Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Doctor Brady to the consultation room

You have to think that Sidney Crosby is probably wondering about the state of health care these days, the Penguins start player seemingly going more than a year before someone in the medical world discovered that in addition to the many concerns over his concussed status, there was apparently a wee problem with his neck.

Reports have it that it's a cracked vertebrae in his neck to be exact, C1, C2 for those marking their medical charts at home, which considering how long it took to discover, already puts the home user ahead of the real doctors and technologists in the real clinics and hospitals.

As Cam Cole asked over the weekend in this National Post article, How did doctors miss Sidney Crosby's neck injury.

Indeed, that is a pretty simple question, especially when you count the number of times that Crosby has been in a doctor's office in the last twelve months, not to mention the visits to rehabilitation specialists and any other number of medical professionals, all in a quest to find answers to Crosby's medical troubles.

One of the more intriguing  items from Cole's article is that Tom Brady, the New England Patriot's quarterback was the one who recommended that Crosby travel to a specialist in Utah, seemingly putting Brady a few miles ahead of the pack of medical specialists that missed the neck problems.

Brady's next assignment, perhaps to advise Steven Tyler that anthem singing isn't his thing...

The revelation about the neck injury came not from the Penguins or the NHL, but from Sportsnet's Bob McCown, who delivered the diagnosis while taking in the events of the All-Star game, spoiling Gary Bettman's weekend with uncomfortable facts, that being, the league's main marquee attraction has been living with pain for over a year and nobody could figure out why.

The cracked vertebrae reportedly have healed over on their own, without any medical intervention and Crosby has once again taken to the ice with his Penguin team mates engaging in light workouts, but we do not seem to be any closer to his return to the ice and the Penguins seemingly have no idea how far along the path of recovery that their star player is at.

National Post-- Diagnosis of Sidney Crosby's neck injury only produces more questions
National Post-- Sidney Crosby diagnosed with neck injury in addition to concussion
National Post-- Sidney Crosby travels to California to see neurological spine specialist
Globe and Mail-- Crosby may have had fractured vertebrae as well as concussions
Globe and Mail-- Sidney Crosby still playing the waiting game
Toronto Star-- New Crosby neck injury muddies waters
Toronto Star-- Sidney Crosby has abnormality between two vertebrae, doctors say
Toronto Star-- Injury speculation runs rampant after Crosby revelation
Toronto Star-- Sidney Crosby skates but health questions linger
Toronto Sun-- Crosby skates before Penguins practice
Toronto Sun-- Pens need Crosby back for playoff push
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins say captain Crosby's diagnosis is promising
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Crosby has neck injury
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Crosby joins Despres and Staal on ice

The latest developments on the injury front, once again are providing for thoughts on the future of the Penguin's captain, with more than a few weighing in with thoughts that Crosby may be closer to retirement than a return to the game.

That will be a discussion between Crosby and his agent, both of whom have to be wondering about the Penguins dedication towards the cattle, er the hired help, the lack of diagnosis on the neck injury and the string of concussions that not only Crosby but a few other Penguins have suffered surely food for thought when it comes to contract renegotiation time.

In the end of course any decision on the future for Sidney Crosby will of depend on his health, something which perhaps won't be left in the hands of the doctors around the Penguins igloo these days.

Globe and Mail-- Is it time for Sidney Crosby to retire?

Monday, January 30, 2012

A weekend at Eugene's

The 2012 All Star celebration has come and gone, the skills competition providing a nice showcase of those skills honed in minor hockey associations over the years, those early morning drills paying off for those selected to participate in this years celebration of hockey.

The general consensus being that Patrick Kane and John Tavares added enough spark to the skills competition to keep it entertaining with an honourable mention to Corey Perry (the Senators gift kiosk thanks you for your patronage)

Kane chose to pay homage to the Dwight Howard school of acting, donning his own personal superman cape in the shoot out competition, though we imagine that Mr. Howard may wish to contact the lawyers, cause while he was fast, Kane never did take to the air, which after all is the domain of Superman.

The Saturday evening competition was beamed across Canada on the CBC, which featured some interesting asides from the participants, though at times some script writing might have been helpful as some of our all stars are a tad reserved it seems (not all, but a good number of them).

Also, we regret that the CBC could not get a satellite hook up to the South Beach, Florida events this All Star break, we understand that Alexander Ovechkin did very well in two of the categories, that of best sun tan in a short period of time and the always popular biggest sand castle on the beach competition.  Perhaps next year, the CBC can book satellite time in advance so fans won't miss the crowded field as they do the dirty jobs of all star weekend.

The actual game, as is the case in these things, was about as riveting as a public skate at your local arena, the goaltenders seemingly the only ones that might break into a sweat and that most likely from having to wear pads.

There were no hits and obviously no fights, leaving Don Cherry with little left to do but stoke the fuel to his feud with Brian Burke, which perhaps was the most intense bit of work over the weekend.

The score of the game, oh yeah, for the record it was Team Chara 12, Team Alfie 9, and while his team came up short on the scoreboard this was a weekend of love for the Captain of the Senators, who basked in the gratitude of Ottawa's fans, perhaps the best marketing tool that Eugene Melnyk has for his team, for players looking for a new NHL home after this season, watching the affection that the Ottawa fans have for their captain should be good for a few free agent signings we would think.

