Where It All Goes Down

The New York Times did a piece today on the NHL's nearly completed headquarters in Manhattan. Seems pretty cool.

Just something fun to skim over as the off-season crawls along.

Photo Credit: Ruby Washington, NYT.



Just caught wind from Wilkes-Barre writer, Jonathan Bombulie, that WBS head coach Todd Richards will be joining Todd McLellan and the San Jose Sharks as a new assistant coach. That's awesome for him, and he's totally deserving of it. He's done a great job with the Baby Pens. Definitely bittersweet though.

Whoever gets the new head coach position in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will be the fifth coach there in ten years. The first two (Glenn Patrick & Joe Mullen) were awful, but the last two (Therrien & Richards) have been great.

Hopefully another good coach follows.

Photo Credit: ahl.com


Say What?

Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a piece in the paper today about Philly fans having 'nothing' on Pittsburgh fans when it comes to being nasty.

Now, I pretty much dislike most things about Philly (except their cheesesteaks), but come on. Pittsburgh fans nastier than Philly fans? You've got to be kidding me.

I don't care who Pittsburgh fans have the 'guts' to boo, I saw a Philly fan choke an opposing fan with a pom-pom once. There have been Eagles' fans that heckled and harassed a 70 year-old+ couple for wearing the opposing team's jerseys.

Sorry Bob, there is no city who has fans that even touch the crazy Philadelphia fans out there. Period.

Photo Credit: flickr


He's Not Goin' Anywhere

Pittsburgh and head coach Michel Therrien signed a three year contract today. This is a good move. I wasn't sure what Ray Shero was planning to do with Therrien in the future. Therrien was a guy that was already in place before Shero brought his troops in, and I was often wondering if he would get rid of Therrien at the slightest hint of adversity and replace him with one of his own guys like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach, Todd Richards (who has been successful in the AHL for awhile now). This proves me wrong.

Most people either love Therrien or they hate him. I'm one that loves him. I watched him come into Wilkes-Barre at a time when his career wasn't going so well and when the Baby Pens had finally gotten rid of a coach that did absolutely nothing for them (if you're wondering who, it was Glenn Patrick). When Therrien came into Wilkes-Barre, he was tough on the guys, but he had to be. They listened to him. Matt Murley once said they were afraid to lose under him, and it showed. Here's a quick look at Therriens 2.25 years in Wilkes-Barre:

  • 2003-2004: In his first year, he took WBS all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. The road to the Finals included an amazing first round comeback against the first place Bridgeport Sound Tigers that was sealed in a game 7 OT win. The Baby Pens had been down 3 games to 1 in the series. In the Eastern Conference finals, they defeated Hartford in a game 7 OT as well.
  • 2004-2005: WBS faced a star-studded Binghamton Senators roster (ie: Jason Spezza) in the first round of the play-offs. They upset them in six games.
  • 2005-2006: In Therrien's 25 games before getting the call to Pittsburgh, he held a record of 21-2-2-1. Unbelievable.

When Therrien got the NHL job, he never forgot about the guys he coached in Wilkes-Barre. That's why you see most of them on the Pittsburgh Roster today. Guys like Max Talbot, Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Dany Sabourin, Rob Scuderi and before their departures: Colby Armstrong, Alain Nasreddine, Erik Christensen & Michel Ouellet. He knew what those guys could bring to the table, and he gave them a chance to do so. He's not notorious for being well-liked in the locker room (although I do think he's softened up a bit since his days of calling his players out for playing poker and drinking beer until 5 am), but I could care less about that. Most coaches of successful teams aren't the most-liked guys (Randy Carlyle, Ron Wilson). The bottom line is: he's doing his job, and he's doing it well.

Looking forward to three more years and possibly some more snap shows and water bottles thrown across the ice, coach.

Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP


The Good ... and the Not So Much

THN's Rory Boylen wrote down a list of teams he can't wait to see this season. They included Chicago, Detroit, LA and Tampa. I agree with him on Chicago, but 1) we know Detroit is going to be good again; 2) LA will probably continue to suck; 3) Tampa is going to continue being weird and sign 2.5 guys every week.

