Monthly Archives: November 2009

Nightmare Fuel: Bemidji State Beaver Nation

Good luck getting this video made last spring to celebrate Bemidji State’s Cinderella run to the Frozen Four out of your mind.  You can’t help but think that if this video was seen by WCHA officials that they very well may have denied letting them into the conference.  It’s no Super Bowl Shuffle and hell, it’s not even the Boston College “Beanpot Trot” video that featured current New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon rapping and doing a split.

beaverbannerA more pleasant form of beaver.

Given how well the Beavers are doing this year (currently ranked 6th by USCHO), perhaps this now dated video will only get more popular and violate more college hockey fans’ dreams.  At the very least, we’ve all got a great idea how awesome desolate the, ahem, city of Bemidji, Minnesota is.

God help us all.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Alex Ovechkin

Thanks to all of you who keep up with my erratic posting schedules and hell-bent mania for picking on the head of a league that can’t get out of its own way to success.  You, the reader, is the kick in the pants I occasionally need to keep on going and other times you’re the great folks who provide me with the adulation I so desire.

Enjoy all the turkey you can handle today America.  And mashed potatoes.  And can-shaped jellied cranberry sauce.  And carrots.  And… Sorry, I passed out starving for a moment.  The house is filled with so many glorious and gluttonous smells right now it’s tough to focus.

For my Canadian readers and the rest of you who stumble upon me elsewhere… Happy Thursday, here’s some video of an NHL superstar being a turkey.

Looks like Alex Ovechkin might get to spend some time after the holiday letting his belt loose with his hand down his pants after the holiday because… Well, that’s just straight dirty.

alexovbundyAh jeez Gary, can’t you see I’m busy?

I know it’s how he plays all the time, but timing is everything and that was not it.  It’ll be curious to see if the NHL actually does anything to Alex though since the guy he hit (Patrick Kaleta) isn’t exactly viewed as “good people” by the other players.  Time to break out the ever-popular Wheel of Justice.

Worst Fight of the Year Candidate

A friend of mine gave me a heads up last night that I should keep an eye out for a fight between Flyers forward Daniel Briere and Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic that he described as, “they basically embraced, played some grab-ass, gave each other a reach-around, and dropped to the ice in a man-hug.”

Well who WOULDN’T want to see that?  I mean… Wait, what?

Nevermind that the combatants in this fight aren’t what you would call “pugilists” in the first place but this had to be epic, right? Anyhow, your nominees for worst fight of the season are, shockingly, two guys that should never drop the gloves in the first place.  Let’s go to the videotape!

I just… I have no words as that barely qualifies as a fight. Giving them each five minutes for embarrassing themselves would be more apt to put in the box score rather than fighting. Waltzing, perhaps?  Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda did their best to shine up that turd because, really, what else are you going to say about it.

With all that said, there’s a long way to go for the title of “Worst fight of all time” as that honor belongs to Aaron Downey and Brad Norton years ago.

Perhaps I should’ve given you the heads up to mute the audio on that video. You’re welcome.

Stop The Insanity – Get Rid Of This Rule

Insane.  Just watch.

I thought about this rule a lot yesterday given the wacko spin-job the NHL tried to put on the whole mess with Brad May’s “no goal” against the Dallas Stars. The sport being what it is decided to one-up itself in a game between two severely struggling teams in Carolina and Toronto. This situation happens in overtime and bones Toronto out of an overtime victory, one which they couldn’t secure in the shootout because, you know, somehow winning a game in overtime and in the shootout is viewed as the same fucking thing.

Whatever.

The conclusion I’ve come to on this bogus “intent to blow the whistle” nonsense is that it’s a crutch. It’s a crutch for the officials because God forbid they make a definitive call in a game or do their job effectively. This has to end. Play to the whistle or don’t play at all. Simple as that. I know why the “intent to blow” clause is in the rule books, I understand it perfectly.

