Sunday, March 29, 2009

Changes coming to Oil Country?

With the Oilers in the middle of a playoff dogfight could the jobs of almost the entire organization be on the line? Sounds a little bit ridiculous but the scuttlebutt around town is that it could come down to a playoff birth, and that might not even be enough. Fans of this organization have been looking for change somewhere for a couple of years now and they started with a new owner last year. When Darryl Katz took over this team he made an agreement to keep everyone there for at least one year and that year is nearly up. There have been talk and I've been told by someone close to the former head of the EIG Cal Nichols that his leave of abscence is not temperary but in fact he is now done with the Edmonton Oilers. Whispers in/around the Edmonton business community are that Katz will be at least clearing out the upper echelons of the organization(ie. Patrick LaForge and co.) but also if the Oilers do not make the playoffs that management on the hockey side may go as well. Quite frankly I'd be a little dissapointed in Katz if he fired the new GM as Tambellini hasn't really been given a fair shake at running this show. He should be given at least 3 more years as most GM's get around five years to show their wares(unless your Kevin Lowe of course who get's a decade of chances and still can't learn to draft properly) although I'd be fine with clearing out the rest of the hockey department and letting Tambellini bring in his own people. Now the coaching staff is something that make the playoffs or not, that must go. In the span of one week the teams star player calls out the coaching staff(with his "I'm becoming a checker comments probably being aimed at MacT) and I've been told by family friends of some of the players that MacT has completely lost the dressing room, although that's become pretty obvious with their continued erratic play down the stretch. With Nashville, St.Louis and Anaheim all stringing numerous wins together at the end here and the Oilers going win-lose-win-lose I just can't see the Oilers making the playoffs and for the sake of the organization and the fans that Katz does what it necessary for the team going forward and brings in a swath of new people and a new direction that this club so desperately needs.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The King of Kings

One of the things I really don't like are the "Best player ever" conversations that pop up around the table at the bar because quite frankly there's too much of a gap between the generations of players and how the game evolved between the generations. However with Martin Brodeur becoming the winningest goalie of all time and slowly but surely catching up to Terry Sawchuck's "unbeatable" shutout record I feel compelled to take a stab at who I believe is the greatest goalie of all time(although personally I prefer refering to players as the best of their generation and not the best of "all time). In my humble opinion the top 5 goalies to ever lace up the skates and put of the pads are: 1.Patrick Roy, 2.Martin Brodeur, 3.Terry Sawchuk, 4.Glenn Hall, 5.Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden: His career only lasted 10 seasons because he wanted to be a lawyer(and later a politician) so while he may not have a record amount of wins he won when it counted. 6 Stanley Cups in 10 years, and only 7 full seasons, including his rookie season in 1970. He only lost 57 games his entire career and was one of the backbones of the greatest dynasty team of all time. He won the Calder Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy. The iconic image of him leaning on the butt of his goalstick will be replayed for years to come and he helped lead Canada to victory over the Russians in the 1972 Summit Series. These are the reasons why Ken Dryden was the 5th greatest goalie to ever play.

Glenn Hall: "Mr.Goalie" as he was known, is the owner of one of the most impressive streaks in proffesional sports, 502 straight games for a goaltender and this was back when there were no masks and the padding they wore back then would be considered street hockey equipment today. He won 2 Stanley Cups as a goaltender(with Detroit and Chicago respectively) and then 1 as a goalie coach with the Calgary Flames in 1989. Hall was very well known for throwing up before almost every game he ever played in. He finished his career with 407 wins, 84 shutouts and a 2.49 GAA. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy and the Vezina trophy 3 seperate times. Even with all these impressive stats the one I always come back to is the 502 straight games. That alone get's him on this list at #4.

Terry Sawchuk: The man who held the record for most wins for 30 years, Terry Sawchuk was a legend. His record for most shutouts(1o3 of them) still holds to this day, although Martin Brodeur will break this record by next season. He won the Stanley Cup and the Vezina Trophy 4 times and the Calder Trophy his rookie season. He finished his career with 447 wins and a 2.52 GAA and quite the reputation of a party animal. He bounced around from Detroit, to Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers and left an impression wherever he went. Their was no doubt as to who the best goalie of his generation was with Sawchuk and he's #3 on my list.

