Friday, March 30, 2012

Mr. Frew is willing to take the fall

It's a gallant man that steps forward to take responsibility, though perhaps Alan Frew is being just a little too hard on himself.

The well known Canadian signer and devoted Leafs fan, recently composed a stirring anthem for the Leaf Nation called Free to Be (Go Leafs Go), hopeful that words and music would help to lift the Leafs from their lethargic ways.


Alas, as the stats shall show, music wasn't what the Leafs needed, not that Frew didn't give it his best shot, but unless that shot involved putting a puck into a net or knocking an opponent away from their own, the Leafs weren't in tune with what Frew had for them.

With the woeful record of the Leafs upon the playing of the anthem (unofficially listed as 0-9-3), it's possible it will be available in discount bins Metro wide in short order.

And while it's reassuring to see someone in Toronto step up and take some responsibility for a season gone so wrong, it would seem that the problem isn't with what's going onto the Maple Leaf iPod but rather what's going on the ice.

Still, if music is to be blamed, perhaps it wasn't the new music, but one of Frew's old classics that tells the real tale of the Leafs year of woe.

We can't confirm this of course, but perhaps Brian Burke's musical problems began when the Leafs adopted this golden oldie from the Leafs biggest booster.

Shifting tumbleweeds in the desert

While Gary Bettman and the rest of the worker bees at the head office hold their thoughts close to their vest,  there is going to be a changing of the guard in the hometown of the Coyotes.

In an interesting timeline, Glendale's Mayor Elaine Scruggs and City Manager Ed Beasley, both announced that they won't be seeking a return to their respective offices when Glendale's residents go to the polls later this year in Arizona. The Mayor having decided that she shall not run for another term of office, while the City Manager feels that retirement is in his immediate future..

Mayor Elaine Scruggs and City Manager Ed Beasley, of course were the driving force between the financial agreements in place in recent years that saw the residents of Glendale becoming financial backers, but not actual owners of a professional hockey franchise, a situation that didn't seem to have universal support in the suburban community.

The pair seemingly won't be alone in the departure lounge of local government, the Vice Mayor of Glendale Steve Frate also announced his plans to step away from politics on Thursday.

Their announced departures comes along, just as the fate of the Coyotes once again makes for a talking point among NHL followers, with the rumours running the range of the re-introduction of the Ice Age group with a hopeful eye the locals and NHL officials say to keeping the team in Arizona, to a possible move of the franchise either to Seattle or as the folks in Quebec would hope to the provincial capital on the St. Lawrence.

While her tenure perhaps will be missed by Gary Bettman, (it's not every day you can find someone with 20 million working capital for two years in a row) some of the local politicians on the Glendale scene aren't  going to be sad to see her departure.

In the case of  Councilman Phil Lieberman perhaps with it the end of the money pit like existence of the Coyotes, to that end we imagine that by his wish to wave good bye to them, Mr. Lieberman has not been among the small but faithful collective that take in Coyote games.

Still, if you're looking for an end game to the Coyote saga, this would appear to be the beginning of the end, once the few true blue Howling backers decide to walk off into the sunset, it probably isn't too much longer before the hockey team does the same.

AZ Central-- Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs will not seek a 6th term
Globe and Mail-- Architects of Glendale pro sports disaster won't be around for fallout
National Post-- Coyote's solution remains a puzzle
Seattle Times-- Could future of Phoenix Coyotes be in Seattle?

Montreal Meltdown complete, as Habs hang out the "Aide Demandee" sign...

With news that Pierre Gauthier has been removed from his duties with Les Canadiens, we started humming a few tunes in our head yesterday, reaching back into the musical archives of Bonnie Tyler we were, with her hopeful musical offering of Holding Out for a Hero...

To recap the pertinent points for the fans of Les Habitants...

And I dream of what I need.
I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast

And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.
I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light.
He's gotta be sure, And it's gotta be soon

And he's gotta be larger than life!
Larger than life.

Indeed, that does seem to fit the bill, the Habs finishing off a most horrid season, one which saw a team that almost knocked off the eventual Stanley Cup champions last year, finding that the only race they're in this one is the chase for the first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft.

As the NHL season winds down and with it the plans of fans from Gatineau to Sept Iles and all points in between, the Habs are heading into their rebuilding years.  Sweeping the old guard out of the executive offices on Thursday morning, Geoff Molson bade farewell to Mr. Gauthier and in almost an aside to Bob Gainey, who it seems will no longer be providing guidance to the ownership group.

A not unexpected development, though as more than a few observers pointed out on twitter on Thursday, an event that like a previous management firing of earlier this year, surely could have waited until between periods one and two of Friday night's hockey game.

Regardless of the timing however, the Pierre Gauthier era is now one for the history books, no doubt destined for its own subsection in the lengthy journals that is the history of Les Canadiens.

To help turn around the beleaguered  franchise and entering from stage right,  one Serge Savard, legendary Hab and now tasked to assist Mr. Molson in the search for the new General Manager, looking for as they say the best man for the job.

Which perhaps is a bit of a public relations bromide in this case, for one imagines that if the right man for the job doesn't have a functional use of French, then his placement on the depth chart may drop significantly.

Montreal, as it always has been, is one of those NHL franchises where pressure is magnified tenfold, a ready to pounce media tracks every move, every word and what isn't fact, sometimes is made up juste pour rire.

