another defenceman is on the move, as Brian Burke sends Sandis Ozolnish (just back from rehab) to team UN in New York. Brian Burke picks up another draft pick to add to his pile of futures.

TSN keeps trying to stoke that Bertuzzi trade fire, despite stories through the day that Bertuzzi is not supposed to be on the market.

Five minutes til the deadline and another defenceman is heading out, Brendan Witt is Nashville bound, finally rescued from Witts’ personal hell in Washington. Chris Veitch moves to Washington as part of the deal plus a first round pick.

At the buzzer, thirteen deals were finished off, the slowest day of trading in the last five years. For the most part today was a day to add foot soldiers in the quest for playoff positions, beyond the Theodore and Recchi trades, there’s no real surprise moves here. Earlier in the day, Dave Hodge and his crew suggested that here was no real deal made that may have tilted the scales of balance heading into the playoff stretch. Though the move of Recchi to Carolina adds more depth to a team that is flying pretty high at the moment, certainly they didn’t hurt themselves by bringing his leadership to the team.

TSN teases the viewers with suggestions that a few deals are still in the works and then as if on cue deliver some news after the buzzer.

Edmonton picks up Sergei Samsanov from the Boston Bruins

While Ottawa finally picks up some secondary scoring by grabbing Tyler Arnason off the Black Hawks roster, sending Brandon Bochenski and a second round draft pick off to the windy city.

San Jose joins in the parade of the journeymen sending Dimotrakis to Philadelphia, while Chicago cleaned out the closet some more moving Jim Dowd over to Colorado.

Willie Mitchell leaves the Wild and heads for Big D as he joins the Stars; Dallas sends Shawn Belle and Martin Skoula north.

As the flurry of wire beating trades subsided we were taken to a press conference in Montreal where Jose Theodore spoke to the press. Theodore was rather poised in the face of the all out assault by the always excited Montreal press. He said all the right things about his days in Montreal and with the Habs and hoped to be healthy soon to help out the Avalanche as they head towards the playoffs.

More last minute deals filter out, the Canucks pick up Eric Weinrich to help out their defence, The Coyotes grab Oleg Kvasha from the Islanders and the Flames bring Jamie Lundmark to Alberta.

As the clock heads for one o’clock TSN reports that the NHL confirmation clock is backed up by an hour. Resulting in a situation that means some of the late deals may not have been consummated in time, and could be bounced back, which would leave a few players on edge for a while yet!

Appropriately the network known as the Toronto Sports Network, closes out the hour with coverage of John Ferguson Juniors Press conference from Toronto, where he tries to explain what it is he tried to accomplish as the deadline hour passed. Ferguson chose to go with the crew he had already and will hope they can prove him sage in their battle for the last playoff spot.

We’ll look at the big winners on trading day in a post later, your faithful scribe now heads for the fridge and a bit of food and then some fresh air!

Observations of the Trading Floor (Segment three 9-11 am)

As the clock passes over the nine am mark (noon hour in the east) Sean O’Donnell is about to make plans to head to Anaheim, waving his no trade clause to join the Ducks.

Gord Miller at TSN is a guy half full kind of person; he says that finally things are starting to pick up on the trading front, bet he never thought he’d be THIS busy!!

Denis Gauthier is leaving Gretzkyville to head for Philadelphia meaning he is even odds to be on a Stanley Cup contender now! Around the same time the Senators throw Mike Morrison a life ring picking him up to help their youngster Emery through the stretch drive and act as an insurance policy in case the Dominator is done.

At ten to ten the Canucks have made their second move of the day, picking up Mikka Noronen from Buffalo to help out the Alex Auld in Vancouver. Noronen says later that he hopes to compete for the number one job there, which won’t make him popular with that fellow Cloutier! In an interesting bit or irony, Noronen like Cloutier hasn’t played a game in the NHL in over three months!

Washington gives Jeff Friesen reason for hope, sending him back to Anaheim where he once played before. Friesen ends up on TSN telling one and all that he found out about the trade by watching TSN, time for a new agent there Jeff.

