Friday, June 26, 2009

Tavares tapped as Number one overall

Despite all the talk of major movement on the draft order, or the suggestion that there may be a surprise or two in the early going, in the end ,1, 2, 3 went pretty well as expected..

At 7:18 pm The New York Islanders paid back the patience and long held support of their fans by actually making a sensible and possibly team changing draft selection.

GM Garth Snow, exorcised the selection ghosts of Mike Milbury on Friday night, when he announced John Tavares as the Number one pick in the 2009 draft. While there was some thought that Swedish sensation Victor Hedman, one of the most talked about defensive talents to come out of Modo in a number of years, might move up to number one, in the end the Islanders chose offensive output over defensive skills.

For the Islanders it may be an indication that a more offensive oriented attack, built around Tavares talents with the puck may be the future for the struggling franchise.

Over the years, their draft day choices and deadline deal trades have been less than successful, leaving the once dominant team to languish at the bottom of the standings. Indeed they can thank their draft status to their on ice troubles, though unlike years in the past, this time they have chosen to go the route of the draft rather than trade away the pick for short term relief.

The first round proved to be a rather successful endorsement of the Canadian Hockey League and of the Western League in particular.

Of the top ten picks of the thirty picks of round number one, four were from the WHL, three were from the OHL and Swedish hockey provided three placements as well.

Overall in the top thirty picks the OHL placed 7 draft picks this year, the WHL 5, Swedish hockey 7, the Quebec League sent 4 to the NHL, US college, high school or developmental hockey 6 and the Alberta Junior A ranks send one.

You can view all of the first round picks from the NHL draft tracker page here.

Among all the order of draft day one rather large trade was negotiated, as Chris Pronger once again will don new duds this fall, this time as part of the Philadelphia Flyers, heading to Anaheim will be Joffery Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 as well as a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011

Round one was televised live on TSN across Canada and on Versus in the USA, the TSN broadcast offered up many of the same kind of dramatics as the Trade Deadline coverage does, with instant analysis and interviews.

An interesting feature of the broadcast was the live microphone attached to Brian Burke, which recorded his thoughts as the night progressed, though at times Burke resembled one of the old Muppet guy's in the balcony as his trading portion of draft day slowed to a crawl and he watched as other GM's made what he considered to be less than sensible moves.

The remainder of this years draft pool will be selected on Saturday, broadcast on The NHL Network.

Globe and Mail-- Isles make Tavares their man
Globe and Mail-- Burke says Kadri was always his top pick
National Post-- Islanders ready for 'bright future' with Tavares
Newsday-- Islanders take Tavares with No. 1 pick
CBC-- Islanders thrilled with Tavares' arrival

Trade winds gusting on the Saint Lawrence

The NHL's scouts, GM's, Presidents and such all gather this weekend in Montreal to introduce the class of 2009 to their new employers, that as the NHL Draft gets set to get underway later this afternoon.

But while the youngsters ponder their future, some more established NHLers may soon be filling out change of address cards at their local post office as well.

The trade winds are picking up force in Montreal today, the normal course of draft day deliberations as NHL GM's work out their cap space and put together potential trade packages that could land them a coveted first round pick or just as importantly move some key pieces into place for the coming season.

Besides the disgruntled Dany Heatley who has put Ottawa in a rather poor bargaining position with his very public demands for a trade, some other key names are being dangled as potential deal makers this weekend.

With San Jose's continuing problems in making much progress in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's anticipated that a few of the 2008-09 Sharks will no longer be in teal when the GM's begin to deal.

The always popular bait of Chris Pronger is apparently being cast out on the trade waters and Vincent Lecavalier complete with his rewarding contract may be offered up by the troubled Lightning, many in attendance at the Bell Centre show today will no doubt be hoping that the Molson Brothers with their new/old investment back in the family will make the splash of the proceedings with a bid for the services of Vinny, a move to bringn Lecavalier to Montreal would certainly seal the approval deal for Montreals tranfer of power (and financial resources).

It will be quite interesting to see how the process evolves over the next 24 hours, it could be that the biggest names of the draft won't be the much anticipated youngsters eager to start their careers, but instead some of the more established stars of the game looking to start anew.

Globe and Mail-- Trade winds hit Montreal
National Post-- Going fishing
Canadian Press-- Plenty of trade buzz as NHL executives convene for draft in Montreal
Ottawa Citizen-- Not one Heatley offer yet
USA Today-- Bruins GM wants trade for better first-round pick
ESPN-- Latest rumblings: Habs busy, Leafs talking trade, Ducks and Wings figuring out cap picture

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mats Sundin won't play in Vancouver........... in the 2010 Olympics

"I think it's time that the next generation takes over. We have many good players.”-- Mats Sundin outlining why he won't be donning a Swedish sweater at the 2010 Olympics.

Sundin, who last won a gold medal with Sweden in the 2006 Olympics will apparently call on those memories for his scrapbook, feeling that the future of Swedish success relies more on the shoulders of fellows named Sedin, Alfredsson, Backstrom, Ericsson, Huselius et al.

And while he won't be appearing in Vancouver during the Olympics, that doesn't mean that he won't be seen at GM Place next season. While he's still thinking it over, he says there's chance he will return to Vancouver for the 2009-10 season, or perhaps in a visiting uniform as Sundin will become a free agent on July 1st .

Sundin told reporters in Stockholm on Sunday that he would take some time over the next few weeks to think over his future and will make a decision over the summer months.

