Monday, July 30, 2007

They Come In Threes

Late last week we lost a good guy and class act from the coaching ranks with the passing of Wake Forest Head Coach Skip Prosser, today another shoe dropped as another good guy and class act Former San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh died.

It was Bill Walsh who told Joe Gibbs during his disastrous start in 1981 to stick with what he was doing because it was eventually going to work. Gibbs of course finished 1981 at 8-8 and then went on to win three Super Bowls.

Can We Please Kill This Stupid Regulation Tie Nonsense?

Keeping a close eye on Larry Brooks, I came across this Sean Avery arbitration I have to take issue with this 17-6-6 record that the Rangers had after acquiring Avery from the Kings.

Under the old rules, that 17-6-6 record would mean 17 wins, 6 losses, and 6 ties so the Rangers would be 11 games over .500 with Avery. However, it is actually, 17 wins and 12 losses with six of those losses occurring after three full periods of hockey. So I'm supposed to believe that a player is that inspirational that he can lead them to 5 games over .500? Now when you look at the Rangers "Bettmanized" record of 25-23-4 on the day of the trade, you see that the Rangers were two games under (they would lose that night in regulation 4-3 to Detroit) .500 and finished off the season a staggering 42-30-10 good for 2 games over .500 once you adjust for Gary Bettman.

But of course that is what the "Overtime Loss" is all about, point and record inflation. Fact of the matter is, despite glowing reviews from his coaches, Sean Avery didn't have that large of an impact on the team. The entire season before the Rangers were 44-38 (44-26-12 for you Bettman disciples) without Sean Avery. It should be interesting to see what the Rangers do with a full season of Sean Avery on their roster.

How much of an impact Sean Avery can have is debatable but to sit there and argue that he's the sole reason the Rangers "turned things around" from 3 games under .500 to 2 games over .500 is laughable especially when Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr, and Henrik Lundquivst are on the same team. Though when it comes to hating Gary Bettman, I thought Larry Brooks had no equal. I guess that's only when it suits his purposes...

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-29

  • Carrying on a theme from last week, here are few names I think should be added to the Washington Hall of Stars: From the Redskins; Darrell Green, Mark Rypien (hey, if Doug Williams is up there, then our other Super Bowl MVP belongs up there as well) and Joe Gibbs (he actually was elected but never inducted because at the time he wasn't willing to travel to D.C. for the induction). From the Caps: Dale Hunter, Mike Gartner, and Don Beaupre (he did at one point have the franchise record for goaltender wins). D.C. United, John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry, and Raul Diaz Arce. Is there anybody else from the Washington Sports scene I'm forgetting? If I'm not mistaken you have to be retired for five years before you are eligible so guys like Peter Bondra aren't eligible.
  • From the "Better Late Than Never File" California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer finally got around to introducing and passing the annual Senate Resolution honoring the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks this past Tuesday; over one month and a half after the Stanley Cup Finals ended on June 6th. By comparison, Indiana Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh moved the Senate Resolution honoring the Indianapolis Colts on February 7th, 3 days after Super Bowl XLI and Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn honored the San Antonio Spurs on June 20th, six days after the Spurs won the NBA Championship. Amazing Civic Pride huh?
  • The Nats patchwork starting rotation once again fell apart losing 5-0 in a rain shortened game in New York today to cap off a 3-4 roadtrip. It doesn't look like the Nats will be selling off any players over the next couple of days so while the Nats are a long shot to get out of the cellar, they'll at least remain as competitive as they have all season. Now at 45-60, the Nats are 14 games back of the New York Mets in the NL East and 12.5 games back of the L.A. Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL Wild Card.
  • On Wednesday night, D.C. United got an early goal, missed chances to extend the lead further in the first half (and for the rest of the game), went a man up early in the second half, but ended up tying Monarcas in their first SuperLiga game. Tonight, D.C. United did the exact same thing only this time, they held on for 1-0 win over the Bimbos (hey, that's what it said on the front of their jerseys...). Unlike Monarcas Wednesday night, the Bimbos didn't seem to be energized by the red card they took early in the second half. Though both of those Mexican teams were downright thuggish in their play more red cards should have come out IMHO. But D.C. should be able to advance now that they have four points in Group B play but another point or three on Wednesday won't hurt a bit.
  • The Caps avoided another arbitration hearing tomorrow by signing Milan Jurcina to a two year contract on Friday. While there are a few unrestricted free agents remaining to be resolved, the Caps roster is now largely set heading into training camp with more than a month before camp opens. What this really means is that news about the Caps is going to be really, really, really, slow until September.
  • Though it wouldn't be Redskins training camp if there wasn't a holdout. First round draft pick LaRon Landry is the culprit and for a player that the Redskins "have big plans for" this isn't good news. Despite hearing that "it could be finished any minute" the longer this goes, the worse it is going to be for Landry. One thing that is nice to hear is how angry the returning players are about last year's 5-11 embarrassment though I still don't think the Redskins really have the talent to turn that into an 11-5 record this season.
  • This week, the Nats have tomorrow off to lick their wounds and try to heal some starting pitchers before the Cincinnati Reds show up on Tuesday in RFK for a three game series. The St. Louis Cardinals are in RFK next weekend for a weekend set and I'll shamelessly be there on Saturday night for the Thomas Jefferson Bobblehead. D.C. United heads down to Houston to finish up their SuperLiga group play on Wednesday night before heading up to New England for an old fashioned MLS game against the Revolution on Sunday night. The Redskins travel up I-95 to scrimmage the Ratbirds on Saturday afternoon.
  • As always, please send all comments, questions, criticisms, suggestions, corrections, and plans for world domination to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Gotta Love It...

You know you've made a big mistake when even the opposing team's announcers deride your call in their favor.

Yet Hunter Wendelstedt turns to the lame "my hands are tied by the rules" excuse for his ejection of John Lannan. The fact that Wendelstedt felt that he even had to issue a comment about (let alone even try to equivocate it) his ruling speaks volumes about. Somebody on that crew told him that he blew it and blew it big time. Considering the universal disagreement with the call, it would have been difficult for the overlords of MLB to have disciplined Wendelstedt for not ejecting Lannan after he hit plunked Ryan Howard.

Furthermore, actually digging through the MLB rules he is only following a guideline, not a clear cut rule. He could have warned Lannan and the dugouts but instead he chose to eject the kid. At least the Nats came back and won the game.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Meathook!

Good news for Nats fans, listening to the Nats game over the internet, an announcement is expected later today concerning a contract extension for Dmitri "Meathook" Young.

Not only does this lessen the chances that he'll be traded but it also means that the Nats have no confidence that Nick "China Doll" Johnson will play this season. While Young is a valuable trading asset, keeping him around will make the games in August and September much more interesting to watch. And by signing him to an extension now, they'll keep him in the fold beyond this season unlike Alfonso Soriano.

And speaking of contracts, as you no doubt by now should know, Brooks "
and Dunn" Laich was awarded a small raise on a one year contract yesterday from his arbitration case.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Party On Boys!

Staal's in the clink

Gotta love it don't ya? Of course you can't be too surprised about Jordan Staal because his Captain, the Captain of the Canadian Diving Team, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby, got thrown out of an All-Star Game Party in Dallas because she was a minor.