Ottawa for the most part played the genial host of the weekend's festivities, the occasional snarkiness showing through for those that wear the Blue and White Maple Leaf of Toronto, but other than that occasional mis-step in the social graces, the weekend was by all accounts (with the papal blessing of Bishop Bettman) a resounding success.

However, while the Commish was saluting Ottawa's fans, one of the main villains for Ottawa fans was putting the end of the weekend into perspective, Dion Phaneuf, he of the hated Leafs best expressed for the National Post, what the all star break means for the players, beyond the relaxing weekend in the nation's capital.

“[All-star weekend is] a lot more relaxed than the day-to-day schedule of the NHL,” Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf said. “You’re not … it’s a tough word to find. When you’re playing in the regular season every day, you’re playing big games night in and night out, you look at the standings and there’s a lot of pressure to win nightly. And when you come here, it’s a fun weekend.”

“[Now] you can kind of see the finish line,” Lupul said. “You’ve got closer to 30 games left, and the games really start picking up in intensity, and it’s more meaningful.”

Indeed Mr. Phaneuf, the post all star break divide signals it's time for some serious hockey, where each and every game could be the difference between a playoff appearance and maybe just maybe a Stanley Cup, or for those that don't make the playoff cut, a chance to go see how Ovechkin's sand castles held up over the next three months.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A little bit of boorishness around ole Bytown

As the invited and nominated take in the sights and sounds of some nightlife around the Capital and prepare for tomorrow's skills competition and Sunday's all star game, a reflective moment back to Thursday night and the "all star selection show" an interesting little bit of television that chose the sides for the big game on Sunday and showcased some of the lesser lights of the Nation's Capital.

Now first off, if you go back through the past passages of our little blog, you'll probably be able to cobble together the idea that we're kind of partial to the Senators, it being  the hometown and all that, but really, the reaction of the fans, wait, no really we can't call them that I guess, the reaction of the audience on Thursday took the old Leafs - Sens rivalry to a new low.

Perhaps it was the nature of the forum, what it being a casino in Hull, ooops sorry Gatineau, (excusez moi, old habits die hard), a city where the free flow of refreshments over the decades has probably added to  the testosterone and bellicose nature of the bleacher types (just ask the Hull,  Oops I mean Gatineau Police about Friday and Saturday nights on the strip), but was all that anger really a requirement for what is basically a mean nothing, PR exercise for the corporate sponsors of the NHL.

While we have as friendly dislike of all things centre of the universe as the next guy, (unless the next guy is in Hamilton which is a whole different level of dislike), the constant booing of any reference to a member of the Blue and White got old pretty fast, the first time it brought a chuckle, after about the tenth one it was frankly a tad embarrassing, cementing to a degree the insecurities of Ottawa at times that seem to manifest themselves whenever anything to do with Toronto comes along.

Tis like the classic moments of the Simpson's where any mention of Shelbyville sets the residents of Springfield into a tizzy, generally making them look worse by comparison, such was the basic theme of Thursday.


What we don't' get is considering the wait for the All Star game to arrive in Ottawa, what took place on Thursday was as if you decided to throw a huge party and then disrespect some of your guests as they arrive, why bother hosting the party then?

There comes a time when you show that you're hockey fans and not stuck in some ancient mindset of mock anger, or as the folks use to say when I behaved badly as a young one, there comes a time when you have to grow up.

As for the draft, well the captain's of the night chose the safest path of resistance, Team Alfie loading up on Senators for the home crowd and Swedes for the co-hosts for the night, Team Chara holding true to the Bruins for the most part and adding on the Leafs cause every team needs villains it seems.

Still, the player's draft while interesting once seems to be running out of steam already, though at least this time there was no Alexander Ovechkin to play paparazzi for the unfortunate last pick, Ovie of course sitting at home in the dark this weekend with the drapes drawn so as not to be a distraction from the excitement of a weekend at the All Star game.

Oh wait, this just in, Ovie's at the beach,  and we don't mean Mooney's Bay beach, Ovie's enjoying the sun and surf of South Beach to be precise, hmmm, smart like a fox that Ovechkin is...

This years last man standing was Logan Couture, winner of the Phil Kessel award for stoicism under fire, who accepted his fate in stride and good humour.

Yet we wonder if this is really necessary, here's our suggestion for the thinkers of the NHL.

First off, maybe shut down the bar at Noon on the day of the draft so the audience won't provide as much participation.

Secondly, instead of scanning a list of available players, how about having all the players in the all start game write their names on a stick, place the sticks face down in a pile on the stage and then have the captains' pick away.

If need be, separate the piles into defence, forward and goalie (though really the latter should be pretty easy to figure out).

That way, everyone has an equal chance of being the last guy on the snowbank,  for fun, scrap the idea of the car (really no offence to Honda, but I"m thinking most NHLers probably look for something a little more performance orientated) and instead have the corporate sponsors provide a more sizable cash award to the charity of choice to the last fellow to go onto the depth chart, everyone's a winner.

Of course we're not sure what the more bellicose of fans in Ottawa would do if Phil Kessel or Joffrey Lupul ended up on Team Alfredsson, perhaps by that point they might realize that at the end of the all star game those Leaf's in question will go back to a pretty successful hockey career, while the boors in the crowd will uh, go wherever boors end up at the end of the night.

