Friday, June 29, 2007

Cap Price Set

$50.3 million.

Remember when it was just $39 million two seasons ago?

This $6.3 million increase is larger than last year's $5 million increase but doesn't look to be the "max cap" Larry Brooks was calling for.

Of course, the higher the cap, the more wiggle room teams have to sign their players (this year at least) and the higher NHL player salaries go.

So tell me again, why is this such a bad deal for the NHLPA?

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Let The Madness Begin!

Lost in the shuffle of last week's uniform unveiling (still hasn't grown on me) were my thoughts on the upcoming free agent period starting on Sunday. So in the interest of recapping and clarifying, remember:
  1. The Caps are better advised to look for players who will stay with the team beyond a year or two. Guys like Nylander or (even worse) Yashin aren't real options because their age.
  2. Everything the Caps do in this offseason will have a direct effect on the moves they'll make next offseason when very important players come in line to receive new contracts. Welcome to the wonderful world of the salary cap. What this means is that whatever the Caps do starting on Sunday isn't likely to be a big splash because of next year.
  3. Don't listen to the rumor mongers out there who say that the Caps are after this guy and that guy and somebody else as well. Nobody had the Caps going after Brian Pothier before the Caps announced the signing last year. For better or for worse, General Manager George McPhee operates in the dark and frequently uses misdirection. We usually only find out about what he's up to until after he's already done it.
  4. Personally, I'm more looking forward to the release of the 2007-2008 schedule than I am over the coming free agent bonanza. Why? Well it is very, very rare for a team to conduct a roster overhaul and become instantly successful. Remember the Jagr trade? We missed the playoffs the first season after that trade was made. Boston went and re-did their lineup last summer and had only a two point improvement last season. Don't buy the song and dance that whatever moves we make will get us into the playoffs next year. It isn't bloody likely.

However, the most important thing to remember is that the players that are available this coming Sunday for one reason or another are rejects of another team. There are a very few exceptions but if these talented hockey players were wanted by their teams, they would be under contract before Sunday. Caps fans were drooling over the prospect of Pavel Datsyuk and he was locked up before the playoffs even started. Trust me, if a team wanted to keep a certain player, they would figure out a way to do it. The only way this doesn't apply is if their contract demands are so high that the team cannot afford it. And when that's the case, you're dealing with a player who is chasing $$$$$ and you have to be careful when dealing with those guys becase they don't always turn out to be what they seem.

Finally, remember as we go looking through the reject bin for players who are free agents, the player himself has to agree to want to play for the Caps. The Caps have had this problem in the past where players weren't interested in the offers from the Caps and took less $$$$$ to go play for somebody else. It is a fact of life and there's no use blaming McPhee or Ted Leonsis because somebody doesn't want to sign a contract with the Caps.

But that's never stopped some Caps fans...


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kansas City Predators?

So instead of letting his soon to be former franchise end up in Canada, Craig Leipold will let it go to Kansas City.

Ok, so other than manic "Gary Bettman hates Canada, eh!" conspiracy theories, could somebody please explain this to me? I could understand taking less $$$$$ for the franchise if the new owners were willing to pledge to keep the team in Nashville, but taking less $$$$$ to keep the team from moving to one city over another just does not make any sense.

Furthermore, as I've stated before, Leipold would have had to have been downright oblivious to not have know about Balsillie's desire to bring another team into Ontario. If Leipold didn't want the team in Canada, he should have never agreed to sell the team to Balsillie and had done better reconnaissance in the first place.

However, the fight isn't over yet either. Nashville could very well get the corporate support it needs to get attendance back over the 14K threshold this season. That alone will make it very difficult for any owner to break the lease and take the team out of Nashville.

So what happens to Basillie now? Odds are that despite the glowing reviews of the league by some, there will be another franchise available for him to try to buy sooner rather than later. Whether or not he gets one remains to be seen but lets all hope that the NHL won't attempt to placate Basillie by giving him an expansion team.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buy Now, Pay Later

Tarik of the (Com)Post today points out today an article from Eric Duhatschek who claims teams can circumvent the salary cap by following the lead of the Flyers.

I don't buy either argument made by Duhatschek that this circumvents the cap and allows teams to "rebuild quicker."

First of all, by "front loading the salary" any "cap savings" you earn on a contract like Timmonen's you'll have to "payback" later on in the deal as the cap number becomes larger than the actual salary. This stunt also makes it harder for you unload a player in the out years of his contract because while the actual salary figure is easy to sallow, the cap number could cause problems by creating "dead space" where a team is spending say an actual $50 million on salaries but being counted as spending $55 million as far as the salary cap is concerned.

Secondly, teams that undergo a major roster overhaul in the offseason tend to seriously disappoint once the real season begins. Ask Redskins fans just what the numerous "Champion of the Offseason" Titles the "unbiased" media has bestowed upon them have brought? Teams on the far outside looking in have never been able to buy their way into contention in the NHL.

A team with too many of the these front loaded contracts could end up finding themselves in a serious bind when they really do need just one more piece to complete the puzzle. And should the NHL's revenues drop, (and cause a lowering of the salary cap) teams with these gimmick contracts are going to find themselves in a world of hurt as a player is being charged $3.3 million more against the cap than they are actually paying him.

The only way this works out as a plus for a team is if the salary cap get scrapped when the CBA expires in 2011. (Should the NHLPA listen to the idiots who are calling for them to scrap the CBA in 2009 the whole discussion becomes a moot point) However, I don't see the NHL owners agreeing to let go of this system without a long, protracted, and bloody fight.

This "loophole" is more like a trap.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Squeeze Play

With Larry Brooks predictably calling for the maximum cap value, teams yesterday were letting go various players for cap purposes and make no mistake, that's exactly what they're doing when they say things like "$680,000, which is probably the right price for a guy like that."

This ends up doing two things. #1. It increases the amount of talent available in the UFA market. The more options teams have, the greater the chances that teams won't bid up the process and drive things out of control though it could all backfire and cause even crazier contracts to be offered and the market to spiral even higher. However, with a salary cap in place and more teams showing greater consciousness of it (as evidenced by some of the moves yesterday), the higher supply of available talent will either lead to a reduction of salaries or a number of teams being locked into "cap jail."

#2. Older and marginal players will be forced out of the game sooner rather than later (unless of course the NHL expands...again...). While there is more to it than just numbers; somebody will eventually realize that you can get Chris Chelios' point production for Karl Rachunek's salary (and yes, I know that Rachunek made more $$$$$ last year and is poised to make more $$$$$ than Chelios this year, but work with me people, Rachunek is 26, Chelios is 308 years old) and get it for a longer period of time.

The biggest drawback however is that you're seeing the construction of a wide disparity in salary among the players. "Elite" players will sign long contracts with high dollar amounts while a large glut of players make close to the minimum with little in between the two camps. And because of the way the salary cap works (it is based upon league-wide revenues and a guaranteed sum, therefore there is a finite amount of $$$$$ available to the players and the players are basically fighting with each other over how the pie will be split) you could easily see further dissension in the NHLPA ranks. I'm curious if Union Thug Mouthpiece Larry Brooks will ever report on that. If he does, I'm sure will be Gary Bettman and Ted Saskin's fault and not that of the players asking for for max contracts.

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Qualified Offers

Yesterday at 5 pm was the deadline for qualifying offers to RFA's in order for teams to retain their rights and keep them restricted. The Caps Qualified nine players and there was a little bit of surprise.

I didn't think the Caps should or would qualify John Erskine Bowles but they did. Here was a guy who didn't get a contract from anybody until the night before training camp last year and now we're worried that he might become a hot commodity? What the guy did to merit a raise is beyond me.

