Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Time For Hockey

There we were sitting in front of the TV set watching the 700th rerun of Bonanza, my wife, number two daughter visiting from Tennessee and myself when the phone rang. It was number one son asking how I felt and then telling me it was time to get off my butt and return to the hockey wars. Number two daughter chimed in, there are no private phone calls in my house, and it turned into an avalanche when wifie joined the party. So here I am. For better or worse, I am back.

Back to what I may ask? After watching a couple of games there was some excitement with the young guys, but most of them are back in Hartford. Two of the young D men, Del Zotto and Gilroy, look very good. The two veteran D men, Redden and Rozsival, look very bad. The loss to the Capitals in the last game saw two giveaways by Rozsival that led to the Caps first two goals. Nothing new here. I didn't see much of the game as I had to retire for an early morning in the dialysis center, where I go three times a week. Let me say this, hockey fans. Going to the dialysis center three times a week is no worse than having to watch the Rangers for the last 70 plus years. Trust me on that.

We have a new coach, John Tortorella, who I was excited about last year. I'm less excited about him since the Avery affair and the spat with the fans in the stands. Torts is talking good right now and saying all the right words. Words like, performance is going to dictate playing time, not big contracts. Who wants to make a small bet that Redden and Rozsival will lead the D men with ice time game after game with no regard to their poor play? There are talkers and doers and we shall see what Tortorella is.

But it is a long season and let's not over analyze this early. Pray for Henrik Lundquist as he is truly the last line of defense. Unless something unusual occurs it looks like another nail biter down to the end in the battle for 7th and 8th place. I just hope that my summer of discontent don't turn into a winter of disaster.

5 Things: In my Inbox — 9/30/09

Boo, the Blackhawks lost our cup.

NHL.com:
Lions roar against Blackhawks --

ZURICH, Switzerland --The Lions of ZSC Zurich issued a proud roar Tuesday night that was heard throughout the hockey world. In dramatic fashion at Hallenstadion, before a riotous home crowd, the ZSC Zurich Lions handed the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks an unexpected 2-1 defeat in the Victoria Cup ...
Good. Don't get angry get better.

Andrew Gross / NorthJersey.com:
Rangers' Girardi sees flaws --
Dan Girardi is taking coach John Tortorella’s sharp criticism of his preseason performance as a challenge. And a warranted one at that.

"Maybe I wasn’t playing my best," the defenseman said Tuesday as the Rangers began preparing for Friday’s season opener at Pittsburgh. "I’m known as a pretty simple D-man. I can’t be comfortable just doing the minimum." ...
Sports Illustrated:
30 Kids to Watch in the NHL

National Post:
Mats Sundin calls it a career

flames.nhl.tv:
Flames Fan Appreciation Video 2009-2010

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5 Things: In my Inbox — 9/29/09

Tim Bontemps / NY Post:
Anisimov has staying power --

After registering one shot in the Rangers' opening preseason game and not playing in the second, Artem Anisimov looked like anything but a lock for the Rangers' roster.

But since then, Anisimov has proven he's not only going to be on the team for Friday night's opener in Pittsburgh, but that he should be among the Blueshirts' top three lines...
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Rick Carpiniello / Rangers Report:
The Best Ranger(s) ever --
Somebody brought up the point last week that Jaromir Jagr may have been the most skilled or most talented player, still in his prime, to ever play for the Rangers.

Interesting thought. Not sure if I completely agree or not, but here’s another set of arguments along the same lines...
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Gabe Desjardins / Behind The Net:
It has been years in the making, but Behind the Net's blog has finally moved to nicer digs. You may have seen my work in the Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Puck Prospectus or this year's Toronto Maple Leafs annual, and I've also been helping James Mirtle with some of his more convoluted statistical queries, like where NHL players come from.

