Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

02/02/2010

Olli Jokinen to the Rangers

You’re already aware that the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers have made a rather dubious trade.  The Flames sent Brandon Prust and Olli Jokinen to New York for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins.  Stan Fischler thinks it’s a steal for the Rangers meanwhile Flames bloggers are trying to figure out why GM Daryl Sutter went and got Ales Kotalik.  SBN’s Matchsticks and Gasoline tried to put together the case for Kotalik (due $3 million a year for the next two years after this one) but basically said he’s doomed to a future of being a healthy scratch.   Never mind the impact of Christopher Higgins, who now finds himself on his third team in less than two seasons and was playing pretty miserable for the Rangers this year.

Of course, the focal point of this is on the Rangers, as far as media goes.  The Rangers are mired in a scoring funk and found a team in Calgary desperate to rid themselves of a guy they thought was going to spark Jarome Iginla but turned out to not do anything of the sort.  In a much similar situation, the Rangers are desperate for scoring from anyone else aside from Marian Gaborik and figure that the change of scenery for Olli Jokinen will be the spark they’ll need to climb back up the Eastern Conference standings.

I dig Olli Jokinen.  He’s a creepy looking dude, he reminds me of New York historical folk lore characters and he gets fired up when it comes time for the Olympics playing for Finland.  Perhaps this is what Rangers coach John Tortorella is banking on happening with the Rangers.  At the very least, Jokinen’s contract ends after this season and the Rangers won’t be paying him (or Ales Kotalik) anymore.

The logical break down here is simple though.  Is Olli Jokinen better than Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik?  Yes, absolutely.  Brandon Prust, for all that he does, is just another guy to fight Aaron Voros and Donald Brashear for pugilistic ice time.  As it was, Kotalik wasn’t seeing the ice anymore in New York so he was dead weight (another brilliant off-season signing by GM Glen Sather) and Higgins was wildly underperforming.  Jokinen’s stats aren’t mind-blowing (35 points in 56 games for Calgary) but with the Rangers he’s a marked improvement and helps the Rangers out salary-wise with an expiring contract.

As for Calgary, I’m at a loss for words.  After making a very beneficial trade with Toronto two days ago unloading the over-hyped Dion Phaneuf  for half of Toronto’s scoring forwards, the Flames get caught up in the excitement of making trades and continued on with the Rangers obtaining one guy who may not perform well (Higgins) and another they have no idea how he’ll work out (Kotalik).  Life is a lot harder in the Western Conference and Calgary was feeling the heat to do something to secure a playoff spot while other teams fighting with them, so far, are standing pat.  I’m not sure if Calgary beating others to the punch is going to help them out, but if chemistry develops quickly it’ll pay off big time as other teams hovering around the 7-11 spots in the West are all figuring out ways to shoot themselves in the foot with better accuracy.

At the very least, the best I can hope for out of this situation is to maybe get an e-mail from Olli’s wife like Puck Daddy did.  Please don’t skimp on the criticisms, Mrs. Jokinen.

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.

06/30/2009

Montréal: Surréal and Unréal

Picture if you will a place where hockey is talked about day in and day out.

A place where newly drafted soon-to-be superstars high-five you for being hockey fans going into a bar.

A place where an NHL head coach could charm the pants off of just about any woman he wants to in the bar while he’s just as hammered as you are and you’re stuck standing around in awe of the whole scenario unfolding in front of you.

A place where 10 year-olds have no fear, ignore their grandparents and approach a group of hockey-centric strangers just to heckle a Bruins fan.

A place where out amongst the late night drunken revelers, loud and animated discussions about John Tavares erupt out of the blue.

A place where an inebriated 4:30 AM trip to McDonalds turns into a mind-blowing experience when you realize said McDonalds is across the street from what used to be the Montréal Forum.

A place where running into everyone you’ve ever cited or made fun of in the hockey blog world convenes to share a beer or twelve together.

This is what Montréal was during NHL Draft weekend. Part surreal, part unreal, completely incredible.

I’ll say this about Montréal:

It’s a city I loved before making this trip. I’d been there a few times before and had some incredible times up there and the city has always left an indelible mark on my memory for about a thousand different reasons.

This time will go down as one of the most incredible experiences for me because not only was this about being somewhat immersed in the middle of the madness that is the NHL Draft, but it also helped that it doubled as an end of the year convention for those of us in the “alternative” hockey media.