Official pick by pick list

Ottawa Sun-- Lively all-star draft has a few surprises
Ottawa Citizen-- NHL all-stars shone brightly at packed casino

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh Hamilton, how hard those dreams are to realize

We wonder if that chortling sound we swear we heard yesterday was Gary Bettman, snickering away to anyone within earshot as he read the business pages of the New York papers.

There in full view, both on television and in the papers was live time decline of the Blackberry Empire and with it a diminishing a wee bit of the star that was Jim Balsillie, one time technology King and would be White Knight of Hamilton and prospective NHL owner, both prospects a little less stellar these days we imagine.

Hamiltonian's, used to as they are of having their dreams of an NHL franchise dashed, can't be feeling too optimistic these days,  the hopeful dreams of a few years ago, when it seemed as though Balsillie was but a signature or two away from delivering them their long desired franchise, once again dashed, this time under the weight of a business story that has rocked the Canadian technology sector.

At the moment and considering his resignation and the downward trend of the value of Mr. Balsillie's now former day job properties, the prospect of any return by him to the battles of the NHL board rooms seems rather remote and with it one suspects goes any chance in the near term of Hamilton floating to the top of any relocation sweepstakes.

Right now when it comes to the idea of a moving van heading north, the current favourite seems to be Quebec City, with a Mayor beating the bushes as fast as he can to secure the elusive NHL nod.

Hamilton has had the rink for any number of years now, they had the prospective owner too, however both are a little faded at the moment, much like the prospect of Hamilton as an NHL home has gone from hot to cold.

Make no mistake we still think Hamilton would be a major improvement over any number of current homes of an NHL franchise, but with setbacks such as these, it's hard to keep the place on the A list for long.

National Post-- Investors still cool to RIM change
CTV-- RIM shares down again after executive changes
Vancouver Sun-- RIM: not bold enough?
Vancouver Sun-- Clock strikes zero for RIM's co-CEO's
Globe and Mail-- Mike, Jim come back, all is forgiven (RIM rout, Part II)
Toronto Star-- RIM continues its irrelevance with 'shakeup'

All Star game no longer so fetchin', for Alex Ovechkin

He's suggesting all the right things, how he respects the annual get together, enjoys the interaction with the players and the fans and all of that, but, considering it all, Alex Ovechkin is sending his regrets, with his heart apparently not into it, he won't be in Ottawa for this weekend's All Star game.

"My heart is not there. I [got] suspended, so why I have to go there?" Ovechkin said. "I love the game; it's great event. I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. If I suspended, I have to be suspended. That's why I give up my roster [spot]."

Ovechkin, who has been suspended for three games by NHL Player Safety Poobah Brendan Shanahan, has decided he doesn't want to be a "distraction" at the weekend event and thus won't take to the ice in the game or the skill competition.

A move that is apparently baked up by Capitals management, who like Ovechkin say this has nothing to do with feeling that Shanahan's discipline was too strong, but rather just something that they feel is best for the All Star game.

And, in related news, swampland is now on sale in Florida...  bridges in Brooklyn are available for a reasonable price...

The move to not go to Ottawa leaves you will all the appearances of the Capitals and their star deciding to send a message to the NHL, that if they want to remove the stars from game through suspension then this is the net result of such over bearing enforcement of the rules.

Never mind the fact that in this case Ovechkin, did indeed leave his feet in the incident in question and has been criticized for past behaviour and all of that, somehow the bad is on Shanahan.

Anyways, we're sure he'll keep busy somehow, perhaps  Ovie needs to work on his next music video or something.

The NHL seemingly has no interest in picking a fight with their marquee attraction,nor with the Capitals management over the decision to sit this one out (i.e.: with a one game suspension or fine), but one has to wonder if this doesn't really devalue what ever lustre the All Star game (in name only these days it seems) has in the current configuration.

Between players that bow out of the honour, and those that are too injured to compete, we now can add a pass to those who feel just a little bit petulant over the NHL's discipline.

At this rate, those wise fans in Ottawa that were stuffing the ballot box may have been on to something, with the list of "stars" that aren't going to come to the party, at least by picking Senators the Ottawa fans are providing a guarantee that somebody is going to show up for the game...

Globe and Mail-- Suspended Ovechkin to skip all-star game
National Post-- Alexander Ovechkin will skip the NHL All-Star Game, thank you very much
New York Times-- Suspended Ovechkin chooses not to attend All-Star Game
TSN-- Capitals' Ovechkin taking a pass on NHL All Star Game
Sportsnet-- Ovechkin right to skip All-Star Game?
Washington Post-- Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, 2 time NHL MVP, to skip All-Star game...
Washington Times-- Caps' Ovechkin withdraws from NHL All Star Game
Washington Post-- Alex Ovechkin won't attend NHL All-Star Game following suspension
USA Today-- Suspended Ovechkin skips All Star Game
Yahoo Sports-- Alex Ovechkin pulls out of NHL All-Star Game...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mr. Thomas doesn't go to Washington

The Boston Bruins visited the White House today, well make that most of the Boston Bruins visited the White House today, accepting the accolades of the Commander in Chief and perhaps wondering to themselves about why goaltenders always want to make things interesting.