Its 10:00 and two hours til the deadline and Sportsnet scoops the commercial loaded TSN with news that Olli Jokinen has signed a 5 year deal with the Florida Panthers, now both networks turn their attention to what’s up with Roberto Luongo.

A bit of surfing at 10:15 finds that the CBC trading website is woefully behind the curve, TSN’s seems to be the one to watch, with Sportsnet updating quickly as well, but it must be coffee break at the CBC as they are still breaking news of the Todd Simpson trade of a few hours ago. If any one at the CBC is reading, HockeyNation offers them our services if they wish. We’d be more than happy to take over the Mother Corp’s hockey web and we’d like only a share of Ron McLean’s and Don Cherry’s pay envelope for our troubles.

At 10:20 James Duthie states the obvious when he says that so far this trading day has been a bit of a dud. They take a chance and head for commercial, hoping against hope that they aren’t scooped again by the folks at Sportsnet.

Sportsnet is busy keeping an eye on the Canuck’s practice and there’s number 44 skating around, so much for the much vaunted move of Bertuzzi out of Vancouver. They head for commercial, a fine little bit of theatre revolving around those twin themes of winter and beer, gotta like that Canadian ingenuity asking the truck driver to lessen his load to get off the ice.

Back to TSN, the Habs are happy with picking up Simpson. Capologist returns to the screen to explain how the Panthers are balancing their cap space (considering the fire sale of a few years ago, they probably have millions of space left yet)

Hodge is back with his crew they discuss which teams are making deals and why. They once again pick on the Canucks calling their moves today the thing of chicken trading. Don’t expect any invitations to the Canuck Golf tournament there guys. The panel once again wonders when Ottawa is going to pick up a centre and the Flames some more offence. In case anyone missed their theme of the segment, they once again bash Dave Nonis and his hesitancy to make the BIG deal. They wrap up their time by suggesting that nobody has won the cup based on the trades made thus far.

10:30, Recchi to Carolina, maybe yes, Maybe no! That’s the big rumour of the hour, that Mark Recchi has waived his no trade clause and is destined for Carolina. TSN jumps the gun and announces it as a trade, then backtracks a bit. They all begin to bicker over whether he’s moving or not. Your faithful scribe takes the opportunity to take a shower, after five and a half hours, it’s a bit ripe in the trading bunker!

Sportsnet says the Recchi deal is a go, TSN still a bit tentative. This leads to a discussion on how hard trades are on the families of NHLers. They pull out stats that show Mike Sillinger is the most traded player in the NHL, wonder if he’s hoping for one more trade just to pad his stats a little bit.

Canucks shore up the defence a bit as Brian Burke sends his old friend Dave Nonis Keith Carney to help out on the back end. Burke must still own property in Vancouver, one would have thought the last team he’d lend a hand to would be the McCaw owned Canucks!

As the hour closes out, we still wait to see if Recchi is officially a Hurricane or not. Seems that the teams are still negotiating, one assumes Recchi has the final say on things now.

We head into the final hour of the deadline. They keep promising us all sorts of deals are in the incubation stage, so we‘ll sit back and see what develops.

Observations of the Trading Floor (Segment Two 7-9 am)

Two hours since our last update and here’s what’s been happening, I had some coffee, a cup of yogurt, made the school run observing that folks around here don’t drive well in the snow and ice, thinking of having a shower... oh yeah, the hockey.

Well, judging by the action at the Trading central desk, my day has been a hell of a lot more exciting than the 30 GMs have had thus far.

At 7:15 Todd Simpson joined his third Canadian team in his career getting shipped from Chicago to Montreal.

TSN calls upon Dave Hodge and his Reporters crew to add some zip to the show, they focus in on the big question everyone seems to have, what is going to happen with Todd Bertuzzi. Dave Hodge, Steve Simmons, Michael Farber and Damien Cox set the scene for what they see for the day. Simmons pretty well guarantees that Canuck coach Marc Crawford will never talk with him again; suggesting that the Canucks while divided up into groups of Nalsund/Bertuzzi and the all the rest, united only in a common serious hatred of their coach.