So here are my picks for teams I'm interested to see:

1) Chicago - The winds are changing in the Windy City (no pun originally intended, but then I noticed it and amusingly decided to keep it). The kids (Toews, Kane, Seabrook, Barker) are growing up. A new goalie is in town. And Brian Campbell can do no harm. They're sort of like the Barack Obama of the NHL right now: everyone's excited about them, but they're still young and might not pull it off.

2) Phoenix Coyotes - They'll be far from spectacular, but I think we're going to see some big improvements in Phoenix. Gretzky nabbed a big timer when he signed Olli Jokinen. Kyle Turris and Pete Mueller will continue to develop. At the least, Danny Carcillo (a personal fave) and Brian McGrattan will keep things entertaining. While I'm not sure the Coyotes will make the playoffs, they'll be interesting to watch.

3) Washington Capitals - Ovechkin!!!!! Oh, and some other guys like Niklas Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Jose Theodore. The Caps are also coming off a big playoff run. Sure, it was only one round, but that was a step for the DC organization who hadn't seen post-season action since '03. It just carried a good feeling with it. They're a fun team to watch. I got to see Bruce Boudreau coach in Hershey for a while, and he's great at what he does.

And here are three teams I could care less to see:

1) Atlanta Thrashers - I don't hate the Thrashers. They almost reached the post-season last year until Hossa was traded off to almost win a cup. Barring some big signings and trades, I don't see ATL being too successful in the near future. They certainly haven't been developing guys like they should. I watched the Chicago Wolves play in the Calder Cup Finals, and they were a very talented team, but that was because of guys like Darren Haydar, Brett Sterling, Joel Kwiatkowski and Jason Krog -- all of which cannot crack the Atlanta roster for some CRAZY reason. They have Boris Valabik and Arturs Kulda developing down there for them, but I'm not sure either are ready for a full time spot in the show. Their strongest asset is going to be goaltending. They secured Lehtonen, and Ondrej Pavalec is going to be phenomenal someday. In the meantime, see ya later Thrashers.

2) New York Rangers - Wow, so New York signed two big name guys in Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev to go along with their other big name guys like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Henrik Lundqvist and possibly Brendan Shanahan if Glen Sather ever decides to make up his mind. Same old story. We know what they're going to bring to the table: a good hockey club. And just like another fellow New York team who loads up on all-stars (starts with a 'Y' and ends in 'kees') they'll probably choke again in the playoffs. Yawn.

3) Edmonton Oilers - Come onnnnn Edmonton. You've got so much potential in guys like Dustin Penner, Robert Nilsson, JF Jacques, Marc Pouliot, Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert ... I could list about 80% of the team. You've got Sheldon Souray and Dwayne Roloson. You gotta do something with this! Unfortunately, I don't know that they will. Make it work Craig. Until then I'll be here not paying attention to your team.

A New Cold War

Well, Russia is being Russia again.

This whole Kontinental Hockey League is getting under my skin just a bit. It obviously still has to prove that it is competitive with the NHL (outside of paying salaries) as the top hockey league, but if they want to be greasy about things they might pull it off eventually.

Just a few days ago, the NHL & KHL reached some kind of 'peace treaty' that promised to respect player contracts within each league. But JUST KIDDING because the next thing you know, Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov skips on over to the KHL even though he still has one year left on his Preds contract. I mean, dishonoring your contract and letting your entire team down is no big deal, right? Oh but it's okay, because he told a Russian newspaper, "I wish the Predators to win the Stanley Cup." Mmhmm.

IIHF President Rene Fasel has informed the KHL that the contract violates the agreement and is void, but the Russian league claims that the deal was done before the agreement was in place. I'd love to see Radulov have to come back to the NHL and see the 'warm' welcome he'd receive. Warm = boos, boos, boos.

