This entire off season, the (small) population of Coyotes fans have been sitting back cursing in the general direction of the whole management team for not having any good news about Keith Ballard. Fret no more Coyote lovers (if indeed you DO exist). The Coyotes have finally resigned the poster child to a 2 year contract. That, of course, means we have to go through this whole ordeal in a couple years but we're out of the fire for now and that's all that matters. Isn't it?
Here's to another two years of the deadly hip check (fondly referred to as the booty bump), playing goalie when ours is off in candy land or wherever those dazed goaltenders go when they are not doing what they should be and entertaining us fans through the long nights ahead of us. Take a shot and pass it around Coyotes fans, even with our baby back we've still got a long, hard ride ahead of us.
29 August 2007
25 August 2007
Recent discussion about the Canadiens has been revolving around predictions.
The Hockey News (THN) has predicted that the Habs will finish 13th in the East.
Gaston Therrien, journalist for RDS, wrote in an online editorial on http://www.rds.ca/ that the he agrees with THN in saying that the Canadiens will be packing up their gear before the playoffs.
He predicts a 10th place finish.
Team captain Saku Koivu replied to THNs prediction in an interview given to La Presse published in today's Montreal paper.
He assured Richard Labbé of La Presse that the acquisitions of Hamrlik and Smolinksi are worthwhile, and will help the team make the playoffs.
On Harmlik, Koivu feels he is a very good defender able to fill some of the void left by Souray on the power play. He also feels that Smolinski who has played on a winning team in Ottawa is the type of player that the Habs needed.
Now that I've filled you in on the predictions I've gathered up, time for me to analyse them a little myself! Firstly THN according to me seems to rely too much on free agent signings to come up with their predicted standings. Therrien from RDS is much more realistic with a 10th place finish, but being a Habs faithful, I have to say I believe they will make the playoffs! Of course, it will be a tight finish, but they should pull it off. They are more solid defensively, young players like Higgins, Plekanec, Komisarek, Lapierre and Latendresse have gained experience, and several more are ready to step up if needed (Price comes to mind). The Habs will finish 7th or 8th, after a very tight race!
Countless "leaks", speculation, unconfirmed talk and restlessness from Canucks fans caused a good deal of havoc for much of the month of July, when most of the jerseys were released, primarily because they seem to be so picky about what their team will wear in the coming seasons.
But all that may just be about to end.
Just recently, the Canucks logo was confirmed by many a leaked images to be this one:
Shortly after -gee, what a coincidence- the Vancouver Canucks official website leaves behind a typical teaser, previewing the Canucks new jersey and advertizing its release date by showing you just enough to get an impression of what it may look like and still keeping you in the dark by actually not showing you anything but the basic colours.
-Note: some of the colour/contrast/clarity may be a bit off in some spots, that's my image hosting service's doing.
And as for the jersey, I actually like it very much; I always enjoyed watching them suit up in that classic look every so often last season.
21 August 2007
Actually, I have to defend Golisano and the Sabres on this one. The process came out of a trend that had developed in Buffalo. Most of the Weekend Games and marquee games (Leafs, Canadians, Sens, Flames, Oilers and a few other teams) sold out quickly. What they found was that fans were buying these and flipping them on e-bay for a large markup. Meanwhile, midday games, games against teams like the Wild, Thrashers, etc lagged.
In an effort to answer the supply and demand and maximize attendance and revenue the team instituted the variable pricing TWO seasons ago and it has been a large success. The Sabres have sold out the past two seasons and already are nearly there this year. The paln has had the desired effect of keeping the building full so the team can miximize parking, souvenier and refreshment revenue. A real stroke of genius in my estimation. Also remember that every single game is shown on TV as well. This team due to marketing, pricing and media coverage is the most accessible team in Buffalo. The NFL's Bills could learn some real lessons from the Sabres.
The fans here have actually embraced the variable pricing, for the most part, because it creates affordable lower end games for the income challenged and enables the Sabres to maximize profit on the uber-high demand games and the influx of Canadian fans that are willing to pay 200-300% premiums. Basically, they cut into the e-bay crowds markup and made that profit their own.
The policy extends to the season ticket base as well. Season ticket sales have gone through the roof for two reasons: 1) Team is very good and 2) The sabres have one of the lowest ticket costs in the league. Season ticket holders in Buffalo get a significant discount. This has enabled the Sabres to manage their revenue to their significant advantage.
The Drury and Briere decisions, in my view, were independent. What it really came down to is that Briere and Drury were vastly overpaid for their relative worth. The fact that both are getting $10 million in the first season is highly relevant. I don't think the Sabres flinched at Drury's price, It was clearly Drury's decision to just be done in Buffalo due to a falling out with management over a contract extension dispute. Poorly managed, yes. Cheap? No.
As for Briere I believe that the signing of Tim Connolly to a three year deal,even when injured, was the writing on the wall. Getting a 8-year deal with nearly $10 million in salary year 1 from the Flyers sealed the deal. I believe the plan all along was to cut Briere loose. I also believe they were genuinely shocked to lose Drury.
So, as opposed to crucifying the Sabres and Golisano for gouging the fans I tend to recognize the fact that he utilized good business sense that extended benefits to the fans. The fact that the Sabres are spending $12 million more per season on salaries than prior to the cap is also a significant argument against the cheapskate argument. It is truly a win-win situation. The fact that the team is financially viable in spite of this salary increase is the real story. The Sabres, while doing a terrible job with Drury and Briere, are a model of how to manage a small market team and be competitive in an inherently unfair marketplace.
