Monday, April 30, 2007

Slippery Slope...

It's coming folks...

Yes, I know this is Larry Brooks but is anybody really surprised by this? While I was preoccupied with other pursuits yesterday, I happen to think the Buffaslugs and Rangers did NBC and the rest of the world a favor by playing two overtimes yesterday and scrubbing the Barbaro tribute. (Was that show really, necessary?)

But considering that the NHL allowed 4-on-4 overtime and gimmicks to take over deciding regular season games, is there any surprise that the drumbeats to bring these things into the playoffs is getting louder? Please, not even Larry is that stupid.

But my favorite quote in the whole piece is yet another gem from Brendan "I and I Alone Know What Is Good For The Game Of Hockey" Shanahan:

"I'm not saying I'd vote for that now, because I wouldn't, but I think it's something that's probably coming at some point," said Shanahan, who lost the 1998 Olympic gold to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic in a shootout. "I think it's a legitimate way to decide games.

Ah yes, don't use the gimmick to decide playoff games I might have to play in (especially while Jaromir "I Don't Take No Stinkin' Gimmick Shots If I don't Want To Take No Stinkin' Gimmick Shots" Jagr is on his team) but go ahead and install it once I've decided to retire and those who come after me can deal with it.

And somewhere, Mark Messier no doubt smiles on his inaugural monthly Mark Messier Leadership Award Winner...

Of course we predictably hear about how "the fans would love it" and that the TV Executives (who mind you aren't exactly fighting over putting the NHL on their networks to begin with) would also love it because it would bring about a quicker end to the games.

Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again. If we want to get the fans excited let's have goalie fights at center ice to decide the game. We can go three rounds and have the refs score it on a ten-point must system if neither goaltender "can finish the other one off." Our Ultimate Fighting On Ice fans would certainly get behind that because they are very quick to point out how fans cheer loudly when the goalies start fighting. I mean come on, why not? This isn't any dumber than the current gimmick...

Finally the great advocate of Old Time Hockey (it is how he described a game that included numerous fights started by the Rangers including Colton Orr's cross check to the head of A.O.) deplores the thuggish nature of the Thug Ducks and tells us that Dale Hunter "maimed" Pierre Turgeon.

What Ol' Lar does not tell you is that Turegon went onto play 5 more playoff games that spring for the Islanders and 820 more NHL Games to date and 80 additional playoff games after being "crippled, mutilated, injured so severely as to cause lasting damage, ie. loss of limbs" by Dale.

Dale of course received a then record suspension by the NHL for his transgression.

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Friday, April 27, 2007


So I decide to take a break from reading the research on the paper I have due for class on Monday night and in a sheer fit of boredom I end up in Darwin's Waiting Room.

Turns out that less than a month w/o the Caps to complain about they jump all over an On Frozen Blog Post throwing out the idea that Ice Girls will be added as a part of the "Change is Coming" Campaign.

They must either be really, really bored already or just downright stupid (take a guess as to which one I think) because they've already gotten to four pages and only one of them has the requisite reading comprehension skills to realize that it is simply a proposal from the guys at OFB and not an official announcement from the Caps.

I've already weighed in with my thoughts on this issue but J.P. gives me the impression that there is some kind of inside information out there that this is a done a deal and Ice Girls are on the way.

If that is truly the case, then I'll have to put Photoshop on my shopping list and take a crash course in the software...


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2007 NHL Playoffs Round II

After picking five of the eight first round winners correctly (though only getting one series exactly right) I'm back to throw darts at the dartboard again and talk about round two...

Series I: Buffaslugs (57-30; 113 points; 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall) vs. New York Rangers (46-40; 94 points; 3rd Atlantic Division, 6th Eastern Conference, 15th Overall)

Once again the Buffaslugs "luck out" with a fellow New York team that really can't hold a candle to them. The problem for the Buffaslugs this time around is that should they try to sleepwalk against the Rangers, the Rangers are more likely to beat them than the Islanders were. The Rangers have to be full of confidence right now after their sweep of the Thrashers. Of course, the Buffaslugs will be a much harder opponent. The Rangers seem to be clicking at the right time, how long that lasts is anybody's guess but the Buffaslugs are the deepest team in the Eastern Conference and are faster than the Rangers. On paper this series shouldn't be very close and don't be surprised if it isn't but this has a chance of being a very entertaining second round matchup. Buffaslugs in six.

Series J: New Jersey Devils (53-35; 107 points, 1st Atlantic Division, 2nd Eastern Confernce, 7th Overall) vs. Ottawa Senators (52-35; 105 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 9th Overall)

Since Martin Brodeur has taken over in net, New Jersey has made 12 playoff appearances including this year and he's only been bounced in the second round twice, one of those being last year when they fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Carolina Hurricanes. While the Devils are once again facing a high-powered offense, they're playing a much better goaltender in Round II than they did in Round I. Now I would still take Martin Brodeur over Ray Emery any day of the week and twice on Sunday and I would also bet against a Bryan Murray coached hockey team in the playoffs in the same fashion. Murray has never gotten a team past the second round in 11 playoff appearances with three teams (he also failed to get out of the second round in his one AHL Playoff appearance with the Hershey Bears). Ottawa had less trouble with the Penguin Scum than I thought they would but I would be shocked to see the Devils collectively fail to show up to play against the Senators the way the Penguin Scum did. Devils in six.

Series K: Detroit Red Wings (54-34; 113 points; 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference, 2nd Overall) vs. San Jose Sharks (55-32; 107 points; 2nd Pacific Division, 5th Eastern Conference, 5th Overall)

The Red Wings got past a Calgary team that had no idea how to win on the road in the first round. Now they face a San Jose team who had the most road wins of any team in the NHL in the regular season and who won two of three on the road in their first round series against Nashville in the second round. The Wings have not advanced past the second round without Scotty Bowman behind the bench in 19 years. The Sharks are not the Flames, they have a better balance which means a much more potent offense than what the Wings faced in the first round. I don't expect Detroit to go quietly but I can't see them getting past a younger and faster hockey team. Sharks in six.

Series L: Anaheim Thug Ducks (52-35; 110 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 4th Overall) vs. Vancouver Canucks (53-36; 105 points; 1st Northwest Division, 3rd Western Conference, 8th Overall)

After surving a tougher than expected first round matchup, the Canucks have only a day off before playing the Thug Ducks. The Canucks got the job done against the Stars without much help from their star players but the Canucks cannot count on facing a Marty Turco like goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov or Jean Sebastien Giguere (not that Turco was at all to blame for the Stars' loss). The Thug Ducks dispatched the Wild in surprisingly easy and unnecessary thug-like fashion. This is a matchup that favors the Ducks but the quick turnaround for Vancouver combined with Anaheim having almost a week off could put Anaheim in a quick hole or out to a quick lead. Either way, Vancouver was very inconsistent in the first round and any inconsistency will cost them dearly in this series. Thug Ducks in six.


Monday, April 23, 2007

That's Nice

But I still won't attend.

First of all, nothing against the Caps or the much ballyhooed "reversion" to Red, White, and Blue but draft day parties are boring. Boring beyond belief if you ask me.

Kudos to the Caps to doing the new uniform unveiling there and of course it would make sense that they would want to put the new draft pick in the new threads.

But working my way through Arlington Friday night rush hour traffic to get the "up close and personal" look at the new jerseys? No thanks. I'll just go with what gets "leaked" to the press ahead of time.


Gee, What A Surprise

In a nationally televised game, Calgary Flames goaltender Jamie McLennan intentionally slashes Detroit Red Wing Forward Jeff Franzen in the chest in the dying seconds of a game that the Flames were going to lose. McLennan who was credited with :18 seconds of icetime of course incurred 22 minutes worth of penalties.

The supplemental discipline? 5 games, eh, business as usual in the NHL. They did slap a $25,000 fine on Flames head coach Jim Playfair and $100,000 on the Flames organization. But that's it.

Please tell me again why the NHL should be taken seriously as a Professional Sports League? McLennen will turn 36 right before Free Agency starts and as of right now, he does not have a contract for next season. Whoever decides to pick him up (should he be) would have to sit him (a career backup goaltender) for the first four games of next season.

