Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/01/2009

Thanks For Playing: Phoenix Coyotes

Filed under: Gary Bettman,Jerry Moyes,Jim Balsillie,Phoenix Coyotes — Joe Yerdon @ 1:26 AM

I feel bad about writing this one.   I like the Coyotes.  I like Coyotes fans (and yes, they do have fans).  I like what GM Don Maloney has done on what amounts to be a bare-bones budget/being under Gary Bettman’s thumb.  Maloney has also been able to do pretty well in the draft for the Coyotes and it shows with their current lineup.

All that aside, the ownership fiasco that’s been covered ad nauseum elsewhere across the Internet and semi-ad nauseum here has derailed any kind of happy thoughts about this franchise.  Of course, on the eve of the start of the season, things have come to a head and Judge Redfield T. Baum has declared that both Jim Balsillie’s and the NHL’s bids for the team are no good and have thrown out Balsillie completely by saying that the NHL has every right to decide who they want to own a team.gretzkycoach

With that fiasco aside for the time being, it’s time for the team to hit the ice and the product they’ll hit the ice with isn’t overly terrible especially now that one of the people more responsible for the lack of forward development is out of the way, part of the collateral damage of the mess with Jerry Moyes.  That person being former head coach Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was a no-show for training camp this year, leaving assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson in charge.  Also tossed out was goaltending coach Grant Fuhr and replaced with former Hartford Whalers super goalie Sean Burke.  Former Blue Jackets coach Dave King was brought in to be an assistant coach to someone and then finally a foregone conclusion was reached when Wayne Gretzky announced he was stepping down as coach of the team.

Much the same way that Odin Mercer at SBN’s Five For Howling feels, I too think this is a move that was overdue and will help the team.  After all, the old saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Well Wayne Gretzky did everything in the NHL and there’s not another player alive right now that sees or plays the game at all the same way that Wayne did and every person that walked into the Phoenix locker room had to be starstruck having him as the coach.  After all, he’s only the greatest hockey player of all time – how do you handle getting instructions and teaching from a guy that sees the game on a completely different level than every human being alive?  You don’t, that’s how.

wile-e-coyoteDon’t worry, help has arrived… But it’s going to take time.

Enter new head coach Dave Tippett.  Tippett is the former coach of the Dallas Stars and for six seasons he lead the Stars to the playoffs, peaking in 07-08 in the Conference Finals and then indescribably getting the boot after failing to lead the Stars to the playoffs last year, and that’s after the Stars were stuck with a miserable start of  the season by Marty Turco and that whole Sean Avery thing.   Tippett gets the job done, Tippett teaches winners and better yet, young guys won’t totally crap their pants every time he barks out orders.

With all that aside, I like how the Coyotes are made up and I have enjoyed what they’ve been doing for the last couple of years now.  The Coyotes and the Kings are my not-so-secret crushes in the NHL and while the Kings don’t have the off-ice problems (and may actually get Gretzky back in some capacity) they too have been able to capitalize on years of poor play and making the draft work for them.  The Coyotes have been doing the same thing but just haven’t been able to land a guy as awesome as say… Anze Kopitar.

Instead, the Coyotes have loaded up on highly-touted young forwards.  Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, Kevin Porter and Kyle Turris (currently in the AHL) make up a great group of talented skaters up front that Desert Dogs fans have been patiently waiting to blossom.   Among them, Porter should get his first real shot to break out this year after spending last season riding the bus between Phoenix and San Antonio.

Guys like Mueller and Hanzal are the “veterans” among them and Boedker had a solid first season last year.  Turris is the interesting guy to watch as he’s touted as the guy with the biggest upside and the most talented of them all. Yet last year he spent his time getting sent up and sent down to the AHL and this year he’s starting off the season right out in San Antonio.  GM Don Maloney said that he wanted to see how Turris would develop and with him coming off back surgery in the off season, perhaps going to San Antonio to start the year might not be the worst idea.