Branding time at the Flaming C ranch

If the reports out of the farmlands of Alberta are correct, the Calgary Flames are about ready to announce the name of their newest coach and for those that found Brent Sutter's sudden departure from New Jersey interesting, the next announcement we hear may be positively conspirational for more than a few in the league.

The clock is ticking it seems towards an announcement within 48 hours which will see General Manager Darryl Sutter turn over the coaching reins to his brother Brent, solidifying the Sutter grip on the southern Alberta franchise, and confirming what just about everyone thought was going to happen when Brent left the collegial atmosphere of Lou Lamoriello's Devils.

And while the announcement will come as not much of a surprise, it will probably provoke one or two comments that the nature of it's genesis doesn't seem right. When brother Sutter left the Devils, more than one person suggested that there should be a one year minimum cooling off period, where he would have to sit out the year in the NHL as penance for his early departure from the Devils.

It's an issue that won't be stirring up much debate in southern Alberta, though the folks up north might like to make a little noise with it for old times animosity sake. And we suspect that in order for Brent to try and put back together the Flames his former team will be provided with a wonderful parting gift on his behalf.

More importantly, considering the troubles that are dogging Gary Bettman at the moment, there's a very good chance he won't even offer an opinion on this one, letting it slide under the NHL radar, like more than a few interesting items seem to these days.

Once the announcement is made however (providing it comes forth) one has to wonder if not the floodgates will have been opened for the coaching carousel, where asking out of a contract one day could morph into a better opportunity a month down the line.

It would make for an interesting position for the NHL to offer up an opinion on, considering their "good for the game" and "following prescribed procedures" thoughts that they have put forward regarding the Jim Balsillie quests.

However, more than likely the selective interpretations as to what is a prescribed procedure will continue, we suspect that the Sutter's will be reunited in Calgary in a few short days.

Regardless of the contradictions to procedures or optics of the move.

National Post-- Flames’ unveiling of Sutter as head coach nears
National Post-- Brent Sutter likely to become new Flames coach
Globe and Mail-- All in the Family at Calgary's Saddledome
Calgary Sun-- Brent Sutter deal close
Calgary Herald-- Brent Sutter rumours heat up

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's going to take a lot of empties to finish the deal!

The Montreal Canadiens are about to return to the Molson family fold, the iconic Canadien brand set to join the once legendary brewing family, that according to reports coming out of Montreal on Saturday.

A purchase price of 500 million will bring the Canadiens and Bell Centre into the Molson portfolio, putting the hockey club back into Canadian and Quebec hands after George Gillett's stewardship.
The last month saw a number of high profile Quebecois put their bids in, from a consortium including Celine Dion and media baron Pierre Peladeau, to the Saputo family, the founder of Cirque du Soleil and for a short period of time former Canadien great Serge Savard. Over the last number of weeks the quest to gain ownership became the only story in Quebec.

The agreement in principle if completed will see the Molson's take the helm of the team, a position the family last held in December of 2001, when the team was sold to Gillett, it will be the third time that the Canadiens have been a Molson owned operation.

Originally his ownership was greeted with suspicion and in some quarters alarm, but over the years the American owner proved to be quite respectful of the legacy of the Canadiens and while the success on the ice eluded the team, for the most part there should be few complaints about how he conducted his business when it came to Quebec's most treasured investment.

With the Molson family once again to be identified with the team, many no doubt will be hoping to a return to glory for Les Glorieux. There will no doubt be complaints from some points in Quebec over the purchase, everyone it seemed had their own favourite potential owner.

With the announcement of days deal in principle, there seems somehow a sense of seamless transition here, the return of one of the most cherished of institutions in the province, back to the family name which seemed synonymous with if for many years.
For the Canadiens, it all seems like a winning situation all around, one which should provide for stability and credibility for years to come.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Double the trouble for Robin Gomez

The criminal trial of Robin Gomez, has been adjourned until June 29th when the courts will reconvene to examine the charges of assault that he has been facing over the first two days of this week.

Gomez, a member of the Victoria Salmon Kings at the time, has been accused of assault causing bodily harm to Chris Ferraro, after an on-ice incident during a March 1, 2008 ECHL game in Victoria, the Crown presented their opening arguments on the case on Monday and after two days of testimony and discussion it was adjourned to the date later this month.

At that time Gomez is expected to take the stand and provide his explanation of the events of that night. And while he and his lawyers prepare for their testimony and contemplate what that future may hold, they learned today that he now has been served with notice of civil litigation as Mr. Ferraro filed a civil case in Vancouver this week.

In their court filing, Ferraro and his lawyers have named Gomez and RG Properties which is the operator of Victoria's Save On Centre as principals in their statement of claim.

The Victoria media have been giving the case prominent coverage in the British Columbia capital, some of their efforts are provided below.

Victoria Times Colonist-- Lawsuit names arena operator as well as former Salmon King
Victoria Times Colonist-- Lawyer for former S-King accuses hockey foe of lying
Victoria Times Colonist-- Defence lawyer suggests Wrangler player was challenging on-ice foe Victoria Times Colonist-- Las Vegas player accuses Gomez of 'sucker punch' in on-ice incident Victoria News-- Ex-Salmon Kings enforcer sued by alleged on-ice assault victim
Victoria News-- Judge admits hockey knowledge lacking in Gomez assault case
Victoria News-- Referee testifies Ferraro felt he was 'untouchable'
Vancouver Province-- On-ice assault trial for former Victoria Salmon Kings player Robin Gomez starts

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And the winners are...

The NHL handed out the awards on Thursday, celebrating excellence from the 2008-09 season. Mixing the glitz and excitement of Las Vegas with the best that the NHL has to offer from its premier players.