The other surprise is that Jiri Novotny wasn't qualified. He (along with Kris Beech) now becomes a UFA. In all honesty, Novotny was not very impressive after coming over in the Dainus Zubrus trade. And when you take a look at the what the Caps did this weekend in Columbus, we've now traded Dainus Zubrus now for a second round pick in this year's and next year's draft should Novotny end up elsewhere. I didn't like the return on the trade then and I'm liking it even less now.

Now the Caps could get Novotny back but he'll get a raise anyway as the league minimum increases from $450K to $475K. So the Caps could be trying to save a few pennies here as a 10% raise would pay Novotny $495K instead of the new minimum of $475K.

Otherwise, no big surprises as to who was qualified and who wasn't. The qualified players who have arbitration rights; Steve Eminger, John Erskine Bowles, Milan Jurcina, Brooks Laich, and Brian Sutherby have until July 5th to file for arbitration. All RFA's have until July 15th to accept their qualifying offers. Should any of these Caps head to arbitration, they stand little chance of breaking the Caps budget.

BTW, between 9 am this past Saturday morning and 10 pm this past Sunday night, I drove over 216 miles. That's why my buddy Sparky from Washington had to fill me in on Rod Langway saying that the Caps have agreed to a nine year contract extension with A.O. which will be announced on July 1st (the first day the Caps can sign A.O. to an extension).

If this is true, this is a good move for the Caps for a number of reasons.

First of all, with the contracts that have been flying around lately, this is about what the Caps would have to do to keep A.O. long term. Secondly, A.O. isn't Alexi Yashin or Jaromir Jagr so the length shouldn't scare anybody. It also puts pressure on the Penguin Scum when it comes to getting the Captain of the Canadian Diving Team, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby, on an extension as well. Whoever signs first will set the market for the other and it is better for the Caps to set the market than to have the market set for them. Finally signing A.O. to a long term contract like that demonstrates a seriousness to the team, fans, and potential free agents pick-ups that the Caps are serious about building a contender. The Caps need that credibility right now.

We'll still have other important free agents to take care of next year but I don't think it is out of line to say that A.O. is the most important one. We'll wait and see Sunday morning to find out if A.O. has been given a nine year extension like Langway said. I hope he's right.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 6-24

  • We start off this week's smorgasbord with hearty and sincere AMF! (that's Adios My Friend) to La Sooze who is leaving Washington Sports and Entertainment at the end of this coming week. While La Sooze hasn't had any direct hand in running the Caps since Ted took over before the 1999-2000 season, her effect on this franchise is still widely felt. Top of course among her many sins is her cut-rate selling of the tickets for 1998 Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit and turning the Phone Booth into Joe Louis south that June. That single action killed any chance that the Caps had on capitalizing on the good will created by that magical Cup run that year and establishing permanent roots in the city. Ted and Co. are still blamed for that even though they had nothing to do with it. Of course, cut rate selling of tickets to out of town fans was S.O.P. under her just as she would give tickets away left and right inflating the attendance statistics in the Enron tradition before Enron was Enron. She is also responsible for the sackings of former Caps PA announcer, the late Marv Brooks, and Caps radio announcer Ron Webber; two men who's voices were synonymous with Caps hockey. Now that La Sooze is gone, hopefully the Caps will be able to sell the club seats in the Phone Booth before selling out the rest of the arena (and not having those seats filled with bus groups) and it is also a signal that Dishonest Abe Polin will be out the door soon as well. We can only be so lucky.
  • On Friday night in Columbus, the Caps ended up using their 5th pick overall to take Defenseman Karl Alzner. This is was a good move by the Caps because they have holes on defense to begin with though mostly due to inexperience. Alzner won't bring any experience to the club right away but he will make it easier for the Caps to trade Steve Eminger, Jeff Schultz, and/or Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green for a defenseman who does because now we have a greater depth of talent among young defensemen. Plus with the kid being projected as being two years away from the NHL, we have the luxury of taking our time in bringing him to the NHL and don't have to throw him into the fire right away if we don't want to.
  • Speaking of trades, where were all the trades that were supposed to happen this weekend? Florida and Toronto got goaltenders before the draft, but once the draft began, very little action took place. It just goes to show that you cannot predict how a trade market it going to work out.
  • Riding high on a 7 game unbeaten streak and facing a winless Real Salt Lake, D.C. United walked right into a trap and got caught big time losing 2-1. To be brutally honest, the game wasn't even that close. United simply never came to play, period. Hopefully it serves as a wake up call for United however there is plenty of soccer left to play this season. D.C. caught a break as the loss keeps them in fourth place as they didn't lose much ground on the teams ahead of them.
  • After last night's self-destruction, I was at today's Nats 3-1 win over the Cleveland Indians as the Nats take two of three from the Tribe. (BTW who knew that Cleveland fans traveled so well?) Interleauge play is now over and the Nats went 9-9 against the AL this season. In case you were wondering, the Nats are still mired in last place at 32-43, 3.5 games back of fourth place Florida and 10 games back of the first place Mets. However if you want to look at something odd, right now Yankees are further back from 1st place than the Nats despite having four more wins that the Nats. No wonder Joe Torre is on the hot seat.
  • And because I was at the baseball game this afternoon, I missed the U.S. 2-1 victory over Mexico in the CONACAF Gold Cup Final. Stop me if you heard this before, but Landon Donovan scored his goal on a penalty kick. The U.S. men will now take a younger squad to Venezuela to play in the Copa America. While winning the Gold Cup gives the U.S. regional bragging rights and a berth in next year's Confederations Cup, I personally would love to win the Copa America too in Venezuela to stick to Hugo Chavez. But that doesn't look very likely. (BTW, did Mexico agree to swap jerseys on the field after losing today?)
  • Ok this week the Nats hit the road for a three game set in Atlanta starting tomorrow night. After taking Thursday off for the grueling trek to Pittsburgh, the Nats stay there for a three game weekend set against the Pirates. D.C. United is home on Thursday night against Colorado in a game scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2. The NCAA season will be over by then so there is little chance that some obscure NCAA Championship will delay the 7 pm kickoff.
  • As always folks, please send all comments, criticisms, questions, suggestions, corrections, and statements for the record to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Channelling Mr. Blackwell

After taking a look at the whole package of the new uniforms and logos and taking some time to digest them, I have what really amounts to a mixed review.

First of all, I like that the Caps are returning to Red, White, and Blue. In the quote packages the Caps sent out; they quoted Khornball who was dead right when he said in 1995 that the Caps should wear Red, White, and Blue. So what Montreal and the Rangers have been wearing the same colors since they started in the NHL? It isn't as if the Caps can go out and create brand new colors exclusive to themselves.

The "blank" jersey itself I think looks pretty good. I like the design of it and while they did give into some of the modern styles of vertical and curved lines, they didn't do something as garish as the original Caps jerseys. Don't get me wrong, I like the old school stuff but it had a very 1970's design that I don't think holds up very well. I think because the Caps avoided some of the extremes that you see today (Oregon football comes to mind) that this jersey can last a long time. The only gripe I have is that the bottom of the red jersey could use a block of white underneath the blue piping to help it stand out more.

The logos however are going to take a very long time to grow on me, if ever. First of all let's look at the chest/primary logo:

Courtesy of the Washington Capitals

Ok as I've said before, I think this logo just looks stupid. I understand that it is an "update" of the original logo but what made the original logo work was that it was simple. While the original jersey design screamed 1970's, the logo itself didn't. This writing here comes across as what is currently passing for "space age" which isn't going to hold up in my opinion. Where the original "T" hockey stick looked like a hockey stick, this new "T" hockey stick barely pulls that off. As a matter of fact, you wouldn't know it was a hockey stick a first glance despite the blade being more realistic.

