Category Archives: NHL

Flyer Firesale

Myles Dichter

HUGE news in the NHL today as the Flyers trade Captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for a combined haul of Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, a 1st rounder, a 2nd rounder and a 3rd rounder. It is no surprise that the Flyers traded Carter, seeing as they did not have cap space and were trying to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. The Richards trade is surprising to me, and I don’t love it from the Flyers perspective. Yes, they needed to dump salary, but Carter’s $5m would have been enough. Plus, they got a great return from the Blue Jackets (Voracek, 1st, 3rd), and thats being in a situation when the whole league knows the Flyers are vehemently shopping Carter. There’s also that whole thing where the Flyers placed 2nd in the East this season, and made the Stanley Cup the year prior. This isn’t a depth deal for them, since they had the most depth in the league (at least top 3) this past season. To me, the Richards trade seems like a desperation move by the Flyers. Its not your typical if we don’t make the playoffs now I’ll be fired, I need to shake things up desperation, rather its the we haven’t had a good goalie in our history type of deal. Philadelphia would have been much better off keeping their captain, and giving Carter’s money to Bryzgalov since $5m sounds about reasonable for him. Today will define Paul Holmgren’s legacy at the helm of the Flyers, and we will see if his massive risk today pans out. The only question now is whether the Flyers will be able to pay all the young players they got today, 3 years from now.

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Game 7 Preview

Myles Dichter

Now that we are (thankfully) done with the NBA Finals, and Lebron James’ epic collapse, the NHL will take centre stage Wednesday night with the biggest game of the year. Will Vancouver be able to continue the trend of the home team winning, and take home Lord Stanley’s hardware? Will it be Luongo in net at the end of the 3rd period, or Schneider? Can Tim Thomas put up yet another outstanding playoff performance? If he does, but the Bruins still manage to lose, does he deserve Giguere-esque praise, and the MVP trophy? Will at least one Sedin show up? Will we have to endure that Johnny Reid song on CBC (let’s go higher) any longer? Will Tomas Kaberle take a shot (for the record, his “shot” that led to the fourth goal wasn’t officially a shot as it was tipped in)?

I can’t think of a better time for the NHL to have its game 7. With the NBA season done, and headed for a lockout, it is more important than ever before for the NHL to come through with an exciting finish. The NHL has a chance right now that doesn’t come about very often. They have the opportunity to overtake a dominant American sport, and it is vital for the NHL to make the most of this opportunity if they want to get out of this stage of mediocrity/irrelevance. Of course, it is up to the players to make this Stanley Cup as memorable as possible, not for blindside hits to the head, but for genuinely well-played, exciting hockey.

On to the actual game now. The big story thus far has been Vezina candidate goaltenders (though at this point, there really is only one candidate) Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo. Thomas has been nothing short of incredible all postseason, while Luongo has been shaky, as we’ve seen in this series (he’s won 1-0, 1-0 and 2-1 and lost 8-, 4-0 and 5-2). Back on Vancouver, Luongo needs to have a good start. You could see his confidence go down after a questionable Marchand goal then a downright ugly goal scored by Milan Lucic. I think Luongo will show up tonight. On a sidenote, Luongo WILL NOT be traded this summer, to all the people that think he will. Even if the Canucks wanted to, his value has never been lower because of the perception that he is a choker. As for Thomas, I have never liked him. Maybe that stems from being a Leafs fan, or the fact that I don’t like his style of play. Either way, he’s been a brick wall and at this point seems like a lock to win the Conn Smythe no matter who wins, barring a total meltdown.

There is no questioning how badly both of these teams want to win. The Bruins haven’t won since ’72 (only 5 more years than the Leafs), and Vancouver hasn’t won a Cup in their entire history. The Bruins are playing for Nathan Horton, the Canucks Mason Raymond. So as far as “intangibles” go, these teams are dead even. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the series has been the on-ice antics from the likes of Alex Burrows and Brad Marchand. Both are very talented players, who have come up big in clutch situations (see Burrows game 2). That is what makes this so interesting, that these guys aren’t your typical Sean Avery super-pests. They have an added value to their team beyond getting under the opponent’s skin. They aren’t the biggest, most physical players on their team but they are extremely important. Speaking of physicality, Boston must keep this style of play in order to win tonight. It is how they have been playing all year, and it brings out the best in this big team. At home, Vancouver must set the tempo early, and play their fast-paced style of game. If they can set this tone early, then they can win tonight’s game hands-down. It has been frustrating watching the Canucks try to play a different game than their own, and I’m not sure it will hold up much longer, even playing in Vancouver (fun fact: home teams are 18-2 in the Stanley Cup since 2009).