Jordan Staal is just following the great example set by his team Captain...

As for Eric, well what do you expect out of a bachelor's party for a 22 year-old?


More Double Standard in the Vick Saga

Buried in Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback is this gem of a quote from Emmit Smith on Michael Vick:

He's the biggest fish in the whole doggone pond right now, so they're putting the squeeze on him [Vick] to get to everyone else. Now, granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after. He's just the one who's going to take the fall -- publicly.

So I ask, where's the outrage? What did Smith do you ask? Well he's basically calling Vick and "innocent victim of circumstance." Sure Vick's been to a few dogfights and maybe placed some bets but he's the fall guy, he's the patsy. There are other bigger fish to fry and they'll be ignored in favor of getting Vick...

And just how is there a double standard? Well when Clinton Portis weighed in with his thoughts two months ago, people went ballistic. Portis was equivocating Vick's commission of a felony. Portis was quickly called on the carpet to apologize for his remarks and he did.

But now sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and All-Time NFL Leading Rusher, Emmit Smith, chooses better words to equivocate Michael Vick (after an indictment had been handed down) and the reaction is muted. What Portis said was stupid but rather enlightening because now, the NFL is sacred as to how far this will go and the Portis comments certainly leads you to believe that Vick isn't the only NFL player involved in dogfighting in some fashion. Furthermore, as King points out, Smith's comments adds further evidence to this and can easily lead you to believe that he knows more about dogfighting than he is letting on.

But why Smith gets a pass for his comments while Portis gets ostracized is beyond me.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Boy Is It Slow...

You things are slow around the NHL when this story is worthy of a headline. No offense to Brooks "and Dunn" Laich but does a marginal 3rd/4th line center on a last place team loaded at that position really deserve this kind of attention?

Further adding to the silly season are people attempting to divine his reasons for electing arbitration in the first place. I agree that the kid isn't going to break the bank by winning a huge raise but he could earn himself a small raise and, maybe most importantly, know that he is going to have a contract well before training camp starts.

Believe it or not, there are some players who like to wrap these things up quickly rather than let it continue to drag on through the summer. Historically, George McPhee usually does not deal with the RFA's who for one reason or another did not go to arbitration until late August. That's because RFA's aren't going anywhere. If a guy is willing to accept his qualifying offer, then the negotiations are that much easier and over sooner.

So folks, I know it's summer, I know it's hot, I know you're suffering from hockey withdrawal but please don't try to read anything more into Laich and Milan Jurcina electing arbitration than there really is. Neither player is going to win a huge award or has any real leverage against the team; odds are these guys are just looking to get their contracts wrapped up sooner rather than later.


Monday, July 23, 2007

D.C. United No More?

If Benjamin Franklin were still alive today he would say that there are three things in life that are certain, death, taxes, and the D.C. Government screwing things up.

This Saturday we were treated to the bombshell of the D.C. Government backing out on the deal to build D.C. United a new Stadium. Of the 13 MLS Franchises, United is one of four teams still playing in NFL sized stadiums. New York is in the process of building smaller soccer only facility as is Salt Lake City (though Real Salt Lake plays in a college football stadium).

Because of the D.C. Government being ...well... the D.C. Government, United is now exploring all options including moving to Bhawlmuher. William Yurasko points out that Philadelphia is looking to build a soccer stadium and I don't think it would be entirely out of the question for United to end up there. (Which of course means that United will never get close to another MLS Cup should they move to Philly...) After almost blowing the relocation of the Expos, it is mind boggling to me to see the D.C. Government foul up once again negotiations with D.C. United. Do you realize that this was supposed to be the last year RFK Stadium was used for sporting events? The Nats and United were supposed to be playing in new stadiums in 2008 but now United is stuck in RFK for the foreseeable future.

Does anybody honestly think that Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins will put up with the D.C. Government for a single minute? Forget for a second that D.C. United is hands down the most successful franchise in the history of the MLS and the only D.C. Pro Sports team capable of winning a title recently; if it wasn't for D.C. United, RFK Stadium would have been in much worse shape and needed even more work to bring it up to speed for the Nationals when they arrived in 2005. Hades, RFK may have not even been around for the Nationals in 2005 if it hadn't been for D.C. United. While United draws decent crowds, they aren't big enough to warrant playing in a stadium built to hold 56,000+.

And the really sad part is that United wanted to build the Stadium themselves. The amount of $$$$$ out of the District Treasury would have been nothing. Here they are building a baseball stadium with public funds (albeit with $$$$$ raised from ticket and souvenir sales) and they can't bring themselves to let somebody build something within the city limits. Doesn't this sound familiar?

While I would hate to lose D.C. United, I wouldn't blame them one bit for abandoning D.C. and moving to Bhawlmuher or Philly. Once again the D.C. Government shows itself to be completely incompetent and utterly clueless. For those of you who are tireless advocates for D.C. Statehood, episodes such as this show exactly why D.C. shouldn't even have home rule. Bring back the City Commissioners appointed by Congress and let this city become something to be proud of.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-22

  • From the "Gee What A Surprise?" file, the AP is reporting Michael Vick will be allowed to play while under Federal indictment for activities related to dogfighting. New NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's well earned kudos for cracking down on the off-the-field antics has been wasted. Pacman Jones should make the biggest stink he can about this because he was suspended for an entire season before any kind of indictment was ever handed down. Now Vick is going to be allowed to play while "legal process determines the facts"?????? Jones won't curry any favor with the Commissioner or the public but he will expose this crackdown for the fraud that it is. Luckily for Goodell, Vick and the other players suspended under the personal conduct policy are all black. Otherwise Goodell and the NFL would have an absolute PR nightmare on their hands. However, they can't have a good feeling heading into hearings about Pacman Jones so blatantly holding a double standard.
  • Thanks to a long overdue home run blast from Austin "Yeah Baby" Kearns, the Nats posted another 3-0 shutout today taking three of four from Colorado. The Nats still can't seem to shake the injury bug with Jason Simontacchi the shelf now and Dmitri "Meathook" Young consigned to pinch hitting for the time being. There are series when the Nats look downright competent and this happened to be one of them. Now at 42-56, the Nats are 13 games back of the New York Mets in the NL East with an elimination number of 52. The Nats are 11.5 back of San Diego for the NL Wild Card with an elimination number 55. The Giants, Pirates, Reds, and Devil Rays are the teams with worse records than us and we're tied with the Astros.
  • BTW, memo to Don Sutton, while I'm sure you and Pat Corrales go way back, the only sports figure in Washington, D.C. with proper claim to the nickname "The Secretary of Defense" is Rod Langway. That's why his name is on the wall in right field. And on a side note, how many notable individuals worthy of induction to the Washington Hall of Stars have not been honored yet? I believe that once the new baseball stadium opens up that the Washington Hall of Stars start inducting people again.
  • Now I'm not a soccer expert so I have to ask this question just for the purposes of verification. If an attacking player is held in the penalty area by a defender and denied an opportunity to play the ball properly, a penalty kick is awarded right? The answer to that question clearly seems to be no because D.C. United's Fred had a hole ripped in his jersey on a late second half chance and D.C. United fell 1-0 in New York to the Red Bulls. With all of the point blank chances to tie the game or even get a lead that D.C. missed, it is tough to blame referee Abiodun Okulaja for the loss. That doesn't mean however that you cannot be angry at him for the incompetent calls. I wonder how he thought that Fred's jersey got ripped like that? The loss drops D.C. United to 7-6-3 with 24 points. Simply put, United has got to figure out a way to win on the road or they will continue to struggle.
  • This week the Nats have to tomorrow off to make the arduous trip up I-95 to Philadelphia for a four game series with the Phillies. They then head to New York to face the Mets in a four game series over three days. Saturday the Nats and Mets will play a day-night doubleheader to make up the rainout from April 15th. D.C. United takes a break from their MLS schedule to face Monarcas Morelia on Wednesday night and Club América on Sunday night at RFK Stadium in their pool play in the Super Liga Tournament. And good news for long suffering football fans (and bad news for those who hate the coverage the NFL gets in these parts) the Redskins open training camp on Friday in Ashburn, VA.
  • As always folks, please send all comments, criticisms, questions, corrections, suggestions, and Facebook friend requests to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, July 20, 2007

