Commentary, opinion and news on the world of hockey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Further disection....


I've already given my opinion on the Maple Leafs, so I turn my attention to who I think will win the Northeast division. It's actually a tough call, because you have two solid teams that I think will challenge right down to the wire.

Of course, I'm talking about the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. Many of my casual hockey pals are quick to say Ottawa is a no-brainer to lock up the division, but I say hold the truck boys.

The Senators have an impressive line-up, and the defense is solid throughout. But I have a couple of questions. First off, how well is Hasek going to do? Nevermind the arrogant attitude he has, and forget about the second career he will have as a professional diver, question number one is - can this guy still dominate?

Secondly, I rate the forwards very high, and I think you'll see guys like Spezza and Havlat have break-out years. The loss of Hossa doesn't damage them in my opinion, partly because I don't think that the team needs a player with the attitude he seemed to carry (demanding Iginla money is idiotic).

But, my second question is - will Dany Heatley return to All-star form? If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, then I have no problem counting the Senators as early favorites to win the division. But I don't think it's that simple.

Enter the Boston Bruins. They haven't earned much respect, at least out west, despite earning 100+ point seasons in two of the last three seasons. They did lose a few players, but made up for it by signing Zhamnov, Leetch, Scatchard and adding Brad Isbister by way of trade. The Bruins should be more than capable of putting up some offensive numbers. True, there are some minor question marks, but overall, a strong forward group.

The defense is looking a little on the thin side with Leetch, Boynton, Slegr, Girard et al, and Gill may not return. There's a definite edge to the Senators here.

In goal, Raycroft will be solid and is much less of a question mark as Hasek. But, given that Hasek and his Gumby-esque body may have returned to full health, it's a toss-up who has the edge here. Just for kicks, I'll give it to Boston.

Overall, I think these two teams will battle for the Northeast crown, but I guess I have to pick one team. In that case, I predict Dany Heatley to return to form (at least mostly), and the Ottawa Senators to win the division.

Direct your calls, questions, and derogatory comments to my secretary.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Will the new rule changes help?


I'm a natural skeptic, so when it comes to the NHL supposed crackdown on obstruction and supposed offensive generating rule changes, I'm not so certain that everything will turn out as many expect.

There's no doubt that the obstruction will be called - at least in the first 5-6 weeks of the schedule. After that, I'm not so sure it won't be back to the status quo. Besides, who really wants to see 25 powerplays per game anyways? I'm not convinced that a parade to the penalty box will be better for the game overall.

As for the new rules, such as eliminating the red line, I guess the verdict will come later. But did anyone watch any of the action over in Europe last year? Sometimes it was worse than the crap in the NHL. The current trend amongst NHL coaches - for various reasons that I won't get into now - is to defend, defend, defend. The bottom line is winning and that's the only way many teams can compete. I'm of the opinion that this trend will continue and the elimination of the red line will only drive the "trap line" further back. For those expecting spectacular end to end rushes may be disapointed.

But, for the record, I hope I'm wrong, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

There's rumours, and then there's this bunk


The latest rumour making its rounds out west centres around three unlikely dancing partners (Vancouver, Florida, New Jersey). Basically, the rumour is a three way trade. Normally I wouldn't even comment on such absurdity, but since I'm bored:
- Florida would end up with Ed Jovanovski and Dan Cloutier (or possibly Bertuzzi), Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jeff Friesen;

- Vancouver would end up with Roberto Luongo and Sergei Brylin;

- NJ would end up with a three high draft picks
I says, pardon?!?

Just so we're clear:

Dave Nonis gives up all-star defenseman Ed Jovanovski, presumably because he feels confident enough in his team to slide Sven Butenschon and Nolan Baumgartner into prime-time defensive positions, and go with five defensemen overall instead of six. Either that or he wants to see how good Luongo really is behind a defense that would have more holes than a cheese grater.

Nonis dumps Cloutier - which I'm actually ok with - and takes on a superb talent, but possible future salary cap nightmare in Luongo, who has already publically stated that his arbitration award of $3.2 million this season is about $265 billion below what he feels he's worth.

And nevermind the abundance of forwards the Canucks have, Nonis takes on Sergei Brylin just because he wants to show ex-Canuck GM Brian Burke that he too can have a guy on his team with the first name Sergei.

New Jersey is in a bit of salary cap trouble, but I don't see them parting ways with Brylin, Friesen and Langenbrunner to land draft picks. With Elias likely gone for a lengthy time, I find it hard to believe that Lamoriello ditches three decent offensive weapons and crosses his fingers that Mogilny turns back into a 76 goal scorer. Who's going to pick up the slack?

And Florida winds up snagging a top flight defenseman in Jovanovski, two solid forwards in Langebrunner and Friesen, and netminder Cloutier. Despite the major downgrade in goal, this is the only team that I can see this trade making sense for.