No more though. Referees are going to drag their asses in games and pretend that they’re bigger than the game itself? Too bad, your time has ended. The fact that more fans are getting to know the names of officials for all the wrong reasons isn’t a good way to seek out fame. People know Kerry Fraser because of his stupid hair but they also know him because he botched a call in the 1993 Western Conference Finals. People know Don Koharski because then Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld called him a fat pig and asked him to have another donut. They don’t know Don Koharski because he’s a swell guy or a good official, that’s crazy. People know Bill McCreary because he’s got a porn star mustache and can’t help but be the center of attention in any game he works.

Stop the insanity already. I want a couple of things out of officials. I want consistency and I want accountability for their actions when they decide they’re better than everyone else.  Consistency is already an impossible thing to get out of any game so I’m shit out of luck there, at the very least I should be able to get officials that don’t think they’re bigger or better than the game itself.  It looks like we’re all screwed there too.

GaryMcMahonHe intends to blow each and every night.  Mission accomplished.

The NHL has to get rid of this bogus ghost rule because any time it comes into play it’s a cop out of the highest order.  “Well, I wanted to stop play, but I was too damn slow to do it.”  What a joke.  Two nights in a row now games have been botched because of this referee crutch.

Get rid of it.

(Much thanks to Jeffler on Twitter for being lightning fast in pointing the video out on YouTube)

Incompetence Does Come From The Top

After the mess that ensued in the wake of referee Dennis LaRue’s brutal incompetence last night in Detroit, the NHL had to step up and explain themselves especially since Toronto phoned the officials to find out why, exactly, Brad May wasn’t being awarded a goal.  The man under Commissioner Gary Bettman’s roof asked to take the media hit for this is NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy who had an explanation released today on the NHLs website.

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

“In this particular case what happened is we (in the League’s video replay room in Toronto) see the puck in the net and call the video goal judge and say, ‘Blow the horn and get the referee over here. We see a puck in the net that hasn’t been ruled a goal,’ ” Murphy said. “At that point the referee comes over and we have a discussion. They came to us and said, ‘My intent to blow the whistle was there, I have this play dead before the puck crosses the goal line,’ No more needs to be said. Once we hear that, video review is out of the process. It’s a call made on the ice and it’s a non-reviewable call. It’s a whistle blown by the referee and it was blown or the intent to blow it was before the puck crossed the goal line.”

Now, if you missed out on the play, just check the previous post here for the YouTube video or just go straight to YouTube to see it yourself.  I say this because checking out the video is key here because the official says he intended to blow the play dead before the puck is even in the net.

Really, is that what we’re looking to do there Dennis?  Because if that’s what you’re doing there you’re an even bigger idiot because then play is still going on since… That’s exactly what was going on before the puck went in the net.  This isn’t a situation where the puck was trapped under Alex Auld’s pads and it’s a goal-mouth scramble to try and stuff in a rebound.  If it was like that, his excuse would be marginally acceptable.

But that wasn’t the case at all.  Moving on…

“The way we have always handled it is the referees call on the ice stands. He sees the shot and he sees the save and doesn’t see the puck in the net and he blows the whistle,” Murphy said. “It’s not when he blows the whistle, it’s when he intends to blow the whistle. In this case Dennis was clear with what he saw and what he interpreted and that is, ‘I had killed the play before the puck went into the net.’ I think we would all concede the puck was in the net, but Dennis didn’t see that unfortunately.”

And boom, just like that the NHL pulls the rug out from under Dennis LaRue.  You could say that they’re taking Dennis out fishing in the morning the same way Michael Corleone did with his brother Fredo.  Or if analogies and metaphors are your thing, the league has thrown him under the bus.  Considering what I said last night about how I figured this situation would go down, this is a stunning turn of events on its own.  I sincerely doubt LaRue gets treatment any harsher than this from the league or head of officiating Terry Gregson.  Why?  Well…

“In all cases we want to get the right call. In this case it is clear we didn’t,” Murphy said. “In some cases when you have video review people expect perfection and that’s never the case. There are times when we don’t want video review to intercede. We don’t want video review refereeing a game.”

Whoa, hang on… Time out here.  This entire statement is full of gigantic magnanimous flaws.  First of all, instant replay was instituted to get things to be as close to perfect as possible and asking players and fans alike for perfection out of the system, I think, isn’t asking a lot.  All you have to do is look to see if puck crossed line.  That’s a simple thing to do given this particular set of circumstances, yet the NHL leaves the door open for the human element of the matter to screw things up with terrible reasoning.

shortbusGet under the bus Dennis.

