Friday, December 28, 2007

Help Wanted: Visigoth who can skate

This from Lord Stanley's Blog yesterday in Lord Stanley's Blog yesterday, JR seems to be mulling the idea of bringing in an enforcer. I hate the idea. Jesse Boulerice delivered the most memorable goal from the 2002 (?) season, but little else. Darren Langdon was a capable brawler and a solid clubhouse guy, but I dismiss the idea that you have to put Grendel on your 4th line to make other squads behave. The Canes really need to get physical from the outset. They need to hit the bully in the mouth before the bully can pick and chose his time and victim. You hit Colton Orr on his first shift and make him the retaliator. Mike Commodore, Andrew Ladd (when his hands are free), Craig Adams and Tim Gleason all stand up for their pards when the call comes, but beyond Erik Cole and Craig Adams, few Hurricane forwards seem willing to blast opponents on the forecheck. The Canes are perfectly capable of enforcement without bringing in a Scott Parker.

I defended Scott Walker awhile back after the head-butt he delivered to Mike Fisher. Yeah, it was a bit dirty, but the Canes were getting whipped and he took it personal. He got jumped from behind by a visor-guy and got frustrated in his attempts to punch thru the Plexiglas. Other Hurricanes might have curled up in a rope-a-dope and then skated away with their head down. He's the ornieriest guy on this Hurricanes squad, he's a robust little 5'10" ball of piss and vinegar, and I say Scott Walker needs some help in the physical play department.

I don't think the lesson of the Ducks Cup run of last year is that size and intimidation now trump all. The leading scorers on that squad were Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Scott Niedermeyer. These guys are not giants with nasty porn-staches. This year's Ducks squad is dominated by Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Pronger - big guys with mean streaks who can finish, but the Ducks have suffered greatly this fall without the presence of Selanne and Niedermeyer.

If you look to the Ducks model, the Canes lack similar size-speed-skill-intimidator balance. So in my role as self-appointed roster consultant, I'd advise JR that a move that improved the balance would be good. It doesn't have to be a pure enforcer, it just has to be a large man (or men) with decent skills who relish the opportunity to inflict pain on every shift. If the Canes want to add some instant evil to the lineup, here are a few guys I'd suggest looking deeper at:

  • Chris Neil-a human anvil with emerging offensive upside. Affordable at $1.2 mil thru next season.

  • Trent Hunter - Solid all-around player who is second in the league in hits. He's got hands like Craig Adams, and he's also a UFA at the end of this season if it doesn't work out.

  • John Zeiler-I watched this kid the other night and he hits everything that moves. He's not very big, but he's got a mile-long ornery streak.

EVENING UPDATE: Not sure yet how bad the injury to Bret Hedican will be. If he's going to miss a chunk of time, me thinks that puck-moving defenseman JR has repeatedly mentioned might be the Canes first priority. I'm still not convinced that a puck-mover is what the Canes blueline needs. The boys gave up three goals on defensive breakdowns tonight. I think they need an ice-time hog who can deal pain and own the area in front of the net. Luke DeCock mentioned Brooks Orpik the other day. That's not much of an upgrade. The two guys GM C/B would pursue would be Keith Ballard in Phoenix and Francois Beauchemin in Anaheim. I'd like to see the Canes take care of the need on defense first, and then go find an affordable enforcer at the deadline if this crew can't make physicality and enforcement a team commitment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ninja Warrior Sunday

The Bengals got whacked Saturday by the 49ers-reminisent of those two Super Bowl debacles. The Panthers score was 3-0 when I got bored, so I started flipping channels. Like Jerry Seinfeld once said, "Men don't care what's on TV. They only care what else is on TV." So I found this show called Ninja Warrior on the obscure G4 channel. This is reality programming at its best and on a shoestring. Nothing but metal scaffolding, fake zoo display rock, plastic greenery and huge pits of muddy water. You can have Survivor, give me Shingo Yamamoto the gas station attendant.