Martin Brodeur: The inspiration for this list, Martin Brodeur has cemented himself in the history of the game this year by becoming the winningest goalie of all time and he's closing in on the shutouts record as well. He has won the Vezina Trophy 4 times, the Calder Trophy, and has missed the playoffs only once. He currently has 552 wins and 101 shutouts and a career 2.20 GAA. The reason that I have Brodeur at #2 and not in the top spot is that he's always played on a stacked team and when he was winning cups he was playing behind probably the best 6 man defensive unit since the 1970's Montreal Canadiens. His style is quite different and has yet to be emmulated by younger goaltenders but that will undoubtedly change, but the goaltender that copies him better be as athletic because you have to be pretty damn agile to pull of some of the things Brodeur does, especially since his goaltending equipment is smaller then most goalies around the league.

Patrick Roy: St.Patrick, arguably the most hot tempered, egotistical goaltender to ever play to game of hockey. But the fact is he revolutionized the position and he was prone to taking teams on his back to Stanley Cup championships. When he retired he was the winningest goalie of all time(551 wins) along with 66 shutouts and a career 2.54 GAA and the only player to ever win the Conn Smythe trophy 3 times(twice in Montreal and once in Colorado). He won the Vezina Trophy 3 times and has had his Jersey retired by both teams that he played for. There are two things for me that set Roy just above Brodeur. The first is that Roy carried two average Montreal Canadiens teams(1986 and 1993) to Stanley Cup victory's and in their one head to head meeting in the Stanley Cup finals Roy topped Brodeur in 7 games. All he ever did was win Championships and that is why he goes down still as the greatest goalie to play the game.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Not only has Don Cherry proved that he is completely out of touch with the game of hockey and that he is indeed prejudice against europeans, but that their is a battle coming between the old guard of hockey and the new younger generation just entering the league. The former players who played in the league in the past always did things a certain way. The most controversial thing they ever did was to raise their hands after a goal. Now things have changed with a far more flamboyent and exciting type of player for a new generation has been deemed a threat by certain individuals to the very bland fibre of the game. The obvious example is that which Cherry used of Ovechkin, the best player in the game today, jumping into the boards after scoring goals. Cherry seems to believe that this is not only disrespectful of your opponents, but that it just isn't something that good old hockey players, like his boy Bobby Orr, would ever do and that doesn't sit well with him. Frankly I think that Ovechkin is a breath of fresh air into a game that badly needed one. My second example would have to be Craig MacTavish and Rob Shremp. Shremp was drafted as a hot shot kid coming out of London of the OHL with a lot of flair to his game, the reputation of a guy with a bit of an ego and some sick moves with the puck. MacTavish immediately took a dislike to him and I believe that this played a big part of that. What the old guard doesn't understand and is trying to fight against is the fact that change is indeed coming to the game and the way things are done. The new generations coming in just do things a different way and things like Shremp's Lacrosse style shootout moves or more players jumping into the boards like Ovie are going to become the norm. But Don Cherry has shown that while his argument will inevitably fall to the wayside and forgotten, he and his band of brothers will not go down without a very loud, obnoxious, talent killing(in Shremp's case) fight.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it time for The Don to hang up the brightly coloured suit?