Goaltender Tim Thomas, as has now been widely reported, chose not to attend apparently lodging his own personal protest at the current state of the American government and its policies. An opinion that is making for lively debate on the Twitter feeds today.

It's an Internet location where many famous and not so famous have weighed in with their thoughts on whether he is right or wrong for snubbing the President of the United States and/or not sharing in a team event with his fellow Bruins.

The Puck Daddy blog outlined some background on Thomas' political stance, which would seem to put him into the more Conservative stream of the American political river, though he seems to be an equal opportunity protest party all to himself, suggesting in a statement (manifesto?) on a Facebook page of all places, that both parties at the moment are to blame for what he perceives are America's troubles.

The replies and reactions alone make for interesting reading on the Thomas page, though we're partial to the one line zinger (at least we think it was a zinger?) that suggested he didn't need to "pump up Obama's tires" either.

Somewhere, Roberto Luongo smiled we think...

We're not sure what he did for the day without his team mates, while they were sharing podium space with POTUS, he perhaps was researching a new position paper on the decline of the American Empire, or maybe just have a cup of tea with some like minded friends.

Regardless,  try as he might we suspect that his words and deed of the day will make for much in the way of conversation,  we're not sure what it is, but it's always the goalies that seem to attract the most attention, whether it's the wonderment's of the universe for Bryzgalov or the travails of the political system for Thomas.

At any rate, when they get around to releasing that "team" photo of the Bruins and the President, it could make for one of those Where's Waldo moments for the Bruins, a trick question if you will, where search and search as you may, Waldo (in this case Tim) never will be found...

Boston Globe-- Tim Thomas skips White House visit, says "government out of control"
Boston Globe-- Obama welcomes Bruins to White House
Boston Herald-- Thomas a no-show at White House
Boston Herald-- Thomas: Politcal Protest?
Boston Herald-- Obama honours Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins
New York Daily News-- Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas skips White House reception...
USA Today-- Bruins' Tim Thomas boycotts White House celebration
NESN-- Tim Thomas declines to attend Bruins' White House visit with President Barack Obama
NESN-- Cam Neely considers White House Visit Special...
ESPN-- Julien, players embrace the moment
Politico-- Bruins goalie says he snubbed Obama because government 'out of control'
National Post-- Bruin's Tim Thomas explains White House snub
Globe and Mail-- Tim Thomas skips White House trip due to "out of control" government
Globe and Mail-- Boston Bruins visit White House
Toronto Sun-- Thomas gives Obama the brush-off
Fox News-- Bruins G Thomas declines White House invite
CNN-- Star goalie snubs White House
New York Times-- Criticizing Government, Bruins' Thomas skips White House Visit

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hockey near, Hockey Far, hockey from everywhere today.

It's been a festival of puck for hockey fans this Saturday, the morning (afternoon in the eastern zones) kicked off with the latest in the growing theme of outdoor classics, this time from the home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats as the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Toronto Marlies did battle at the ancient yard of Mosca in the Steel City.

The game played under ideal conditions combined the outdoor visuals of a pond hockey game under a bright Ontario Sun, today's outdoor game follows on the heels of the AHL Outdoor classic of earlier this month in Philadelphia, when the Adirondack Phantoms played the Hershey Bears.

Clearly if this ongoing trend of outdoor hockey continues to grip the imagination of both the NHL and the AHL, I think perhaps we should all pick up some stock options with Stanfield's.

For those of us that couldn't make it to the big show in Steeltown, Sportsnet was there to offer up all the drama of the game and the background of the celebration weekend.

The pursuit of the puck continued over at TSN2, where the KHL All Star game was being delivered to North American homes as Team Federov took on Team Ozolnis, live from Riga and beyond.

We'll be honest hear, most of the names on the rosters aren't particularly familiar to us here at the HockeyNation portal, but we imagine they are household names  from Moscow to Prague to Riga.

Canadians participating in the KHL all star game included, Chris Holt and Michael Garnett, while Brandon Bochenski flew the American colurs in the game.

TSN2's play by play was kind of interesting, with what seems to have been a soccer announcer doubling down as the hockey play by play caller, we gather Paul Romaniuk wasn't available, or perhaps not under contract to the KHL media conglomerate.

You can review all the festivities from the KHL website.

The NHL continues on with the hockey theme in the afternoon and into the evening, with a string of early afternoon games on  Sportsnet, including San Jose at Vancouver and Ottawa at Anaheim, all leading up to tonight's usual CBC offering of the Hockey Night in Canada double header.

Regis le constructeur

If he builds it, he knows they'll come, and if they want they can arrive even earlier if they so desire.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume is busy keeping the profile of the Quebec capital up front and in view as he continues to extol the virtues of what he believes will be a rink to rival the best of the best in the NHL.

Labeaume spoke enthusiastically about the plans for a new 400 million dollar arena in Quebec City, taking advantage of a tour of Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Centre to once again remind the NHL's owners (well at least those in markets where the interest in hockey is shall we say low,  bonjour Phoenix, Long Island et al) that Quebec City stands ready to accept the weary masses to their river shore, with the prospect of a brand new building and a hockey mad community to fill it.