Right now it's a game of politics where no one is going to say what they really think: there's a decent chance that Russia will play dirty regardless of what 'peace pact' they agreed to.

Let's hope this isn't the start of a hockey Cold War. It sure has potential to be. I like our chances though: we have Philly fans, Brian Burke and George Parros' mustache.


Did You Say Free?

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they tacked on an extra preseason game this September, and all tickets will be free. As in $0. As in - an NHL game for nothing?! What?!

This is a great move by Toronto. They've been struggling for what seems like forever now (okay, maybe it hasn't been quite that long), and with a pretty decent new head coach, they're more than ready for a fresh start. This is a great way to promote it.

On top of that, NHL ticket prices always tend to get ridiculous. It gives fans the opportunity to see their favorite team - or if anything, just some great players. Granted it is the pre-season. I hope that the Leafs and the Sabres play some of the top guys for this game.

I think it would be a great idea to do something like this in the U.S. - maybe in hockey markets that don't draw as well. It can give people a chance to see a game (most first timers fall in love with hockey the first game they attend) without paying. I think it would definitely help generate some new interest.

The game will take place on September 22 against the Buffalo Sabres.

Props T-Dot. I love it.


The Guinea Pig League

As everyone knows, the American Hockey League has served as the NHL's guinea pig when it comes to potential rule changes. The A tries it out, and if it sucks, then the big show doesn't use it. It makes sense for the most part, but as someone who watches quite a bit of AHL hockey, it can be frustrating. A few weeks ago, six rule changes were made for the upcoming American League season. One is a huge tester for the NHL, and the rest are simply to align the two leagues closer together in the rule books. Here are the changes:

1. Roster change. Teams will now be allowed 18 skaters and two goaltenders - up from 17 skaters and two goaltenders. I like this. Nothing much else needs to be said.

2. One minute penalties for minors assessed in overtime.
This was requested by the NHL GMs. I'm interested to see how this works out. I don't automatically have a problem with it. I actually might like it.

3. Double-minor for a bloody high-stick. No more five minute majors for a high stick that draws blood. Not really a huge adjustment.

4. New delay of game penalty. NOOOOOOO!!! Not this again. This assesses a minor penalty to any player or goaltender who fires the puck out of play if they're in their own defending zone. The AHL tried this a few years ago, and I hated it. Maybe it's because Brooks Orpik was on the team at the time, and he averaged about 1.5 of these penalties a game. Seriously. That's probably close to being a realistic statistic. It's also possible I could be exaggerating a bit. Anyway, I just think it's silly. I'm so scarred from that type of penalty, that I still cringe when the puck sails over the glass. More often than not it's an accident. I'm getting heated thinking about this. Time to move on.

5. Icing adjustment. Basically, you can't take out an opposing player if he's going to tag up the icing. Whatever.

6. Face-off location. If a puck goes off the goal post or crossbar, the following face-off stays in the zone where it went out of play. I'm not sure that this will be very noticeable. Maybe though.

I'm waiting for the league to say April Fool's in regard to the delay of game change. Too bad it's July.

Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots ... And That Other Team

Living in Boston since 2006, I've been exposed to some great teams. The Red Sox won the World Series last year and very well could this year (hurry back Papi). The Celtics won their first NBA championship in 22 years. The Patriots had a nearly undefeated season before falling to Eli Manning and his bros in the Superbowl. Boston College won the NCAA Division I Hockey championship (groan). You get the picture. There is one team that the Hub has seemed to forget about: the Bruins. When people talk of Boston being the new Titletown, everyone lists the Sox, Pats, Celtics ... and then awkwardly pauses and passes over the Bruins.

Most of the season, the Bruins go unnoticed by everyone but the diehards (and me because I can buy tickets for $19). I shouldn't say unnoticed. I should say nobody really cares. They gained back some interest when the Montreal series went to Game 7, and I think if they had won that game -- and it breaks my heart that they didn't -- they would have continued to catch attention. But they didn't, and right now the Bruins are back where they started.