20 August 2007
While I was away in Maine last week, the Buffalo Sabres announced an ingenious new ticket pricing plan. The Sabres call it the "Variable Pricing System." Here is how the team describes this new system:
16 August 2007
"Barring" the news that Mark Bell is headed to jail and that the annual Hockey News Ultimate Pool guide for the upcoming season is out (yipee!), Islanders 'tender Rick DiPietro gave bloggers something to write about as he has recently unveiled New York's new RBK jersey look on ice at Iceworks rink in Syosset, NY.
(Thanks to fellow blogger Sean over at Popjocks and regular Peter Arheim for sending this in!)
Sure we've all heard this many times before, and many of us have even examined the concept of a RBK Edge jersey, but I wonder, will the fabric of the jersey you wear really make you noticably faster, or will this just turn out to be another NHL-laid bomb?
I will reserve judgement on the actual results of wearing this newly designed and manufactured jersey, until I see some action this October.
As for the look of the jersey, I have to admit, it looks pretty nice even if I hate the fact there are numbers on the front of the jersey and that horizontal striping is just plain silly.
Oh and sorry for the lack of posting this month, as you've probably noticed, hockey news is becoming increasingly rare.
The jerseys post will be updated soon!
15 August 2007
I've never actually watched Survivor but from what I've heard, there's a lot of backstabbing and feeding each other to the sharks (no pun intended) so I'm looking forward to seeing who will be the first to cry... I know, I know, I have a mean streak in me. All I can say in my defense is that I love these guys to death, even the ones I don't really know yet; as soon as they put on that Coyote uniform, they steal my heart and I will go to bat for them, no questions asked. That being said, I want them to fight for it. I am sick of guys coming here simply to retire (and because we have good golf); I want them to come here because we are using a winning system and they want to be a part of it.
So who's it going to be? Will it be our backup from last year, Mikael Tellqvist? Will it be one of the two new guys brought in to duke it out for the top spot, David Aebischer or Alex Auld? Will David Leneveu finally have his shot at the big club or will this be the end of his run in our organization? Where will my boy Josh Tordjman rank in this line up? Will he continue to be San Antonio's backup or will he move up and become their number one, shaping him to show up for us in the next year or so?
So many questions with no answers. They should, at the least, give us all a good show at training camp next month. Whoever is chosen, though, should know that they can't just coast through. "Oh, it's only the Coyotes, they're not going to the playoffs anyway, I'll just take tonight off." Nay, goalie, nay. You'll have to prove every night that you deserve to be here... we're not taking any shit from anyone. Or at least I hope we're not...
(X-Posted to TrueCoyoteLove & the HLOG)
Mark Bell, traded this summer from the San Jose Sharks to the Leafs in June of this year. While the story maybe relatively knew, it appears Maple Leaf brass were monitoring the situation since his arrival. The charges, and impending jail time were the result of an incident that occured in september of 2006. Bell, apparently had twice the legal limit of blood/alcohol content as he collided with a truck during the early hours last fall. He then made the inebriated choice to stumble away from the scene, making the issue a felony. He was facing close to four years in prison, but, according to TSN he will recieve 6 months that will be served after the season ends. In all likelyhood, Bell will not miss any regular season games, as he will serve only two thirds of his sentence which is common for cases such as this. While most athletes are professionals and do in fact conduct themselves as such, what are your thoughts on athletes in the justice system? Should jail time, house arrests, or any such repercussions be served around the players schedule?
Goal scored by Brian Anthony at 10:18 PM
13 August 2007
Mostly Quiet on the Sabres front...
Team is reportedly close to signing prospect Felix Schutz whom they drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft. Shutz has apparently decided against resigning with his German league club and will join the Sabres. Schutz is a speedy, shifty centerman that measures in at 5'11 190 pounds.
Talk has heated up regarding talk of Ales Kotalik being moved for help in another area. I think it is more likely that Clarke Macarthur or Jochen Hecht will get the first opportunity to win the 3rd line center job and then moving Kotalik would be considered. This is unless an offer for a quality young blueliner comes around and Kotalik is as good as gone.
Rumours were abound that Sabres were about to sign Tim Kennedy from Michigan State. Kennedy was picked up after the Capitals had selected him in a quiet draft day trade in 2006 and has blossomed with the Spartans. He is a local Buffalo kid and has shown tremendous finishing touch.
Don't be surprised in Andrei Sekera comes in and takes a job from either Dmitri Kalinin or Jaro Spacek. Unfortunately it could result in one of those two (or both) being cast off for relatively nothing.
The more I think of it the more I like the Jocelyn Thibault signing. The man can play and seems to thrive in the backup role. I especially like it that this should allow Buffalo to rest Ryan Miller far more often than they did late last season.
09 August 2007
In addition to staying True Blue to my tagline of “Shooting From Angles Not Covered By Any Other Blogs”, I am going to be just a little forward and fire my rubber load (so to speak) in the direction of a subject that I have yet to see mentioned on any Ranger blogs, websites, message boards, newspapers or magazines. And if this subject has been covered in any of the aforementioned forms of “social intercourse”, its coverage has been scanty.