Oh and good job telling everybody that the three stars represent the District of Columbia, the People's Republic of Maryland, and Virginia. It is only a matter of time before the fans in the PRMD demand that their star be bigger than D.C. and VA's because they are where the real Caps fans are...

Now for the shoulder/secondary logo:

Swiped from On Frozen Blog

Look familiar? Ok, that was a cheapshot joke that everybody else is doing, but I'm not above doing that...

Here the Caps once again come up with a great secondary/shoulder logo. The Dome logo was great on the shoulder but didn't do very well IMHO as the main logo on the jersey. I think the same dynamic applies here. This a logo that will look good in a smaller size on the shoulder of the jersey and maybe on hats. The subtleties of the logo however will be lost should you try to enlarge it and make it the primary logo. The only problem with putting this logo on a hat is that the Nats have got the market cornered on "W" hats with their curly W.

The numbering and lettering on the jersey is certainly easier to read and not as fancy as what the Caps were just using (though I did like the font). However, in the photos the Caps sent around, the lettering needs to be bigger to make them easier to read which was a catalyst in the uniform overhaul to begin with. The blue pants are ok, (why not bring back the stars on the pants?) though the socks make the pants look longer than they really are. I'm curious as to why the Caps chose blue helmets to wear at home. Are they really channeling the Canadiens and Rangers?

So are these as bad as the Buffaslug? Certainly not but I think they had a better idea with the crash diving eagle than they did with this futuristic nonsense. I applaud resisting the temptation to stylize a "D.C." logo as well. Also bear in mind there may be some tinkering with things before the team hits the ice in October which is what happened with the last uniform switch. It was mentioned in the (Com)Post yesterday at the end of the article that the last rejected design is likely to be used as a third jersey in the future. I almost shudder to think what was rejected in favor of these. However time will tell and we'll get to bash those in due time.


Basillie Out?

You have to wonder what is going in Nashville now that Leipold is putting the brakes on.

Does anybody believe him when he says that he had no idea that Jim Basillie wanted to move the Predators? Does this guy live in a cocoon or something?

Considering that during his tenure as NHL Commissioner that Gary Bettman has approved an owner he never met (Tampa Bay) and an owner who couldn't pay (New York Islanders) you have to wonder just what somebody has to do in order to be rejected as an NHL owner. While I disagree with putting another team into Canada (especially a very small Canadian market) that shouldn't disqualify the guy from owning a team.

The worst case scenario is that this flub leads to further expansion. The NHL already has too many teams and expanding to 32 would only make the already diluted talent base even worse.


Friday, June 22, 2007

At Least We Can Read This Font

Over at The Dude Abides we get some close up shots of the uniforms as well as a look at the Numbering that will go on the new jerseys.



Unless something breaks about a couple of hours before the draft, I won't be covering the draft at all tonight.

I won't be at the draft day party either (why? I've already seen the new jerseys) because I'll be at a friend's birthday celebration tonight.

I'll weigh in sometime tomorrow on the draft picks and my thoughts on the new uniform.


Thursday, June 21, 2007


Yep, Tarik finally confirms for us that I had the scoop all along.

Which is cool considering the shoutout from D.C. Blogs today.

But as I said folks, these things always end up getting leaked before their officially unveiled and this was no different.

Feel free now to bash away about the new jerseys.

EDIT: If you want to blame and curse me for ruining the surprise and the entire "Draft Day Party Experience" go ahead...

And did I read blue pants with blue socks???????????

I think once again we'll have another mid-season uniform change...


Forget Something Pal?

Eric Kay of See-BS Sportsline takes a crack at the D.C. sports scene.

I'll give him credit that cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and which only have two of the "big four" don't count.

But he forgets Atlanta. Atlanta has all of the "big four" and they have even less than D.C. does right now.

Sure the Braves just finished off winning 14 straight Division Titles, Congrats to them but there was only one World Series in that streak and for many years at the end there were huge sections of empty seats in Atlanta in October. We just got a baseball franchise that MLB wanted to contract so they ran it into the ground and has been shackled in favor of a redneck podunk town who can't support its own franchises. Cut us some slack.

The Atlanta Hawks have never won a title and haven't posted a winning record since 1999. The closest they've come since then is 2002-2003 when they finished 8 games under .500. Say what you want but the Bullets are now what Dishonest Abe always shoots for and that's a team that can make the playoffs. They also have an NBA title to their credit.

For the past three years the Thrashers were the team "ready to breakthrough." Well this year they did it and the were swept out by the Rangers of all teams. Now with the salary cap issues surrounding the team, will Atlanta make it back next year? Not bloody likely, the Caps have made it clear that they are rebuilding and Mr. Kay takes the dim view and all but declares that A.O. will walk when his contract comes up. Source?

And of course the biggest object of his ire is Dan Snyder and the Redskins. Well, at least the Redskins have some Super Bowl and NFL Titles to their credit which is more than the Falcons have. The Skins have made the playoffs more recently while the Falcons are saddled with Michael Vick and the memories of Jerry Glanville. Let's not run a comparison of Hall of Famers either. That would be downright ugly and I don't think either team right now is a threat to win the Super Bowl in the coming season.

For good measure he also includes College Basketball, again, Maryland won an National and ACC Title this decade. Georgia Tech has no Basketball NT's and their last ACC title was in 1993. Oh, and when Maryland is consistently getting 50K+ for football games, that stupid little Kennedy Center crack comes across as downright ignorant.

But that's just par for the course over at See-BS Sportsline...

Just Leave It Well Enough Alone Ok?

NHL messing around with rules again.

Of the rule changes announced yesterday, only the faceoff location makes sense. Anybody who watches the game knows how ridiculous the faceoffs away from the dots become as the wingers are right on top of the centers as the puck is dropped. Why this change wasn't made years ago I don't know.

However that along with the new standards for awarding penalty shots will make the real game more like the video games out there. Soon you will see the NHL awarding penalty shots to players in the offensive zone who are fouled from behind with nobody between the attacking player and the goaltender. Nevermind that there wasn't any kind of breakaway... (Hey, the penalty shot is the MOST EXCITING PLAY IN HOCKEY!!!)

Finally 5 minutes for interference? Maybe I've missed something but have there been obstruction fouls worthy of a 5 minute penalty? Isn't the complaint that most of the interference calls aren't worthy of a two minute penalty in the first place?

Correct me if I'm wrong, (and I know many of you will jump at the chance) but it looks as if instigator change was wisely deep sixed. So give the Board of Governors some credit...


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Tangled Web

So here we are more than 24 hours after "the leak" and despite rumors of decoys, the Caps have yet to put anything else out to squash "the leak." No diversionary tactics, no other "leaks", just letting things ride now.

So I got the scoop huh?

Well, I'm not ready to pat myself totally on the back yet.

Eric McErlain at his AOL Fanhouse blog offers more evidence as one of his guys does what I couldn't do, which is find the new draft day hat. However, that link is now dead too.

One would think that finding that hat on would seal the deal and confirm that as the new logo. However, Ted led the charge to "standardize" the NHL's websites so the setup on one team's page is the same on another team's page. (BTW Ted, MLB did that a long time ago) It is very possible that is in the hoax. But as Ted said in an interview elsewhere, us Caps fans are very web savvy. While I have no respect for the webmaster the Caps employ, they had to know that putting it out there somewhere would lead to it being found before the Caps wanted it to be found.