It says something about this series that I have yet to mention the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron. It is the role players that have defined this series; however, it is the stars that must step up in game 7. Daniel Sedin guaranteed victory for Vancouver tonight. Wouldn’t it be a nice way to win a game 7, after Mark Messier guaranteed a win for the Rangers in 1993 and came through? I think this game will be defined by the first period, and whether the Bruins can rattle Luongo. Ultimately, I  think the Canucks will pull this game out in front of their home crowd, with a 3-2 win. We know that a European will be handed the Cup, and that an American in all likelihood will will be named MVP, but in the end, the Stanley Cup will finally come back to where it belongs, in Canada.

What’s in a Name?

While the sports media analyzes the hiring of Winnipeg’s new GM, every sports fan hears the news and asks the exact same question, “Can ya just tell us the name of the team already?” Many possibilities have been floated around; a return to the Jets, keeping the AHL’s Manitoba Moose moniker, the white supremacist inspired Winnipeg Whiteout and the generic sounding Winnipeg Falcons (not entirely random- was the name of the team that won the first ever Olympic gold medal in hockey for Canada 90 years ago). Let’s do a quick breakdown of the main candidates that the public know about.

JETS

PROS: The name Jets is one that is synonymous with Winnipeg in the hockey world and captures the rightful return of NHL hockey to the city. While they might own the records and history of the Thrashers, by naming the team the Jets the organization can easily invoke memories of Hull, Hawerchuk, and Selanne amongst their fans. The Cleveland Browns went through the same situation a decade ago and sticking with the original clearly worked (not on the field off course, its still the Browns). Giving the team another name seems like a marketing gimmick rather than a fresh start.

CONS: So changing the name will be a marketing gimmick but can you blame True North for trying to generate revenue to please Gary “If you don’t sell every seat in every game I’m movin’ the team to Mexico City” Bettman? Besides, with the great memories of the Jets comes the horrible pain of remembering the Jets departure. Winnipeg needs a fresh start. Part of the message of Chipman and Thompson is that Winnipeg has been reborn but if they keep the Jets name, the fans will be stuck in the past. Changing the logo and the colours won’t change the thoughts associated with the name. Also, I doubt Bettman would allow Winnipeg to keep the name Jets, a giant reminder everyday that he has no clue about the demographics of hockey.

MOOSE

PROS: It’s a name that is currently associated with not just the city but the province through the AHL team, which was a major factor in proving that Winnipeg could handle another pro hockey team.Another plus is by naming the team Manitoba instead of Winnipeg you incorporate a larger affiliation of people in an already small pool of possible fans. And let’s be honest, alliterative team names sound good.

CONS: I don’t even know where to start with all the flaws in this name. To start, no American team, which can barely tolerate a team from Winnipeg, will want a game featuring Manitoba at their arenas. It just doesn’t pique interest. The Thrashers might have sucked at hockey, but at least fans in San Jose know where Atlanta is. Secondly the name Moose is so stereotypical and gives Winnipeg the image of being a lumber town full of hosers, not a modern urban centre that it wants to present itself as. Alliterative names can be nice, but team names that aren’t plural eat at my insides. If you play for the Heat/Magic/Jazz/Wild, what are you? You’re on a team with a grammatically shitty name that’s what.

WHITEOUT

PROS: A catchy and unique name, that’s for sure. The name carries an association with the old Winnipeg franchise without constantly bringing up the pain of the Jets. It’s also a truly fan-based name as it comes from the Jets playoff games where the whole arena would wear white. The Canada/snow based reference will also be present but is not as in your face as the Moose.

CONS: If Bettman wants hockey to exist in the Southern United States (as well as some other urban centres) a team called the Whiteout cannot exist. Will the team have a Grand Wizard instead of Captain? How will Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien react? There’s just a bevy of racial problems with this name. There is a team already named Avalanche in the league, I think one snow related name is enough. And see above for my opinion on non-plural team names.

