Friday, November 30, 2007

On skittish forwards and christmas elves on defense

I don't want to play defense...I want to be a dentist!

The image burned into my mind from Wednesday night's tilt vs. the Flyers is the one of Derian Hatcher doing a Rick Mahorn box-out of lil Frankie Kaberle for the Flyers first goal. In keeping with the spirit of the season, it was the Bumble vs. Hermie, and the Bumble wasn't going to be moved out of the pivot. Of course it didn't help that the entire cadre of skating Canes left big ole Hatcher deep in the defensive end. Both Hermie Kaberle and Nic Wallin got boxed out by the two Flyers camped out in front of Cam Ward. Not that Wardo gets a pass. He's coughing up pucks like his name is Ozolindovsky.

On two of the Flyers goals (I think the Mike Knuble goal in the third was the other), Cane forwards got bunched up along the sideboards near the blueline. It looked like a kindergarten soccer game where the little scrum around the ball moves slowly around the field like a planchette (cool word eh? had to look that one up) on a Ouija board at the height of an Elvis seance. Hard to play team defense when time and space belong to the enemy.

Since this summer, I've been calling for new blood on the blueline. A big, responsible, physical presence who can skate and at least keep the puck in play. That being said, defense is team commitment. If yer not gonna play defense, then you gotta score in bunches. The Canes forwards don't seem to want to play team defense. I don't want to root for a red, black and silver version of the Thrash. Oh yeah, that Ovechkin kid is in town tonight. Rumor has it, he likes to freelance with the puck. Might want to take away some of the boy's time and space.

As for the recent Hermie vs. von Seidenberg discussion on Canes Country and in Lord Stanley's Blog? Give me the Baron. At least he's not a smurf. He's played ten less games and still has better numbers. So he gambles a bit. I'd rather have Jack Sparrow than Shaggy manning my blueline. And Andrew Ladd doesn't want to go hard into the boards for a puck right now. Mr. #4 pick in the whole freaking draft is proving to be as brittle as two-week old Tim Horton's donut.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Figurine Day Fast Approaching

Get Yours November 28!

Wufie covered this a couple of weeks back, but I found it necessary to re-set this looming disaster of a promotional give away. You know your swag sucks when you can't even bring yourself to show anything but the base of your giveaway figurine in the home page promo. Yeah, you can still click on the link and see this Ralph Macchio errrrr Mikey from the old Life cereal commercial as Rod Brind'Amour collectible in all its ceramic glory, but just try to hold back the chuckle.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Calling out Justin Williams

The Canes are playing zero sum PP/PK hockey right now. While they lead the league in advantages and power play goals, they are near the bottom of the barrel in killing penalties. Discipline on the defensive side seems to be the missing element from an otherwise successful season to date.

Justin Williams is contributing mightily to things that register in the negative columns. Yes, he is producing points. His nasty wrister the other night vs. the Bolts was Ovechkinesque. That being said, he's a -5 plus/minus over the last five games. He's also racked up 37 penalty minutes to date this season. On his current trajectory, Williams is headed for 126 minutes in penalties by the end of the regular season. That would put him in Derek Boogard/Jody Shelley territory. Justin has start playing a more disciplined game.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Joe Nuxhall is Heading for Home

I grew up listening to two legendary Cincinnati sports radio voices. The first was Phil Samp, who served as the play-by-play man for Cincinnati Bengals broadcasts when I was a kid. He died here in Tucson in 2005. A second Cincinnati legend passed away last week. Joe Nuxhall was the color commentator for the Cincinnati Reds for over 30 years. He made his major league debut as a Cincinnati Red in 1944 at the age of 15-when all the good ball players were in Europe or Asia fighting for their country.

Even back in the 70's and 80's, Joe was a throwback to the time when baseball was the American past-time. Joe used to throw BP, shower, down a couple of pops (legend has it) and then report to the broadcast booth where he did color and split play-by-play time with Al Michaels and later the great Marty Brennaman.