Another sign that this could very well be a hoax, the MSM has yet to pick up on it. Tarik El Bashir of the (Com)Post isn't buying the leaked jersey even though he's doing a story on it and Dan Steinberg has been on radio silence all day (as are Ted's boys over at OFB, at least as it relates to the leak). Only The D.C. City Paper ran with the story.

So was I duped? Well, I very well could have been and I freely admit that. Give Ted and Co. credit, they've created a bigger buzz about this than there was heading into this week. But a word of caution for you guys, this better not be a put on. This is a franchise with little in the way of credibility with their fanbase to begin with. Pulling bait and switch stunts like this will only add fuel to the fire of those who are critical of everything this franchise does. Why praytel do you think that you can do this and win people over? It does not matter what the Caps wear on the ice in the 2007-2008 season, the Caps will be judged on their wins and their losses, not on their uniforms and logos. Lose more than you win again next year and this will not be looked upon very fondly.

Well the flash animation is now back up and the "glitch" that led to "the leak" has been solved. Note now that the colors on the "old" jersey are not accurate on that thing. It has been well documented that the Caps are going back to red, white, and blue so that funky orange and black screen capture is wrong from a color standpoint.

I do however hope that logo is a joke.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Am I A Dope? Er....Dupe?

Word is starting to circulate that these are decoys.

Well let me say, I hope so because that logo is just stupid. It is one thing to go "retro" but the old logo was simple, this stylized nonsense just looks stupid.

However, allow me to offer in my defense:
  1. New stuff gets leaked all the time. The Nats jerseys were leaked, the Buffaslug was leaked, even the crash landing Eagle was leaked before the official unveiling. This is not an uncommon occurrence.
  2. Ted is offline until next Monday. No chance now for him to issue rebuttals or denials.
  3. And speaking of rebuttals and denials from Ted, remember this monstrosity? Ted swore up and down the street that was bogus. Well , if you bother go to the U.S. Trademark Office, click on the search link on the right, select new user form, type "Lincoln Hockey" in the search box, set the field to Owner Name and Address, and click search; record #3 76000377 will look very familiar despite being listed as "abandoned." (However, you won't find the new logo, whatever it ends up being, registered on that site right now) I would take any official word out of the Capitals about these with a grain of salt.

This very well could be a hoax. Dinking around the store website, I did find a picture of the 2007 Draft Day hat for the Caps. Problem is, it is the "old" dome logo and colors. So who really knows? We'll find out on Friday for certain.

One thing to keep in mind, I don't know where it is but I do have a couple of pictures of the uniforms that the Caps had when they switched from red, white, and blue to blue, black, and bronze. The Caps tweaked the uniforms before the season started so what you see here and elsewhere may change between now and opening night.

Personally this reminds me of what Former Coca-Cola President and CEO Donald Keough said about the introduction of New Coke leading to the return of Coca-Cola Classic "Truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart."


You Knew This Was Going To Happen

Sometimes the folks in Darwin's Waiting Room surprise you.

(UPDATE: That link is dead because the original thread is gone. Too late guys, the cat is out of the bag!)

Which is why we don't have to wait until Friday to bash this:

The colors seem off on this but that logo is just downright stupid.

Say what you want, but at least it isn't a crash diving eagle or a slug...

UPDATE AGAIN: Here you get a better look at the new shoulder patches. The "Eagled W"

Hey, at least we avoided the current Washingtonian fetish of stylizing a "DC" logo...


Moving and Shaking

With the 2006-2007 season officially over, save for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, teams have already begun making personnel decisions aimed at improving their chances for the upcoming season or, in the case of Nashville, seasons beyond 2007-2008.

The "general consensus" on the Caps is that going into 2007-2008 they need to get two top line centers to center the top two lines. One, maybe two veteran defensemen who can settle down an inexperienced blueline and a right winger to play regularly on the top line.

Folks, that's a large shopping list. Don't expect everything single one of those "needs" to be met before training camp opens in September despite the fact that Nicklas Backstrom is expected to fill one of the center positions and Joespeh Boumedienne makes his triumphant return to D.C.

There's all sorts of speculation about who the Caps will target, what they'll do with the #5 pick, and who gets bumped off the roster in favor of the new guys. But let's remember a few things before we jump off the deep end because the Caps got this guy instead of that guy or didn't make any move at all.

#1. It won't do the Caps any good at all to get what amounts to be a short-term solution for their problems at the top line center. Forget about players like Michael Nylander. The Caps would be well advised to get a player who can play with A.O. for at least the next five years or so instead of a guy who may only last two, maybe three. Getting a Nylander will only delay the final solution of the problem that currently exists on the top line.

#2. More along those lines, any move that the Caps make has to not only make sense for the 2007-2008 season, but for the 2008 off season and beyond as well. Kicking around various places is the idea that the Caps can send a Brian Sutherby or Steve Eminger (both RFA's this year) along with the #5 pick to San Jose to get Patrick Marleau so the Sharks can pick up Chris Drury. That certainly makes sense when you think about one year cycles. But forgetting UFA's and RFA's for this offseason, next year the Caps have to have $$$$$ available for RFA's A.O., Alexander Semin, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrrissonnn, and Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green. When Patrick Marleau (who will make $4.5 million this season) comes up as a UFA along with Donald Brashear, Captain Chris Clark, and Olaf Kolzig in 2008; somebody is very likely to be squeezed out because the cap math just won't add up. Who do you let go and who do you replace him with?

#3. After spending two points on the forwards, now how about the blueline? Defensemen are already in high demand and the Kimmo Timonen contract considerably ups the ante. Again, the same problem exists, who do you say goodbye to in order to bring somebody on board on the blueline? The biggest problem that the Caps have on defense is their overall inexperience, the Caps will have to let go of a young player in order to provide veteran leadership to the blueline. That's a dangerous proposition.

However, let's play fantasy world here and say that the Caps go out and magically get everybody and everything they need according to the "general consensus" over the next two and half-three months. Remember the 2001 offseason when all the Caps needed was "one big goal scorer"? Remember how we went out and got the biggest goal scorer in the league at the time? Remember how that all turned out in the end? We didn't even make the playoffs that season.

Unlike some fans I am not demanding the Caps make the playoffs next season and overhaul the roster in the process. There are some very young and talented hockey players on this team right now and I think we would be better served guarding them rather than casting them aside to chase after the current flavor of the month. Last year the Boston Bruins made a ton of off-season moves getting Zdeno Chara as their centerpiece and they improved a grand total two points in the standings with six more wins.

Are there players that the Caps should let go? Certainly and there are some that I consider marginal players who at least I think can be easily interchanged with other players around the league. But I don't see a UFA out there this year or a potential trade pick up that fills a need that would be worth losing Semin, Fehr, or Morrrissonnn next year. Kolzig might help us out by taking a paycut or forgoing a large raise, but you cannot count on that and this year it was glaringly obvious that the team was much more comfortable playing in front of him than they were anybody else and trading the #5 pick and a former first rounder for a player for just one year just does not make any sense at all.

However, George McPhee seems intent on doing something this off season to improve the team. Last year nobody had any idea that we were after Brian Pothier until he signed him from Ottawa. Seeing as how the Caps are intent on making changes to the lineup, I'm not expecting the big splash but something more moderate in size. However, we'll have to wait and see what is done, and how it will turn out.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Philly Does It Again

Get and then overpay Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen.