The Globe and Mail reviews the Mayor's talking points from Pittsburgh through a Canadian Press story, including the Mayor's thoughts on the option that would be team relocation participants might have to play in the legendary Le Colisee (now known as the Pepsi Colisee), something that the Mayor says could be arranged as early as "tomorrow morning".

The timing for any relocation to Quebec City perhaps could not be better, the province's long time obsession Les Canadiens are simply horrible this year, meaning that unless the new arrivals from wherever they come from are truly atrocious they could already be on level ice with their newfound provincial rivals.

In fact, a Dave Stubbs item from the Montreal Gazette highlights the angst that many in Montreal are feeling over the state of the Canadiens, unless the Habs find a way to turn around what has been an abysmal situation over the last few years, a new team to support just a few hours up river might just add to some of the woes of the Montreal management at the moment.

Though that is the thing of the little picture, the big picture for Montreal and the NHL should be the competition and passion that a team in Quebec City would bring to the province, surely is more important to the game than any inconveniences that the Canadiens might receive with a rekindling of the rivalry of Quebec from the late seventies and early eighties.

The CBC offers up a small glimpse into the possibilities in their question and answer segment called Five Questions though it only actually takes up one of the five, should tide everyone over until the Mayor speaks again we would think.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mama knows best

The Edmonton Oilers will be quite happy if Taylor Hall takes the advice of his mama and wears a helmet in pre game warm ups from now on.

Hall, was injured in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday night, when he stumbled on the ice and collided with team mate Ladislav Smid, then was cut by an errant skate of Corey Potter, who trying to avoid the pile jumped but didn't clear Hall's head, leaving a gash on his forehead requiring 30 stitches and removing him from the line up from Tuesday's game and perhaps for longer.


The crash on the ice looked like the slow motion version of one of those pile ups you see when speed skaters don't make a turn or those crazy loons of the Crushed Ice series collide on their downhill stretch, without the benefit of a helmet however, the incident was one of great danger for Hall and no doubt left the Oilers with some things to think about.

At one point the twitter universe was alive with reports that the injury was so severe that Hall's season was over, something he was quick to debunk, the Oilers however have yet to announce when he will be able to return to the ice.

There's no real policy in place regarding pre game skates, some teams insist on helmets for their players, others leave it up to the individual player to make that decision, with Hall's near miss, one imagines that more and more teams are going to be reinforcing the safety first policy for before the game.

Though, it seems that there is some push back from current and former players when it comes to helmets in the pre game skate.

Edmonton Sun-- Oilers Hall a scratch after cut
Edmonton Sun--- Oilers helmet policy under review in wake of bloodletting
Edmonton Sun-- Oilers fall without Hall
Edmonton Journal-- Hall 'counting his lucky stars', says his mother
Edmonton Journal-- Edmonton loses Hall, two-goal lead in Columbus
National Post-- Oilers lose to Blue Jackets after Taylor Hall injured in warmup
National Post-- Taylor Hall will wear helmet in Oilers' warm-ups after injury, mon says
Globe and Mail-- Oilers coach says Taylor Hall 'doubtful' for Thursday's game
Globe and Mail-- Oilers' Taylor Hall misses game after cut by teammate's skate in warm up
Sportsnet-- Mom I look like Frankenstein: Hall
TSN-- Oilers Hall cut above eye for 30 stitches,; misses game
TSN-- Your Call: Should Players wear helmets at all times?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bragging time for the boys of Bytown

They were considered a team rebuilding at the start of the season, the prognostications of many that this would be a long, cold winter of frustration for fans of the Ottawa Senators, watching as their franchise began the long climb back to respectable standings.

And while the season is hardly over and the playoff seedings far from set, this 2011-12 campaign has been much more than just a pleasant surprise for the Senators, it has been a testament towards the work ethic, buying into a coach's message and that rare combination of youth moving up the curve quickly, while the veterans refuse to disappear into the sunset just yet.

Tuesday night, as has been the case in game after game this year, the Senators battled back in the third period, erasing a two goal deficit to their provincial rivals the Leafs and leaving the Air Canada centre with two more valuable points, leaving them but a couple out of first place in the NHL East, a far cry from that 15th place ranking that more than a few observers had them placed at when the season began.

The results of the season thus far, seem to have made Bryan Murray the Nostradamus of the NHL, when he spoke last year he suggested that the Sens were more a case of tweaking rather than retooling, that despite the twin scenarios of Cory Clouston's removal from his duties as coach and the Sens fishtailing out of the playoffs.

The first step was to find a coach and in Paul MacLean, Murray has clearly hit the jackpot, the long time assistant coach in the NHL has more than hit his stride behind the Senators bench. The players responding to his lesson plan, showcasing the results on the ice, all while exhibiting one of those "this game isn't lost" work ethics night after night.

The rise of youngsters such as Erik Karlsson who has become a dominant force on the Senators blue line   has clearly resonated with the veterans on the team, both young and old alike are rising to the occasion hearing the message and the positive vibes coming from behind the bench.

Add into the mix some smart trades and with the Senators,chock a block full of prospects on the farm, a team that is seemingly planning more now that they are in the upper reaches of the standings with the playoffs on the horizon.

The season of surprise comes at almost the perfect time for Sens fans, what with the city hosting this years All Star Game, with the home crowd voting early and voting often in the recent all star balloting to ensure that the home team had more than enough representation on the squad.