And with one of the most knowledgeable and passionate of fan bases of any professional sport,  even a minor league roster move becomes the thing of a great opera.

In Montreal, unlike many other an NHL franchise, there are no mulligans, mistakes are magnified, debated and revenge exacted should things not work out, comparisons to the past are the yardstick of measurement in Montreal.

To that atmosphere, Messrs. Savard and Molson begin their quest.

Running the Montreal Canadiens may as the Habs ownership group suggest be of a higher calling, steward to a franchise of historical importance that at this moment doesn't at all resemble the teams that Mr. Molson so gallantly salutes.

The rewards of course will be heady (not to mention we imagine the paycheque for such an undertaking), bringing the Canadiens past respectability and back into championship form will make the architect an icon in Quebec.

Failure of course will render his name to the back pages of the historical tomes of Les Canadiens, not without a bit of tar and feathering along the way.

Good luck on the head hunting, the non's, may outnumber the oui's, by a rather hefty margin.

In the end, if Montreal fans don't like the musical stylings of Ms. Tyler, there's always the post apocalyptic interpretations of Tina Turner, which considering the way this season played out, may find some cache along the boulevards.

Montreal Gazette-- Gauthier is out. How about Serge Savard
Montreal Gazette-- Montreal Canadiens fire GM Pierre Gauthier; Bob Gainey exits as adviser
Montreal Gazette-- Montreal Canadiens settling for less, Serge Savard says
Montreal Gazette-- Gauthier latest victim of Montreal Canadiens' malaise
Montreal Gazette-- Montreal Canadiens' Molson casts net to win back fans
Montreal Gazette-- Gauthier's firing caps a season to forget
National Post-- Canadiens begin search for next general manager
National Post-- New Canadiens GM will need to win over fans
National Post-- Canadiens having tough time living up to the past
National Post-- Canadiens ready for fresh start after Pierre Gauthier firing
Globe and Mail-- Don't expect magical turnaround in Montreal
Globe and Mail-- Canadiens fire Gauthier, begin search for new GM
Globe and Mail-- Answering Montreal's prayers: St. Patrick ascends to the Habs
Toronto Star-- Montreal Canadiens' glory days are gone, likely for good
Toronto Star-- Montreal Canadiens fire GM Pierre Gauthier after dismal season
Toronto Sun-- Habs fire Gauthier, Gainey
Toronto Sun-- Roy, McGuire among leading candidates for Habs

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Woe Canada, the playoff options are dwindling

Monday night's Senators victory over the Winnipeg Jets left even Senators fans feeling a little down, while the Sens obviously needed to reverse the slide they were on heading into Monday night, the two points most valuable as they battle for a playoff spot, the victory all but sealed the fate of the Winnipeg Jets storybook return to Manitoba.

For in River city this year it seems there will not be playoff hockey, not that Manitoban's will be alone on the couch watching hockey from afar.

The Toronto Maple Leafs can officially start making their golf reservations, officially eliminated on Tuesday night, joining the Edmonton Oilers and the Canadiens de Montreal in trading in hockey pants for golfing shorts before April even arrives.

Standing on the bubble and more than likely to be on the outside looking in are the Calgary Flames, a team that must hope for a collapse of monumental proportions by all teams above them in the lurch towards eighth place in the West, something that seems less and less likely with each passing night.

That leaves Canadians with two teams from the home and native land to cheer on, Ottawa and Vancouver, neither of which it seems has universal adoration beyond their own metropolitan limits.  Ottawa of course just annoys the heck out of the nation mainly because of the folks that toil up on Parliament Hill, the blow back from their efforts seemingly washes over Kanata and taints the hockey team with the name of the city the nation seems to enjoy cheering against.

Likewise, as we found out last year the Canucks march towards Lord Stanley's Mug didn't exactly rally the nation to the flag, hell east of Quebec there were probably many more fans cheering on the Bruins in last years final than there would be cheering on the Canucks, the rest of the country it seems while watching the finals really didn't seem to get caught up in the passion of a Canadian participant after all.

Still, for Hockey Night in Canada as well as TSN, a lack of Canadian based involvement probably isn't what they had been hoping for when they divvied up the playoff rights, as it is now it would seem that we're going to learn a lot more in the first round about the Predators, Blues, Panthers et al than we might have had more Canadian teams managed to find enough points to make the playoffs.

Though there is hope for the networks and hockey fans from coast to coast to coast, we should all be hoping for Phoenix to make the playoffs and carry on deep, it might make for a dandy introduction for the folks in Quebec City, who seem destined to be opening up a kernel for the NHL's wandering dogs of the desert.

However, there is one caveat for that support, Quebec City's prospective owners and city officials probably  aren't hoping for a long Stanley Cup run for the Coyotes, somehow should they go deep into the playoffs one might wonder if the NHL would be willing to relocate a semi final participant or, God of all hockey willing, a Stanley Cup champion the year that they find such success.

So, we imagine when it comes to Phoenix, Canadians will be cheering for the underdog, but not for too long, no doubt preferring to see them migrate back to hockey country at the end of their playoff experience.

Globe and Mail-- Canadian teams barely a blip in the chase for Lord Stanley's trophy
National Post-- Canadian fans have little to cheer for in NHL playoffs

Monday, March 26, 2012

Keith suspension has NHL observers talking

Depending on your perspective (and perhaps which team you cheer for) Brendan Shanahan is either

A: as wise as Judge Judy in the quest for true justice,

B: Doing the best he can under trying conditions or

C: more than ready to take a place on the bench in Manitoba.