Unless the numbers here are just dead wrong, the Philadelphia Flyers have only about $8 million left under the salary cap for next season before the real free agent derby starts with four RFA's of their own (who made a combined $4.023 million last year) to worry about.

Quite frankly, the Flyers need more help than what these two players will bring them...

The flip side to this is the dismantling of the Predators which if the NHL wants to have any integrity (BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!), they'll keep a close eye on.


Why Did They Stop Them?

I don't know about you but the only boos I heard was after Derrek Lee was hit by the pitch and when Chris Young left the field once the fight was over.

But during the actual brawl itself, nobody was booing. There was wild cheers and applause from the fans in the stands. The fans clearly loved it and therefore the umpires were wrong to eject Lee and Young from the game. The fans loved it and deserved more of it.

Now the real travesty will come when Major League Baseball suspends the combatants. MLB cannot survive without the passion, emotion, and intensity these fights bring to the game if they keep dealing with incidents in such a draconian fashion. How MLB expects to build a fanbase and TV audience without the stuff is beyond me...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 6-17

  • This is what I would have led off last week with had Comcast had their act together... Kudos to the guys at Deadspin for pointing me to this article about crowd control in Seattle. As somebody who has worked more than his fair share of sporting events, I have to say that I like the idea. While the drunks in the crowd certainly aren't big fans of this kind of crackdown; more and more fans are getting turned off by the excessive alcohol culture that exists at sporting events these days. I certainly wouldn't bring a kid under 12 to some of the sporting events that I attend on a regular basis anymore largely because of the boorish behaviour of fans. It is one thing to be loud (and trust me, I have made plenty of noise at sporting events in my lifetime), it is one thing to heckle opposing players or even your own team (guilty) but it is entirely different to taunt other people and create a hostile atmosphere in the stands. During my days as an "event staff professional" I made more friends clamping down on the drunk fans, the obnoxious fans, and the seat jumpers than I did by looking the other way. Furthermore, for the life of me I just cannot figure out why people go to sporting events to get themselves absolutely blitzed. The thrill should come from the action on the field of play, not from the cup in your hand. You can get that same thrill at home without trekking out the stadium and making life miserable for the rest of us.
  • Making waves throughout the blogsphere this week is the Islanders take on the situation of giving access to bloggers. I probably stand in opposition to various people on this but I think this a rather good idea. This allows the bloggers to be what most of us really are at heart; diehard fans of their respective teams. You can wear your jersey and cheer as loudly and as wildly as you want in this program the Islanders have set up. If you are able to go there and demonstrate that you can conduct yourself as a professional, then you can "graduate" to the full press box. Personally I think this is a win-win for the bloggers and the team. The team does not have to worry about "pre-screening" the Pros from the Joes. The regular media does not have to contend with the bloggers for access and the team, coaches, and players do not have worry about things getting out that they would rather keep quiet. If the Caps did something like this, I would think about it. I probably wouldn't do it anyway but I still have no interest in trying to play "real hockey journalist" and getting a real press pass.
  • The other big hockey news this week (if you ask me) is the return of Mike Keenan to the coaching ranks. My question of course is, why? What is it about Mike Keenan that gets him so many opportunities. While he's sixth in all-time wins, he's only won the Cup once. While you can give him credit for doing great things with teams, he destroys them in the process and has yet to depart a franchise on anything even remotely amicable in the way of terms. I feel sorry for the good people of Calgary and other Flames fans who have to put up with the psycho now. Let's hope when he starts cleaning house (and you know he will ) that we can get some good players from the Flames.
  • The Canadian Diving Team Captain, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby, may be the youngest MVP in 24 years and won three trophies Thursday night but he's still being upstaged by A.O. A.O. became the first player in 55 years to be named to the NHL First All-Star team in his first two years in the league. Something tells me this is going to be a continuing pattern throughout the years in spite of the leagues efforts to shove Cindy down everybody's throats.
  • Well the Nats pull off the sweep of the B.O.'s this week but against real competition, they avoid a sweep against the Blue Jays. Let the trade winds around the Nats start to blow as they don't bother trying to make up the 8.5 games they're behind the Mets in the NL East. This season is about rebuilding and the Nats should get a decent return for players like Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young at the deadline. I think Jason Simontacchi could be a good pickup for another team at the deadline. For a team with very little in the way of depth in the minor leagues, anything the Nats can get would be welcome despite not having an Alfonso Soriano to move this year.
  • D.C. United did what they needed to do and laid a smackdown on Chicago last night 3-1. Yes, Chicago was not at full strength and hit the self-destruct button, but D.C. put them away and won the game to push their unbeaten streak to seven games. D.C. United is now solidly in fourth place with games in hand on two of the three teams ahead of them which is a far cry from where they were before the seven game unbeaten streak began.
  • This week, the Nats come home to face the Detroit Tigers for three games in RFK before having Thursday off before the Cleveland Indians drop into RFK to close out inter-league play for 2007 for the Nationals. D.C. United hits the road to face old team mates Alecko Eskandarian (again, he got traded from Toronto) and Nick Rimando in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. That other guy got called up to the Under 20 National team and won't play in the game. The Caps will finally end the suspense and unveil their new uniforms before the draft Friday night at their new practice facility. Yours truly will be at a friends birthday party that night instead and will critique the new look and whatever we ended up doing with the fifth overall pick sometime on Saturday morning.
  • As always please send all questions, comments, criticisms, suggestions, corrections, and Salvation Army donations to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Fruits Of My Labors

So after whirlwind 72 hours that saw me sleeping in three different beds in three different states (don't ask...) I come home to find this!

That's right, by a healthy four point margin I take home the Inaugural Cheap Seats Cup.

So show my appreciation and respect to the opponents I vanquished; I shall provide links to the screeds about the Caps written by my fellow bloggers so everybody can join in on the fun.

And now all that is left for me to do is go to the Harris Teeter across the street, get some of their finest tuna, and feed it to the blind cat who lives behind my building. After all, she (at least I think it is a she) assisted me greatly in this competition.

Oh, and I also hearby announce my retirement from the Cheap Seats Cup so I can go out on top!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, June 11, 2007

You're Kidding Right?

Seriously Ted? What's the deal here?

9.2 million people watched Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals drew 2.9 million viewers.

The NHL didn't even get a COMBINED 9.2 million viewers for the ENTIRE Stanley Cup Finals (8.589 million according to the numbers I was able to find). And you're trying to tell us that everything is ok?

I agree that viewers have ever increasing options and as a result "everybody is hurting" but let's not kid ourselves here; if the NHL could draw 9.2 million TV viewers per Finals game, there would be no discussion whatsoever about the problems that the NHL has and you wouldn't be preaching about heading into "alternative media" as a way to fight dismal TV ratings and lack of traditional media coverage.

As I said last time, somebody needs to figure out how to make the internet profitable. And even when that happens, I still have my doubts about the viability of the NHL's product. It's pretty clear that people aren't buying the product that's being sold. Because people have the ability to watch the games if they want to, it is clearly a case of people not wanting to buy what the NHL is selling.

How widespread broadband access is going to change that is beyond me...

It's Comcastic!

Well count me among the many satisfied Comcast customers after this weekend's shenanigans.

In order to save $$$$$ on my bills and get more service at my home, I signed up for the Comcast Triple Play already having Digital Cable and High Speed Internet service from Comcast. Comcast showed up bright and early as they said they would on Saturday morning and upon closing out the work order, canceled my cable modem.

Upon reporting the problem about 9 am Saturday morning, I was told it would take 24 hours to put my modem back on-line. 29 hours later I was on the phone with Comcast again and was told that it was actually a 72 hour wait to get my modem back on-line.