While the main focus continues to be (and justifiably so) on the Rangers sizzling summer, double-dip splash into the UFA pool – A.K.A. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury – other ubiquitous Ranger topics include: 1) draft day’s Russian Heist (Alexei Cherapanov), 2) the relatively peaceful signings of Henrik Lundquist, Brendan Shanahan, Petr Prucha and Marcel Hossa, 3) the signing of Sean Avery after an ornery arbitration hearing (and its long-term consequences), 4) the trading of Matt Cullen and who his replacement will be, 5) the potential impact of Marc Staal and other highly touted prospects, 6) what will become of the current glut of defensemen and how the defense corps will ultimately pan out, 7) general opinions on the Rangers chances of winning the Stanley Cup, etc.
What never seems to be brought up is a very simple question: Are the Rangers physically equipped to be capable of winning the Stanley Cup? One of the reasons this potent poser should be a timely one is the urge that some of the league has had to enlarge since the events of last spring. Once the Anaheim Ducks consummated their season with hockey’s ultimate gratification, the Stanley Cup, some NHL teams have chosen to “go with the flow” and mimic the mighty Ducks. This was evident in the 2007 entry draft, where some teams refused to succumb to the temptation of raw talent, and instead decided to reload their pistols with brawnier ammunition. After all, in this copy-cat league the physically dominant Ducks have become the envy of all their gamey rivals in the hunt for next year’s big prize.
One might argue that the league’s rules favor fast, skilled teams - not necessarily big ones, and Anaheim’s championship was more an aberration as opposed to the beginning of a new trend. This argument would be supported by the fact that no Stanley Cup winner has repeated in 10 years, and that historically a size advantage in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily become the deciding factor. The Philadelphia Flyers, in their Bobby Clarke days, are the probably the best examples. On the other hand, had the Flyers actually added an elite goalie to the mix for many of these years, their physicality might have been the force that carried them over the top to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The biggest difference between today’s hefty hockey teams and those of yesteryear is that some of the current NHL teams, namely Anaheim and San Jose, have a frightening combination of size, strength, speed and youth. Anyone, who was watching the Detroit-San Jose series, would have bet the family fish tank after game 3 that the Sharks were going to swim away with this one. But despite being seemingly over-aged, out-muscled, out-skated and out-matched for much of the first 3 games, Detroit proved in a stunning 3 game turnaround that a “strength of character” advantage can sometimes offset an entire host of physical deficiencies. Should the Sharks be able to overcome their character issues this year, their daunting endowment of assets might make them the favorites to sink their teeth into the Cup.
Anaheim is dealing with a number off-season issues often encountered by defending Stanley Cup champions, such as players contemplating retirement and an increase in their players’ perceived value (and salary demands). This often leads to the loss of some players, who are lured away by other teams willing to overpay for their services. So depending on how things shake out for Anaheim, they could be headed for a fall this spring. On the other hand, should Anaheim eventually be able to get their Ducks in a row without ruffling too many of their franchise feathers, they will be every bit as formidable as they were last year.
What about the Rangers? As much as I enjoyed their brilliant resurrection late last season, which climaxed with an improbable surge to the playoffs and a first round thumping of a throttled Thrasher team, I knew that they realistically had no chance of “going all the way”. Although the Rangers inevitable encounter with the Buffalo proved to be a much closer contest than I could have ever anticipated, ultimately they were destined to succumb to the Sabres wealth of weapons.
But even if the Rangers could have pulled off the humongous upset against Buffalo and had the stamina to outlast the Senators (in what would have been a tough and evenly matched series), their bubble would certainly have burst against a physically superior Western Conference foe.
In the playoffs, much of a team’s success depends upon which opponents they are pitted against and how well they match-up against them. The Rangers had plenty of skill and speed, but not nearly as much as Buffalo. The Rangers certainly had enough size and grit to physically stand up to any Eastern Conference team that made the tournament, but not nearly enough to withstand the perpetual pounding that they would have received at the hands of the Ducks or Sharks. Had the Rangers encountered either of these teams in the Finals, they would have been eaten alive – as Duck soup for Anaheim or as Shark bait for San Jose.
In fact, the Rangers were fortunate that Philadelphia and Toronto didn’t make the playoffs last year. In the regular season, even though the Rangers could compete with these teams, it was obvious that both the Flyers and Leafs were more broadly built than the Blueshirts. Had the Rangers faced either squad in the post season, they would have had trouble holding their own in hit-for-hit hockey. Of course, the more drawn-out a series becomes and the further into the playoffs the match-up occurs, the more difficult it is for a smaller team to cope with the carnage inflicted by their colossal counterparts. This means that the Rangers would have a better chance of surviving this kind of clash had it occurred in the first or second round, as opposed to the final two rounds.
Relatively also enters into this equation. Certainly a team can more easily overcome a disadvantage, if the disadvantage is a minor or moderate one. A real mismatch can arise when one team has substantial supremacy in size, speed, or skill.
As teams continue to assemble the off-season pieces to their respective puzzles, it’s hard to say for certain how much of a relative advantage/disadvantage each club will have next year in the desirable attributes of size, speed, and skill. We won’t know the answers until each team’s internal competitions have been decided in league-wide training camps and all their final transactions have been made.
Aside from particular line combinations and defensemen pairings, the Rangers really have only a few spots that remain in question. Assuming that Ryan Callahan and Daniel Girardi have completed their post graduation requirements from the Hartford Academy and will remain in New York, along with two year veteran, Hossa, that leaves only one center position, a couple of fourth line positions, and one or two defense positions remaining in limbo (assuming no further trades).