Am I the only one who is miffed by this? 5 games, yeah, that'll teach 'em. Nope, you won't see another goaltender swing his stick like that ever again.

Oh Caps Nut, Franzen wasn't hurt, didn't you see that Franzen eliminated the Flames in Double OT last night? Yeah, I saw that and since everybody likes to play the "what if" game, what if McLennan's stick was a little higher and got Franzen in the throat? Have you ever heard of Miran Schrott? He took a slash to the chest in an Italian B Division game in 1992 and died. That's right, he died from a slash to his chest. Jimmy Boni (the slasher) plead guilty to manslaughter and Boni didn't use a goaltender's stick to deal the fatal blow.

It is easy to be the toughest player on the ice when you have the most equipment and the biggest stick. Quite frankly I don't see any difference between what McLennan did and what Marty McSorley, Todd Bertuzzi, and Chris Simon did. Furthermore why wasn't Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows suspended for his slashing of Dallas' Brendan Morrow? Does somebody want to say that was entirely different than what McLennan did?

Personally, the book should have been thrown at McLennan and because we're dealing with a little used backup goaltender, Flames Head Coach Jim Playfair should have been suspended as well. But I am beginning to think that when players like McSorely and Co. step way over the line, the coaches should also be held accountable in every case. McLennan should have gotten a minimum of 25 games and I would have suspended Playfair for at least half of that amount. Don't give me this "playoff games are more important that regular season games" Barbara Streisand as the reason why this suspension is criminally short. For that reason alone, McLennan should get a LONGER suspension, not a shorter one.

But as noted, this is nothing more than "business as usual" in the NHL. I guess we can try to equivocate this by noting that nobody is watching anyway but that is a big part of the NHL's problem. This type of violence is not doing anything to help grow the game. The next time any Ultimate Fighting on Ice fan tries to tell you that the NHL has gone "soft," point these facts out as proof that they have no idea what they're talking about.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Union Goonery

Earlier this week, The Venerable Off Wing Opinion posted this interesting article about how the current NHL CBA got done and how Bob Goodenow was thrown under the bus.

I think this article deserves some closer attention to understanding what really went on...

The NHLPA’s constitution gives the executive board — made up of 30 club player representatives and a smaller group of players that made up the executive committee — the authority to make virtually all major decisions for the union.

Remember that. It will become important later on.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios got a call from someone in NHL management, although he would not identify the caller. “They were asking, ‘Could you talk Bob into accepting a cap for you guys?”’ Chelios said. “He said, ‘If we could get a cap, we could get a deal done.’ I said, ‘No way. I am not going to tell Bob how to do his job.’”

Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla told Sun Media in March 2005 that “management was calling players.”...

Pronger said that Mark Sauer, then president of the St. Louis Blues, took him and other Blues players to lunch and tried to persuade them to accept the NHL’s proposal. “They were hard-line in St. Louis,” Pronger said. “He was saying, ‘You need to take this deal and like it.’”

Pronger said he believes that lunch took place earlier than the other calls to players, more like November or December, but said he was not receptive to what he heard. “I wasn’t really paying attention after a while,” he said. “It was a one-way conversation.”

This is interesting because later on we read:

But in the days after Roenick’s interview, there were more news reports that a group of players led by Iginla and Pronger had met with management to talk about a salary cap, going around Goodenow and the union’s public position. “I got linked to this supposed coup of Bob Goodenow,” Pronger said, adding that the reports were false. “There was a lot of inaccurate journalism. I don’t think there was a group. A group of players saying, ‘Bob, you have to go [to a salary cap].’”

Now how does one reconcile the two statements? I added emphasis here because that's the part in dispute though there really isn't any real dispute. Management DID meet with the players about accepting a salary cap. The players involved admit as much and go on further to say that those talks were "one-sided" and didn't get very far.

Here we have something that was spun and people are trying to distort their actions to counter the spin. But the fact remains, management DID meet with the players about accepting a salary cap.

Sneaky on the part of the owners and their spin doctors? You bet. Categorically false? Hardly. The Players got snookered on that one.

Roenick attended a union meeting in Toronto on March 1 to explain why he had said what he said on ESPN.

“The last union meeting in Toronto after I said we should come out with a cap, there was a lot of yelling and screaming,” Roenick said last month. At that March 1, 2005, meeting, there were players on both sides of the cap issue.

“It was not a total united front,” Roenick said.

Good 'ol JR. now this comes as surprise because we were earlier told:

In many ways, though, the NHLPA was stronger than other sports unions going into a work stoppage, because about half of its 750 members were hired to play professional hockey in Europe.

“We had about 400 players (me here, 400 is half of 750? Is there some sort of odd Canadian conversion rate thing going on here? ) playing in Europe who were out of sight, out of mind,” Larmer said. “We had another 150 players who were looking forward to taking a year and a half off.”

Then there was a small but vocal group making lots of calls to the union office. “There were about 50 players who wanted to know what was going on and wanted to speed it up,” Larmer said. (me again, so, 400+150+50= 700. What about the 50 unaccounted players? or is the 750 number flat out wrong because we're talking about only 25 players per team here.)

So 50 players were able to sow that kind of discontent that quickly?

Though remember, those 400 players in Europe were mostly North American. They were playing in a strange land, in a strange culture, for far less $$$$$ than they were making in North America.

Furthermore, those players in Europe were suffering the indignity of having to carry their own equipment bags around. Something not even the robber-baron NHL Owners make them suffer through.

Something tells me that the guys in Europe weren't exactly happy with their circumstances on a number of different levels.

On March 22 the NHLPA’s executive committee held what was supposed to be a secret, four-day meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., to strategize, but word leaked out.

The Toronto Star, in a story later that year, reported that Goodenow’s fate was sealed at that meeting “when it is believed union president Trevor Linden, in effect, ordered Goodenow to either find a resolution that included a cap or remove himself from the negotiating process.”

An agent told SportsBusiness Journal that Goodenow told the executive committee he wanted to wait the owners out until January 2006, but that the executive committee wasn’t willing to do that. “They reversed Bob,” the agent said.

Which of course is their right. What people keep forgetting is that Goodenow works for the players. If the players were willing to accept a Salary Cap, then it is Goodenow's job to go out and get that deal. Much like the owners could have deep-sixed Bettman at any point in time had they chosen to do so.

Remember that first quote? The executive board and the executive committee have the power to run the union.

The question that still needs to be asked here is very simple, if the players were not willing to accept a deal with a salary cap. Why did the NHLPA membership vote to ratify the deal?

Now how did Goodenow end up on the outside looking in? Well, first of all, the players put him there. Secondly you see all throughout that article how Goodenow is a considered a bully and a strong personality. Goodenow's position against taking a salary cap was well known. If the players (the ones who would be most affected by a salary cap) were willing to accept a cap, why keep as your point man a strong personality adamantly opposed to it?

Quite frankly, it makes no sense.

This article does not clear up or absolve questions surrounding the dismissal of Bob Goodenow. If Goodenow was told he was going to be fired and submitted a resignation before that firing could be properly executed, Goodenow could be as they say "so out of luck." But that's a mess independent of the whole issue surrounding the completion of the CBA. If the players were united in not wanting a salary cap, there's no way it would have been ratified by the players.

Give the owners credit, they broke the back of the union by their resolve to see a cap installed at whatever the cost. Lost in this timeline is the pointing out just over one month after Bettman canceled the 2004-2005 season that the players made the decision to fully accept a salary cap.

What this article also leaves out were the threats made by the owners to cancel the 2005-2006 season sooner than they waited to cancel the 2004-2005 season. That also had to have moved players to "take whatever they could get."

Finally, I have to say that I am glad Goodenow is gone. I am very disappointed that Gary Bettman hasn't suffered the same fate because the two prime faces of the NHL Lockout should have never survived no matter who won. But that's another rant for another day. What does upset me though is that there are players who in lieu of agreeing to a salary cap not only got a salary floor (which no other capped pro sports league has BTW) and a minimum salary of $450,000. Throw in the earlier free agency ages and I fail to see just how bad this deal is for the players. I respect that these guys only have a small window of opportunity to capitalize on their talents. But the revenues of the NHL do not justify their salary demands.