This show combines the best of the old American Gladiators shows with the Gong Show. Instead of Chuck Barris, you've got a screaming Japanese narrator dropping snarky riffs on what is at times the strangest cast of contestants. There's an American doing overdub narration between events, but it's the Japanese narrator and the subtitles that are the most entertaining. Here's a typical line: "The super soldier climbs up to the balance bridge...and decides to attack the obstacle with his crotch." The poor guy tripped on a balance board and ended up straddling the thing briefly, before he fell into the watery abysss.

Contestants include serious athletes, Japanese celebs and everyday hosers. The cast of recurring characters includes a guy who looks like an octopus who apparently shows everybody his dead octopus in a bucket right before his run. There is also an exotic male dancer who strips down to a loincloth, and a lady wrestler who dresses like Conan the Barbarian's French maid sex-slave. Kinda liked that last one.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Defense of Eric Staal

So it's a mid-week February night in 1989, and I'm heading out the door to the gym when the phone rings. Must have been a Wednesday, because on Tuesday's, Thursdays and Saturdays I did the three mile run along Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach. Also used to surf on weekend mornings. Every other month or so I ran a 10K in town. Best finish -44:50 in a Coronado to Balboa Park race. So the phone rings, and it's my girlfriend (now beloved wife). I tell her I'm heading to the gym, she suggests stopping over at her place. Never got to the gym that night. Never been in that kinda shape since. Not that I'd change anything, it's just priorities change as we go through life's transitions. Balance is hard, but it can be achieved.

Cam Ward got married right after the Cup finals two years ago. Cam had a crappy 2006-2007 season. Cam's play is better this season, but not great thus far. Eric Staal got married before this season. Think about the demands on his time and attention right now. He's got Pete Friesen breathing down his neck with dietary regimens and conditioning demands. He's got older and lower-salaried teammates, coaches and a GM looking at him to prove he deserves the cash and the "A" on his chest. Then he's got momma wanting to pick out linens, plant Geraniums, schedule romantic dinners and do all those other things newlyweds get to do. He's got photo shoots, PlayStation 2 game launch events, TV spots for NHL Network and those warm and fuzzy CBC vignettes with his bros, all while trying to maintain his commitment to job #1.

Yeah, Staal's floating a bit, and yeah he seems dis-interested and prone to taking nights off. At least he's not out peeing in public or "making it rain" in the clubs. If he starts to wear Cincinnati Bengals gear, then I'm worried. I say once Eric finds that balance, he'll be back. He's too good of a player; he respects the game too much, and he's too proud and well-grounded to become the next Jeff O'Neill. So I ask for patience with Eric Staal. Using marriage math, he's is still putting toothpicks in the jar. Married guy knows what I'm talking about.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Defense of Scott Walker

Street Fighting Man vs. Visor Guy

Scott Walker will probably be suspended for head-butting Mike Fisher last night. Does he deserve it? Yeah, he knows better. I think Walker was frustrated by the lopsided nature of the game, and in the end with being unsuccessful at trying to punch thru Fisher's freaking welder's mask face shield. I think you or I could take a Georges Laraque punch if we had that helmet and sheild apparatus. Hockey's code of chivalry, it's variation on the Marquis of Kingsbury rules, should be adjusted for visor guys. Some sort of star chamber, maybe a man-law group within the NHLPA should pass the word that visor guys are gonna have to lose the helmet at the outset of a bout. Maybe everybody should just drop the helmet. Might make lesser men think twice before dropping the gloves. Two more minutes in penalties means less than risking your boyish good looks. It's either that, or make Vinny Prospal masks the standard across the league.

Good on ya Scott Walker. You took it personal. Pitty your teammates don't share your passion right now. Me thinks Coach Lavvy, quoted in the N&O, would agree:

"I actually thought (Walker) was playing the body out there, one of the few guys that went out and tried to lay some hits in the first period," coach Peter Laviolette said.

Fellow Caniacs, this team is a mess right now. Wufie offers a very passionate treatise on the subject today over at Carolina on Ice. Here's a point he makes that I share:

As a paying fan, I deserve nothing less than total effort. THAT is what I pay for. Not wins. Not goals. Not saves. Not highlight reel plays. I simply pay for effort.