Then what to do about the center spot?  After all, who is going to be there to play alongside blue-collar man of the franchise Shane Doan?  This is where the Robert Lang signing comes in.  Lang is coming back after an injury-shortened 2008-2009 season with Montreal and while he did not participate with any team in training camp, the Coyotes and Maloney used this as an opportunity to bring in solid scoring veteran.  Savvy move indeed and it takes the pressure off the front office to play the shuttle game with Turris this year, provided Lang can stay healthy.  Adding Lang to another crafty free agent signings like Taylor Pyatt, Vernon Fiddler and Lauri Korpikoski and suddenly the mix of youth and veteran leadership up front doesn’t look so bad.  Peter Prucha and Radim Vrbata (returning from a year wrought with moving from Tampa Bay to the Czech League) add depth to the forwards and provide a full line of Czech Madness (with Martin Hanzal centering).

What about the defense though?  Ed Jovanovski is still here and youngster Zbynek Michalek continues to improve.  Veterans Adrian Aucoin and Jim Vandermeer were acquired in the offseason and help add some steadier veteran play on a blueline that remains mostly unspectacular with Kurt Sauer and Keith Yandle filling out ranks.  Sami Lepisto gets to play the part of the plucky youngster looking to carve his niche in this group of veterans.

In goal, Ilya Bryzgalov is the man – plain and simple.  His stats last year were a bit subdued but on a team that played as sketchily as the Coyotes did last year… You can understand why.  Should things for Bryzgalov go sour, the backup situation isn’t quite so appealing as the Coyotes signed journeyman Jason LaBarbera to back him up.  Al Montoya lurks in the AHL waiting for anyone to slip up so he can attempt to fulfill the prophecy as a first round selection to play goal.

Should the Coyotes goaltending come down to calling on either LaBarbera or Montoya for an extended period, perhaps getting the Vancouver Canucks on the phone to ask about Cory Schneider’s availability might be a good plan of action.

Much like I said last year in talking about the Los Angeles Kings lack of opportunity to make the playoffs, I make this choice for failure with resignation because I like what’s happening here, at least on the ice.  I like the young make up of the team, I love the youth that are in place, I’m a fan of Ilya Bryzgalov and I’m a huge fan of the Dave Tippett signing for the coaching position.  So why won’t they make a run at a playoff spot?  It’s the Western Conference and they play in what may prove to be one of the toughest divisions in the NHL.  Anaheim and San Jose will fight to the death for the top spot, Dallas should be more improved and Los Angeles is on the verge of upsetting the balance in the West.  Phoenix, for now, is going to have to tough it out this season.

With that said, this may also prove to be the team that by the end of the year, they could be threatening to prove me wrong if everything breaks correctly.  Most publications and prognosticators are eager to write off the Coyotes (except for the Two-Line Pass that haikus them in eighth) completely based upon what’s happened off the ice and while I admit I’m doing the same thing here… If the Coyotes go all St. Louis Blues on me and prove me wrong I’ll happily eat my bowl full of crow.

03/23/2009

ECAC Weekend With A Twist

Normally I’d make this my recap post from a great weekend in which there were three fantastic hockey games played. Yale’s 5-0 whitewashing of Cornell doesn’t exactly qualify as a great game, but hey, two one-goal games on Friday night including a double-overtime thriller in which both games winners had to come back from a deficit late in the game to win it is pretty awesome.

Something came to light yesterday thanks to a couple of folks dropping me an e-mail to let me know that there were a couple big time hockey luminaries in attendance in Albany.

One of them is TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Now I had assumed that Bob would be in Albany since, you know, his son Mike plays for St. Lawrence. Bob has made a couple of posts on USCHO’s message board to say that he was indeed in town and that he tries to be there for all of Mike’s games.

Pretty cool dad, wouldn’t you say?

Bob was on NHL Live this afternoon discussing his trip into Albany where he let it be known that it was indeed true he wasn’t the only familiar NHL face there that weekend. The other guy that was here?


Some might say he’s got a complex.

