Sunday, September 24, 2006


Well, its been half a preseason's worth of predictions and I'm already wrong. Oiler's coach Craig MacTavish has basically told the press that barring unforseen circumstances, Patrick Thoresen will make the team.

I will personally plead ignorance on this one. I had never really heard of Thoresen, and although he played well in the preseason game I watched in Calgary, (with a shorthanded goal and a seeing eye laser assist) I didnt think he had a chance given all the more well established young players competing for spots. Mikhnov leapt over the iron curtain, Shremp set the OHL ablaze, Peterson and Winchester made headlines in the playoffs, Pouliot played with Syd the Kid, JF Jacques played a couple games in the majors - but this Thoreson? From Norway? No way!

"We haven't had that in a while, a player from Europe come in here and be as polished and complete and effective as he's been," said MacTavish.

Last year Thoresen finished top 10 in scoring in the Swedish Elite league, so he comes to the camp with experience, and confidence playing against men at a pretty high level. Where he slots in with this Edmonton team will be very interesting, as it seems to me like they already have 3 solid offensive lines, and he didnt look like a crasher and banger to me.

In all fairness to myself however, MacTavish has also said there are going to be 14 roster spots (oh which 12 are currently filled.) So hold on, the fight for those last two spots are going to be very close.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Flames Oilers Preseason Matchup - Flames 3, Oilers 4, OT

As with all preseason games, this one was a total mess. 3 shorthanded goals scored throughout the night, including the OT winner by Horcoff. The Flames, rest assured, look no prettier than last year, with a transition game being non existant. Of course this is preseason so hopefully that problem is due purely to the team being half scrubs. Taratukhin and Nystrom played, both were invisible except for the penalty assessed to Taratukhin for hooking. Despite the fan reaction, it was a good call. Boyd was dangerous all night netting an assist on Calgary's third goal, but Lombardi was Calgary's best player, getting two goals and using his speed to his advantage. He looks faster this year, but I can't tell whether its because hes against AHLers or simply because he IS faster. Hopefully its the latter. Brent Krahn also played well again, and I think its now obvious theres no reason to hold him back due to his skill level. He's certainly qualified to be a back up at this point. I still put my money on Prust to be the team's 13th forward. He looked feisty all night, he looked fast, and he looked purposeful. He does play a bit of a redundant role on the team, but the Flames don't seem to be concerned with that sort of thing, judging by the rest of the team makeup.

Unfortunately there were a few key Oiler rookies missing, so I wasn't able to check out Mikhnov, Syvret or Peterson. I was able however to see Pouliot, who looked fast and got a goal, Schremp, who gave an underwhelming performance, and Smid, who actually looked really solid. Smid was confident with the puck, was definately up to the speed, and made some solid with the puck decisions. He made one major defensive identification error in the third which was almost converted into a goal by Lombardi, but judging by the Oiler's defensive roster, he will almost certainly make the team. Markkanen looked soft in the first period (although none of the goals were his fault) but really came on in the 2nd and 3rd. Horcoff, Pisani and Stoll all stood out as having good performances, as did Bergeron and Staois. Tjarnqvist looked terrible, got beat several times and was often forced to take penalties (2 hooking, 1 holding). Patrick Thoresen made a beautiful pass from behind the net to a wide open Pouliot in the slot on the Oiler's 1st goal.

I would say there are 10 Oilers with a garunteed roster spot, leaving 2-3 spots left open for rookies. I would say the Oilers are looking for a RW and a C, and the guys fighting for those spots include:

Brad Winchester - LW - skating is still an issue with Winchester, although he uses his size well and seems to find open spots. Obviously has a good chance of making the team now that Laraque is gone.

Alexei Mikhnov - LW - all I know about him is what I've seen on highlight packages. Seems to like to shoot it, and is very big.

Jean Francois Jacques - LW - looked feisty, fast, and has a bit of a touch.

Rob Shremp - C - Obviously talented with the puck, but has been plagued by questions of work ethic, dedication, and sportsmanship. But with the way he's been hyped up, I'd be suprised if he didnt get at least SOME time with the team.

Toby Peterson - C - Was called up last year during the playoffs while many of the Oiler's A squad were stricken with the flu. Provided energy, grit, and a goal in his two games. Peterson is a total longshot to make it due to his age, but he's my darkhorse favorite, and it may be an advantage to be the lesser skilled guy among the centre group as its a 4th line position.