Mike Keenan may have already decided that Luongo requires an attitude adjustment and will either be whipped, shackled and publically berated or moved to another team - or all of the above. If that's the case, and the decision has been reached to cut him loose because it will be mutually beneficial, then I could see this deal from their perspective. However, I could be wrong about Keenan and Luongo, because Keenan has never been known to hold a grudge...... *cough*

What this rumour adds up to is nothing more than a serious amount of bogus. But I'm sure everyone already knows that. So why am I commenting on it? I dunno. Forgive me, I'm just bored.

One thing is for certain - if Brian Noonan or Stephane Matteau were still available, Keenan would likely trade for them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Disecting the Northeast Division

I've got some friends who share a curious fondness for a certain Eastern team. They cheer for the Leafs, which in itself isn't unforgivable, but it's teetering on the edge. It's not that I mind the Maple Leafs - quite the contrary, it's just that the initiation into Leaf fandom (it is a word, dammit) seems to require ingesting long-term psychosis inducing drugs that de-evolve their brains to a level only slightly above that of a caveman. On second thought, even a caveman wouldn't predict a cup win for the Leafs this year.

Hallucinations amongst the Leaf fans I know are not only common, they're encouraged. Take for example some of the comments that I have been forced to endure over the last several weeks:

"If Allison and Lindros don't get injured the Leafs might be the best team in the league. "

"Talent wise Lindros may be the best player to ever put on the Maple Leaf. "

"The Leaf's depth is unreal with those signings (offseason Lindros, Allison, O'Neil). I don't see how they cannot make the cup final. Who's going to beat them?"

"With Belfour in net, and an all-star lineup the rest of the way, I feel that this is their year. At the very least they'll beat up on the Sens again..."
I will only provide a small sampling, because honestly, as I type these comments out, I cannot help but be struck with fits of laughter. Sometimes my pals make me forget that they are college graduates.

In all fairness, hockey fans are passionate, and Leaf fans are just as intense as any around. There's a sense of homerism (yes, that too is a word --- dammit) in most of the fans I know. And because I don't see a Cup Parade being planned for the centre of the unvierse, my friends have challenged me to disect the great Maple Leaf team, and predict their finish in the Northeast Division.

I will predict their finish, but they won't be happy with me. I see the Northeast shaping up like this:

1 & 2. Ottawa/Boston - I haven't decided in which order as of yet.
3. Toronto
4. Montreal
5. Buffalo

I'll explain my reasoning about the other teams in a later post, as well as the other divisions in the NHL over the next week or two. But as far as the Maple Leafs go, here's the Red Line take:

The Forwards:

Signing Jeff O'Neill was a no brainer, and what a great price. What he showed during the last season in Carolina is not indicative of what he brings to the table. At 29 years of age, he's hardly washed up and I expect him to rebound nicely and find the back of the net at least 30 times this year.

Jason Allison, while a minor gamble because of his strange injury situation (can anyone actually explain what it is he had?), is still a bargain at the base salary of $1.5 million. This guy is a supremely talented offensive guy. He's easily close to a point-per-game player when healthy. Heck, even last season he put up more than a ppg pace when his health was in question. If he can remain healthy, he will put up some solid numbers.

Now we come to Eric Lindros, my least favorite of the new forwards. I've had to endure countless bouts of "Lindros could score 50 goals and win the scoring title" or "Lindros is a better signing than Forsberg". First off, there's no doubting the raw talent he has. But get real, this guy's one stiff shoulder check away from steady speech therapy. While still able to post decent numbers, he's nothing more than a big perimeter player now, and while he may contribute in some situations when he's in the line-up, how often will that be?

However, it's not the centres that fail to impress me. The depth at wing is actually rather striking. I keep hearing that Darcy Tucker or Nik Antropov will slide into the top line along side Sundin and O'Neill. Not exactly prime time on that left side.

Let's look at the other forwards aside from the signed free agents - Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Tie Domi, Chad Kilger, Clarke Wilm, possibly Alexander Steen, and Wade Belak. They don't really blow me away, to be honest. Assuming that Allison, Sundin and Lindros will not be on the same forward line together, who's going to score (other than O'Neill)? The centres will have to log mega-minutesto make up for the lack of depth on the wing. Someone will have to have a breakout season, in my opinion.

The defense

The defensive line-up as I type this looks something like this:

McCabe, Klee, Kaberle, Khavanov, Berg, Pilar/Colaiacovo.

I admit, taking a gander around the league, the Leaf's defense is not half bad, especially considering that Eddie Belfour, as ancient as he is, will continue to be an upper-end goaltender. McCabe was nominated for the Norris last year, Kaberle is steady, and Klee is underrated. The defense and goaltending are not the problem on this team.

The conclusion

So what does all this mean? Well, I think that my Leaf pals who have Stanley Cup on their minds will have to settle for the nocturnal emissions brought on by the routine dreams of a Leaf Cup celebration. The forward group does just not have enough depth to be considered a serious contender this year. They will be competitive, and they likely will make the playoffs. But aside from that, unless some moves are made, it could be a longer year than most expect.

