Posted on: September 19, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 8:28 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The NHL preseason schedule opened on Monday and one of the first games featued the Battle of Ontario with Maple Leafs and Senators facing off in Toronto, and even though it doesn't count in the standings there was still some bad blood early. Just five minutes into the first period Maple Leafs denseman Dion Phaneuf drilled Ottawa's Tim Conboy along the boards, resulting in Jared Cowen coming over and challenging Phaneuf to drop the gloves.
When the dust settled Phanuef was given a two-minute minor for elbowing, while Cowen picked up an instigator penalty and also received a 10-minute misconduct. Both players also received five-minute fighting majors.
Cowen, a six-foot-five, 220-pound defenseman was the Senators' first-round pick from 2009 and is fighting for a roster spot after spending last year in the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Chiefs, scoring 18 goals to go with 30 assists in 58 games.
Here's the video of the entire sequence, via Hockeyfights.com:
After serving all of his penalty time, Cowen returned to the game and scored a goal midway through the second period, tying the game at one. Toronto's Carl Gunnarsson answered just a little over four minutes later to put Toronto back on top.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:54 am
SWEATER SLIP: Thanks to an error by Reebok, the Buffalo Sabres unknowingly revealed the third jerseys for the Senators and Maple Leafs this season in their team shop and icethetics got ahold of them. So, what do you think of the alternates?
SEMIN RESPONDS: Alexander Semin took an offseason hit from former teammate and current Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley that included the comment that Semin doesn't care. The Russian forward talked to Puck Daddy about the perceptions, shrugging them off.
ALWAYS TWEAKING: The Boston Bruins just won the Stanley Cup and return almost the entire team that earned it. You might think that would to a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but Claude Julien apparently prefers the "if you aren't getting better you're getting worse" school of thought. The idea? Getting the defenseman to close the gap with the forwards. Boston Globe.
LEARNING CURVE: Speaking of coaching systems, the Flyers are getting used to Peter Laviolette's in Philadelphia and Dave Isaac says they are picking it up fast. That's good, considering how little time there is to implement such a system, especially one foreign to a lot of the players.
DEEP THOUGHTS: When you look at the top two lines, the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have much problem competing with the top teams in the East. In fact, only the Flyers and Lightning had more goals from their top four forwards. But the Leafs are sorely lacking in the depth department. James Mirtle delves deeper in the Globe and Mail.
GETTING OVER THE HILLER: Jonas Hiller is anticipating returning to the ice this preseason after missing the second half of last season because of vertigo. Jon Rosen at Fox Sports West says the Ducks better hope Hiller comes back symptom free.
TRADE TALK: Cory Schneider will remain the most-discussed goaltender on the trade market until the day the Canucks either move him or Roberto Luongo. And they aren't moving Luongo any time soon. Andy Strickland looks at the ever persistent rumors for Schneider, which include Phoenix and Columbus.
BE THE THUNDER: The Tampa Bay Lightning began running with a new promotion last season and into the playoffs of "Be the bolt." Now they have added a theme song to go with it called Be the Thunder from the Florida Orchestra. Nothing says hockey quite like violins.
SALVADOR BACK: It has been almost 12 months since Bryce Salvador left a preseason game injured (inner-ear concussion), but on Friday he was cleared to practice and has been loving being back on the ice with his Devils teammates. Tom Gulitti at the Berger Record has mroe.
STARTING FRESH: Andrew Cogliano was a first-round talent, drafted by the Oilers in 2005. But only once in his seasons in Edmonton did he hit 40 points. But with an offseason trade to the Ducks, he is hopeful a fresh start will help him reach his potential as "a lot of it had to do with the mental side of the game" in Edmonton.
MIGRATING NORTH: The Washington Capitals are going to play the Nashville Predators in Baltimore for their first exhibition game of the preseason. CSN Baltimore talks about the re-emerging of hockey in Charm City.
Tags: Alexander Semin, Anaheim Ducks, Andrew Cogliano, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Bryce Salvador, Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien, Cory Schneider, Daily Skate, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Jonas Hiller, Matt Bradley, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronton Maple Leafs, Trade Talk, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals
Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:53 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:54 am
MAKEOVER CONCERNS: Not everybody is digging what the Sharks have done this offseason in making over the roster in an attempt to finally get over the hump. David Pollack at the San Jose Mercury News says it raises questions ... how often does an elite team undergo such change? That's just one.