Isn’t the purpose of having a war room in Toronto watching everything to make sure everything is called correctly?  After all, if they don’t want video review to referee the games why does the league do video review of the referees work to make sure they aren’t completely terrible at their jobs?  Again, the league makes it look like they’re saying a lot when they’re really just saying, “Yeah, we fucked up and there’s nothing that can be done about it other than throwing one of our guys under the bus.”

Incompetence – The NHL has it.

Making A Mockery of the Game

While the headlines will read about the Dallas Stars defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in what would seem like a harmless game, what you’ll miss out on if you casually stroll by the box score is what happened that should’ve made it a 2-2 game halfway through the third.  What you’ll miss out on is a gross misuse of the rule book by NHL officials Dennis LaRue and Stephane Auger.  What you’ll miss out on is this.

Now, I’m not going to come out here and whine and pee my pants over a very obviously blown ruling.  What I’m going to do is call out these officials for being complete cowards.

The final ruling on this play was that “the whistle had blown” and there was no goal because of that.  Funny thing about that ruling is that the whistle did blow… About three seconds after the puck was in the net.  Now there’s a fuzzy thing in the NHL rulebook about having the “intent to blow the whistle” and that’s put in use when something happens in the gray area time inbetween the play and what should be a dead play.

The problem there being that the official states that the whistle had blown to kill the play.  Well sure, the play is good and dead when you’ve scored a goal.  Now give the NHL boys in Toronto’s replay war room credit, they called the Joe almost immediately to tell them that they screwed up and they’d better get it right.  Instead, LaRue and Auger decided to do a very Major League Baseball-like thing and say, “Nope, I’m right because I say I’m right and there ain’t no stupid television camera that’s going to tell me different.”

Instead, these two make a bad situation worse because they’re first wrong about the goal and then they’re wrong about their reason for it not being a goal.  Just perfect.  Do I expect any kind of punishment from the NHL to the officials for bludgeoning a call? Of course not.  If anything, Herr Bettman has shown nothing but blind support to his vision-impaired men in black and white and I expect there to be nothing different this time.

pied-piper_420Gary Bettman looks totally awesome in tights.

I’d call it a case of the blind leading the blind, but it comes off more like the Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the rats out of town.   The only difference here being that Piper Bettman is putting the rats on a Rose Bowl-kind of float to show how much he loves them while he leads all the fans out of town.  After all the God-awful officiating we’ve seen in Major League Baseball’s playoffs to the horrific nightly car crash that the NBA calls the situation with its referees (who are probably the most crooked of them all) to even World Cup soccer qualifying it makes sense that even the NHL can’t get their act together.  All I ask is that they try to give a damn and not let some self-important bloated opinion of themselves get in the way of getting the game right.

I know that’s asking a lot but hey at least Bill McCreary setting the example for other officials how to hog the spotlight is going away after this year, we can only hope it hasn’t caught on too much.  Wait, Kerry Fraser is going away too, right?  Maybe things will get better.

I’m not holding my breath.  After all, Kelly Sutherland is a long way off from retiring.

Nikita Filatov: “So long stinktown!” (Update)

Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Dispatch dropped a (predictable) bomb on Blue Jackets fans and curious NHL onlookers tonight revealing that young and über-talented Russian forward Nikita Filatov is working out an agreement to head back to Russia.

Jackets general manager Scott Howson would not comment on a potential agreement allowing the 19-year-old Filatov to return to his former club team, CSKA Moscow. Nothing has been finalized, however, and Filatov and the Blue Jackets are expected to talk again today about the possibility of staying in Columbus.

To say this has been a bit of an ugly situation in Columbus would be downplaying things a bit.  Filatov has been unhappy with his ice time this year and he’s been a healthy scratch more often than not lately.  When he has been in the lineup for the BJs, Filatov has averaged a little over 8 minutes a game and has played with the fourth line.  That’s no way to treat a highly touted, highly talented 19 year-old future star.