I predict the Maple Leafs to finish 3rd in the division, behind Boston and Ottawa.

Ohlund locked up long-term


Mattias Ohlund signed on for four more years in Canuckville, and not only the legth of the deal impresses me, so does the price tag. It works out to be $3.5 million/season, and in my eyes, that's incredibly good, because he is one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire NHL.

Despite the ability, Ohlund may not put up huge offensive numbers, but that's not his primary role on this team. What he does bring to the table is a superb overall game. There's not many around that can match his depth of talent. He's routinely matched up against the opposition's top line, and he regularly logs mucho ice-time.

The fact that the Canucks locked him up for less than fellow blue-liner Ed Jovanovski is a feather in Dave Nonis's cap, and a reflection on the type of loyal and unselfish person that Ohlund is. In my mind, and many who know the Canucks, Ohlund is the true #1 defenseman on the Vancouver team.

That brings me to my second musing of the day. What will become of Ed Jovanovski? He'll be come an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and with the trend in the NHL the way it is, he damn well won't be taking a paycut. In fact, I surmise that he will likely command at least $5 million/season on the open market.

So, do the Canucks intend to shell out that kind of money? And even if they do, does Jovanovski have other plans for his future? Well, obviously no one can know what he's thinking on a personal level, but if the Canucks suffer yet another early playoff exit, why would he want to stick around on a team that can't make it over the playoff hump?

If I'm Dave Nonis, I may throw out some inquiring phone calls out to the GM's of the league - just to test the waters. If Jovanovski puts up solid numbers to start the season, his value will be quite high, and it's better to lose him for something than nothing at all. Sounds exactly like the Wade Redden situation in Ottawa, doesn't it? We may have to get used to this kind of thing happening everywhere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hossa, Heatley - Hooray!


I'm sure everyone's heard by now: Danny Heatley for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries. My take? I like it from a Senator point of view. They managed to ditch a whining, snivelling little brat in Hossa - who had just signed a much too lucritive 3-year contract today. To boot, they ditched DeVries, who's slated to make $2.3 million this year.

Now the Senators can concentrate on locking up Redden and Chara long term, while in the same breath ridding themselves of a headache in Hossa, a player who had obviously irritated some of the Senators brass.

The only downside is that Heatley may be damaged goods. Everyone knows of his troubled past, and his performance at the team Canada camp was less than stellar. But in my opinion, Heatley will rebound and become the dominant player that he was blossoming into. That's great news for Ottawa fans.

There are those that say Hossa is a better talent whether or not Heatley is at full form- and I've heard that often today - but if Heatley does return to form, that just aint the case, guys. He was a scoring machine for a weak Thrasher team, and was steadily improving. Sure, he suffered a setback last season, but his totals were more than respectable (31gp - 13g - 12a - 25pts) given what he went through.

From a Thrasher standpoint, the deal makes sense because Heatley wanted out of Atlanta. If Heatley had wanted to stay, this deal probably doesn't get done. The addition of de Vries certainly solidifies the Thrasher back-end, and I think they may surprise some people this year. If Kovalchuk doesn't react negatively to this move, and Hossa can remain a consistent goal scorer, they will challenge for a playoff spot.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ducks sign Selanne, Canucks grab McCarthy

Teemu Selanne has landed back in the duck pond, today signing a one year $1 million deal. Given the price tag - it's a good move, if you ask me.

Selanne has this to say:
"When I can't use my speed, I'm useless. I have really high expectations of this year, not only of myself but the team. It's a new start. I think the new rules are going to help this game a lot. Without the red line, I think the game is going to be faster, particularly for our team."
Will he morph back into the speed demon sniper that he once was? Not likely, but if the new offense producing rule changes hold up (laughter inserted here), he may return to 25-30 goal form, and in today's NHL, that calibre of goal scorer is nothing to sneeze at - especially if he's only making $1 million.

Selanne's career totals:
                                     GP    G    A  PTS
1992-93 Winnipeg Jets 84 76 56 132
1993-94 Winnipeg Jets 51 25 29 54
1994-95 Winnipeg Jets 45 22 26 48
1995-96 Winnipeg Jets 51 24 48 72
1995-96 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 28 16 20 36
1996-97 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 78 51 58 109
1997-98 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 73 52 34 86
1998-99 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 75 47 60 107
1999-00 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 79 33 52 85
2000-01 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 61 26 33 59
2000-01 San Jose Sharks 12 7 6 13
2001-02 San Jose Sharks 82 29 25 54
2002-03 San Jose Sharks 82 28 36 64
2003-04 Colorado Avalanche 78 16 16 32

NHL Totals 879 452 499 951
From an overall point of view, Anaheim may have to shake up the roster somewhat because by my count (well, TSN's count actually), they have roughly $35.5 million tied up in 18 players.
That's cutting it pretty close when it's all said and done.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The Vancouver Canucks today added some defensive depth by trading a 3rd round draft choice (2007) to Chicago for Steve McCarthy. The Canucks still need some more defensive depth, but I like the addition of the 6', 200 lbs McCarthy. He's a project for sure, but as a 6th defenseman, I don't mind that. In the new look NHL, it looks as though most teams are going to have to suffer through a period where they lack great depth at one position or another, and guys like McCarthy will probably fill out the rosters of many teams.

