Tuesday, March 28, 2006

So Much for My Fresh Take on Jack Johnson

But JR, there's a huge kegger this weekend at the Delta house!
I'd started to turn the corner on the prospect of Jack Johnson joining the 'Canes for the playoffs. His bestus buddy made the jump right to the NHL, and maybe the time was ripe for Jack to get on with it. Just being around a team involved in a Cup run might give JJ a sense of what it means to compete at this level. TSN has put this emerging story to rest, at least for this season.

I image the JR/JJ lunch meeting as kind of like Darth Vader trying to talk Luke Skywalker into joining him on the dark side. "Jaaaack you know you want the bling, the Escalade, the Roddy Brind 'Amour rough hewn split rail bachelor's love pit, the Southern Chickas squealing at you like a you were Clay Aiken (oops, scratch that last one). Join us Jaaaack, commit to the sightless eye and embrace your destiny." Chhurrrrrrrr (simulated Darth Vader breathing - the text version).

Alright Jack, go on back to Meeecheeegan. Terrorize the CCHA for one more year. We'll be waiting...

Looking Ahead to the Second Season

God bless you Marty Gerber.

All you hand-wringers can just back off Mark Recchi as well. Recchi is a pro-Recchi has played like a pro throughout his career. His service with the 'Canes will be no different. He'll come to play every night.

A Pause to Reflect and Bask in the Glow
What a difference a lost season and new CBA can make. The Hurricanes rebuilt over the lockout emphasizing speed, skills, forechecking and puck control. Out with trapping and banking on every night being a 2-1 game. Out with an anemic PP. Out with Jeff O'Neill, his laziness and attitude. Out with old leadership and in with new. It's Roddy's clubhouse now. JR correctly predicted the reality of NHL-next, and his foresight paid off. He made smart and cost-conscious acquistions in the off season, and left himself a huge budget margin to land Weight and Recchi at deadline time. Neither will be Senators or Flyers or Devils the rest of this season.

Playoffs on the Horizon
The 'Canes are in and now need to look ahead to playoff hockey. It's gonna be a grind-a gauntlet. The boys are gonna need to be fresh, healthy and peaking at the right time. They've been through a bit of a funk. The Sens have weathered the funk, ditto the Rangers. The Sabers are still in it. Eleven games remain. Lots of Southeast smackdowns still to go, and every game could mean life or death to the Panthers, Thrash and 'Ning.

If it was my club, I'd spend the next five or six games working on balance. If it was my club, I'd try to throttle back on ice time for guys like Staal, Stillman, Roddy, Whitney, Wesley, Hedican and AWard. I'd give Cullen, KAdams, Tverdovsky and Justin Williams more time in key situations-to demonstrate my trust in them at crunch time. Weight and Recchi need to continue to build on-ice rapport with their team mates, so I wouldn't limit their time.

I would give the younger guys considerably more time on the ice. Andrew Ladd, Mike Commodore, Chad LaRose, and Anton Babchuk, would all benefit from more time in more critical situations. Same with Cam Ward. Let him face 30-40 shots from some desperate squads for a span of games. We may well need the boy.

The next five or six games should also be a good time to get Joe Vasicek back into the flow. Start him slow, but have him ready to bang and play a lot of minutes at left wing or center by the last six games of the season.

Now, what if Jack Johnson commits between now and playoff time? Let me ruminate about that one. I might be changing my take...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Need Another Endorser Teppo?

Article on nhl.com today about Teppo Numinen's hockey company, Montreal Sports. Seems like Teppo's company has a nice stable of goaltenders like Miikka Kiprusoff and Marty Biron endorsing his goalie sticks. But other than Teppo, no NHL skaters seem to be using his sticks.

Well Teppo, I'm ready to talk contract. I have used my Montreal Nitro stick for over two years. I got it for aournd $35 at "The Eye," when all they had left were Jan Hvlac and Brad DeFauw castoffs. Mine is a DeFauw, and when I bought it, it was the least chewed up twig in the store-not surprising since DeFauw only played about two periods of NHL hockey.

So, if you are looking for 11 goal-per-season, C-league, second line center, I'm your man. I'm cheap and easy. A couple of extra Nano sticks and pay my travel and per diem expenses to the trade shows, and I'll shill on demand.

Southeast Smack-Down

Death Valley, Texas-Size!
Hi all-Back in the Blogcave after the San Antonio, Austin, Fredericksburg cross-Texas 2x trek. If you've never driven across West Texas, you haven't missed much. It is mind-numbing. The Texas Hill Country is beautiful, but from Sonora to El Paso it's all dustbowl. I say give that part of Texas back to the Comanches (or the Mexicans).