Marc-Antoine Pouliot - C- Sydney Crosby's former linemate in Jr. but is a talented guy in his own right. Looked very fast and determined in the game tonight. Plays bigger than his listed 6'1.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Flames Prospect Roundup

A few thoughts on Flames prospects based purely on tonight's preseason matchup versus the Panthers:

Kris Chucko - 1st Round 2004.
At the time he was a consolation prize, because the Flames really wanted to draft Kyle Chipchura. From the looks of tonight's game alone, Chucko is no prize. Is not a strong skater and looked quite nervous. I would say no chance of making the team.

Brandon Prust - 3rd Round 2004
When it comes to Prust, what you see is what you get. He knows his job is to go out there, crash and bang, dig hard in the corners, and keep the opposition honest. I felt he did this job well tonight, in spite of the fact he was sometimes caught running around looking for the hit instead of being in position. Got in a fight with Anthony Stewart, and I would say won, although it wasn’t an all time great fight. Not a bad chance to make the team. Not that Calgary doesn’t have any, but it tends to be easier to break into the league as a banger than a playmaker.

Dustin Boyd - 3rd Round 2004
Boyd is speedy, shifty, has a bit of a touch with the puck, although he seemed a bit undersized. I thought he looked good out there, although he did get hammered pretty hard in the first period. Has some undesirable Kobesew/Lombardi traits, such as a lack of physicality and a tendency to hold onto the puck too long. Scored a goal. I would bet he'll be joining the Knights this year for further development, but looks to be a solid prospect.

Carson Germyn - UFA signing
A bit of a standout performance tonight. Had the second star of the game, 1 goal, and looked very competent. Probably the prospect I was most surprised by. Has a small chance at making the team, although will probably end up as a black ace.

Mark Giordano - UFA signing
Flames fans have seen Giordano last season as a call up. He looked very good tonight, makes good passes, is suprisingly mobile, and seems to always play with confidence. I would suggest he will make the team as the 7th defenceman, if we carry 7. If we only carry 6, I would bet he'll be our first call up, as I felt he had a bit of a step on Richie Regher.

Richie Regher - UFA signing
Looked good at times, looked lost at others. Layed a huge hit down, and kept his shots low and hard on the powerplay. Obviously the 7th defenceman is between him and Giordano, but I think it is Giordano who has the upper hand.

Brent Krahn - 1st Round 2000
1st star of the game, looked confident, controlled rebounds, got up and down quickly. Possibly looked good due to quality of opponents, but more likely is just maturing. I suspect his training camp will go down much like last years - he will look good but ultimately lose the job to the other recently signed backup goaltender.

I am still very interested in seeing:
Dan Ryder - 2005 (Micheal Ryder's brother)
Matt Pelech - 2005 (Has no chance at making the team, but would like to see what he's made of)
Andrei Taratukhin - 2001 (Part of this year's Russian invasion, including Malkin and Edmonton's Mikhnov)
Brent Sutter - 2005 (Red Deer Rebels Captain, and a Sutter)
Aki Seitsonen - 2004 (Finnish)


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Primeau Retires

Another great career cut short by injuries. Sure, Primeau isnt on the same level as a Bobby Orr or Mario Lemueix (the first retirement) but its a shame nonetheless.

I for one, will always fondly remember Primeau, and his retirement reminds me of my own age. I remember when I opened a pack of Upper Deck cards and Primeau was a 'top 10 pick' member way back in '90. He was within a 1st round class that included Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Petr Nedved and Martin Broduer, all of whom are now in their 'twilight years.' Sure Broduer and Jagr still have great years left in them, but the majority of guys picked in that year have gone past their best for sure.

Two memories of Primeau stick out amongst the rest. Number 1 obviously, is his game 6 performance vs Tampa Bay in the 04 playoffs. The guy was unstoppable. He was as good that night as any other player has ever been in the history of the NHL. Gretzky always said his best game was game 7 vs the Leafs in '93. That game versus the Flyers was undoubtly Primeau's best, and it was a thing to behold.

Secondly, Primeau was a standout performer during the whole 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano for team Canada. He was a late pick on the team, supposed to be a grinder. He was one of our best, along with Theoren Fluery, game in and game out. If everyone on that team played like Primeau, Canada would have won that tournament, easily. It was an early glimpse of the great leader Primeau would turn out to be.

Thats the Keith Primeau I will remember.

Now that Primeau is gone, 3 guys will be at the top of the list to recieve the C. It is Gagne's if he wants it, he was offered it once already and turned it down, claiming that he felt Primeau was still the captain. The other two possible appointees are Forsberg (Team Sweden's inspirational leader in the last Olympics) and Hatcher, former Stars captain and the only non Canadian captain to ever win the cup.

edit: Forsberg was officailly named Captain today, with Gagne and Hatcher the assitants.