More Playoff Observations

While I haven't faithfully watched every second of every game, that doesn't mean I can't put on my Captain Obvious superhero suit and say a few things:

  1. I'm not surprised in the least that Calgary tied up the Red Wings. I pointed out that Calgary had the most home wins in the NHL. All they need to do is to win a game in Detroit and the Wings will be in serious trouble. After all the accolades they got in winning Games 1 & 2 in Detroit, the noose has to be tightening around the Wings neck right now. Can Calgary overcome their road troubles and win a game is the only question.
  2. Wow, whodda thunk that the Thrashers would lay such an egg in the playoffs? The Thrashers loaded up at the deadline to make the playoffs and didn't get a single win. To make matters worse, the Thrashers have 12 UFA's now to deal with. Kozlov, Tkachuk, Mellanby, Boulton, Belanger, De Vries, Sutton, just to name a few. I think it is safe to say we're going to be seeing some overhauling going on in Blueland this summer.
  3. Early on that pick of Calgary over Detroit didn't look too good, but I showed you why I went in the direction that I did. However, I did flame out on two picks last night as the Penguin Scum and Wild were eliminated. For the Penguin Scum, much is being made of only the Canadian Diving Team Captain, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby, and Jordan Staal actually coming to play in the series. Tough to argue with that when I didn't watch much of that series but I will take note of the Penguin Scum's 4-28 Power Play performance which includes 0-15 in games 3, 4, and 5. The only game that the Penguin Scum got fewer Power Play opportunities than Ottawa was the only game they won, Game 2. Ottawa was 6 for 24 on the Power Play for the series and scored at least one Power Play goal in every game. The Penguin Scum were given plenty of chances on the Power Play and just simply did not take advantage of them, especially with two 5-on-3's in the first period last night.
  4. The Wild however looked rather ordinary and Anaheim looked downright dangerous. Though I can do without the stupid goonery and cheapshotting that series brought towards the end. Luckily for the NHL, these games were buried by more marquee matchups so the nonsense can get buried. But then again, it is just "business as usual" in the NHL.

While now is certainly too late to change any of my picks for the first round, only the Flames pick has me even slightly worried. The Buffaslugs should finish off the Islanders tonight. I don't think Nashville will come all the back on San Jose, Vancouver will also eventually get rid of Dallas, but Tampa Bay-New Jersey is going to go to the wire.


My Last and Only Word About VT

Let me say that what happened in Blacksburg has nothing to do with bullying, laughing at the kid, campus Admin and police response, and it has even less to do with gun control (on a side note, Jim Moron is a scumbag and an embarrassment, but what else is new?).

Please don't waste your time trying to figure this Cho kid out or decipher the meaning of "Ismail Ax." (The meaning isn't that hard to find if you're willing to accept certain truths, but even then, it is pointless to the larger picture).

This kid was quite simply a sociopath. You aren't going to be able rationalize him or his actions because he was and his actions were both irrational. You can't rationalize with an irrational person. It is pointless trying to conform society to the views of irrational people.

Furthermore it isn't illegal to be crazy. There are tons of crazy people out there who never harm themselves or anybody else. We tried locking them up against their will before, but even then, it didn't stop them from committing their crimes. This my friends is the cost of a free society.

Finally, let me say that if I had more than just one orange t-shirt in my wardrobe, I would be joining the Orange and Maroon Effect today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bad Day Getting Worse...

Us Italians say these kind of things "come in threes" and today it is a bit of a doozy...

By now you should know about the Virginia Tech shootings.

Add in the sudden and unexpected passing of former Washington Capitals forward Gaetan Duchesne (whom we traded along with Alan Haworth to acquire Dale Hunter in Clint Malarchuk from Quebec) and former Maryland Men's Basketball player LaRon Cephas (who was a Senior on the 2001 Final Four team).

Early reports indicate that Duchesne died of heart failure, Cephas of a heart attack. Duchesne was 44, Cephas was 29.

Today is truly a dark day.

Prayers and condolences for the dead and their families.

Finally A Renewal Notice!

First of all, props to Peerless for reminding to check my Caps STH account.

I'm not going to complain about the quick turnaround on this (the April 18th Deadline from what I can tell is for the Power Pay sign up) especially with the stunt the Redskins pull on an annual basis (about two and half- three weeks to come up with FULL payment of the invoice) with their renewals and the Nats have done similar stunts as well. While that doesn't make these things "right", we should keep in mind that we normally have our renewals in March.

Anyway, as near as I can tell from this information provided, season ticket holder prices have been held in line once again for the most part.

There is an increase in the gate prices for VIP Row B ($125-$140) and Center Preferred ($90-$95) but that only increases the saving for the STH's.

Instead of "dividing" sections upper deck sections, the Caps have now "one size fits all pricing" in the 400's. This makes Mezzanie Center all one price from the front row to the top row. Those in the back half of the center sections (what used to be Side Balcony) are seeing $10 per game increases in STH packages and $15 per game on a gate price.

In the back half of the Mezzanine Ends (the old "Goal Zone") they are getting a $3 per game increase in STH packages and $7 per game on gate prices.

Now some folks are getting getting price cuts. Sections 403, 404, 414, 413, 420, 421 , 430, and 431 used to be split. 403, 414, 420, and 431 were split between Mezzanine Sides and Side Balcony. 404, 413, 421, and 430 were Mezzanine Ends and Goal Zone. They are now all classified as Mezzanine Corners and everybody who sits there with the exception of the people in the old Goal Zone are seeing their ticket prices cut by as much as $13 per game on a STH package and $28 off the gate price and as little as, $3 per game on a STH package and $7 per game on prices. The folks who had Goal Zone seats in those 8 sections have their price frozen but now have a chance to move to the front of their section at the same price.

Finally, the Loge price level in the 100's and 200's has been eliminated and those prices are now in line with the Preferred sections. Those folks the Loge will see a $5 increase on a STH package and $8 increase at the gate.

Only the Caps know how many of their STH's are seeing increases and how many are seeing cuts. But no matter what, I don't think these increases are cause for passing out the pitchforks and torches. But as Peerless shows, you never can tell with Caps fans. I for one know I am not seeing an increase therefore the decision for me is pretty simple, yes I am renewing.

At first blush, the ones taking the biggest hit are those who like to buy their tickets on a walk-up basis and their plight does not concern me. With the exception of the people sitting in the Loge, every STH who is seeing an increase has the option to relocate to a section where their price will be exactly the same that it was last year. They also have the chance to move closer to the ice as well in exchange for giving up the view that they were accustomed to. Or the STH can move closer to the ice in their usual section in exchange for an increase in price.

If anything this makes pricing tickets more simplified and those who are sitting closer to the ice in their preferred sections (I'm in Row A, I can't get any closer) will not see an increase in price.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sporadic Posting Ahead

Hey folks, things are going to be busy for me at my full time job and at home pretty much through the end of this month as I finish up my Masters Degree and temporarily take on a larger role at work.

I'm sorry to say that for the time being, please don't expect any kind of regular postings. If something big comes up, I'll get around to saying something, eventually.

In the interim, please feel free to check out the hard working folks linked to the right of here. Things should be back to normal around here (at least what passes for normal) sometime in May.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Having Fun Yet?

For various assundry reasons I've only been able to catch bits and pieces of the Game 1's that have taken place over the last two nights. But there are a few of things I want to point out:

  1. Remember what I said about breaks? Well my Stanley Cup pick (as chronicled on The Venerable Off Wing Opinion) has already taken one themselves. While he's currently listed day-to-day, if Cheechoo can't get back San Jose is in trouble. However, if San Jose can get past the Predators w/o Cheechoo, the Sharks will be serious trouble for whoever they play next.
  2. Note to Ted, I like those scarfs the Thrashers gave to their fans last night. I didn't like the blue painted glass stanchions. That was ugly.
  3. If the Penguin Scum continue to get almost twice as many Power Play opportunities as the Senators, Ottawa isn't going to last very long.
  4. I woke up about 3 am on Thursday morning and the Dallas-Vancouver game was starting their fourth OT. I forget which channel I was watching the game on (it was 3 am people...) but I do remember the color guy talking about using a gimmick to decide the game. I told you folks this was going to happen.