That said, I still think the Canucks are a couple of solid defenseman away from making an actual playoff run (sorry Canuck fans!). They have enough scoring on the back-end; what they need is some rugged, play it hard bruisers back there. Hopefully Nonis has something up his sleeve to land a rugged guy like Brendan Witt. If they don't, they may have to continue to win their games by outscoring the opposition as opposed to playing a more balanced game, which doesn't bode well for a lengthy playoff run.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Tough times for Tampa Bay?


With yesterday's signing of Vincent Lecavalier, the Lightning are in a precarious position. And don't think that everyone, including the players, haven't noticed.
"Everybody's doing the math, it's not rocket science to see what it means,'' said fellow Tampa star Brad Richards. "I'm very good friends with both guys (Lecavalier & St. Louis), it's a tough, tough situation - it sucks. There's no other way to put it...We've already lost (goalie) Nikolai Khabibulin and now it's going to be a big challenge to get Marty signed."
No kidding it's tough. Richards goes on to say:
"It sucks, there was a reason we didn't want a salary cap that low, especially for our team,'' said Richards. ''For some teams it's great, for some teams it sucks. But we're going to have live with it. We've already lost one of the best goalies in the world - which we could have signed without a cap - and now we don't know what's going to happen with our Hart Trophy winner."
Well Mr. Richards, your team also could have signed Khabibulin had he decided that hockey wasn't all about the money. Clearly his choice of Chicago screams monetary benefit. For cryin out loud, why else would he leave the defending Stanley Cup Champions, who could probably ice almost the same line-up, for the Blackhawks - a team that hasn't made any kind of serious playoff noise since I've been on this planet?

And did it ever occur to you dunderhead players that maybe taking less money to keep the team intact - in this case, a Championship team - is a good idea for all involved? Oh nevermind, I forgot about the built-in "me first" reflex that was surgically implanted on draft day.

And not surprisingly, Martin St. Louis will no doubt be feeling a little wary:
''I'm really happy for him, I have no problem with Vinny, I like Vinny,'' said St. Louis. ''It's not Vinny's fault. But does it affect me? Of course it does .... I'd be lying to you if I didn't say it affects me. Of course it does, but you have to forget about it when you hit the ice. I'm here to try and make the Olympic team. When I get off the ice, I get on the phone with my agent and try to assess the situation...."
Ah, good. Get on the phone with an agent. Good move from a personal perspective, no doubt. Maybe what you should do is get on the phone with a realtor and a reliable airline.

And of course it's not Lecavalier's fault. He couldn't possibly be expected to turn the dial on his ego down to 'semi-outrageously inflated' and sign a reasonable contract - could he? Good grief, no. In fact, Lecavalier actually did St. Louis a huge favour. Because realistically, if Lecavalier is worth that kind of money, then St. Louis can't be too far behind. He goes on:
''I think right now I'm in a pause mode,'' said St. Louis. ''I have to sit back and analyse the situation and see what's best for me and what's best for the team.''
You can take the last six words out of his last sentence. There's no way that he considers what's "best for the team." That's just not the pro athlete mentality, so please don't force feed us that recycled garbage.

So, what does Vinny himself have to say? Well, the usual drivel:
''Marty congratulated me right away,'' said a clearly uncomfortable Lecavalier. ''But with this new CBA, the GMs have a tough job .... We talked this morning and everything was fine. Marty's a great guy and I hope we play together for a long time.''
Yea, sure you do Vinny. Your gorked contract virtually ensures that either he or Brad Richards - or both - have new mailmen before the start of next season. It also probably ensures that the superb Tampa Bay team is methodically disassembled, or at least wattered down. Way to go, buddy.

Can you tell I'm bitter yet?

Last but not least, why is GM Jay Feaster dishing out this kind of money to Lecavalier. Not only is he not among the NHL's truly elite players (in my opinion), he's debatably not even the best player on his own team. Statistically speaking, he finished 4th in scoring last year while teammate St. Louis won the MVP and Richards won the Conn Smythe trophy. He has never eclipsed the 80 point mark, and only once has he gathered more than 70.

Is this what the NHL has come to? We are now paying 30 goal scorers $7 million per season? Did we as fans just get crapped on for an entire year simply just to take a breather from watching the League dance its way back into financial doom? Because from where I sit, things have not improved. They have gotten worse.

