Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/29/2009

Armchair GM: Civil War

Last week it was Hockey Wilderness in-fighting as the matchup had me pitted against the head of operations, Nathan.  Instead of it being a spirited Civil War battle, it turned out to be the Fantasy Hockey version of Sherman’s march to the sea.

fantasy3

Nathan’s squad of Yahoo-drafted fantasy mercenaries did manage to win a few categories and prevent my team from making things really awful (the lead was 11-1 before the weekend) and it also shows that fantasy hockey isn’t completely nerd-proof since categories like game-winning goals are things you just have to hope get you wins.

On the other side of things:  PHEW!

Winning assists and shots on goal by one as well as power play assists by two are tenuous, yet celebrated, victories.  Sure losing goals and power play goals by one is a kick in the teeth, but hey, stuff happens.  The goaltending did the trick for me and new goaltending acquisition Scott Clemmensen did all that he could to try and throw the numbers off completely managing (in his only start of the week) to give up two goals on three shots before being pulled for Tomas Vokoun (who was supposed to have the night off).

As for how the matchup broke down comparatively:

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General Ulysses S. Grant (MVP of the week): How much fantasy hockey love can I heap upon Dallas Stars winger James Neal?  The guy has been a beast and a three goal, two assist week with 4 PIM and 12 shots on goal is pretty awesome.  Now if only I could get some of those goals to be game winners… Oh wait, he did that tonight against Toronto.  Chew on that Second City Hockey.

General William “Tecumseh” Sherman (Supporting the Romp): Give it up for L.A. King Drew Doughty and his five assists and +3 rating, a rating that helped balance out Kimmo Timonen’s -3 for the week.  Sidney Crosby also gets credit for being himself pulling down two goals and two assists as well as 11 shots on goal.

General George Armstrong Custer (Least Valuable Player): It’s tough to be less valuable than Kimmo Timonen is right now, but getting little to nothing of value from defensemen is semi-expected.  A -3 rating, four PIMs and two shots on goal is pretty lame though.  That said, Paul Martin did less than that and that’s why he’s been replaced by Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.  What do I expect from Mitchell?  PIMs and the occasional point or two as well as not being a +/- nightmare.

hockeywilderness-large VS. secondcity-lg

The Next Battle of Big Horn (As written like a WWE wrestler promo):

I’m looking your way Chicago.  You hear me Second City Hockey? You guys in Blackhawks land might “Commit to the Indian” but I commit to handing your team a whooping.  This very week on this very Internet in this very Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league, all of SBN is going to see what happens when the Frontiersmen run wild on you.

07/18/2009

New Faces In New Places: Smorgasbord

After what a rousing hit the last set of premonition photos were with Tampa Bay and Washington…

…Wait, what’s that Professor Frink?

Ahh, yes, good to see yours is working. Well played, sir. Glavin!

Since folks aren’t overly entertained by the Lightning nor the Capitals it was high time to step it up in a big way. Again big thanks to EA Sports and XBox Live for providing the means to whet all of your appetites for the upcoming season.

This time the top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft makes his (sort of) video game debut, the New York Rangers unveil an entirely new lineup, Professor Pronger dons the black and orange, Nikolai Khabibulin does his best Andy Moog impression and a guy lets his new paycheck commit to the Indian in Chicago.

I’m going to let these photos appear to be a bit smaller on the page here because there are A LOT of them, but as always, feel free to click on them to make them reasonably life size on your screen.


2009 #1 Draft Pick Jonathan Tavares slips around 2009 #3 Draft Pick Matt Duchene.


This will not end well for virtual Marian Hossa as Chris Pronger steps up in the slot to greet him.


Professor Pronger stays in form: Elbows up at all times


Poise. Grace. Steadiness. Ray Emery. Wait, why are you laughing?


It’s John Madden doing what he does best.


Ian Laperriere was called in as a witness in Daniel Carcillo’s assault case (background) against Niklas Hjalmarsson.