'Canes v. Craps
Saturday night tilt. First night back home after the roadie. God am I sick of excuses John and Trip make whenever we play the Craps. Team AOL is in the middle of an eight-game nosedive, and we get 'em on their rebound night. All of a sudden, Ollie Kolzig is Mr. Vezina for a day. The Craps have figured out how to beat the Hurricanes. They hustle their asses off every shift, play the body and just keep throwing the puck on net.

Like David pointed out the other day, no 'Cane presence in front of the net. The only guy I saw screening was AWard (continuing to be the stud on D). Eric Staal looks tired and frustrated. I know he's played in every game this year, but even an iron man could use a Swedish massage and a few days in the Jacuzzi.

"Jimmie" in Raleigh emailed NHL Live this morning badmouthing Mark Recchi, and to some extent, Doug Weight. Yeah, Recchi hasn't tallied a point yet, but he's definitely hustling and making plays-Ditto Dougie. IMHO, Recchi was about the only Carolina player making crisp passes Saturday night.

Tonight will be a huge test. Tampion Bay is hungry and grinding to get into the playoffs. Gut check night. How do the 'Canes play coming off a bad loss to the Craps? Like Staal, Justin Williams looks frustrated to me-Ditto Matt Cullen. Will we see Big Joe?

The boys need an infusion of fish oil or something heart-healthy. Hope they come out flying and keep it on afterburner-cause you know the Magic Munchkin and crew believe they have our number.

Friday, March 17, 2006

San Antonio Bound and Barrista Culture Rant

Sound the Deguello, we're heading to Texas!
Hi all-CasonBlog will be hitting the road tomorrow for San Antonio. Kids are off on spring break, and the wife has ordered me out of the blogcave and behind the wheel. Unlike our last trip across West Texas that included the six of us, Grandma, the Schnauzer, and an aged mini-van, just the core klan will be heading out in the Pacifica (a European-sytle luxury SUV, a kind of everyman's Mercedes, and NOT a mini-van) sans two of our previous passengers.

On the Agenda: Six Flags, the zoo, the Alamo, the Riverwalk, probably a Chuck-e-Cheeze, and a quick jaunt up to UT Austin to check out the competition. Any suggestions on a dining spot to replace pizza with the dancing robo-rat?

Barrista culture rant
This has bugged me-long time. I like coffee. I discovered the wonderful beverage in the Navy when it was usually the highlight of an otherwise mind-numbingly boring day at sea. I do not like this movement towards Fou-Fou Coffee parlors. A pox of Starbucks and all who have created the coffee-like beverages that are rapidly replacing good old coffee.

I hate waiting in line for somebody to order some double shot, machiato, upside down, bada bing, bada boom latte when all I want is a friggin' cup of coffee. When I get to the front, I have to try and remember that Vente' means XL (or does it?). When I order a plain old cup of coffee, I always feel like the guy that orders a burger in a fine restaurant. How gauche. Give somebody the nonsensical title, "Barrista," and they think they are culture cops.

I also hate how the Boheme slackers who seem to live in coffee houses turn the final coffee prep process into a sort of combination basketball box out and performance art session. Like basketball, there needs to be a three second rule at the counter. Unpoliced, these beret, scarf and Birkenstock clad philospher/Old Navy sales associates basically camp out for minutes at a time in front of the condiments counter. Got to have just the right mix of fat free cream, raw sugar, cinamon, and nutmeg or cocoa. The blocking foul continues while they carefully swizzle-stick their hellish creation. Only when they think they've performed all the requisite steps of this delicate dance do they move on and back to their laptops.

The week ahead
'Canes are on the road against the Bruins, Leafs and Sabers before returning home to face those Southeast teams they just can't seem to beat. Good week to be away. The week after next should be interesting. The Sabers game is game #2 on back-to-back nights and should be a good test of how the 'Canes handle the fatigue factor. They crashed and burned against the Panthers last weeked, and as I blogged the other day, they haven't done well this season on back-to-back games. The Sabers have the previous night off.