FALCONS

PROS: Finally a plural team name! This name has a built-in connection to the city of Winnipeg and Canadian hockey. It is also a name that opposing teams won’t mind putting on their Jumbotrons. Also, it takes some big balls to name a team leaving Atlanta the Falcons; a nice “ya that’s right, we’re stealing your team and the team name most associated with your city” screw you by True North. Could help sell tickets in American arenas, as the fans there will think their hockey team is playing a football team.

CONS: Sorry Winnipeg, but I doubt you have the mosquito-bitten balls to name your team the Falcons. Are there even falcons in Winnipeg? The name might have a connection with hockey and Winnipeg but unfortunately anyone who could have told you that before True North bought the Thrashers is not alive. Winnipeg should not be called the Falcons the same way Vancouver isn’t called the Millionaires (take a moment to Wikipedia that).

To me, it’s pretty clear that the current leading candidates are all choices with major flaws. If I had to pick from one of those four it would be the Falcons, but it’s a letdown to have your hockey team be named after one of the options from the “create your on team” section of NHL 11. The name needs two things: 1) be a plural noun (I’m not letting this go) and 2) a name that has a sincere connection to Winnipeg. The NHL since the expansion era has done well with meshing team names and their cities. The Blue Jackets, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, and Blues are all very unique sports names that are related to their cities. Notice these names are not negative to the city; anything associated with winter (or mosquitoes) would likely bother people in Winnipeg who believe their city is more than just a cold place (that is infested with possibly the most maddening creature ever). The stereotype that Canada is just frozen tundra is simply annoying. I have never been to Winnipeg and have never really considered Winnipeg to be a potential NHL city until two years ago, so I’m probably a poor source of wisdom regarding the topic of a Winnipeg sports name. I just hope its something that brings the city together and is a proper representation of the city to the rest of the league. My favourite suggestions that I’ve seen are Wolverines (or Wolves), Spirit (yes it breaks the plural rule but its indicative of the fans perseverance), Rebels, and of course this.

The Real Value of Tomas Kaberle

Myles Dichter

The Toronto Maple Leafs suck. And its time that people realize this. The Leafs suck because their players are worse than the majority of other team’s players. This means that players that would be third or fourth line plugs on other teams, might be first or second liners on the Leafs, and therefore receive more playing time. If Leafs management is smart, they can turn and trade these middling forwards for significantly more than they’re worth, then watch as their overvalued players disappoint on their new teams.

We’ve seen this before in Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky and Dominic Moore (to his credit, he’s producing for the Lightning on their third line this postseason). For a few years now, there had been chatter about potential Tomas Kaberle trades. We’ve heard rumours of him going everywhere from Boston to L.A., and these rumours finally became a reality when he was dealt just prior to the deadline to the Bruins for a first round pick, Joe Colborne and a conditional second rounder.

Kaberle was supposed to be different than Antropov and Poni because he is supposedly an elite puck-moving defenceman. Another offensive defensive who has taken a ton of criticism for playing subpar defense is the Capitals Mike Green. Probably the best point-scoring defenseman in the league, he was held off the Canadian Olympic roster because of his many defensive deficiencies. Having watched both players play, I can tell you that Kaberle isn’t so much better than Green defensively. Neither seem to know what they’re doing in the defensive zone, and always seem to be caught out of position at the worst of times. The fact that Green was left off Team Canada illustrates how important defense is. Green was putting up record offensive numbers for a defenseman, but Steve Yzerman chose to leave him off the team. That is quite the statement.

On the offensive side, Kaberle hasn’t scored more than 10 goals in a season since 2006/07. Sure, he’s a decent anchor for a powerplay, but his unwillingness to shoot makes him a lot less valuable than most people realize. In fact, I think you could even attribute Dion Phaneuf’s strong end to the season to Kaberle not being there to man the point with him on the man-advantage. Since a guy like Carl Gunnarsson is more of a threat to shoot, the wingers must pay attention to both d-men and not just Phaneuf. Not coincidentally, the Leafs play also dramatically improved once they were rid of Kaberle.

Why am I writing all this? Well, it seems to me that lately Kaberle has taken a lot of heat in the media for not living up to expectations in Boston. While that may be true, maybe Boston’s expectations of Kaberle were too high to begin with. At the end of the day, he is just a power play specialist who won’t shoot and a defenseman who can’t play defense.