It's meritocracy time. In my mind, roster spots should belong only to the fittest and most committed-here and now. Nobody on this struggling team should think for one moment that their past accomplishments, or their longevity with the club, or the "A" on their chest, or how many TV commercials they've done, or the fact that they have three hockey-playing brothers and a dad who built a back yard rink on the family sod farm, should mean entitlement to ice time.

UPDATE: It's days like this when I want to actually be a journo. It would be juicy to be around this club the next couple of days. Wonder if Lavvy will start throwing phones like Hal McRae did back in the day? Walker as quoted moments ago on Lord Stanley's Blog:

"Things were happening so fast and you’re trying to keep your head down because you’re already cut. It’s tough to say. I’m trying to end the fight or keep my head down anyway, because he’s got a shield.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Your Wednesday Night Alternative Programming

Canes lose 6-0. Best system goalie plays in Albany. Top puck-moving defenseman a healthy scratch. Suckage meter pegged.

We take you now to lip-synching Swedes in silky karate pajamas:

Canes "big" free agent a bust?

Defense? You want ME to play defense?

Jeff Hamilton watched three of the last six games from a comfy chair. He's been pretty worthless (1 goal, -5) at even strength. With Matt Cullen in the house, my guess is that JR might take a mulligan on signing Jeff in the off season.

Again tonight, David Tanabe and Craig Adams get the nod while Hamilton watches from on high. To borrow from Abraham Lincoln's quote regarding General McClellan's reluctance to go on the offensive against the Army of Northern Virginia, If Lavvy's not going to use Hamilton, might there be some team who would like to borrow (have) him? At less than $1 mil per year he's day laborer cheap in NHL terms. So is Hammy being dangled as trade bait? Anybody know of a club out there that might be looking for a one-trick PP pony?

I'd like to see some deep digging on what's up with Hamilton.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Three Ducks Trade Scenarios

Now is the time on Sprokets wenn vee wildly speculate

Scenario 1
The signing of Bruno St. Jacques affirms that the Ducks will be looking to move a blueliner. Mathieu Schneider is wicked pricey now and will be more expensive in his next/last contract year. He's also 38 and Jewish. Old Jewish guys on the verge of retirement want to go to Florida. Tells me it's gonna be Schneider for Olli Jokinen, thus proving those some pundits who've teased a Jokinen deal for years were right all along.

Scenario 2
Todd Marchant has been a healthy scratch lately. He also makes way too much money to be sitting in the skybox. He's a grinding centerman. On the Ducks, everybody grinds...and kidney punches...and crosschecks...and so on. Thus, he's excesss baggage. So what team would be willing to take on a $2.5 mil/yr 4th line center? Without Kevyn Adams, the Blackhawks are a just a bunch of lost snot-nosed newbies in need of a Sargeant Hulka. Marchant will be the big toe those boys need. Marchant to Chicago for the Sergei Samsonov who will bring the (periodic) scoring touch the Ducks have lacked on their roster. I think Sergei just needs a change of scenery...again.

Scenario 3
Bruno St. Jacques was just signed and called up. He's from Quebec. The Ducks can't bring up one Gaul without restoring the cultural balance in the clubhouse. Too many Frenchmen on a team means surrender is the most imminent threat to your playoff chances. So to move Beauchemin, they must either sign a free agent mime or call up another Quebecois. I say they'll call up prospect goalie Jean-Phillipe Levasseur (sexy French, no?) and send down the Prussian-sounding Jonas Heil Hiller to make the deal work. France wins. Germany (Switzerland, Oh what's the difference?) loses. All is well in Francophone world. So, it looks like the Ducks will move Francois Beauchemin to the Canes for Johnny Crackers. Woooo Hoooo! Deal of the millennium baby!

There you go. Three very viable scenarios. One's gotta be right, right?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bates Battaglia is looking for a new gig

My second-fondest memory as a Caniac comes from game two of the first round of the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs. Canes win in OT on a Bates Battaglia deflection on a shot from the point. Nobody left the ESA a stranger that night. After getting beaten and beat up by the Devils in the first round of the 2001 playoffs, this was the game that made me believe in the Canes. Then, just like yesterday, they ran into the winged-wheel buzz saw in the 2002 Cup finals.