NBA Fixed?

You think Operation Slapshot was bad? This will be huge.

I'm curious though to see how David Stern is able to spin this as a positive for the NBA.

And if Mafia figures were able to get their hands on an NBA ref, don't think for a second that they haven't touched an NFL ref.


Happy Birthday To Me!

One year ago today I started this whole thing wondering just how long it would last.

Now one year later, I wonder if I'll ever be able to stop...

It may sound cheesy, but if it wasn't for you loyal readers, I certainly would have lost interest in this months ago.

So now I'll go smash up a cake on honor of this blog and move on for another year of fun and frivolity.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yep, It's a Crock.

Sorry no conversion experiences here...

The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The NHL
By: Ross Bernstein
Publisher: Triumph Books (November 2006)
ISBN-10: 1572437561

I have a general rule when it comes to reading a book for recreational purposes and that is if the book insults my intelligence three times or bores me to tears; I drop it and don't bother finishing it. The last book to run afoul of this rule for me was The Drudge Manifesto (BORING...) though Bill O'Reilly (insulting) came very close. Ross Bernstein's book however would have tripped this rule had I not pledged to write a review. I felt that I had to read the whole thing to do a review despite it continually insulting my intelligence.

The book starts out inauspiciously when Bernstein spends the first two chapters attempting to equivocate Todd Bertuzzi and Marty McSorely for their infamous transgressions. While Bernstein takes great pains to stress that these players violated "The," he lays out a case that Steve Moore and Donald Brashear had what happened to them coming to them under "The"

In fairness, more time is spent rehabilitating McSorely than Bertuzzi and this is largely due to the fact that direct quotes from Marty McSorely comprise about 50% of the book in the first place. As a matter of fact, about 75% of the book is directly quoted material in the form of long block quotes and other quotes from various fighters and other hockey personalities placed in insets throughout the book. It is these numerous inset quotes that make the 240 page book a chore to read.

Though the inset quote on page 153 from former player and referee Paul Stewart recalling attacking Bob Schmautz on a golf course over an on-ice incident years before and challenging him to fight is very, very classy and drives home the point that these guys off the ice are totally different from their on-ice personalities. I also like when Rob Ray channels Charles Barkely and effectively says "we're not role models" on page 206. (Yeah, no kidding...)

When Bernstein actually writes something himself, he is very repetitive about the "toughness" and "courage" and other worn-out hockey cliches that any serious hockey fan already knows a lot about. He talks about the days of the Original Six and how players would play hurt and that it was a badge of honor and of course, an offshoot of "The" While I don't doubt the toughness and honor aspects, players knew in those days that jobs in the NHL were very limited and that giving up their roster spot due to injury could very well mean the end of their careers. Every serious sports fan knows the name Wally Pip.

Bernstein's biggest gaffe comes on page 86 when he refers to the Calgary-Edmonton rivalry as the "Battle of Ontario." (To his credit he gets it right on page 158 and properly calls it the "Battle of Alberta".) However, on page 145 he declares that the instigator rule was born in 1992 (try 1986), I was ready to give up on the book at that point because the three strikes rule had been more than violated. If I wasn't trying to do a serious review, I wouldn't have read another word of the book.

A big problem that I have with the book is that it is not as much an explanation as to why fighting still exists in the NHL but a full throat defense of it. The cause of removing fighting from the game is given seriously short shrift as only half a chapter out of 22 is devoted to the anti-fighting cause (he of course makes little if any attempt to refute the arguments). Of course, when the vast majority of the book are quotes from various fighters romanticizing their trade; this should come as no surprise to the reader. Furthermore, the seamy side of fighting gets a passing notice but the plight of former Caps John Kordic and Paul Mulvey get glossed over as well. Although Mulvey does get his name in the book and a thumbnail rundown of what happened to him; Bernstein attempts to use Mulvey's story to evoke sympathy for the fighters and comes up short for me.

However, the largest defect is that Bernstein and the rest of the fighters leave an important question hanging in the air. We're given a rundown of all the reasons why a fight occurs and most the often one you hear about is "it cleans up the game." Yet it is never explained just why when fighting exists do the cheap shots still occur? It is impressed upon us over and over again that "The" is first learned in Canadian Juniors and passed on up to the NHL. By the time a player gets to the NHL, he should already know that he's going to be called into account should he issue a cheapshot, but the cheapshots still come on almost a nightly basis in the NHL, even before the instigator rule was implemented. Clearly, this aspect of "The" has serious flaws. Also the old "Broad Street Bullies" aren't taken to task for taking fighting from a "policing action" and into an accepted tactic for playing the game. Bernstein himself at the end of the book says that fighting shouldn't be used as a tactic. I too fail to see the "honor" in starting fight for those reasons. We're repeatedly told that "The" is meant to prevent bullies from taking over on the ice but that's exactly what the Flyers of the 1970's did; and they're worshipped for it.

If you're an Ultimate Fighting on Ice fan (and can read above a fifth grade level) you'll love this book. If you're like me and despise the circus sideshow; this is nothing more than opposition research but considering the glaring errors in the book, there isn't much value as I was already aware of 99.9% of what was presented in the book. If you're not a hockey fan at all and you read this book, you'll come away with the impression that hockey is some barbaric sport and hockey players are barbarians more worthy of the Colosseum in Rome instead of modern day society.

Up next, thanks to Brenna's suggestion, The Boys of Winter is on tap.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dave Fay, 1940-2007

In course of looking for details on the Captain Chris Clark extension I got the sad news about the passing of Washington Times Caps beat writer, Dave Fay, from Tarik's blog.

As somebody who has lost two grandmothers and a great friend from College to cancer you don't have to tell me about the disease.

While I didn't always agree with his assessment of the Caps or their needs, he was a respected media voice. The best evidence of this is his impending induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a writer, becoming the first such writer from the Washington, D.C. market to earn the honor.

Sadly however, Dave will not be able to see it for himself but one cannot deny that it is a fitting way for his career to be capped off.