The nights awards took on a Russian theme with three of the most prominant Russians in the NHL claiming six of the trophies available for the night's awarding. After that the next largest represented group would be Boston Bruins with five Bruins winning or sharing in four trophies.

And the winners were:

Hart Trophy-- Alexander Ovechkin
Lester B Pearson Trophy-- Alexander Ovechkin
Rocket Richard Trophy-- Alexander Ovechkin
Selke Trophy-- Pavel Datsyuk
Lady Byng Trophy-- Pavel Datsyuk
Art Ross Trophy-- Evgeni Malkin
Vezina Trophy-- Tim Thomas
William Jennings Trophy-- Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez
Norris Trophy-- Zdeno Chara
Jack Adams Trophy-- Claude Julien
Calder Trophy-- Steve Mason
Bill Masterton Trophy-- Steve Sullivan
Mark Messier Leadership Trophy-- Jarome Iginla
Lifetime Achievement Award-- Jean Beliveau
Scotia Bank Fan Award-- Roberto Luongo

First All Star Team

Goal-- TimThomas, Boston
Defense-- Mike Green, Washington
Defense-- Zdeno Chara, Boston
Left Wing-- Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Centre-- Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
Right Wing-- Jarome Iginla, Calgary

Second All Star Team

Goal-- Steve Mason, Columbus
Defense-- Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Defense-- Dan Boyle, San Jose
Left Wing-- Zach Parise, New Jersey
Centre-- Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
Right Wing-- Marian Hossa, Detroit

All Rookie Team

Goal-- Steve Mason, Columbus
Defense-- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
Defense-- Luke Schenn, Toronto
Forward-- Kris Versteeg, Chicago
Forward-- Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Forward-- Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Ovechkin, Bruins have big night at NHL Awards Show
Toronto Star-- Alexander is great again

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From the ice to the courtroom, Robin Gomez goes to trial

Was it a part of a game that has been accepted through the years, or was it an event that went far beyond the normal conduct of on ice behaviour and the much discussed code of the game.
That is what will be determined in a Victoria court room this week as former Prince Rupert resident Robin Gomez faces charges stemming from an on ice incident in Victoria back in March of 2008.

The incident that has resulted in charges and this week’s court appearance was part of an ECHL game filled with animosity, in which a number of fights had broken out during the course of the play, with tempers clearly on edge.

The incident of note took place between whistles in the second period, when Gomez stepped onto the ice and as it was described in court on Monday, sucker punched Las Vegas Stars player Chris Ferraro. The resulting injuries left Ferraro on the ice unconscious and eventually requiring eight stitches to the back of his head.

The result of that punch was a brawl filled second period and rather ugly remainder of the game, as scores were settled and on ice threats continued.

Following the game, Victoria police became involved and turned over their investigation to the Crown, which filed charges of assault causing bodily harm.

The ECHL, which is a third level professional league, below the American and the top level National Hockey league, is known for the physical nature of the game, a league where the fighting aspect of hockey has never been played down. It’s to that culture that much of this case will be outlined toward. As evidence is presented to show how the Crown believes the events of March 1st 2008 went far beyond even the normal level of violence of professional hockey, even that of the ECHL.

Gomez was suspended for the remainder of the season and then was cut by the Victoria Salmon Kings, something that has touched a nerve of a Prince Rupert resident, who provided a letter to the editor for Gomez's hometown paper The Daily News. (see below)

In his letter Dan Harris, outlines his disgust at the way that Gomez has been cut loose by both the league and the Salmon Kings, sacrificing him to the courts as it would be. It raises valid questions about the nature of the league and the game for that matter, where roles are expected to be played, and players know what is expected of them by management.

The nature of their sport is just as much on trial as is Mr. Gomez, yet he seems to be carrying the weight of it on his own, with little in the way of feedback or intercession from his now former employers.

The ECHL and the Salmon Kings do seem to be getting off easy in the early rounds of the court case, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of examination of the culture of the sport and how much of the violent tendencies in it are acceptable and what is not, something that still to this day needs to be addressed both in this instance and in the nature of the game overall.

It’s a scenario that has been played out in the past even in the NHL, where the famous case of Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore or Marty McSorley and Donald Brashear continues to resonate in hockey circles to this day.
Like those incidents and others of the past, the practice of players seeking out vengeance is once again up for discussion, vengeance that is always explained as being within the concept of The Code. The unwritten rules of conduct those players seem to point to whenever the more physical, sometimes violent nature of the game overtakes events.

That being said, Mr. Ferraro was injured rather badly in that game, suffering side effects weeks after the incident. For that individual event only Mr. Gomez is responsible, there is a line between the perceived acceptable behaviour on ice and what is beyond the rules.
In his letter Mr. Harris makes the case for Mr. Gomez having just done his job, as expected by the Salmon Kings and the ECHL. The Crown and Victoria Police believe that Mr. Gomez stepped well beyond that job description.
It will be in the courtroom and before Judge Judge Mike Hubbard where it will be decided if their concerns are to be validated or not and if Mr. Gomez is to be punished for his participation in the events.

Where that line is crossed is under review in the Victoria court room, the criminal case is expected to conclude today, Ferraro has also indicated that he intends for follow up with his own lawsuit regarding the incident once the criminal case is complete.

Victoria Times Colonist-- Las Vegas player accuses Gomez of 'sucker punch' in on-ice incident Vancouver Province-- On-ice assault trial for former Victoria Salmon Kings player Robin Gomez starts
The Victoria News-- Hockey player in court to face assault charges
CBC News-- Trial on hockey assault charge opens in Victoria
Rupert hockey player just doing his job
Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, June 15, 2009
Page four 

This Monday there is a court case scheduled for one Robin Gomez, past winger for the Salmon Kings. This case has to do with Robin doing the job he was hired for by the Salmon Kings. This case has to do with one hockey player fighting another hockey player. This case has to do with one man punching another man in the heat of the game which is known for a certain amount of violence.