My goal this season is to answer 30 statistical questions in 30 weeks - one question for every NHL team. If there's anything of a statistical nature in hockey that you'd like to know about, please post it in the comments. My focus is on advanced stats since the lockout, though I do sometimes look further back than that (or make future projections.)...
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Stan Fischler / Twitter:
Full credit to Theo Fleury for his attempted comeback. Too bad he limited himself to the Flames. He could help five clubs, Leafs at the top.
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"Sanctioned" NHL Video:
2009-2010 Dallas Stars Ice Girls on the Lake --

Saturday, September 26, 2009

5 Things: In my Inbox — 9/26/09

Is Gary Bettman really going to remove the St. Wayne Gretzky Chapel from the NHL Headquarters?

NHL HQ: The St. Wayne Gretzky ChapelCam Cole / Vancouver Sun:
Gretzky abandoned as Bettman fights over fate of Phoenix team -- NHL owes much more to a man who changed the game

Even a year ago, the National Hockey League never would have had enough confidence to risk jettisoning its primary lifeboat of the past three decades, Wayne Gretzky.

Now, after Sidney Crosby has confirmed his greatness with a Stanley Cup and Alex Ovechkin has supplied the flashy game and personality that Crosby lacks, Gary Bettman's outfit evidently feels secure enough in its U.S. marketing prospects to be able to abandon The Great One to his fate, cut him out of whatever future it thinks hockey has in Phoenix, and gamble on how No. 99 will react to the betrayal...
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Andrew Gross is plugged into the brain of the Torts.
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Brooks / NY Post:
With Avery iffy, Rangers wing it --
When the Rangers' roster is established for Friday's opener in Pittsburgh against the banner-raising Stanley Cup champion Penguins, Sean Avery is doubtful.

"If Sean comes back, another winger will go down," head coach John Tortorella said following yesterday's detail-oriented drill session that lasted for more than an hour...
discussion:
SNY RangersBlog:
Brooks: Rangers In Interesting Spot If Avery Is Out -- The problem with sending Voros down is that he has to go through waivers, and a call-up would put his re-entry number at $500,00, which someone could claim and leave the Rangers with $500,000 in dead money.
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TSN.com:
Fleury Released By Flames; Will Address Future on Monday --
The verdict is in. After a much-publicized attempt at an NHL comeback, Theoren Fleury has been released by the Calgary Flames.

The team released a statement on Friday confirming the decision and GM Darryl Sutter spoke with TSN afterwards.

"There was a decision made here this morning that, for Theo to play here, he was going to have to fit into our top six wingers," Sutter said. "He didn't have the capabilities to do so. It had nothing to do with Theo's heart or his mind for the game because I learned a lot here the last two weeks just being around him...His work ethic and everything involved every day was great. It's unfortunate that when you haven't played the game for six years, and at the age he's at, that the legs just aren't where they need to be." ...
related:
Doug Hamilton / CBC.ca:
Which NHL player should retire? --
Retired NHL player Jeremy Roenick, Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Oake, NHL player agent Kent Hughes and Canadian women's hockey player Jennifer Botterill offer their thoughts as part of CBCSports.ca's continuing five-part series of predictions on the lighter side of the game...

Friday, September 25, 2009

5 Things: In my Inbox — 9/25/09

Glad to see that a guy getting paid $2.8 big ones over the next two years to fight is trying to tune up his fight game and keep from falling down.

Andrew Gross / NorthJersey.com:
Brashear still has some fight --

Donald Brashear heard more boos than cheers from the Madison Garden crowd Thursday night despite his first two fights as a Ranger.

"It seems like a tough crowd but I’ll find a way to win their hearts," Brashear said after the Rangers beat his previous team, the Capitals, 3-2. "I got a little feel for what they like."

Coach John Tortorella somehow linked the fan reaction to Brashear being "disrespected" by the media when he signed a two-year, $2.8 million deal.