Oh sure, most of us may not have press passes and we may be playing the role of angry columnist at times (OK all the time over here), but anywhere you went in downtown Montreal this past weekend had hockey going on with it.

If you were out to grab a beer at a local tavern, you might run into some front office guys from an NHL team.

Need to get some dinner in Old Montreal? You might see folks from the Penguins stroll down the street with the Stanley Cup, much the way some of the other NHL Tweet Up folks did on Saturday night.

Going to Peel Pub to soak in the frat boy type of nightlife? Downstairs you might get high-fived by a celebrating Kyle Palmieri or you could head upstairs and see Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski among others.

That’s just a sample of how things went down and, even still, there was more going on than all of that. I don’t need to break down how the picks went or the backroom nonsense that was going on or any of that, you’ll find enough about all of that elsewhere.

What I can say is that I’m glad I’m NOT in Montréal now after the announcement of the Christopher Higgins trade to the Rangers for Scott Gomez that also, seemingly, included the Canadiens top defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh.

The reaction to this deal, for Montréal fans has been, to put it lightly, hysterical. Not the funny kind of hysterical but the manic, crazed and angry kind of hysterical. For a good example of what it’s like to be a dyed in the wool fan of Les Habitents, check this thread at Hockey’s Future that reads like an Internet car crash turned into rally with pitchforks and torches. As of this writing, the thread based on this deal alone was up to 35 pages.

Now take folks like that and put them all in one city and have them dialed into what goes on with the hometown team 24/7. That’s Montréal. Hockey all day, every day.

Heaven… I just don’t speak the language in heaven is all. Well, the main language anyhow.

This kind of seemingly moronic deal sets the table quite nicely for the NHLs National Day of Insanity: The start of free agency.

We’ve already seen one highly-dubious contract handed out to Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks for five years and $3.375 million per year. He’s on the young side, but he also notched a mere 47 points last year. The Blackhawks are banking on Bolland improving and making this deal into a bargain in future seasons.

Yeah, good luck on that.

Adding this to the dubious Rangers-Habs trade today you can see why I look forward to this each year, it’s just funny that Glen Sather is on the positive end of the spectrum this time around. Perhaps he’ll give an asinine contract to Christopher Higgins (a restricted free agent) to make up for it and we can mock him endlessly once again.

Bizarre part about this deal for Montreal is that they had oodles of cap space to work with and instead lock themselves into having Gomez as their top centerman, essentially kiss captain Saku Koivu goodbye and take themselves out of the running for the Sedin twins since Gomez is due over $7 million a year on the cap until forever.

Like I said: Seemingly and most likely a terrible development for the Habs.

For the Rangers, it’s an interesting start and one that’s rumored to continue into a deal for Senators winger Dany Heatley sooner than later. Should that happen, well, perhaps the Rangers will realize that they dealt the wrong centerman to Montreal as Gomez would work quite well dishing off to Heatley.

Chris Drury? Not so much…

All of this though is just the appetizer for July 1st. I’ll be doing a lot of snap judgments through the day tomorrow on Twitter, so follow along with me as idiocy runs wild.

04/04/2009

Sean Avery Is A Genius

I know that I promised to not get sucked into talking about Sean Avery and his media circus anymore, but I heard a loud cry go up from Boston this afternoon and you-know-who was the source of the uprorar. Take a look with Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley’s commentary:

Now, don’t get me wrong here, if you look at this for what it looks like on the surface, this looks like the same old Sean Avery antics where he’s a reckless, out of control hooligan making a mockery of the game of hockey and taking a piss on Toe Blake’s grave.

I don’t condone what Avery does, but what Brickley takes issue with here is that it is apparently Avery reverting to his old, reckless ways of playing hockey.

Sure, that’s one way to look at it and for what it’s worth, Brickley could be correct… But I don’t buy it for a second.

Believe it or not, Avery’s a smart guy and he knows exactly what he’s doing at all times. He is always looking to give himself and his team an edge. Sure, he goes over the top and creates more problems than not at times, but what went down today wasn’t one of those moments.

For the game itself today, Avery didn’t create a disadvantage for the Rangers, he got himself and another Bruin player taken off the ice on matching minors for nonsense. More room to skate for a couple of minutes helps out against a team like the Bruins that are very defense-minded.

I’m sure everyone noticed how calm and reasonable Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas reacted to this situation as well as he was the player that got booked for the retaliatory minor for roughing. Thomas went out of his mind bonkers going after Avery and ended up blasting Ranger Fredrik Sjostrom in the face with his blocker as Sjostrom skated in to intervene.