That’s right – Gary Bettman.

I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world would Gary Bettman be doing at the very poorly attended ECAC Championships in Albany. Perhaps he was learning a few more tricks on how to think a half-empty arena is acceptable for attendance.

Maybe…


Gary might’ve thought he was in Atlanta, not Albany.

Turns out he was there to support his alma mater.

You see, Gary is a Cornell University graduate, something which Cornell is proud of. I’d like to think that Cornell might want to, you know, keep that one a little more under wraps considering he’s not exactly a glowing example of academia.

Oh sure, the title is great, he runs a major professional sports league – a fantastic level of achievement and distinction. Then again, he’s helped make the sport into a joke and has mismanaged it into a consistent punchline of how not to do things.

Wonderful.

Now here’s where I’ll out myself a little bit as I was a faceless, anonymous Internet blogger and make it seem as if I knew he was going to be in the house to throw things in his face. I came dressed for insult for Gary.

Any of you who were in attendance at the ECAC Championships may have spotted one suave individual wearing the finest of old school throwback NHL jerseys and it turns out you can really stick out like a sore thumb when sitting in amongst the red and white clad Cornell folks when you’re wearing these fine relics of past NHL greatness:


Hockey Joe on a Friday night.


Hockey Joe on a Saturday night.

No, I wasn’t decked out in a Red Wings jersey meant to fit in with the Cornell folks. I wasn’t wearing a new, snazzy, overpriced Reebok Edge jersey to show how much more money I was willing to fork over to Gary’s Empire of Bad Ideas.

Old school, baby.

Old school squads that Gary’s Raw Deal helped run out of existence.

I’d love to say I knew that he would be there and I did it on purpose to shove it all in his face and have it be my way of providing him with the middle finger that only Ken Holland can give him best.


You still can’t hear me Gary? Allow me to turn it up.

I’d love to say that.

But I can’t.

It’s pure coincidence that it worked out that way and while that sucks for me that I didn’t scheme up this MENSA brainchild of a reminder to Gary that the way things used to be are more beloved and more cherished than anything he’s schemed up since taking charge of the league.

I will pat myself on the back for pulling it off anyhow.

I’m just a little disappointed that either I didn’t spot Gary myself or he didn’t spot me and then commend/berate me on my choice of fashion. I think it would’ve gone down similar to an infamous movie encounter…


Dream Sequence: Hockey Joe (left) runs into Gary Bettman (right) at the ECAC Championships.

OK so that’s a bit overplayed, but that’s how it plays out in my head.

Bite me.

Gary, next time you’re in Albany I’d love to chat. I’ll be easy to find as I’ll have another relic from the past to help me stand out, just don’t think I’ll go changing up my site after we get to talk though. I know you pulled some fun on Wyshynski over at Yahoo because after you talked to him, his link for “Gary Bettman – Commissioner For Life” topics seems to disappear from the right side of his page (although it still can be found at the bottom of entries).

The invitation is always open, just drop me a line next time.

Kisses!

07/06/2008

A Modest Proposal

Filed under: Atlanta Thrashers,Florida Panthers,Gary Bettman,Seattle — Joe Yerdon @ 9:28 PM

It’s interesting that in this hockey-centric blog that the word “modesty” is being mentioned at all this time of year. NHL general managers can’t wait to get rid of the money the owners make and spend it recklessly on players who may, and likely, may not have earned their new paychecks. A statement like that should be linked with articles talking about such insane money-tossing, but those are too numerous to count right now.

Suffice to say, a guy like Jeff Finger, who only two years ago I was watching carve up the ice in Albany for the AHL River Rats, is now making $3.5 million a year for the Maple Leafs and he hasn’t even played 100 NHL games yet nor could he crack the starting lineup more often than not for the Avalanche in the playoffs last year.

But I digress.

I’d like to talk about how the league’s love of all things American could be put to best use, rather than ripping them for doing so ad nauseum, which I’ve developed a bit of a penchant for doing.

