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.
This isn’t meant to say the River Rats are a tremendous success in Albany. They aren’t. The River Rats have consistently been one of the poorest draws in the AHL and are right there again this year averaging less than 3,500 fans per game in an arena that, for minor league hockey purposes, holds about 9,000. That attendance number is what you can expect to see at a 3/4 filled RPI hockey game or a Fire Marshall breaking things up and evacuating the building situation at Messa Rink for a Union game.
Obviously this move for the Hurricanes makes sense because it brings their minor league operations near by and paying to fly guys all over the place out of Albany is pretty expensive, despite the fact that Albany’s airport is “international.”
So what do the River Rats do now? The first thing to do would be to call the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks lost their affiliate after last season, the infamous Iowa Chops, after the owners in Iowa fell out of favor with the Ducks over money squabbles. Go figure. This year, Ducks prospects have been shared all over the AHL in an effort to keep their players playing and in shape. Obviously the major issue here for the Ducks (and for Albany) is the geography. Anaheim and Albany are quite a distance from each other although Albany is closer to Anaheim than Portland, Maine – a former home for the Ducks.
The upside for the Ducks is that, like the Chops, the River Rats is an extremely unique moniker with oodles of marketing capability, none of which any of the brain trust in Albany has ever been effectively been able to use. Perhaps with a little help and swagger from folks in southern California, the ad wizards in Albany can figure out what the hell to do with hockey. It’s either that or give up the market completely to the Adirondack Phantoms who actually seem to care about hockey. The Phantoms averaging 4,303 per game in the tightly packed Glens Falls Civic Center (capacity: 4,800).
Whatever the solution is for the River Rats, the time to act is now. It’s unknown as yet what the Ducks’ plans are for an AHL team next year and Albany would offer them a ready-made situation to make things work. That is, unless, the folks in Albany are just willing to let hockey walk away just like they did with the ECAC Tournament. There’s surely going to be plenty of other turnover in the AHL during the off-season, but this situation with the River Rats and the city of Charlotte is one that’s come out of nowhere.
The Times Union’s Pete Dougherty has gotten on the case and done some sniffing around to find out what’s up with the River Rats and he may have gotten down to it, and the news isn’t good for Albany minor league hockey fans. According to a report he’s found (the same “report” I found mind you), the River Rats are going to be sold.
Garen Szablewski, president and CEO of the River Rats, said that owner Walter Robb is “looking at number of different options in terms of affiliations and future of the franchise,” but he is unaware that any deal has been struck.
It reads like Pete Dougherty is taking as many leaps of faith as the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander is taking in guessing what the next move will be in saying that Rats owner Walter Robb will sell off to someone that will move the team out of town, but it’s not like that hasn’t happened to Albany once before (hello Albany Firebirds).
I know this is the day when I should be wrapping up Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and getting psyched along with everyone else about a Game 7, but during last night’s game news came down that probably doesn’t hit on most of your radars about the passing of someone who I had the pleasure to watch quite a bit here at home and monitor his career from afar.
I can’t say that I knew Nathan personally and I only know him as someone on the ice who always impressed me with his playing ability for teams that sometimes failed to support him with the goals needed to win. A good friend of mine blogging for the St. Cloud Times offers a a better and more personalized view of Nathan Marsters.
It pained me to try to reach him as best as I could while he’s on the move supporting our country in Iraq and proved why sometimes technology while helpful doesn’t offer the personal touch necessary to pass along terrible news.
Marsters was a four-year starter during his time in Troy, NY with the RPI Engineers, a credit to his game. At 6’4″ 200 he was a big, lanky goaltender and presented an intimidating figure on which opposing shooters had to deal with.
His tenure in Troy saw him put up stellar numbers three out of his four seasons (his junior year being the lone hiccup) and his senior season he saved the best for last finishing with a 21-13-1 record with a .922 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against, earning career marks in wins and goals against that year.
Round about 2006, Marsters got the call while playing for the Portland Pirates, then a Mighty Ducks of Anaheim affiliate. It would be a brief moment and there wouldn’t be any time seen on the ice, but the Ducks thought enough of him to call him up while Jean-Sebastien Giguere was out with an injury and Marsters dressed as the backup goalie for Game 1 of Anaheim’s Western Quarterfinal game against Calgary.
One cup of coffee had and in playoff time no-less, not a bad credit for the résumé. That 2005-2006 season in Portland for the Pirates, he went 23-9-2 with a 3.10 GAA and .900 save percentage. Marsters would get one more turn with Portland the follow season but for only a few games. From there, he moved on to the ECHL and this past season saw some work in the German Professional League playing in nine games for the Krefeld Penguins.
