Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

06/26/2012

Finally

For the few years I was scribbling nonsense on the Internet before I landed over at NBCSports.com’s ProHockeyTalk, every June would turn into a soap box for me to sound off on why Adam Oates belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His case was always easy to make. No, really, it was super easy to make.

Now? Now he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The fight is over and a childhood hero is enshrined for eternity. Bias accepted here, there’s never been a doubt as to Oates’ career being Hall-worthy.

I am as happy as a hockey fan can be. The complaining, the indignant stat-prattling, the case-making, the whining about it all… It’s over. I don’t have to crow about an open-and-shut case anymore.

There’s no need to talk about the injustice of it all and continue alternating between banging my head against the wall and shouting from the mountain tops. Adam Oates: Hall of Famer.

Back in late September during the preseason, I wanted to interview Oates about being snubbed by the Hall. With him being the Devils assistant coach and it also being the team’s first preseason game of the year, the Hall was the last thing on his mind. All business, all the time. That’s part of what got the Washington Capitals to hire Oates as their head coach today on top of it all.

It feels a bit silly to feel as happy for what someone else accomplished, but that’s part of being a fan, right? Embracing those that helped bring the love of the game to you. Oates is the key figure on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of hockey. Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Teemu Selanne. There are plenty other players I have a great appreciation for, but those four? They turned hockey from something I watched and enjoyed into something I obsess over and love dearly, maybe a bit too much if you ask some of my friends.

But Oates? He was the guy who sparked it all for me. Seeing a guy like that play live in person when you’re a kid leaves an impression on you. Seeing him win your favorite local team a championship hammers it home even more. Watching him excel as a professional for nearly 20 years is icing on the cake.

Adam Oates is a Hockey Hall of Famer. What a great day.

 

04/21/2009

Playoff Thermometer

Bend over everyone, it’s time to take the temperature of the playoffs.


The Playoff Doctor will see you now.

I see the Canadiens, Blues and Sharks are already in position. How nice of you to be so helpful to myself and your opponents.

I know that Bruins fans want to think that they’re exorcising playoff demons here, but considering how schizophrenic the Habs were all season long, how awful they played leading up to the playoffs and how beat up they were… Is this really a surprise at all?

Yeah, yeah I know – rivalries, history, magic, aura… All that crap gets brought up and its stupid. None of that has anything to do with how horribly overmatched the Canadiens were going into this series and now that they’re on the brink of being shown the broom there’s nothing incredible nor overwhelming about it.

The Bruins weren’t the underdogs in this battle and they’re certainly not a rag-tag bunch of kids going up against Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden Canadiens either.

Wait, what’s that Jack Edwards?

Good lord.


Jack Edwards: Certifiably Insane

If the Bruins struggled at all in this series I would’ve been at a loss for words and then if you twisted my arm I might buy into that nonsense about never getting by the Canadiens ever.

Things change and this year things got a lot better for the Bruins and a lot worse for the Canadiens and its more than evident in this series.

The Bruins will get their first actual test in the next round…unless they face Carolina (trailing New Jersey 2 games to 1) or Philadelphia (trailing Pittsburgh 2-1), then forget it it’s a walk to the Eastern Conference Finals in that case.

If they get either the Rangers or the Penguins in the second round, things get shaky for the B’s since the Rangers (leading Washington 2-1) would have a goalie that can carry them far and steal games and the Penguins have offense to burn and give Tim Thomas fits.

In the Western Conference, I want to say that there’s rhyme or reason for why the Sharks are failing so hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine what the hell their problem is.

Presidents Trophy jinx? Get lost and stop reading my website.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren’t clutch enough in the playoffs? If you believe that kind of nonsense I’m going to find you and fire you into the sun.

Demotivated team whose boredom carried over into the opening round? Ehh…

That would make sense if they weren’t playing a team they hate in the first round, and let’s face it, San Jose hates Anaheim and there’s no way around that.

You want the truth of the matter? Here it comes:

San Jose went sputtering into the playoffs and then got the worst possible opponent they could draw in Anaheim – a team that was on fire since the trade deadline, a team that didn’t have a favorable schedule to close out the year when it came to making the playoffs.

Yet, here they are and they’re on fire and they’ve got that savvy veteran leadership that the playoffs was meant for.

Oh yeah, and they’ve got a team that plays sick defense. Remember the 2007 team that won the Cup much to everyone’s chagrin? Yeah, they’re just like that team was only this time they’ve got a lot of younger guys up front, a lot of whom came up in the Ducks system and they know it backwards and forwards.

The Niedermayer brothers are still there. Teemu Selanne is still there. Physics egalitarian Chris Pronger is still there. Hell, even Jean-Sebastian Giguere is still there and he looks dashing in a baseball cap while Swiss freak Jonas Hiller backstops the Water Fowl.

They’re not your normal eighth seed – these guys are good and they’re happy staying under the radar. They’re also still douchebags – so they got that going for them.