Likely it has more to do with him pummeling Rangers players the previous 15 seasons, capped by breaking Blair Betts’ orbital bone and jaw with a vicious hit in last season’s playoffs...

related:
NY Daily News:
Rangers coach John Tortorella says lay off new Blueshirt Donald Brashear

HockeyFights.com:
Sugar and Brash Set Stage at MSG
Larry Brooks / NY Post:
Rangers running low on defenders --
If it were up to John Tortorella, the Rangers would go into next Friday's season-opener in Pittsburgh with only six defensemen on the roster. At least that's what the coach claimed prior to last night's 3-2 Garden exhibition victory over the Capitals...
Hockey's Future:
Hockey's Future Top 50 prospects, Fall 2009 26-50 --
33. Artem Anisimov - With good size, work ethic and solid two-way play, Anisimov has made an excellent adjustment to the North American game over the past two seasons in the AHL. The 21-year-old has the hands, instincts, and vision to be a top player in the NHL...

39. Ryan McDonagh - McDonagh was Minnesota’s reigning “Mr. Hockey” when he was selected first among the US defensemen available in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. A quick-skating, big, powerful, offensive blueliner, he entered the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2007...

related:
Steve Zipay / Newsday:
Anisimov on roster bubble as Rangers win
James Mirtle / From The Rink:
2009-10 NHL Season Preview: Philadelphia Flyers --
Outlook: GM Paul Holmgren's biggest move in the off-season was to deal for franchise defenceman Chris Pronger — swapping Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and two first-rounders for the big blueliner — and his presence gives the Flyers a far deeper defence core than they went into battle with last season. That alone should make Philadelphia's own end a tough place to play this season.

And it's a good thing, too...
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Will Gretzky end up the next GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

ESPN:
Gretzky steps down as Coyotes coach --
Wayne Gretzky's tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when the "Great One" announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.

The Coyotes hired former Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett hours after Gretzky announced his departure, which had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on...

related:
TheHockeyNews:
POLL: Was Gretzky right to step down? Is Tippett a good replacement?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

5 Things: In my Inbox — 9/23/09

Olaf Kolzig, "Ollie the Goalie" retires after 14 seasons in the NHL.

NHLPA.org:
KOLZIG RETIRES AFTER STELLAR 14-YEAR CAREER --

After 14 seasons, veteran goaltender Olaf Kolzig announced his retirement today from the National Hockey League.

Kolzig, 39, a two-time NHL All-Star (1998, 2000) and former Vezina Trophy winner (2000), appeared in a total of 719 NHL games, 711 of those with the Washington Capitals. His 303 career wins rank him 21st all-time among goaltending wins leaders. Olaf also posted a career 2.71 GAA along with a .906 save percentage and 35 shutouts.

“I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to play the game of hockey at the NHL level for many seasons and I am grateful for everything the game has given me,” said Kolzig. “I would like to thank my family, all my teammates and the fans for making my time in the NHL so special.” ...
Steve Macfarlane / Slam Sports:
Fleury's chances improving --
Now the 5-foot-6 winger has to prove he's worth more with the big club than Jamie Lundmark -- who has pumped out a pair of goals and two assists through three games so far -- young Swede Mikael Backlund, an energetic Brett Sutter and arguably even Dustin Boyd, David Moss and newcomer Nigel Dawes to earn a spot on one of the top three lines expected to score with regularity...

Counting the little guy out, however, is something nobody should do -- especially with more of his friendly rivals heading to southern B.C...

Changing minds is what he did two decades ago when breaking into a league considered too big for him. Fleury seems to be doing it all over again. In another week or so, we'll find out where it takes him.
TSN.ca:
30 TEAMS IN 30 DAYS: GRINDING IT OUT WITH LEMAIRE
--
It was a very busy summer in the swamp as the Devils overhauled their roster following a disappointing first round playoff exit at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was a mass exodus in the early going, as veteran Bobby Holik announced his retirement while blueliner Niclas Havelid chose to return home to Sweden. Longtime Devil John Madden blew into the Windy City as a free agent, while Scott Clemmensen parlayed an excellent season as Martin Brodeur's injury replacement into a three-year deal with the Panthers. Brian Gionta took his show on the road to Montreal, while Mike Rupp signed with the Penguins. But the biggest loss was felt behind the bench, as Brent Sutter stepped down as head coach and later joined brother Darryl in Calgary...
Philly.com:
Maroon happy to survive Flyers' roster cuts so far --
Blair Betts looks like a lock to earn a contract...
NY Post:
Rangers focusing on power play fix --
To say the Rangers' power play was bad last year would be an understatement.