That’s the rough road of being a professional hockey player and the part of Nathan’s story that really brings this all home for me. He was a guy just about my age trying to do whatever it is that he can to make it stick and to make it count and maybe catch lightning in a bottle and in one, horrible instant it’s done and over with.
For Nathan, he was trying to be one of those guys that I hope to someday write about on the big scene and going anywhere he could just to keep playing.
To keep trying.
Hearing of this loss has really thrown me for a loop for a handful of reasons which would be immensely disrespectful to bring up here. For now though, it’s time to remember one of hockey’s fallen and honor him.
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.
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.
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 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!
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:
Never before I have I rooted for the Dallas Stars so hard to just win a game and after watching tonight’s God-awful Game 6 between the Ducks and the Stars, my goodness, I am really sorry that one of these teams had to move on to the next round. Dreadful.
Someone should pony up the Pepto Bismol for Montreal and San Jose. Boston has decided to wake up and proceeded to hit Les Habitents in the mouth and then proceed to live up to being at least partially French and are laying down and taking it. Losing 5-1 is one thing, sure. Everyone has a bad game – however, Game 6 was the most lifeless performance I’ve seen out of a team that only lost by one goal.
If the Habs don’t get some shock therapy, there about to get the Julien debt repaid to them for what happened a few seasons ago. You know, back when Boston’s reaction to losing to Montreal in seven games after being up 3 games to 1 was to run their captain and best player out of town and then trade him for magic beans. What would Montreal do if they lose this Game 7? It’s tough to say, but if you thought the Boston media was hard on Sinden and Company then, you ain’t seen nothing Jacques!
As for the Sharks… yikes. This is what most top teams feared about dealing with Calgary. They’ve got the guy who should be a Hart Trophy candidate in Jarome Iginla and a goalie who is more than capable of making a couple of goals stand up to be too much in Miikka Kiprusoff. Teams have advanced deep in the playoffs on less than a hot goalie and an MVP-like player – San Jose at least gets the advantage of having Game 7 at home. It would be a shame to see a team with as much talent as the Sharks to get bounced this early and it would, again, speak volumes about how differently hockey is played in the Western Conference, and I say that as coyly as possible.
There’s one other series still going on and they apparently put it on the NBA Playoff schedule thinking it was the Wizards and the 76ers. That said, the folks in Washington, D.C. weren’t expecting the Caps to make the playoffs, nevermind to have home ice, so Wizards games and concerts have helped to spread out the schedule. Philly leads 3-2 and will look to end things at home in the Wachovia Center. This series has seen the officials get influenced very easily by the home crowds, which I suppose could be a coincidence, but I’m not buying it. Calls have been brutally slanted towards the home teams and both home crowds have been especially frantic. Washington cannot allow the Flyers any space and must knock them around. Getting Ovechkin on the scoresheet more often might help too.
The Flyers have to keep goading Washington into taking really stupid penalties and they’ve been playing the perfect way against the mostly inexperienced Capitals. I said this one would go seven, but I had anticipated home teams holding serve throughout this series. Washington laying an egg at home in one game may turn out to be the killer for them.
They’re at it again. Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe nearly set the city of Buffalo on fire when he attempted to sign Sabres restricted free agent Thomas Vanek to a seven year $50 million dollar contract. The Sabres warned Lowe (and any other GM who would dare) repeatedly that they would match any offer made to Vanek, especially after losing they’re top two guys in Drury and Briere via the unrestricted route.
Kevin Lowe attempted to call Darcy Regier’s bluff except that Regier wasn’t bluffing at all and a preturbed Sabres front office called a press conference almost immediately after Edmonton had signed Vanek to the massively insane offer sheet to say that they were indeed retaining their (hopeful) soon-to-be superstar winger.
Kevin Lowe, not satisfied with doing nothing on the unrestricted free agent market has again gone diving in head first into the restricted pool, this time signing Anaheim Ducks winger Dustin Penner to a five year $21.25 million dollar offer sheet. Again, the Oilers are obliterating the salary market in order to get some action going and maybe score a player – but right now, it seems more likely that Kevin Lowe is just being an agitator and gunning for guys that teams would rather not lose and upping the ante to put the uncomfortable bite on these franchises finances for the years to come.
It had been theorized to me that this was what Lowe was doing with the Vanek signing – blow up the salary market on one guy to really put the screws to teams they’ll be competing with later on in the unrestricted market. It’s an interesting theory, but imagine if the Sabres had not bothered to match Vanek’s offer and if they were also foolishly saddled with this latest Penner deal. You’d have a combined 12 years and $70+ million dollars tied up in TWO players.