My source for this inspiration actually derives from a miserable failing of Gary Bettman’s former boss and role model, David Stern who recently acted as the hitman for the murder of professional basketball in Seattle.

That’s right, the city to a former NBA Champion, the Supersonics won the NBA Championship in 1979, you know, when the NBA was a floundering league that had its title games aired in tape delay on CBS and was overwrought with drug problems.

Seattle’s only professional sports championship is courtesy of the Sonics. Seattle also is a big time legitimate city in the United States, at least as far as media market rankings go. Seattle/Tacoma is 14th largest in the United States and has been a city without a professional, NHL-level team since 1924.

Hell, the first American Stanley Cup Champions were the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917.

What’s most heinous here is that the main beef for the Sonics shuffling off to the wilds of Oklahoma City (Market size 45 according to Nielsen) is the way Stern has basically told Seattle, “If you ever want to see the NBA again, you’ll build us a new arena.”

It’s this sort of attitude that the NHL should take advantage of and work with the city to show that they care and are willing to play the role of the white knight.

During the ridiculous Nashville ownership wranglings, writers and speculators made it a point to pick out different U.S. markets that are interested in and would love to take on NHL franchises. Cities like Las Vegas (thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer’s interest in owning a team) and Kansas City (due to the availability of a spacious new 18,000 seat arena) were the places picked out as most logical.

Seattle rarely, if ever, entered into the equation.

Why? Well, it’s pretty likely that the answer lies in Canada.

A move to Seattle would, almost assuredly, get the dander up of the Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. Seattle sits 140 miles to the south of Vancouver and Vancouver’s claim to the region would be highly challenged putting a team in a large, U.S. market that, the Canucks would argue, watches and loves the Canucks.

I’m sure there are many arguments into the validity of this, but let’s face it, 140 miles isn’t that far away, a two to three hour drive away at most. Such closeness is surely a great argument in favor of the Canucks keeping their hold over the market and them having any fans leeched away from a team being located in Seattle must be valid.

Wait… what’s that? Buffalo and Toronto are only 93 miles apart? Both teams sell out their arenas? They have a thriving rivalry? Toronto fans go out of their way to get tickets in Buffalo to see games there because they’re cheaper tickets and easier to land than Leafs tickets? All of these things happen and neither team loses anything being so close?

Huh…

Well then.

So why wouldn’t they want to do this? Why wouldn’t they want to ride in and work out a deal with the city of Seattle to move say… the Florida Panthers or Atlanta Thrashers to Seattle with the help of Starbucks owner and champion of all things Seattle, Howard Schultz? After all, Schultz wants to bring a law suit against the NBA and the owner of the now Oklahoma City NBA franchise, Clay Bennett.

Schultz loves pro sports in Seattle so much, you’d like to think he’d be behind a project to bring a floundering NHL franchise to the city, you know, to fill the void. Think of the marketing potential Gary. Starbucks is the biggest brand of coffee in the world now. Their shops are everywhere, and in the western U.S. there is none bigger to compete with them.

You hear that? A product known worldwide and has a foothold stronger than anything in the Western United States! Think of the potential!

It’s been pretty clear that hockey in South Florida is a miserable failure. No, I know they made the Cup Finals in 1996 and leaving a city that’s had a taste of success would be tragic.

What about Atlanta then? They’re currently a two-time failure at holding the interest of the fans. Never mind the fact that Atlanta is a brutally awful professional sports market, this is a place that still finds it necessary to point out the most mundane aspects of hockey to its paying customers by announcing them over the public address.

Yes, we know the rules to icing are confusing and maybe the rules to offside might be a bit hard to understand, but don’t worry, the Thrashers PA guy will tell you what it is every time it happens.

If they aren’t going to find a way to contract franchises and if they want to make the right move and play the good guy for once, sweet talk Howard Schultz and tell him there’s another sport that plays games between October and June. Tell him there’s another way to bring fun to the people of Seattle. Tell him you’ll work out a way to help pay for a new arena in Seattle and make sure that the people of Seattle don’t have to pay for it.