In repeating information from Tarik's blog:

The family requests no flowers. Memorial contributions can be made in Dave's name to Hockey Fights Cancer, P.O. Box 5037, New York, NY 10185-5037, or Hockey's All-Star Kids Foundation, National Hockey League, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Canadian friends can send Memorial contributions to Hockey Fights Cancer, P.O. Box 1282, Station B, Montreal, Quebec H3B 3K9.

UPDATE: Viewing and funeral arrangements can be found and online condolences may be expressed to Dave’s family at Stauffer Funeral Homes.

Clark Extended

Despite wearing the "C of Death" for the Caps; Captain Chris Clark has been extended for three years.

Clark would have been a UFA next season.

More details to come.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eminger, Sutherby Re-sign

One year deals for each per Tarik.

Neither guy was expected to break the bank and it looks like both players took their qualifying offers despite them expiring on Sunday. Both players had arbitration rights this season but did not file.

With Milan Jurcina and Brooks Laich heading for arbitration; John Erskine Bowles, Tomas Fleischmann, and Jakub Klepis (and sons) are the big remaining UFA's for the Caps.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-15

  • From the "I'll believe it when I see it" file, the new Ohio State President vows to clean up the Athletic Department. We're treated to the usual pap about winning without cheating and blah, blah, blah. Simple fact is that the NCAA is unwilling to do anything about the cheating and as long as that remains the case, the schools that cheat are the ones who will win continuously. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see just how long this President lasts at Ohio State with this attitude. The well-heeled donors are the corruptors and a large state funded school cannot afford to alienate them.
  • There's lots of oohing and ahhing over the hiring of Brent Sutter as head coach of the New Jersey Devils and I for one don't quite get it. Certainly a team bleeding off talent like the Devils is going to need a guy who is by all accounts a winner at every level. However considering the quick trigger finger of the resident genuis manager, Lou Lamoriello, will Sutter be given a fair chance to get the job done? Furthermore, when Sutter is fired in the waning days of a regular season, is somebody going to question the resident genius manager and his coaching hires? Caps fans still won't forgive George McPhee for the Bruce Cassidy (and the Sundance Kid) hiring. Why does Lamoriello get a pass for firing the head coaches he hires late in the season for poor performance?
  • After a winning a slug fest Friday night, the Nats dropped two of three including today's 5-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. This past Friday, the (Com)Post laid out just how many puzzle pieces are missing for the Nats. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anybody considering that Major League Baseball intentionally ran the franchise into the ground after they took it over in Montreal and during their year and half tenure in Washington, D.C. This reclamation project is going to take longer than anybody is willing to admit and a shiny new ballpark won't help speed things along. At 37-54, the Nats are now 14 games back of the New York Mets in the NL East with an elimination number of 58. The Nats are 13.5 games back of San Diego for the NL Wild Card with an elimination number of 59. Only Tampa Bay and Cincinnati have a worse record than the Nationals.
  • Our schadenfreude moment this week comes from our favorite city, Philadelphia, as the Phillies today became the first professional franchise to lose 10,000 games. And it wasn't even close either as the St. Louis Cardinals routed them in the ESPN Game of the Week. It couldn't have happened to a nicer city.
  • There are ties that feel like a win and ties that feel like a loss and last night's D.C. United 3-3 tie with FC Dallas felt like a devastating loss. Watching that game last night, I don't know what was worse, watching D.C. blow the 3-0 lead in the second half or having to listen to Dave Johnson breathlessly coo about Jaime Moreno becoming the All-time leading goal scorer in MLS history whenever Moreno got the ball in a scoring position? Combined with D.C. United's 1-0 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders in the U.S. Open Cup, D.C. United had a horrific week. The good news is that D.C. United has plenty of soccer left to play and get things going in the right direction. The bad news is that they have precious little time to figure everything out because starting next week; things get very busy for United with 3 Super Liga and one MLS game in a period of 11 days before the Beckham circus arrives. Now at 7-5-3 with 24 points, United is in third place in the Eastern Conference two points behind New England and one point behind Kansas City with a game in hand on the Wizards.
  • The only nice thing about a subscription to HBO is that I can now watch decent boxing on a regular basis. While I missed Arturo Gatti being sent into retirement, I was thoroughly entertained by Paul Williams victory over Antonio Margarito. The only reason why the Williams-Margarito fight was close was due to Williams' inability to put Margarito away. It was a classic case of a fighter setting such a high bar for himself in the early rounds of the fight that he made it very difficult on himself in the later rounds to continue to impress the judges. That being said, Margarito's sour grapes were embarrassing. The only robbery that occurred was that Margarito had a chance to retain his title with a majority draw heading into the final round thanks to two inexperienced California based judges.
  • This week, the Nats are back at home all week with a three game series first with the Houston Astros starting tomorrow night. The Colorado Rockies appear in RFK starting on Thursday for a four game weekend series. Saturday's game was supposed to be on Fox but that's not going to happen now. D.C. United has the MLS All-Star break with Thursday Night's game against Celtic FC in Denver leading into next Sunday's game on the road against the New York Red Bulls.
  • As always, please send all comments, criticisms, corrections, suggestions, questions, and cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Souray and Lowe, A Marriage Made In...

Souray finally gets a contract.

I'll let you fill in the rest of the title. Lowe was looking just about everywhere for offense and settled on a defenseman who thinks he's another forward. Souray prevents becoming the latest Jason Allison.

Sadly enough, just over $5 million is about market rate for a player Souray's age and ability. Three years ago in the aftermath of the lockout, the Penguin Scum threw a similar contract at Sergei Gonchar who was 1 year younger at the time of his contract. The Gonchar contract made many of us alternately laugh and scratch our heads.

Luckily, Souray's contract doesn't do the same...


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Act Quickly!

About two months ago I dived into a conversation with The Venerable Off Wing Opinion about why the NBA is quick to remove video files of NBA brawls from websites such as You Tube. The VOWO suggested that the NBA does want those videos being spread around because they could be used to hold the league and its players in a bad light. I agreed with his assessment and of course asked why the NHL shouldn't feel the same way? I got bunch of gobbledygook in response.

One month ago I continued my tradition of posting fight videos from other sports and rhetorically asking "Where are the boos? Why are these leagues going after players who are doing things that are making the fans cheer? The fans love this, don't discipline these players." This of course is in response to our Ultimate Fighting On Ice (UFOI) fans who constantly point out how hockey fans go nuts when the fights begin and for that reason alone, fighting should remain in the game.

Well, I'm sure most of you have heard by now about the dust up between Jason Ellison and Joe Blanton after Ichiro Suzuki was shoved by Blanton. I finally found a video clip on You Tube yesterday of the incident but I did not have time to post it over here.

Well today the clip is gone because according to You Tube "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by MLB Advanced Media" As a matter of fact, the Derek Lee-Chris Young fight is also gone from You Tube. So now add MLB to the list of professional sports leagues who think that video clips of their athletes fighting on the field of play is a bad idea.

The evidence is becoming overwhelming, despite the roar of approval from the fans in the stands, sports fans do not want to see fighting when they are attending a sport that is, well... not boxing or Ultimate Fighting. If this were not the case, the NHL would have a national broadcast TV contract in the United States that pays for the rights upfront and the NBA and MLB would be relegated to networks trying to build a profile for itself.