I enjoyed watching Boston play this season. They're on the right road to rebuilding, and they reminded me a bit of how the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were this year. That doesn't mean they ran the same systems or anything like that, but they possessed that team element that WBS had. For those who didn't catch what the Baby Penguins did, they rode the playoffs all the way to the Finals and lost to the Chicago Wolves in six games. They accomplished all of this without much skill or top notch talent. With the exception of guys like Chris Minard, Alex Goligoski and Tim Brent, there weren't many other players that had pure skill. What they did have was a 'team' ethic. They worked harder than most teams I've seen play, and they earned success by doing so. They were so much fun to watch (even if they did have trouble completing passes here and there). The Bruins reminded me of them. They didn't have too many superstar names to dress up their roster (with the exception of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron who missed most of the year due to injury), yet I watched them clobber the Pittsburgh Penguins (arguably one of the most skill-filled rosters in the league).

Even though it seems like he slips under the radar sometimes, if Tim Thomas is on, he's a great goaltender. Marc Savard has been doing well, and Milan Lucic has become a crowd favorite despite the fact that he's about 15 years old. On top of that, Bergeron will be back in action this season. I really hope things keep improving within the Bruins organization. I also hope Beantown starts to realize how fun these guys could be to watch.

This was once a team home to legends like Bobby Orr and Cam Neely. The Boston Bruins are rooted deeply in the history of the NHL. They're one of the Original Six for cryin' out loud. How great would a Bruins rise be for the game of hockey?

Photo Credit: Steve Babineau


Something to Smile At...

I noticed today that the St. Louis Blues signed former WBS Penguin & San Antonio Rampage winger, Cam Paddock, to a three year, NHL-AHL deal. I couldn't help but smile because the kid just signed the biggest contract of his career so far (I would argue anyway), and he completely deserves it. It all comes down to work ethic.

Paddock started out his pro career in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization playing mostly in the ECHL in Wheeling. He's seen time in Wilkes-Barre, Phoenix (ECHL) and spent his first full year in the AHL this past season with San Antonio.

Paddock was not born with God-given hockey skills like guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were. Those guys are natural hockey talents. Cam never was. He's had to work his whole life to get to where he is. Along the way he's worked harder than some guys who have regular spots in the NHL. That's something that's always bothered me; the fact that there are some guys in the NHL who work half as hard as some guys who battle and battle and haven't gotten as close.

He had a breakout year last season, scoring his first AHL goal (along with 11 more) and totaling 25 points. This may not seem like a lot to some people, but he's not necessarily going to be a goal scorer. He will wear opponents down and irritate them while doing it. He's scrappy, and he's not afraid to drop 'em if he has to. On top of that, he'll work harder than anyone else on the team. There's no doubt Cam will spend his season in Peoria, Illinois playing for the Blues' farm team, but should the chance come up that he does get the call, he will be completely deserving of it.

And that's a guy I'd take over the Bobby Ryans and the Kris Beechs of the world any day.

Good move by Peoria.


And Then He Said ...

My favorite quote of the week thus far:

"The only way this soap opera could be more entertaining would be if the Lightning’s braintrust discovered a hidden clause in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement that allowed them to somehow supersede Vancouver's ability to match and bring Bernier to Tampa Bay – a move that, by my calculations, would give the Bolts approximately 89 forwards heading into training camp."

- Adam Proteau, THN

So true, so true.

Photo Credit: St. Pete Times

Iowa, You've Got Yourself A Winner

The picture above is the first thing that comes up when you Google 'Iowa Chops.' And let me tell you, when I look at that, I totally see a winning hockey team. 100%.

HAHAHAHA .... okay no, seriously. What is the REAL name of Anaheim's new Iowa AHL affiliate? Because there is no way someone would come up with the name 'Chops' and say, 'Hey, let's name a hockey team that.' So alright, you guys win. Jokes on us. Give us the real name. I've dealt with the Rockford 'Ice Hogs' and the 'River Rats', but this is a new one. My favorite part is the link to get to their roster: "The Chops." As in "Hey, I'm a Chop." "Yeah bro, I play for the Chops."