Nuxie always ended his Reds' postgame segment with the words, "This is the old lefthander rounding third and heading for home."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dennis Miller's New Versus Gig

Show biz gravitas comes to Versus. Dennis Miller has a new sports interview and rant show that looks to be a nice bookend with the radio show. Hockey, bull riding, bow hunting and now audio Rorschach tests. What more do we want from our favorite alternative cable sports network?

HS Sports Rant-The Finale

Last night was game one of the state playoffs up in Cave Creek. The kid sits out game one and her team gets beat 25-17. Game two features the player of the year in the region, who just happens to also be the resident team prima donna, experience yet another on court meltdown. Balls are flying off her arms in every direction like bullets bounding off Superman's chest. Head coach, My Boy Sherman, pulls her out for a pep talk. First she won't sit by him down at the end of the bench. When he does get her to join him down there in the cone of consultative silence, she won't look at him, let alone listen to him. She just rants and flails her arms the entire time he's going thru his "I feel your pain" routine. And her reward for throwing this ill-timed tantrum? She goes back in for the next point. Girls rule. Coaches drool.

Game two, down 10-6, the kid goes in on the front row. At 16-12 she finally gets her first set. It's a back set on the right side and she rips a vicious cross-court heater through the hands, and into the chest of the grand daughter of NBA hall of famer, George Mikan. No, she's not 6' 10" like gramps, but she's their star middle blocker. The kid is out again for the back row rotation and they drop game two, 25-15.

She gets into game three at 5-2, and gets two sets. Her first ball is blocked by a kid going to DePaul to play volleyball on a full-ride athletic scholarship. She drives the second ball long. She's out soon after and her club drops the final game 25-15. My kid touches the ball three times all night and registers one kill.

High school season is over-and not a moment too soon. She tells me on the drive home that as mad as she was for being treated like dirt most of the season by her teammates and coaches, she couldn't keep from smiling every time she stepped out on the court. You see, despite it all, she hasn't lost her love for playing the game. Club season starts in December and runs thru June. And I won't mind the grind at all, as long as I get to see that big ole smile again.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Crapzkrieg and one trade rumor that makes no sense

Understated line of the night came from Joe Beninati after Cory Stillman scored seconds into the Canes first PP-"Well, that didn't take long." Team speed, crisp passing, Zen master goalkeeping and responsible "D" all on display. Nice statement game going into a SE Division heavy November schedule. I especially enjoyed the way the Canes dominated Washington along the boards. Crushing hits last night registered by von Seidenberg and Gleason. Both look like they are settling into solid roles on this blueline. The Baron's wicked-quick hard and low slapper from the point was also on display last night. David Tanabe looked even more like the odd-man out.

Glad to see the refs run Donald Brashear after he boarded von Seidenberg. Hands to the head for a little extra kiss the glass flourish. What a cave troll. Just having Brashear out of the game kept tempers down and made for a cleaner vivisection of the dazed and confused Caps.

Rumor Madness
Spector had a link yesterday to an Edmonton Sun article by Jim Matheson about possible destinations for Thrash forward Marian Hossa. Matheson mentions Carolina as a possible destination for the struggling Hoss:

"Carolina - The Hurricanes have lots of cap room, are a Cup contender and he could play with Erik (or Eric) Staal."

This makes no sense. Hossa's a pending UFA with a $7 mil contract. Why would JR rent a guy who's shared salary might still top the Canes payroll? When Weight and Recchi were added for the '06 Cup run, there was talk of trying to re-sign one or both, but isn't it just inconceivable for Hossa to sign his next deal for Carolina kinda money? Now add to the mix the fact that Hoss disappears in the playoffs (4 pts in 2004, 1 point in 2007). Who needs Hossa when the Canes have Andrew Ladd? On second thought, how are Hossa's ankles?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Now it's Nic Wallin with the shoulder surgery thing

This today on Wallin is slated to miss three to four weeks after shoulder surgery. Looks like it's Tanabe time. Going into a division-heavy slate of games with one less responsible defenseman and a questionable PK will be a major test for this club.

Back on October 13, JR had this to say in an N&O piece:

"Our team would be improved with another defenseman that can move the puck," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told the paper. "It would help our transition game. It would potentially give us another defenseman for the second unit of the power play."