Surely, I can't be serious, right? Well, I am. And don't call me Shirley.

Boltsmag happens to share my point of view (well, more or less), and obviously has a much closer eye on the Tampa Bay situation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ground control to NHL GM's...


Today, Vinny Lecavalier signed a 4 year contract that will pay him $6.875 million/season. Joe Thornton will make $6.66 million/season. Maid Marian Hossa will probably hold out because he feels insulted by only making $5 million/season. Blah blah blah. The list goes on, and my head goes numb.

What I really want to do is call up every single NHL General Manager and scream at them. I thought that teams were crying foul and that player salaries were escalating to idiotic numbers? Wasn't that what the loss of the entire season was supposed to be about? Well it sure appears that most NHL teams are truckin' along with the status quo. For cryin out loud, you morons, get your heads out of your collective asses. Stop paying these players ridiculous contracts or else we will all end up in the exact same spot in 5-6 years time.

I'm obviously not an NHL GM, and I've travelled down this road several times before, but I'll say it again, players like Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, etc. etc. should in no damn way be making the ridiculous sums of cash that they are. And damn the NHL GM's for serving it right back up to them after crying poor for so long.

So much for the notion that the players took a huge drubbing in this CBA.

GM's and owners as a collective are idiots, and players are the same greedy scoundrels that they have been for the last decade. The new CBA has done nothing to put a stop to high salaries - it's merely widened the divide between the high end players and the low level grunts. Soon the days of deep and highly skilled teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators will be gone simply because they cannot afford to pay everyone their demands. Hmmm, sounds like a familiar problem, doesn't it?

What ever happend to the concept of a team player? Don't these athletes realize that if they gobble up that large a chunk of a team's payroll, the rest of the team is likely to be filled out by mediocrity? (the same question applies to idiot GM's) Morons.

The new CBA has many new tools that the GM's and owners could use to keep salaries in check. They fought and sacrificed an entire season while alienating fans such as myself. It was up to them to now exercise some common sense and show restraint. Show the players that demand crazy money who was really in charge. But again, the merry-go-round simply spins. It seems as though you can't take the idiot out of the GM, nor the incessantly starving ego out of the player.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Nonis should have his Witt about him....


The Vancouver Canucks are going to be competivitve, but as I type this, there are some glaring roster holes - especially on defense. Ed Jovanovski is locked up for one more year, and it helps that Sami Salo and Bryan Allen have re-signed today, but they still have to re-sign Mathias Ohlund. Brent Sopel and Marik 'Sasquatch' Malik have left town, and so far, there hasn't been a move to replace them. And when the finally do re-sign Ohlund, the defense still looks less than stellar.

Ed Jovanovski is a top tier defenseman, but is probably over-rated. He brings many fine tools to the table but suffers from chronic bouts of moronitis. Bryan Allen brings an edge to his game, but at this stage in his career is an average NHL defenseman at best. Sami Salo is under-rated and provides a steady hand on the blueline. I'm glad the Canucks ponied up for more than a one year deal to retain his services. And then there's Ohlund, who has such a great overall game. He is the true #1 defenseman on the Canucks.

That leaves some big holes, and for this team to be competative, the defense cannot be rounded out by first year players or journeymen such as Nolan Baumgartner.

Today Brendan Witt accepted his qualifying offer and Capitals GM George McPhee says that he will accomodate Witt's request to be traded to a contending team. If Dave Nonis has any sense, he should be paying close attention. Witt would be a solid addition to the Canucks - a much needed one - and at roughly $1.6 million, he comes at a reasonable price.

Witt is listed at
6'2", 231 lbs. He won't score goals, he won't run the powerplay. But he plays big, which is what the Canucks need. They don't need another offensive weapon, Salo and Jovanovski will be fine. What they need is another workhorse to compliment Ohlund.

So if Nonis is listening - or reading, and I know he is ;) - take a chance on Mr. Witt.

Bertuzzi speaks publically...

''I've had a lot of sleepless nights trying to think of things...But you know what, it happened. I can't go back and change what happened. The only thing I can do is come back even stronger, a better person off the ice and a better person on the ice.'
The words of Todd Bertuzzi at an afternoon press conference today. I've never really weighed in on the whole ugly incident, and I won't bother to at this point. What I will say is that hopefully Steve Moore makes a full recovery and the entire thing can become a distant memory.

As far as Bertuzzi's continuing career goes, it's still unclear as to which Todd Bertuzzi will hit the ice in the fall. Will he continue to be the raging monster and a dominant presence in front of the net, or will he turn into a mediocre perimiter player? During the 03/04 season, and before the 'incident', Bertuzzi's on-ice performances had suffered somewhat of a setback. At least statistically.