But wait, there's two quotes that make this whole thing even better:

We really feel this name perfectly represents our vision of the new team,” says team owner Kirby Schlegel, CEO of Schlegel Sports. “It illustrates Iowa’s agricultural heritage while also playing into the definition of ‘chops’, having nerve, resilience and staying power. The word ‘chops’ can mean continually defeating someone, and that is the reputation we expect Iowa’s new team to gain in the league.”

Followed by team President, Steve Nitzel:

“We wanted a name that would catch people’s attention and spark discussion, not just in Iowa but nationally as well. There is no doubt the name is unique. We’re confident that the team will continue to gain respect in this community and in the league for years to come.”

Whatever PR person wrote that for them really just should have said, "Hey, we got wasted the other night - had a little too much Jack - and came up with this name."

Anyway, congrats. Everyone in the A is for sure going to be talking about it. And if they don't laugh at the name, they'll cry in horror when they see the pig you guys chose as a logo.

Photo credit: kitchenparade.com


B.Ry Ready for the Show? Hmm...

The OC Register did a piece on Bobby Ryan basically being given a position on next year's team by Brian Burke. Maybe this was a motivational thing -- Ryan is strange with that. He doesn't get motivated by criticism (unlike some players who take negative remarks as a fire under their ass), so maybe if they kiss up to him he'll actually go out there and shake things up a bit. That's not to say he's not talented. I watched the kid in the A's Eastern Conference Final against the Baby Pens (number one in my heart). And even though Wilkes-Barre finished on top, Bobby Ryan was the one guy you simply couldn't let touch the puck. He undressed goaltender John Curry twice. And Curry's a smart goalie. Sometimes it seemed like his reach was never ending. He has unreal hands, and even though I may have called him a pussy once or twice, he did throw his body around a bit. That said, he was quick to give up the puck if he was pressured.

The kid has a great heart, he really does. I'd love to see him do well. The key to his success is keeping him motivated and interested. He can't get discouraged because he won't want to go out there and play. Does that mean "guaranteeing" him a spot on the Ducks' roster? Maybe. But for all we know, maybe his skill level just won't transfer to the NHL game. This has happened to AHL stars like Martin St. Pierre and Robbie Schremp (so far). Bobby Ryan has God-given talent, and sometimes that's harder to pull out of players than those that have the will to work as hard as they possibly can 24/7 throughout the entire season.

Maybe this is Brian Burke's way of indirectly getting back at Kevin Lowe for calling Ryan a 'questionable' draft pick?

Time will tell I guess. I wish the kid the best. Hopefully he'll tear it up next year. If not ... well, I won't be completely surprised.


I can't help but give shameless plugs for the boys at my school. Especially when they're being chatted about by some of the best. Colin Wilson, the boy every girl in the BU dining halls drools at as he walks by, was rated number one out of NCAA players THN's Ryan Kennedy's most excited to see in the NHL someday. Here's what was said:

1. Colin Wilson, C – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East): As the son of an NHLer, Wilson had a good model in preparing for a career in elite hockey.

“My dad told me you have to be physically ready at 14,” said Colin, channeling the advice he received from his father, Carey, who played for the Flames, Whalers and Rangers.

With that in mind, Colin hit the gym early and often as a teen and the results were reflected in his selection seventh overall by Nashville at the NHL draft this year.

“I can be a first- or second-line center,” Wilson noted. “But I can also work as a third- or fourth-liner, that’s why I think they took me.”

That and a heap of skill, of course. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Terrier notched 35 points in 37 games as a freshman at B.U. and will likely return to improve on that mark next season.

Joining Wilson is a murderer’s row of future NHL talent, including fellow 2008 draftees Corey Trivino, David Warsofsky and Grant Rollheiser. Wilson will also faceoff against workout buddy and Boston College Eagles recruit Jimmy Hayes. So is fraternizing with the enemy going to end?