Be the good guy. Save face on one of your failed southern experiments and send them north. No, not to Canada. Send them to Seattle and resurrect the ghosts of the Metropolitans, much like the NHL did in Ottawa with the Senators.

Oh, and, uh, ignore this little connection of Blackberry and Starbucks while you’re at it – I’d hate for them to toss out this idea spitefully.

05/25/2008

Game 1: Not Without My Nonsense! — Detroit wins 4-0

Turns out Herr Bettman did learn some lessons from David Stern while he was an NBA Goon. The NBA runs strongly on hype and made-up storylines and most importantly, controversy, has indeed shown Gary Bettman the way.

In a Stanley Cup Finals that features, arguably, five of the best players in the league, Bettman can leave things hanging in the air basically to just cause problems later on. Remember, this is a guy who thought Sean Avery dancing in front of Martin Brodeur was such a problem that he addressed and reaffirmed the rulebook the very next day.

However, Bettman figures that leaving a ruling up in the air, such as what is or isn’t interfering with a goaltender on a shot, is all set and taken care of.

Hoo boy.

We can’t have the players be the story – we have to make it up as we go along. Rather, in this case, we can let things fester figuring it won’t happen again.

Au contraire mon frere!

The issue set forth earlier this season and then again against Dallas is whether or not Tomas Holmstrom’s rear-end or mere presence in the offensive zone is a weapon of mass disruption for anyone wearing the tools of ignorance. The first two times this became an issues, you can attribute that to referee Kelly Sutherland not knowing the rules so well, as he was the official who ruled that Holmstrom was interfering with Jean-Sebastian Giguere earlier this season and Marty Turco in the Western Conference Finals.

Last night, Dan O’Halloran decided that Holmstrom was again getting in the way, this time with Marc-Andre Fleury. To O’Halloran’s credit I’ll say this: He instantly waived off the goal and actually put Holmstrom in the box for goaltender interference. At least he felt that strongly about things, especially since Sutherland’s previous efforts were made only to waive off the goal scored.

That said, O’Halloran compounded an already terrible issue by tacking on a penalty. In these three instances where Holmstrom was flagged for getting in the way, on zero of them did he either stand in the goaltender’s crease or make contact with the goalie. The interpretation of the rule that’s being passed around as gospel, and not eaten up by the folks in the media, is that Holmstrom is interfering with the goalie’s ability to make the save.

Sounds awfully….vague, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled, that’s done on purpose. It gives the on-ice official, who has all the control in the situation as much leeway as possible to make, or not make, a call. It’s an all-purpose bail-out. Leave it to the NHL to have a significant part of their rulebook, Rule 69 by the way (figures, doesn’t it?), to be neither black nor white but completely gray…

…except in the handing down of a ruling of goal or no goal – that’s written down in black ink.

No replay is allowed because Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman don’t want to be saddled with reviewing every goal or play involving the goal line. “It would ruin the flow of the game,” they cry out from the top of the mountain of crappy hockey and corporate suits.

Earth to Morons: Every goal or play of the puck around the goal line is reviewed automatically upstairs and in Toronto.

It’s incredible how quickly the goalie in hockey has half-heartedly become the same as the quarterback in the NFL…with the exception that I’d guess that goalies get hit more since sometimes its OK to steamroll a goalie. Confused? Yeah, I knew you would be, but that’s why I’m here.

What’s amusing about all this fretting about where a guy is standing and what he’s doing to a goaltender is it reminds me of this year’s Memorial Cup – it’s the championship tournament in Canadian Juniors. These are the kids that are on the fast-track to the NHL and it makes me think of an early game between Kitchener and Gatineau. The game goes to overtime and….well have a look for yourself at the highlights, specifically, 56 seconds into the video:

Note what the player in front of the net is doing. Note where he’s standing. Note how much room the goaltender has to move. Note how screwed the goalie was to begin with since Kitchener was on a 5-on-3 power play.