What does Bertuzzi himself have to say about his comeback?
"I'm coming back who I was. I'm not going to change. I've become successful doing what I do best, playing hard every night with a chip on my shoulder. I heard a lot of stuff about people thinking I'm going to come back soft. That's not who I am."
It seems as though he has the right attitude, but we'll see if he really does come back the same player. It will be a rough ride as all eyes will be on him and his moves will be under severe scrutiny. I'm skeptical myself, but one thing is certain - for the Canucks to be successful, Bertuzzi will have to re-emerge as one of the premier power forwards in the game.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Red Line Rant - Pro athletes


It seems as though Marian Hossa is not a happy camper. He turned down a 3-year, $11.5 million offer from the Senators, and comes accross as insulted.
"We're at a dead point right now," said Hossa "We are nowhere. They offered me a three-year contract, but it wasn't good enough...It wasn't anywhere close to my comparables. If you look at my points the last two seasons, they've been close to Iginla and (Boston's Joe) Thornton..."
If he's seriously comparing himself to Jarome Iginla, he's gone off the deep end. And because the Bruins are playing hardball - rightfully so, in my opinion - it still remains to be seen what Joe Thornton will get. In fact, Hossa's numbers are lower than Markus Naslund, who has averaged 41 goals/season over the last four (compared to Hossa's 36; only scoring more than 40 once in his career), so why should he even make Nalsund money?
"I'm not pissed off. You know me, I'm not that type of guy. I love the city of Ottawa, I love the fans there. I want to be part of that team for a long time. I just want to be paid what I feel is a fair amount and I don't want to settle for less."
You know, one of my main pet peeves with professional athletes is when they spew out verbal diahrea and expect everyone to buy it as candy. I don't know how many times I've heard empty sentiments such as "I just love the city. I love the fans, if it were up to me I'd spend my entire career here....".

Give me a break you selfish wankers.

Do these players not realize that they are wealthy beyond imagination whether they sign $4 million or $7 million contracts? What's the point of bitching and moaning and making yourself look like a selfish greaseball because your ego is inflated to galactic proportions?

Ego has driven the pro athlete for years now, and apparently there is no end in sight. Does Hossa, and players like him, not understand the team concept anymore? Of course, it's a rhetorical question, because they obviously do not understand that should any player gobble up close to the maximum salary of 20% of a team's payroll, that they severly limit the funds with which to buld a successful TEAM. Does Hossa not grasp the fact that should he get anywhere near the $7 million figure, the Senators can immediately bid adieu to Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Daniel Alfredsson, etc?

For once I'd just love to see a player put his money where his mouth is at. If you really want to play for a winner and you really love the city, then sign a contract that makes sense for both sides. Take a bit less to play for "the city that you love", take a smaller amount to enable the management to build a winning team. For God's sake, is life really that horrible in the $4 million salary bracket? Is it too painful to get up in the morning and look in the mirror to realize that you don't make $7 million? Does it wound your pride that much to only see 19 Ferrari's in the driveway instead of 12?

It's all about the money - it has been for much too long now, and I'm sick to death of the spoiled brat mentality that pro sports has become. The salary cap was supposed to put a reign on salaries, but now, thanks largely to the incessant demands for ego feeding contracts, it seems as though it may only accomplish the break up of deep and highly skilled teams.

Sedins Ink, Ohlund files for arbitration


The Canucks have locked up the Sedin twins for one more year, at $1.25 million/season each. I can live with the financial terms, but this is the year that they had better put up impressive totals, or move on.

Opinion on the Sedins' past performances varies with who you ask, and in my case, I think that they have been nothing more than average NHL players. They do some things well, such as cycle the puck (to death at times), but I fail to see the ability to finish. They have been treated very well in Vancouver for the duration of their tenure, despite the lack of significant progression.

However, now that Brian Burke is gone - the Sedins were his project, and the patience Burke displayed with these two has only been seen elsewhere in professional chess matches - the apparent lack of finish has to be improved upon. GM Dave Nonis has similar thoughts:
"We expect them to take on more responsibility this season and we are extremely excited to have this deal in place."
I'm glad that someone may finally be putting some pressure on these two, because they need to step it up.

Also, Mattias Ohlund has filed for arbitration and given his incredible overall game and the recent contracts signed by NHL defensemen, he will probably fetch a good payday. Here's to hoping Nonis can lock him up long-term.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The more things change...


It's the old addage - the more things change, the more they stay the same. Money is being tossed about much in the same fashion it was previous to the ratification of the new CBA. The 24% rollback was virtually meaningless in a sense, considering that there were nearly a couple of hundred free agents roaming the plains and the rollback hasn't affected them in the least.

It's business as usual in the NHL and huge wads of dough are being splashed about with the only limiting factor being the team salary cap. The cap may prove to be effective in creating a much more balanced and competitive field, which is a good thing, but it doesn't seem to be the major drag on salaries that many expected it would be.