Things move along and by 7:50 Brad Lukowich has found a new hockey home, he changes from Islander unis to Devil ones, it’s a longer commute but a shot at the Stanley Cup.

For what it’s worth, TSN had the deal about two minutes before Sportsnet announced it, but then Jim Kelly was in full flight and he’s far too entertaining to interrupt for a minor trade.

Kelly was busy explaining that some teams may make deals today just to keep the folks in their market interested for the rest of the season. That makes for an interesting concept for the new NHL, keeping the suckers on the line as long as possible each year. (everything old is new again!)

Over at TSN its economics’ 101. Carry the five, add seven, and divide by 2. Frank Provenzano, described as TSN’S capologist, explains how GM’s now require Grade five math to conduct business and keep their jobs. Somebody check on Mike Milbury’s grade point average please.

Dave Hodge and his gang are back for some more character assassination, duck and cover Marc Crawford! Actually they discuss how moving the trading deadline forward a couple of weeks may account for the scarcity of trades thus far. Cox, Simmons and Farber bicker back and forth for five minutes, without actually explaining how it makes a difference one way of the other.

Breaking news from Toronto, Ed Belfour has attended practice! We can’t wait for the news that Eddie has taken a shower followed up by Eddie has had lunch.

At Sportsnet they're discussing great GM’s of the past and the deals they’ve arranged. Pollock, Torrey, Sather, Bowman and Imlach all are praised as astute judges of talent and master traders. They then turn to former Toronto GM Gord Stellick for analysis, which is about as close to the greats as he’ll ever get. Talk about 700 degrees of separation.

Scott Morrison and Jim Kelly join Stellick in examining the traits of the greats. Surprisingly nobody mentions Mike Milbury during the five minute segment.

Sportsnet joins in on the leaf watch with the bulletin that Darcy Tucker has not made it to practice. Stop the presses!

Back at TSN’s its another economics lecture, as they examine the realities of the new NHL economy, the Canadian dollar and how it all may help out the Edmonton Oilers by the deadline in three and a half hours.

Somewhere between my travels to school and back the Vancouver Canucks make news, no they haven’t moved Todd Bertuzzi, nor ordered a hit on TSN’s Steve Simmons’s but they have picked up Sean Brown from the New Jersey Devils.

The theme of the day so far is journeymen defencemen and the places they will travel to next!

Observations of the trading floor (5 -7 AM)

Hmmm, 5 am wake up call, as I try to find the alarm button so as not to wake up the rest of the house I’m wondering what spectacular blockbuster will greet me as I head down to the trade bunker. I'm also wondering what the hell I was thinking when I figured I should be getting up so early.

Safely navigate the stairs, fire up the television and sit back in a still somewhat sleep deprived haze. What does Gary Bettman have against the West coast anyways, who the hell expects anyone to make trades at 5:15 in the morning, judging by the lack of action nobody. Sit back and wait for the TSN Deadline desk to flood my tv with trade nuggets.

This is not a good sign, highlights of the games last night, the folks at TSN replay that stupid bird footage from the Washington/Pittsburgh game for the millionth time, I find myself thinking sleeping in might have been a smarter choice.

Ten minutes to six, decide it’s time to put some coffee on, sure hope I don’t miss anything while I’m grinding the beans and pouring the water,

Ok, so we’re at 6 am now and other than Pierre McGuire working his blackberry and Bob McKenzie flipping down the screen to his laptop every time the camera shows him (what’s he doing playing solitaire or something) there’s not much action here. The boys recap yesterdays big trade between Montreal and Colorado where they reprise the days of Patrick Roy heading west, uh, not to bash Jose Theodore’s ego or anything, but this isn’t quite in the same league here, somehow I just don’t see Jose leading them to the promised land right away.

Oooh, Ken Klee got traded yesterday lets discuss..…….. ok, discussion finished.

Try the Sportsnet trade centre for a few minutes, maybe they have the pipeline today, the leads, the trades the analysis, nope, more highlights hey look, it’s that bird again. Geez maybe somebody should make a trade for that pigeon he/she sure logs a lot of ice time

Back at TSN the panel continues to try and make silk purses out of what is so far a collection of sow’s ear, so far the sow’s ear has the lead.