The really sad thing is that although Robin Gomez has had more than a few fights in his hockey career he would rather play hockey than fight but because he wanted to live in Victoria, near his family and friends, in his own country, that he was playing for a team who had one and only one job open to him and that was to be the enforcer.

Those who know the team will be painfully aware of the fact that that was the role he was hired for and the sole reason they played him.

He could score multiple goals in one game and sit out the next if there was nobody the team wanted to punish on the opposition.

I'll admit I know him personally and happen to know what a genuine and loyal friend he is.

He has never been a cheap shot artist and will not start something without provocation. He will do what he is asked and never complain if things are sometimes a little harder than anticipated.

He did his job and did it well even though he would have preferred to just have a regular position as a forward. He did what he was hired for and paid for.

When the inevitable and obvious situation happened and went bad just once, Bang, he was vilified and abandoned by the Salmon Kings.

Why you may ask?

In my opinion it was easier for the team management to cut him, pull their support and lawyer and cry that they would never condone this type of action. What a crock.

My question is, is there anyone who does not see the cowardess and hypocrisy in this situation.

The Salmon Kings had a good and loyal player that they bailed on. No regard for his future or what became of him as long as they would not have to spend any money on protecting their employee for doing the job they hired him for. Absolutely gutless and reprehensible.

In hockey, I think it would be fairly safe to say that fights just may be a part of the game.

I just wish the team could be held as accountable as the crown feels the player should be, which is, in itself a joke.

Is their anyone else that feels this might be a bit ridiculous? I for one am incensed that the team and the owners are not in court, because without them, Robin would not be appearing in court today.
On his own, fighting again, this time for his reputation and freedom.

Nice Salmon Kings, a fine way to show your colours. Loyalty like yours should be recognized for what it is, Shameful.

Yours respectfully

Dan Harris
Prince Rupert, BC

No shake for you, the backlash that brews

As Pittsburgh's residents relish the latest addition to the trophy case, there's a Miss Manners lesson being played out in the hockey world over the fall out of the post game celebrations of last Friday night.

During those moments following the Penguins victory over the Red Wings and claiming of the Stanley Cup in game seven, the post game handshakes became a bit of a debating point as Pens Captain Sidney Crosby missed his cue and missed out on a number of the Red Wings including captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

The missed salutation has been the main item out of that final ever since, with the scoring summaries and highlight reels now fading from memory, the lasting memory seems to be a missed opportunity for sportsmanship and the subsequent missed opportunities to make amends.

Much has been made of the original incident, with everyone from fellow Red Wings to sports journalists weighing in to offer up their impressions of the hockey faux pas.

Crosby himself hasn't done much to quell the backlash, taking the opinion that he did nothing wrong and was simply enjoying the moment with his team mates, something he believes he had the right to do.

And while that's a valid point, still it wouldn't have been too much to seek out Lidstrom to make amends, or at least offer up an apology for the missed opportunity. Instead, Crosby has come across as a petulant little kid, which considering his age may not be too far from where his station in life is at during this period of his development. He missed a golden opportunity at that time to express his remorse at the timing troubles and at that time could have said something about his regrets on the situation.

He is the face of leadership on the Penguins and in the NHL these days, so he should have been more aware of his responsibilities to the game. It's a rare miscue for the star player of the NHL, who normally seems to be more than aware of what is required of him as one of the top players of the game.

The apology ship may have already sailed, but perhaps in order to find a bit of peace over the summer, he could at least make the effort to address the growing controversy and offer up his mea culpas, after all he was on the "winning" side of events, might be an idea to embrace the positives from that victory while he can.

So far, he's been losing the PR war on this issue, something that is about as common as scoring slumps for the Penguins captain. Like many a last minute comeback, he still may be able to pull this one out of the fire.

Associated Press-- Zetterberg calls Crosby's actions disrespectful
Detroit Free Press-- Wings' Lidstrom shakes off Crosby controversy, but Zetterberg doesn't
Pittsbrugh Post Gazette-- Crosby: Snub Lidstrom? No way 'My intentions were to shake hands' Hey Sid... Shake This!
CBC Sports-- Red Wings can't let Crosby thing go
CBC Sports-- Crosby dismisses handshake controversy
Globe and Mail-- Cut Crosby a break on the handshake nonsense
National Post-- Crosby dismisses Red Wings handshake flap
National Post-- Loss, Crosby's alleged snub leave Wings bitter

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The return of Rayzer

Attention all cars, Attention all cars, be on the look out for a Hummer, destination Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

As a public service to the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol, above is the last known description of the vehicle that perhaps is still owned by one Ray Emery, occasional speed demon of the highways, battling compatriot of team mates and at one time a top flight NHL goaltender.

Emery will return to the highways of North America in 2009-10 and the NHL, as he and the Philadelphia Flyers came to terms on a one year contract, though the formality of a signature will have to wait until the July 1st window to open.

The Flyers, who have been seeking some stability in the nets for a number of years now, are hoping that Emery who last year played in the Kontinental Hockey League, will have eased off on his lead foot, invested in a top end alarm clock and will return to the form that at one time had Ottawa Senator fans thinking that all the pieces were in place for a string of Stanley Cup victories.