And if you want a laugh, check out the VOFO tut-tutting over color commentary about the Tony Kannan - Sam Hornish, Sr. brouhaha. When you sleep with dogs my friend, don't be surprised you wake up with fleas.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2007-2008 Caps Schedule Released

Here are the details.

Caps open up on the road in Atlanta on Friday October 5th and open up the home schedule on Saturday October 6th vs. Carolina.

Because of the Horse Show, four of the first five games are on the road but it is followed by a four game homestand.

Because of the unbalanced schedule, the Caps will make their furthest trip out west to St. Louis on October 27th and play their last game outside of the Eastern Time Zone on March 19th in Chicago.

Traditional Home Games:

Thanksgiving Eve: vs. Atlanta (Nov. 21st)

New Year's Day: vs. Ottawa (4pm faceoff)

Super Bowl Sunday: No game this year.

The Caps have three four game homestands and one five game homestand. The Caps close out the season with three straight games at home with Florida being our final opponent on April 5th at 7 pm.

The longest road trip is six games in March to make way for the NCAA Tournament First and Second Round at the Phone Booth. This road trip closes out the road schedule for the Caps on March 29th in Florida. The next longest trip is four three (it is a busy week at work and I really shouldn't be blogging during breaks...) games.

Looking at the schedule, the following Sunday 3 pm games look suspiciously like NBC broadcasts:

February 24th vs. New Jersey

March 9th vs. Penguin Scum

March 16th vs. Boston

That's all for now. More comments on the schedule later.


Pre Season Schedule Released


16th @ Carolina 3 pm (FREE ADMISSION!)

20th @ Ottawa 7 pm

22nd @ Tampa Bay 7:30 pm

25th vs. Carolina 7 pm

26th @ Philadelphia 7 pm

28th vs. Philadelphia 7 pm

30th vs. Ottawa 5 pm


More Competition In Net

Hot off the press from the Caps, Simeon Varlamov signs entry level contract.

Of course I don't think Olie Kolzig or Brent Johnson are going anywhere anytime soon but this does put more pieces of the future into place.


No Sale

Don't buy it.

Sorry, but I don't believe the Canadian Diving Team Captain, Secondary Assist Cindy Crosby's, calls of "hometown discount" and "not wanting to leave Shero with empty pockets" either.

First of all the Penguin Scum already jettisoned Michel Ouellet because they were afraid of the arbitration award he was going to get this summer. Secondly, the Penguin Scum have already added Dany Sabourin, Darryl Sydor, and Petr Sykora to their roster. The Penguin Scum only have Colby Armstrong left who is going into arbitration and won't get anywhere near the upper limit of the salary cap this season and are running out of roster space for additional players.

Oh, it only starts to count against next year's cap? That's very true and I am well aware of that,I am also well aware that next year Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Ryan Malone, Georges Laraque, Jarkko Ruutu, and Mark Eaton are UFA and Brooks Orpik is RFA. $31.509 million in cap space, including Cindy's extension, is already committed for next year with just 11 players under contract. By contrast with 19 players under contract for this upcoming season and Armstrong heading into arbitration, $39.378 million of cap space is committed.

Oh I forgot another RFA next year, Marc-Andre Fleury. Think he's going to want a raise over his $1.6 million salary?

I'm having trouble buying this whole "trying to keep the team together" nonsense. The Penguin Scum will eventually lose fossils Recchi and Roberts and considering the deplorable state of their minor league system, they'll have to replace those (and other graybeards) through either trades or more likely, the UFA market. The UFA market is traditionally overpriced rejected talent. A contract like Cindy's is dependant upon the salary cap increasing by leaps and bounds in order for the Penguin Scum to remain competitive but with the lack of talent coming through their system, they're dependant upon the UFA market which will make maneuvers very difficult.

But there's an even more to dump on this. All Cindy has done is forfeit her arbitration rights and one single year of UFA with the five year extension. Odds are very good that the Penguin Scum will extend Cindy once again in 2012 and let's see if she is willing to take only a million less than the maximum contract then.

Finally, I am well aware that A.O. and Alexander Semin are UFA's RFA's (that's what I get for typing these things in a hurry) next year in line for significant pay raises that could break the Caps budget. The Caps have $16.171 million of cap space committed to 7 players next season. The Caps also have a deeper pool of prospects to tap into should they end up with too much $$$$$ tied up into a handful of players.

Many fans have wondered why and complained loudly about the Caps saving so much cap space. This my friends is why.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mark Your Calendars

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the Caps will face the Canes in a preseason game in Raleigh on September 16th which just so happens to be a Sunday.

The catch?


So load up the buses people as you only have to pay for gas and miss Week 2 of the NFL. For us Skins fans, we're in luck because the Redskins are in Philly for the Monday night game that week so we won't miss anything should we decide to make the trip for the 3 pm faceoff. (I am very tempted...)

We also find out that the Canes come to the Phone Booth on Tuesday September 25th for a preseason game against the Caps at 7 pm and that the full NHL regular season schedule is due out tomorrow.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Good News For the NHL

TV Ratings better than Live Earth.

Pretty sad isn't it that a concert that got lower ratings gets better press coverage than the Stanley Cup Finals?


As most of you know, I read Larry Brooks so you don't have to and yesterday Larry was bashing Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe in his own special way.

This of course means that the Rangers are the greatest thing ever put on the the planet and the world would be a much better place if the small market Oilers would just go away so the Rangers could break the $100 million plateau with their payroll.

Ol' Lar believes that Lowe's desperation offer sheet to Thomas Vanek would have been a better idea to Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist AND that the Oilers should have thrown $9 million + at Lundqvist instead of a measly $7 million + at Vanek to really make the Rangers squirm.

It all of course sounds reasonable under you do something that Ol' Lar hardly ever does and take a look at what the Oilers need, don't need, and (most importantly) can afford; but Ol' Lar never lets facts get in the way. First of all, the Oilers went after Michael Nylander, Thomas Vanek, and by all accounts, other offensive minded players. Unless Lundqvist can also chip more than 20 goals himself in addition to keeping his GAA under 2.50 and his Save Percentage over .900%, I don't think he'd fit the Oilers needs.

Secondly, a quick check here shows that the Oilers already have two goaltenders under contract for next season and that the clear cut starter, Dwayne Roloson, has a $3.667 million cap number for the upcoming season and the next. Now while I agree with Ol' Lar that Lundqvist would be a better option between the pipes than Roloson, why should the Oilers (or any other team for that matter) tie up almost $13 million of cap space for goaltending? Nobody in their right mind is going to tie up over $3 million in cap space for a backup goaltender (Ottawa however is already in that situation with Martin Gerber making $3.7 million backing up Ray Emery who will cash in on his cup run). Secondly, Roloson would have a hard time finding a starting job (the one on Broadway would be open though but I doubt the Rangers would do the Oilers the favor in that situation) leaving the Oilers having $13 million of their cap tied up on their goaltending tandem.