Therefore, we have a pretty good picture of how the Rangers breakdown in some of the key physical categories. They would appear to have good (but not excellent) team speed and plenty of skill that would probably allow them to stay competitive (in this sense) with just about any team in the playoffs – especially since the Sabres machine lost two of their main cogs in Briere and Drury. Although the Rangers parted with a very speedy center in Matt Cullen and a very skilled center in Michael Nylander, they picked up two very fast centers in Gomez and Drury – with Gomez possessing excellent playmaking skills and Drury bringing a host of intangible qualities (one of which bit the Blueshirts in the butt in game 5 of the Sabres series).
As far as size and strength goes, they’re simply not among the Rangers strong suits - notwithstanding a couple of players whose physical force could potentially wear down their playoff opponents, such as Jaromir Jagr and Hossa. This is not to say that the Blueshirts don’t have some gritty players, as well as some other players (aside from Jagr and Hossa) of impressive stature - at least 6’1” and over 210 lbs. It’s just that Shanahan, Marik Malik and Paul Mara don’t play a physical style that wears down the opposition, while Colton Orr and Jason Strudwick are fringe players who are often not dressed.
Brad Isbister, whose offensive capabilities could never be confused with Joe Thornton’s, did provide the Rangers with some well-needed bulk late last season and in the playoffs. His ability to work the boards, cycle the puck and compliment Jagr made him an effective player, and in that sense, he will be missed. I should also mention that if the question mark at center is answered by Brandon Dubinsky, then on top of the other talents he brings to the table, his ponderous proportions and feistiness would definitely be a welcomed addition to the team.
Overall, I would say that the Rangers could physically endure a playoff series against most teams, but would very likely get blown away by the power of some of the jumbo jets they could engage in battle.
The reason that I’ve barely touched upon the “joys of youth” is because a Stanley Cup championship team is generally composed of a nice blend of young bucks and wily vets. Next season, the Rangers will probably have the right mixture of those ingredients.
Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether the Rangers have a chance to “win it all” is chance itself. Who knows if the elements that GM, Glen Sather, compounds will result in good chemistry? Who knows how healthy the team will be, especially heading into the playoffs? Who knows if a topsy-turvy season will be topsy or turvy in late April? And finally, who knows in the pursuit of the ultimate conquest, what sequence of opponents will need to be conquered?
So with size being one of many uncertain variables, will Lady Luck scorn the Rangers for their physical shortcomings? Or will the Rangers have the goods to get the gold (silver in this case)? These answers will go a long way in determining how deeply they can penetrate into the big dance come next spring. The final score will either show the Rangers living large as Stanley Cup champions, or being pre-maturely humbled as inadequate also-rans.
Postscript: Should the Rangers surmount all the obstacles and defy all the odds this season to hoist hockey’s Holy Grail, then next summer they would be wise to beware of invaders from the Great White North (Edmonton). For if “Kevin the Poacher” aims his next Lowe blow at the Rangers family jewels, they must prepare themselves by defending their Cup.
Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist - http://hockeyhumorist.blogspot.com/
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06 August 2007
As we all know by now, the Canadiens officially signed veteran free-agent defenceman Patrice Brisebois to a one year contract, likely worth around 700K.
I guess it's a bargain for a guy that could put up 30 points in a full season...and if he could put up another +17 rating, like he did a few years back with the Habs, then it's a good signing nonetheless.
Otherwise, it won't matter if he sucks or not...he's not getting paid the $4.5 million to play "crapily" (is that a word?) like he did in his last season in Montreal and get literally booed out of the city.
Or maybe Bob is just a sympathetic guy who wants to see this vet retire in a Habs uni.
I, for one, would have preferred Gainey to let Brisebois retire, and take a good hard look at some nice young guys down in Hamilton itching to earn a spot on the Canadiens roster next season.
The obvious option is Ryan O'Byrne, who looks to me like a lock to make the Habs' squad...his size and shot being his most useful assets.
Another option, though unlikely, is Mathieu Biron, a former NHLer with the Washington Capitals and now the Bulldogs' main powerplay quarterback.
When I saw him play, along with the rest of the team at the Bell Centre a few months ago.
I was especially impressed with his offensive game, his booming slap shot on the powerplay won't replace Sheldon Souray's...but it would be a pretty nice consolation prize.
Besides them, there isn't much to hope for...besides Jean-Phillipe Cote, who had a cup of coffee with the Canadiens 2 seasons ago, but has fallen way low due to injury and inconsistency since then.
Gainey finally realized the Habs lacked depth on defence, and had little options in Hamilton, and as a result, the 2007 Habs draft class consisted of mainly defencemen, notably top-ranked Ryan McDonagh (1st round) and the big muscular P.K. Subban (2nd round).
The question is: will the presence of the 36-year old Patrice Brisebois force Bob Gainey to potentially cut a promising young player from next year's team in training camp?
05 August 2007
I know I am a bit, behind with this post but I have been super busy. I am sure everyone has heard by now about the Staal brothers' arrest on July 25th.
Apparently Eric's bachelor party was loud and "disorderly" and after several times after being asked to quiet down they were thrown out of the resort. Once they left they were walking along side the road (at least they were smart enough to stay from behind the wheel) and being obnoxious at which point they were arrested. It has surfaced that both Eric and Jordan were both one of the few who actually went to bed when asked the first time, but were woken up and told to leave. Not so sure how much truth is behind that.
While Eric is JUST being charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process, Jordan will also face an Underage drinking charge because he was only 18 at the time.
Jim Rutherford has indicated that Eric won't get any punishment fromt the team, although I am guessing Laviolette will give him a nice talking to.
*As a small side note: Eric's wedding was this past Friday. Congrats to him and Tanya.