Something tells me this situation isn't over yet and my phone service will get knocked out when my internet is restored.

So that's why things were so quiet around here this past weekend. As a matter of fact, it is going to be a quiet week all around as I'll have a busy week in the office before I leave on Thursday to get a sheepskin for myself.

I apologize if you were expecting much of anything. At least the hockey season is now over and it looks like the only thing I'm going to miss is the Awards show which I wasn't worrying about in the first place. Hopefully things will be back to what passes for normal next week. Thanks!


Friday, June 08, 2007

Minor League Issues

Other Caps bloggers have spent a considerable amount of time covering the run of the Caps AHL Affiliate Hershey Bears through the AHL Playoffs. The Bears were looking to repeat as Calder Cup Champions but came up short losing in 5 games to Hamilton.

I myself kept an eye on the run but didn't get myself too mixed up into it. Why? Well if Hershey had repeated as Calder Cup Champions it would have meant to me exactly what it did last year.

Absolutely nothing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to downplay the accomplishments of the Bears but as it relates to the Caps, Hershey's success has no bearing on the success of the parent club. I'm much more interested in winning Stanley Cups than Calder Cups. This past season coming off of Hershey's 2006 Calder Cup Championship, the Caps finished with the exact same amount of points and one less win than they did a year ago. Winning a second consecutive championship would have meant exactly the same thing for the Caps heading into the upcoming 2007-2008 season.

This is because there is little to no correlation between winning the Calder Cup and winning a Stanley Cup. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember one of the more loathsome troglodytes of Darwin's Waiting Room (who got reinstated I see) telling all of us back during the lockout that the because the AHL AND ECHL affiliates of the Philadelphia Flyers had both won their championships that the Flyers had the right idea when it came to building a hockey team. This was ironclad incontrovertible proof that the Flyers would be a force to reckon with in the future and a rebirth of the Flyers dynasty was just around the corner. The Caps affiliates that year didn't do nearly as well and so this ironclad incontrovertible proof that George McPhee was a incompetent boob and as long as he and any player he brought into the system were associated with the Caps; the Caps would continue to be one of the bottom feeders of the NHL.


That's why I call that place Darwin's Waiting Room because that is what passes for intelligent discourse. Nevermind that this moron by his own admission had never held any kind of position with any hockey team in his life. His opinion for some reason is still rather strangely respected among the masses over there.

Of course two years later the Caps are still struggling but did anybody notice who ended up dead last this year by a comfortable 11 point margin despite having the 2005 Calder and Kelly Cups in their trophy cases?

The point of all this is that success at the AHL level and NHL level are two totally different things. What we now know is that some of the players in our system have proven everything that they can prove at the AHL level and it is time for them to now prove themselves at the NHL level. With any luck more of these guys will translate their games to the NHL than won't but the stated goals of the organization will make it difficult for these guys to prove themselves at the NHL level with the Caps.

For every player the Caps graduate from Hershey into fulltime NHL status, somebody off the current roster has to go. By my count, there are only 7 players who cannot/should not be replaced and that is certainly a little on the high side. But bringing up a Chris Bourque, a Louis Robitaille, or a Dave Steckel means somebody else has to go. And should the Caps keep their promise to bring in players via Free Agency and/or trades, it too means somebody has to go.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing simply because the Caps do need help. But bringing in a right wing from outside the organization could squeeze out an Eric Fehr. I'm of the opinion that the Caps need to let some of these young guys mature more. However, I too have never held any position of any kind with any hockey team in my life. So I am willing to defer to the judgement of the highly paid professionals until it is pretty clear that they aren't getting the job done.

And no, I don't think we've gotten there yet.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Game 5 In The Books

I have to admit something here and I know I am not alone. It is very difficult for me to get into watching the playoffs when my team didn't even come close to qualifying. Today is June 7th, the last time the Capitals played was April 7th and for all intents and purposes, the Caps were out of the playoff picture sometime in February. So in short unless there is some sort of suspense involved in the game, it is very difficult for me to watch a hockey game right now between two teams I don't have any real strong feelings towards even though I'm developing a hatred for the Thug Ducks.

Especially a game like last night's where it was glaringly obvious that Ottawa was just not going to win that hockey game no matter what they did. Ottawa was even clearly aware of this fact. Clue #1 was what turned out to be the Cup winning goal credited to Travis Moen. When Chris Phillips and Ray Emery got their wires crossed and the puck ended up in their net without any pressure. You were only kidding yourself if you thought it wasn't over yet and if you needed any other evidence; Wade Redden's stick breaking on the point in the third period as the puck arrived and Antoine Vermette not even getting a shot off on a penalty shot were other glaringly obvious indications that Anaheim was winning the Cup last night.

That game was so in the bag for the Thug Ducks that the Hockey Gods did not feel at all compelled to punish them for having the Stanley Cup Championship banner already in the rafters waiting to be deployed. Is there a Caps fan out there that thinks the Caps could get away with this? I hope not because you're dead wrong to think so.

During Game 4 Doc Emerick mentioned that only four teams in the history of the NHL had ever won the Stanley Cup while leading the league in PIMs during the regular season. Anaheim becomes #5 and now we get to hear about this from the Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans for at least the next ten seasons. Though I do give Anaheim (and Ottawa too) full credit for not gooning things up once the outcome was decided.

So now we head into the offseason. Trade and Free Agent rumors now become stock and trade among puckheads until training camp opens in September. Live hockey won't be seen until then as well and we'll hear in about 3 1/2- 4 weeks who, where, and when we'll be playing in the 2007-2008 regular season.

Of course the draft is coming up in just two weeks; I'm not a draft geek for many different reasons and sorry, I don't care very much for draft day parties. As I've said before, I find them rather boring for the most part.

As for this site, things will keep going. Like I have throughout the playoffs, I'll post on the Caps when conditions warrant but mostly I'll shoot my mouth off on whatever interests me, especially if it involves the local teams. I also plan to do a site redesign in the coming months. I'll provide more links and try to have a decent organization of them. I'll also try some different things to see how they go so please don't go anywhere. Thanks!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yashin Bought Out

Well I guess the Islanders had enough of him. I can't say that I blame them.

First of all, the $2.2 million cap hit over 8 years is better for the Islanders cap situation than his $7.415 cap hit over the next four seasons. The question of course is, will the Islanders learn their lesson or are they going to make the same mistake again with a different player?

Yashin of course has never shown that he's worth the $$$$$ and it will be very interesting to see if anybody is willing to take him now. Yashin has no motivation to rehab himself as a player because he'll get about $2.2 million from the Islanders for the next eight years in addition to any other salary he gets.

Finally, let me also point out that Yashin's contract was the basis for the contract that the Caps gave Jagr. Jagr's deal wasn't as long but because Yashin was getting almost $9 million for 10 years, the Caps had to pay Jagr more and for a long term as well which is exactly what they did. While we all knew that the Yashin contract would be an albatross, it wasn't until Jagr started pouting again that the Caps got ripped for the contract. However, after making the trade to get Jagr, the Caps couldn't afford to let him test the UFA waters as everybody was saying he would after one season. It was the only way the Caps at the time could get the credibility that they were looking for when they made the trade for Jagr.

And of course, if you believe Larry Brooks (and I don't) Jagr is available for the right deal.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Game 4 In The Books

And it's all over now except for the shouting. It has been 65 years since Toronto came back on the Red Wings from 3-1 down to win the Cup and quite frankly, Ottawa just does not have the discipline to get the job done.