Should the Ducks move on, and with the way San Jose is playing it seems foolish to think that it won’t, a potential match-up with Detroit (who is busy schooling Columbus on the finer points of how to play hockey) in the second round will go down as the best series in the entire playoffs.

Bank on it.

Then you’ve got the St. Louis Blues…

Let’s face it, I got Andy Murray’s team all sorts of wrong here back in October when I said that they didn’t need to even show up this year because they weren’t going to make the playoffs.

No, really, I did say that.

What I didn’t get wrong though was about Andy Murray himself. Let me cite noted hockey blogger Hockey Joe, author of Gross Misconduct about what he had to say about Andy Murray:


The best part of this team, however, is the head coach Andy Murray. Murray is a smart enough guy and is always able to get the best out of his teams. He did very solid work with the L.A. Kings until things turned horribly southward there and it’s that experience Murray will have to draw on for handling this Blues team.

Such grace in those words – someone should give that guy a pat on the back. Of course, the next phrase after that was:


The Blues will have a spurt or two in them where they’re able to man-up and pull a few surprises out and goaltender Manny Legace, or presumptive backup from Nashville Chris Mason, are more than capable of stealing a couple games throughout the season, but don’t buy what they’re selling. This team is bad.

Damn it all.

I should’ve been wiser to Manny Legace having a meltdown at some point this season and I should’ve stuck to my guns about Murray as a coach. I also should have been smarter about the youth on the Blues roster and respecting what they could bring to the table right away in a situation that would demand they do it sooner than later.

Some how, some way the Blues managed to end up sixth in the Western Conference and their reward for that was Roberto Luongo and the Freaky Swedes with their Bore You Into Submission brand of hockey.

Any other time in my hockey life I’d be openly rooting against Vancouver because they’re like ether on ice.

Not this time.

I’m spiteful.

I’m angry.

I’m vengeful with my words and my middle fingers.

The Blues screwed me out of going five for five on my pre-season prediction and now they’re paying for it.


Hey St. Louis! I got two words for ya!

Suck it.

As for Vancouver, a tune up agains the Blues in what basically boils down to a rough scrimmage is just what they needed. Hell, the Canucks are even getting over on trashing the Blues verbally too:

Embarrassing – glad to have the Canucks on my side in this one.

The Canucks are getting hot and they’re destined for a second round match-up with either Chicago or Calgary (Chicago leads the series 2-1) and that works out just fine since those two teams are going to beat each others brains in for a while, or at least be cheap-shotting pricks:

That sets things up rather nicely, eh?

04/15/2009

Coming Soon

I’m a slacker, I get it.

I spent too much time in D.C. drinking and carousing with friends and treating it like the end of the year party it’s meant to be and now I’m paying for it in the form of illness.

Whether it comes from spending a day and evening in Baltimore and breathing the air or from getting too close to some of the hippies from Vermont, is up for debate but there is going to be a cure for this maniacal head cold soon and with it will come:

The NHL Playoffs are coming up? Why do I not feel at all excited by this? I suppose I will analyze something about them at least. There’s only a few series that I find honestly intriguing this year and I’ll zero in on those.

Crosby haters/lovers be ready.

10/03/2008

Thanks For Playing – Part 3: St. Louis

I’ve picked on the Eastern Conference a bit and, believe me, there’s plenty of material to work with there, but it’s time to dig into the West. The Western Conference is a funny place this year because there’s only a couple of teams who I can say, right now, are done.

For the St. Louis Blues, they can take some solace in the fact that their season was done before their young, stud defenseman Erik Johnson was mysteriously injured on the golf course. How Johnson was hurt is a matter under speculation. Johnson says his foot got tangled up between the accelerator and the brake pedal and he denies vehemently that he got hurt playing this:

Now I’ll do the right thing and say I believe Johnson when he says he got hurt the way he got hurt, that’s fine. But if you want me to believe that a multi-talented NHL defenseman is that much of a klutz…that’s a harder sell. It’s a much harder sell than telling me that a 20 year-old was goofing around on the golf course with his buddies and managed to screw up big time and get injured in said goofing around.

That said, this injury only helps set the tone for the Blues this year. Sure, they’re playing in a division that generally is pretty weak aside from the overlords on the top from Detroit. This year is different. Chicago is the media darling for improvement, and rightfully so. Nashville has somehow miraculously made the playoffs the last four years, much due to most everyone else in the Central feeding them wins and consistency at the top with head coach Barry Trotz. Heck, even Columbus should be better this year provided Rick Nash stays healthy, Pascal Leclaire is as good as he showed last year, and everyone is fully bought into coach Ken Hitchcock’s brutally boring system.

St. Louis really is swimming upstream this season and they just don’t have much of anything to sustain themselves. Outside of Erik Johnson, along the blue line they’ve got Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman as their top defensemen and Jay McKee as their classy old veteran player (at 32 he’s the most veteran defenseman) who gets to show the rest of the guys in the locker room how it’s done, which surprisingly, will come in handy.