NHL Playoff Predictions

Myles Dichter

I don’t know if anyone saw this coming, except for the man with a worse nickname than Matty Ice. That person is Jonathan Toews, AKA Captain Serious. With that being said, game 7 of the van/chi series goes tonight and this series has just about featured everything, including blowouts, good goaltending, awful goaltending, comebacks, surprise starters and Joel Quenneville’s awesome mustache. We should be in store for quite the game today. I think that both teams will come out of the gates slowly, looking like the Devils. Things will pick up, and in the end I believe Roberto Luongo will show us why he’s considered one of the best goalies in the NHL, and lead the Canucks to a 3-2 win over the defending champs, and a date with Nashville in Round 2.

I think Montreal will force a game 7 behind the strong play of Carey Price and the Bell Centre Crowd, and since Chris Pronger doesn’t lose, Philly takes the game against Buffalo. Of course, if Pronger can’t go, then Buffalo’s chances improve greatly. They’ll need Ryan Miller to step up if they want to win.

Leafs-Sabres Prediction

Myles

Lots on the line for both teams tonight. Both top scorers, Kessel and Vanek, have struggled mightily of late. Vanek has just 2 goals in 13 games, while Kessel hasn’t scored in 4. The x-factor tonight is the goaltenders. We know Ryan Miller is always a stud in net, but can James Reimer rebound from three difficult games in a row? Kessel, as well as the all of the sudden struggling Clarke MacArthur must play well for the Leafs to have a chance at cracking Miller.

I think Reimer has the bounceback game he’s looking for, but lets in one late for the Sabres to tie it up. Leafs win it in a shootout, 3-2, only gaining one point on Buffalo. Am I being too optimistic about a mediocre Leafs team with a goalie who’s spent a lifetime in the minors? Probably, but I think that the Leafs will want this one more and manage to squeak out a win.

Leafs-Sabres Prediction

Norm

2-0 Sabres

The Leafs lose another important game as the Leaf’s stuttering attack cannot penetrate Ryan Miller. The Sabres do just enought to beat James Reimer twice, which is all they will need. Mikhail Grabovski goes in 1 on 4 50 times, and Dion Phaneuf gets caught out of position 97 times. Basically, another night of misery. I’d say I look forward to seeing Brian Burke at the lottery, but we have no pick.

From the desk of an MLSE Board Member

Norm

Dear Toronto,

I write this letter from my suite at the Air Canada Centre. It is nice and quiet, a perfect atmosphere for writing. Which is to say, I’m at a Toronto Raptors game. I didn’t want to come, but I’ve been told it’s the big scarf giveaway night and it looks bad if I don’t show up. I’ve been told our multicultural fan base loves scarves. Which is funny, because wherever I go in Toronto there are only white people. Fortunately, we don’t need to let these scarf lovers into Leaf games. I really don’t enjoy watching this Italian scarf lover walk back on defense and based on the attendance statistics and TV Ratings it seems you guys agree. To that end, I requested to Bryan that we remove him, but have been told he’s our only player of talent. Which I suppose means we’re screwed.

That may upset you, although since you’re a Torontonian, I suppose you don’t care much about the Raptors. Let’s talk Leafs hockey, and how we once declared we’d like a hockey team Toronto can be proud of. Well, we have the 20th best hockey team in the world, so Mission Accomplished! From the hockey I watch in The Platinum Club while having our new $100 dollar burger (you really must try it, it’s delicious!) we seem to be doing very well. Then again, I only watch the first few minutes, because that scotch just isn’t going to drink itself.

The other day I was just milling around the Air Canada Centre taking in our premium priced Real Sports Shop and sports bar, when a young gentleman came up to me. He told me he was a very big Leafs and Raptors fan. He said he watched all their games through thick and thin. He had just one question for me, how did I allow things to get this way? Taking into account that we obviously earned his future purchasing power, I decided that I owed him and other Toronto sports fans an answer on how things got to become this amazing, for me at least.

Well, the answer to that question is complicated, something only a rich man like me can truly understand, but nonetheless I shall try to explain it to you the common fan, because I’m told you exist. It’s a shame you haven’t been able to buy Leafs tickets for years, except for the fact that now rich people get to. In 1998, the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund assumed control of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. For the next few years, the Leafs and Raptors did incredibly well. They made the playoffs and led their sports in attendance. In basketball we had Vince Carter, and in hockey we had no salary restrictions as we spent our way into Stanley Cup contention. Then two things happened; a hockey salary cap and Vince Carter fleeing our great city. Just remember, it’s all Vince Carter’s fault, and that Bosh too, how dare they abandon this city.