Such is the range of commentary on his decision of last week on the amount of time Duncan Keith will sit out after his missile like elbow to Daniel Sedin's head on Wednesday night.

Incredibly, (well maybe not now that we think of it) the topic even intruded into British Columbia's always entertaining political scene (though perhaps Premier Christy Clark should really concentrate on other matters at the moment).

As most hockey followers know by now Keith was assessed a five game suspension for his offence, which will take him almost to the end of the regular season before he can step back onto the ice on behalf of the Blackhawks.

The hit which was a nasty bit of work, came as part of the renewal of acquaintances between the Hawks and the Canucks, an event that was advertised by TSN as a game where emotions could run high.

If nothing else, the two teams at least provided some truth in advertising for TSN, though clearly when players end up injured to the point where their return is not yet known, perhaps things got a little out of hand.

Indeed, some suggest (among them Alain Vigneault of the Canucks) that the officiating on Wednesday set the tone of how the game evolved, a previous hit by Sedin on Keith, which as they say rode a little high, did not get a call, so the theory goes it was open season on hitting whether fair or foul.

At any rate, Justice Shanahan weighed the evidence, pondered the possibilities and came up with five games for Keith, available to the Hawks should they need some desperation points in the final few games of the season and on to the playoffs.

No word has been issued from Vancouver as to the state of health of Daniel Sedin, he too for the moment unavailable for the final flurry of games to bring down the curtain on the regular season.

The cause of taking head shots out of the game once again comes to the top of the conversation list for the NHL, a message that seemingly doesn't resonate with the players, as the head shots continue and the players are sidelined, though this time a star player is out of the line up when he's most needed most and just prior to the showcase of the NHL the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Still perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that despite his efforts, the players aren't getting the message, after all the NHL's own website,  not to mention players across the league recently championed the "staged fight" between the Rangers and Devils at puck drop at the Garden.

It's really no wonder, that no one, players, officials or fans is getting the message.

Globe and Mail-- Why the NHL's suspension of Duncan Keith was predictable
Globe and Mail-- Shanahan's ruling on Keith a big deal
National Post-- Brendan Shanahan stays the course, passes test with Keith ruling
Chicago Sun Times-- Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith: :"I"ll serve my time"
Chicago Tribune-- Blackhawks' Keith calls suspension 'fair'
Vancouver Province-- Canuck Henrik Sedin calls for tougher in game penalties on hard hits
Vancouver Province-- Daniel Sedin's injury more pressing than Duncan Keith's suspension for elbow hit
Vancouver Province-- Vicious Duncan Keith elbow hit sends Daniel Sedin to Vancouver specialist
Vancouver Sun-- Duncan Keith suspended five NHL games, but how many will Canucks victim...
Vancouver Sun-- NHL hits 'reckless' Keith with five games
Vancouver Sun-- Duncan Keith's NHL suspension: What they're saying
Vancouver Sun-- Canuck's Daniel Sedin vs. Blackhawks' Duncan Keith What they're saying
Vancouver Sun-- Duncan Keith will be suspended; he should be suspended for longer
Montreal Gazette-- Violence is getting worse, not better
New York Post-- Shanahan too lenient on Keith Suspension
ESPN-- Does Keith's punishment fit the crime?
ESPN-- Keith gets a heavy-handed punishment
ESPN-- Keith's hit fuels Hawks-Canucks rivalry
CBC-- There is no joy in Vancouver with Keith's suspension

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Waiting for Radulov...

The saga of the recalcitrant Predator is starting to take on the aura of a Le Carre thriller, as the Nashville Predators, await the arrival of their playoff ace in the hole, Alexander Radulov.

The once was, still is (apparently) but perhaps not future Pred was rumoured to be on his way back to North America last week, an announcement that put Preds GM David Poile on the top of the dirt list of the Mean Girl like GM's of the NHL, a number that probably was close to 28 (Phoenix can't have a vote since they are wards of the NHL and thus would we imagine sign off on such things) as the collective cried foul, though if in Poile's shoes would have done the exact same thing.

Regardless of their anger, the transit papers were in motion we were told and now some four, five days later we still await our first Radulov sighting along the streets of Music City.

And yet, a strange thing happened on the way to the Bridgestone Arena, Alex, seemingly hasn't boarded a plane yet.

The Predators have been filing updates with the same kind of regularity that Peyton Manning watchers posted pics of the Manning road show, so yesterday's rather terse announcement that no more comments will be made until Tuesday is something to give some thought to.

We're not sure whether Radulov ever makes it across the ocean or not (though the latest update suggests rather breathlessly that he's on his way), nor whether he finally slips on that Predator jersey that they seemingly have been keeping in dry cleaning all these years, but one thing is certain.

We imagine that a rule change is going to be considered for the season's to come, something along the lines of a player must actually have skated with his team prior to a date much earlier than two weeks before playoff time.

It may be allowed, but it sure seems wrong to be able to start airlifting players from their restful schedule of Europe just in time for the hard gruelling marathon of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A drop dead date (for lack of a better term) would seemingly be a must if these kinds of scenarios are not to repeat themselves.  Perhaps tie it in with either the All Star Game or the Winter Classic, if a player has not skated on the active roster by that point, he is then considered to be not available for the remainder of the regular and post season.