Keith Primeau 2004 Playoffs Highlight Video


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bobby Clarke, Still Taking Numbers and Breaking Ankles

Bobby Clarke is upset. While that is not news in itself, the recent cause of Clarke's malaise is. You see, Clarke tendered an offer to Ryan Kesler for $1.9 dollars, which is apparently more than the Canucks were planning on offering Kesler. If Kesler chose to sign with the Flyers, the Canucks would be reimbursed with a 2nd round draft pick. All the provisions of this event are written in the new CBA, but apparently there are several NHL GMs who are upset at Clark's move.

Now I can think of a lot of reasons to be upset over this move - if you're a Flyer's fan. The fact is that $1.9 is a huge overpayment for a guy of Kesler's talent level. Kesler has his strengths, and one of them should be that he comes cheap. But Clarke has the same amount of cash to work with as any team, and if he chooses to blow some of that on a 3rd line guy like Kesler, that’s his call.

The reason that many GMs are p.o.'ed however, is because they believe this offer is a cause of salary inflation in the NHL. The last time an offer sheet was tendered to a RFA was when Carolina offered Sergei Federov some ungodly amount of money back in the 90s. THAT was a true cause of salary inflation, because the amount offered was totally astronomical, and Federov was the kind of player that a GM couldn’t just let go, and because Detroit could afford anyone. The sky really was the limit for that organization's salary. That’s all changed now though. It doesn’t matter how much any one team offers a player, because there's only so much to go around. A higher salary at the top only means a lower salary at the bottom, or vice versa.

"Everyone says it's causing salaries to go up. That's crap. We've all got salary caps and if it is true it drives up salaries, well, doesn't Boston signing (Zdeno) Chara to a $7 million deal or Chicago signing (Martin) Havlat to a $6 million deal drive up salaries, too? Give me a break. "

Clarke Vents

Clarke also points out that the new revenue sharing agreement means that the Flyers organization gives money to smaller market teams, which they then use to sign better players, and the Flyers never got upset about it. Its part of the rules.

But, Clark says, the RFA offer is also part of the rules. If its within the rules, rules all 30 GMs (perhaps reluctantly) agreed to, then no one should be upset about it.

"But they shouldn't be getting mad at me, I didn't put the (offer sheet) rule in the collective bargaining agreement. If they're mad, they should call Gary Bettman and complain to him. Get mad at Gary Bettman. He's in charge of the rules, not me. I didn't realize there were some rules we're not allowed to use."

Clarke is absolutely right. The GMs shouldn’t be mad at him. Flyers fans probably should be though.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Inmates Still Run the Asylum and I Still Love Martin Broduer

There are two sides to the travesty that is Rick Dipietro's new contract. On one hand, it is absolutely shocking- a 15 year deal given to a guy who really hasnt won anything (and being an Islander for life probably won't help that cause). On the other hand, it is a completely expected move made by an organization that has become less than the laughing stock of the NHL. Rumours of a deal like this surfaced last summer, and when nothing materialized I, and I think everyone else, assumed it was just talk. Just throwing around numbers and ideas. But apparently talk has become reality. This reminds me of a quote: Thoughts without action are dreams. Actions without thoughts are nightmares. Guess what this one is.

Rick Dipietro could become a great goalie. He could become underpaid for several years of that contract, and in fact, player salary inflation could prove that contract a real bargain in only 2-3 years. Dipietro is after all only the 6th highest paid goalie, and if anything, that number will only dip. But why saddle your team with such a burden?

If there is anything the new CBA has proven its that teams need to be flexible. Dynasty phases and rebuilding phases seem to have accelerated due to the salary cap - as soon as a team matures together and starts winning, they must be dismantled because no team can afford all premier players anymore. So why get stuck with a guy that is completely unmovable? Dipietro will be nearly 40 when this deal expires, and it is unlikely that his level of play will be comparable to that in his prime years. You can point to Ed Belfour as an example of a great goalie playing great late into his career, but for every Belfour there's 30 guys who retired due to rust. And in the event Dipietro gets a career ending injury? He still gets paid. Given the choice between playing for the Islanders or getting a $75 million injurt benefits cheque, I'm not sure how long he'll actually be playing for.

I sincerely doubt there is any celebration on Long Island tonight besides that of the champagne uncorking in Garth Snow's equipment room (I mean GM's office). After all, he just completed his first deal! (You can't see me but I'm rolling my eyes BIG TIME).