Goal scored by Katy at 10:14 PM
03 August 2007
RDS reports defenseman Patrice Brisebois signed a one year 700 000 $ contract with possible performance bonuses of up to 700 000 $. Gainey justified this move by saying that "Patrice is a proven veteran defenseman who will add depth to our defense."
The deal is too fresh for me to decide whether or not I am pleased by this signing. We can almost certainly forget about seeing a prospect defenseman from Hamilton (Côté for example) make the team. However, their is no doubt in my mind that having signed a contract that is well under the 4.3M he was making in his last campaign with the Habs, Brisebois will not be as pressured by the media and the fans. I have no problem with Gainey signing him so long as he is not going to be a liability defensively. If he finishes the season with a + rating, his offensive numbers will not be of concern to me.
I wont lie to you guys, many things need to be proven by the Habs on the ice, and I can't wait for the season to start to see what will work out, and what wont.
In the worst jurisprudence blunder since the Simpson prosecutors allowed O.J. to handle his own gloves on the witness stand in the 1995 “Trial of the Century”, Rangers general manager, Glen Sather, has made a “bloody mess” of the entire Sean Avery affair.
Please understand that I’m not trying to equate the injustice of a double homicide with the incompetence of a poorly executed contract negotiation, as this would be highly insensitive to the homicide victims and their families. However, there are two scarcely mentioned (yet undeniable) links between the New York Rangers and O.J. Simpson. The first part of this irrevocable bond occurred on June 17, 1994, when just hours after the Rangers and their fans celebrated the recent Stanley Cup victory with a downtown ticker tape parade, Simpson & Co. (inside the White Ford Bronco) began their historic “slow speed chase” with the LAPD. The second (more indirect) link was that the insatiable public appetite for anything and everything Simpson-related (after the car chase), along with the accompanying “media circus”, forced Sports Illustrated to place Simpson’s police mug shot on the front cover of their next issue – a spot that SI was unquestionably reserving for the story about how the Rangers had finally ended their 54 year curse (1940-1994).
And speaking of curses (while getting back to Avery), if Rangers fans thought that the 54 year hex was a “bitch to bear”, it might be nothing compared to what awaits them after next summer. Because at that time (barring a miraculous and unlikely reconciliation), Avery, who is already known on the ice as trash-talking, vindictive, contentious and the “most hated player in NHL” (as voted on by his peers), will hit the UFA market with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest, along with a venomous vendetta aimed directly at Sather and (by default) his entire organization. And the most unfortunate aspect to this entire debacle is that it could have been so easily avoided – several different ways.
The first way Sather could have avoided the Avery ordeal focuses on the root cause of the problem – which is the Rangers tight salary cap numbers. When Slats signed premier UFAs, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, for a combined $14.4 million per cap year, it put a noose around the Rangers “cap collar”, which has been tightened a notch by each additional signing - with only the Matt Cullen trade providing any slack. It’s far too early to judge the Gomez/Drury signings with so many factors to be determined down the road, such as: how well the two play on Broadway, how much longer some of the other highly paid veterans play, how well the Rangers low-salaried prospects pan out over the next few years, how the salary cap upper limit fluctuates in upcoming years, etc.
I also can’t find fault with the signings of Prucha, Lundquist and Hossa, as the cap realities in addition to the three players wanting to be part of this year’s potential Cup run, allowed all parties to come to fairly amicable, short term resolutions. There is one glaring exception here – Brendan Shanahan.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Shanahan as much as the next Rangers fan, and I’m delighted that he’s back with the team. He provides leadership, character, professionalism, team spirit, versatility, endless hustle, and even occasional goals. Occasional? I will clarify this with cold, hard facts. After his stellar scoring stampede of the first 29 games (22 goals on 141 shots, 15.6% SP), Shanahan’s scoring stumbled sharply in the next 29 games (6 goals on 116 shots, 5.2% SP). These are his pre-concussion stats. In the final 9 games of the season, he scored 1 goal on 38 shots with a 2.6% SP – giving him a total of 7 goals on 154 shots (4.5% SP) over his last 38 regular season games. One could argue that he is a streaky player who was in a slump - but for 38 games (29 pre-concussion) I don’t buy it.
Notwithstanding a fine 5 goal (12.2% SP in 10 games) playoff performance, which I admit does give me a little bit of reservation here, it would seem that Shanahan’s days as a 40-50 goal scorer are behind him. Furthermore, Shanahan didn’t show particularly good chemistry with several linemates (Prucha being the most glaring), nor with Jagr on the Power Play. Far too often Shanahan’s presence on a line caused his linemates to focus primarily on feeding him the puck for his classic one-timers – which is just fine – if he scores on them a lot more than the 4.5% of the time he did over the last 38 regular season games.
My point is that at age 38 (soon to be 39) Shanahan has become somewhere between a valuable role player and a star, and he should be paid accordingly. Given the fact (much to his credit) that Shanahan didn’t want to talk to other teams so he could be part of a potentially special Ranger squad this year, and that he essentially said he would do anything that made financial sense for the Rangers to help accomplish this goal, it seems to me that $5.3 million ($2.5 counting towards this year’s cap) is ridiculously high. At most he should have received the $4 million ($2 million salary & $2 million bonus) he earned last year, or even $3 million ($1.5 million salary & $1.5 million bonus). Had Sather paid Shanahan reasonably, he would have had another $500,000 to $1 million of salary cap room this year that could easily have been sent Avery’s way to avoid any arbitration and the ensuing consequences.