Filatov made it known in the off-season that his plans were to stay in Columbus all year and get things done in the NHL at the age of 19.  From that interview with Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov, a couple of things stand out:

I have been working very hard this summer. Nothing should stand in the way of me getting into the NHL. Ideally, I have to break into the second line where there is more ice time; you play more on special teams.

And this:

What is holding you in America?

When I was 18 I made a decision to play in the NHL. This decision did not come easy. But what is the point of backing off now? It would make more sense if I didn’t play well. But everything is going good for me right now across the ocean.

If he’s heading off to Russia, things have changed dramatically with Filatov and it’s head coach Ken Hitchcock that has to be the focus of everything here.  Filatov, to say the least, is a natural born scorer and a guy whom the word “defense” will never apply to, at least at his age now.  That won’t (and hasn’t) sit well with the uptight Hitchcock who wants his team to play a lockdown brand of hockey ripe with back-checking and grinding galore.

filatovNikita Filatov in a Russian uniform.  Get used to it.

Filatov is a sniper, a dangler, a goalie faker.  He was drafted two years ago (6th overall 2008 NHL Draft) for his sheer offensive ability and talents, something Columbus was severely lacking in their system but now the team, with Hitchcock’s ideal lineup in there is off to the best start in franchise history and Filatov basically hasn’t had a hand in any of that whatsoever and his growth is being stunted because of it.

Sending him back to Syracuse to play wouldn’t do any good because he’s already proven his talent is being wasted after racking up 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 39 games there last year.  What more does he have to prove to the Blue Jackets?  According to what some folks around the team are saying, Ken Hitchcock isn’t satisfied with that.  Just a few weeks ago, Hitchcock had this to say about Filatov’s game:

“I don’t think Filatov’s game is going to be awake for a long time. He’s in that adjustment phase right now, that survival phase.  He did his job when he got back in the lineup in Edmonton. That’s why he played again Saturday (in Anaheim).  All the things we wanted him to do to be an NHL player, he’s tried like crazy to do them. He’s in the lineup now, so hopefully we’re off and running.”

Apparently he is off and running… Back home to Russia where he can play more than eight minutes a game with guys who might be better than Jared Boll and Mike Blunden (ed. note: Who the fuck is Mike Blunden?).  OK so after looking at the translated CSKA Moscow roster, perhaps playing at home for more ice time is a better draw than the teammates.  Maybe Filatov got to be a big fan of Mark Hartigan’s while playing in the AHL.  Whatever.

The key here is that yet another highly talented offensive Russian first-round pick of the Blue Jackets is now ready to get the hell out of the NHL (Nikolai Zherdev being the first) and while a lot people seem to agree that Filatov is both mentally stronger and more talented than Zherdev, it’s a bit surprising (and disturbing) that one organization has screwed the pooch twice with how to handle a talented Russian forward.

While blame can be assigned to both Zherdev and Columbus management equally and finger-pointing can go on forever for that situation and failure, the case with Filatov can be thrown squarely on Ken Hitchcock for why Filatov has been buried and now, apparently, frustrated off to Russia.  Hitchcock is firmly a part of the “No fun police” as far as offensive talent goes.  His teams are classically boring even in spite of often having supreme top-end talent All you have to do is look back to Mike Modano and Brett Hull in Dallas, Jeremy Roenick and Simon Gagne in Philadelphia and now Rick Nash in Columbus.  His teams in all three places are loaded with grinders and they forecheck and trap in a suffocating way, so having a naturally offensively talented dangler isn’t an optimum piece of the puzzle – especially one that just wants to fire shots on the net.

Handling older veterans is one thing, but trying to hammer it home to a young kid that shooting and scoring all the time isn’t what the game is all about… Well, you can see how that would get to be very frustrating, especially when the team drafted you to do just that.

Filatov is going to be a dynamic scorer in the NHL but he’s got to be on the right team to make it happen and right now with everything clicking well enough for Columbus and the brand of hockey they want to play, it’s pretty clear that Filatov isn’t in Hitchcock’s plans, something that doesn’t sit well with Columbus’ general manager Scott Howson doesn’t like at all.  I mean he did draft him and he knows what kind of player he can be in the league and he doesn’t want to just give him away to another team and be haunted into unemployment because of it.  Howson also doesn’t want the player getting eternally frustrated at the coach and organization and vow to never play for them ever again.