The team scored only 48 goals with the man advantage to finish 29th out of 30 teams, with a 13.9 percent rate.

If the Rangers want to have any success this season, the power play will have to improve, as coach John Tortorella knows...

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 Things: In my Inbox

WinterClassicTickets.NHL.com:
Register for your chance to see Bruins vs. Flyers at Fenway Park
-- Jan. 1, 2010

An nice A (Avery) to Z (x-Zherdev) breakdown of the changes to our Blueshirts.

Greg Wyshynski / Yahoo Puck Daddy:
Preview: Introducing the 2009-10 New York Rangers! --

2009-10 Preseason Report Card:

Forwards: B (Sean Avery, for the record, played on his best games as a Ranger in Game 7 against the Capitals.)
Defense: C
Goaltending: A
Special Teams: C (In other words, an ‘A' for the kill and an ‘F' for what's called a "power play" but looks nothing like it.)
Coaching: A-
Management: C+ (Sather's made some mistakes, some corrections ... and more mistakes?)
Larry Brooks / NY Post:
The Rangers' Sean Avery won a settlement in his libel case against Toronto radio reporter Howard Berger following mediation earlier this month, Slap Shots has learned. The suit was brought in the aftermath of the pregame incident in Toronto on Nov. 10, 2007, after which Berger alleged that Avery had made comments to Jason Blake relating to the Leaf winger's previously diagnosed cancer. Terms of the settlement are confidential. Avery has at least one more pending suit relating to the incident.
Hockey Rodent:
Max Headroom --
Which brings me to that topic. I'm telling you, Stephen Valiquette needs to tighten up quickly.

Johnson and Zaba have looked sharper than Marmaduke in the early going. Healthy attitude only goes so far, especially in a year Henrik Lundqvist figures to make fewer starts than a season ago.
NY Daily News:
Brandon Dubinsky inks two-year deal, ends 8-day holdout with Rangers --
Dubinsky and the Rangers came together Saturday on a two-year contract worth $3.7 million, a significant raise from the $522,500 qualifying offer the team put out in June and from the roughly $700,000 offer the Rangers were holding fast to as recently as last week. It also is a significant relief to a team and a 23-year-old who were bracing for a protracted fight - or a trade that neither really wanted...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Theo the Hero

Theo Fleury scores shootout winner for FlamesFor a guy scraping six years of rust of his wee body Theo Fleury played a hell of a game last night. He beat Kevin Poulin in the shootout to seal a 5-4 Flames win over the Islanders. The Saddledome crowd went nuts. Outstanding!

A round-up of Theo Fleury stories:

Calgary Herald:
Fleury steals show in Flames return --

At the start, six years of pent-up energy waiting to be released, he virtually sprinted down the runway leading from the dressing room to the Pengrowth Saddledome ice, his skates barely touching the red rug en route, the last of them to pop into the spotlight, into view and onto the ice. By design.

At the finish, he basked in the adulation, the one to decide the outcome on a wonderous shootout deke that left N. Y. Islander goalie Poulin more contorted than the stripes on a barber's pole. Fleury's stick in the air. A winner.

"This,'' he said, savouring the shootout winner against the Tavares-less Isles, "is SO much fun. When I was in Chicago, I dreaded going down to the rink. Now, I can't wait to get here. Walking into the building tonight, it felt . . . special. I've played in a lot of big games. This one was important in its own way...
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Flames.NHL.com:
Fleury Gets Winner in Shootout --
Fleury looked okay on the offensive zone but appeared to be trying too hard -- read looked unnatural -- when it came to the defensive systems at times. But hey, nobody expected perfection after a six-year absence, right? And, truth be told, he got better as the game went on, even getting a good scoring chance late in the third period...
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Theoren Fleury (14) dekes Kevin Poulin for the winning goal.CBC.ca:
Fleury makes triumphant return with Flames --
Attempting to make a comeback at the age of 41, the popular yet troubled forward hit the ice with the Calgary Flames for the first time since 1999 and scored the shootout winner in a 5-4 pre-season victory over the New York Islanders at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Thursday.