And while some may quibble (especially in Toronto) about their starting status, judging by the season the team is having, one suspects that the four Sens on the roster are there on merit, as well as from the passion of the fans.

All of this excitement of January, the All Star game to come and the never say die attitude of the team on the ice bodes well for what may come in April and May and if they dare to dream in the capital in June as well.

National Post-- Kyle Turris trade continues to pay dividends in Ottawa
National Post-- Dion Phaneuf shaken up as Leafs fall to Senators
National Post-- Leafs-Senators rivalry could be heating up again
Globe and Mail-- Sens coach MacLean a turnaround artist
Globe and Mail-- Six-game road swing could determine Senators' playoff hopes
Globe and Mail-- Surprise, surprise... Senators continue their ascent
Globe and Mail-- Surging Senators prove hockey pundits wrong
Ottawa Sun-- Suddenly, Leafs looking way up at Sens
Ottawa Sun-- Sens stick it to Leafs
Ottawa Citizen-- Senators prove resilient again
Ottawa Citizen-- Erik getting hard to ignore
Ottawa Citizen-- East is no beast, much to Sens' benefit

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back to the doctor Sid shall go

The Sidney Crosby watch is back on hold again, this after news that the Penguins captain is set to return for a visit with his chiropractor Ted Carrick.

Crosby was treated by the doctor back in August, a session which was credited with providing for a quicker return from his concussion of last January, however there have been s one set backs along the way, the most recent being Crosby suffering a return of concussion symptoms after his December 5th appearance in a Penguins uniform.

He hasn't been back in the lineup since and Penguins GM Ray Shero says he won't return until he is concussion free. A timeline for that return still is unknown, Crosby reportedly still suffering from balance and spatial awareness.

The Globe and Mail provided a Canadian Press review of some of Crosby's health issues and the work of Dr. Carrick in the field of concussion therapy.

Since his concussion of January 6th 2011, Crosby has seen limited action, appearing in only eight games since last year.

The ongoing nature of his recovery and the continued effect of  his concussion has given more than a few to offer up concern over his future in hockey, making the NHL star exhibit A in the need to increase player safety on the ice and examine the nature of play in today's NHL.

National Post-- Is Sidney Crosby's clock ticking?
National Post-- Sidney Crosby leaves Penguins to meet with concussion specialist
National Post-- Sidney Crosby back on the ice but not symptom free
Globe and Mail-- Sidney Crosby says concussion symptoms improving
Toronto Star-- Sidney Crosby: A lot better, but not symptom-free
Toronto Star-- Sidney Crosby's recovery to include more treatment from chiropractor
Toronto Sun-- Crosby to visit specialist
CBC Sports-- Sidney Crosby to meet with do who helped him in past
Sportsnet-- Crosby visits specialist
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Sidney Crosby visits concussion specialist in Atlanta  
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Crosby leaves team to see concussion specialist
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins captain Crosby will meet with chiropractor again

It's got a good beat and you can dance to it...

Scoring may not be at the top of the charts thus far in the NHL season, but in the world of Russian Rap Music (an interesting version of the genre) Alex Ovechkin is seemingly top of the pops.


Ovechkin's time on the mic (3:01 to 3:25 for those scoring at home) has become the cause celebrate of the You Tube world, his helpful contribution to the epic musical stylings of Sasha Bely, with their rendition of Champion, as translated for those of us without Russian lessons, thanks to the Puck Daddy blog.

No word on whether Bruce Boudreau is going to download it onto his iPod way out there in Anaheim, the energy level on the video would seem to be a little more enthusiastic than when he and Boudrea were discussing his work ethic prior to Boudreau's dismissal by the Caps, not to mention, when it comes to being a "champion" both came up a little short last year on titles.

There also hasn't been much out of the Capitals camp these days of Ovechkin's part time vocation, though we imagine it's only a matter of time that there may be a bit of a rap on his focus when it comes to hockey, over his new found love of rap music.

Washington Post-- Ovechkin as a rap star
Globe and Mail-- Alex Ovechkin stars in rap video
Sportsnet-- Ovechkin's mid career crisis
Winnipeg Free Press-- Caps star Ovechkin raps, dances (for of ) in Russian music video "Champion"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Please make the following mid game change in your program...

There's the mid-season trade and now the mid period trade, welcome to the NHL, Pierre Gauthier style!

The tome of craziness that is Les Canadiens 2011-12 edition, added yet another chapter on Thursday night as Montreal's hockey club packed off Michael Cammalleri to Calgary while he was still dressed in his Canadiens uniform in the Canadiens dressing room, providing for a number of topics for any hot stove league conversations in the second intermission.

Topics such as:

Will this be a good trade for Calgary and or Montreal?

Will Cammalleri find happiness in Calgary after what seems to have been a session in Hell in la Province La Belle?

Any other Habs inclined to try the Cammalleri approach to freedom?

And has Pierre Gauthier completely lost it, succumbing to the pressures of hockey's most studied and obsessed about squad?

Perhaps the Habs GM had little recourse to deal off the Canadiens forward, considering his now much quoted thoughts on the culture of losing that seems to have become the norm in Montreal, Cammalleri by going public with his complaints and thoughts more or less ensured that his time as a Hab would be soon over, perhaps laying out the blue print for others that may wish to escape the good ship Titanic, er Habitant (it's PK Subban on line one Mr. Gauthier).