At least there’s this whole peaceful KHL/NHL situation where they’ve got a great working agreement to loan players to one another.  Oh, right… I forgot that exists only in Bizarro World where Herr Bettman is a brilliant leader and the NHL is the most beloved sports product in the world and provides the greatest financial system for all professional sports across the land.

My bad.

If Filatov does go to Russia, you can bank on it that he’s going to stay there until he’s either traded, Ken Hitchcock is out of a job or until his entry level deal ends after the 2011-2012 season… After which there might be another sport-crippling lockout and everyone plays in Europe instead anyway.  At least that last possibility won’t be nearly as much of a disaster to watch as the movie 2012.

We’ll get to know more about what, exactly, is going on here soon and keeping your eyes peeled on Yahoo’s Puck Daddy will be recommended as resident Russian go-to-guy Dmitry Chesnokov will be on the case and he’s stated he’s already gotten in touch with Filatov.  What I expect to hear is that he’s beyond frustrated and he wants to play and getting the hell out of Columbus offers him the best and most enjoyable set of circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets would rather he either stick it out in the NHL and learn the hard way or go back to Syracuse to skate circles around the competition.  If those are the options he goes with, the Blue Jackets run the risk of driving Filatov crazy and filling him with resentment and then they’ve got an immensely talented player that no longer wants to play for them and can’t wait to get the hell out of town.

While the Blue Jackets might be winning, they have to be careful here because this could turn into a lose/lose situation for the organization.   They’ll lose out on a great talent and they’ll also salt the earth for future young Russian players they may be interested in.  If the Blue Jackets want to truly be thinking long-term in regard to Nikita Filatov, they’d best be thinking long term about the future of the team as well.

UPDATE:

It’s now official, Nikita Filatov is headed back to Russia to play the rest of the season out, and like I told you kids, Dmitry Chesnokov is all over it getting the first interview with him at Puck Daddy.  I won’t pull out all of Filatov’s quotes and over-analyze them but I’ll yank out this set because it strikes me as amazing.

What did the club management tell you when you told them of your decision and your reasons for it?

They told me that they completely share my point of view. They also told me that in the current situation it is actually better for me to go back.

If things go sour with Columbus this year and they find a way to miss out on the playoffs, you better believe that GM Scott Howson will have more than enough ammunition to use against Hitchcock just based around this situation with Filatov.

Solving The Trapezoid

This week the NHL General Managers met in Toronto to discuss issues going on with the game and one of the big things that came up was whether or not to keep the trapezoid area behind the goals.  The trapezoid is the only area behind the net goaltenders are allowed to play the puck and making it essential that defensemen be on their games and skating fast to retrieve pucks dumped into their end lest they give up possession to the attacking team.

The issue at play with the trapezoid is that in these races for the puck, players are getting hurt and a lot of folks hate that goaltenders can’t hunt pucks down and keep play flowing along in control of the defense.  Some GMs are anonymously arguing that goalies keeping play moving along will help the offense.

Well sure, that’d be a great argument if we hadn’t gone through years of deathly boring defense-first, sport-ruining hockey before Herr Bettman and his Army of Idiot Minions decided to lock out the players and reinforce the rule book to make sure fans weren’t bored to tears.

The argument against the trapezoid for purposes of saving players from being injured is a bit stickier.  No one likes to lose any players to injury, especially in lunatic bat-out-of-hell chases for the puck into the end boards.  After all, who wants to see more injuries like these?

I’m a squeamish sissy so I sure as hell don’t want to see those kinds of injuries anymore and that’s just because I don’t want to post them on my website, never mind going through them myself.  Of course, the GMs decided against making any changes to the trapezoid rules because… Well, why have a seemingly lame duck season with one set of rules when another set is on the way?  If changes are going to happen, they’ll come up after the season if at all.

Besides, it seems as if the trapezoid debate is more of something for message board and blog fodder as it is, at least that’s what I gathered from this quote by Sharks GM Doug Wilson”

“I don’t think there’s a great appetite to change it,” said Wilson. “And I don’t mind that because you’ve got to be conscious that when you change one thing, it could impact two or three other things. We put it on the agenda, we’d asked to talk about it, just to really spur thought.”