In fact, if it ever came down to prioritizing between Avery and Shanahan (in this stage of their careers), I’d choose Avery. The Rangers went 17-6-6 with Avery in the lineup. In games that Avery played and Shanahan didn’t, the Rangers went 8-3-4. In games that Shanahan played and Avery didn’t, the Rangers went 25-24-4. Certainly a stingier defense and sharper goaltending were big factors in the Rangers surge to the playoffs, but Avery was perhaps the biggest single factor in the Rangers remarkable turnaround last season.
As Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote it in this article - Avery added “a jagged edge to a team that had been way too smooth for its own good the first four months of the season”. Avery, at age 27 and in his prime, got under the skin of his opponents - drawing far more penalties than he took. He displayed never ending energy, hustle and grit – while proving that he also had plenty of speed, skill and scoring ability. He kept himself in control (just enough) to be an extremely effective player without overly rocking the Rangers burgeoning boat along the way. And on top of all this, he played with an assortment of injuries that would have kept many a tough competitor out of the lineup.
Let’s face it, when the Rangers trashed the Thrashers in that four game playoff mercy killing, was there any Ranger more valuable than Avery? In addition to his offense output of 1 goal and 4 assists, Avery had the Thrashers top line so uncomfortably pestered that they looked as though they were skating in circles the entire series in search of insect repellent. No doubt, Avery has become a player whose intangible value is almost immeasurable. And for the first time in his career, Avery has built a connection with the fans, his team and their city. They love Avery, and in turn, Avery loves playing for them. This nomad had finally found a home.
Now all of this is not to say that Avery wasn’t in need of an attitude adjustment when he first arrived with the Rangers – a procedure that quickly and somewhat surprisingly was deemed a success (much to the credit of Shanahan). However, as we’ve discussed, attitudes weren’t the only thing in Rangerland that needed adjusting. Just like piano strings have to be tuned every once in awhile, I’d say that Sather’s purse strings (as well as his priorities) could have used a fine tuning before July 1 – with some purse strings being far too loose while others being far too tight. Had Slats been tuned in time, Avery could have been rewarded for his outstanding efforts from last season, and the ugly events of the past week could have been avoided.
But even after the fiscal mistakes (detailed above) were in the rear view mirror, Sather could have driven the dangerous Avery (and all his personal baggage) to safety, if not for the second of his three mistakes – not settling before the arbitration hearing on the obvious $2 million compromise. This is something that everybody with at least one marble rolling around in their head knew was going to happen anyway. The Blueshirt Bulletin summarizes its best in a post entitled: Why Bother?
Why didn’t both parties meet around the $2 million range – given that the numbers submitted at arbitration were $2.6 million by Avery and $1.3 million by Sather? Perhaps it was mutual stubbornness by two people with a history of having rather contrary dispositions. Right now it is unclear if either side offered the $2 million compromise and other side refused. If Avery was the one to refuse, then most of the blame would point at him. However, Sather’s reputation for playing hardball with his RFA entrants, make him the odds on favorite in this blame-game derby.
Still, despite these “comedy of errors”, the real damage had not yet been done. The third way this fiasco was avoidable would have been if Sather had used a more long-sighted, diplomatic approach throughout the arbitration process. Had he done so, Slats wouldn’t have pushed the volatile Avery into feelings of shock, resentment and disbelief. The handling of Avery, both on the ice and in negotiations, is as delicate a task as handling Nitroglycerine. Done properly, and Avery becomes a powerful weapon capable of helping you win wars. Done carelessly, and Avery can blow up in your face.
I realize that Avery and Sather both signed the arbitrator’s $1.9 million peace offering and that both sides are now talking “nice-nice”. But Avery’s initial reaction to Sather’s overly harsh treatment of him during the arbitration process is proof that Slats had already dropped the Nitro, and the inevitable explosion will come next summer.
Ordinarily the story would end here because we all know what happened and why it happened … or do we? It turns out that up until now, we’ve only been presented with a partial picture of the events surrounding the arbitration process. However, brand new evidence from a strange, yet somewhat familiar, source will astound even the hardened hockey fan.
The source I speak of is now a part-time European scout for the Rangers. He is a Finnish man with a somewhat Czech-ered past, including a stint as an actor in both Finland and the Czech Republic. Having a hard time making ends meet, he once appeared in a Finnish porn film – getting a good “bang for the buck”. This scout, who is extremely affable, has a magnetic personality – especially when it comes to beautiful women. He understands the English language quite well when heard or in writing, but he barely speaks a word of it. He is very popular with the Rangers brass when he comes to New York – not the least of which is because of his reputation for knowing how to find all the best European hotspots and parties in Manhattan. So when he comes to town, it’s nothing for Ranger employees to “put him up” in their guest houses. Wait a minute…guest houses? It couldn’t be….. could it? Remember, I said he was Finnish, so you know that we’re not talking about Kato. His name is actually Reijo – Reijo Raitinen.
According to Raitinen, Sather was very thorough in his preparation for the Avery arbitration hearing - gathering documentation on Avery’s entire career. Contrary to popular belief, Slats put together a fair, reasonable outline that effectively stated the Rangers case without being overly harsh to Avery. Sather intended to use the information contained in the outline to create a brief for the arbitration proceedings.
The night before the Rangers had to present the Avery brief to the arbitrator, Sather and a lower-level, but trusted, assistant were having coffee at local bistro. All of the Avery documentation was in Sather’s briefcase when Slats and his assistant went to the men’s room to answer nature’s cappuccino call.