I missed the opening period last night for Council business and I understand that the Senators came out with their pants on fire and came away with a 1-0 lead after one. The Thug Ducks had their go in the second period and they ended up tied at two.

However at the end of the second period and in the decisive third period, the Senators reverted to what they had done in Anaheim and tried to beat the Thug Ducks at their own game. On the game winning goal, two Senators went after the Anaheim player deep in his own zone and the once the pass got by them, the Thug Ducks had all sorts of open ice and used it to their advantage. The Senators had to know what a loss would mean and for them to lose their composure like that is inexcusable.

Ottawa might be able to force a Game 6 and maybe a Game 7 but this series is over folks. That could very well end up being good news because Don Cherry's much ballyhooed appearance on NBC last night was a total dud. Cherry flat out called for more fighting in the NHL and perpetrated all of the myths that I've been debunking. NASCAR took off when restrictor plates were added to slow the cars down and the roof flaps installed to keep them from flying through the air resulting in less crashes and less fatal crashes. The NFL has been for years cutting out the gratuitous violence. Yeah, we can kill the QB as long as he still has the ball and don't touch his head under any circumstances. Is Don Cherry even aware of that? Of course he calls for a return of the days of Dave Semeko when the NHL didn't have a U.S. National TV Broadcast contract and ESPN had about as much coverage as Versus does today (and of course, the NHL was kicked off of ESPN at the end of the 1980's). Don didn't do the NHL, CBC, or Canada any favors with his rant.

The only good thing is that it was highly unlikely anybody was watching Don Cherry on NBC last night...

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Not At That Price Larry

This week Larry tells us that the Caps are "presumably" interested in reacquiring Michael Nylander over the UFA market this summer. Ol' Lar tells us that Nylander's "market value" is $4.5 million over three to four years.

Does this guy pay any attention? Why would the Caps give a 3-4 contract to Michael Nylander to center A.O. when they wouldn't give Dainius Zubrus (who will be 29) a long term contract, why are they going to give Michael Nylander more $$$$$ for a similar term?

And did you see that Nylander is 35 already? That means his contract sticks with the Caps for salary cap purposes until it runs its natural course. So if Nylander gets injured, he stays on our cap; if he gets demoted for poor play, it stays on our cap; if he decides to retire after one season, it stays on our cap and the Caps are left with what is known as "Dead Cap Space."

The Redskins specialize in Dead Cap Space and it limits their ability to make moves to improve the team. Ted Leonsis has used the term "cap jail" and has said more than once that the Caps are going to avoid deals that will land them in "cap jail." How Larry is unaware of this is beyond me. Of course, expect over the next few months for Larry to complain about how the Caps aren't near the salary floor despite already being well over it...

Now does this mean that the Caps will avoid all UFAs 35 and over like Nylander? I don't think so, but I would be shocked to see the Caps give any UFA 35 and over a contract longer than 2 years. As for Nylander himself, don't forget that he was injured for much of the 2003-2004 season (he played only three games for us) before we shipped him off the Boston at the deadline as a part of the firesale. While he would certainly provide help to the team, he doesn't have a long term future for us so I hope the Caps pass on him.

However, giving him a four year contract has "Alexander Mogilny" written all over it. Let somebody else make that mistake. We're going to need a lot of $$$$$ to keep our free agents next year, so let's not tie it up into dead cap space.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 6-3

  • From the "A Fool and His $$$$$" File, Mark Cuban among others are trying to take on the NFL. I happen to think Cuban is right that there is a larger demand for pro football than what the NFL currently supplies but one of the lessons of the ill-fated XFL should be remembered; there aren't enough football players to fill that demand in the first place. The NFL already has 32 franchises and level of talent spread among the teams is thin enough as is. To date, only 6 XFL former players have played in the NFL and there's no reason to believe that the quality of play will be better in the UFL. The NFL also has a hammer lock on the major media TV outlets which is what allows the NFL to be the NFL. The UFL has no chance of matching the salaries of the NFL if they can't get a TV deal on par with the NFL and with the failures of the WFL, USFL, WLAF, and XFL, the best the UFL can hope for is a TV deal comparable to what the NHL currently has. That won't get the job done unless Cuban and Co have very, very deep pockets.
  • On Wednesday night the NBA Western Conference Champion was crowned and on Saturday, the NBA Eastern Conference Champion was crowned. In another example of the NBA-NHL double standard, having four "dark" days before the Finals doesn't get the NBA criticised the way the NHL was criticized for taking five days off before starting their Finals. Maybe it is because the NBA has more credibility as a professional sports league than the NHL? The bad part of the equation is that we get all sorts of hype "building up" LeBron James in the NBA Finals...
  • This week came the reality check for the Nats as they dropped two of three to both the L.A. Dodgers and San Diego Padres. While the closest the Nats got in the four losses was Today's four run margin, it did not accurately demonstrate just how hard the Nats played and how close some of the games were. The Nats have a small margin of error and were actually hanging for most of the games before falling apart in the later stages of the game. They still count as losses though and the Nats are only a half game back of the Houston Astros with the Reds, Royals, and Rangers behind them.
  • I didn't get a chance to see D.C. United's 0-0 tie in L.A. last night but I do like the fact that they were able to pick up a point on the road. Progress is progress and points are points as D.C. is now keeping pace with the back of the Eastern Conference pack.
  • Don't tell the guys at OFB but Lindsay Czarniak had a HIGH-larious recap of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night after the game. She has three different pronunciations of Anton Volchenkov (one of them was right) and she deported Jean-Sebastien Giguere to Mexico or something because she called him Juan-Sebastien Giguere. And remember, this game was on her network... (blondes...)
  • This week the Nats have tomorrow off before the Pittsburgh Pirates and their mulleted fans invade RFK (oh wait, the Pirates suck, forget that...) for a three game series starting Tuesday night. The Nats then take off to take on the original Washington Nationals franchise which is currently residing in Minnesota as the Twins for tearful Cristian Guzman homecoming. D.C. United faces arch rival New York Red Bulls on Sunday in RFK.
  • As always, please send all comments, criticisms, corrections, suggestions, questions, and sports themed books for me to read this summer (seriously) to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Game 3 In The Books

And now we have a series right?

Well, not so fast there, if the Thug Ducks are able to win tomorrow night, then the series is all over. But on home ice the Senators were able ride the wave of emotion from their fans and pull off a 5-3 win and force a Game 5 in Anaheim. Give Ottawa full credit too for coming back from 3 one goal deficits to win. The Senators did exactly what by sticking with their game plan and not trying to play a style that does not suit them very well. Is Ottawa prime for an emotional letdown in Game 4? I think so, but there's a reason why they play the games.

The Thug Ducks on the other hand got very flustered by the atmosphere as evidenced by the Mike Fisher goal in the second period when Anaheim had only four players on the ice for an even strength draw in their own zone. What was going on the Thug Ducks bench is a mystery. The Thug Ducks also showed why I'm disgusted to see them win the Cup. Was Chris Pronger's forearm to the jaw of Dean McAmmond really necessary? The NHL doesn't think so as Pronger was suspended for Game 4 and my question is, why one game? This is the second time in the playoffs this season (and second series in a row) that Pronger has been suspended for an unnecessary head shot. It is pretty clear that one games aren't changing Pronger and he is even saying himself he won't back down when he returns for Game 5.

But once again "its business as usual in the NHL." And they wonder why the TV ratings are in the toilet? The Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans are just waiting for a Thug Ducks win in the Finals to say "I told you so, I told you so" when it comes to winning hockey. But these guys have never been able to really put 2 and 2 together so what else is new?