Only the Chicago Blackhawks use even half of that (it is actually more, they use $7.7 million in cap space for Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime). Had the Oilers targeted Lundqvist, it would have forced the Rangers into a box. Had the Rangers declined, they would have lost a good goaltender, but the Oilers would have been handcuffed themselves without addressing their pressing need for offense.

But then of course there's the typical Larry Brooks double talk. He whines about the Vanek offer sheet skewing salaries further upward for third year wingers, especially through arbitration. But a $9 million offer sheet to Henrik Lundqvist (which, BTW would have made the second year player with no major NHL awards under his belt by far the highest paid goaltender in the NHL) wouldn't have had the same effect on the goaltending ranks. Ol' Lar's glossing over this actually makes some sense when you see Larry's closing line about a month ago chiding Martin Broduer.

So if we follow the Larry Logic, everybody should be paid more in the NHL, goaltenders especially should be paid more, but not 3rd year goal scoring wingers...

But thankfully Kevin Lowe didn't go the Larry route and instead continued his quixotic search for a goal scoring forward all thanks (according to Larry at least, I wasn't aware of it) to the deep personal friendship between Kevin Lowe and Rangers GM Glen Sather.

Maybe there's hope for the league yet...


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-8

  • Before Secret Service snipers not so secretly climbed onto the roof of RFK Stadium Thursday night, I spotted President Bush in the owner's Box during the game. Can I be the only one who thought it would have been great to have President Bush participate in the President's Race? While it is only the fourth time President Bush has come to a Nationals game, it is yet another reason why having a baseball team in Washington is so important. You are not going to get an impromptu appearance of the President at a game in any other city and when he does show up, people will take notice.
  • After dropping three of four to the Cubs, the Nats bounced back and took two of three from the Brewers including today's 7-2 win over Milwaukee. The Nats head into the All-Star break at 36-52 which places them last in the NL East 12.5 games back of the Mets and 12.5 games back of the NL Wild Card. The Nats are tied with the Cincinnati Reds and only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a worse record than the Nats.
  • After a win 1-0 win Wednesday in Kansas City vaulted D.C. United into first place in the Eastern Conference, D.C. United fell back out after their road woes continued with tonight's 1-0 loss in Houston to the Dynamo. D.C. couldn't much of an attack going all day and were somewhat lucky to have kept the score close as Houston misfired on a number of chances. D.C. is now tied with New England for second place with 23 points, trailing the New York Red Bulls by 1 point. D.C. however has a game in hand on both teams. Congratulations to Christian Gomez who was named a starter for next week's MLS All-Star game.
  • Not a whole lot left for me to talk about tonight except that this week the Nats (except for Dmitri Young) have four days off this week with the All-Star break. The Nats resume play on Friday night in Miami when they start a three game weekend series against the Marlins. D.C. United visits the Harrisburg City Islanders in a U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday night before returning home to play F.C. Dallas on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. For those who are interested, the Caps will hold their annual Summer Development Camp this week.
  • As always, please send all comments, criticisms, questions, suggestions, corrections, and prank ideas to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Let Him Go Buffalo

"Desperate times call for desperate measures" and the Edmonton Oilers are desperately attempting to save face with their fans by signing Thomas Vanek.

The Oilers would have to give up four first round draft picks should the Buffaslugs balk and not match the offer. And should the CBA says what it means and means what it says, the Oilers will have to wait another four years before offering another offer sheet to any RFA for more than $2 million per season because they will not have the compensation picks to offer in exchange should the original team decide not to match the offer sheet.

By all accounts the Buffaslugs have been devastated by the departures of Chris Drury and that Scumbag Danielle Briere. CW says that losing Vanek too could very well knock them out of the playoffs. But considering that the Buffaslugs have weathered personnel storms before and by all accounts have a system capable of replacing players in surprisingly quick fashion, I would let Vanek walk if I were Buffalo.

Why? Well as stated above, the system has proven capable of replacing lost talent own it's own in the first place. Adding in four additional first round draft picks will make it even easier to return again to the lofty heights the Buffaslugs have been disappointing their fans from. If you have a good amateur scouting and player development system (and let's face it, the Buffaslugs do) then you can afford to make these kinds of trades.

Secondly, that kind of deal is not likely to place the Oilers into cap jail (they have plenty of room under the cap), but it will make it hard the Oilers to replace other players who demand to be traded out of there through their own development system. The CBA clearly states that a team cannot acquire draft picks for the purposes of compensation and that compensation picks must the original picks of that team. The Oilers would almost be forced to improve the team through the Free Agent market which has not worked out very well for them considering that nobody wants to go to play there, except of course for Vanek who could very well be attempting to negotiate his contract with the Buffaslugs through the Oilers.

The bad news about this is that this is a contract that will skew the whole system of salary for players in the NHL. A guy who puts up 43 goals and 84 total points in the NHL's #1 overall offense isn't worth $7 million+ per season heading into just his third NHL season. This is simply a desperation maneuver and I guarantee you that other players are going to end up paying the price for this because of the salary cap system will force a market correction.

In case you haven't noticed, Jason Allison is still waiting for a contract...

Finally it was a different time and a much different era when the Washington Capitals threw an absurd offer sheet at then Edmonton Oilers defenseman Dave Manson in 1992. The Caps of course had been stung two years ago by the offer sheet that St. Louis had given Scott Stevens and were in reputation rehab mode after trading Dino Ciccarelli to Detroit for Kevin Miller earlier that summer. The Caps were being branded by their own fans as cheap and that's why they made the move to get Manson from Edmonton. The Oilers were openly angry at the Caps for what they did with then Edmonton GM Glenn Sather blasting the Caps for raising players salaries.

Funny isn't how this all seems to come around eventually?

UPDATE: Gee, that was fast... While I was typing up that post, the Buffaslugs wasted no time in matching the offer to Vanek. While I'm sure it doesn't help matter very much, the $7 million+ hit doesn't seem to place the Buffaslugs in to cap jail as the Buffaslugs should be able to get everybody else comfortably under the cap for this season. They could be in trouble again next offseason but we'll have to see how the rest plays out.

Once again Kevin Lowe swings and misses.


It's Not In The Game

No fault to Ted who pointed out the team's new threads appearing in the video games already, but the EA Sports website hawking NHL '08 today releases the Caps Theme Package with the old logo well intact. (If you happen to miss today's Caps Theme Package, it is #25 on the list at the bottom.)

It is amazing to me how EA Sports can release screenshots with the new uniforms but can't put together a download package with the new logos.


Jurcina and Laich to Arbitration

Per Tarik.

Some players prefer arbitration simply because it gets a contract taken care of with little hassle though feelings sometimes get very hurt in the process (Brendan Witt).

The good news for the Caps is that Brooks Laich and Milan Jurcina won't be breaking the bank in arbitration. I wouldn't be too surprised to see either of these guys settle their cases before the hearing.


Famous Last Words

Just when I thought things would quiet down New Jersey goes crazy and throws a six year contract at Dainus Zubrus.

Here is a classic case of a team looking to do something to avoid being seen as standing still. Sometimes however, a team can stand still in the personnel department and still move forward. At least the Devils took care of a long standing problem and finally found a backup goaltender.