I hope the boys use being on the road this week to fully integrate Recchi, Babchuk and Weight into the fraternity. I didn't see much resiliency last night in the Habs. A flurry at the start of the third, then the 'Canes buried them. Only Craig Rivet seemed to take it personally.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bad Programming

Had to talk with a Sirius sales rep the other day. Had some system update that went bad and needed them to re-activate my car radio. Sales-guy was pleased to offer me the new Playboy channel as part of my package. I said, "Don't you think the whole Playboy experience loses much of its appeal without the visual element?" I declined. If I want porn on the radio, I'll get it the old fashioned way-with Howard Stern. Playboy on Sirius Satellite radio-a bad programming idea and a doomed venture from the start.

Last night, the only Center Ice game still on when things settled down in the CasonBlog household was the Blackhawks v. Dinner Jax. What a miserable game. There's a reason these two squads are in the basement. No puck control. Power plays that didn't even penetrate the blueline. Jody Shelley scoring???? Radim Vrbata avoiding contact and making blind passes across the center of the ice. Khabibulin looked good-Calder played with a lot of heart. The rest of them were dead men skating.

Oh well, There's always the scheduling geniuses at OLN. I still have two more Penguins games to look forward to (I think they're on eight times this season). Maybe they'll dump the 'Canes/Sabers game and switch back to that season closing Blackhawks/Blues game. I wish the Craps were playing the Pens on the last day of the season. Then OLN's all-Crosby, all-Ovechkin, all-the-time coverage could close with an appropriate finale.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Roddy for the Hart Push is ON!

Good Thing it's Not a Beauty Contest...
photo: hockeynews.com
The Hockey News has a nice cover and inside read that makes a case for Roddy winning the Hart Trophy. Mediots still seem to be in Jagr's camp. Only Ovechkin takes more shots than Jagr. If the Hart should go to the biggest gunner in the league, give it to Jagr or Ovechkin.

Roddy's a force on and off the ice in so many ways. His lunch pail guy work ethic sets the standard for the whole team. He takes and wins the critical face-offs, he kills penalties, works the PP, and is also the leading contender right now for recognition as the league's best defensive forward.

He's never been a prima donna. He's not a 6' 3" and 245 lb Fabio clone. He has no history of being shopped around at every trade deadline, signing big contracts that he doesn't live up to, mailing it in when he get's bored, or growing a garish mullet. Rod replaced a legend in Ron Francis and molded a team that was a laughing stock into one that is now in the hunt for the President's Trophy. To me the choice for who is the league's "most valuable" is clear.

A sweet quote from AWard in the article says it all about Cap'n Roddy:

“When it comes to promoting himself in the media, you won't find him,” Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward said. “When it comes to promoting himself in any circle around the game, you won't see him. You want to see him? Go look in the weight room. Go look in the shower room where he sits and prepares and meditates before games. Go look in the video room. He doesn't really care about what accolades he gets.”

Read more here: hockeynews.com

Back to Back Game Scheduling

Oh my aching back-to-back
On Monday night, I watched one of the most enjoyable games I've seen all year. Kings in San Jose vs. Sharks. Flat out energy the whole game on both sides. Guys flying all over the ice. Lots of scoring, lots of hitting. Joe Corvo with a dynamite goal to keep it close, Jonathan Cheechoo with a hat trick. Joe Thornton demonstrating the ability to take over in an offensive zone. Kind of a foreshadowing of what we might see from Eric Staal in three or four years. Game ended 4-3 Sharks.

Last night I watched a bit of the Coyotes v. Kings game. Kings were a different team. Slow footed, seemingly disinterested. Kings ended up getting blown out in their own house 6-2. Hell, even Mike Ricci scored last night. What I saw was a team suffering from the effects of back-to-back game scheduling. The Kings were not the same team Tuesday. They obviously left a lot on the ice the night before.

Despite their enviable overall record, the Hurricanes are 3-7 this season on the second night of back-to-back games. Included in this record are some of the team's most lopsided losses- 9-0 at home vs. the Thrash, 5-2 at home vs. Tampa and 8-4 in Phoenix.

The 'Canes have four back-to-back series remaining on the schedule. The boys will be on the road for six of those eight games. A posting on Her Majesty's site dealing with the relative un-importance of a President's Cup race got me thinking. I care more about how the boys are playing and how healthy they are going into the playoffs than how many total W's they log. The 'Canes go into April with three Friday/Saturday back-to-backs on the schedule. Thrashers, Panthers, and Lightning make up the majority of the opponents. All should be pretty desperate around that time, unless they have been trumped by playoff formula math. The Craps are out of the race but playing with a ton of heart every night. We've got three in a row in one week vs. Tzar-Oh! (my dopey try at a nickname in the CCM contest) and the rest of Hanlon's boys.