Unless you're a fan of Nashville, this current silliness just seems wrong.

The Tennessean-- Alexander Radulov's return to Nashville Predators appears imminent
The Tennessean-- Nashville Predators on Alexander Radulov:"cautiously optimistic'
The Tennessean-- Nashville Predators would welcome Alexander Radulov back
Nashville City Paper-- Predators poised for Radulov's return...
Russia Today-- Wandering Russian: Radulov strengthens Nashville ahead of Stanley Cup
Globe and Mail-- Predators GM says 'every indication" is that Radulov will return
Globe and Mail-- Radulov could be the piece to push Preds to playoff success
National Post-- Alexander Radulov is on his way to the Predators: agent
Edmonton Journal-- All is forgiven as Radulov returns to Music City
USA Today-- Why Alexander Radulov's return is a major event
Toronto Sun-- Radulov a true power forward

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And folks think hockey is dysfunctional at times..

While fans in Phoenix, Columbus and Long Island might have other thoughts, this week provides a bit of suggestion that while at times the undisputed home of the wacky, the NHL, when compared to the NBA is perhaps as inclined towards risk taking as an insurance adjuster is.

The last twenty four hours alone have given sports fans the vision of one star being offered the opportunity to judge and or execute (figuratively speaking of course) his coach and GM, as long as he remains within the fold.

While over at the continents largest sports market, an athlete, less than inclined to share seems to have been the main thrust in the demise of a head coach.

Tis enough to make you wonder about who really is driving the bus these days in pro sports.

And the trade deadline of later today in the NBA hasn't even arrived yet...

All in all, the events of the last few days in the NBA makes Gary Bettman's NHL look positively sane and focused by comparison.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two minutes for tweeting!

It's taken your genial host a bit of time to come around to the usefulness of the twitter revolution, but we must admit having taken a test drive of the platform over the last few weeks, we're sold, the format is one of great use and entertainment for hockey fans.

As we wandered around the various posts that appeared on our HockeyNation twitter post, we suddenly came to the conclusion that running a list of some of our favourite twitter accounts might become a tad overwhelming for the right hand side of our blog.

So in the spirit of compact and clean, we will list those twitter pages below, the link to this list will be found on the right hand side of the blog, under the heading listed above.

Some of our picks deal with hockey exclusively, others make mention of the sport as part of their larger efforts, all however add an interesting perspective into the game.

Considering the growing legions of tweeters and followers , this we suspect will be an ever evolving thing, so check back often to see who has been added.


Bruce Arthur
Scott Burnside
Don Cherry (Coach's Corner)
Cam Cole
Damien Cox
Marc Crawford
Chris Cuthbert
Bruce Dowbiggin
Darren Dreger
Eric Duhatschek
Kevin Paul Dupont
Ray Ferraro
Scott Feschuk
Sean FitzGerald
Elliotte Friedman
Bruce Garrioch
Michael Grange
Dave Hodge
Brett Hull
Terry Jones
Gare Joyce
Nick Kypreos
Ben Kuzma
Pierre LeBrun
Jeff MacGregor
Roy MacGregor
Doug Maclean
Bob McCown
Bob McKenzie
Ian Mendes
Daren Millard
Greg Millen
Dave Molinari
Scott Morrison
Scott Oake
Darren Pang
Gino Reda
Wayne Scanlan
Matthew Sekeres
John Shannon
David Shoalts
Bill Simmons
Steve Simmons
Gord Stellick
Chris Stevenson
P. J. Stock
Helene St. James
Al Strachan
Mark Spector Sports
Bill Watters
Kevin Weekes
Tim Wharnsby

NHL Management


Gary Bettman
Brendan Shanahan


Brian Burke
Mike Gillis
Ted Leonsis


Sportsnet Hockey Central
Hockey Night in Canada
NHL on NBC Sports
ESPN Hockey


Down goes Brown 

Saluting those that have passed

Always anxious to share our finds upon the Internet, we add to our list of links today a Twitter feed and Facebook page dedicated to those hockey heroes of the past who have passed away.

Hockey Memorial offers up obituaries from around the world of hockey, fitting tributes to those that played the game and now have passed from the stats pages but not from our memories.

Culling obituaries and news articles from around the world, the Hockey Memorial is a fascinating addition to the available material about the game, pointing to its past and celebrating those that built the game.

Well worth a look for hockey historians, it rekindles our memories of the players that have made hockey the sport we all love to follow.

First to Fifty!

Considering the anxious glances towards the Tampa Bay Lightning's much vaunted 1-3-1 at the start of the season, you tend to do a double take when you hear that  22 year old Steven Stamkos became the first NHLer this year to reach the 50 goal benchmark.

No slight on Stamkos, who clearly is a gifted scorer, it's just that Tampa has kind of disappeared into an NHL version of the  Bermuda Triangle, not much is heard about the place this year.

Stamkos picked up goals number 49 and 50 on Tuesday night, leading the Lightning to a 6-1 victory over the Boston  Bruins, uh, the Boston Bruins?  Time for another double take.

Indicative of the sudden struggles of the B's these days, the Lightning filled the net with frightening regularity on Tuesday(well frightening if you're Claude Julien and wondering what the heck is going on).

The feat by Stamkos clearly puts him on the homestretch towards the Rocket Richard award at season's end, the goal scorers holy grail when it comes to the planned ceremonies in Las Vegas in June. He is far and away ahead of all his competitors in this 2011-12 season.