This is where Avery’s evil genius comes into play.


He’s the kind of genius that Lanny Poffo would be proud of.

Avery and just about everyone else around the NHL by now knows that Tim Thomas has a bit of a short fuse. He’s shown it off on a couple of other occasions this season and Avery had the opportunity to light a fire today and certainly did that. The worst that happens? He gets sent off on a two-minute penalty and looks like a complete jerk for short-changing his team while they’re down 1-0.

The best that happens? Thomas gets thrown off of his game, gives up a goal or two and allows the Rangers to get back in the game. Avery then proudly wears the bulls-eye the rest of the game and allows Bruins players to retaliate at him at will. At worst, Avery gets a matching minor for being involved in these shenanigans but at best, his team gains a power play giving the Rangers a final window of opportunity to get back into a game they have to earn points in.

There is a bigger picture to be seen here, however. Avery wasn’t working just to make this game closer, he was sending a message that won’t be forgotten.

Remember the uproar over Avery’s antics in front of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur last season? Sure you do…

The Devils certainly didn’t forget and that annoyance carried over into this season as well, so when the Devils and Rangers met up last week, the Devils players went out of their way to send a message to Avery that his antics wouldn’t be tolerated. The Devils lost that game 3-0, much in part to their obsession with taking shots at Avery who did everything in his ability to both resist retaliation and bring it out of the Devils even more.

Genius.

Sean Avery is the Petulant Cerebral Assassin of the NHL and it’s a role he plays perfect. Yes, he’s got skill. Yes, he plays a physical game. Yes, he’s a trash-talker with the best and worst of them.

Yes, he plays on the edge – but that’s his world and he’s set up the Boston Bruins in his way. I’m not saying that it’s how the Rangers will find a way to beat Boston in the future, but if you think that today’s incident will be forgotten… Well, you’re crazy.

What makes this even better still?

These two teams might just meet up in the first round of the playoffs. Avery’s tactics have managed to make him Public Enemy #1 in New Jersey and the Devils can’t help but run around and try to kill him whenever they meet up and that’s all because he made their legendary keeper look like a jerk by embarrassing him in the playoffs.

Will there be another round with the Bruins and Rangers? We don’t know yet, even with just the handful of games remaining in the season. You better believe Sean Avery’s shadow has been cast for any meetings in the future, however and it’s up to the Bruins to stop themselves from trying to even up the score with him because in doing so, they might find themselves getting behind the 8-ball with the rest of the Rangers.

02/25/2009

The Fonz and I – We Be Tight, Yo!

Filed under: John Tortorella,New York Rangers,Tom Renney — Joe Yerdon @ 2:15 AM

Upon hearing the news of the New York Rangers firing Tom Renney I admit that I wasn’t surprised to see that he would be the fall guy for an organization headed up by a dopey owner that hangs on to big name general managers a bit too long.

I digress.

What got to me was who the Rangers named to replace Renney. Mind you, this new coach is going to have to deal with a team that can’t score in a whorehouse, has serious issues on defense and the only steady guy is the one getting hung out to dry most often in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

You figure after what a wreck Renney was, the Rangers were going to need a taskmaster and a brilliant psychologist to try and right the ship. General Manager Glen Sather called upon Stanley Cup Champion head coach John Tortorella.

You know, the guy that lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Cup the season before Herr Bettman decided not playing hockey was in the league’s best interests.

John Tortorella is a great coach, I just can’t help but think that by throwing him into this incredible mess of a situation is going to have The Fonz begging to be working for Len Barrie and Oren Koules in sunny Florida again, especially since Glen Sather seems to be doing everything in his power to earn the Rangers a time slot for an MTV reality show.


On Sean Avery, “[Tortorella] doesn’t have the history with Sean that we do. I think that over time he could learn to love him like I have.” “We’ll deal with [Avery] in the next week I’m sure.”

Yeah, that’ll go over just great. That will be as warm and fuzzy of a moment as it was when Puck and Pedro had it out over peanut butter on Real World: San Francisco.

The great part about this is that this now allows me to say that I’ve been chastized by the current head coach of the New York Rangers, a guy whose name is etched upon the Greatest Trophy in Professional Sports.

Let me explain and rewind time a little bit, shall we?