No referee sprinting in to waive it off. No goaltender screaming at the referee. Players celebrating a hard-earned victory. No B.S.

Amazing, isn’t it? It’d be fun if these kids could know that they’ll get the same treatment when they reach the pros, it seems pretty stupid that a goal like that would get nullified, don’t you think?

This is the situation I’m waiting for right now. Overtime. Crucial game. A shot on goal with the goaltender screened – it gets by – everyone is celebrating…and then it’s called off because of a phantomly judged rule.

Hang on, I saw this movie already in 1999 and I know how it ends – bitter feelings, a spruced up rulebook, a fanbase left permanently bitter at the ruling party and, worst of all…

This guy is still left in charge to further ruin the NHL. Incredible.

Thanks to NateA over at KuklasKorner.com for creating such a lasting image of Herr Bettman.

04/07/2008

Preview Time – Fun Time!

Filed under: Gary Bettman,NHL playoffs,Stanley Cup — Joe Yerdon @ 10:09 PM

Here we go, no screwing around this time – we’re getting right to it.

First off, the Fun Conference where offense hasn’t completely gone to die.

1. Montreal Canadiens vs. 8. Boston Bruins

No, that’s not a misprint, the Bruins really were that terrible against Les Habitents this season. It’d be one thing if they perpetually lost in the skills competition or by a goal all the time, at least then you can say, “You know what, we’re going to beat those guys and they’ll be sorry.”

But no, that hasn’t been the case at all. The Canadiens have mopped the floor with one of their heated rivals all season long. So much so, that folks are making embarassing videos about it on YouTube. It’s been that sort of year for the B’s against Montreal and frankly, it couldn’t happen to a more boring team.

Claude Julien, however, is one of those demented evil geniuses. Bruins fans will recall him as being the head coach of the Canadiens back in 2003-2004 when the Habs came back from being down 3-1 in the playoffs to the Bruins to beat them in seven games and then lead to the swift departure of that bum Joe Thornton out of Boston. Don’t worry B’s fans, Thornton has only gone on to lead the NHL in assists the last three seasons, won an MVP the year he was traded to San Jose and yes, Marco Sturm is all you have left to show for it. Congrats!

There is an upside however. Marc Savard is talking like he’ll be back in time to play and Patrice Bergeron who was thugged out of commission by Philly’s Randy Jones (sounds like a bully, doesn’t he?) earlier this season is back on the ice and practicing and there’s potential he’ll play in this series….if it lasts long enough.

That, right there, is the rub. Montreal has pasted Boston all season long and beat the snot out of them in each game. The Canadiens enter the playoffs with loads of injuries which have done nothing to stem the tide of their success. However, since its the playoffs and anything can happen….

CANADIENS IN FIVE

2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 7. Ottawa Senators

You either love them or you hate them. Their boatloads of talent make you ill and the legacy of past playoff runs have made you nauseous just at the sight of them being in the playoffs. I give you the Pittsburgh Penguins. Funny thing is, that same statement said last year would’ve applied to the Senators and they got all the way to the Finals.

Pittsburgh, however, is functioning with two all-universe players in Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin. Their questions lie in goal and whether its Marc-Andre Fleury or UNH’s own Ty Conklin that carries them remains to be seen. Here’s to hoping the Penguins don’t emulate their state-mates in Philadelphia when it comes to goaltending, otherwise the Pens could be in for a lot of trouble.

Ottawa hobbles into this series with both Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson nursing injuries that should keep them out of the series with Pittsburgh. NOT GOOD! Add to this that the Senators have been lifeless since December and Bryan Murray sending John Paddock packing did nothing to inspire anyone to play better…you just can’t see this going well for Ottawa.

To top things off, their goaltending situation is about as stable as nitro glycerine. One bad game out of Gerber might lead to Ray Emery and his alligator skin skates having to play and he hasn’t been good since the Ducks bounced them out last year. Yikes.