Tomas Kopecky deals out some beach justice to Chris Pronger.


Marian Gaborik shows how far into the defensive zone he’ll ever go.


Nikolai Khabibulin stones Marian Gaborik in close. Gaborik pulls groin in process.


That’s just Donald being Donald.


Matt Gilroy shows the rest of the team how to play defense correctly. Take notes Roszival!


How do you know its a video game? When Ales Kotalik is trying to play some defense.


Christopher Higgins is just playing it out until the post-game party starts.


Hey look! It’s those two guys that got traded for Ryan Smyth!


What Dwayne Roloson doesn’t know is that he’s wearing Tommy Salo’s number and he’ll have to start more games than not. Let’s see how he reacts…

07/11/2009

Sheer Madness

If I sat here and wrote something psychotic about every idiotic deal that has been signed since the start of the July 1st NHL Free Agency free-for-all I’d never stop writing.

Ever.

So what did I do instead? I holed up in a bunker while the NHL contract nukes dropped and now that nuclear winter has settled in and things are cooling off (after all the biggest name left to go after is Alex Tanguay), went to New York City to take in some baseball games and now sit here and wait for the NHL schedule to come out so in-season road trips can be planned.

Yeah, it’s hockey’s off-season all right.

What’s particularly special about this off-season is how some teams seem to think the fountain of money is never going to run dry and how the salary cap managed to stay in basic neutral (with some help from the NHL Players Association) despite grim financial stories flying in from around the league’s warmer climes.

Chicago appears to be going for it all in the 2009-2010 season even in spite of having three key young players eligible for restricted free agency next season. An epic contract to Marian Hossa followed up by a potential paperwork snafu that lead into Chicago locking up their cast of restricted free agents this year has made Chicago’s salary cap in the seemingly doomed-for-dropping 2010-2011 season an incredibly amazing storyline that we’re going to have to wait a full year for.

Let’s hope this plays out like an old school Heinz ketchup commercial.

That Matt LeBlanc… He’ll become something someday.

James O’Brien over at Cycle Like The Sedins did an epic, and I do mean epic, job of breaking down Chicago’s hopes and dreams in what they hope is the post-coitus afterglow of the team’s first Stanley Cup since the 1960s.

I’ll give you the punchline of one of James’ scenarios in hopes that it’ll tickle you in dirty places and motivate you to click the link to his full rundown that I’ve so nicely provided for you.


d) So, if the Blackhawks lived in a dream world in which they could rid themselves of Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp …

… while signing Kane, Toews AND Keith to trio of bargain contracts …

They would have five forwards and three defensemen for $30 million. This would give them $20 million to fill (at the minimum) seven forward spots, three defensemen and two goalies. To ice a hockey team, they would have approximately $1.67 million per roster spot.

Without a goalie. Without even two full lines of forwards or defense.

This is if the Blackhawks unload a murderer’s row of idiotic contracts.

Even if this situation played out with the current cap, they’d have $2.16 million per open spot.

And this the DREAM scenario.

How boned are the Blackhawks if Cristobal Huet, Corey Crawford or Antti Niemi can’t carry them to the Stanley Cup this year? “Pretty damn boned” is my amateur in-the-basement assessment.

The one pretty bow I can tie around Dale Tallon’s neck for this incredibly short-sighted and reckless means to win it all is that he’s at least being ballsy enough to say, “Screw it, we’re going for it all and don’t give a damn.” It’s really ballsy, but it’s also epically freaking stupid.

Jonathan Toews is their captain, Patrick Kane is the face of the franchise and Duncan Keith is a borderline Norris Trophy candidate and they’re ALL ripe for the picking next offseason and at least one of them is likely done in Chicago after this season.

That, my friends, is mind blowing.

After all, this kind of stupid isn’t at all like what New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather has done. You know Slats, he’s the guy who just a couple years ago signed both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to ridiculous virtually identical $7 million dollar per year contracts that don’t run out until the sun goes supernova.