Experts say the 'Canes have the league's easiest remaining schedule in the NHL, but the scheduling mix will still be challenging for a team trying to maintain an edge going into the playoffs.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Still Looking for News About a Nathan Horton Suspension

No Justice, No Peace!
I haven't seen anything regarding a suspension for Nathan Horton after Friday night's game. On Tuesday of last week, Evgeny Artyukhin was awarded a two game suspension for doing an El Kabong on Antoine Vermette's mellon with the centerman's own helmet. Horton pulled the same trick on Friday night during a scrum with CAdams. Anybody heard anything about pending Colin Campbell justice in the matter?

You read a lot nowadays about how the old school code of conduct among players is vanishing. Players seem to be looking out solely for themselves on the ice and leaving it to the league office to administer justice-often well after the fact.

Two examples from the last few weeks-one old school and one new. In the last Canucks/Blues game, Todd Bertuzzi lays a clear and flagrant late game elbow to the head of Dallas Drake. Old school Keith Tkachuk immediately goes after Bert. Instant justice for a deserved offense. Chunk didn't hesitate to stand up for his pard.

In the aforementioned CAdams/Horton tilt, Horton got a game misconduct, so instant justice was not an option. He was however back on the ice the next night. Does anybody recall young Nathan being schooled for his misbehavior of the previous night? Now we're gonna wait for Colin Campbell to dispense some administrative justice?

What happened to players holding players responsible? It's not just a re-set rant on the Brooks Orpik affair. Clubhouse leaders need to come down on the Darius Kasparitis', Brendan Witts, and Scott Parkers in their midsts. Clubhouse leaders need to tell the Sean Avery's of the league to shut their yapper and just play. Scott Mellanby needs to take Ilya Kovalcheat behind the Zamboni and have a discussion about his grandstanding.

Behavior management shouldn't be in the hands of Colin Campbell and Donald Brashear. It ought to be in the hands of league veterans and the guys who wear the "C" and the "A."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Dangers of Rookie League Play

Last week I decided to start making the big jump from self-paced stick n' puck back to actually playing hockey. I'm in incredibly bad shape, but I want to find my way back to a league team this summer. They've got a thing out here they call "rookie league." It's meant to follow an instructional session for beginners, but lots of folks with varying degrees of skill pay the $20 to play on Sunday nights. The better players do a good job of not turning on the jets, hogging the puck and taking up all the ice time. A few players however made it deadly sport last Sunday night.

"Josie" was a 4'9" little bowling ball on the blueline. If you were to deposit a beer keg somewhere on the ice, eventually somebody will run into it, right? Well, when you combine marginally skilled men trying to spin and make cuts with their heads down, with the rotund little landmine that was Josie, you got collisions-at least three massive collisions. Ole Josie got right up after each. Two of the guys were done for the night.

"Chad" showed up a couple of minutes into the first period. In a hurry to cross the ice and get out of the way of oncoming play, he announced his arrival by crashing full bore into the sideboards along the bench. I was out at left wing for Chad's his first shift on defense. As I prepared to take a clearing pass and make the turn up ice, I see the blazing red of Chad's jersey hurtling towards me. Despite noticing the telltale signs of Chad's flailing arms and the four foot leg spread skating stride, I continued to make the turn with the puck. He slamed into me from behind, and I as I get back up I guesstimate that Chad is struggling with the "whites" and "darks" team identification system we are employing. I politely say, "Chad, we're on the same team." Chad's response, "Hey dude, I'm just trying to clear the puck." I think Chad learned from this mishap because he spent the rest of the game about 20 yards behind the puck. I don't think he crossed the centerline again. Don't want to get caught up ice huh, Chad?

Chad reminded me of a guy who we conned into playing intermural hockey with us in college. Tom Fayen couldn't skate a lick. We didn't have any gear for him so he wore ski gloves and taped Wall Street Journals to his shins for protection. Much like whoever we conned into playing goalie that night, we also got Tom good and liquored up before game time. Tom's great defensive tactic was to lay out on the ice whenever the puck approached and try and trip somebody-anybody. If that failed, he would try and crawl back into the play. If he needed to get back up, he'd crawl to the sideboards. We called him "Tom Zamboni."