Now, I know that Edmonton may be getting sold to a Canadian billionaire not named Jim Balsillie away from their current gang of 34 owners and that he’s promised to spend up to the heights of the salary cap to bring a winner back to the Canadian Rockies hinterlands of Alberta. That said, even I’d think that a shrewd businessman like Daryl Katz wouldn’t go quite this hog wild, especially for a guy like Dustin Penner, who is mainly making his bank based on the success of the Ducks last season and his relative youth (He’s currently 24 years-old and his stats for 2006-07 are: 82 games; 29 goals 16 assists for 45 points with 58 PIM and -2 ).
Is $4+ million dollars the going rate for a third line winger these days? Jeez, financial hard times have really struck the NHL once again. I haven’t seen this foolish of a deal since the Bruins negotiated against themselves for the right to pay Martin Lapointe $5 million a year and take him away from the Red Wings, the same “fiscally irresponsible” Detroit Red Wings whose final offer to Lapointe that off-season was for $3.5 million per year.
If Edmonton were really out to screw with the other teams in the NHL, and mind you testing Brian Burke’s nerve I am all for, but why not take a shot at a guy that would both fit into the Edmonton system instantly and thrive all the while really putting the screws to a stingy, joyless miser? Of course, I’m talking about the Oilers making a run at restricted free agent Zach Parise from the Devils.
Parise is clearly a budding young offensive star who will unfortunately be stifled if he’s made to stay in New Jersey under the iron fist of hockey’s Third Reich led by Heir Lamoriello. What good is it to have an up and coming young guy like Parise in a nothing place like New Jersey, where the fans could give a crap else and the team’s management has been actively been hating their own fanbase and market for the last 15 years? It serves no purpose and Kevin Lowe would be doing the league a favor by trying to sign Parise to an obnoxious offer sheet that Lou Lamoriello would be tested to the “n”th degree as to whether or not to match.
Then again, Lamoriello would call in one of his favors from Asleep At The Wheel Bettman and find a way to circumvent the rules and regulations once again. Jim Fahey and Alexander Korolyuk agree at least.
The point of his column was that you didn’t have to like the Buffalo Sabres, you didn’t have to root for them, the city or the players – but what you should be doing is rooting for what they represent. Some folks pushed aside what he wrote as campaigning for the American team against the Canadian team – somehow, someway nationalism rears its ridiculous head into the discussion when it comes to hockey all the time.
What Cox was saying here, though, was that the way the Sabres play is the reason to root them on because the way they play is representative of how the NHL should be played. Fast skating, free-wheeling, high octane – you know, the way it used to be played back in the archaic 1980s.
Of course, now after witnessing the semi-nationally broadcasted torturous re-murder of the NHL that is being disguised as the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, perhaps some folks will realize the error of their way for pshawing Cox’s column. Game 1 saw the abuse of the ignorance upon officials to call obstruction and while goals were scored, some folks sat on their hands and said, “Well, at least goals are still being scored while these teams continue to skate in each other’s way.”
Game 2 proved how quickly things can go from awful to nightmarishly horrific. The first goal of the game which proved to be the game-winning tally wasn’t scored until there were just under six minutes left to play in the third period. The Ducks continued to employ a suffocating neutral-zone trap that prevented the Senators from skating freely between the blue lines and then forced them to again and again dump the puck into the zone before gaining the line. Having to continually do this followed up with the defensemen stepping up and impeding the progress of the attackers (without penalty of course) made sure to earn Ottawa all of 16 shots on goal in the game leading J.S. Giguere to his easiest shutout since the 2003 Finals (forever to be known here as Hell on Ice).
With the Ducks throwing up hockey’s version of the Berlin Wall and using their defensive trap positioning to pick off passes and catch up to dump-ins before the Senators could even gain the zone (thanks to rampant, uncalled interference), Anaheim was able to long-distance pepper shots at Ray Emery. The game-winning goal was scored by Samuel Pahlsson thanks to a defensive “oopsie” courtesy of both Daniel Alfredsson and Joe Corvo. What kind of “oopsie” was it? Not interfering with anyone and standing everyone up illegally at the blue line. Give Pahlsson a ton of credit, he scored on a great shot – but that said, the Ducks are playing one style of hockey that we’d seen year in and year out while the Senators (no angels themselves in this regard, just ask Buffalo) are at least showing some signs of wanting to play hockey the right way.
Well that is until Bryan Murray saw that the Ducks are getting away with murder and has vowed to play the same way back at them.