Spur thought in the room there and here on the Interwebs for us  mom’s basement geniuses to tackle.  Of course, fan opinions on the trapezoid are fairly predictable.  Fans of teams with goalies who play the puck well or are overly concerned with player injuries are upset, meanwhile others are likely indifferent or pleased.  One team I was concerned with was the Devils and Tom Gulitti at Fire and Ice got some thoughts from the man most hurt by (and opposed to) the trapezoid, Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, in this case, is sticking up for his defensemen.

“I’m not involved, but my view of it is it’s a no-brainer if they want to start to eliminate these huge hits for the defensemen,” Brodeur said. “Many times you’re able to just chip the puck and save a big hit. That was one thing when I was younger whenever my defensemen or somebody was getting a big hit, I felt guilty that I let that the guys get hit like that. Now, I’ve got to sit and watch all the time.”

That’s a tough stand to argue against and I won’t do that.  It’s stupid to do that and he’s right, it sucks to see guys take huge hits and it’s even worse to see guys get hurt from it all.

It’s also part of the game.  I won’t be some macho asshole here and start telling guys to take off the skirt, I already admitted I’m a huge wuss and I’m as physically fragile as it gets.  What I will do, instead, is offer a solution to adopt that saves everyone the trouble.

The NHL should give it the old college try.  Eliminate the trapezoid, allow goalies to play the puck at their own volition but save everyone the trouble and adopt no-touch icing.  One thing Brodeur said in Gulitti’s great piece was that more often than not goalies are going to make mistakes playing the puck so its on them to decide if they want to take the chance.  Sure, that’s easy for him to say being one of the best puckhandling goaltenders of all time, but it’s still true.  In that case, spin the wheel and make the deal terrible puck-playing goaltenders.  How bad do you want to keep possession of the puck and how bad do you want to potentially get chewed out by your coach for being a bonehead?

Yeah, I thought so.

Adding no-touch icing does nothing to take away from the flow of the game since, more often than not, icing is going to end up being called and the chances of it getting waived off are generally pretty few.  Therefore, adopting a rule that cuts to the chase, and just gets the play moving along shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Races for the puck to save a faceoff from happening are pretty friggin’ rare and if that’s the kind of play in hockey that gets your juices flowing… Maybe finding a new sport to watch would be a good start because you’ve missed the boat.

My one sticking point here is that a little more be asked of the linesmen aside from playing ignorant to plays off the puck, being unable to keep count of players on the ice and effectively watching the lines.  Tall order, I know.

The linesmen are also the judges of icing and one of the rule changes that was made after the return from Herr Bettman’s Attempted Murder of the NHL was the elimination of the red line and two-line passes.   There was a stipulation in the rulings on icing that could be better put to use here should the NHL do the smart thing and do things the college way.

Rule 65 – Section e: The Linesman shall have discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions on attempted passes if those passes are deemed receivable.

How’s about we reinforce the linesman’s definition of what the attempted breakout pass looks like.  After all, if you want to keep play moving this isn’t a bad way to do so and you don’t even need to rewrite anything in the rules.  By implementing these changes, you’re able to corral the injury problems with defensemen getting destroyed by attacking forwards moving at breakneck speed and you’re able to unchain the goaltenders from the net.

As long as defensemen aren’t allowed to skate in front of/latch onto attacking forwards like they were allowed to do through most of the 90s and early 2000s, things should work out just fine.  It works out fine (for the most part) in college hockey and making it work in the NHL shouldn’t be much of a problem. Then again, that’s putting a lot of faith into the men in stripes to do the right thing.   Maybe I should hold back on these drastic suggestions after all.

Hockey Wilderness – Must Read Piece

I’ve dipped my hands in again over at Hockey Wilderness at SBN and this time it’s a doozy.

I’m scoping out just what the hell is going on with Martin Havlat and flexing my artistic skills there as well.

You’re going to want to give it a read or else you’ll get this guy looking for you too.

patrick-havlat

I’ve heard he’s a real bastard to get rid of, so let’s not upset him, mmkay?