Both men were standing at the urinals when Sather (with one hand holding his briefcase) used his other hand to loosen his own belt. It is at this time when Sather endured the executive embarrassment of eternity, which began when Slats’ slacks slipped (try saying that 3 times fast). Then, while trying to grab his trousers, Sather’s hand hooked his Hanes – accidentally pulling them down. And when I say that Sather “dropped his briefs”, I mean that Sather really dropped his briefs – as the Avery documents came tumbling out of his briefcase and all over the grungy bathroom floor. Bottomless, bewildered and berserk, Sather frantically put the papers back in the folders. However, in his haste Slats placed the papers from Avery’s “Pre-Rangers” folder into the “2007 Arbitration” folder and vice-versa.
Completely pressed for time now, Sather handed his “2007 Arbitration” folder to his assistant, who then couriered them to Cam Hope, the Rangers Assistant General Manger of Hockey Operations. Then against all hope, Cam wrote the final arbitration briefs from misplaced documents out of the wrong folder. The Avery briefs presented to the arbitrator said (among other disparaging verbiage) that Avery was “a reasonably effective player as well as a detriment to the team”. This statement is absolutely true - from 1999 to February 4, 2006. Shortly after February 5, 2006 (the day he was traded to the Rangers) we all know that Avery was an extremely effective player who was a major asset to the team.
By the time of the arbitration date, July 30, the briefs had already been submitted to the arbitrator. Sather had since discovered the mistake, but it was too late - they had to proceed with what they had previously written. As Sather and Hope (soiled briefs and all) stormed into the hearing, they replaced Simpson detectives, Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter, as the latest version of “Dumb and Dumber”. Of course, the ultimate irony in this fantastic farce is that it was never a case of premeditated mediation mangling (as commonly believed), instead it was a case of unplanned underwear undermining.
You may ask how did Reijo learn the details of the “Brew House Brief Bungling”? Apparently the night of July 30, while “hanging” at the Rangers corporate offices, he heard three mysterious, loud thumps. Quite concerned, Reijo had a secretary call the police. After detectives investigated the incident, they discovered no signs of burglary or foul play. Instead, the sounds actually came from Sather himself, who had pounded his fist on desk three times in anger over the day’s events.
You may also ask how do I know Reijo? Well, it turns out that we have a mutual friend – the girl he costarred with in that Finnish flesh flick. She and I have what you might call a ….uh-hum….professional relationship.
How will all that transpired affect the Rangers in the short-term? Ironically, it could help them. With Avery playing like man possessed next year (trying to earn a big UFA payday) and the Rangers having a very strong team already, a little luck and some timely tinkering by the otherwise competent Sather could result in another ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes next June. Certainly, the Rangers are considered contenders for the Cup, but in all likelihood their chances of winning it are relatively low. As good as they are, the Rangers still have a number of holes to fill, and the very competitive nature of the NHL, makes it difficult for any team to win it all.
As for the long-term consequences of the Avery affair - fear not, I have no doubt that one day the Rangers will again “Skate the Cup”. The only problem I have with this prediction is that of timing - given that the Rangers big day might well be the same day that O.J. and his posse of PIs make good on their 1994 promise and catch the “real killer”. Which leads to my final word of warning to Ranger fans - don’t hold your collective breaths while waiting for the next Stanley Cup. With the “Avery Curse” soon to be hanging over the Rangers heads, this wait may “last a lifetime”.
Everything written after (and including) the paragraph that begins “Ordinarily the story would end here…” is completely fabricated – a figment of my “slightly-warped” imagination. To the best of my knowledge Slats' slacks never slipped, and every fan’s favorite Finnish house guest, Reijo Raitinen, does not actually exist – but it was sure fun partying with him!
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02 August 2007
Various media sources are reporting the Edmonton Oilers have officially signed former Ducks forward Dustin Penner to a 5-year/$21.5 million contract.
The young sniper played in all 82 games for the Stanley Cup champions Ducks last season, scoring 29 goals and adding 16 assists for a total of 45 points and 202 shots on goal.
The signing occurs a few weeks after Lowe made a bold move in signing the Sabres' Tomas Vanek to a $7 million per season offer sheet, only to see Buffalo GM Darcy Regier match within 19 minutes.
The 6'4'', 245-pound Winkler, Manitoba native just scored big time in the bank, and the NHL should be worried.
A few years down the road, maybe, just maybe he'd be worth the money he just got from a desperate Kevin Lowe...but at this point in his career? A 24-year old sophomore with a season and a quarter under his belt making a little over $4 million per season seems too much like the old NHL, where GM's paid wildly for any hint of talent available to them.
Scott Hartnell, who recently signed a similar pact with the Philadelphia Flyers, belongs in that pool of "paying for potential, not production" players. Both Penner and Hartnell will earn $4.2 million annually for the next 5 and 6 seasons respectively.
So what does this mean for the future RFA market?
For starters, teams may be tempted to sign future restricted free-agent Jason Spezza to an offer sheet next summer, and with the Senators trying to hold on to potential unrestricted 50-goal man Dany Heatley as well, someone may very well succeed in prying him from Sens GM Bryan Murray's hands.
But not so fast, this signing of Penner is also an ominous sign.
A sign that the NHL is heading back to its old days of overpriced free-agents and overrated players...I'm starting to wonder why we lost a complete season of hockey and why Gary Bettman and the NHL are so STUBBORN not to realize what's going on.
It was a mistake to make the cap rise again to $50.3 million, if the NHL knows what's good for their league finances and fans, they'll lower that number to $45 million next year and leaves GM's little room to spend the $7 million Chris Drury got, and the $10 million Dany Heatley will likely get if this continues next year.