Jeremy Rutherford at the Morning Skate blog from STLToday.com outlined what the “grueling” pre-season has managed to do to the Blues defensive depth with the recent injury to Jeff Woywitka (no, that’s not the name of the guy Shia Lebeouf played in Transformers):

Pre-training camp lineup:
1. Eric Brewer
2. Barret Jackman
3. Jay McKee
4. Erik Johnson
5. Steve Wagner
6. Jeff Woywitka
7. Roman Polak
8. Jonas Junland
9. Alex Pietrangelo
10. Mike Weaver

Now, Pientrangelo or Weaver could be the sixth d-man on the roster on
opening night, Oct. 10.

Here’s a look:
1. Brewer
2. Jackman
3. McKee
4. Wagner
5. Polak
6. Pietrangelo
7. Weaver

Now, I know what you’re saying looking at those lists:


Who? What? Is this a joke? This team doesn’t play professional hockey.

Oh, but they do. At least in name they do.

Since I know you’re curious, the Pietrangelo being talked about is not goaltender Frank from the days of NHL yore, it’s his second-nephew Alex, the Blues first-round pick from this year’s draft.

In a perfect world, Blues General Manager would like Pietrangelo to get his feet wet in Peoria of the AHL, but with two of their original top six out for large chunk or the whole chunk of the season – trial by fire seems how it’ll go for Alex Pietrangelo. Mind you, I find nothing wrong at all with letting premiere talent getting started instantly in the pros, I just worry about having that premiere talent A) being defensemen and B) on a bad team.

Starting off your career with a -30 rating doesn’t do much to make one feel great about their own game or their future.

That said, the youth is going to be king in St. Louis and in this case, it’s not going to serve them very well because they don’t have the hugely talented offensive forwards that can jump right out and get things done instantly. Judging by what our friend Jeremy Rutherford has to say about the Blues forward set up… patience will be the thing to have if you’re a Blues Backer:

Paul Kariya – Patrik Berglund – David Perron

Keith Tkachuk – T.J. Oshie – David Backes

Lee Stempniak – Andy McDonald – Brad Boyes

D.J. King – Jay McClement – Yan Stastny/Cam Janssen/Chris Porter

The one “veteran” line you’ll have out there (that meaning a line full of guys that all have major NHL experience) is the line of Stempniak-McDonald-Boyes. Boyes is a 40-goal scorer and an example of why teams should make deals with the Boston Bruins. McDonald is the Stanley Cup winning center for the Anaheim Ducks who found his way to St. Louis when Brian Burke decided he’d rather have Doug Weight and his lower salary. Stempniak is a Dartmouth College player who has been one of their steadiest players the last few seasons yet doesn’t seem to bring in much of any respect.

You look at those first couple of lines and see some classic names in Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk. Tkachuk isn’t quite the force he was back about 10-15 years ago (he is 36 years-old after all), but he parked home 27 goals last season once again (he did the same the year before) and if nothing else, he’s consistent and he and Jay McKee can get some words in edgewise to teach these young whipper snappers a thing or two.


Jay McKee and Keith Tkachuk grow tired of the rest of the team not getting off their lawns.

Paul Kariya is another guy who you think of as old (he is 34) and probably on the backside of his career as a goal scorer. What you probably never realized about Paul’s career is that he’s a much better passer than he is a finisher. When he came out of the University of Maine (just ask Gary Thorne, he’ll gush just a little bit) in his one full season in Orono, Kariya netted 75 assists – mind you, it’s rare when college players get even 75 points (even scoring is down in college as it is the pros, for shame) nevermind 75 assists.

If the line Rutherford assembled for the Blues holds true, look for Kariya to be the true playmaker on that line with the 20 year-old Swede Patrik Berglund, playing in his first NHL season and 20 year-old David Perron, playing in his second NHL season. Berglund’s stats from Sweden indicate that he’s got equal touch scoring and passing and Perron looks to be more of a goal scorer in the NHL than anything else.

St. Louis is going to be a three-line team at best and should Oshie struggle alongside Tkachuk or get bumped down the depth chart, this team will struggle even more. Should that occur, you’ll then have a top-loaded first line presuming that Brad Boyes or McDonald would be placed with Kariya and Backes or Perron.

The fourth-line for this team will be out there simply to start shenanigans, especially on nights where D.J. King and Cam Janssen are teamed up together. In fact, I predict this line will get a fair share of work against Detroit and Chicago simply to just start nonsense.

The best part of this team, however, is the head coach Andy Murray. Murray is a smart enough guy and is always able to get the best out of his teams. He did very solid work with the L.A. Kings until things turned horribly southward there and it’s that experience Murray will have to draw on for handling this Blues team. The Blues will have a spurt or two in them where they’re able to man-up and pull a few surprises out and goaltender Manny Legace, or presumptive backup from Nashville Chris Mason, are more than capable of stealing a couple games throughout the season, but don’t buy what they’re selling. This team is bad.

This team in the super-competitive Western Conference has neither the horses to withstand the season nor the summary talent to get through their bear of a division. In fact, the only thing Blues fans have to be happy about this year is the fact that for 15 games through the season they’re going to look really awesome losing:

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