What my main worry here with the Ducks making it this far was that teams next year would follow their lead and go back to old, bad, sport-ruining habits. Now it appears that we don’t even have to wait that long. Thanks a lot.
Although Ottawa coach Bryan Murray didn’t complain about the Ducks’ obstructing his team as he did the past two days, forward Dany Heatley said the Ducks are playing them differently than any of their three previous playoff opponents.
“No question. No question,” Heatley said. “They do a good job, whether it’s subtle or whether it’s blatant. They definitely play a real hold-up style, defensive style. We just have to find ways to battle through it.”
Isn’t that supposed to be illegal under the new rules?
“Yeah, it is,” Heatley said.
Now, I’m not going to just cite one quote and tell you that the sky is falling – I’ll just ask you to go ahead and re-watch those first two games and tell me what you think. Now does this mean the rest of the series will be unwatchable? Not really.
In the Calgary-Tampa Bay final three years ago we saw two terrible and nearly unwatchable games played in Games 1 and 2. Of course, the hype going into that final was that neither of these teams play the trap and we’d see the return to good old fashioned hockey. What happened then, of course, is that both teams were terrified of each other’s offensive weapons, got scared of taking any chances at all and bored everyone to tears by trying to out-trap and out-interfere each other. Thankfully that series went seven games and games 3-7 made up for everything else (for the most part).
If you’re going to tell me I should have hope that things will turn around in this series and that we may still see some exciting end-to-end style hockey though…you won’t catch me holding my breath as Anaheim has been doing this kind of crap all season and now moreso in the playoffs (with the added flair of being dirty as well) without being check-mated by the League. So now Ottawa in desperation is going to follow them down into the sewer and play things the same way because when in Rome you do as the Romans do. In this case, the Romans want us to be bored and not see a single compelling thing ever again.
So the Campbell Conference Western Conference Finals ended earlier this week, and the NHL in their infinite ability to do everything smartly won’t be starting the Stanley Cup Finals until this coming Monday.
Leaving this amount of time between when the last Conference Final ends and the Cup Finals begins leaves hockey fans bored and wondering about what’s next. This year, it happens to be convenient that the Finals will leave fans in the same condition as well. Very bored and very eager for the next season to begin already. I’ve already sounded off about the NHL officials both big and on the ice about how they’re letting every bad old habit come back in a big way with regard to the rules and their interpretations and I’m sure here in the Finals we’ll see a continuation of the lack of care for how the game is called.
I’m also sure we’ll see epically low ratings since it involves a Canadian team (sorry Canada, Americans in populous and buoyant TV markets really just don’t care about your teams) and a team that has no genuine following and would still play second-fiddle to the L.A. Kings if both were successful. Then again, this is the NHL and we don’t care about no stinking ratings. That’s why they’re on Versus in the first place. What I’m most eager to see for next season is to see how many teams come out next year looking to mimic the style played by the Ducks so that they too can be successful in the “I’m Looking The Other Way – I See Nothing!” NHL.
If things occur like they have going into this year where officials got back on the bandwagon for calling everything and then eventually giving up because they’re tired of the complaining and bitching, we’ll make it about 20 games into the year before the dump-and-chase-and-clog-up-everything-on-skates style is completely returned and the norm. The NHL made it to just after the All-Star Break this year before this horrible transformation occurred so it’ll likely take half as long this time around as I’m sure you’ll have a handful of teams airing grievances with the Commissioner and Stephen Walkom that we saw the Dark Ages style of hockey come back with reckless abandon in the playoffs and that in order to make sure the game doesn’t go back to sucking huge gonads again, they better go back and read through the rule book.
If you see Pat Quinn get hired on as a coach again and the Columbus Blue Jackets (coached by Jake and the Fatman stand-in Ken Hitchcock) take off to success next season, you’ll understand that the NHL has truly learned nothing and don’t care about their future. While I can’t say I’ve got a huge beef with the Senators appearance in the Finals, don’t think that they aren’t guilty offenders here. Ottawa too has made it a point to play a swarming, stop offense at all costs kind of hockey as well with one glaring difference: They attack on offense. The Sens won’t just look to sit back and wait for the power play to put goals on the board, and while they can do that well (just ask Lindy Ruff about the Sens power play…actually don’t do that if you value your life) it doesn’t behoove the Senators just to sit back and wait for the power play to happen. Sure, you can do that against Anaheim since they will take stupid penalties and every now and again an official will actually call interference – take nothing for granted since the NHL is careening back to their bad days.
I will say this though. If you like the game of hockey, and you liked how it was played in the 1980s and the 1990s version of hockey bored you to tears and made you pray for a lockout…your rooting interest in the Finals is easy.