But by trading the guy in between periods, Gauthier has just added item to the list of strange happenings in Montreal, a list  (see HockeyNation passim) that was already pretty crowded by badly timed decisions, some of which, like this trade don't' seem to have been particularly well thought out.

So far for those keeping tabs on the Manic behaviour in Montreal, Gauthier has fired an assistant coach (how's it going Perry Pearn) just before game time, sent his old friend and long time compatriot Jacques Martin off into the snow and then promoted Randy Cunneyworth, who may or may not be a great NHL coach one day, but surely must realize that his shelf life in the fishbowl of Montreal is not going to long.

Cunneyworth's appointment of course created much more than hockey conversation in Montreal, it revived the ancient grievances of the past when it comes to language, something that apparently has caught both Gauthier and Canadiens owner Geoff Molson by surprise, either or, a candidate for the Inspector Clousseau award for hockey, seemingly clueless as to the effect of their actions.

Add in some push back from players suddenly benched and not liking it and some actual pushing and shoving between players in practice and well, as they say in Quebec, Merde... Quelle desastre!

The Canadiens players were in a wee bit of shock Friday trying to digest the latest developments from their season of strange, Max Pacioretty seemingly trying to keep an even keel about it all with his thoughts...

“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Pacioretty said. “But, obviously, there’s a reason for everything. We have to trust our management to make the right decisions.”

Uh, ok Max, you keep up a good thought for that outcome...  While we have you though, ever give any thought to burying a bridge, swampland or Arctic winter home, cause we have some bargains for you...

Perhaps the calendar can offer us some insight into all this dysfunction, a quick glance at it today for instance shows us the first Friday the 13th of the new year.

We're not sure how the Canadiens got into such a state, but clearly the way this season has gone so far and with no indication that common sense and reason is on the horizon, it seems that every day in Montreal is a Friday the 13th.

Montreal Gazette-- Canadiens get bigger, cheaper by jettisoning Cammalleri for Borque
Montreal Gazette-- Mid-period Cammalleri trade stuns Montreal Canadien players
Montreal Gazette-- Montreal Canadiens trade Cammalleri after comments
Canada.com-- Gone after two periods
Globe and Mail-- Cammalleri trade proves the truth will set you free
Globe and Mail-- Dissecting the Flames - Canadiens trade
National Post-- Michael Cammalleri trade sums up Canadiens' strange season
Calgary Herald-- Cammalleri deal shows Flames taking run at playoffs
Calgary Herald-- Cammalleri pumped about returning to Flames
Calgary Herald-- Flames offer mixed feelings after Borque trade
Calgary Sun-- Cammalleri back with Flames
Calgary Sun-- Flames players shocked, excited at trade
Calgary Sun-- Borque emotional in leaving Flames for Habs
Calgary Sun-- Cammalleri bubbling with excitement
Toronto Star-- Montreal Canadiens ship Mike Cammalleri to Calgary for Rene Borque
Toronto Star-- Choosing Directions
Sportsnet-- Habs lose again with trade
ESPN-- Did trade make Habs better?
TSN-- Would you want your NHL team to rebuild?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You mean they have more than a swimsuit edition?

“What player votes in a poll like this? What imbecile? Whoever filled out the ballot has a room temperature I.Q. … I get the survey tomorrow, ‘who is the most over-rated GM?’ You think I fill it out and crap all over my peer group? I would throw it in the trash.” -- Brian Burke with a few thoughts on the Sports Illustrated poll on the most overrated players in the NHL.

The folks at Sports Illustrated might want to take Brian Burke off the cold call list when seeking subscriptions this January, the Leafs President and GM isn't particularly a fan of their hockey coverage (such as it is) and he's especially less than impressed with their most recent observations on hockey with the release of their Most Overrated Poll.

Burke, appearing Wednesday on Bob McCown's Prime Time Sports show on Sportsnet and the Fan 590, expressed admiration for the yeoman like work of Michael Farber, dismissed the rest of the magazines coverage of the sport as basically irrelevant, particularly the poll of the most overrated, which incidentally featured two Leafs, with defenceman Dion Phaneuf holding down the magazine's most over rated spot at number 1, his second time at the top of the SI listings, his last appearance as number one coming in 2010.

The poll which is reportedly compiled by player vote, featured fifteen names.  The players that don't perform as much as their hype would suggest, at least in the mind of those that contributed to the tabulations.

Needless to say, the election of Phaneuf as the most over rated is making waves beyond the Leafs corner offices, the Toronto based media outlets have begun their own reviews of the poll and are finding the Sports Illustrated poll leaves them wanting.

National Post-- Leafs' Brian Burke talks trade speculation in radio interview
TSN-- Phaneuf voted most overrated player in NHL Player poll
CBC Sports-- Leafs' Phaneuf most overrated NHLer, according to poll
NBC Sports-- Burke says anonymous player polls are "designed to crap on fellow NHLPA members"

Burke of course, would be expected to defend his players, especially Phaneuf the team's captain and he makes a fairly valid point about the nature of the poll, which isn't seemingly based on any kind of statistical overview or success/failure ratio, but rather on the gut feelings of those 161 players that cast a ballot.