Wait, wait the crawler at the bottom lists a trade… Dateline Edmonton, ok here we go, some action! Hmmm, Edmonton Eskimos have traded away Kwame Cavil, reuniting him with his old buddy Jason Maas in Hamilton, well that should help the Ti-Cats in the scoring department, the Eskies load up on draft picks, maybe Pierre and Bob can explain how this strengthens both teams.

Ten to seven, things are desperate at the sportsdesk, time to bring out something to keep the crowds attention, highlights of Canada’s victory over the USA in the World Baseball classic, on any other day this probably would have been the lead story on every sportscast. If things keep going the way they are, it actually may be the lead story on every sportscast.

Ok, two hours have gone by with nary a trade to dissect, they’re telling us that history suggests that this will be a very busy day. Judging by the looks on the faces of McGuire and McKenzie it better kick into gear soon, one can only assume that the computer is kicking McKenzie’s butt at solitaire and McGuire is saving on his blackberry roaming charges.

Seven o’clock five hours til the deadline, we’ll file another update in a few hours. Maybe Bob’s solitaire tournament will turn in his favour by then!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Deals register

Below we'll try to update as many of the key deals made as the trade deadline arrives.

March 9 Calgary brings in Lundmark from Phoenix
March 9 Kvasha leaves the Island for the desert
March 9 Canucks add Weinrich to the back end
March 9 Willie Mitchell to Dallas for Belle and Skoula
March 9 Chicago sends Jim Dowd to Colorado
March 9 Dimotrakis joins the Flyers
March 9 Sens pick up Arnason for Bochenski
March 9 Sergei Samsonov heads to Edmonton for Marty Reasoner
March 9 Cory Cross joins the Red Wings
March 9 Brendan Witt to Nashville
March 9 Sandis Ozolnish joins Team UN
March 9 Red Wings send Rivers to Phoenix
March 9 Burke and Nonis strike a deal
March 9 Recchi becomes a Cane
March 9 Jokinen stays with the Panthers
March 9 Canuck's pick up Noronen in the net
March 9 Jeff Friesen Duckland bound
March 9 Sens pick up Morrison from Edmonton off waivers
March 9 Denis Gauthier leaves the Desert for Philly
March 9 Sean O'Donnell heads for Anaheim
March 9 Canucks pick up Sean Brown from the Devils
March 9 Lukowich to the Devils from the Islanders
March 9 Simpson to Montreal for a pick
March 8 Kings and Islanders in four player swap
March 8 Leafs send Klee to Jersey for Suglobov
March 8 Rangers send Nieminen to San Jose for draft picks
March 8 Habs send Theodore to Colorado for Aebischer
March 8 Richardson returns to the Maple Leafs
March 8 Edmonton acquires Dwanye Roloson for a draft pick
March 8 Bruins pick up Czerkawski off waivers from Toronto

Oilers strike on deadline eve

The Edmonton Oilers made the first move as their fellow NHL brethren prepare to wheel and deal on Thursday's deadline day.

The Oil picked up the veteran goaltender that everyone says they need, as they put together a deal with the Minnesota Wild, bringing Dwayne Roloson into the Oiler fold, at 36 its hoped that Roloson will bring some stability to the back end that has caused GM Kevin Lowe some wild nights up in the Oiler box. It's an interesting trade, in that it goes against the traditional wisdom of trading with a team within your conference. The Wild trail the Oilers for a playoff spot by seven points, so it's unusual to see a helping hand provided by a team in a dog fight for a playoff spot.

The Oilers gave up a draft pick for Roloson and will have to surrender future considerations should Roloson sign on for the long haul in Edmonton. The former Wild goaltender found himself shunted to the back up spot in Minnesota, when Manny Fernandez was given the new deal for the big money.

Leaving Edmonton's crowded if unsuccessful goaltending scene is Mike Morrison who was put on waivers earlier in the day prior to the Roloson signing. It's expected that Roloson will be carrying the load for the remainder of the season for the Oilers.