Back to Sunday night...
Finally there was "Becky." Becky was one of those players who want a relationship with the puck before they make a decision to pass or shoot. This seems to happen with women more than men-go figure. If the puck happened to make it to her stick, it immediately found its way into her skates where she pondered what to do next. Forget her seeing you, she continued to gaze at the puck like it was Sauron's Palantir. She also liked to turn every faceoff into a gab session about what was going on in her life. I heard about her son's play on a club team. I heard about how she hated her boss and was looking for a new job. I heard how much fun she had coming out an mixing it up on a Sunday. I think she was there for companionship. Not sure whether it was male or female.

Now I know you're thinking Becky doesn't really sound so dangerous. She's not Josie, the abandoned refrigerator left on the freeway. She's not Chad the unguided human missile. No, Becky waited until after the game to work her deadly magic. We file into the locker room, off comes her sweater and shoulderpads, and we all discover she's wearing a black, lacy camisole-a camisole that barely contained her gravity-challenged breastusus. Down come her breezers and we all discover that the western custom of women shaving their legs is not as widespread as we thought. Becky must have abandoned the custom around 1973.

Tonight, I think I'll dress in the parking lot.

PM UPDATE-An AWard hat trick tonight-a goal, an assist, and a collision (Ryan Smyth sweater guy went down, I stayed upright). Josie wasn't there. Reports say she was still having headaches from last Sunday's collisions. Chad played wing and got a goal on a pass from me. I think it looked to everybody else like I meant to pass the puck. I think only I know it was really a shot attempt.

Becky dressed in the other locker room-THANK GOD!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dougie's Goal Drought

Starting to see some hand wringing on the message boards. Dougie Weight is playing his ass off. It's gonna come. He's hitting guys and playmaking. He's also spending a lot of time grinding with the puck behind the net. Hard to score from back there. Sweeeeeet pass to Whitney from the end boards in the third.

Lack of hustle, broken plays and breakaways cost us tonight. Revenge awaits on the morrow.

Got to hand it to the Kittys. They play hard every night. I would have hated to see Ollie Jokinen go to an Eastern contender.

Still worried about the blueline.

Intercourse the Penguin-Casonblog's Trade Deadline Analysis

Good Luck Nik Nordgren!
PhotoShopping is so easy, even a caveman can do it...
poorly retouched photo:pittsburghpenquins.com

Lots of moves on deadline day. Not too many that were earth shattering. Ollie Jokinen and Roberto Luongo stayed with their non-playoff-bound team. Keith Tkachuk stayed put. Bryan McCabe went nowhere. There were only two forwards worth mentioning-Sergei Samsonov and, oh yeah, the guy we got...The Recccccccchinnnn' Ball (a Mark Lange re-set from last week's 'Canes/Pens game).

Who cares how the Wild made out on trade deadline day yesterday? Wanna bet Janet Gretzky that nobody really cares what Phoenix did? It's fixin to be playoff time. I don't really care what went on out west. I'm gonna focus on the Eastern Teams most likely to be in the playoff hunt. None of these trades involving the leading clubs in the East scares me. Looks like folks are loading up on defense in anticipation of having to play against the high-flying 'Canes, Sens and Sabers.

Carolina Grade B
Maybe the ultimate revenge for the Brooks Orpik hit. Take their clubhouse leader. Take a guy who cared and played hard every night from a team virtually devoid of heart and character. To quote from a Paul Simon lyric, "Who'll be their role model now that their role model is gone?"

In this deal, the 'Canes don't just rent a mercenary. They get a guy with a very interesting two way contract. They can resign him with cash on the barrelhead. He can even trigger a re-sign deal himself if he falls in love with the lidless eye.

For what?

  • A second round pick two drafts from now
  • Niklas Nordgren, a guy who has struggled at a relatively advanced age to find his place in the NHL. Nik took some untimely penalties and generated few points or scoring opportunities for his linemates. Might be a late-bloomer. I hope so.
  • And sure to resonate with y'all in Pennsyltucky, Krystofer Kolanos, a Blair Thomas, no Todd Blackledge caliber NHL Bust. A guy so bad, the 'Yotes took Krispy Kreme Brendl for him.
The firey little Recchin Ball should be a great addition to the 'Canes. Two months from now nobody can say JR didn't go for it. I think he made bold yet fiscally responsible moves and demonstrated his commitment to put the team in a position to win it all.

The big sucking sound you heard yesterday was the telltale sound of physical blueliners on the move to new locales. I have faith in Gerbs. I have faith in our corps of forwards. I'm a little wary of our lack of size and meaness on the blueline. Eric Weinrich might have been a nice addition. Ditto Willie Mitchell.

And now, on to the rest of the contenders...

