Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

07/15/2009

New Faces In New Places: Montreal and Toronto

Because I’m a video game dork, in particular with NHL games (well, OK EA Sports’ NHL game) and the summer leaves a dearth of fun NHL news to talk about, it’s time for me to flex my video game photo taking skills and give you an idea of what some of the new players in new places are going to look like in their snazzy new uniforms.

I’ll do a few of these photo galleries because I’m that bored and I have that kind of time. Suck it.

This gallery will feature two teams who have done quite a bit this off-season. It also helps that they’re huge rivals with each other.

I bring you the newest Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to click the photos to enlarge them at your leisure.


Scott Gomez slams on the brakes in front of Matthew Stajan and Colton Orr.


Brian Gionta celebrates a goal he didn’t score.


Mike Cammalleri lets a shot rip from the slot while Mike Komisarek sprawls out to block it.


Paul Mara skates head to head with Colton Orr.


Mike Komisarek lurks behind the net while Garnet Exelby defends. Jonas Gustavsson holds down the fort.


Jaroslav Spacek races through the slot to let a wrist shot fly.


Hal Gill does something other than stand around.


Travis Moen celebrates like a douchebag after scoring a back-breaking shorthanded goal. Francois Beauchemin stands by stoically.

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.

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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