By only giving up a draft pick, the Oilers allow themselves to remain in the hunt for any other missing ingredients that Lowe feels he can find on deadline day.

Trade Deadline resources

With one day to go until the trade deadline, there is no shortage of spots to pick up some information on who's a buyer, a seller or up on the block. We'll list the sites we've found with the latest rumours or facts as the deadline approaches.

Canoe's Hockey Trade Deadline page
Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch's chat room
Sportsnet's HockeyCentral at the Deadline
TSN'S Trade Centre
CBC's Trade Season
Toronto Star Trade Deadline Home
SI's Truth and Rumours

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Quinn Watch continues

He may have dodged a bullet with Tuesday night's win over the Canadiens, but to many in Toronto it still is time to hand the Leafs over to a new charge hand.

Mike Ulmer in the Sun on Tuesday, suggested that it's time to implode this Maple Leaf experiment, sending the bulk of the line up off in different directions by the trade deadline on Thursday.

After that, Ulmer says that the team of youngsters and up and comers should be schooled under the tutorship of Paul Maurice. A young coach to teach a young team.

While his team is still in a playoff hunt (all be it on a tenuous plank that seems to be teetering) it seems that most in Toronto have decided that regardless of the effort, the Leafs will be gone from the hunt by the first round should they actually make the playoffs. Better they say, to pick up some players and picks and plan for better days.

Days without the long time Leaf legend in charge. Quinn's been down this road before, though not with his team flaming out in such spectacular style. And that's something that the Leafs may wish to consider before handing him his pink slip, while there have probably been a few bad decisions made on the bench over the last three months, the bulk of the problems have developed between the boards on the ice.

Accountability needs to be shared in Toronto, from the front office to the fourth line on the ice, not just at the feet of the head coach!

Is Bertuzzi on the block?

Rumours, they are the currency of the NHL when the trade deadline rolls around and in Canuckland they are the lifeblood of the team’s fan base.

The BIG one making the rounds as the days dwindle to the deadline has it that a number of teams are making serious inquiries about acquiring the talents of Todd Bertuzzi. The Canuck’s winger, who has been an enigma this year, normally has been thought of as an untouchable in past years. But with the Canuck’s struggling in the last few months, the idea of a major shake up has its appeal to the Canuck faithful.

The Canuck’s GM Dave Nonis and head coach marc Crawford have done their best to try and deflect the idea of a Bertuzzi trade, but the questions keep getting asked and the possible trading partners make for some interesting options.

The latest members of the Big Bert Sweeps are the Ottawa Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers, two teams that could use a power forward, if Bertuzzi could return to the style of play after a trade. If the Canucks want a defenceman then the Sens are probably their best bet as that’s the one commodity that the Senators are player rich in, Chris Phillips would be the most likely carrot offered up, the idea of trading off Wade Redden or Zdeno Chara would find John Muckler facing a hostile Senators fan base and equally nasty media. But Phillips might be able to be pried away from the Sens with fewer outcries.

As for the Flyers, Bobby Clarke says No to any idea of picking up the moody Canuck winger, which probably means he’s burning up the lines trying to arrange a trade. Though he does make a valid point that Bertuzzi’s huge salary will cause whatever team wants him to suffer some serious salary cap problems.

Toronto found themselves on the rumour list but, with their playoff hopes fading with each game, it’s felt that they may become sellers rather than buyers by Thursday morning.

No doubt, there are a few other teams interested in Bertuzzi, and in the end it will all depend on how much they are willing to give up to get him and lose out on cap space, all major considerations in the new era of the NHL.

For Nonis and Crawford the sideshow of the Bertuzzi rumours will probably be even more of a distraction than already exists for the team that is underperforming in the West. Most folks hope that when the deadline passes Bertuzzi is still in Canuck blue and white. If he is, it will be hoped that he returns to his dominating style of play, leading his team to a Stanley Cup run and returning him to that status that once made him considered untouchable in Vancouver.

Players of the Week March

Below are the players of the week for March. Selected for their achievements in NHL action. Click on the names for biographies and statistic material on each recipient.