A couple of other key signings int he last couple days. The Flyers managed to sign Simon Gagne to a deal 'similar to that of Alex Tanguay,' (who coincidently has the same agent as Gagne). Considering the similar structure of Tanguay and Gagne's contract, I can't help but daydream what the Flames would have had to give up to get Simon Gagne. Obvoiusly the reason Sutter was able to pilfer Tanguay for so little was because the Avs are were in a huge budget crunch. The question in Calgary has always been, if we trade Iginla, what could we get for him? Gagne's name is one that has not unreasonably been thrown around in a deal that involves Iginla (of course this is pure hypothetical internet bullshit talk, but I don't think it was crazy). Assuming the Flames had the option of Gagne or Tanguay, which one would we have chosen? Personally, I like Tanguay, I think he should have been on the Olympic team. He's won a Stanley Cup. Gagne on the other hand has not won a Stanley Cup, but his pedigree of a World Cup and Olympic Gold Medal are no less impressive. He also seems less injury prone, and he will probably be named the Flyer's new captain, given Primeau's impending retirement (more on that as it is announced).

All else being equal, I would probably choose Gagne simply for the fact his two way game might be a bit better, and he seems less injury prone compared the the arguably more talented Tanguay. Of course, back in reality we know all things weren't equal, and the Flames would not have received Gagne in return for Leopold and a pick. So Gagne in a Flames jersey remains a pipe dream, much like the thought of a #1 centre.

Finally, the Oilers sign their Pronger parting gift (Lupul) to a $7 million 3 year deal. This means Pisani, Stoll, Horcoff and Hemsky are locked in for a garuntee of 3 years each, no one earning over 4/year, and as an Oiler fan I can confidently say: LOCK SMYTTY DOWN. Seriously Kevin Lowe, all these guys are great, but Ryan is the glue that holds it all together. Assuming this group is as good as they were last year Edmonton can stay competitive this year. Don't expect another cup run, but they will suprise some people.

Finally, I'd just like to comment on Martin Broduer, regarding his latest book. This guy continues to prove why he deserves all the accolades he gets, not just by his actions, but because hes one of few athletes who speaks his mind, and who actually knows what hes talking about when he opens his mouth (Sean Avery should take note).

First Broduer says that Bertuzzi has suffered too much for his attack on Moore. Lets face facts, this is the opinion of virtually every athlete in the NHL that has commented on the issue, but is one that hasnt yet taken hold in the minds of journalists out there.

"I play the game, these kinds of hits happen over and over again," Brodeur reiterated Monday. "People are lucky they don't get hurt more. I'm not taking anything away from Steve and his injury . . . but it's tough, this guy's (Bertuzzi's) life is changed, his career is changed. It'll be tough for him to ever be the same player from the day before he did that."

TSN article about Broduer's new book

The bold part of his quote is why I agree with Broduer. If you watch the game enough you realize that the Bertuzzi hit is borderline run of the mill. If you watched the playoffs last year you'd see that players were letting loose like hits from behind were going out of style. The penalty assesed to Bertuzzi was based on media coverage rather than extent of the injury,'meanness' or the attack's 'premeditation.' The real culprit here (besides Bertuzzi) is the NHL's lack of dedication in taking dirty hits out of the game, and penalizing them indiscriminently. You can't only arrest 1/100th of the crimes you witness being committed and expect people to stop disobeying the law, likewise, you can't suspend 1/100 of the dirty hits committed and expect players to curb their enthusiasm. The benefits of playing dirty far outweigh the costs, and the instigator rule only reinforces that. Real changes need to be made if the NHL actually wants to prevent plays like this happening again.

Finally, Broduer, a native Quebecer believes Quebec is better off staying with Canada, Sprite makes a better energy drink than Gatorade, and that he's better off taking a pay cut to keep the team competitive (a crazy concept in this day and age) even if it gets him in trouble with the NHLPA. Like Andrew Ference, Broduer negotiates his own contracts. Of course, the NHLPA filed a grievance and argued that Broduer's lawyer negotiated the contract for him, and wasnt a certified NHLPA agent.

"These were the same people who had certified David Frost as an agent," says Broduer.

'Nuff said Marty. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Luongo exacts revenge?

The Iron Mike era in Florida is officially over. After gaining control of the team in late spring of 2004, Keenan made his mark, signging Martin on as coach, adding veteran leadership in Niewendyk and Roberts, and trading away disenfranchised franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo for disgruntled winer Bertuzzi.

Whether any of these moves were right or wrong is debatable, but changing your architecht halfway through renovating the house, especially after all the walls are knocked out, it undebatably stupid. Once you've made changes, you have to see it through. Even the Mona Lisa would have looked terrible if you saw it halfway finished.

To be fair though, at this time its uncertain whether Keenan was fired, or stepped down. All we know is that Keenan no longer has any Panthers, but the Panthers still have a lot of Keenan.