The important thing to remember after the last two nights is that it is just one game. The first game usually does not decide a series and the only one where that MIGHT be the case is Nashville-San Jose. But the jury is still very much out on all of the series, so if you're inclined to do a touchdown dance because your favorite team won and/or your least favorite team lost, don't. There is plenty of hockey still to be played


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heads They Are A Rollin'

But not where you would think.

And not who you would think either.

Who am I referring to? Wayne Gretzky brought both Fletcher and Barnett into the organization according to the current version of his bio. While it is difficult to fire an owner, how much culpability does the Great One take in the disaster that currently is the Phoenix Coyotes?

Maybe he's cleaning house to make room for his pal Mark Messier so Messier can polish his GM credentials for when Glenn Sather finally leaves the Rangers...


Skins Regular Season Schedule Released

Here you go...

September 9th vs. Miami 1 pm

September 17th (Monday Night) @ Philadelphia 8:30 pm

September 23rd vs. New York Giants 4:15 pm

September 30th BYE

October 7th vs. Detroit 1 pm

October 14th @ Green Bay 1 pm

October 21st vs. Arizona 1 pm

October 28th @ New England 4:15 pm

November 4th @ New York Jets 1 pm

November 11th vs. Philadelphia 1 pm

November 18th @ Dallas 1 pm

November 25th @ Tampa Bay 1 pm

December 2nd vs. 1 pm

December 6th (Thursday night) vs. Chicago 8:15 pm

December 16th @ New York Giants 8:15 pm

December 23rd @ Minnesota 1 pm

December 30th vs. Dallas 1 pm

Games scheduled for Sundays beginning on November 18th through the end of the regular season are subject to the whims of the suits at NBC so that Redskins-Jints game in the Meadowlands may start earlier and other games may have their start moved back.

At first blush I don't like the early bye week. As a matter of fact, the Redskins have the first bye week along with Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Tennessee.

Secondly, I'm not a big fan of the Thursday night game just to play a Thursday night game. The only saving grace is that the Skins do not have to travel for that game and are home 4 days before it as well. I'm also not liking the fact that it is against the defending NFC Champions as well. But the Redskins don't have to travel any further west than Dallas

And speaking of the Cowgirls, for second there I thought that the NFL forgot to put them on our schedule...

Finally, after playing three teams on the road (two of them in the division) that were coming off their bye weeks last season (and losing all three games by a combined 82-28), this season the Skins don't play anybody coming off a bye week. Though the Redskins do play four teams (Detroit, Green Bay, Arizona, and New York Jets) who are heading into their bye week and three of those (all but Green Bay) are at home. Our game at Dallas is also four days before the Cowgirls' Thanksgiving home game. Overall I think with the exception of the early bye week and pointless Thursday night game, this is a good schedule. No three consecutive road games, no obscene "bunching" of our divisional opponents either.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pinged Ponged Out

Three years ago the Caps leapfrogged the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguin Scum to win the NHL Draft Lottery and selected A.O. #1 overall.

The Penguin Scum were rewarded in the 2005 Draft with the #1 Overall Pick (their 2nd #1 Overall pick in three years) while the Blackhawks and Caps were consigned to #7 and #14 picks overall respectively.

Well today the Blackhawks beat the odds and got the #1 overall pick despite having the worst odds of obtaining the #1 overall pick. This is the fourth consectutive year the Blackhawks have missed the playoffs and they've only made them once in the past nine seasons. Furthermore, they haven't won a playoff series since 1996.

As a result the Caps fall to #5 overall in the first round. The Caps have that #5 pick and are rooting for a Buffaslug upset in the playoffs in order to improve the pick they got in the Zubrus trade.

Interesting history note, Scott Stevens was a #5 overall selection for the Caps in 1982. While the Caps have benefited greatly from the system and seeing the Flyers get dealt another defeat makes me laugh, hard, I still don't understand the rationale or need for a Draft Lottery. Teams are going to tank either way because tanking will either raise your draft position or increase your odds of winning the #1 overall pick.

That being said, I am glad that the NHL does not do the made-for-TV nonsense that the NBA is addicted to.

Anything Is Possible

But this just ain't happening.

First and foremost, the question has already been asked and answered and the kid knows it.

He isn't welcome.

Of course, just last week the kid was staying at State Penn for the academics and not worrying about football anymore. Now he's asking for a release and looking to transfer and play elsewhere.

Because P.T. Barnum was right, something tells me he'll find somewhere to play football.


2007 NHL Playoffs Round I Western Conference

Moving right along....

Series E: Detroit Red Wings (50-32; 113 points; 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference, 2nd Overall) vs. Calgary Flames (43-39; 96 points; 3rd Northwest Division, 8th Western Conference, 13th Overall)

Detroit coasts into the playoffs in a familiar position. A division title wrapped up along with the top seed in the Western Conference. Calgary stumbled badly down the stretch but got themselves into the playoffs and a date with the Red Wings. However, the Flames aren't pushovers by any stretch. This is a team that can get physical and the longer this series goes, the more important that will be for them. Calgary has the fewest road wins of any team in the NHL Playoffs but the most wins at home of any team in the league. As the eighth seed, they'll have to figure out a way to win on the road in order to advance through the playoffs. On paper this looks to be a mismatch as the Red Wings still have Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, and Dominik Hasek. However not a single one of those players is under the age of 32. I believe that Calgary has the favorable matchup here because of their defense, but they will need a few breaks to go their way. Flames in six.

Series F: Anaheim Ducks (48-34; 110 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 4th Overall) vs. Minnesota Wild (48-34; 104 points; 2nd Northwest Divsion, 7th Western Conference, 11th Overall)

Two teams with the same number of wins and losses yet separated by six points. Welcome to the "new NHL." Ok, rant over. Anaheim along with the Buffslugs was the sexy pick to make it to the finals and most people predicted that they would win it all. However, if Minnesota knows anything, it is how to slow down the game. Remember the epic Western Conference Finals these two teams played back in 2003? Anaheim is still figuring things out in net and that isn't a good thing come playoff time no matter what your seeding is. I think this could be the worst possible matchup for both teams. Here's another playoff series that is going to come down as to who gets the bounces and breaks going their way. This playoff series could very well end up being Exhibit A in the quest to have the gimmick applied to the playoffs. Wild in seven.

Series G Vancouver Canucks (49-33; 105 points; 1st Northwest Division, 3rd Western Conference, 8th Overall) vs. Dallas Stars (50-32; 107 points; 3rd Pacific Division, 6th Western Conference, 6th Overall)

Another statistical oddity where the team with more points and the better record, Dallas, ends up without home ice advantage because somebody has to win a Division. Here's another compelling playoff matchup because of the goaltenders involved. Roberto Luongo is in his seventh NHL season but is appearing in the playoffs for the first time. Playoff hockey is very different from the regular season. Ask Jim Carey. (If you can find him) Marty Turco is in the playoffs for the fifth time and is looking for just his second series win. Somebody has to win this series and on paper, Vancouver looks to be the favorite simply because they are and have been healthier this season. The Canucks are also a younger and while Luongo is making his playoff debut, he has done well in international playoff competition. Canucks in six.

Series H: Nashville Predators (51-31; 110 points; 2nd Central Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 3rd Overall) vs. San Jose Sharks (51-31; 107 points; 2nd Pacific Division, 5th Eastern Conference, 5th Overall)

Similar records and yet separated by 3 points. Ok, Nashville has gone "All-In" to win the Cup this year. They lead their division for a good stretch this season but came up short in the end. The Predators have had problems winning the big games and they are hoping against hope that Peter Forsberg can provide them with the push that they need to get over that hump. They of course have to hope he can stay healthy. That little extra something is all Nashville is missing as they have great speed and good defense. However, should San Jose get some breaks, the Sharks can easily dump the Predators. The Sharks have good goaltending as well as a strong offense. The only downside to the Sharks is their platooning goaltender situation. The Sharks Power Play is also something to watch out for but will have to contend with an equally good penalty killing unit. Defense usually wins but my gut tells me something different here. Call it the David "Bud" Poile factor. Sharks in six.


2007 NHL Playoffs Round I Eastern Conference

Ok, before we get this playoff show on the road, let's talk about the playoffs in general before we look at the playoffs series themselves.