March 13, Goaltender, Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders
March 13, Forward, Olli Jokinen, Florida
March 6, Forward, Eric Staal, Carolina
March 6. Goaltender, Christobal Huet, Montreal

Monday, March 06, 2006

Temperamental Theo in Trouble again

He may be off in far off lands, but trouble continues to follow Theo Fleury like a little puppy dog chasing a kid off to school.

The Russell, Manitoba adventurer has been playing his hockey in the British Elite League this year, donning the uniform of battle of the Belfast Giants. But after a serious incident in Bassingstoke, England his days as a Giant may be coming to an end.

Fleury finds himself in trouble over an incident in which he reportedly fired a puck at the head of referee Mike Hicks, narrowly missing him. When assessed a penalty for his flagrant disregard for the safety of the officials, Fleury then apparently threatened the on ice officials, earning himself a second match penalty on the night.

It's the second serious infraction for Fleury in less than a month, in January he was in hot water for getting into a fight with fans in Coventry. Fleury's temper has always been one of his worst enemies, causing him nearly as much trouble as his much documented personal demons.

He went to Belfast in quest of a new start, but in the end he'll most likely find himself in a familiar position, suspended from another league and looking for a new place to ply his trade.

Does Quinn's ice crack on Tuesday?

The talk of the sports shows in Toronto on Monday, was a story making the rounds that a Toronto loss against Montreal on Tuesday would spell the end of the Pat Quinn era in Blue and White.

The long time Maple leaf fixture from player to manager has watched current crop of players perform far below expectations this year. It has made for a situation that has seen the Leafs desperately struggling to reach the eighth and final playoff spot. That is a job that has become harder with each point gained by rival Montreal, as the Habs riding the hot goaltending of new sensation Christobal Huet continue to put wins together and space between them and the Leafs.

Quinn continued to try and get his message across to his players on Monday in preparation for the Habs game, painting it as almost a Stanley Cup type of event.

Toronto has been hit by a combination of unexpected and unwelcome injuries and a very clear indication that many on their current roster have had their best days in the past. Mental errors have also contributed to the demise of the Leafs, untimely passes; pointless penalties and sloppy play in their own end have defined the Leafs for most of 2006. Since the Olympic break the Leafs have continued to falter, throwing away a strong two period effort on Saturday night against Ottawa with a collapse in the third period. The loss to Ottawa was the push point for the Quinn may soon be gone rumor making the rounds.

It picked up speed on Sunday and became the talk of the city by Monday afternoon. Whether it’s based in fact or not, the expectation is that a Leaf loss to Montreal Tuesday in a game televised by TSN will be the one to have Quinn dismissed from his duties behind the bench.

However, one wonders just what would be gained by firing Quinn at this stage of the season, the Leaf problems seem to be much deeper than just a coaching problem. There is a shortage of accountability in those who wear blue this year, laying the blame on the coach seems like far too easy an out for the Leaf higher ups!

It may also signal the beginning of a sale of players for Thursday’s trading deadline. However, with a woeful record and the slide down the standings, it’s hard to find many bargains in Blue that many might covet. Only Mats Sundin and perhaps Bryan McCabe might be of the quality to attract some tire kickers, but it's doubtful the Leafs would want to move those two members of their core foundation.

As for Quinn, he’s been standing on that thin ice for most of the season, with spring almost here it’s no wonder the ice is beginning to crack, the only question is does the Maple Leaf legend fall through it by the end of Tuesday nights game, or does the Leaf management offer him some help away from the cracks!

Emery Steps Up!

Ottawa Senators GM, John Muckler can probably cross off goaltender on his must have list for the trading deadline on Thursday. With Domenic Hasek still rehabbing his groin injury, back up goaltender Ray Emery has had to shoulder the load and so far he’s been more than up to the challenge.

Emery has been hot since the return to action after the Olympic break as he holds the fort for the Senators night after night. Monday night he helped the Sens to their fifth straight victory, a 4-0 shut out of the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

This year’s edition of the Lightning is a far cry from the team that dominated the playoffs two years ago, they continue to have their difficulties and currently hold down seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but are only four points away from tumbling to ninth.