With his goal scoring pace and adding on assists along the way, he also may have a shot at the overall scoring title, Stamkos currently is tied for the lead with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.

Of course, Stamkos most likely would rather have a chance to hoist up the Stanley Cup, but this year at least,  at this point and despite 197 goals for thus far, that would seem to be a doubtful proposition, as the Bolts trail a playoff spot by some 7 points.

So barring a sudden Stamkos led surge to the final playoff spot, the Bolts  may have to settle for the individual awards when they come along.

And heading towards the end of the season, the prospects of a trip to Las Vegas seem very good for Mr. Stamkos.

Tampa Bay Times-- Steven Stamkos hits 50 goal mark for second time ...
TBO-- Stamkos scores 50th, joins exclusive group as Bolts roll
Toronto Star-- Steven Stamkos scores 50th goal ...
Boston Globe-- Lightning's Stamkos scores 2 to reach 50 goals
NBC Sports-- Steven Stamkos becomes this season's first 50 goal scorer
Sports Illustrated -- Lightning's Stamkos scores 2 to reach 50
NESN-- Steven Stamkos Scores 49th, 50th Goals of Season in Blowout win over Bruins

A little sun, A little fun, not much done...

The NHL's General Managers have put away the golf clubs for a few days, their 48 hours or so in the Florida sun now at an end and the business of playoff hockey now at hand (Brian Burke, Scott Howson, of course are excused from this portion of the agenda).

Beyond the games of golf, the celebration of Pat Quinn's many achievements and the general camaraderie of the gathering, the GM's apparently looked over a few ideas for rule changes, some good, some of the what the hell category.

One that caught our eye was the prospect of adopting Ringette rules for NHL use, a trial balloon that most likely will have Don Cherry apoplectic by Saturday nights church service on Hockey Night.

To avoid the prospect of returning the red line to NHL prominence the GM's have decided to look over at the world of Ringette for an example, which features a line across the top of the face off circles in each zone, the adoption of which it is hoped would increase the need for defence men to handle the puck rather than just blast it down the ice and hope for the best.

While the on ice marking line gains the most attention, purists may worry that the NHL may just rewrite their entire rule book based on the various chapters of the Ringette bible for hockey.

Now we can't say we are very familiar with Ringette, so the rule change under study may or may not be a workable solution to all that ails the NHL,  but we wonder if the NHL may wish to explore Ringette's rules further, for instance the shot clock rule could change the whole dynamic of the  Tampa Bay Lightning's less than hurried approach to hockey at times.

Also for the concussion weary NHL, perhaps adopting the no contact rule from Ringette would surely reduce the prospect of a Sidney Crosby having to take a season off to recover from wayward elbows and such.

And really, when was the last time you saw a YouTube rock em sock em video from a ringette game?

Of course adoption of the Ringette blue print  would render the word truculence no longer to be part of the lexicon of the Leaf Nation.

Traditionalist longing for the old days may anticipate that the ringette line experiment is but the thin wedge the Don Cherry has long warned us about.

Some of the reviews of the hard work completed can be found below:

Globe and Mail-- GMs united behind hybrid icing rule
Globe and Mail-- NHL GMs express support for hybrid icing
National Post-- NHL GM meetings: Hybrid icing gains support
Toronto Star-- NHL general managers looking to tweak the game
Toronto Sun-- 'Ringette line' to be tested by AHL
TSN-- Potential rule changes and how officials adapt
TSN-- NHL GMs meet to debate player safety, rule change proposals

Friday, March 09, 2012

Have pads, will travel...

Bob McKenzie's twitter page highlighted the growing concern in NHL ranks over holding onto a stable of experienced goaltenders, whether it's an injury during the game or one at home (Hello Mr. Anderson) goaltenders it seems have been at the front of the line at the local emergency ward this year.

It's especially nerve wracking for GM's as we head into the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs beckon, those sixteen teams with potential plans to play hockey through to June with any luck will need some strong characters in the nets.

Philadelphia for example is is an example of a team that may be keeping a watchful eye on their goaltender, wondering if solar flare activity or other non worldly concerns may impact of the concentration and success  rate for their goaltender.

Likewise, in Chicago the prospect of success or failure rests more and more on the gents between the pipes, a roller coaster ride in the Windy City that must be adding to the anxiety factor as we get closer and closer to April's playoffs.

The last month or so has probably added more than a few grey hairs to GM's, more than likely contributing to the lack of movement of goaltenders at the trading deadline, as a cautious General Manager more than likely understands that a seasoned back up is more than ever a key ingredient for any NHL teams ambitions post season.

The best example of such a thing is in Vancouver, where more than a few thought that maybe Cory Schneider would be on the move last month, however, as we have all since seen, the trading deadline passed and Schneider remained in Canucks colours, in fact, playing more and more frequently through February and into March.

Providing rest for Roberto Luongo and at times stepping in when the Canucks felt that perhaps Luongo was struggling.  Few NHL teams have that one - two punch, for the most part they are living (and hoping that they aren't going to die) with their number one workhorse, hopeful that injury does not make a visit between now and the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Still, if you have a set of pads and can travel at the drop of a puck, get your resume out there quick, there's a good chance you could find space on the bench in the year of the revolving goaltender...