I enjoy both of these teams, Ottawa a little less so since they decided to go Devils-style to beat the Sabres last year in the playoffs, but Pittsburgh has the glitz and the glamour and the star power this league is DYING for. If they can’t get over the hump this season, an entire off-season of questioning and finger-pointing will ensue. I don’t think we want that. I sense a Gerber meltdown followed shortly thereafter by a Murray fuse shorting out that looks oddly like he’s disinterested in what’s going on. Give the Sens Alfie and Fisher and this is a different series, I just can’t see Spezza and Heatley alone getting it done for Ottawa because neither of those guys can help contain Crosby or Malkin.

PENGUINS IN SIX

3. Washington Capitals vs. 6. Philadelphia Flyers

This was the series that needed to happen. If this had been Carolina and Philadelphia…honestly, how many people even bother to watch? I mean, no one is going to bother to watch in the first place, but this time, The Man is involved. Alexander Ovechkin had to make the playoffs. No ifs, ands or buts about it – he needed to be here.

I don’t care if the NHL had to pull off NBA-like shenanigans to make it happen, it’s for the betterment of the game. I don’t care that it took a miraculous hot streak and playoff run to get the dust off of all the Capitals fans that used to hang out in Washington. I also don’t care that their bandwagon filled up like mad and most people probably don’t know that the team played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. It don’t bother me none. It’s all for a higher purpose.

With that said, good luck to the first Flyer player that decides to take a cheap-shot run at Alexander Ovechkin (Scott Hartnell, I’m looking at you). AO isn’t at all like Sid the Kid. AO will knock your block off if you try those tactics on him and I’ll enjoy watching him man-up and drag Hartnell all over the ice. There’s high potential here in this series for a B.S. overload. The Flyers for the better part of the season were grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons, most of which I covered here in this online scripture.

The Flyers have talent, which is incredible considering some of the cunning stunts they’ve pulled off this year (thanks to Riley Cote and Steve Downie). These guys clearly want to be the Anaheim Ducks of the East…they’re just not as capable of pulling it off because there’s a handful of guys that still want to play the game the right way and not the jerk-off way.

That said, the Flyers are a hornet’s nest in waiting for the Capitals and the Caps are in danger of being the team that’s “Just Happy To Have Made It.” They could end up being tired out from having busted their tails over the last 15 games of the regular season to make sure they won the Southeast Division and make the playoffs. They could be that team that gets caught off guard and gets smoked off the ice left wondering what the hell just happened.

We saw it happen last year to the Atlanta Thrashers who tired out at the exact wrong time and got blown off the ice in four straight to the New York Rangers. Could we see this happen again? Absolutely we can, but this Caps team is a lot more talented than last year’s Thrashers team. They’re more stable in goal with both Huet and Kolzig. They can trot out two solid scoring lines, a third line that manages to grind and score and a fourth line that has Donald Brashear. Yikes that’s pain in the ass.

The Flyers appear to be headed into a post season where they’re not ready to string up the goaltender. That’s a good thing and a pleasant change for the organization. Martin Biron is good. He’s often very good and he’s got playoff experience. That said, if the carousel begins and Biron and Antero Niittymakkiayyiyi start shuffling in and out because the boo birds dictate it – forget it. The Flyers need Mike Richards and Daniel Briere to be huge (not in stature) and some how piecemeal together two scoring units. Boy, they really could use Simon Gagne right about now, Joffrey Lupul alone just won’t cut it. The Flyers, however, get success by getting under the other team’s skin and they will be going all out to work over Ovechkin and Huet’s every last nerve.

This series will not be easily won. This series will be the one that leaves everyone talking.

This series will put Alexander Ovechkin on the map for good and the Flyers out of our hair for this season. But they’ll be back – you can’t kill a zombie easily.

CAPITALS IN SEVEN


4. New Jersey Devils vs. 5. New York Rangers

Please, God, someone shoot me.