When I was a little kid I didn’t bother watching Toronto Maple Leafs games in the early 90’s at 5 p.m. on Saturday nights. I had no interest in seeing Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark zipping around the ice with Bob Cole and Harry Neale bowing at the feet of the almighty Maple Leaf organization. But there was one event I would always come running out of my room for after the first period of Hockey Night in Canada. When I heard that distinctive Coach’s Corner theme song I would come running into the living room yelling the name of my hero: “Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry!”. I loved Don Cherry. He dressed funny, he talked about hockey, he would give advice to kids and he would yell at Ron McLean. He was a real life cartoon character. The angry, senile, intense version of Mr. Dressup. But at the same time he managed to toe the line between being entertaining but at the same time his biases were not that pronounced. But then in the year 2000, Gary Bettman and the NHL’s board approved an unthinkable new rule that caused Don to go over the deep end; they initiated the instigator rule. This was really the first notice that the NHL as we knew it was going to change forever and Cherry seemed to take it as a personal attack and suddenly his pre-existing biases and bigotry’s about French Canadians and European hockey players slowly started seep out. By 2004 Don Cherry had specifically taken aim at a few issues such as European skill players being better players then Canadians, visors, the instigator rule and basically anything progressive coming into the game today. Cherry got in trouble that year for his comment about only “French Guy’s” wearing visors and because of this CBC put a 7 second delay so there would be no more perceived anti-French Canadian comments. Don has gotten slowly worse and worse until last Saturday, when in my opinion, Cherry hit a brand new low. He proceeded to drastically cut-down the NHL’s best player, Alex Ovechkin, and it’s champion from last season, the Detroit Red Wings basically for not conforming to his outdated vision of the NHL. Cherry doesn’t like Ovechkin jumping around after scoring his goals and showing enthusiasm on the ice. He’d rather that Ovie would be one of the usual boring, no personality Canadian hockey players that he loves. Ovechkin get’s just as excited when a teammate scores so you can throw any selfish showboating notions out the door right now. After Cherry got done with his baseless anti-Ovechkin diatribe finishing off with his belief that ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is the best player in the NHL(“Give me a break”) he turned his venom towards the heavily European Detroit Red Wings. They were the first team to win the Stanley Cup with a European captain and a European laden roster and Cherry has shown that he can’t stand it. While he does have a point that Red Wings fans absolutely love fighters and fighting(always have) he does conveniently ignore the economy and high ticket prices as other reasons as to why fans aren’t turning out in droves for Wings games. He then ripped Pavel Datsyuk for “Hits from behind”, showing clips of what were clean hits with a couple borderline ones that are thrown every game. You’re telling me you couldn’t find clips of a Canadian player throwing the same hits? Please. Cherry’s xenophobic anti-European rants have grown tiresome and somewhat disturbing. For someone who at least likes to think that kids look up to him and listen to him, he really doesn’t do a good job filling in as a roll model. If I had kids, I would not let them watch Coach’s Corner because I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking that they’re better and tougher then someone else simply because of the country of birth on your birth certificate. It’s time for a new Coach to occupy that chair on CBC. It’s time for Cherry to ride off into the sunset before he damages his legacy anymore then it already is.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadline Deals

-The Edmonton Oilers have dealt Erik Cole to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Patrick O'Sullivan. Also a second round pick was sent to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Ales Kotalik(My Take: Getting a young sniper like O'Sullivan was a stroke of brilliance for the Oilers and Cole obviously wasn't going to re-sign. I'm not a big fan of Kotalik, an inconsistent player who's saving grace is that he's a shootout specialist, so the jury's out on him)

-The Phoenix Coyotes have acquired Scottie Upshall and a second round pick for tough guy Daniel Carcillo(My Take: Looking at the Coyotes trades today they're obviously trying to build a team on speed which Upshall brings plenty of. And you thought the Flyers were tough before.........)

-The Buffalo Sabres have acquired Dominic Moore for a second round pick.

-The New York Rangers have parted with a second round pick and another conditional pick for Nik Antropov and have dealt Dimitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha for Derek Morris(My Take: The Rangers paid a kings ransom for Morris. They're desperate to make the playoffs obviously)

-The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded for NYI captain Bill Guerin. Heading to the Islanders is a conditional draft pick with the highest level of a 3rd round pick(My Take: Really? Between a third and fifth round pick? With all the insane overpayments? The Islanders got fleeced)

-The Boston Bruins have dealt for Mark Recchi, sending Matt Lashoff and Martin Karsums.(My Take: Now the Bruins best defensive prospect is out the door. They're going for it now folks)

-The Calgary Flames have traded for Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold. Matt Lombardi, Brandon Prust, a 1rst round pick are heading to Phoenix. Lawrence Nycholat, prospect Ryan Wilson and a second round pick are going to Colorado for Leopold.(My Take: Obviously Calgary is going for it all next season cause with Jokinen's 5.5 million on the books for next season you can kiss Bertuzzi, Cammalleri and newly acquired Leopold goodbye. But now the Flames are a legit powerhouse for this season.)

-Filip Kuba has re-signed with the Ottawa Senators for 3 years at 3.75 million per season.

-The Ottawa Senators have traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a second round pick.(My Take: Ottawa hopes that they've found their goalie of the future although Leclaire comes with major injury question marks. Vermette, who's having a brutal season, is going to try and give the Blue Jackets some scoring depth to help Rick Nash)

-The Toronto Maple Leafs have claimed Martin Gerber off of waivers from the Ottawa Senators as they have shut down Vesa Toskala for the season.

-The Boston Bruins acquire depth defenseman Steve Montador for offensive prospect Petteri Nokelainen.(My Take: So let me get this straight, the Bruins deal their top offensive prospect for a #6-7 defenseman?)