And while the bolts struggle, the Sens continue to soar. They’ve regrouped nicely after the Olympic break and are getting back to the dominating style of play they exhibited at the start of the season.

Even more rewarding for coach Bryan Murray is the fact that it seems that everyone is contributing in all facets, from the score sheet to the hit totals, it’s becoming a total team effort for the Sens. Something that should carry them far in the playoffs in another month and a bit.

When word first came out that Hasek had been injured at the Olympics, the automatic thought was that Muckler would be hot on the market looking for a suitable insurance policy for the rest of the year. He may still look for help at the back end, but with Emery showing his stuff with confidence, the requirement for goaltending may be just to back up the back up now. That should give Muckler the option of securing one more sniper for the offence to push the offensive output just a little bit more.

The Monday night game was marred by a bizarre episode involving Tampa Bay right-winger Evgeny Artyukhin, he received a match penalty at 17:53 of the second period during a scrum after he checked Vermette into the boards. He took the helmet of Vermette's head and hit him with it. An episode that will not doubt capture the attention of the NHL head office and most likely result in some enforced time off for the excitable Russian.

Vermette received medical attention and has collected a number of stitches as a reminder of the episode. It’s not expected that he’ll be missing from the line up when the Sens next see action on Wednesday against Florida.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Leafs lose game, Lindros loses his season!

It was a tough night for the Blue and White. The Toronto Maple Leafs desperate to stay in the playoff hunt in the East battled hard but came up on the short end of another loss to the Ottawa Senators.

On the night they honored Tie Domi for his 1,000 game played, the plot line probably included a Maple Leaf win, with perhaps Domi scoring the winning goal to make the night perfect. Instead, the Leafs who held their own for two periods, lost control of the game in the third as the Ottawa offence got untracked and began to control the play adding to the lead and taking the eventual victory by a score of 4-2.

With Montreal picking up two more points with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs continued their slide further and further from a the final playoff spot, perhaps giving GM John Ferguson cause to start thinking of selling rather than buying at the trade deadline this Thursday.

As if the story on the ice wasn’t bad enough for the Leafs, the injury front provided even more bad news for the Leafs. The much injured Eric Lindros suffered yet another season ending injury, taking a shot of his previously damaged wrist, once again rendering it useless to him for the rest of the season. The much snake bit Lindros had hoped that his return to action in a Toronto uniform would turn around a very disappointing career, but once again fate has conspired against the Big E.

The latest troubles for Lindros pretty well define this Maple Leaf season, one with high expectations but in the end disappointment beckons as the season’s end draws closer. While they aren’t out of the playoff race yet, the combination of Leaf losses and Hab victories is putting Montreal in the driver’s seat for a hold on the last playoff spot for the annual chase for Stanley!

Friday, March 03, 2006

No for Nolan

The name of Owen Nolan won’t be appearing on an NHL lineup card as the season winds down and the playoff wars begin anew. Nolan who last saw action in the 2003-04 season, is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and the healing time is taking a bit longer than he thought, his plan was to get back into action after the Olympic break but things haven’t worked out as planned.

With little chance that he’ll able to get medical clearance to play this spring, he felt it only fair to declare himself off the market for the spring stretch run. He now will turn his attention to rebuilding his strength and conditioning for a September start and will entertain offers for his services in the off season.

One team that no doubt won’t be in the running is the Toronto Maple Leafs; his time in Toronto was checkered by injuries and grievances. Nolan has had a number of run ins with the Maple Leafs over his injury status, so to say that the well is poisoned in TO would be an understatement.

Rumored destinations for Nolan prior to the announcement yesterday were San Jose and Ottawa, the Ottawa one offering up some tasty thoughts of a motivated Nolan returning to smite his former team with their arch enemy. Alas it wasn’t meant to be, Nolan like many other hockey fans will have to watch his hockey from the television rather than the bench.

It will be with interest that hockey fans watch to see where he ends up once he clicks off that television and returns to the rink in September!