"That was pretty exciting," he said. "It was fun, it was a fun game to be in."

As the capacity crowd of 19,289 chanted "Theo, Theo", Fleury scored on Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin with a forehand deke to send the fans into a frenzy...
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related:
Puck Daddy:
Video: Phaneuf hit sends Isles' Okposo off on stretcher -- Here's the hit everyone will be talking about: Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames, regaining his reputation as one of the NHL's most lethal open-ice checkers with an absolute demolition of Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders. The massive hit, and the aftermath ...
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Update: And this blast from the past, just stumbled across this gem.

Hockey Bird:
Ode to Theo, August 13, 2002 --
He yells at refs, beats up mascots, fights with fans, takes stupid penalties, quits games, sulks, pouts, and at any given moment he could announce a relapse and be gone forever from hockey. But he’s also our little boy. And we love him...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Following Fleury

The little man from Oxbow, Saskatchewan has created a stir.

If you want to follow the ebb and flow of the return of 41 year old Theo Fleury to the NHL check out twitter.com/NHLFlames:

  • Massive cheers for Fleury as he hits the ice

  • As expected, Fleury is mobbed by fans as he leaves the ice after the skate but appears to be signing everything put in front of him

  • Huge cheers for Fleury as he steps on the ice for the pre-game skate

  • Probable linemates for Fleury tonight are Langkow and Dawes. Look for Iggy to be on the top line with Backlund and Jokinen

  • FROM FLEURY: I don't know at this point how I'm going to react to that situation and react to the crowd. It's going to be emotional.
related:
Theoren Fleury makes his return to the SaddledomeCBCSports.ca:
Fleury set for Saddledome return --
The spotlight will shine on Theoren Fleury when he makes his return to the Saddledome, as his bid to make the Flames begins Thursday when Calgary takes on the New York Islanders in pre-season action.

The diminutive forward will see NHL action for the first time in six years, as he's looking to earn a spot on the Calgary roster after being reinstated to active status by the league last week.

"I have to earn everything again and I'm OK with that," Fleury said. "I'm here to try and make a really good team that has a really good chance to do some good stuff this year."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking a break

Mike "The Ranger Pundit" is temporarily putting himself on the injured reserve for the start of this season (his 73rd), so his blogging will be very sporadic He hopes to make it back to his full-time pundit perch as soon as possible.

The upcoming season will be an extremely interesting one as the Blueshirts have re-tooled to play Torts Fire Wagon Hockey. Go Rangers!

Yippee Kiya! Here comes John Tortorella and New York Rangers Firewagon Hockey

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Evgeny Grachev — A Star is Born?

Evgeny GrachevThe Traverse City tournament provides NHL teams and fans each year with an early peak at young talent. This year the Traverse City has again given the Rangers something to be happy about.

Craig Custance of the Sporting News lists five players as having demonstrated that they are ready to contribute at an NHL level right now. One is Evgeny Grachev. That is pretty impressive for a 3rd round pick in 2008 to be placed in the same group as Alex Pietrangelo, who was taken 4th overall in the same draft, or Evander Kane, who was taken 4th in 2009.

Hockey's Future has listed Evgeny as having 8.0 level (first line) talent: "Think Patrik Elias, Keith Tkachuk, Mattias Ohlund, Adam Foote, Sean Burke, Olaf Kolzig."

It will be interesting to see if Grachev and Gaborik have some chemistry together on the ice in the near future. Since Grachev can play center, and the Rangers need another center, there should be room for him on this team now.

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