It's possibly a roll of the dice, the mercurial Emery has had more than a few troubles over his short career so far, the most damaging of course the way his time in Ottawa ended, with occasional brushes with citizens on the highways and management and coaches at the office.

Even during his exile to Russia, trouble seemed to arrive, a much reviewed video of an altercation between himself and a Russian trainer offered up the first hint that his extended road trip overseas probably wasn't going to be a long term option.

It was shortly after that incident that the suggestions that he was returning to North America first started to come out, the Flyers apparently first in the line up to try and secure his services offering him a little Philadelphia Freedom from his past, with a hopeful eye that his future will showcase the talent that many felt was on the cusp of becoming real.
Emery may be the first of the high profile returnees to North America from the KHL, the current economic troubles world wide have suddenly made the KHL a less attractive option for ex NHLers. With reports of troubled franchises and pay cuts starting to filter out, the pace of the exodus may soon be picking up.

As for the guy they call Rayzer, one thing is certain, (if and admittedly the jury will remain out for the short term), if Emery has put many of those demons behind him and can still showcase much of that potential that he had in Ottawa, then this will be a pivotal signing for the Flyers, one that could propel them deeper into the NHL playoffs next season.

If the wheels fall off the Emery Hummer as it heads into Philly, the Flyers will have change d nothing but the names on the jersey, but at least the state of Pennsylvania might anticipate an increase in revenues from speeding and driving infractions in the long term.

Philadelphia Inquirer-- Flyers agree to deal with Emery
Philadelphia Inquirer-- Flyers opt for Emery over Biron

In Montreal, will everything old, be new again?

“We have assembled a very solid and credible group of investors and financial institutions as part of our offer, they are all dedicated to the long-term success of the Canadiens and have a strong presence in Quebec."-- Geoff Molson, lead hand for the Molson group and other investors seeking to purchase the Montreal Canadiens.

At one time the Molson family name was synonymous with the Montreal Canadiens and Stanley Cup victories. On Wednesday, the prospect of reuniting the first two parts of that historic union was set in motion.

The current generation of the Molson's provided their bid to Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. Wednesday, hopeful that the team that once defined their product line will be returned to the iconic family name that has been in business in Quebec for centuries.

The Molson group, has been rather tight lipped about their bid, and quietly have gone about putting together their partners and financial backers in their quest for Les Canadiens. Respectful of the Gillett group, they don't intend to try and capitalize on the spotlight at the moment, and instead are simply expressing the hope that the NHL will be receptive to their efforts and will meet with them in short order to go over any contentious issues or seek clarification on items of concern.

Mr. Gillett has long said that he considers himself holding the legacy of the Canadiens with his ownership of the legendary team, now, with his motivation to sell the team high, he could return the team to some solid and familiar hands, hopefully to return the team to its once lofty position.

The last time the Molson's owned the Canadiens, some of the best in rivalry in sports came to the forefront, with a passionate battle for the hearts, minds and drinking choices of Quebecois everywhere, as the Molson owned Canadiens and Carling O'Keefe controlled Nordiques played some of the hardest hitting, emotional hockey seen.

As the years progressed both brewers found that owning and operating a hockey franchise was becoming a financial headache, first the Nords were sold off by Carling and then the Habs by the Molsons. An era that was accented by the rise of the Colorado Avalanche after their relocation from Quebec City, a moment that is still considered a black mark on Canadian sports fans calenders.

While the Nords are gone, but not forgotten, in Montreal a reunion of a different type is brewing, as the next generation of Molsons' seek to bring the team back into the family fold. The past provided some of the most stable ownership and with it legendary success for the Habs, one hopes that if their bid is deemed acceptable that those days will return to Montreal again.

Now if only we could revive the Carling-Okeefe brand and ownership, bringing a team back to Quebec City would instantly rekindle those ancient battles, a time and event in Quebec hockey history that still resonates across Canada to this day.

Montreal Gazette-- Molsons confirm bid for Habs
Globe and Mail-- Opening bids for Habs could exceed $400-million
CTV Montreal-- Molson family makes bid for Habs
Canadian Press-- Molson brothers and Quebecor table separate bids for Montreal Canadiens
Sun Newspapers-- Out with the old, in with the… older?

Penguins extend the series to seven games

Stanley was put back in his box for one more game, as the Pittsburgh Penguins made sure that their guests did not get to reprise last years skate around the Mellon Arena with Lord Stanley's Mug held highly aloft.

With determination the Pittsburgh Penguins took the play to the Detroit Red Wings in the first two periods of Tuesday nights' game six showdown, for the third period they withstood a frantic Detroit attack, holding on tenuously to their one goal lead, surviving the onslaught to claim a 2-1 victory and sending the series back to Detroit for game seven.

Marc Andre Fleury rose to the occasion in that third period, and for most of the previous two as he held off the Red Wings and their seemingly never ending attack in the last twenty minutes. As the last period provided its highly entertaining, if not stomach churning moments for Pens fans, Fleury denied all but Kris Draper, but not for the effort of the Wings.

They seemed to finally get untracked and free up some space in those last twenty minutes, sending wave after wave of white jerseys into the Pittsburgh end of the rink, the Pens were flailing away at pucks, bodies and sticks, desperate to make sure that the sudden momentum surge to Detroit would not be rewarded with a tying goal, let alone the Stanley Cup winning marker.

At one point it appeared that destiny was there for the Wings, as Daniel Cleary who has been having the playoff of a lifetime walked in on a breakaway, only to be stoned cold by Fleury, who repeated that same kind of magic time and time again on shot after shot.