They won't lower the cap, so scratch that.
If they actually used their brains, they'd finally figure out that the more the cap raises, the more salaries for elite players will go up, and the more we'll be drifting back to the pre-lockout era and a potential lockout/labour dispute again.
This signing not only makes the RFA market a whole new attractive destination for GM's, and a headache for the NHL, but it also marks the end of the Brian Burke-Kevin Lowe friendship, at least according to Burke's recent harsh words to the media.
01 August 2007
They say “it’s lonely at the top”. This certainly appears to be the case for general manager, Brian Burke, of the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, who appears to have gotten tangled up in a Duck trap of his own making. Not knowing the status of returning/retiring stars Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, combined with tight salary cap numbers, the Ducks inadvertently left duckling, Dustin Penner, ripe for poachers. Enter Edmonton general manager, Kevin Lowe, whose final bazooka shot in this year’s RFA hunting season, is a bulls-eye aimed right at the beak of Penner.
Burke has publicly ripped into Lowe for what he calls “an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job". Burke’s beef seems to be more about the amount of the Oilers offer sheet to Penner (reportedly 5 years for $21.25 million), as opposed to the act of trying to snatch the young Duck from his Anaheim nest. Burke complained that “this is the second time this year in my opinion Edmonton have offered a grossly inflated salary for a player, and it impacts on all 30 teams”.
It’s amazing to me how times have changed, when in the past, it was always the big market teams – led by the fiscally irresponsible Rangers – who were accused by small market teams, like Edmonton, of inflating player salaries by overpaying for talent. Now, the new salary cap system creates the opportunity for a small market team - whose obscure northern location is as inviting to free agents as a bad case of Pneumonic Plague - to turn the system upside-down (or at least sideways) and grossly overpay for a player who has scored all of 45 points in his fledgling 82 game regular season career.
Regardless of which frozen pond (Edmonton’s or Anaheim’s) Penner ends up skating on for the next 5 years, there are two certainties: 1) he will be earning an average of over $4 million per year, and 2) his contract, inked in unchartered waters, will have a rippling effect on future RFA contract negotiations between NHL teams and their young, potential stars.
Burke isn’t tipping his hand on which way is leaning on this issue – other than to indicate that he must confer with ownership before making the call. No matter the outcome, this should certainly be an amusing week for all of us as the Thursday deadline approaches for the Ducks final decision. Something tells me that, regardless of when Burke and the Ducks make up their minds, this one is going to go down to the final minutes - partially because this ordeal has gotten so personal between Burke and Lowe that Burke has even ripped Lowe for the timing of his attempted heist. Burke said "I thought Kevin would have called me and told me it was coming. I thought that was gutless…I think it's a classless move timing-wise”.
Brian, maybe it’s just me, but I never knew that there was a polite way to forcefully clip a Duck’s feathers. But it’s another thought that I have that really has me eagerly anticipating the Thursday Duck-Oiler shootout. Given the bad blood that has developed between Burke and Lowe, I keeping wondering whether the “Dustin Duel” will end up like the infamous “Sakic Skirmish” of 1997, when Rangers general manager, Neil Smith, unsuccessfully attempted to pillage the cash-strapped Avalanche with a front-loaded RFA offer to Joe Sakic.
That week-long event climaxed with Colorado general manager, Pierre Lacroix, sending a last minute fax to the Rangers (just to stick it to Smith), indicating that they had matched the offer sheet to Sakic. As an appreciative gesture to Smith and the Rangers for further f__king up their financial affairs, Lacroix’s fax included the legendary 1976 picture of vice-president, Nelson Rockefeller, “Giving the Finger” to a group of political hecklers in New York.
As D-Day approaches, we can only wonder whether Burke will handle his hardship with humility and class, or whether he will strike Kevin with a Lowe blow. Let’s all keep “The Fingers” crossed.
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An arbitrator in Toronto has awarded Rangers Forward Sean Avery a $1.9 million salary for the 2007-2008 season. Avery made $1.1 million this past season and was seeking $2.6 million for the upcoming season, while the Rangers were offering $1.3 million. The arbitrator essentially split the difference. The Rangers immediately announced that they have accepted the arbitrator’s award. Rangers GM Glen Sather issued the following statement:
"We are pleased to have Sean under contract and are looking forward to him returning with the same passion and enthusiasm he brought to our team last year. He is a terrific competitor, who we expect to play a significant role in a successful season."
That sounds slightly different from what Slats was telling the arbitrator. I understand it's just business, but both sides should have been able to reach an agreement before it got to the contentious arbitration process. Hopefully, both sides can put this behind them and focus on the upcoming season, but it won't change the fact that this was poorly handled by Rangers' management.
The Rangers did manage to avoid arbitration with Forward Marcel Hossa (if Sather was able to make such a forceful argument against Avery, I would love to get my hands on a draft of the Hossa brief) by signing him to a one-year, $780,000 deal.
Right now, the Rangers are at $51.144 million for 12 forwards, 9 defensemen and 2 goalies, counting all of Shanny's bonuses. Now, they still have to add one more forward to the roster and subtract a defenseman. If the defenseman is Paul Mara, then they will be a little more than 2 million under the cap. If it's a younger defenseman, then things will be a little tighter. But, it appears the pieces to the Rangers' roster puzzle are beginning to come together, and the cap situation certainly appears to be manageable.
Goal scored by Norman Rochefort at 2:15 PM
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