It’s September 2001, it’s a little over two weeks after 9/11 and my friend Dom and I are in Syracuse covering a Tampa Bay-Columbus pre-season NHL matchup for our college television station in Oswego, NY. We’re doing pre-game interviews so when we put the game together it’ll all make sense when we wanted to air it tape delayed for our campus and sure enough we were able to lock down a talk with Coach Tortorella.

Dom and I are psyched because this is the big time for us getting to do this and Tortorella and the Lightning are a team we both had our eyes on for the future. What wasn’t to like? They just traded for Nikolai Khabibulin, they had Martin St. Louis who we loved because he was a tiny guy and he played at the University of Vermont. Brad Richards was on the scene now. Most importantly, they had Vincent Lecavalier on the team.

That night Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t going to play – not because they wanted to keep him fresh (a good reason why St. Louis didn’t play that night) but because he was holding out on his contract. The training camp rosters were loaded with all sorts of favorites and famous names for us to look at and ask about including former Buffalo Sabres Matthew Barnaby and Dave Andreychuk.

Coach Tortorella comes out to meet with us, we shake hands and get the countdown from our friend and cameraman Justin. We’re ready to roll.

Dom starts us off great and we’re asking about how camp is going to this point and if he likes what he’s seen out of the team so far. We fire out a question about what it will be like to get a full season out of Nikolai Khabibulin in goal after obtaining him from Phoenix at the trade deadline the year before. We ask about the great speed and youth on the team with Brad Richards.

We’re flying things couldn’t be going better! That is until I probe a little deeper about the youth on the way in Tampa.

I, very foolishly, ask about Alexander Svitov the Lightning’s #1 pick from the draft and what he thinks he’ll add to this team. Tortorella bristles a bit and winces in returning my serve:

“I have no idea what he’ll add to this team, he’s staying in Russia so it won’t be this year.”

Ouch.

Dom kindly picks up my fumble and ensures that I won’t be alone in feeling the wrath of The Fonz when he asks about Vinny Lecavalier’s absence in camp and about what his status is with the follow-up question to my personnel faux pas:

“I don’t know what his status is and I don’t care. Fact is he’s not here when he should be. I only care about the guys that are in that room right now. That’s it.”

On that high note, we close out the interview, stop taping, and thank the coach for his time.

He quickly headed back into the locker room to probably mutter about what a pair of meatheads we were and get the team ready to play the Blue Jackets.

Yeah, that felt as awkward as it was to read.

I know for sure that any of the folks as well as Brooke our intrepid sideline reporter that night would vouch for this story and gladly clean up any errors in my memory of that night and I will add to this post anything they refresh my memory about.

That encounter did nothing to hurt my opinion of John Tortorella if anything it helped me like the guy more and I most certainly was rooting for the Lightning to win the Cup in 2004.

That said, is he the guy to throw into this ridiculous situation in New York?

Absolutely.

Why? Accountability.

John Tortorella will demand it from everyone in the Rangers locker room, something that’s been severely lacking under Tom Renney. Don’t get me wrong here, Renney’s a good guy by all accounts and he did the best he could given the platter of guano Glen Sather kept feeding him with. The problem for Tom Renney is that he didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t/wasn’t able to do that.

John Tortorella demands accountability for actions, doesn’t care who you are, how big of a star you are nor how much money you make. Just ask Vinny Lecavalier about that. No, seriously, just ask him about it he’ll talk.

Hell, I’m sick of writing “accountability” right now and it’s the new buzz word in New York to describe this move. Don’t believe me? Check what Google thinks of it.


A lack of accountability shows on a player’s face – that or it was a right cross.

If I were one of the Rangers players who busted my hump every night doing my job the best I could, not only would my name be Henrik Lundqvist but I’d feel very secure in my job even though Tortorella had a bad habit of making all of his goalies lose their mind in Tampa Bay.

Everyone else? Look out and get to know a few names of guys in Hartford. Names like Corey Potter and Bobby Sanguinetti on defense and forwards Pierre Parenteau and Artem Anisimov have all played very well for Hartford this year and you can bet that if Tortorella wants to send a message to somone slacking off he’ll do it by calling on these guys.

I know that if my name was Wade Redden or Dmitri Kalinin I’d be ready to start butting heads because it will happen with them, it’s almost inevitable. Guys that will likely catch Fonz’s stink-eye up front though are the likes of Chris Drury and Aaron Voros. It wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Voros be the guy who gets designated for assignment once Avery is claimed by the Rangers leading to the Madison Square Garden main event rumble between player and coach.

