We’ve Got A Season

As I do every year, I’m planning on firing up the blog again.  I thought I’d hit on the right recipe for something that would keep me posting last season, and I still believe that.  The larger issue for me, typically, is my work schedule.  However, we’ll not worry ourselves about such things right now.

The good news:  there’s hockey again.  What does this mean?  Well, with all the reading that I’ve done on the topic, I’ve pulled out essentially 4 major points.  Let’s take them one by one, and I’ll throw in my analysis as we go.  If you’re inclined, first take a moment to review something that I wrote back when the lockout got settled in ’05.  It’s amusing that the owners did just about as well this time through:

1)  There will be a 48 or 50-game season, played entirely intraconference.

Analysis: Well, it’s hockey.  But it also means that the Rangers won’t be able to measure themselves against certain clubs during the season.  I’m not sure this is tragic, for a couple of reasons, but not seeing the defending Stanley Cup Champions come into the building is a bit of a bummer.   However, given the style of hockey the Rangers play, the short season and relatively light travel schedule may benefit them big time.  Net-net, I think this is a good thing for the Rangers, despite being a net loss for the fans.

2)  Contracts are now capped at 7 years max (8 if you’re resigning your own player)

Analysis:  It’s so funny.  The owners beg for a salary cap in the 04-05 lockout.  They get it, then give their GMs carte blanche to go insane with long contracts and backloaded deals to try to avoid the real implications of the salary cap.  Now, in this lockout, they’re crying about deal length is killing their business.  It’s unbelievable just how much these guys talk out of both sides of their mouth.

3)  Revenue split 50/50 between owners and players (was at 57/43 players/owners for 2011-12

Analysis:  It may not seem like it, but this is more about billionaires and millionaires arguing over what’s essentially a rounding error for both of them, when you look at the specifics.  I just think this happens to be a huge loss for the players, even if it isn’t in real dollars.  Never lower your price, guys.

4)  Pension stuff:

Analysis: Some of what they lost in HRR, they gained here, but this would be more cool if this had anything to do older hockey players that played for next to nothing for all those years, while taking pucks to the helmetless head.

One conspicuous absence here that I don’t see a lot of people talking about is conference/division realignment.  In light of all the other things that there were to discuss, it’s not too surprising, but this is going to come up again with the NHL’s ridiculous proposal that the players basically said, to a man, that they hated.  That’s still out there.

Chris Kreider: Class Act

Pretty interesting post from BockeyBuzz’s Julie Robenhymer today about the Big Assist Charity event, generally, and Chris Kreider specifically:

After the game, the players posed for a team picture and then headed towards the locker rooms to shower and change….except for one. Chris Kreider saw a kid along the boards waving a pen at him. He skated over and went up and down that side of the rink signing everything handed to him with the exception of a Notre Dame hat and a Hockey Canada hat to which he politely smiled and shook his head while handing it back over the glass.

The post goes on to discuss how Kreider stayed long after any other participant to sign autographs and engage with the fans.  Really good stuff from a kid that really didn’t have to, but wanted to.

Mike Milbury: Sideline Enforcer

Here’s a good one for you.  From Pat Leonard at the Daily News:

Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo retaliated after a hit by Red Wings forward Darren Helm on a St. Louis teammate, grabbing and wrestling with Helm. But Milbury said it was a weak retaliation penalty.

“If you’re gonna get angry, hit the guy in the head or something,” Milbury said.

Liam McHugh, the show’s host, immediately began shaking his head and hands while silently mouthing words to Milbury, trying to cut him off.

Leonard refers to this incident in the article, but let’s not forget that Mike Milbury is the same guy that allegedly physically and verbally assaulted a 12-year old at a pee-wee hockey game last fall.

I don’t have a whole lot to add here.  This one pretty much speaks for itself.

Debate Time: Who’s Gonna Get Canned Edition

This is a new segment, in which I debate myself about a topic of my own choosing.

Since we’re entering the All-Star break shortly (only one game on the schedule tonight) and the topic of mid-season awards has been beaten to holy hell, I figured it’d be a good idea to debate who the most likely coach to be fired in the second half will be.  Remember, several coaches have already gotten the axe this season:  Scott Arniel , Paul Maurice, Bruce Boudreau (although he was subsequently picked up in Anaheim), Davis Payne and Jacques Martin.  And since it’s way more fun to talk about who’s going to lose their job than it is to talk about who’s going to win a trophy that nobody cares about, let’s do it.