Boston Globe-- Vacation over for Bruins' Marty Turco
Boston Globe-- With Tuuka Rask out, Bruins hope Marty Turco can help
Ottawa Citizen-- A goaltending problem worth having
National Post-- Craig Anderson's return to Senators up in the air

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gary Bettman's reading room

There's a scandal a brewing in the NFL, perhaps the world's most successful and greatest money making machine in sport.  It's a scandal built on the suggestion that NFL teams have put a bounty on opposing players, laying waste to the idea that they are all part of a fraternity, playing hard but treating each other with nothing but the utmost  of respect.

It's a theme wonderfully dissected by Charles P. Pierce on the Grantland website, Pierce has crafted a terrific article that touches on any number of accepted beliefs about the NFL, revealing them as the window dressing for a sport that has its dark and violent side.

A side that sits just to the side of potential disaster, where lawyers will no doubt find a lucrative business should such things as bounties and deliberate attempts to injure not be reigned in.

If you're Gary Bettman today, you are reading that article with great interest and just a little bit of trepidation.

For this brewing NFL scandal should resonate with him and all of the NHL owners.

In fact, if you want to read along with the Commish, insert Gary Bettman's name for Roger Goodell's, fighting for headhunting...  

It offers up a future that may not be a rewarding one for Mr. Bettman and his ownership group, one that should provide the Commissioner and Board of Governors with more than a few points to consider at their next social gathering.

First question at that time should be, hey have you read anything interesting lately?

The bronzed God of Pittsburgh hockey

"But that was his signature, making defensemen look silly.  "It sums up what he did."-- Mario Lemieux fan Jill Balmer part of the 6,000 Penguin fans attending the unveiling of a statue heralding the career of Mario Lemieux

Safe to say, Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton probably never thought there would be a statue made of them, but there they are, immortalized to a degree on a plaza at the Consol Energy Centre, the moving parts of the celebration of Mario Lemieux's magnificent career.

In fact, "Le Maginfique" is the name given to the statue of Lemieux, created by Master sculptor Bruce Wolfe and assisted by Chris Linden an art director at the University of California at Berkeley, who comes by his love of the Penguins honestly having coached minor and high school hockey in the city from 2005-08.

The statue stands 10 feet, 3 inches, is 13 feet long and 10 feet deep, weighs 4,700 pounds. Construction of it took fifteen months and it required six days of transportation aboard a flatbed truck to arrive in Pittsburgh from the Piedmont, California construction site.

It's design was modelled on a Sports Illustrated photo from a February 1989 issue, part of an article comparing Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky's careers.

Like then, now the two are equals again, though Gretzky is one up on Mario in bronzing, he has long had a statue in his honour, easily found on any trip to Edmonton and there's one outside of Staples Centre in Los Angeles, equal commemorations of his contribution to hockey in those two cities.

Now the other revered name of that era of hockey can lay claim to his own piece of bronze.

For Lemieux, the statue which was funded by some 25 private investors, including the other members of the Penguin ownership group, is yet another thank you for his contribution to Penguin hockey both on the ice and off of it, perhaps even more so the latter.

For if not for Lemieux's efforts in the darkest days of the Penguins franchise, the team would not even be in the city, for the most part it was Lemieux alone who saved the game in the Pennsylvania city, that alone is more than worth the price of bronze.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Staute outside Penguins' Consol home honours Lemieux
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- The making of Mario Lemieux's statue
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Mario's monument fitting
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- A super statue for a super Mario
Globe and Mail-- Penguins immortalize Lemieux
Toronto Star-- Mario Lemieux statue unveiled by Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Sun-- Pens bronze Mario
USA Today-- Mario Lemieux statue unveiled in Pittsburgh
CBC-- Lemieux staute unveiled in Pittsburgh
New York Times-- Statue of Lemieux includes Nod to Islanders
ESPN-- Staute of Mario Lemieux unveiled
TSN-- The two other guys in that Maginficent tribute

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Battle of Bombast

(Left: Like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Don Cherry and Brian Burke in happier times, before feuding became the main event of the woeful Leafs 2011-12 season)

Truculence, it's a word that Brian Burke has used more than once in media interviews about what he's looking for in his Maple Leafs, if they're wondering exactly what truculence involves, perhaps a glimpse at the boss and his burgeoning feud with Donald S. Cherry might be instructive.

For those that like their side shows loud, this is like a gift from the Hockey Gods,  Brian Burke and Don Cherry exchanging salutations at a very high volume, though seemingly not with each other .

The bounty of bombast got rolling at full speed this weekend, when Don Cherry somehow turned his thoughts on the firing of Ron Wilson into a screed against Burke, who according to Cherry apparently tried to have him removed from his Coach's Corner pulpit.


As Cherry understands things, Burke went to the boss at the CBC and not so subtly suggested that Cherry's frequent rants against the Leafs (more it seems against now ex coach Wilson) were poisoning the relationship between the Mother Corporation and the Mother Ship over at MLSE.

With that talking point out there late Saturday night, much more was seemingly interpreted from those events, leading to the suggestion that perhaps the Hockey Night in Canada franchise itself was in peril, with the NHL Board of Governors seemingly ready to accept other offers for the iconic Canadian broadcast.

Things got even stranger this week, as Burke who now must surely understand the asylum he has entered with his time at MLSE, became a little testy with a Toronto radio show host.

Clearly upset at how the interview was going Burke it seems ended up hanging up on John Moore of Newstalk 1010 after a question about his future which was perceived by Burke as rude (You've been in Toronto a few years now and just now you're finding the media pushy?).