The playoffs are really about two things. 1. Matchups. 2. Breaks/bounces. Without the right matchup you don't stand chance. When the Caps went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, they avoided all the teams that they would have not have matched up well against. The second is breaks/bounces. This is now a 16 team-two month war of attrition. You need to get the calls and bounces and breaks to go in your favor in order to succeed. Every series where the teams are evenly matched or an upset is pulled is going to be able to point to one or more instances where the winning team got away with something. That's just the way it is. So let's take a look at the first thing and look at the matchups in the Eastern Conference and figure out who will get or need all the breaks:

Series A: Buffaslugs (53-29; 113 points; 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall) vs. New York Islanders (40-42; 92 points; 4th Atlantic Division, 8th Eastern Conference, 17th Overall)

The Buffaslugs caught a break before the playoffs even started by the late run put on by the Islanders. For some reason I think the Buffaslugs would have had a tougher time with the Leafs than they will with the Islanders. The Islanders are without their #1 goaltender but are taking better special teams into the post season. The Buffaslugs are fast, fast, fast and will be a lot for the Islanders to handle even with a maximum rest schedule for the first round. Too much to handle. Buffaslugs in five.

Series B: New Jersey Devils (49-33; 107 points, 1st Atlantic Division, 2nd Eastern Confernce, 7th Overall) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (44-38; 93 points, 2nd Southeast Division, 7th Eastern Conference, 16th Overall)

It is very, very tough to pick the Ning in this series because their goaltending situation remains in such flux. Once again this past weekend Johan Holmqvist got shelled and the Ning do not have any goaltenders with any playoff experience. At the other end of the ice, stands Martin Brodeur so the matchup clearly favors New Jersey. Special teams also favor the Devils. The winner of this series however will come down to who gets the breaks and the bounces because New Jersey's offense shouldn't scare anybody while the Ning have two of the top goal scorers on their side though defense usually wins. Devils in seven.

Series C: Atlanta Thrashers (43-39; 97 points; 1st Southeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference, 12th Overall) vs. New York Rangers (42-40; 94 points; 3rd Atlantic Division, 6th Eastern Conference, 15th Overall)

In what has to be the most compelling (more like revolting) matchup in the first round for Caps fans, the Thrashers are making their first ever playoff appearance against a Rangers team that snuck back into the post season. Just who is favored in this series is anybody's guess. The Rangers have Brendan Shanahan back and you know he won't go quietly. But can he carry Jagr 's baggage and pull Henrik Lundquivst through as well? And what about the agitators on both sides? Sean Avery is loving life in New York but Bobby Holik is no stranger to dirty pool and would love to stick it to his old team. What about Illya Kovalchuk? How will he respond to the pressure of the playoffs and can Kari Lehtonen get the job done as well? Will Atlanta cure their road troubles? Both Atlanta and New York caught a break with this series by getting each other instead of more polished playoff teams in Tampa and New Jersey. So one of these undeserving teams will see the second round. New York clearly has the bigger soap opera going on plus there are two sets of back-to-back games in the series which also creates two three games in four nights sets. That favors the younger team. Rangers in seven.

Series D: Ottawa Senators (48-34; 105 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 9th Overall) vs. Pittsburgh Penguin Scum (47-35; 105 points; 2nd Atlantic Division, 5th Eastern Conference, 10th Overall)

One year after being skewered for having its two brightest young stars nowhere near the playoffs, the NHL has its anointed one in the post season. Think the NHL is going to let him go out in the first round? Don't expect any breaks for Ottawa. Furthermore the Penguin Scum are another fatally flawed hockey team that will get a pass into the second round. Why? Well despite the fact that the Penguin Scum are only dangerous on the Power Play and their top goaltender is a known choker in pressure situations with a backup who has proven he can't handle the load; the Penguin Scum are playing the Ottawa Senators. Furthermore, the Senators head coach is Bryan Murray. Caps fans know exactly what that means no matter who the opponent is. Penguin Scum in six.


Monday, April 09, 2007

2006-2007 Season Wrap Up: Part III Coaching and Front Office

Think I've been too nice? Well you haven't seen anything yet...

To paraphrase the late, great former Caps Beat Writer for the (Com)Post, Robert Fachet, Glen Hanlon did an admirable job once again attempting to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. You can't hold him personally accountable for the talent level on the ice but you can hold him somewhat accountable for the application of the talent we do have and to a very minimal extent, the level of effort displayed by the team.

By all accounts, Hanlon continues to insist upon an upbeat, positive, and light attitude among the team. In November he wasn't afraid to show that he was not willing to let his team be run over by the like of the Atlanta Thrashers. However it was somewhat disturbing that when he started to turn more control over to the players, the injuries set in and the team fell out of playoff contention.

Despite the addition of more talent, the Power Play was only marginally better this year. As a matter of fact, it was very telling that Mr. Donald Brashear was often placed on the top Power Play unit in an attempt to jump start things. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't but struggles on the Power Play lead to a mid-season shift in Power Play tactics with no noticeable improvement.

Odd too was Hanlon's insistence that the Caps shouldn't spend much time practicing the gimmick. While I understand Hanlon's belief that he couldn't properly recreate the environment of the gimmick in practice, that's no reason to not practice the event. How else are the players and goaltenders supposed to build confidence in the event? The Caps were just 1-11 in the gimmick and while reversing that still wouldn't have put us in the playoffs, it would have, again, at least made the team more competitive.

While a Major League coach cannot be expected to "motivate" his players on a night in and night out basis, there were far too many flat performances. Too many times when the effort during the game was seriously lacking. Hanlon has been the head coach for two and half seasons now and while he has a great track record of developing young players, his time could very well be coming to an end. This team isn't going to stay young for very much longer and a more demanding type of personalty may be needed.

For now though, he is getting the job done and the players do seem to like him. It would be one thing if the team wasn't reaching its potential but that is not the case right now.

The person feeling the most pressure is General Manager George McPhee. It is no secret that McPhee is heading into this coming offseason seriously under the gun to improve the hockey team. That is not a good situation for him or for this hockey team because the last time McPhee was under the gun like this, the Jaromir Jagr trade was pulled off. I dare say that there is very little that McPhee could do in this coming offseason to satisfy the fanbase that is demanding more than just new uniforms and logos.

So should McPhee clean out his office and pack his bags? Not so fast, if the Caps want to make the playoffs next year, then yes, because short of pulling off a trade of entire teams with the Buffaslugs, there's nothing the Caps can reasonably be expected to do in order to make the playoffs next season. Boston added a #1 center and #1 defenseman and they still finished well out of the playoff chase. Why would the Caps be any different if they got Chris Drury and Sheldon Souray as UFAs in July? (Which ain't gonna happen cha-cha)

If the Caps are looking to build a serious contender for years to come, McPhee should be allowed to hold true and see the process through. Some of his more recent draft picks are finally coming along. A guy like Eric Fehr has a chance to be a really good player if he is given the chance much like Matt "Princess" Pettinger and Brian Sutherby both whom finally broke through last year. We have some good young defensmen who could very well be great trade bait to get the defenseman or center that we need to shepard the other young players.

What McPhee needs to do is to find a way to sensibly address the problems on this team. He needs to keep the salary cap situation along with the team salary structure under control. He is facing a tough off season NEXT year as A.O., Alexander Semin, and Olie Kolzig all have contracts coming up for renewal and getting them all back on board won't be cheap. Fans who are insisting on a increase in payroll should wait for one more summer.

However where I believe that the coaching staff and the ENTIRE Front Office fell down this season was in the management of expectations department. The Caps came into this season carrying over the roll that they were on at the end of last year. The Caps also had a chip on their shoulders as many experts were once again picking them 14th or 15th in the Eastern Conference. It turns out the experts knew that they were talking about for once, go figure.

However, the Caps from the Front Office on down were talking about making the playoffs. All the talk of making the playoffs combined with the great start lead to increased expectations that left everybody crushed when they were not met. While I certainly do not expect the Caps to "embrace" losing, setting the bar too high lead to what we saw as the season wound down.

It should be noted that the New York Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons before finally making it last year. The Penguin Scum were out for four seasons and the Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs for five seasons in the early 90's. The Ning missed the post season for six seasons after making their first appearance. Out West, Calgary missed the playoffs for seven seasons. The Caps? We've missed three seasons now. I don't think it is time to hit the panic button yet so everybody needs to chill out.