Geoff Wolinetz:  Hey there, Geoff.  Good hanging out with you again last night.  We sure watched a lot of the Big Bang Theory.  Awesome show.  Let’s talk about coaches that could be on the hot seat.  After we eliminate the teams that have already canned there coaches, I think we wind up with a pretty manageable list.  The way I see it, there’s three teams that are likely to fire their coach and one team that could be a potential wild card.

Let’s start with Lindy Ruff.  I think Ruff is just about as good a bet as there is to get fired.  He fits all the qualifications:  he’s been there forever, which means he may have lost the team in some respect.  He’s got woefully underperforming players in guys like Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Brad Boyes.  The team is playing like crap.  And they’ve got a new owner, who’ll probably want to bring in his own guys.  I assume that Darcy Regier will be fired also.

Geoff Wolinetz:  I know where you’re going with this, but first let me say that it was a pleasure hanging.  You’re getting thinner and better looking every time we get together.  And I totally hear you on the Big Bang Theory.  High, high quality programming right there.

If I’m not mistaken, the second coach on your list is Ron Wilson.  That’s a Toronto team that, under his watch hasn’t made the playoffs in the last 3 seasons.  The natives are getting as restless as Canadians can get, which is extremely restless when we’re talking about hockey.  To me, this team needs to make the playoffs this year (a reasonable bet, but by no means a slam dunk) and they’ve got to make a run of some kind.  Otherwise, I think Wilson’s going to be looking for another job.

GW:  You read my mind again, handsome guy.

Finally, I think that Calgary’s Brent Sutter could wind up on the chopping block.  If they miss the playoffs this year in a very strong Western Conference, I think it’s all but over for Mr. Sutter.  GM Jay Feaster made a move to get some more offense to go with Jarome Iginla when he acquired Mike Cammalleri.  I think Feaster’s a patient guy, and he’s been patient with Sutter, but I think the patience is wearing thin in the Saddledome.

I think you can guess who my wild card is, so why don’t you go ahead and say it?

GW:  Very well.  I think our old friend Tom Renney shouldn’t be too comfortable where he is right now.  I know he’s a Western Canada fella and he’s coaching a Western Canadian team, but let’s face it:  this team is having a brutal season.  18 wins in 49 games.  RNH was a bright spot until he went down with an injury.  Obviously, Tom Renney can’t control the injuries, and management may be forgiving enough to give him another season, but I do think he should be worried.  I don’t think he’ll be fired, but to be honest, I’ve seen stranger things.  Remember when the Penguins fired Ivan Hlinka 8 games into the season?  Sometimes, you never know.

GW:  Well, that’s it for this time my friend.  See you at home tonight?

GW:  You bet.  I’ll bring the chicken fingers.

Sauer Sidelined Indefinitely (Again), Now What?

Michael Sauer has been shut down by trainer Jim Ramsay again after having concussion-like symptoms.  Sauer had worked out with the team in a non-contact jersey last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  From the Daily News’s Pat Leonard:

Tortorella said trainer Jim Ramsay has “backed (Sauer) off” from activity both on and off the ice, after Sauer skated from Monday to Wednesday last week for the first time since Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf laid him out Dec. 5 at the Garden.

“He hasn’t really felt that great after a few days on the ice, so Rammer’s backed him off,” Tortorella said. “I’m just waiting for a yes or a no, and right now it’s a no.”

So, yeah.  That’s not good news.

What it does mean until Sauer can resume working out with the team is that the Fab Five (Girardi, McD, Staal, DZ and Sauer) is now the Core Four, leaving two spots open in the rotation for 4 defensemen (Stralman, Bickel, Woywitka and Eminger).

Right now, with Eminger a couple of weeks away, it looks like Woywitka’s going to be the odd man out until someone falters (he’s a healthy scratch again for tonight’s game against the Jets).  When Eminger returns, however, Torts is going to have a couple of decisions to make.  Each of these guys has performed pretty well when asked to step in.

I think it’s far more likely that one of these guys gets moved for some scoring, if possible.  But if they’re not moved, here’s how I see these four guys, from top to bottom:

1)  Eminger – One of these spots is his to lose.  Torts loves him.  He’s a steady, solid third-pair defenseman.  The two best things about Eminger are that he’s relatively young (28) and pretty cheap ($800,000).  he’s got 4 points (2-2) in his 32 games this year and averages about 13 minutes on the ice.  That’s reasonably solid production.  What’s more, he’s got great fundamentals.  He may not make all the plays, but he definitely doesn’t make too many stupid ones.

2)  Bickel – Hear me out on this one.  I think the Rangers would love to stash him in Hartford for the rest of the season, once Eminger is healthy, and have him play out the season there and potentially compete for a spot next year.  There’s just absolutely no chance that he’ll clear waivers after he’s shown that he can compete at this level.  Everyone is hungry for defensive help.  I think he’s acquitted himself nicely and he’s still learning.  Plus, I love the fight this guy has in him.