Meanwhile, while Burke was or was not hanging up on a talk show host, Don Cherry decided to join Stephen Brunt and Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports, seeming to bury a hatchet of the past with Brunt while at the same time reliving the whole Burke is out to get me scenario from the weekend.

So much drama, no doubt so good for the ratings, newspaper sales and web site clicks.

Now at some point we imagine this will all settle down, Cherry and Burke somehow will make their apologies, sing a chorus of Danny boy, perhaps on St. Patrick's Day and all will be forgiven.

Though at the moment it may all just be pure genius for Burke, right now while Randy Carlyle is busy trying to man the pumps of the sinking Leafs ship, the Commander in Chief is busy providing for a redirection for the media.

Perhaps that's why Burke makes the big money in the big smoke, the job requires a bit more than just day to day hockey operations, it involves performances that would make Opera seem blasé.

National Post-- Brian Burke vs. Don Cherry: The battle for Ontario
Toronto Star -- Don Cherry's rant against  Brian Burke over on Ontario players on Maple Leafs is just silly
Toronto Star-- Silliness
Toronto Star-- CBC's Don Cherry fires back at Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke
NBC Sports-- Brian Burke responds to Don Cherry's Ontario complaints
Toronto Sun-- Burke responds to Cherry's rant
Toronto Sun-- Cherry offside blasting Burke
Toronto Sun-- Burke Anti-Ontario? Not really
CBC-- Don Cherry goes off on Leafs' GM Burke
Sportsnet-- Burke responds to Cherry rant
Vancouver Province-- Don Cherry confused me on March 3rd
Toronto Sun-- Pressure getting to Burke?
TSN-- Leafs GM Burke Hangs up during Toronto radio interview
Globe and Mail-- Don Cherry blasts Leafs' GM Brian Burke on Wilson firing

Regis le renovateur

Hearts may beating a little faster in Quebec City these days, as Mayor Regis Labeaume outlines the planned renovation of Le Colisee, the ancient and storied structure that has been the home of many a memorable game of shinny in the Quebec capital.

Lebeaume, pulled out the blue prints for the media on Tuesday, explaining what Holmes on Homes could possibly do with some 6.8 million in upgrades.

It of course comes on the heels of the big announcement of a few weeks back, where the affable Mayor clearly on a mission to deliver an NHL team to his city outlined the partners and plans that are coming together towards a new 400 million dollar arena for the city, a shining little palace du hockey that would just wonderful with a return of the NHL skating on the ice surface.

Towards that goal and perhaps with whispers in the wind, the facelift and upgrade for the Grande old arena of Quebec would be ready for NHL tenancy by September, the renovation plan contingent on some kind of sign from Gary Bettman that a team is on the way.

We're not exactly sure if the word has been passed or if the Mayor of Quebec City is just adding some pressure to Mr. Bettman and the owners of other troubled franchises, but one can't help but imagine that Quebec City is going to be back in the NHL fold and perhaps much sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Flaherty takes Duncan into the boards

A timely body check by Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who delivered a pretty solid body check to his Ontario counterpart today, in the process gaining the admiration of the users of luxury boxes out in Kanata.

Dwight Duncan, Ontario's Finance Minister had apparently appealed to the Feds to make a change in taxation policy that would remove a tax break to corporations to write off  half of the cost o tickets to sporting events.

The plan was to recoup some 15 million dollars for the Ontario treasury, current facing a 16 billion dollar deficit, however, more than a few observers, not the least of which were the folks that own and operate the Senators suggested that if that change were to be made the very future of the NHL in Ottawa was in peril.

Hyperbole perhaps, but still, it seemed like kind of a stupid move politically for a provincial government, especially considering they hold a number of seats in the Ontario Legislature from Ottawa and the Premier, Dalton McGuinty is from the nation's capital.

While there would be some gain for the province by ending that break, critics of the Ontario Liberals financial acumen, suggest that they have missed many other opportunities to reign in their budgetary woes.

Beyond that, putting a team like Ottawa at risk over a minor gain, in the long run may do more harm to the tax collectors at Queen's Park, if the worst was to happen and the Senators driven out of the province owing to the burden of operations, Ontario would lose much more in dollars on the variety of collections they make from a pro sports franchise.

Anyways, all ends well in the land of the luxury suite was Mr. Flatherty refused that suggestion and for now pending some other strange happenstance, the tax break and the Senators are safe.

Though desperate as they are for cash, don't count out a last minute flurry by the Ontario Liberals around those Senators luxury boxes.

Ottawa Citizen-- Sports ticket tax write-off to continue
Ottawa Sun-- Sports tax grab insults Ottawa
Ottawa Sun-- Duncan and McGuinty fight back at Flaherty
National Post-- Flaherty saves the Ottawa Senators, and maybe Dalton McGuinty too
Globe and Mail-- Ontario Liberals dismiss Senators' doom
Hamilton Spectator-- Flaherty putting sport-ticket tax breaks for business before health care: Duncan

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Wilson Watch comes to an end

The long twisting in the wind of Ron Wilson came to an end on Friday night, with Brian Burke playing the role of the Governor apparently not providing the last minute reprieve, leaving Wilson to the fate that the growing noise of the rabble of Maple Leaf had been demanding.

No word on whether he was provided with a blindfold and a cigarette, nor what he had for his last meal.