And it's that final statistic that seems to discount the gravitas of the poll, there are 750 players currently on NHL rosters, of that only 161 voted, a number that makes the voting levels of Canadian elections look like full participation.

It's also the key part of Burke's argument against the poll, not so much as a true study but rather as something for someone with an axe to grind to weigh in on. He wonders aloud why the NHLPA would not try to remind it's players that they diminish their unity by allowing fellow members to "crap" on their own membership.

But why paraphrase the man, he does a wonderful job of explanation all on his own, you can listen in on that topic and other items of importance to the Leafs Nation, from the video archive of Wednesday's show.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Feeding the fuel to the feud

There's no doubt that at the moment, the NHL's biggest blood feud is that between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, a combustible combination that seems to bring out the nasty in everyone whenever the two teams are mentioned, let along meet.

For a few moments on Saturday, viewers might be forgiven if they thought they had time travelled back to June of 2011 and some of the more heated and uglier moments of the Stanley Cup Final.

Last Saturday was the latest instalment of the Hatfield's and the McCoy's NHL style (or as David Shoalts' in the Globe and Mail puts a revisit of the worst of Iran and Iraq), a match up that provided for the anticipated fisticuffs and inevitable cheap shots.

This time around it was a game that featured Brad Marchand playing the role of grand villain in this episode for his blatantly cheap shot on Sami Salo, a low bridge take out that has left Salo sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

A nasty little event that has popped up on the NHL radar and as we see above, resulted in Chief Justice Brendan Shanahan providing for a five game suspension for that particular dirty shot.

Shanahan's punishment has done little to mollify the Canucks, nor temper the hostility of the Bruins, in fact four days later, Saturday's game still seems to be one of the main topics of discussion whenever the NHL comes up in discussion.

And as the teams and players opined on the results of Saturday's latest bout of mayhem, the media on both sides of the 49th weighed in, recounting each sentence as though papal encyclicals, anxious to interpret and perhaps invent, all in the cause of good copy and or good ratings and sales.

From north of the line:

Vancouver Sun-- Bruins' Marchand out - but Cancuks' Salo may be out longer
Vancouver Sun-- A bridge to far?  Bruin Marchand's Salo submarine not his first...
Vancouver Sun-- Bruins' Marchand suspended five NHL games for "predatory," dangerous...
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks' pushback against Bruins meant more than score
Vancouver Sun-- Vancouver wins game but loses Salo, Canucks furious...
Vancouver Sun-- Canuck power-play beats big, bad Bruins...
Vancouver Province-- Bruins-Canucks brouhaha not likely to settle
Vancouver Province-- Bruins' Marchand and Chiarelli could be fined for comments
Vancouver Province-- Canucks 'posers and floppers': Boston sports columnist
Vancouver Province-- Canucks' Vigneault on Bruins' Marchand: "someday he's going to get it"
Vancouver Province-- Canucks wage hockey "holy war" against Boston
Sportsnet-- Province columnist "ambushed" by Boston media ...
Globe and Mail-- 'Some day he's going to get it" Vigneault says of Marchand
Globe and Mail-- Canucks win Stanley Cup rematch against Bruins
Globe and Mail-- Bruins' Marchand facing hearing for hit on Canucks' Salo
Globe and Mail-- Canucks - Bruins rivalry enters the sandbox
National Post-- Canucks finally get payback
National Post-- Brad Marchand tried to injure Sami Salo: Canucks
National Post-- Canucks win heated Stanley Cup rematch over Bruins
Toronto Star-- Canucks win nasty Stanley Cup rematch in hostile territory

From points due south:

Boston Herald-- Brad Marchand sticks to his story
Boston Herald-- Brad Marchand frustrated by sentence
Boston Herald-- Canucks anger B's brass
Boston Herald-- Marchand suspended for five games
Boston Herald-- Brad Marchand defends self
Boston Herald-- Brad Marchand: My instincts were to protect myself
Boston Herald-- Bruins caught short in feisty Cup rematch
Boston Herald-- Canucks take bite out of Bruins
Boston Herald-- NHL absolves Lucic following wild melee
Boston Globe-- Marchand dirty player?
Boston Globe-- Entertaining matinee lived up to the billing
Boston Globe-- Power punched
Boston Globe-- Poor decisions prove very costly
Boston Globe-- Marchand ban: Five games
Boston Globe:  Chiarelli takes Canucks to task, defends Marchand
NESN-- Bad Blood from Bruins-Canucks rivalry bringing out ugly side of sports
NESN-- Canucks expose One of Boston's few flaws that could prove costly in playoffs
ESPN-- Bruins' Brad Marchand disappointed
ESPN-- Neely: Marchand penalty was too harsh
Comcast-- Thornton lays smackdown on Vancouver columnist

It all makes for fascinating copy for the local newspapers and no doubt the thing of a producer's dream for the many sports radio and television shows not only in Boston and Vancouver but across the continent.

Will destiny bring these two malcontents together once again?

Only the Hockey Gods know for sure.

The two teams won't renew acquaintances again this year unless they meet in another Stanley Cup final, an event that, considering the animosity that is being fomented across the board from players to fans, leaves you wondering if the NHL is hopeful of, or fearful of.