Ok, enough of that, my favorite moment last night was in the third period when Pierre McGuire chimed in "Here comes an Anaheim wave. Their bench was just calling for a a tightening up." Almost as if on cue the Thug Ducks get hemmed into their own zone, turn the puck over on a breakout, and Ottawa scores the insurance goal to go up 5-3.

Keep up the good work Pierre...

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Friday, June 01, 2007

More Entry Level Additions

Add goaltender Michal Neuvirth to the party...

The Press Release boasts:

The 6’1”, 197-pound, left-handed catching goaltender spent this past season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) were he was named the OHL’s All-Star Second Team Goaltender and was runner-up for the OHL Goaltender of the Year Award.

The Usti Labem, Czech Republic, native finished the regular season with a 26-8-2-2 record, which included four shootouts. His goals-against average was 2.32 and he notched a .932 save percentage. Neuvirth set the longest shutout streak in franchise history from Dec. 28, 2006, to Jan. 6, 2007, by not allowing a goal in 164:18.

Neuvirth carded an impressive 14-3-1 playoff record, which included an OHL championship and a spot in the Memorial Cup semifinals. His playoff GAA was 2.45 and his .932 save percentage equaled his season output. Prior to suiting up in the OHL, Neuvirth led the Czech Republic to a bronze medal at the 2006 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship, posting a 3-1-2 record.

Which to me is good news simply because we can't play Olie Kolzig forever.


Of Sidesteps and Red Herrings Part III

It's been awhile but now that I have some more downtime, I can devote more energy and thoughts to dismantling the lame arguments that the Ultimate Fighting on Ice (UFOI) Fans use to equivocate the thuggery that mars the NHL.

In Part I we talked about the failure of the NHL's Front Office to properly police the game and get serious about cracking down on the cheapshot artists. This is especially enlightening considering the brouhaha the NBA dealt with a couple of weeks ago now.

In Part II we got all over the UFOI Fans for insulting our intelligence by attempting to claim that some of the ugliest incidents in the history of the NHL had nothing whatsoever to do with fighting.

Today we deal with the UFOI set's biggest red herring and explain to you how because of that the UFOI fans are actually advocating less hitting in hockey. That's right, less hitting. Now if you're a Neanderthal who can't watch a hockey game that doesn't have any fighting in it, you might want to skip the rest of this post because you won't be able to follow along and understand what is being said. However if you aren't mortally offended by a game that your teams loses 6-0 with no fights then please read on.

The most basic argument for getting fighting out of the game is for the protection of the players. Twice this past season we were treated to players being carried off the ice on stretchers after fights (and injecting untold amounts of "passion," "emotion," and "intensity" into the game they were in) and some people began to question the safety of the players. How could fighting "protect" the players when the players fighting were getting injured regularly by the fights themselves?

The UFOI fans knee-jerk response to the injury question is their red herring about the equipment. The leader of the UFOI set, Don Cherry, has been leading this campaign for years. Of course, notice that clip right there was in discussion of the Chris Simon incident so you really have to wonder what shoulder and elbow pads has to do with that because Simon didn't hit Hollweg with his shoulder or his elbow. Simon hit him with his stick and it wasn't an elbow or shoulder from Hollweg that sent Simon into his blind rage. Elbow and shoulder pads had nothing to do with the Marty McSorely or Todd Bertuzzi incidents either.

But if we take Don Cherry's advice and go back to the "soft" equipment to protect these players; we're going to end up with LESS hitting in the game. How you may ask? Well first of all, a vast majority of hockey players who get cleaned out (legally or otherwise) oftentimes end up very risk adverse. That's just human nature and Richard Zednik is a prime recent example of this. Ever since he took a clothesline from Kyle McLaren in 2002 playoffs, Zednik hasn't been willing to cut to the front of the net anymore. He skates down to the goal line by the post and tries to finesse the puck in from there and shies away from contact. While a hard charging game was hardly ever Zednik's style, he was willing to go to the front of the net and pay the price for doing so. And if you want to be a xenophobe and brand him as a "Soft Euro;" then please explain All-American Bobby Carpenter. Carpenter put up 50 goals in 1984-1985 and never again topped 25 after that. Why? Carpenter stopped going to the front of the net where he knew he was going to get punished.

Futhermore, softening up the equipment will not lead to less injuries for the players taking the hits. NHL players today are bigger, stronger, and faster than they have ever been. Part of the reason why the fighters are getting injured is because of this. So lessening the amount of protection every player is wearing on the ice isn't going to mean "safer" hits. But on the contrary the hitters will also become more vulnerable to injury as well.

Take for instance Ol' Puddin Head Erica Lindros. This was a guy who gave himself one of his many concussions when he was applying a hit on another player. If hitters are going to injure themselves more and more when applying their trade, what makes us think that they'll continue to do so? Lindros doesn't throw as many hits as he used to because of his concussion problems and he too can't be dismissed as a "Soft Euro." Scott Stevens also used to run around and hit everything that moved when he was younger but as he got up in age, he was decidedly more selective in the hits he threw. Take away the protection from the players, and they'll be less likely to throw hits because it won't take them very long to figure out they can extend their careers by being less physical.

But the ones who should really balk at this are the owners. Imagine for a second that you're Ted Leonsis. You have an angry, restless, and perennially unsatisfied fanbase. You have a budding superstar in A.O. You have an emerging star in Alexander Semin and you're banking a large amount of your future on Nicklas Backstrom making those guys even better than they already are on their own. You're hoping to get at least 10 years out of each of these players on your team; more if you can manage to do it under the current salary structures. Do you want to put these players in cheap equipment or the most protective stuff you can buy? Of course there's the double edge sword that the protective equipment for one player turns into a deadly weapon for another but are you willing to take the risk that the soft foam of the old-school elbow pad will protect an A.O. as he goes crashing into the boards after losing edge skating at full speed?

I wouldn't and I think it is safe to say that Ted doesn't want to take that gamble either. As a matter of fact, you occasionally hear about how the Philadelphia Flyers ruffle the feathers of grizzled vets by demanding that they use the newer more protective equipment. Think of the millions they spent and lost on Erica Lindros because they couldn't keep him healthy. He was supposed to be the next "great one" and lead the Flyers to untold heights of Stanley Cup dynasties. He never delivered in part because he couldn't stay healthy.

Softening up the equipment though will ensure that more players get injured on clean and legal contact. As the injuries mount, the level of hitting will decrease and remember folks, the UFOI Fans think there isn't enough hitting in hockey today to begin with. But if they had their way, there would be even less in a vain attempt to salvage the circus sideshow that other professional sports somehow manage to create "passion," "emotion," and "intensity" without.

The crusade for the no-touch icing rule somewhat falls into this category. The UFOI fans call for it in an attempt to demonstrate concern for the health of hockey players when they aren't grousing about the equipment. Icing races are pure and simple hustle plays and CW says that the UFOI set would appreciate those kinds of blue collar plays. Furthermore going to a no-touch icing rule will make the game more European. This is like throwing Holy Water on a Vampire when it comes to UFOI fans. (For the record, I'm ambivalent about the touch-up icing rule. I don't have a strong opinion either way.) But please don't think I'm accusing these guys of being consistent.

So there you have it folks. All of the UFOI Fans most popular and common comebacks, retorts, and red herrings have been shot down. If any these guys can conjure up anything new I'll take it on as conditions warrant. But the simple fact that the UFOI Fans are so defensive about fighting in the first place is the first indication that they realize that there is something wrong with it to begin with. Try as they might, most of them can't overcome their own consciences.