Maybe I was expecting too much. I really wasn't expecting a plethora of salaries in the $4 million+ range, nor was I expecting the fairly long length of many deals. For all of the agony that the fans were put through over the past year, it seems as though GM's haven't learned a thing. The players are still making completely outrageous amounts of money, and rationality, it seems, has been tossed right out the window.

Many GM's are making moronic moves, and it could come back to bite them all in the ass. For example, at the time I'm writing this, Brian Burke has $32 million in salary committed to only 12 players. For the Niedermayers alone, he has $35 million committed over the next four years - to only two players. Good grief.

So much for "I work on a tight budget" Burke. And so much for declining player salaries.

Of course, the upside of a cap is that teams like the Rangers et al. cannot simply just sign everyone anymore. And believe me, I'm all for league wide parity. However, I'm skeptical. My fear is that as the league revenues rise, and they will long-term, the cap rises along with it. And when the cap gets to a high enough level, is the NHL going to be any better off considering that the bar on salaries has pretty much remained status quo?

Obviously I recognize that there has been a marginal drop overall, and in some instances significant salary cuts. But those large drops are few and far between, and I fear that we all may have spent a year pulling our hair out for nothing.

If idiot GM's continue to make signings such as Sasquatch wannabe Marek Malik for a craptastic $2.5 million/year, then I fear the fans will be crapped upon for years to come - salary cap or not.

Niedermayer seeing Ducks


It looks like Scott Niedermayer has landed in Anaheim. The deal is a reported $28 million over 4 seasons. Given the year long fight about fiscal ruin in the NHL, I'm somewhat surprised with the large amounts of some recent signings. I expected salaries to come back down to Earth - at least a little bit, but it looks as though many players are still going to be making mega $millions. I guess the only difference now is that certain teams won't be able to load up with multpile mega $million players. And it's not just the dollar figures that surprise me, it's the length of many contracts raises my eyebrows.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Lots of movement on busy day


So far, this offseason has been more exicting than the last few previous on-ice NHL seasons. Some key signings and player movement today:

Vancouver - Markus Naslund re-signs with the Canucks and suddenly the wind in BC picks up from the collective sigh of relief. As I stated yesterday, I didn't think that he was worth the maximum salary, and thankfully Dave Nonis didn't shell it out - apparently no team offered more than Vancouver. $6 million/season is reasonable for him, and I can live with that.

The Canucks also traded Brent Sopel - thank God - to the New York Islanders. I'm not a big Sopel fan, but I can honestly say that I will miss his hair. Cripes, there's enough grease in there to lube a race-car.

The Canucks also lost Marek Malik to the Rangers yesterday, so the Canucks have a little bit of work to fill out the backend. No significant rumours abounding about who it may be, however, and given the dollars put aside for Naslund, it likely won't be a star like Niedermayer.

Edmonton - Chris Pronger is a major addition to this club and I'm glad that they locked him up long term. This may be the first truly dominant blue liner that the Oilers have had since Paul Coffey. Suddenly eight divisional games per season doesn't sound like too much to me.

Calgary Flames - had a busy day yesterday with Amonte and McCarty, and today they locked up Jarome Iginla for three years @ $21 million. The best player in the league, in my opinion, and he got huge bucks, but still not the league maximum - further illustrating my point that perhaps many GM's may simply not think it's worth it to shell out 20% of the overall budget to one player.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Sergei Goncahr is a Pen for the next five years. The reported salary is $5 million/season. Fairly good chunk of change for Pittsburgh to shell out, and I'm not convinced that it's money well spent. Lemieux is another year older and although he's truly Superman on skates, there will come a time - and soon - where he packs it in. Add to that, Sidney Crosby probably won't have a significant impact at the NHL level right away (who knows for sure when or if he ever will), and I'm not ready to call the Penguins contenders yet.

Philadelphia Flyers - probably the biggest name acquisition of the day, Peter Forsberg signs on for two years at a very reasonable $5.75 million/season. To make salary room, Jeremy Roenick was given his walking papers - to the LA Kings. In my opinion, definitely a major upgrade at centre for Philly - if he can stay healthy. Big if.

Still on the market - Scott Niedermayer. Given the salaries that Forsberg, Naslund, Pronger and Gonchar signed on for, I'm completely convinced that he won't get anywhere near his reported asking salary of $7.78 million. He won't get it, nor should he.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Naslund signs in Vancouver


As just reported on CKNW Radio, Vancouver. No numbers released, I cannot find a second source to verify yet. Stay tuned.

Free Agent Signings Galore


Many free agents signed on the dotted line today, and I'll weigh in on some of the higher profile ones.

Pavol Demitra - Los Angeles Kings; Three-years, $13.5-million. A great pickup for LA, and at a reasonable price for a proven scorer. I was crossing my fingers that Nonis may accept the fact that Nalsund is history and open up the bank. Who was I kidding?

Tony Amonte - Calgary Flames; Two-years, $3.7-million. Fairly good move by Calgary. He'll likely see much more ice time here than in Philly, and for less than $2 million/season, he's affordable.