I’m done talking about Avery for now since I’m not doing a blog focused on the AHL but trust me, I’ll be laughing a lot if Avery is claimed by a team with a higher priority than the Rangers when the Stars look to fish him through recall waivers so the Rangers can take him off their hands.

I will laugh a lot at this and might even celebrate with a photo, but I’m not expecting it.

Will this be enough for the Rangers this year? Probably. Despite their terrible play, they’re still a playoff team – such is life in the Eastern Conference this year. Care to wonder why so many of the NHLs top scorers can be found in the East? Take a look at the “GA” column in the standings here and look how bad some of the teams there are.

Disgusting.

Will it get the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals? Not a freakin’ chance, but it will be enough to allow the Rangers to play better and start winning some games again and maybe, just maybe, advance out of the first round in the playoffs.

After all, if the Rangers aren’t going to score, they need to keep the other team off the sheet better and Tortorella will get that out of this team come hell or high water.

07/01/2007

Lessons Learned

It’s pretty clear that after Day One of the Free Agency Frenzy of 2007, one that kicked off with word that the NHL Salary Cap would be at $50 million and the salary floor at about $35 million, NHL owners have learned absolutely nothing about how to do business.

It started off before the period began with the deal Philadelphia made with Nashville to lock up the free agents that Nashville wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to re-sign. Philadelphia acquired them and then locked them up for obscene, market-shaking contracts.

Philadelphia then followed that up with kicking things off today signing away now former Sabres star centerman Daniel Briere to an eight-year $52 million dollar deal. Let me break this down for you, that’s an average of 6.5 million per year, except that this year alone Briere will make $10 million dollars.

$10 MILLION DOLLARS FOR ONE YEAR!

Since that stupidity wasn’t enough, the New York Rangers, formerly the team known as fiscal irresponsibility until the Briere/Timonen/Hartnell signings by Philadelphia, then decided to take back the crown they had stolen from them by Ed Snider. They signed former Devils centerman Scott Gomez and former Sabres centerman/folk hero Chris Drury to separate deals that average out to $7 million dollars a season. Gomez’s contract also has the fun stipulation of paying him $10 million dollars in the first year. Let me reiterate that one more time.

$10 MILLION DOLLARS FOR ONE YEAR!

The lack of responsibility on the part of the owners here is both stunning and unsurprising. It’s stunning because we’re only two seasons removed from a lockout that has done more to harm the NHL than it has to help it. A lockout where the owners wouldn’t settle until there was “cost certainty” and the players wanted to make sure they could still make their money. Fans wanted there to be hockey at reasonable prices and the kind of hockey that wouldn’t make even the most die-hard of fans cry at the boredom.

It appears that in the long run, that even though the Players Association most certainly got raked over the coals by the Owners at first, they are definitely the winners now with contracts like these.

Did the Flyers crazy spending spur the Rangers to reply in kind? The Rangers, a team desperate for defensive help who then goes and picks up two of the three premiere centermen at costs that shake the foundation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement they signed not even three years ago. The Flyers insanity is nothing new, but just the fact that they were able to rook over the Predators once again to be able to do it is stunning in and of itself.

The Flyers signing of Timonen shook the market up for defensemen quite obviously as Brian Rafalski, formerly of the Devils, signed with Detroit for 5 years and $30 million dollars. Scott Hannan, formerly of the Sharks, signs with Colorado for four years and $18 million. Many of you might even be asking, “Who the hell is Scott Hannan?!”

And now late news has the Avalanche signing Ryan Smyth, who weepily left Edmonton when he was traded to the New York Islanders and left fans counting down the days to Canada Day and the start of the free agency period praying he’d come back home to Canada and Edmonton…signed for 5 years and $31 million dollars.

I mean, seriously, holy crap! It’s amazing to me that these owners are now fully bought into whatever Gary Bettman is feeding them, that the league is financially solvent and apparently making money hand over fist enough to keep upping the salary cap and floor and allow them to spend like drunken fools with asinine contracts with ridiculous financial costs and yearly investment. I’m speechless at all this – so much so that I don’t have the muster to comment on Nashville’s Craig Leipold running away from Jim Balsillie and into the arms of Boots Del Biaggio and eventually back to an NHL graveyard in Kansas City.

We’ve already seen all these big names come off the board, and we’ve still got Paul Kariya out there waiting to move and Peter Forsberg left wondering if his foot will be good enough to loan out his oft-injured self out to another sucker team.

And you thought the NHL off-season was boring.

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