2001-2002 was a good season for Bates:

Player (Pts)

Ron Francis (77)

Sami Kapanen (69)

Jeff O'Neill (64)

Rod Brind'Amour (55)

Bates Battaglia (46-21 goals)

Erik Cole (40 )

Bates was waived today by the Toronto Maple Leafs. You've gotta look at the "Ice Chips" feature on the site for the announcement. Hope he finds a place to continue playing. If not, he's got that Sam Malone gig waiting for him back on Glenwood Ave.

For those into Cane nostalgia, click here to take a look at the roster that season. Many of those names are long gone from professional hockey.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas comes early to C/B

Now occupying a place of honor among my greatest office Christmas gifts

First there was the Homer Simpson hi ball glass. Then the gourd from Hawaii. Last year, it was the disco glitter lamp. This year, Roddy joins my collection. Many thanks to Dave of Carolina On Ice responded to my commentary on Hurricanes figurine night with an offer to send me my very own. Upon closer inspection of my new favorite collectible, the object du art appears to resemble Ralph Malph more than Ralph Macchio. So in keeping with this degrees of separation from Ralph Macchio trend, look for the Ray Whitney figurine to resemble the diminutive original Al of Al's Diner, Eric Staal to evoke memories of Richie Cunningham, and Cam Ward to favor _______ (your call to finish the riff).

Thanks again Dave.

Cason Wins 2007 Thorpe Award

Congrats to (distant) cousin Antoine Cason for his recognition as the best defensive back in college football. Quite an accomplishment for a guy who plays on a team that gets little or no national glow. Antoine decided to come back for his senior year despite the fact that this Wildcat program is a mess. He's on track to graduate and he's a great kid.

When asked to comment on Cason's recognition, Coach Mike Stoops ripped off his head seat, threw it to the ground, pointed to the heavens as said, "Finally, we got one." No Mike, you got one last week at ASU and pulled the same theatrics. Stoops then stomped off to hurl insults and gesticulate madly at the nearest person or object that seemed to resemble a referee.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Pete is a Place of Death

Laser guidance devices on the blades of their sticks couldn't have helped the Canes make a crisp pass tonight. On the PP, it looked like the Canes were more interested in working out their kinks than in putting a puck on net. By God, I'm gonna make that perfect pass tonight if it kills us, says Matt Cullen. Shoot the puck and crash the net!!!! Crash somebody. Crash something. Cute hockey is death.

Once again tonight, the boys just didn't have it. I think they worked hard, but in the end they performed like a bunch who were playing together for the first time. The cycle goes on. It's been a W-L-W-L end of November into December.

More ice time for Andrew Ladd tonight, including quality time in the waning moments and a second period fight. Anaheim fights...a lot. Can you say "showcase?"

Contrast the Canes v. Ning tilt with the Pens v. Flames later in the evening. That was a wide open and physical game. The Phaneuf-Crosby-Roberts dynamic was especially tasty. You can hate on Crosby for being the Justin Timberlake of the NHL, but the kid shys away from nothing. He's gonna have Forsberg-style maladies later in his career because every trip to the endboards ends up in a Twister scrum.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Niedermayer Effect

From the Toronto Globe & Mail via Spector:

Ideally, they'd like to move a contract before the talk of Niedermayer's return gets into overdrive and that's where the problems start. It'd be easiest to move Francois Beauchemin, who earns a modest $1.65 million (thru '09) rather than Mathieu Schneider, signed as Niedermayer's replacement at a hefty $5.625 million.