Pittsburgh which began the game providing a dominating control of the play, found success on a goal from Jordan Staal who opened the scoring in the second period, the Pens had more than enough chances to pad that lead in the second but Red Wing goaltender Chris Osgood was more than up to the challenge, doing all he could to make sure that his team remained within striking distance of the chance to win their second Stanley Cup in row.

But Pittsburgh which is quite familiar with do or die in this playoff year, proved to be up to that challenge, despite their third period drama, they kept to their assignments, Tyler Kennedy pushing them to a two goal lead, a goal that eventually would prove to be winning goal as the Red Wing response came up just a little bit short.

The final moments of game six were among some of the most exciting playoff hockey we've seen in a number of years, providing much in the way of drama and setting the scene for every hockey fans dream moment, Game Seven.

The puck drops Friday night, sometime during that night or perhaps early into Saturday morning someone will finally hoist Stanley high, if these two teams can provide another night of hockey such as game six gave us, then this two day wait will be well worth it.

National Post-- A celebration spoiled
Globe and Mail-- Penguins force Game 7
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Fleury blooms when it counts
Pittsburgh Times Review-- Penguins force deciding Game Seven
Pittsburgh Times Review-- Pens show mettle
Pittsburgh Times Review-- Bylsma finds right combos
Detroit Free Press-- It's one for all

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

To the courtroom of Judge Redfield T. Baum

It's nearly High Noon in the Arizona desert, and as our would be gunslingers get set to take their places, the firestorm of papers may finally come to an end.

Judge Redfield T. Baum will bang a gavel sometime on Tuesday and with that the latest chapter in the old west (and east, south and north) tale of Bettman and Balsillie will be written.

It's decision day in Glendale, as the Judge will apparently (we hope, we hope, we hope) render a verdict as to whether Mr. Moyes (the current owner, depending on who you chat with) of the Coyotes has the right to sell off his failing business to a savvy and rich billionaire from Ontario.

If not, then Commissioner Gary Bettman has won the latest battle of Wounded Flee and once again will have wrested a franchise from the tentative grip of Billionaire Jim and his blackberry fortune.

The last few weeks of discovery have provided for much in the way of entertainment, information and obfuscation all at the same time. From the circling of the wagons of the big sports commissioners to lend a gun to Bettman, to the rather fantasy like offerings of yet another would be Toronto hockey team owner, who offered up an alternative option to the Ballsillie plan, offering to be the "little brother" to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

We've heard the Commissioner suggest that the billionaires bid is mere chicken feed compared to some real money men (never actually identified) who may just want that Phoenix team and keep it there, we've heard the current owner Mr. Moyes offer up his suggestion that hockey isn't worth a warm bucket of ice in the desert, destined to never turn a dime, never be a success.

The City of Glendale more than a little worried that they are going to be stuck with the whitest of elephants, provided the helpful management advice that maybe head coach Wayne Gretzky should take a five or six million dollar haircut to help out the Desert Dogs.

All in all, quite fascinating drama, all of it eclipsing what is supposed to be the showcase offering of the NHL that Stanley Cup playoff championship.

And once again the timing of today's events is spectacular, Judge Baum will provide his thoughts on the matter mere hours before the Penguins and Red Wings take to the ice for what may be the final game of the season.

One wonders what we'll all be talking about, whether its the developments after the gavel drops or the results of the game following the puck drop!

June 9-- Balsillie says Leafs are bad boys and business bullies
June 9-- So much going on, Bettman might need a double
June 9-- Fight over Coyotes heats up
June 8-- Money for Nothing
June 8-- Balsillie v. Bettman is always personal
June 8-- Glendale, Moyes spar over Coyotes’ viability
June 8-- NHL, Balsillie drop gloves in final statements before relocation ruling
June 8-- Bettman claims Argo owners expressed interest in Coyotes
June 8-- Judge stuck between a rock, hard place
June 8-- Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes bares his soul on Phoenix TV (sort of)
June 8-- Phoenix Coyotes' mess heads to court
June 8-- Coyotes' litigants may be asked to sort things out themselves
June 8-- Balsillie's lawyers put attention on Leafs
June 7-- NHL spills its secrets in court
June 6-- Maple Leafs thrust onto stage in NHL v. Balsillie
June 5-- Balsillie's bid a threat to six
June 5-- Letting Coyotes sale proceed in best interest of creditors: Moyes
June 5-- NHL Dreams
June 4-- Union boss: 'Pull the plug' on Coyotes

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Shutdown in Hockeytown…

When we last left the Pittsburgh Penguins, they had bounced back from a two game deficit and had tied up their best of seven series with Detroit in a convincing fashion.

Thursday night’s game provided some strong indications that the youthful Pens, rested as they were, seemed more than ready to finally take control of the series. The Wings looked old, weary and incapable of keeping up. For many it was the final indication that time was catching up to Detroit that their reign atop the NHL was at an end.

That was but two days ago, Saturday night the Wings responded to that challenge from the Penguins of last week. An overwhelming measure of control on Saturday let to the Wings five to nothing victory, and reminded all just why they were the “defending” Stanley Cup champions.

Detroit put the emphasis on scoring for the Hockeytown faithful, collecting their eleventh goal in three home games in this series; by comparison the Pens have managed to find the net behind Chris Osgood but twice so far while playing in the Motor city.

The Wings re-introduced Pavel Datsyuk to the Stanley Cup audience, the Red Wings centre returned to playoff action with a vengeance, not showing any noticeable after affects from his foot injury and picking up two assists as part of the Wings overwhelming attack on the night, an added worry suddenly pencilled in for the Penguins.