Glen Sather gave Rangers fans hope for all of one day that he had learned the error of his ways when he packaged up Scott Gomez and some never-will-be prospects to the Montréal Canadiens for Christopher Higgins and two semi-stud prospects. Higgins was a restricted free agent waiting to be signed and off went over $7 million dollars per year until 2013-2014 from the ledger.

An unbelievably stupid move for Habs GM Bob Gainey and a brilliant stroke of genius for Glen Sather to pull one over on a savvy general manager in his own right in Gainey.

Then July 1st happened and Sather used all of that new found cap space on a guy who tweaks and twerks his groin more than just about anyone that doesn’t play goal in the league in Marian Gaborik. Goal scoring was something the Rangers severely lacked and they went right out and got themselves a guy that will score in bunches. He’s a legitimate scoring superstar who fell out of favor in Minnesota with the Wild for both not doing what coach Jacques Lemaire wanted all the time and for being an oft-injured bitch that seemed to disappear in the playoffs.

Of course when you’re the only scoring talent on a playoff team that is otherwise offensively neutered it’s not hard to just shut down one guy.

Huh… Maybe the Rangers weren’t paying attention to that. Nor did they seem to pay attention to Gaborik’s games played over the last few seasons in Minnesota. In his last four years Gaborik has played in 65, 48, 77, and 17 games respectively.

When he plays, he’s dynamic – flat out. He’s an incredible offensive talent. Problem is keeping him healthy and if fans in Minneapolis grew frustrated and impatient with Gaborik’s inability to stay on the ice… Well, New York City won’t be rolling out the red carpet for him everywhere.

What’s incredible about this is that Gaborik managed to get an even bigger contract out of the Rangers than the one they gave up in Scott Gomez and one that ends the same year after 2014. If Gaborik’s next five years go erratically with the games played the way his last four in Minnesota have Rangers fans are going to go out of their minds. Thankfully for them the Islanders and Devils have done next to nothing to improve themselves this off-season.

Even more fun for Rangers fans is the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers managed to only get scummier by adding Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere and reverting to their old side show ways in goal bringing Ray Emery back from Russia and then getting former backup Brian Boucher to back him up.

At least they didn’t lock Professor Elbows up to an obnoxious deal that they’ll never be able to get rid of now that he’s in his waning years.

Wait, they DID do that. From Ken Campbell:


When Pronger signed his seven-year contract extension Tuesday, it was front-loaded the way almost all long-term deals are. The extension kicks in for the 2010-11 season and carries a salary cap hit of $4.92 million per season. Pronger will make $7.6 million in each of the first two seasons of the deal, then is scheduled to make $7.2 million, $7 million and $4 million in the next three seasons before dropping to just $525,000 in Years 6 and 7 of the deal, which are the 2015-16 and ’16-17 seasons.

Now, nobody in the game expects Pronger to fulfill the terms of this contract. With Pronger earning $33.4 million of the $34.45 million in the first five years of the deal, it’s a virtual certainty Pronger will retire after the 2014-15 season.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Flyers would be on the hook for the entire $4.92 million cap hit for each of the next seven seasons regardless of whether Pronger retires or not, because the contract kicks in after Pronger turns 35 (he turns 35 this October). But there is speculation the Flyers believe that since Pronger actually signed the extension prior to turning 35, they might not have to absorb the cap hit if he retires…

But the spirit of the provision is that it governs contracts that kick in when a player turns 35, not when it is signed.

“The league has sent out memo after memo after memo alerting teams about this,” said one former NHL executive. “If this is what they’re doing, they’re trying to drive a 747 through a loophole.”

The league has yet to hear from the Flyers about this and considers it to be unambiguous. And given that Holmgren has said the Flyers are willing to live with the negative ramifications of signing Pronger to a seven-year deal, it might not be an issue.