In all fairness to the resident genius Lou Lamoriello, the lack of having a backup goaltender has been mostly a function of being stuck in cap jail. While the length of the Zubrus deal is absurd, at least he got Zubrus for a good price. If the Devils can give Martin Brodeur more rest, it won't matter how long Zubrus is on their team.

As for the Nylander saga, J.P. links to this article in the Edmonton Journal where Kevin Lowe comes clean. It turns out that Nylander's wife was the one who nixed the idea of going to Edmonton and that's all you really need to know. Now if the NHL's CBA means what it says and says what it means, there isn't much the Oilers can do but pitch a fit. There's no signed Standard Player Contract floating around other than the one that Nylander signed with the Caps. That makes this a pretty open and shut case. I will say however that Nylander and his agent should have given Edmonton the courtesy of telling them that they were going to back out. That's only the professional thing to do.

However, this is the NHL and the Caps are involved. The Caps learned the hard way a few years ago with Petr Sykora that you don't have a contract until you have a contract signed. Heaven only knows how the NHL will seek to resolve this situation.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We Have A Grievance!

Oilers not happy about Michael Nylander.

Considering that the NHL tends not to get too involved in these kinds of things, I can't imagine that this is going to go anywhere unless Edmonton has an actual player contract in hand which they don't seem to have. The worst that I can see happening is some sort of fine being levied on Nylander and/or his agent, Mike Gillis, but I wouldn't bet on it.

You might remember a few years ago when the Caps thought they had their Petr Sykora signed to a contract only to find out later that he didn't actually sign the contract and ended up missing the deadline for transfer from Europe to the NHL. As a result his contract was null and void and the Caps had to wait another two years (because of the lockout) before bringing him over to disappoint everybody.

As Yogi Berra famously once said, "it isn't over until it's over" and Edmonton only smears more egg on their face by whining like this.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Now That The Dust Has Settled

With all the "big name" UFA's off the market other than Sheldon Souray, we can now take a step back and reassess the landscape of the Free Agent market and offer some more commentary on the moves that were made.

First of all, when one looks around the first impression that comes to mind is just what in the world was the lockout for? The players who did hit the market made a killing versus the players who stayed at home and signed extensions before the market opened up. The only saving grace is that teams who spent wildly, will have to withdraw from the market in order to pay closer attention to their own RFA's and hope that they don't end up in cap jail instead of continuing the arms race and driving salaries further upward.

For instance, the Rangers signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury allowed Michael Nylander to come back to the Caps because there was no more room for him. In the old days, the Rangers would have been able to keep Nylander along with getting Gomez and Drury into the fold with little problem.

Yesterday's signings gave us a great headline on Thrashers Beef Up Blueline With Klee which quite frankly, comes straight out of the CNN spin room. If Ken Klee is an upgrade for the Atlanta defense, then the Thrashers are in bigger trouble than anybody realizes.

But as I said on Friday, we're sorting through the reject bin here. Nothing made this clearer than the moves made by San Jose and Calgary at the start of the "frenzy" when the Sharks gave an extension to Joe Thornton. Calgary reportedly gave an extension to Jerome Iginla and actually giving one to Robyn Regehr. The two biggest potential forwards and one defenseman for the UFA market NEXT summer are off the market before this summer UFA season got going. Smart moves by the Sharks and Flames.

Though it is too early to predict who the winners and losers are in this sweepstakes. Being crowned "Champions of the Offseason" means absolutely nothing once the puck drops for real in October. With "B,C, and D List" UFA's left to pick through now, we will have fewer absurd contracts to ponder now as teams prepare themselves for their RFA's to file for arbitration which must be done by Thursday. Arbitration can kill a team looking to stay under the cap.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Nylander Is Back

Well the Caps went and did something I wished they hadn't by signing Michael Nylander to a 4 year $19.5 million contract that according to Tarik, will be front loaded to help bring down any potential buyout payment.

Ok first things first, I need to offer a correction, Nylander does not turn 35 until October and as I understand the CBA, this contract will NOT stick with the Caps throughout its four year term. Secondly, with Tarik's information, the Caps buyout number in the out years of the contract is lower which is the real advantage to teams seeking to front load the contracts (I wonder how long the NHLPA will allow that to continue).

About the signing itself, I can't say that I applaud this for reasons I've stated before. Nylander, like Kozlov, is a stop gap measure and I would have preferred the Caps have gotten somebody who could have centered the top line for the next five-ten years. Nylander will not accomplish that. While Nylander is a player who can help mentor Nicklas Backstrom, George McPhee said that was not a factor in the decision to pursue Nylander and that Nylander was at the top of their list because of his earlier stint in Washington meant they knew what they were getting with him.

But what's done is done. There's no arguing that, on paper at least, the Caps have improved themselves and have made moves with the idea of improving the club in mind instead of treading water. While I still think this is NOT playoff team, the Caps still have more moves to make in the coming weeks and days ahead.

What this signing means is that Kozlov can play wing for the time being and that there is no reason to further pursue Alexi Yashin. That is the silver lining in this contract.


Summer Reading List

Ok folks, to help kill time, I'm ripping off my buddy Sparky and will do book reviews throughout the summer months here to help kill time until hockey season starts again. (No I'm not becoming a knitter)

So we start today with a gift from the parental units from last Christmas because now that I'm done with Grad school, I'm more likely to read for recreational purposes.

Between the Lines: Not-So-Tall Tales From Ray "Scampy" Scapinello's Four Decades in the NHL.
By: Ray Scapinello (DUH!) and Rob Simpson
Publisher: Wiley (September 11, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0470838345

At first blush, my parents did a good job in getting me this book for Christmas. I've always been interested in what referees think and more importantly, how they think when they are calling a game. Twice now I've had the opportunity to listen to NHL on-ice officials talk about their trade and explain what happens on the ice. While Linesmen like Ray "Scampy" Scapinello aren't noticed (or for that matter heckled) as much as the referees are, they do have an important role and when they mistakes, it often gets high publicity.

The life of an official is tough too. Not only are they thrown into high pressure situations as often as the players are, they never have a home game. They never have a home crowd to welcome them and give them support. This is an aspect of officiating often lost on most fans who see the guys in the zebra stripes as another opponent to be overcome in that particular game.

Coming in at 10 Chapters and 264 pages in the hardcover edition, the book is a quick and relatively easy read. However, if you're looking for additional insight to the mind of a linesman, you're not likely to get it in this book. The first few of chapters make you wonder just who in the world the book is about. In the process of giving ample praise for Scampy's durability (he only missed one assignment during his entire NHL career and that was on purpose), you come across seemingly just about every officials name from the last 40 years and what gruesome injury they happened to suffer. Fans of Rob Shick are even treated to a quick description of his run-in with Shayne Corson that left him cut wide open one night in Los Angeles.