Pittsburgh sewed more than a few of their own seeds for self destruction, with a frequent parade to the penalty box, providing the wings with three of their five goals of the night, the Pens simply lost their composure, a trait that is not rewarded well when up against the firepower that the Wings bring into a game.

Goaltending once again proved to provide a troublesome trend, with Marc Andre Fleury looking more like the guy from games one and two than three and four, if the Pens are to have any hope in this series they need the fellow that showed up for games three and four to finish off the series for them.

Likewise, the stars on the Pens need to get back on track. Game four showcased Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, with a dash of Maxime Talbot for good measure. Key players on the Pens roster, all of whom seemed to be lost on Saturday, Talbot going so far as to seek a lengthy break from the festivities with a ten minute major. Malkin and Crosby, while not banished to the dressing room, were largely invisible in game five, the need to get both involved in game six is vital, otherwise there more than likely will not be a game seven.

Globe and Mail-- Wings now one win away

Friday, June 05, 2009

Father Knows best?

The peculiar ways of the Colorado Avalanche continue to raise a few eyebrows as the NHL's worst team made some major personnel changes over the last few days.
One day after Pierre Lacroix had brought to an end the torture of Tony Granato, the Avs made a number of changes that they hope will move the team back to the levels of respectability, though judging by the way this whole scenario has been handled, one wonders if that goal is even possible anymore.

Grantao who had been treated rather shabbily during the whole Patrick Roy soap opera, probably knew his days were numbered anyways, yet as always when the call comes it is never something you expect.

Newly placed General Manager Greg Sherman didn't waste anytime if replacing Granato, bringing in the Avs Minor Hockey league coach, Joe Sacco, most recently the head man of the Lake Erie Lock Monsters.

Sacco will be tossed into the mix of a team that looked very confused and lethargic for most of the 2008-09 season, it will be his task to try and rekindle the Avalanche attack that at one time was one of the most feared in the NHL, though truth be told he won't have quite the same amount of tools on hand as were provided for Marc Crawford and Joel Quennville over the years.

Sacco may also want to keep an eye on developments around the front office, after a rather dysfunctional week of carnage, which saw most of the front office leadership sent on its way.

Besides the additions of Sherman and Sacco to the Avs, Lacroix has provided employment for a few familiar names including Craig Billington who now becomes assistant GM and Lacroix's son, Eric who takes on the director of player personnel duties. All of whom with Lacroix senior, will have a collaborative approach to running the team.

Leading of course to the ever popular question of "Who's the Boss." All of this plays out while Patrick Roy sits on the sidelines back in Quebec City, apparently content with his lot in life of Junior hockey tycoon, GM and coach.
For Mr. Sacco, perhaps one bit of advice, keep the resume updated and always have your highlight tape handy, uncertainty at the top never breeds much confidence or security for that matter.

And at this moment, the once flagship franchise of the NHL doesn't seem to be providing much of either for anyone, from management, to players to fans.

Photo from Denver Post website

Thursday, June 04, 2009

For Sale: LAND (and a hockey team) in Florida!!!

Gary Bettman has an interesting bit of comparison shopping to do with word that the Florida Panthers have apparently been sold to Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., who have it seems put together a 240 million dollar purchase for the Panthers, an arena and some land.

The consortium, which apparently includes baseball legend Hank Aaron, most recently put in an unsuccessful bid for the Chicago Cubs, part of their plan to purchase sports properties across the USA.

The concept of these Acquisition groups, at least according to a story in the National Post, is to ask investors to invest in a management team rather than a company itself.

A strategy that apparently worked pretty well in 2007, but has not been wildly successful with the stock market gyrations of 2008 and the subsequent economic malaise that has gripped the world.

Where this leaves the Panthers and their long term future is anyone’s guess. Though it's been reported that current owner Alan Cohen could remain involved with the team, but not in the position of majority owner, perhaps receiving shares in the new venture.
To try and solicit investors in a hockey franchise in these financial times seems to be a rather interesting prospect, especially when it seems that anyone besides someone named Balsillie, is more inclined to take a pass on NHL ownership these days .

Of course, land is always a helpful selling point, and perhaps that is where this plan may find some success, though we somehow remember our history of past land offerings and Florida, and the less than successful outcomes for investors.

The Commissioner, who hasn’t said much about this latest franchise twist, will have to take the prospect to the league owners and hope for 75% of the NHL's 30 owners to vote in the affirmative.

It will be interesting to see if he feels that a blank check consortium, who will want a return on their 240 million dollar investment would be a better fit for the NHL, than the Billionaire from Ontario, with that solid business plan and an interest in the sport highlighted by his passion to bring a seventh NHL franchise back to Canada.

If you’re one of the thirty owners, you have to ask yourself which deal seems to be on more solid ice or land?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Martin enters the Lions (of Winter) Den

Like any good Quebecois might dream of, Jacques Martin has spent a little time in the Florida Sun and now he’s back at home ready to get back to work.

Martin was announced by Bob Gainey as the next coach of Les Canadiens, returning to Eastern Canada from close to where his near Stanley Cup experiences were last realized.

It was only a few short years ago that Martin was leading the Ottawa Senators into the Stanley Cup final, a short visit that didn’t end so well with the Anaheim Ducks making quick work of what was supposed to be an invincible Senators line up.

During those formative years in Ottawa, Martin found increasing success with a fairly talented line up, the only blemish on what would have been a stellar career in the capital, the inability to see his club to final step, the hoisting of the Stanley Cup.

It was that lack of success in the playoffs that ultimately led to his departure from Ottawa, setting up shop in Florida as the team's General Manager, a stop that didn't change his luck when it came to playoff success.