Yet much like the team mismanaged expectations for the season, they are building everybody up again for another letdown this summer. As I mentioned earlier, the last time we were in this situation we ended up making the Jagr trade. If we miss out on our UFA targets, I believe we would be better off going into next season with the team that we have right now instead of making a bad trade in a desperate attempt to get help. That would be another recipe for disaster.


2006-2007 Season Wrap Up: Part II Forwards

Some were saying that the Caps have their forward lines set but they're still working on the defense...

Kris Beech F-, I'd give him a lower grade if I could but I can't. Here's a guy who was given every chance to succeed and just simply didn't do it. Beech had a chance to ring up 20-25 goals and finish with somewhere around 50-60 points but instead he posted career highs of 18 assists and 26 points. By being surrounded by the talent that he was, his Dimitri Kristich syndrome was clearly exposed. Had he played as well as he is capable of, the Caps probably would have still missed the playoffs, but they certainly would have finished better than they did. Am I blaming the entire season on Beech? No, but when you consider just how much pressure there is on the front office to replace this guy before next season, you realize he was a bigger problem than he has been given credit for. Instead of dumping on Steve Eminger, Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green, and other young players giving an honest effort, we should be bashing this guy into oblivion.

Matt "Omar" Bradley D+, If anybody is interested in knowing why the Caps aren't interested in giving players a long term contract should look directly at Omar. Kicking off a new two year contract, Omar's production fell after a rather good season last year. Omar is a spare part mucker and grinder type of which the Caps have plenty of. He's under contract and will be back but I doubt we'll give him another two year deal. He could be an attractive deadline deal for a contending team next year looking for depth.

Mr. Donald Brashear B+, Simply put he's here to provide "protection" and give the Neanderthal set a thrill. The fact that he can actually play the game is a bonus but his lack of speed prevents him from being anything more than he is. Give him credit, he knows his role and he goes out every night and does it with a consistent effort which is more than you can say for some players on this team.

Captain Chris Clark A, Mr. Sunshine wanted somebody else to lead this team but Clark proved that last year's 20 goals and 19 assists wasn't a fluke or a career year. Clark topped all of those numbers playing in fewer games this year and lead this team by example very well. Here's another player who could end up being very attractive at the deadline next year. Caps captains very rarely finish their careers in D.C.

Ben "What a"Clymer C-, Moved up, down, and all around; Clymer also fought the injury bug all season which hurt his game. While some look to Clymer's numbers and declare him a bust, he brings the experience of winning a Stanley Cup to the locker room. While the Caps are a long way from making the playoffs, Clark and Clymer will play big roles in getting this team to the playoffs and keeping them there.

Eric Fehr B-, Another rookie callup during the injury crisis and played well enough to keep his spot on the team until he himself got injured. Hopefully he'll be able to play in the AHL playoffs for Hershey but those clamoring for a right wing acquisition this summer should not count this guy out. We may already have the solution for that problem if we are patient enough.

Tomas Fleischmann C+, Quintessential odd man out. The Caps have their left wingers set so he'll have to move to another position in order to contribute full time. He seemed to find his game and chemistry with some of the other skill guys late in the season. However, he could end up being part of a package deal to get a player we need.

Boyd Gordon A-, Another favorite whipping boy who actually showed he could play in his first full NHL season. While his offensive numbers aren't impressive, his +10 rating stands out not because it lead the team by far but because he skated on the third line for most season which means he faced the opposition's top scoring line every night. Those who advocate his disposal are fools.

Brooks Laich B+, If I had to throw somebody else in a package to fill a need, I would choose Laich over Gordon any day but that doesn't mean that Laich is that much worse than Gordon is. Here's another guy who very well could end up being victimised by a numbers crunch. In his favor he did show that he could hold his own centering one of the top lines a La Jeff Halpern. But like Halpern he is not suited to that role and should only be used as a stopgap measure.

Jakub "and sons" Klepis D+, Another player who was given multiple chances and finally seemed to figure it out at the end. I don't like his long-term potential with this franchise but at least he finally got away from taking lazy penalties after his most recent callup. That should hopefully increase his trade value.

Jiri Novotny INCOMPLETE, I don't feel right assigning a grade to him after only 18 games but his almost invisible performance for the Caps makes the Zubrus trade look even worse. To his credit, Novotny did should some chemistry with fellow Czechs Fleischmann and Klepis and I would like to see more of what they can do together. However, we many not have enough room for that experiment.

A.O. A-, So this is what a sophomore slump looks like? Here's an example of a guy trying to make the players around him better but the players around him can't be helped for the most part. The league adjusted to him and he had trouble adjusting back but should he be surrounded with more talent, there will be hardly anything that can contain him. A.O. still blows the defensive zone too quickly but some of that can be forgiven because of the offensive numbers he produces. However, he will have to learn the proper way to play defense if he wants this team to win a Cup.

Matt "Princess" Pettinger C+/B-, After last year's breakout performance it would be very easy to think Princess was a failure this season. However, he posted numbers not too far off what he did last year. Injuries limited him greatly this season and he too, like a number of guys, could end up in a numbers crunch depending upon what the team does in the offseason. His contract however doesn't make it likely.

Alexander Semin B, Ah yes, the prodigal son returned and was just about the same as he was before he left. Here's a bonafide NHL Superstar if he can only get his head screwed on right because this kid is that scary kind of good. While Klepis got demoted for his continually taking stupid penalties, Semin was just as guilty but produced more in the offensive end. Mr. Brashear was the only forward with more penalty minutes than Semin. Semin had 12 more than Sutherby, his closest competitor in that field. Semin's grade is thusly reduced because of the stupid penalties that he continually took. His offensive does counter that some but as time goes on, he MUST cut down on the penalties and show more willingness to cover in his own zone. However considering what an enigma the guy is, we just don't know if that is going to happen.

Brian Sutherby C+, Another player who came off of a career year and struggled. Injuries took their toll on him as well but his play was underwhelming when he was healthy. Of the guys who could be floated as trade bait next season, he would be the youngest of the forwards.

Overall I would give the forward ranks a C/C+ for this season. While the defensemen had huge issues getting the puck out of their zone and to the forwards, the forwards all too often left them stranded on an island. This group also did not pass between each other very well and rarely if ever looked to their pointmen for help in the offensive zone. Most of these guys are muckers and grinders with a very few of them being supremely talented. The defense needs some veteran leadership and a boatload of polish. The forward ranks needs a talent infusion. While Nicklas Backstrom is projected to do exactly that next season, he won't be enough by himself.


2006-2007 Season Wrap Up: Part I Defensemen and Goaltenders

Yep, yours truly is obnoxious enough to hand out grades to players in the guise of looking back on this season. So without further adieu...

Steve Eminger C-, Emphatic defenses aside, Emmy only gets a passing grade because of his youth and the injuries he sustained through the year which, once again, served to limit his continuing development. While he is still young, he is quickly coming to a cross-roads in his career. He needs to improve next year or he will become a great candidate for a change of scenery. The Caps are certainly going to retain his rights this offseason but I would not be at all surprised or disappointed to see him traded in a package that lands a impact player at a position where the Caps need help.

John Erskine-Bowles C-, Yes I bash Erskine-Bowles relentlessly but let's consider a few things here. First of all, he only played 29 games this season so his damage was limited. Secondly, he's proven he can be an effective seventh defenseman playing games in spot duty when needed. It is the long stretches of play where his game struggles. Finally I have a problem with giving a failing grade to a player who provides exactly what he is capable off. While the clowns of Darwin's Waiting Room thinks this guy is the key to a Cup Finalist, I never did and he performed about as well as you can expect him to which is all you can ask for out of a player.

Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green D+, Another young guy who really struggled in his rookie season. I am dreading what his sophomore slump will look like. While I certainly do not advocate cutting this guy loose already, I do think we should be able to expect a defenseman to actually play defense. The fact that he had the by far the lowest amount of Penalty Killing time on the team among regular defensemen shows you just how little confidence the coaching staff has in his defensive play. He showed a few flashes of being the Power Play QB we desperately need but is a long way from filling that role. He could be another player who ends up benefiting greatly from a change of scenery.