Ottawa Grade I
I, as in Incomplete. Tyler Arneson should be a star by now. Perpetually in the doghouse in Chicago, I'm not sure I get this one. Maybe Muckler/Murray are thinking they can be the ones to bring out the fire in this guy. Bochenski looks like a player. The Sens have a bit of a glut at forward. That's why Bochenski wasn't playing. Won't Arneson be in somewhat the same boat?

NY Rangers - Grade C-
On a team loaded with Euro-scorers, they moved a solid Euro-defensive forward in Ville Nieminen. I'm struggling with this one. Adding Sandis Oh-No!-Zolinsh means offensive help, especially on the PP, but Rangers are adding a "Latvian Matador" to their blueline corps. Lots of sex and drugs and rock 'n roll in the Big Apple. Also lots of flamethrowing journalists. Might be a rough ride for a guy with drug issues.

Buffalo - Grade C
Waiting maybe too long in moving Mika Noronen? Other than this move for a second rounder, the Sabers were probably thinking, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. They're gonna hold em.

Philadelphia - Grade C-
Defensive arms race with rival New Jersey apparent here. Trade deadline focus on strengthening Maginot Blueline with the additions that visor wearing francophone wussy, Denis Gautier (or so says Sean Avery), and right winger (and former James Bond villain), Niko Dimotrakos.

New Jersey - Grade C+
The swamp critters concentrated on strengthening the Siegfried Blueline-Defense, defense, defense. Lukowich, Klee, Wiemer. Looks like they're getting ready for Devils-style playoff hockey-lots of 1-goal margin games.

Tampa Bay - Grade WF
Withdrawn-Failing, that is. Coach Torterella has slim faith in his goaltending and has regretted the losses of Lukowich and Cullimore from their Cup team of '04. At some point, they took their toys and went home. Didn't land a solid blueliner, no goaltending help. WTFO?

Montreal - Grade B+
Just moving the troubled and declining Jose Theodore was a coup. Picked up a solid, and more affordable NHL netminder for their stretch run. Todd Simpson adds meaness.

Atlanta - Grade C
The Thrash need to play some defense. They wanted to move Marc Savard and his salary, and didn't get it done. They added blueliner Steve McCarthy-odd man out, and not part of the permanent plan for manning the blueline in Vancouver. Don't think the addition will make a difference. The Thrash will win playoff games if they continue to bombard the opposition with shots on goal-as long as Kari Lehtonen is up to the job of manning the ramparts alone.

And now for something completely different...
For those born in the '80's and after-"Intercourse the penguin," is a line from a classic Monty Python sketch. It's not meant to provoke otherwise sane Penquidiots into issuing Fatwas calling for the heads of CasonBlog or its loyal readers.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Orpik Affair from Cole's Perspective

Luke DeCock has a piece today chronicling Erik Cole's experience in the aftermath of the Orpik affair. These closing lines from Erik say it all:

"Three games for him are like a holiday, three games without going out there and getting his lunch handed to him by the other teams in the league. Sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to me."

Pretty clear from the article that Colesy doesn't think it was intentional. Also pretty clear from this closing excerpt what he thinks about Brooks Orpik's mad hockey skills.

I remember a blog entry from occasional blogger, John Forslund, where he talked about how rough it was for the long-term rehabbing player to stay positive and feel part of the team. Right now, it looks like Erik is gonna stay upbeat and engaged.

I know you all in the letsgocanes.com network will find ways to pump our boy up and remind him how much we are pulling for him when you see him around the RBC and Rec Zone. I hope the rest of you buy more #26 jerseys and wear them around town and to games. Hell, put on a neck brace whenever you wear your Colesy jersey. Make it part of your routine thru the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to Deal with the Orpik Affair

Yeah, a mere three games for this cheap hit sucks, but now is the time to turn this adversity into an opportunity.

It's "us against the world" time in the Triangle. I hope the club, and the entire Canic Nation, will start to treat the NHL's handling of the Orpik affair as an injustice born of arrogance and disdain (sound familiar Wings minions?). We don't get no respect in the hockey world. We're small market. We're just those old loveable loser Whalers.

Fixating on and rehashing the injustice alone won't do. Talk is cheap. The true test is whether this setback brings out the best in all who want to bring the Cup to Raleigh. If it yields more, and more vocal fans for that mid-week game, that will send a message. If it means the 'Canes start dropping the hammer on the Exelbys, Brashears, and Witt's of the league, I think you'll see adversity turned into opportunity.