Darren McCarty - Calgary Flames; Two-years, $1.6 million. I like his tough game. The ultimate grinder and a great depth move by Calgary. Overall, the Flames did quite well today.

Bobby Holik - Atlanta Thrashers; Three-years, $4.25M in first year (remaining contract not disclosed). I like this addition to the Thrashers club. A dangerous offensive forward corps has just been solidified with a great two way player. From Holik's point of view, he's got to be on cloud nine. He just got bought out for multi-millions by the Rangers, and he's banked multi-millions today. Not a bad life, eh Bobby?

Derian Hatcher - Philadelphia Flyers; Four-years, $14.5 million. He's a big guy, but agility isn't his strong point. And with the new rules, he may quickly become an overpaid boat anchor.

Mike Rathje - Philadelphia Flyers; Five-years, $17.5 million. Overall, I like him better than Hatcher. But five years? We'll see.

Marek Malik - New York Rangers. I wasn't going to say anything about this, as it would probably have flown under the radar for most fans. However, the reported salary is $2.5 million/season. If that turns out to be true, then it reaffirms my suspicions that the stupidity of Glen Sather knows no bounds.

To Pay or not Toupe


Is any curent NHL player actually worth the maximum salary allowed? In my opinion, not a chance. Through my eyes, there's only one player that should even come close, and that's Jarome Iginla. With all of the recent signings, and the buzz about elite players such as Niedermayer and Naslund demanding near the maximum salary, I fail to see how they are actually worth it.

Is any one player worth 20% of an entire team's payroll? In the new economic landscape, I'd be very hardpressed to say yes, and I'm sure many GM's around the league are feeling the same.

The word out West is that Markus Naslund is a goner from Canuckville, given that he is likely seeking the max. So, if he ends up signing somewhere for over $6-7 million/season, then I gladly bid him adieu. The general impression given by the media reports is that Scott Niedermayer is also seeking somewhere in the maximum price range as well. Given that the major motivation for elite players now may shift significantly over to the side of winning (as opposed to monetary gain), shouldn't outrageous salary demands be a thing of the past?

Players who want to win, such as Naslund, may have to realize that if they want the maximum salary, they may not end up on a winning team. If 20% of the payroll is dedicated to one player alone, then how likely is it that a Cup winning roster can be built with the remaining cash? It's possible for sure, but the odds go down. (The flipside is the New York Rangers, who have clearly proven that a team of high paid superstars does not equate to Cup victory).

In the new NHL, $7.78 million may very well be much better spent on two $3.8 million, or three $2.65 million players rather than on one player making the max.

In my opinion, the Canucks will be much better off if they can sign two good players for roughly the same price tag that Naslund is seeking. Naslund is a great player, but it looks as though quality forwards are available for much less. And that thought process may be what many GM's are thinking.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Modano to head East?


RDS, the French equivalent of TSN, has rumoured (for those who read French) that Mike Modano may be headed to the Boston Bruins - a deal which may be announced tomorrow. I usually don't like to spread rumours, and I'm certainly what you would call a skeptic when it comes to substance-less rumours (Eklund anyone?), but with all of the Joe Thornton babble making the rounds, I had to bite. So take it for what it's worth, and if it happens, think of me fondly ;)

Foote heads to Ohio


Look out now, the Columbus Blue Jackets have added some solid veteran leadership and solidified their back end with the apparent acquisition of hard nosed blueliner Adam Foote. Terms of the deal have not become clear, and Blue Jacket GM Doug MacLean has just indicated on the Fan590 radio out of Toronto, that the deal is not finalized yet.

However, if the deal goes through, as I'm sure it will, I would surmise that given the recent dollar figures that Sergei Zubov inked for, the numbers are fairly similar. I'll wait until the financial details become public before I draw any conclusions. On the face of it though, a great acquisition for Columbus, who's roster is becoming impressively talent laden. Here's to hoping that it will show up in the standings this season.

**Update** - TSN is now reporting that the deal is finalized and is for $13.5 million over three years ($4.5 million/season). The dollar amount is almost right on par with his previous contract - so much for the 24% rollback. So, what class does this put Niedermayer in? If Foote and Zubov are managing these types of bucks, does this not raise the bar substantially for the truly elite or has the gap between the players been narrowed? My gut tells me that we won't have to wait for long to find out.

Roberts, Nieuwendyk to Panthers?


Early reports from The Score say that veterans Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk have left the Maple Leafs and signed two year deals in Florida. I can't say that I'm surprised that they didn't resign in Toronto, but I'm a little surprised at where they are reportedly headed.

Also today, the Edmonton Oilers dealt Brad Isbister to the Bruins for a 4th round draft pick in 2006.

Probably plenty of more action to come in the next several days.

**Update** Sportsnet has confirmed the news. $2.25 million/season for each one.