Brent Johnson C-, As Johnny goes so does the Caps. When the Caps were playing well at the start of the season, so was Johnny. When the Caps went into their slide, so did Johnny. His early play this year along with last year's strong finish convinced the Caps to give him a contract extension so he'll be around for a few more years. While, I'd like to see him become a little more consistent in net, I am greatly disappointed that when he was given a chance to become the starter that he fell flat on his face and his grade suffers as a result.

Milan "Jerky" Jurcina B+, Absolute steal for the Caps. His good games far outnumbered his bad games and he quickly took a spot on the top defensive pairing getting to play against the opponents top players and did a fantastic job. So why a B+? Well, he's still young and still prone to the ugly turnover which means he can get better. Here's a prime example of a player needing a change of scenery to reach his full potential. The fact that the Caps got him for so cheap only adds to his value.

Olie Kolzig B-, While the pre-lockout days of 5-holzig are gone, Olie is showing signs of wearing down. While the grades of both goaltenders take into account the youth and inexperience directly in front of them, Kolzig still gave up questionable goals and in some instances, was not the team's best penalty killer. I was worried at the start of the season that Kolzig would go down to injury and he did exactly that. What is even more scary is how this team seems to be unable to win unless Kolzig is in net. That needs to change because he won't be there forever.

Shaone Morrrissonnn B-, Some think he too could be our next Power Play QB but didn't show any flashes of that this year. Maybe it was because he was on the top defensive pairing all season and held his own against the best our opponents threw at us by focusing more on defense. His chemistry with Jurcina was instantly noticeable and his game improved from there. Another young guy who simply needs more polish.

Bryan Muir D-, Another depth defenseman that the Caps will not be inviting back to the team next year. He thankfully spent most of the season injured and ended up playing fewer games this season than Erskine-Bowles did for this team. That's the only reason why he didn't get an F.

Brian Pothier B-, I feel kind of bad for Pothier. Most players who switch teams as UFAs tend to have "off" seasons right after they cash in on their contract year. However, Potheir's numbers are respectable compared to last year considering that he spent a good portion of the season playing on the top pairing where he doesn't belong and that he was playing on a team that didn't have the offensive firepower of his previous team. Pothier had some ugly turnovers and is probably about as good as he is ever going to be. That being said, he has earned a spot on this team going forward but should not be played above the second pairing if it can be helped at all.

Jeff "Sergeant" Schultz B, Rookie callup when all the injuries hit and earned the icetime he got after everybody got healthy. Here is an example of different players maturing and developing at different rates. The experience he'll get in the AHL Playoffs with Hershey should help and should also be the last regular minor league games he plays. He's still young but this guy looks to be a keeper.

As I group I would give these guys a collective D+/C-. I don't expect these players to be world beaters and shutdown every player who skates against them. We knew going in that more experience would be needed for these guys and they showed exactly that. What is disappointing and considerably drags the grade down is that this collection of defensemen (especially those advertised as "puck moving") had huge issues getting the puck cleanly out of their zone. All too often their breakout passes missed and they looked completely incapable of completing a pass to a forward. Furthermore while they were defensively responsible for the most part, they fumbled too many passes back to them on the point and couldn't keep pucks in the offensive zone. How much of that is inexperience I don't know but it must be improved upon if the Caps are going to improve next year.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday Smorgasbord 4-8

  • I never thought I'd be saying Kudos to Billy Packer but I am. Kudos to him though for refusing to yield to the White Knights in their Shining Armor of the Forces of Tolerance. Packer as you may or may not know responded to Charlie Roses' request to be his errand boy at the Final Four in Atlanta by saying "You always fag out on that one for me." Packer of course used the term in its proper form but the fact that it even remotely sounds Un PC, much like the now ten year old "niggardly" controversy, gets the Forces of Tolerance in an uproar. I am no fan of Billy Packer and I hope that should See-BS decide to fire him, they fire him because he is a terrible color-commentator and not because the Forces of Tolerance are ignorant of the English language.
  • As mentioned here before and now confirmed elsewhere, Antonio Logan-El is gone from State Penn. While I will admit that I do not know the full situation I only ask how many players who leave the team for "personal/family reasons" have to have a meeting with the coaching staff before they can return to working out with the team? Trust me when I say that there is more to this story than is being let out right now. However I think it is rather telling that his High School Coach (who played him at left guard despite Logan-El being the biggest player on the team by far) said that he would either be an All-American or he would be bum. Didn't take too long to find out which one.
  • After four international tournament matches, D.C. United dropped a 2-1 decision in Colorado yesterday. Despite the early start on the season, D.C. is still adding players into their lineup and adjusting to a new coach. After last season's fast start which fizzled out badly at the end, maybe a slower start is what the team needs in order to win their fifth MLS Cup.
  • From "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same" File, RFK Concession Stands still stink. Does anybody honestly believe that the ones in the new ballpark will be better? Especially if they're run by the same people? My personal favorite trick was how they committed the unpardonable sin of running out of beer for the return of baseball in 2005. Though what was very troubling to me was the importing of the RFK workers to the Phone Booth for yesterday's hockey game. The game yesterday was sold out and most of the stands were not ready when the gates opened one hour before faceoff. The lines were long and I was (incorrectly) told that I couldn't redeem my designated driver coupon for a free soda at one stand. As upset as people are about the state of the hockey team and potential ticket price increases, poor service will not go over any better.
  • As you saw in the Wrap Up below, the Caps have already begun to promote their upcoming uniform and color change in what has to be one of the worst kept secrets. A return to the Red, White, and Blue is nice but can we please do without all of the theatrics? With the current mood of the Caps fanbase, about the only way you are going to generate excitement right now is with some serious personnel upgrades. While I know it does not mean very much, I don't know of anybody whose support for the Caps hinges upon them coming up with new uniforms.
  • And since I'm complaining about the Caps right now, a renewal package for next season would be nice. I have no plans to cancel my season tickets but I would like to know just how much I have to pay and what the Power Pay payment is going to be so I can account for it in my budgeting. On this one I know I am not alone.
  • After just one week, the Nats are living up to expectations and upholding the fine tradition of Washington Baseball. The Nats are one of four NL teams with just one win, but the only team in MLB with six losses. At this rate, the Nats will be officially eliminated from all playoff contention by August. While the starting pitching is as bad as advertised, what is very troubling is the inability to get the big hit when they need it. Furthermore, the Nats have yet to hold a lead this season as their lone win was a walk off in the bottom of the ninth.
  • Maybe the road will be kinder to the Nats than RFK was. After having tomorrow off to travel, the Nats are in Atlanta for a three game series with the Braves before heading to New York to face the Mets over next weekend. D.C. United takes over RFK Stadium for their MLS Home Opener against the Kansas City Wizards.
  • As always folks, please send all questions, comments, criticisms, suggestions, corrections, and Easter Bunny sightings to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Caps vs. Buffaslugs 4-87-2007 Wrap Up

Sorry about the lack of a Post-Mortem there, I didn't realize how little time I would have between getting home from yesterday's game and having to getting ready to help out at the Easter Vigil Mass at my Parish last night.

The Local Yokels:

(Com)Post. Times: Shutout loss, Mr. Sunshine as happy as ever, Caps report.

The Neutral Observers: AP Wire.

The Other Side:

Buffalo News: Lucky goal, still wondering about the playoff opponent.

Final Thoughts:

Well, first of all, what do you expect from the Caps on Easter Weekend? It was clearly "getaway day" for both hockey teams. Secondly it figures that Scumbag Danielle Briere can once again spear a player (this time Milan "Jerky" Jurcina) and pretty much get away with it. Yeah, he was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct, but no suspension for this repeat offender. I dare say the NHL wants these kinds of things to happen with they way they respond to them.

Well, the season is now thankfully over. Time now to sit back, watch the playoffs, and speculate as well as pontificate on the personnel moves coming this summer. Sometime tomorrow I'll have a season wrap up and if I can get around to it, I'll make some playoff predictions.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Caps vs. Buffaslugs 4-6-2007 Preview

Washington Capitals (28-53; 70 points; 5th Southeast Division, 14th Eastern Conference, 26th Overall) vs. Buffaslugs (52-28; 111 points, 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall):
Caps Game #82, Home Game #42, NHL Game #1,214

Verizon Center, Washington, D.C. 1:05 pm. Washington TV: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Radio: WTEM 980-AM. TV: MSG Network. Radio: WWGR 550-AM. NHL Center Ice: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic feed.