The boys did come out and hammer the Rangers through two periods. Andrew Ladd came to play-and play hard. I liked what I saw last night until they went into the prevent defense in the third. Philly will be another physical challenge and a great showcase for a club rebounding with a vengence.

I hope Colesy takes the time to do his rehab right. I think the fire that burns in his belly will drive him to try and get back sooner rather than later. He'll find a way to suit up come playoff time. He may hobble around like Kirk Gibson in a halo, but he'll want to be part of the fray.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Recchi, Friesen, Samsonov, Oh My

Time to Step up Laddy
photo: carolinahurricanes.com

In his column today, Luke DeCock, says the 'Canes might look to replace Erik Cole with a free agent acquisition. He dropped the names above, and I don't dig any of them. Two are short little playmakers, and one is a big, fast, underachieving, head case. I think the 'Canes either go for a big, mean winger who can add to the chemistry, or we hold our cards until Joe Vasicek returns.

David, at Red and Black beat me up yesterday for suggesting we make a move for Keith Tkachuk. If the 'Canes really want to go for it this season, it looks like Shane Doan might be available. The Coyotes captain is a character guy who brings physicality and a scoring touch, he costs less than half a Tkachuk, and from what I've read, he's under contract thru '07.

I'm still not sold on Vasicek. He's still a bit soft for the hugener he is. I think he also has a tendency to disappear at inopportune moments. Yeah, he was the 'Canes leading goal scorer in '03-'04, but that season was a disaster.

In the wild-ass rumor of the day, Garth, blogging for the evil empire, lists possible destinations for cast-offs from the Maple Leafs implosion. Towards the bottom, he says Jeff O'Neill back to Carolina. So much for team chemistry, playing defense, practicing hard, skating hard all shift and aggressive forechecking.

I hope Andrew Ladd uses this opportunity to solidify his place with the club. He's got the physical package, and arguably better hands than Cole, so if he can stay healthy, the sky's the limit for Ladd as a Hurricane.

You still hear rumors about Jack Johnson joining the 'Canes after the NCAA season, but this would be a "nice" addition more than a essential one. I'm not sure a wild-eyed kid with a propensity to take bad penalties is what you want come playoff time.

Gonna bail out of work early today to catch tonight's tilt vs. the Rangers. I've been bitching off-and-on for months about the lack of physicality in the play of the Hurricanes. I can't think of a better punching bag for a season's worth of rage than Darius Kasparitis.

Let's Go 'Canes!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

For Want of a Hammer

Brooks Orpik in the Uniform He Should Still Be Wearing
photo: pittsburgpenquins.com


It seemed like minutes after I watched the Thrash's uber-goon, Eric Boulton, run the Craps Jamie Heward face first into the boards. I flipped back to the 'Canes game, and I'll be damned if the Pens Brooks Orpik doesn't take the same angle to ram Erik Cole head and neck first into the sideboards.

WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? Hello Lavvy? Hello Roddy?

Yeah, Bret Hedican dove in to rabbit punch Orpik in the pile up that followed, but the 'Canes went right back to protecting the lead and looking for the breakout pass. You're up a couple of goals, what better time to lay-out one of these last place, dead-enders? Didn't Ryan Malone earn a "Thwack?" When crap like this happens, the "first responder" has always been Erik Cole. It's Cole who retaliates with vicious, but legal hitting immediately after. Who will now stand up in Colesy's place?

While this team continues to excel, I still see a profound weakness in the area of physicality. This will present a huge problem come playoff time. The teams that have beaten the 'Canes have brought the lumber and knocked the boys off stride. Early season losses to the Thrash and San Jose, and the January debacle in Washington are cases in point. Come playoff time, you think the Sens might turn Chris Neil, Brian Mcgratten, and Zdeno Chara loose on the 'Canes when they get a goal or two ahead?

I'm not talking about another Jesse Boulerice. I'm talking about somebody on the blueline, or maybe at wing, with better-than-AHL-skills who can dominate in the corners and intimidate in the open ice. It isn't gonna be Matt Cullen, Corey Stillman, or Ray Whitney. Waterbugs with skills we got. It might end up being Andrew Ladd. He'll probably take Cole's place if the injury is as bad as it looked last night. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Ladd hasn't been very lucky in the health department.

I know Keith Tkachuk has recently said he won't waive his no trade clause. But what if he had the chance of joining Dougie Weight for one last playoff run? Salary wouldn't be a problem. Problem is, we've already given them our deadwood and draft pick. Might they be interested in Joe Vasicek and a goalie prospect?