3)  Stralman – I think they keep him with the big club just to keep Bickel motivated to keep growing.

4)  Woywitka – I think he’s the oddest man out, assuming that there’s no trade brewing.  I also think he’s probably the most likely to be traded.

Thomas A No-Show; Cites ‘Threatened Liberties’ And Constitutional Scholarship

The Bruins were honored at the White House for their Stanley Cup victory yesterday, with one very notable no-show:  Conn-Smythe winner Tim Thomas.  Thomas posted the following on his Facebook page around 6pm yesterday:

“I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties and property of the people. This is being done at the executive, legislative and judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the founding fathers vision for the federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a free citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an individual. This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic.”

The president, because he strikes me as a classy guy, still made mention of Thomas and his contribution and spoke highly of it:

“This Stanley Cup was won by defense as much as by offense,” Obama said. “Tim Thomas posted two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals and set an all-time record for saves in the postseason and he also earned the honor being only the second American ever to be recognized as the Stanley Cup playoff’s MVP.”

I’ll start by saying this: this is 100% totally within his right as a citizen to skip this for whatever reason he likes.  Even if he had no political opinion whatsoever and simply wanted a few hours to psych himself up for his start tomorrow or just wanted to walk around and do some sightseeing, whatever.  He’s got that right completely.  This is America.  This isn’t Russia.  Is this Russia?  I didn’t think so.

But I have to tell you:  I can’t think anything more apolitical than a president honoring a Stanley Cup winning team.  If there’s one single time in our lives where we should be able to put aside politics and just enjoy a moment, that should be it.  We all have political opinions.  Some may feel more strongly than others.  I remember Mark Chmura of the Green Bay Packers skipping their ceremony back in the 1990s because he didn’t agree with President Clinton’s personal conduct.  I get it.  Things and people aren’t always what we want them to be.  People are complex.

I’m not going to wax philosophical on the Tea Party or their principles or my personal feelings about them.   I’ve got a different blog for that.  This wasn’t about politics or big or small government or spending or beliefs of any kind at all.  This was about the team.  The team that won the Stanley Cup last year being honored by the President of the United States.  In that context, put aside your personal stuff and join your team in being honored for the collective accomplishment.  And then, an hour later, go back to protesting government spending.

Ference Gets 3 Games; NHL Gets “Serious”

Saturday’s game with the Bruins, to me, was one of the best of the season.  It’s a real shame that it had to be ruined with that absolutely disgraceful cheap shot in OT.

I heard a Bruins fan somewhere say that he “wasn’t hit from behind” and then proceeded to spew some nonsense about looking at the angle.   Um, huh?  No, McD wasn’t exactly parallel to the boards when he was hit, but watch the video.  Ference dumps the puck, then chases it in. McD goes to play the puck, turns his back to the boards.  Ference takes a minute, measures him up, has a cup of coffee, and then levels him from behind.  I mean, you don’t get more time to make those decisions.  This wasn’t heat of the moment.  He made a conscious decision to hit him AND he went right behind him to do it, whether McD was 100% parallel to the boards or not.  He was completely defenseless.  And Ference didn’t care.

Now, let’s talk about the NHL and Brendan Shanahan, a guy that I’ve always admired for the way he played and his great talent.  From Shanahan, he takes great length to go through an explanation of the play.  It’s a slightly wordier version of what I posted above.  He says (as Ference did) that there was no malicious intent, which I believe is true also.  He didn’t want to hurt him badly, I’m sure.  But he did want to take him out of the play.  Well within the rules, of course, but Ference had options here, regardless of the speed of the play.  Shanahan then levies the 3 game suspension.  At that point, my vision went white hot and I missed the rest of the explanation.  I’m sure it was the same nonsense that Shanny says every time one of these videos come out.

I’ve obviously put the word serious in quotes up there in the title.  Not because Shanahan said it, necessarily, but because I’m attempting sarcasm.  There is absolutely no place for that kind of crap in the NHL.  This isn’t Ference’s first time at the rodeo either.  How do you not give a repeat offender that took his time to absolutely level a defenseless player more than 3 games?  How?  Brendan Shanahan was as ballsy as it got when he played.  He’s practically toothless as the NHL’s Top Cop.

If the NHL wants to get serious about potential head injuries, I’m all for it.  But the only way to do that is to get some real punitive measure behind it.  If there’s no deterrent, it’s going to keep happening.