Today one more time, with feeling, the Caps will hit the ice for the conclusion of a frustrating season looking to surpass last year's point total and match last year's win total. The Caps are taking on a Buffaslugs team who has also won their last two games. is closing out their season with two games on the road as they will be in Philly tomorrow afternoon.

What The Natives Are Saying:

(Com)Post. Times: Alexander Semin a star, disappointing end according to Mr. Sunshine. .pdf game notes.

Open Source Intelligence:

Buffalo News: Possible first round opponents, issues with NBC, cautious return.

Neutral Views: AP Wire.

What Do I Expect Today?:

Well the Caps have a chance with a loss to end up with a guaranteed Top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. Something tells me that the Caps are going to need it because the Caps offseason took a big blow yesterday before it even started when Pavel Datsyuk signed an extension with Detroit. Talk about snakebit hockey teams. Anyway, the Caps are only playing for pride and numbers by which people will attempt to gauge their progress. The Buffaslugs on the other hand are playing for the cursed President's Trophy. is looking to win that for the first time in their history. A win today will wrap that up for them. The only real questions for today is who will win the Jaroslav "Yogi" Svejkovsky Award (for best performance against in a meaningless season ending game) and will the Caps employ a style that compel Buffaslug Tom Golisano to write another letter.

Caps Nut Official Washington Predict The Score Contest Entry:

Caps 3
Buffaslugs 5
Winner by Drury


Friday, April 06, 2007

Of Sidesteps and Red Herrings, Part II

Today we'll take a look at how the Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans insult our intelligence. For those who want to follow along, Part I is here.

The UFOI fans join in the resounding chorus of denouncers whenever a Marty McSorely or Todd Bertuzzi or Chris Simon go over the line of all acceptable conduct and even violate the sacrosanct "Crock" mean "Code."

But do they have to insult our intelligence in the process?

They tell us, with a straight face, that these transgressions "have nothing to do with fighting."

Hmmm.... Let's take a closer look to see if this holds any water.

Marty McSorely's second biggest claim to fame is as personal body guard for Wayne Gretzky. McSorely was a known fighter. McSorely's victim, Mr. Donald Brashear also has a reputation for being a bodyguard/fighter. So mean to tell me that there was no chance at all of McSorely trying to get Brashear to fight to him. None at all? They had already fought once in that game so no way McSorely was looking for round two? He had already looked for it earlier in the game (round two that is). But he wasn't looking for it with just seconds left in the game?

Sorry, I don't buy that.

Todd Bertuzzi flat out sucker punched Steve Moore. Steve Moore was persona non grata in Vancouver after his hit on Markus Naslund earlier in the season. As a matter of fact, there was open talk of payback leading up to the game. Moore had fought once already in the game that ended his career and almost his life. Often when a player commits certain transgressions, one fight isn't enough "to even the score." Claude Lemieux had to fight multiple times to "atone" for his hit on Kris Draper. So you mean to tell me that Bertuzzi wasn't looking to start a fight with Steve Moore?

Sorry, I don't believe you.

Chris Simon is considered one of the best fighters in the history of the league. As a matter of fact, like Todd Fedoruk, if it wasn't for his fighting ability, it is very likely that Chris Simon never makes it to the NHL. While Ryan Hollweg's hit on Simon was borderline do you honestly expect us to believe that Chris Simon WAS NOT looking to start a fight with Hollweg?

Sorry, I'm not a dumb as you look.

Fact of the matter is, all three of these ugly incidents have everything to do with fighting. Simply saying that it doesn't quite frankly insults the intelligence of everybody listening to you because it is more than safe to say that guys like Marty McSorely and Chris Simon aren't even in the NHL if the NHL had done away with fighting. So therefore, McSorely and Simon can't swing their sticks and give the NHL and hockey in general a black eye. Furthermore if fighting is banned and the NHL on and off ice officials do their job, any player who decides to swing their stick will have the book thrown at them. The "dirtiness" would never get very far as long as the NHL demonstrated a seriousness in protecting its players.

Finally, players would feel free to make LEGAL contact with the star players because a guy like Todd Bertuzzi would know that they will face severe penalties if they step out of line. This of course would lead to more hitting which is good thing. UFOI fans like to sell the fiction that the anti-fighting crowd wants to do away with all hitting in hockey. Once again, this is patently untrue. Getting rid of the sideshow circus violence and getting rid of all contact are two completely different things.

In Part III, which should be the last installment unless circumstances warrant, I'll tell you how it is actually the UFOI Fans who are the ones advocating LESS hitting. Trust me, you don't want to miss it because once you've read this, you'll be able to takedown ANY UFOI fan. It isn't that hard to begin with but it is good to take away all of their sidesteps and red herrings and expose them for the fools that they are. Leaving them speechless is fun!


Kudos To Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds

You gotta love Tank McNamara because nobody does sports satire better than they do. And if you've been following strip all week, you would know that they've been skewering the NHL over fighting all week. It makes you wonder if the Ultimate Fighting on Ice (UFOI) fans still think "there's no such thing as bad publicity" because you know these guys don't realize that the comics are laughing at the NHL, not with them. Today's punchline would be the funniest yet if the guy hadn't been lying in a pool of his own blood. Sometimes satire gets too close to real life.

Anyway, it has been a big week for the UFOI Fans. They feel emboldened by the scientific poll that says hockey fans like hockey fights. They're pointing to this poll and saying "game over."

Not so fast there Skippy...
  1. The survey was exclusively Canadian. While some bloggers dream about rolling the NHL entirely into Canada that isn't going to happen. While there is a great clamoring for more expansion/franchise relocation into Canada that isn't likely to happen either because the Canadian market is pretty much tapped out. The NHL will be successful if and ONLY if it can grow its U.S. fanbase. So while taking an exclusively Canadian poll is nice, it doesn't even come close to providing a blueprint for the future success of the NHL.
  2. The poll was conducted of self-described "avid hockey fans." In other words they "were preaching to the converted." So how does this debunk the survey? Well, hockey's TV ratings are down even in Canada so it is clear that, even in Canada, self described "avid hockey fans" are not enough to support the sport. Let's conduct a survey of people who are not "avid hockey fans" and figure out why they aren't paying attention to the NHL. "Preaching to the converted" isn't going to grow the game. Do it in the United States and it will have even more credibility.
  3. The Venerable Off Wing Opinion did a survey somewhat similar to the Decima survey last week. However I noticed in the 11 people already at the Caps-Penguin Scum game (which was sold out BTW), not a single one said that they themselves would no longer attend hockey games if fighting was banned. A couple of people THOUGHT that attendance MIGHT drop, but not a single person in that video said they themselves wouldn't bother coming to games anymore. The most common excuse for keeping fighting is the "policing the game" factor which I already have the answer for. (Not to toot my own horn mind you...) However like the last point, I would be more interested in a "fan on the street interview" of people who aren't already hockey fans than of people who are already in the arena before a hockey game starts. But the admission of hockey fans that they personally would not stop coming to games if fighting was banned is very, very telling.
  4. The Neanderthals over at Ultimate Fighting on Ice tell us and over and over again how fighting regularly gets a 80-90% approval rate on unscientific internet based polls. And this is "PROOF! PROOF! I tell you that hockey "needs" fighting or else it isn't hockey." Well here's a scientific poll conducted exclusively in Canada (where hockey is the National Pastime) of only self-described "avid hockey fans" and they can only muster 76%. While that's nothing to sneeze at, it is a far cry from the 80-90% we keep hearing out of these goons.

I was willing to give these clowns the benefit of hearing what the UFOI Fans cult leader, Don Cherry, had to say about this survey before responding in kind. But today is kind of slow as I have the day off from work. I'm just trying to kill some time here folks. It has also been awhile since I've done one of my anti-fighting posts as well, so I was due. But the fact that the UFOI fans have to constantly defend themselves and their blood lust continues to be very, very telling.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Caps @ Thrashers 4-4-2007 Wrap Up

The Local Yokels:


The Neutral Observers: AP Wire.

The Other Side:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Kovalchuk benched, Cup nearby.

Final Thoughts:

81 down, 1 to go.