So with the Canadiens have had similar problems in the last few years when it comes to post season action, Bob Gainey has decided that Martin's shortcomings of the past could be overcome in the future, offering him the opportunity to coach one of the league's most storied franchises.

It is a move that may in the long term find that long delayed success, dependent of course on the talent that Gainey provides for him. Though with a little patience and development Martin may find that these Habs will be to his liking.

The one constant tripping point in Ottawa was the goaltender position, a spot that constantly provided Ottawa and its fans with its greatest disappointments. While last season's final months were a nightmare for Carey Price, there still is enough raw potential there that with the right handling and the proper supporting cast, that Montreal's goal tending troubles may soon right themselves.

It would make for a welcome change for Martin, not to mention for Montreal fans, who after so many years wandering around the NHL wilderness, a spot not common to them, are finally ready for their team to take its next big step.

Gainey is hoping that with the addition of Martin behind the bench, some of those plans may finally be coming together. Though you have to wonder if considering the Habs current uncertain situation as far as ownership goes, if the decisions made today will resonate over the long term should new owners decide that a different path should be taken.

Of course, we suspect if that's the case, Mr. Gainey would probably no longer be part of the equation anymore, if Mr. Martin is wise, perhaps renting might be the best option for the short term, just to see how things shake out in the long term.

CBC Sports-- Getting defensive?

Headlines of June 2009

Tracking the daily headlines for the month of June.

June 30-- Bouwmeester signs with Flames
June 29-- Gainey has painted himself into a corner
June 28-- NHL GMs get down to business
June 27-- Flames real work begins after landing Bouwmeester
June 26-- Isles make Tavares their man
June 25-- Work begins for Canadian Olympic team
June 24-- Will it be Hedman or Tavares?
June 23-- Hall of Fame welcomes five
June 22-- Arizona judge sets date for Coyotes auction
June 21-- Flames’ unveiling of Sutter as head coach nears
June 20-- Molson brothers buy Montreal Canadiens for $500M
June 19-- Outdoor game between Flames, Leafs in works
June 18-- Sedins asking for $63 million each in 12-year deal
June 17-- Burke lashes out at Senators' Heatley
June 16-- Balsillie team to forge ahead with Coyotes bid
June 15-- With NHL, it’s always bad news for Hamilton
June 14-- Crosby dismisses handshake flap
June 13-- Red Wings irked by Crosby's snub
June 12-- Penguins win Stanley Cup
June 11-- Crawford new coach in Dallas
June 10-- Molson family makes offer to re-acquire Montreal Canadiens
June 9-- Penguins force game seven
June 8-- Balsillie v. Bettman is always personal
June 7-- NHL spills its secrets in court
June 6-- Penguins embarrassed in Game 5
June 5-- A difficult Legacy to establish
June 4-- Penguins get even
June 3-- Avalanche gut hockey department
June 2-- Penguins find new life
June 1-- Habs choose orderly system over style

Monday, June 01, 2009

Flustered, frustrated Pens seek answers...

The script seemed the same for game two, the Pittsburgh Penguins had more than enough chances to score, more than enough opportunity to run away with game two but in the end it was the Red Wings with the W, the Red Wings with the 2-0 lead in games and the Red Wings who now can rest for a day, ready to re-energize and torment the Pens in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh hit posts, swept the puck across the goal mouth and rattled sure shots wide on Sunday, a frustrating change of fortune that threatens to make their dream of knocking off the Stanley Cup champions a nightmare.

Once again, it was a soft goal in the Pittsburgh end of the rink that seemed to take all the air out of what was a ferocious attack, one which surely the Hockey Gods must have been ready to reward with a goal or two for a win.

In what is becoming an almost regular diversion, Pittsburgh Marc Andre Fleury let in a key goal at the very wrong time. These soft goals are going to be the death of the Pens Cup hopes unless the Penguin goal tender can get a focus on them before game four has played itself out.

While the goals have proven to be a momentum changer for sure, the uncanny bad luck around the Red Wing net is also proving to be the story. Whether it's a Crosby, a Malkin or a Geurin, the puck just refuses to find the back of the net on most occasions.

On Sunday, Sidney Crosby had two chances on the same play to score a goal, the first saw his shot bounce off the far post only to eventually end up back on his stick, where a second attempt also met with failure as the Red Wings swarmed the goal line to keep the puck from crossing the line.

It's a scenario that has played itself out for two games so far, desperate Penguin shots that should go in the net, find a way to avoid being tallied for goals. A situation that is clearly starting to frustrate the Pens.

While Detroit are full value for their wins, with all hands providing for scoring and defensive play, not to mention the stellar goal tending from Chris Osgood, the Pens seem to be flirting with some bad karma (maybe they shouldn't have picked up that trophy after all). As despite controlling the flow of play for major portions of the game, they continue to struggle when it comes to closing the deal.
For the second straight night, it was an unheralded Red Wing who secured the insurance marker for the Wings, as Justin Abdelkader suddenly finds that his name is soon to be one of the most mentioned ones on Detroit's sports talk shows.

However, besides having to worry about rookies adding to their stats, unless the Pens can find a way to get pucks past Chris Osgood there seems a very good chance that this Stanley Cup final will be a very short lived final few games. While it's never desperation time until you've played your first home game, the third installment of the Stanley Cup final is certainly going to feature the atmosphere of a can't lose game.

They most likely have been short changed in the lucky bounces category for two games now, perhaps if the stars line up correctly on Tuesday night, the Pens might yet get into the final push for their shot for Stanley.

Globe and Mail-- Malkin avoids suspension