After years of mediocrity and below average records, we turned hockey and basketball over to two true experts; the Phoenix owner’s son, and a lawyer who inherited a Stanley Cup winning team in Anaheim. Although improving the teams would have been nice, the true goal was to quickly win over the fans so they would be content and purchase our overpriced tickets. Because, as I’m sure you know our goal is to make money. To cut costs, we moved our AHL team to Toronto. The truth is, we’re hiding them in plain site. Has anyone ever been to a Marlies game? I know you haven’t because while we market their cheap tickets, the truth is they don’t exist. It’s cheaper to have a team that doesn’t actually play, which also explains our lack of young talent.

Also, we’ve aggressively chased mediocrity. There are those who say we don’t care, but that’s simply not true. Actually it is, we don’t care. We do care about customer satisfaction. I’ll tell you whose fault this is. It’s your fault, because we will strive to make the Toronto Maple Leafs as successful as it takes to earn your patronage. Fortunately all we need is a cheesy ad campaign like, “Spirit is Everything.” The truth is you content yourself with the quick fix and just want to feel as though we’re winning now. How do you like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf? We’re doing just well enough, as it also helps to lower expectations. If you fans were realistically critical we’d be toast, but instead you think acting like a fan means being wildly optimistic. The Leafs are 10th in the Eastern Conference, but with the easily satisfied media and fans, you’d think we’re number one. As for the Raptors, they’re just there for the Leafs off nights, which seems to be how you Torontonians feel.

We may be mediocre at winning but we’re at the top in terms of money making. We’ve built condos, shops, sports bars, and we’re even considering monopolizing Toronto sports with our own television network. Don’t blame us for that, we are just doing what you would also be doing if you were in our position. You’d be charging the highest prices and making money in any way possible, so I ask you please don’t criticize us. Instead, please help yourselves to our new burgers, because buying them can show off your newfound status as a Platinum Club member. I’m assuming you can afford a Leafs game, because otherwise you don’t matter.

So in conclusion, to answer that young man’s question, it is you, the fan, in Toronto, who is at fault. Our goal is to make money, and the way we make money is by satisfying you. In accepting losing teams you allow us to produce them. If you want to see changes in hockey in Toronto, I’ll tell you what to do. If you stop working we’ll be forced to actually make a long term plan to build a winner. But we both know that won’t happen, because fortunately for us, in Toronto, “Spirit is Everything.”

Sincerely, Nameless Board Member

P.S. Toronto F.C. tickets are now available. They may be sub par, but British people and having to hold in your urine are fun. Or so I’ve been told, because after all, soccer is for immigrants.

Really Norm?

Myles

Really Norm? I thought you hated all those fickle Maple Leafs fans. You have maintained that the Leafs will not make the playoffs, are not worthy of the playoffs, and are in general a bad hockey team. Now you want to praise them? Their next four games are against the Flyers, Blackhawks, Islanders, Flyers again and Sabres. If they come out of that stretch still 4 points back in the playoffs, then I might change my mind about the Leafs playoff hopes. For now, any rational fan will look at this website (http://www.sportsclubstats.com/NHL.html) and see that, unfortunately, this is just another tease at the end of the season, like the leafs love doing. And you can absolutely not convince me that the raptors are a good basketball team. Their star player averages 21.8 points per game and has no other statistics worth noting. He is an awful defender, and does not seem to really care about the fortunes of this team. The first word that comes to my head when hearing Bargnani’s name is “bum.” That is the most apt description of Andrea. Plus, I don’t think people in Toronto are joyous that they won since they won’t be making the playoffs anyway, and most true raptors fans are just interested in getting a high draft pick.

Of course, thinking like this is no fun for a fan of any team, so I’ll just keep illogically believing that the Leafs will make the playoffs, and try to convince myself that the Raptors recent success is a good sign for the future.

Leafs and Raptors Victories

Norm

Well, it seems there is joy in Toronto today. I would have criticized Ron Wilson’s conservative strategies but we won. Phaneuf and company made a great play at the end to get the win. With the Raptors win yesterday, these two teams look good. It’s a shame my critical article is going to be posted tomorrow. I was really looking forward to following the lead of Toronto sports writers and overreacting to the previous day’s events.