There's your affordable puck carrying defenseman. If Niedermayer is really, really planning to return really soon, the Canes might be able to pick up Beauchemin on the cheap (a pick?). His 10 points this season would make him the top-scoring defenseman on the Canes blueline. I still like the idea of Shea Weber or Ryan Suter for their size and physicality.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Recchi is out

Still love using this picture. According to, last night was Mark Recchi bobblehead night in the Burg. Today he was told to bobble his ass out the door. They say he's lost it. I think he had it as early as the summer of 2006. Look at the physique on that ole Recchin Ball! Why he's a modern day Buster Crabbe. Saggy man-boobs are way sexy. I outta know. (too much personal information?)

Recchi came back to the Pens cause that's where he and momma wanted to finish out a career. Good luck Mark. You deserved better. I blame the cult of Crosby.

PM UPDATE: Darren Dreger on hints at where Recchi might end up.

Three takes on last night's tilt vs. da Ranguhs

Cam Ward: When he's on, he's like Steve Austin moving in that 1970's slow motion simulation of hyper-speed. He also benefitted from some rare and solid team defense. He was also lucky. Jagr broke a stick ripping at a open net on the back side and Staal bailed him out nicely after he coughed up a juicy rebound.

Eric Staal: A top objective in every team's game planning vs. Canes this year seems to be getting somebody in Staal's grill. Case in point-Holloweg (?) crosscheck of Staal into the post well after the whistle. The kid now wears the "A." I think he needs to start dishing out some punishment. He's big enough. He's strong enough. But is he ornery enough? His peers-guys about his age and physical stature-Ovechkin-Getzlaf-Perry-Nash all deliver punishment when they get the chance. The only real scrum I saw Eric get into was in the closing seconds along the sideboards with his little brother. That was a fun moment. You could tell big brother enjoyed driving little brother's head into the wall with a well-positioned elbow to the back of the neck.

David Tanabe: He's at his best when he can just skate. I think maybe the rigidity and structure of playing defense first stifles the kid's need for speed and artistic freedom. I don't think he enjoys the grinding along the end boards, and since he's not much of a hitter he might contribute more at wing. The Canes use a forward to quarterback PP, and since David is number 5 or 6 on the defensive depth chart, I don't think there's the chance for much of a starring role on the blueline for Avi. I'd like to see more of him at wing on the PP...when the Canes are already up 3-4 goals. I'd also like to see a more extended Tanabe at wing experiment when the Canes have their next injury opening at forward. Go to Tanabe before bringing Bayda or Aucoin back up.

Overall a convincing win at the MSG. One that followed a convincing loss in Buffalo. And before that loss? A luck-enriched win vs. the Craps. And before that? A bad loss to Philly. I see a pattern. Thursday night the Canes are in Tampa. Tampa attacks bettter off the transition than the Canes. Even without Miami University's own Danny Boyle manning the point, the Ning blueline contributes more to the attack than the Canes blueline. I love watching Kuba and Ranger engineer the Lightning breakout.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Marvin Lewis and the lowly Bengals

I'm a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Been one since my first game as a kid at Nippert Stadium in 1969. Last night's Ben-Gals performance made me want to hurl. The QB from lil ole Miami University who was told by his high school coach and Ohio State he should catch passes instead of throwing them once again made the Bengals' 2002 Heisman Trophy winner and USC glamour boy look like the second coming of Ryan Leaf. Ben just went about his business, finding ways to make plays, while Palmer launched 3rd down and ten bombs into the photo gallery.

When is Mike Brown gonna wake up and realize that Marvin Lewis is a fraud. He's a Brian Billick guy. At least Brian Billick is a fraud with a superbowl ring as a head coach. I think Bill Callahan could have won a Super Bowl in 2000 with that Ravens defense. Marvin Lewis' Bengals are never ready for the big games. The Bengals had no answer for the simple slant pass to Hines Ward. They gave him a 5-7 yard cushion every time, and he used em up. Marvin Lewis as a defensive genius my tuckus. Bengals defenses have been among the worst defenses in the league the whole time Lewis has been in charge. And Lewis' Bengals only play out of their minds when nothing is on the line. There is no team in the NFL that showboats more and brings less to back it up. Think back to Chad Johnson's little Hall of Fame coat bit during game one versus the Ravens.