The news which overshadowed TSN's Friday night doubleheader of hockey upon its delivery in the Senators / Hawks game quickly resonated around the hockey world, the Leafs in the midst of a free fall of epic proportions chose as always the case in these things to fire the coach, rather than the roster of non performing players.

Brian Burke compared the free fall to akin to an eighteen wheeler going off the cliff, and as Damien Cox pointed out in his Toronto Star column, Burke admits that the players had tuned out their head coach.

And with that (and a recently signed Christmas present contract extension) the Ron Wilson era at MLSE has now come to an end, replaced by another old acquaintance of Brian Burke's, Randy Carlyle the coach who Burke won a Stanley Cup with while in Anaheim.

Carlyle was identified as the new head coach shortly after the story began to snowball across the hockey telegraph wire, or to be more precise once the twitter feeds started to chirp in a noisy cacophony.

An actual introduction to the new Leaf's coach took place earlier today as Burke relived the last few torturous weeks of Maple Leaf hockey and hoped for better days (or at least a playoff spot we guess) to come over the course of the remaining games of the season.

In the end, Wilson's final days became the thing of a Maple Leaf soap opera, something not unfamiliar to Toronto fans.  From the crowd chanting for Burke to fire the coach earlier this week to the renewed calls of the media (a collective that never seemed to have a good relationship with the coach) that Wilson be removed, it was not an unexpected result, though the timing is perhaps a case of coming just a little bit too late.

Basically Wilson had lost his room, had lost the media (not that he ever had them, nor that it should matter) had lost the faith of the fans (see above), but most importantly he had lost the faith of his boss, which in the end is the only thing he couldn't solve.

Lest he think that he may have a bit of slack to play with in Toronto, Carlyle should probably be aware that coaching in the Big Smoke seemingly has no such honeymoon period ,  only it seems pre authorized payments to a divorce attorney for the eventual split.

Carlyle was offered a three year contract, which considering how things go in Toronto is probably more of a pre-nup arrangement than a contract, his arrival however has many Leafs observers suggesting that Marlies coach Dallas Eakins a rising star in the AHL ranks is most likely going to be exploring other coaching options now, not likely to want to wait to see how things develop with the big club over three years.

The Cox article outlined the success of Randy Carlyle as an NHL and AHL coach, a record that features never having a losing season,  if ever he was going to put that accomplishment to the test, you have the feeling he's going to tempt the fates and put that record at peril with his arrival behind the Leafs bench tonight.

Needless to say the developments in Leafland are but the main talking point of the day, some results of which can be found below.

Toronto Star-- Ron Wilson fired: Leafs turn to Randy Carlyle
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs chat with Dave Feschuk
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs GM: It was like an 18 wheeler going right off a cliff
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, winger Joffrey Lupul set aside differences
Toronto Star-- Fans react to Wilson firing, Carlyle hiring
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson fired...
Toronto Star-- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson fired: Leafs GM Brian Burke lowers boom
Toronto Star-- Ron Wilson fired: Fan chants cap tumultuous era
Toronto Sun-- Burke: Team fell 'right off a cliff'
Toronto Sun-- Leafs Locker: Burke calls Eakins
Toronto Sun-- Wilson's fate was sealed
Toronto Sun-- 'Fire Wilson' chant was last straw
Toronto Sun-- Carlyle, Lupul mend fences
Toronto Sun-- Ron Wilson fired as Leafs coach
Toronto Sun-- GM took easy way out
Toronto Sun-- He simply failed to win
Toronto Sun-- Carlyle isn't Mr. Congeniality
Toronto Sun-- Burke throws Wilson under the bus
Globe and Mail-- The inside story behind Burke's decision to can Wilson, court Carlyle
Globe and Mail-- Carlyle brings gruelling practices, gruff style, savvy for reading team
Globe and Mail-- Carlyle runs first practice, clears the air with Lupul
Globe and Mail-- Burke says decision to axe Wilson came after chants at last home game
Globe and Mail-- Leafs fire head coach Ron Wilson, replace him with Randy Carlyle
Globe and Mail-- Push finally comes to shove for Wilson
Globe and Mail-- Meet new Leafs' coach Randy Carlyle
National Post-- Was Leafs' firing of Ron Wilson the right call?
National Post-- Inevitability catches up to Leafs GM Brian Burke
National Post-- Ron Wilson's shelf life runs out with Maple Leafs
National Post-- Ron Wilson fired: Leafs name Randy Carlyle new coach
National Post-- Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke stands tall in face of defeat
National Post-- Ron Wilson fired to save him from more 'cruel punishment' from Leafs' fans: ...
National Post-- Brian Burke on the end of Ron Wilson and the Leafs' future
CBC-- Wilson out, Carlyle in as Maple Leafs coach
CBC-- Leafs GM Brian Burke: Season can be salvaged
CBC-- Dallas Eakin's NHL coaching days will come: Burke
CBC-- Wilson's tenure another miserable Leafs chapter
Sportsnet-- A crack in Burke's image
Sportsnet-- Leafs Fire Wilson, Hire Carlyle
Sportsnet-- Eakin's accepting of Leafs' decision
Sportsnet-- Dawn of a new age
Sportsnet-- The Spotlight's on Burke
Sportsnet-- Unmet expectations
TSN-- Carlyle introduced as new head coach of Maple Leafs
TSN-- Carlyle looks to 're-energize' slumping Leafs