The brainchild of Herr Bettman comes alive in this series. Two teams that are already bitter regional rivals who have already played each other eight friggin’ times this year get to play up to seven more times. Fan-freakin’-tastic.

Can the Rangers finally prove something to all of us and beat the Devils in the playoffs? Can Henrik Lundqvist finally hit Martin Brodeur with the “Heir Apparent” Throne and overtake him as the top goalie in the East? Can either of these teams score more than 10 goals in this series?

Lundqvist has been better head-to-head against Brodeur in the regular season. Congratulations, that means nothing.

The Rangers beat the Devils seven out of eight times in the regular season. That’s good!

Three of those wins came in the skills competition. That’s pointless.

The Devils only win against the Rangers came on Sunday via the shootout as well. Stupid.

This series is where Gary’s brainchild fails every test possible. If these teams played half as many games against each other, for example, the heat would still be there, the rivalry would still be just as hot as ever, people would still argue about who’s better King Henrik or Marty, and the Rangers would still essentially be playing up to seven home games in this series.

Nothing is altered by them playing each other every tenth game of the season. These teams don’t dislike each other any more or less than they would’ve before. If anything, they’re probably annoyed that it’s come down to this. I really thought variety was the spice of life, but in the NHL under Herr Bettman homogenized action is the wave of the future!


DEVILS! RANGERS! IT’S A RIVALRY BECAUSE WE HELPED MAKE
IT THAT WAY!


Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

End this series and end it fast. And Rangers…vanquish the Devils while you’re at it – the East doesn’t need to be made any more boring past the first round.

RANGERS IN SIX

01/09/2008

The Saga Continues…. Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!

Filed under: Bobby Clarke,Gary Bettman,Jason Blake,Steve Downie — Joe Yerdon @ 11:19 PM

Pardon my love of Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

No, not this old dirty bastard – I mean the now dead rapper from the Wu-Tang Clan.

Let’s just get on with it already.

“When he went after [Jason] Blake, I loved it,” Clarke told The Sports Network of Canada.

Clarke said Blake deserved Downie’s punch for saying Downie should have been suspended for more than 20 games.

“Blake was a guy who had no problem going out and saying [Downie] should be suspended for life or suspended for the year,” Clarke said. “When you say something that stupid, why shouldn’t this kid go after him for it?

“The kid did what every hockey player should do. If a player like Blake who’s been around as long as he has wants to criticize a player, then he has to go on the ice with him and suffer the consequences.”

Clarke, in this case, is of course Philadelphia Flyers vice president and former Broad Street Bully Bobby Clarke. Now, it could be very easy for me to get apopleptic about this and start screeching fire and brimstone. I’m not going to do that because not even Leafs coach Paul Maurice is all that upset.

This, however, leaves the door wide open for me to criticize the NHL. Yeah, I know, beating that drum is starting to get old around here, I’m sure but when you’ve got a league run by gutless morons…these things happen.

How is it that the Commissioner declared that any further goonish actions out of the Flyers would be subject to punishment of the team – meaning that all of these questionable hits and actions are viewed as OK by the higher-ups in Philadelphia. Maybe not all the way up to the owner, Ed Snider, but certainly to the VP’s office with Clarke. Paul Holmgren clearly has no problem with it – that or he’s been rendered silent by Clarke.

It’s a shame, this situation provided the league with the perfect opportunity to punish these cementheads and make an example out of them and to say that respect at its most basic level will be maintained in the league. Instead, we continue to get the same blind-eye routine out of Bettman and Campbell and when something truly egregious occurs, they’ll wring their hands and talk about how they never expected something like that to happen and they’ll overreact with how they handle it.

This is how Bettman handles things – he’s a procrastinator. The NHL’s plan is to keep putting things off until it hits the ultimate breaking point and everyone is fed up and sick of things and then everything has to be changed drastically. Gradual implementation is never the answer and neither is fixing things when they’re very obviously already broken. Disrepair is Bettman’s M.O. and sadly for the rest of us, coming up with the right answers isn’t his strong suit.

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