Last night, Carson Palmer was throwing passes as though Manute Bol was his go-to receiver. And when he did find the mark with a pass, it was usually dropped. If you watch any Bengals games, you've probably noticed Palmer and TJ or Ocho Cinco yelling at each other on the sidelines when things start to go bad. Nice team chemistry there Marvin. Your boys got each other's back.

I've made it to now without bitching about the questionable character of many on the Bengals roster. That's all been dissected before. Bottom line is the Cincinnati Bengals are a team with no heart, no brains and no courage.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Baby You're Starz

Is this Lorenzo Perez-a.k.a Rico Suave?
Very cool post on Kukla's Korner. He's got a link to the HNIC feature about hockey blogging. The piece prominently features JP of Japers' Rink, Bill of A2Y and Liz of On Frozen Blog. Who'dah thought a government lawyer, a defense analyst and a black shoe chief petty officer could be such damn handsome folks. A well done piece by CBC. I especially love how well-versed Ron MacLean is on the best blogs in the business. He doesn't just list them from a script in this feature, he does a live demo from a laptop to show folks how to find the best of the best from the blogroll on Tom Benjamin's site. Hello!?! Mike Sundheim!?!

The whole bloggers aren't journos thing comes up in the piece...again. Who is in this blogging thing to be a journalist? Do you want to hang with that hockey writers guild guy in the HNIC clip? Do you aspire to be that guy? If you do, good on you. Not me. I want to be Jon Press (except the goverment lawyer stuff). The hockey world now knows Jon Press - they know he's hip and he wears a brown sports coat (probably with black shoes) to games. We also have a sense of his personality, what he does for a living and his passion for hockey and hockey blogging. And that hockey writer's guild guy? We know his office is messy and he's skeptical by nature. Yaaawwn....

Same goes for the local hockey journos. I think I've seen a picture of Luke DeCock, but I know nothing about the guy (other than that he answers his emails promptly). His reporting is solid and often laced with humor, but I don't know the man behind the DOS machine. And I know nothing at all about " Lorenzo Perez. When I "Googled" his name, the first image I got was the Rico Suave pic above - and it came from a site you probably don't want your kids to see. So what do we know about you there Lorenzo? Or is your name really "Lorenzo?" Are you now or have you ever been in the witness protection program?

Point is, consumers of media are attracted to compelling personalities. We live in a "have a take-don't suck" world. Hell, the anonymous one stands as living proof that you don't even have to be honest to have a prominent place in the grand circus of hockey culture. Hockey is sports entertainment. Shouldn't the coverage be entertaining as well? I'd probably want to be more like Luke and Lorenzo if I could get to know them better and their handlers let them run free once in awhile.

Lyle Richardson and Paul Kukla were the first wave of new hockey media. Thoughtful hockey 24-7 guys who report and comment responsibly-guys who network their asses off. I hope the next wave includes the Sam Kinison's of hockey blogging. How about the Earl and Jes show on the NHL Network? Gotta be better than Gary Green's House of Malaprops.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Turr-a-bull. Just turr-a-bull

Pick or create your own "less" to describe human sacrifice night in Buffalo - heartless, lifeless, emotionless, gutless, prideless... If I were John Grahame, I'd go on the IR with an undisclosed upper melon injury till I get moved down or out. Lavvy did a Coach Torts on the poor guy tonight. And we all know how well tough love works on Crackers. Sheesh.

Sometimes a blowout works to clear the mind-the whole you gotta hit rock bottom before you begin the road to recovery thing. I still say this team is N.K.R.-Not Kwite Right. The Ouija board says a shakeup in the works.

The Arizona Wildcats dropped nearly every pass and then the game to the hated Sun Dirtballs and their whiny little girl QB. Future NFL d-back and distant cousin Antoine Cason dropped two interceptions in the end zone. The dream season for Mizzou is done. They are still Oklahoma's bitch.

And my retinas are still hurt from watching hideous uniform day in NCAA football. Oregon with the metallic yellow helmets. Tennessee with the creamsickle jerseys and pants. And West Virginia Technicolor canary yellow. Death to the Nike design department.