On second thought, would JR really want to insert the Tkachuck/Weight dynamic to an already solid team chemistry? Nope. On second thought, belay my last.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Few Real Difference Makers at the Trade Deadline

Not Just Another Pretty Face at Deadline Time
Can you say, "Psycho Killer, Qu’est que c’est?

photo: Svenska sporten

If we take a look at the names that have been bantered about over the last few weeks, only a few real difference makers appear to be on the market as we approach the trade deadline. I just don't think guys like Bertuzzi, Weinrich, Cujo, Souray, Biron, Noronen or Brendan Witt are difference makers. They are "nice" additions to complete teams, but not difference makers.

Here’s my top to bottom list of the few guys I see as real difference makers:

  1. Ollie Jokinen: Does it all. Provides on ice leadership, hits, grinds, agitates, passes and finishes with the puck.
  2. Roberto Luongo: Huge and athletic workhorse who would really shine on a better club. Leading the league in time on ice, saves, and shots against. Sick and tired of loosing and ready for a change.
  3. Bryan McCabe: Career year. Third-ranked point scorer among defensemen despite losing significant time due to injury. Simply a better player without the Mohawk.
  4. Keith Tkachuk: Still a big, fast finisher when relatively healthy. ‘Chunk would bring physicality and goal mouth havoc to softer teams like Nashville, the Rangers and Dallas.

The top two on my list happen to be unsigned Panthers who have already rejected contract offers. The idea of a blockbuster deal involving both makes your head spin. Mike Keenan can’t seem to be able to sign either, but if he moves both, I wonder how they will keep the few remaining Panther fans interested. If he moves them in a blockbuster deal, he might generate enough excitement to keep folks in South Florida intrigued for the rest of this year. If it's a good deal, he might actually generate real excitement that will extend into next season. Kings, Oilers, Sens, Canucks all have needs these guys could fill, but they don't seem to have guys of even comprable value or star power.

Commercial Free Center Ice

Razor Sporting the Nice Fabio Comb-Back
photo:dallas stars
Back in the day, you could listen to the old Tony Kornheiser show via Internet stream and they would keep the feed live during radio commercial breaks. The break-time dialog was better than the screened for public consumption stuff. Kornheiser was profane, he would argue with the production staff, he would mock the guests, and best of all he would talk to the online listener like they were in on the bit.

Last night's Dallas/Phoenix game on Center Ice came into my living room without any commercials. You got to hear part of the off-air dialog as they planned their transitions in and out of breaks. While I tried to feed the kids and get them ready to hit the rack, I listened to see if there were any choice and not-ready-for-primetime stuff said during these offline portions of the broadcast. I didn't hear anything other than a lot of good natured banter. Any of you hear anything I missed?

I really like listening to Darryl Reaugh. He's as wired off mike as on. And he comes across as a fan more than an analyst. He's kind of Garth on Ritalin. He's far more entertaining and likeable than the Craps, Craig Laughlin, who has a similar approach. As they went to one break, he kept talking to the production crew about the fight that immediately preceeded the break.

At times on Center Ice you will see the broadcast crew live as they prepare to go on the air. They mostly look nervous, intense and overly concerned with the fall of their collar and their tie position. I think Razor is as loose on air as off. Yeah, he had Mikey Modano between periods and lobbed him some softball questions (didn't ask him anything about Torino other than play on the different ice dimension). So be it. He's a homer and a fan.

All in all a fun night of hockey watching. I found it refreshing to miss the standard slate of the same 4-5 commericals every break on FSN.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Icecat Hockey in Championship Chase

Icecats School Texas Tech 13-nil
(where's your Bobby Knight now?)

photo: Ben Kirkby
Banner year for Coach Leo Golembiewski's Arizona Icecat hockey club. A 21 win season, key late season wins over Satan's Tempe minions, 53 goals in the last four games, and consectutive double-digit victories over in-state rival Northern Arizona last weekend.

The Icecats journey to the hockey mecca of West Chester, PA for the start of the American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship tournament. Thursday's first round opponent will be St. Louis' own, Lindenwood University.

In anticipation of the slags I sense inbound, the ACHA doesn't just include truck driver training academies and cosmotology schools. The association is rather large with multiple divisions. Many major universities participate at the Division I level including clubs at Cornell, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and the Naval Academy.

Icecat hockey is a solid draw in Tucson, and games against Arizona State usually bring out the worst in players and fans both in Tempe and at the Madhouse on Main Street, otherwise known as the Tucson Civic Center.