I still think a stopper with some offensive upside is the greater need, but I wonder what the Sharks might want for Christian Ehrhoff or Matt Carle now that they have Oh-Nozolinsh back on the payroll.

HS Sports Rant Part II

Sometimes I use C/B to vent about things non-hockey. Today is part two of a previous rant about mean girls and high school volleyball. Part one is here if you are so inclined. Canes don't play tonight, and I'm not hearing any news out of the RBC, so now's as good a time as any to vent.

Monday was the big come to Jesus meeting at my kid's high school with the principal, assistant principal (and head football coach) the AD and my kids coaches. Nothing has changed for my daughter since she got back from Europe. She still works hard, treats her teammates and coaches with respect, but receives no such courtesy in return. And the clique still runs the show. They decide if, when and how hard practice will be. They decide when it's time to do cheerleading routines and belly sliding contests instead of something volleyball related. And they decide whether they are going to be nice to somebody on a given day or not.

On advice of counsel (in this case an assistant coach at the UA), I don't turn on the flamethrower to start the summit. Instead I open with a request to understand more about the relationship between my kid, her teammates and these coaches. Coaches say they don't notice my kid being bullied and ostracized. They say she's too cocky and it's really on her because she doesn't want to be a minion of the clique, errrrr part of the team. Oh really? She wants to be ignored and belittled? At the request of the head football coach (who knows the kind of kid and athlete she really is), I agree to get her to finish the season. Her coach eventually agrees that he should have noticed her isolation and distress and talked to her about things. He promises to do a better job of communicating with her.

So, she went back to practice on Tuesday, and back into the same old crap. The program is still run by a cabal of mean girls. But this new and tougher C/B kid #1 has decided to start standing up for herself. Instead of just silently taking crap from the alpha she-wolves, barks right back. Now you know the alpha's won't allow any of that, so they get the pack to chime in and try to apply concentrated peer pressure to beat her down. She now has to listen to a chorus of crap when an alpha signals that it's beat-down time. And yet she still refuses to be cowed. She goes on to hit and block with a vengeance that day (and all this week). She forces the coaches to take a stand and back her. She asks for the opportunity to participate in drills slated to be "starters only." And she crushes. At the end of practice, she goes up to the head coach and tells him, "I'm going to finish the season, but I'm not taking any more crap." His only response? "Yeah, I noticed."

It's been three days since the big meeting. Three practices. Those three words are the only discussion the head coach has had with my daughter.

When I was in high school, I earned the starting goalie spot on my high school soccer team as a sophomore. For a couple of weeks it was real difficult because I replaced a senior who figured the position was his. And since he enjoyed significant social standing, many of the other seniors and juniors on the squad had his back-for awhile. They'd talk him up and talk me down. They'd purposely try to make me look bad in practice. My coach noticed this going on and put an immediate end to it. He simply didn't put up with crap from kids who thought they were entitled to running the show because of their social stature and upperclassmen standing. My coach was committed to fielding the best team possible and simply demanded that the players respect the meritocracy or hit the road. Eventually, the senior discovered that marijuana was more fun than soccer, and I went on to selection as the first team all conference goalie. Unfortunately, my daughter doesn't enjoy such principled leadership from her coaches.

Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be she-wolves. I read an article today about how mean girl cliques form and become all-consuming. The author used the analogy of a group of teens being on a cruise ship where a few socially dominant kids have decided they really hate all the structure and silly activity programming. Over time, these alpha's convince a small group that the cruise ship sucks, and they talk the group into jumping into a life boat and rowing away. Now the kids who only kinda thought the cruise ship sucked are stuck. If they don't bend to the will of the alphas from that point on, they might get tossed overboard. Keeping their place in the clique becomes a means of survival.

In essence, that's my kid's high school volleyball experience, except that no matter how incredibly clueless and ineffectual her coaches have been, she's never let the clique toss her overboard.

This evening the regional and state final playoffs start. Practice this week has been pretty lax. Not much structure or intensity until last night. The alphas are kinda getting tired of volleyball, so the coaches haven't wanted to press too hard. And how can you blame them? They don't want to get thrown overboard either. With a little luck, this will all be over by Tuesday.