Scampy goes through the highlights of his career including working the Olympic Games in Nagano in 1998 and the farewell game for Igor Larionov in Moscow back during the lockout. Some of the lowlights are included which means blown calls and the time Scampy joined his fellow officials in walking out of Game 4 of the 1988 Wales Conference Finals between Boston and New Jersey. You might remember that one because it was after Game 3 when then Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski in the tunnel after the game, calling him a "fat pig," and telling him to "have another donut." Schoenfeld was suspended for one game (Game 4) but the Devils took the case to court and got an injunction to allow Schoenfeld to stand behind the Devils bench in Game 4. Upon hearing the news, all four officials (including Scampy and the backup referee) refused to work Game 4 (which the Devils won 3-1) and were almost fired for their actions. Because the other NHL officials backed up the crew who refused to work, no disciplinary action was taken, Schoenfeld eventually sat out Game 5, and Boston won the series in seven games.

Scampy (and the other officials who appear throughout the book) also comment on the state of the game today. While there usual statement of "fighting is a part of the game" is made, Scampy and his fellow zebras are adamant about not wanting the NHL to return to it's 1970's state. They have no love of the bench clearing brawls (especially when they were premeditated) and certainly don't want to see a return of players going into the stands to brawl with the fans as was custom during those days. Scampy also expresses regret of the outcome of the infamous Colorado-Detroit game in March of 1997. Scampy flat out says that referee Paul Devorski blew the game (and Devo concurs) because Darren McCarty, who attacked Claude Lemiuex, was allowed to stay in the game and ended up scoring the game winning goal in overtime. Scampy's one complaint about the two referee system is that the the linesmen can no longer help the referees call penalties and uses this as Exhibit A as to why it should be case.

The big thing however that a reader takes away from this book is the big family that the NHL is. It only makes sense that the officials would be close knit group but you also get a sense that the players are a part of the group as well. You really see how close the players and the refs are to each other both on and off the ice.

Up next, The Code (no, not DaVinci...)

If you have any suggestions for sports books for me to read and review, please send them to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com. Thanks!


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-1

  • The one and only reason to mention the Democrats 5-2 loss to the Republicans this past Monday night in the Annual Congressional Baseball game is to point and laugh once again at Heath Shuler who went 0-3 with two strikeouts. That's about par for the course with Heath in RFK Stadium who was billed as the Democrats best hope. Hopefully he'll continue his tradition of disappointing in Washington by not doing any better in the new baseball stadium next year it what should be his final appearance in the game.
  • Once again the guys over at Deadspin tip us off to Mark Cuban's latest antics which is straight out of the "I can't believe he's doing that!" file. While, as I understand it, that word "suing" incorrect because the two are going through arbitration over an unrelated matter, the fact that Cuban would even accuse Don Nelson of using "confidential information" is downright ludicrous. Of course Nelson would if he were in the employment of another team that was competing against the Mavericks. Who wouldn't and why does Cuban think this is bad form? What makes this all the more disturbing is that there are serious people who think that the NHL could use an owner like Mark Cuban. Cuban is the last thing the NHL needs right now.
  • It just so happens that today is a National Holiday in Canada and it has nothing to do with the opening of Free Agency in the NHL. But as of right now, the winner for the bad deal prize goes to the Philadelphia Flyers who signed that Scumbag Danielle Briere to an 8 year $52 million contract. What makes the deal especially bad for the Flyers is the "no movement" clause. Yeah, teams can strong-arm players into waiving those things but it seriously limits their options should they decide to move him. Finally, for a team that lives and dies by the "Crock""Code", what are they doing getting a Scumbag player like Briere who refuses to account for this actions on the ice? Maybe this is a sign that this is a "new NHL."
  • A close second goes to the Rangers who handed out a pair of $7 million+ contracts to Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, hey, at least for once they made Larry Brooks look smart (that's his annual "everybody wants to play for the Rangers" column) but do the Rangers ever learn? Now they're back to trying to buy the Cup and doing so with cast-offs from the Devils and their resident genius GM of Lou Lamoriello. Didn't Bobby Holik teach them anything?
  • Reverting to form, the Nats salvaged a win today in Pittsburgh to end a brutal 2-4 road trip where they couldn't get much of anything going. The Nats' June Swoon came at the end of the month but before we continue to beat up on them, let's remember that this isn't a good baseball team and even the historically bad ones have their hot streaks. In other news, Congratulations to Dmitri "Meat Hook" Young who got a well deserved selection to the All-Star Game today. After getting off to a slow start this season, Meat Hook is likely the Nats MVP right now and their best trade bait too.
  • After rebounding from a bad outing last week with Thursday Night's 4-1 win over Colorado, D.C. United then made a trade with the Rapids getting Greg Vanney for Facundo Erpen. D.C. United got a much needed win with a patchwork lineup against an opponent they should have been able to beat easily. However, they still have a lot of work to do despite being well within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference and overall in the league. As for the trade, as long as Vanney does not come up with an inexplicable turnover in every single game, he'll be an upgrade over Erpen. Why Colorado made this trade is beyond me.
  • Ok this week, the Nats are home for a four game set and tearful reunion with Alfonso Soriano who comes into RFK with his new team, the Chicago Cubs. I'll be there before the gates open on Wednesday to get my George Washington Bobblehead and maybe on Thursday night too (but I'm not counting on it). The Milwaukee Brewers come into RFK next weekend for a three game series heading into the All-Star Break. While I'm at RFK on Wednesday afternoon, D.C. United will be in Kansas City playing a matinee against the Kansas City Wizards before heading down to Houston for a game Sunday night against the Dynamo.
  • As always please send all comments, corrections, suggestions, questions, criticisms, and absurd free agent contract offers to "capsnut' over at gmail dot com.

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Caps Sign Poti and Kozlov

By now you should know about the four year $14 million deal the Caps gave Tom Poti today.

By and large I don't think this is a bad move for the Caps nor is this going to be their last. First question that has to be answered is which one of Steve Eminger, Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green, and Jeff Schultz is the odd man out? John Erskine-Bowles will handle the #7 defenseman spot and quite frankly, none of the kids would benefit from being the #7 guy anyway. The Caps have more moves to make because don't forget about Josef Boumedienne.

Poti will get to run the Power Play for us now and he can't do any worse than the blueliners did last season. He's exactly what you would expect George McPhee to get on a day like today. Nobody had us going after him and this isn't a big splashy signing. While I'm sure that some would have wished he got a better guy defensively than Poti, I think a Poti-Schultz combination wouldn't be too terribly bad.

One last thing to note, years ago there it was rumored (before Rumor Boy came around) that the Caps wanted to get Poti in a trade from Edmonton but were unwilling to meet the Oiler's asking price of Brian Sutherby. For now, the Caps have both players.

And while I was typing up this post, TSN reports a two year $5 million contract for Victor Kozlov to the Caps. Ok, he's a center who will run with A.O. on the top line. If we learned anything with the Peter Bondra days we learned that European wingers do better with European Centers. Secondly, he's not Alexi Yashin. That would have been a disaster waiting to happen. However, that's about it for the positives on this one.

At 32, and according to TSN not really good as a center, this isn't the guy who is going to be centering A.O. for the next five-ten years unless the Caps make him the second line center to play with Alexander Semin and throw Nicklas Backstrom into the fire on the top line right away. I personally felt that the first line center hole was something that the Caps should have tried to fill with a trade to relieve some of the logjam on defense. If nothing else, this is a stop-gap measure for the next two years.

But then again, there's a reason why I run a blog and am not the guy making the executive decisions.