“When I’m with my buddies, we’re really tight, so we can do things like that,” Wilson said. “But it’ll be fun playing against him – B.U. and B.C. for the Beanpot (tournament trophy).”

One thing is for sure, there won’t be many Eagles having fun when they face the tenacious Wilson.

Drafted seventh overall by Nashville in 2008.

Clearly Colin's been working out since he was 14. Kid is jacked.

Kennedy also gave Corey Trivino props. He'll be a froshie this year at the best school ever. coughBUcough

sigh. I'm so proud.

And is it just me, or are no BC players on that list? Yes, I'm smiling.

Photo Credit: Andre Ringuette, Getty Images

It's Like I Don't Even Know You Anymore

Where did the Vancouver Canucks go?

Seriously. Trevor Linden announced his retirement. Markus Naslund signed with the New York (Ew) Rangers. Brendan Morrsion signed with Anaheim. I've always liked the Canucks. They never bothered me, and they're so Western Conference I love it. But one by one, the players that I've always associated with Van are disappearing. It's weird. Take a look:

- Trevor Linden spent 16 seasons with the Canucks. If anyone, he was their franchise player.
- Markus Naslund spent 12 seasons with them. Now he's going to be in New York because the Rangers are just soooo cool and sign as many big name players as they can only to choke every year in the playoffs. Typical New York. :rolls eyes:
- Brendan Morrsion spent 8 seasons there. He's now going to sunny SoCal to one of my other faves: the Ducks.
- Matt Cooke spent 9 seasons with Vancouver before being traded to the Caps this past season and signing with Pittsburgh a few days ago.

It's just weird to think those guys won't be playing in Van. Sure they still have great players on their roster like Luongo and the Sedin twins. But I can't help but feel like there's a big gaping hole in their roster now. It's like that uncomfortable feeling when you go home after being away for awhile, and you don't recognize anyone.

But as Dave Matthews says, everything good needs replacing.

Big sigh, I know.

Good Intentions Gone Bad

Way back when Ray Shero traded a handful of good potential for Marian Hossa, everyone was like, 'Well hey, why the hell not?' I was iffy about it from the beginning, but I gave it a chance. A few months and no Stanley Cup later, I'm back to feeling iffy about it, if not completely disagreeing with the move. Sure, Hossa helped Pittsburgh get to the finals, but for what? For nothing. And no, no. Don't BS me with 'Well they DID make it to the Finals' or 'They got experience!' I don't buy into that. I believe they could have made it to the finals without Hossa. Now he's stepped on their feet and signed with Detroit for less money than he was offered with Pitt because he feels he has a 'better chance of winning the Cup with Detroit.' Um, okay. Winning back-to-back Cups is statistically shown to be almost impossible (although Detroit is one of the teams that has done it), and I'm not so sure that Detroit has THAT much of an edge over Pittsburgh. I'd love to see another Pitt/Detroit final, and watch Pittsburgh destroy Detroit to catch a glimpse of Hossa's face then. Maybe I'm feeling bitter because Pittsburgh is one of my faves, but come on. You can't undo the past, but after trading away two first rounders, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen only to have the guy not win you a Cup and then run for the exit as soon as he could ... I don't know. Maybe next time Ray.

Dear K.Lo

Dear Kevin Lowe,

When your team is in first place or anywhere near that, then you may chirp all you want. Until then, shut your mouth. Your Oilers are not much to speak of, and Burke's team has been pretty sweet as of late. So calling him a 'moron' and attacking the 'pathetic hockey market' in SoCal (Hey, I don't see Snoop D-o-double-g at your games), really is ridiculous. You say that Burke is a media whore,well congratulations - you just stooped to his level.

The offer sheets were ridiculous, and your team is nowhere closer to a better spot it was in before you wanted to pay Dustin Penner (God love him) $4 million a year.

xoxo ... yours truly

Photo Credit: Mark Murray, AP

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