Whoops. It’s almost as if Bobby Clarke is still the guy running the show there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to just blow through this next season just to see how things go in the NHL. After all, the league that beats them over the head for attention and media glitz and glam, the NBA, just had their salary cap drop by a cool million dollars recently and they’re supposedly awash in cash.

That makes the situation for the NHL, a league without a blockbuster media contract, even stickier and one that bears watching.

Gary Bettman may have been playing the part of Baghdad Bob and saying that everything is OK while we can all see what’s on the horizon, but I will enjoy playing the part of Nero while Rome burns mixed in with my consistent ability to keep telling the Emperor that he’s got no clothes on.

Gross.

05/25/2009

Keeping It Real – The Day After

It’s funny, I figured that by citing the Chappelle Show in my last entry about how Brian Campbell was maybe the last guy to step up and start swearing vengeance was going to go over poorly, but Ike th didn’t think it would actually play out lie skits do on the show.

So how did Brian Campbell and the Chicago Blackhawks enact their revenge on Niklas Kronwall and the wildly short-handed Detroit Red Wings (who were missing Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper in Game 4)?

Well…

First there’s this. You’ll see Brian Campbell in this video pinched in too far on the power play (he’s behind the Detroit net!) leaving Cam Barker by himself as the Red Wings break shorthanded the other way two-on-one.

Then there’s this one where Campbell is used as a screen by Johan Franzen who proceeds to shoot the puck BETWEEN HIS LEGS and over the shoulder of Cristobal Huet.

And then there’s Valtteri Filppula who scores off a rebound untouched after Marian Hossa uncorks one from the left wing side.

Who jumped out on Filppula after he gained the zone in the first place?

You guessed it… Frank Stallone.

Er, Brian Campbell.

What makes this all the more amusing is that the third goal, a power play goal for Filppula (one of three power play goals the Red Wings would score in a 6-1 rout of the Blackhawks) is that apparently Joel Quenneville had some issues with how the Red Wings got that power play in the first place.

That’s right folks, the worst call in the history of sports. I can’t rip into Quenneville as well as his own fans can, so leave it to the folks at Second City Hockey to step in and do the job for me:

Joel Quenneville – You were brought in to keep your cool and provide a guiding hand for a young team. Your players saw you lose your composure, and promptly followed suit. That outburst was unacceptable.

Unacceptable, immature, and about a thousand other adjectives you could throw in there. As for me, let me just offer up one suggestion for Joel Quenneville:


Wire Brushes: Guaranteed to get the sand out of your vadge or your money back!

Use that in your nether regions to get the sand out of the most delicate of crevices. Perhaps you could get away with whining like that in just about any other series.

Not this one though, not after what happened with Niklas Kronwall in Game 3. This is frustrated petulance at its ugliest out of Coach Quenneville. It also allows me to quote myself:


Hyperbole is a dangerous verbal weapon because it often renders the user stupid.

As for Martin Havlat, he played in this game.

Ballsy? You bet.

Gutsy? Absolutely!

Stupid? You bet your sweet ass it was and here’s why:

You won’t get a closer view of that, but that was Havlat getting taken out by Brad Stuart. He left the ice and did not return to the game after that. What Havlat is doing out there in the first place will remain a mystery as Coach Quenneville already made it a point to cover his tracks and proclaim that all was well.

You can lie to us all you want, coaches do it all the time, but you can’t lie to us about this one because this is what Marty Havlat looked like in Game 3:


The guy from The Karate Kid was heard yelling, “Get him a body bag! YEAH!”

You cannot tell me he had it all together enough to be even thought of as remotely ready to play. Jesus, looking at this picture hurts my head and I’ve never had a concussion. James Mirtle at From The Rink has a great entry just on this angle and whether or not Havlat should have played.

James hits it home on this closing thought:


He’s fine. He’s ready. He’s all right.

Perhaps. But he didn’t look all right, at least to my eyes. I wish the question was asked if Havlat had suffered a concussion and what treatment, exactly, he’s had in the interim. It’s not impossible that he recovered just fine from having his bell rung a few days earlier, but why then does he have to leave the game after taking a routine check early in the game?

Isn’t that cause for concern? Perhaps especially so for a player with Havlat’s extensive injury history?

You bet your ass it’s a cause for concern and the question of whether or not Havlat BS’ed his way into the lineup or the Blackhawks trainers and Quenneville would willfully ignore Havlat’s condition is something that I hope the beat writers will try to find out more about.

As for this series, for all of Brian Campbell’s talk of the Red Wings being a “gutless” team, the ‘Hawks have a lot of soul-searching to do after putting in a putrid performance like that in a game that was set up for them on a platter to take. Two of the best players in the NHL, nevermind just on the Red Wings, the entire league were in the press box for this game as well as one of the top defensive forwards and Chicago comes out with that performance?

Brutal. Simply brutal and a truly gutless performance out of this team that was too caught up in seeking redemption for a guy who ended up wrongly suiting up for the game. I’ll let the guys at Hockee Night wrap this one up for how Chicago “performed” in this crucial Game 4:


Christobal Huet. What a sieve. He probably wound up with sunburn fro the red light. He gave up a lot of goals, and none of them were particularly tough. He was absolutely brutal.

VERSTEEG! When you’re down 4, you don’t skate out of the box and get chippy in open ice. That’s dumbshit hockey, and that isn’t what makes a good team a top team. Oh yeah, calling out guys when you’re down 5? Nice set of balls you grew there, kid.

The Hawks’ passing. They’ve gotten this far by opening up the ice with stretch passing, but the Wings have just run a passing clinic, everything has been tape-to-tape. At times the Wings looked like they were doing some Harlem Globetrotters stuff out on the ice, moving the puck at will.

Things are not looking up for Chicago and this is setting up for a blowout of even more embarrassing fashion for the Blackhawks because if you can’t nut up and strap it on for a game where the other team is ridiculously shorthanded from the get-go… Then what game can you get up for?

05/23/2009

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

By now you’ve already seen the Niklas Kronwall hit on Martin Havlat from Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

Far be it from me to prevent you from viewing it all over again.

The last time I saw a look on a guys face like that was a couple years ago…

Oddly enough, that’s the last time Brian Campbell ever checked a player. Even stranger still, that hit looks pretty similar to the one Kronwall delivered to Havlat.

I bring this up because in the press conferences today, Brian Campbell had something to say about Niklas Kronwall and his bodycheck:


“I thought [Kronwall] jumped,” Campbell said. “Marty didn’t have the puck, I thought his forearm came up high. I thought it was gutless all around. [Kronwall’s] done it hundreds of times in the league and it seems like nothing ever happens. He could as easily came in and used his shoulder and hit him with his side and it would have been fine. Instead he comes up and explodes with his fists and his forearms and jumps. I just don’t understand it. It’s unacceptable and it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened with that guy.”

Hundreds of times? Yikes. Hyperbole is a dangerous verbal weapon because it often renders the user stupid.

As for what the Blackhawks plan to do about it, Campbell added this juicy tid-bit.


“These guys gotta pay for it, guys that are taking shots to the head. It’s unacceptable, and it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened with that guy.”

All right, I get it.

A guy lays a clean hit, and this one certainly was, yet people are going to blow it up into something worse. It just follows suit with everything else that’s gone on this year and allows Mike Milbury to hang on to the one thing he’s ever been right about.

Oh sure, some folks are arguing that it’s interference, others are arguing that it’s charging – some folks even whipped out the rule book thinking that it helps solidify their case that’s turned into an Abraham Zapruder-inspired Internet brouhaha.

Problem now is that Brian Campbell, of all people, has laid down the gauntlet and said that Kronwall is going to pay. This threat would sound more imposing if it came from just about anyone else on the Blackhawks roster. Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager… Pick one.

Brian Campbell though? What’s he going to do to Kronwall, sweat all over him?

This is when keeping it real goes wrong.

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