ENFORCING CHANGE: In the ongoing discussion on fighting, Kukla's Korner says that it's not very realistic to expect fighting to be removed from the NHL anytime soon. Instead, the way to curb fighting is to change today's role of the enforcer, instead expecting them to be contributing players beyond using their fists.
THE HEX IS BACK: There is another Hextall in hockey (L.A. Times). Brett Hextall, the son of Ron, was drafted by the Coyotes in the sixth round of the 2008 draft and he hit the ice against his dad's team, the Kings (Ron is assistant GM in L.A. these days). Brett, a forward, was physical on the ice. Surprise, surprise.
OTTAWA OPTIMISM: Senators GM Bryan Murray recently did a Q&A with the Ottawa Sun in which he talked about the team this upcoming season and the transition from Cory Clouston (with some more veiled parting shots) to Paul MacLean and Murray's belief the Sens will push for the playoffs ... this season.
TURRIS TAKE: After the flurry of signings on Wednesday and Thursday, the list of remaining RFAs unsigned is short, but the Coyotes' Kyle Turris is still on the list. With his high asking price ($3 million- $4million?!), it has Matthew Sekeres at the Globe and Mail wondering if it isn't a trade request in disguise.
ISLAND DEVELOPMENT: A Baltimore development company is showing renewed interest (Newsday) in developing the area around the Islanders home, Nassau Coliseum, something it originally showed interest in back in 2005. It's still too early to know what the full plan would call for and what it would mean to the Isles.
HUDLER'S HOPE: Coming off a disappointing season with the Red Wings, Jiri Hudler returns to Detroit this fall knowing he has to make a much better impression (Detroit Free Press), putting a lot of pressure on himself to show more than he did a season ago after a summer of UFC training.
Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.
That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.
At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.
Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.
Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.
So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.
But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.
You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.
By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.
And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.
That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.
Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.
The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.
Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.
Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.
In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Alexander Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Eastern Conference, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: August 27, 2011 10:21 am
By: Adam Gretz
MODANO STILL ON THE FENCE Mike Modano spent the 2010-11 season playing with his hometown team, the Detroit Red Wings, scoring four goals in 40 games. The 41-year-old forward has yet to make a decision as to whether or not he wants to keep going for another season or call it a career, and he talked about that decision with Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas. Modano also talked about his ideas for a post-hockey career, including possible roles as a TV analyst and his desire to work for the Dallas Stars front office. For his career Modano has scored 561 goals, almost all of them coming with the Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars organization.
GONCHAR LOOKS TO REBOUND After signing a large contract on the first day of free agency last summer veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar had some struggles in his debut season with the Ottawa Senators, recording 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) in 67 games. He's looking to improve on those numbers this season, and according to Wayne Scanlan, the Senators are going to need him and the other veterans on the team to step up this season.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 2:27 pm
You have to give Alexei Kovalev this: he is sticking to his word.
In an era when 99 times out of 100 that a player says something controversial or in any way offensive he apologizes, it is nice to see when players won't retract, stand by the words they clearly meant to say. That's what we have Kovalev.
Last month he had some critical comments about the media, particularly the members in Ottawa. Remember Kovalev saying this?
"It means I was right. Otherwise they wouldn't have reacted the way they did. The Montreal media is more experienced [than Ottawa]; hockey has been there longer, people there understand hockey ... If they criticize, they do it for cause. And it Ottawa they criticize regardless of how you play."
Not entirely sure I follow the logic leap from being angry at insulting comments to showing the comments were true, but nonetheless he's holding his ground. Of course, it probably helps he's sniping from another continent, but still. Baby steps.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: August 13, 2011 9:17 am
Edited on: August 13, 2011 12:56 pm
By: Adam Gretz
KHABIBULIN TO START HOUSE ARREST Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who has been serviving a jail sentence from last February's DUI arrest in Arizona, is scheduled to start serving the house arrest portion of his sentence on Sunday according to Dan Tencer of CHED 630 AM on Twitter. Khabibulin's agent says he's handled the situation "fine" and is looking forward to camp.
HARTNELL LOOKING TO BE MORE OF A LEADER The Philadelphia Flyers re-tooled their lineup this summer, and with absence of veterans and top-scorers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, veteran forward Scott Hartnell is looking to be more of a leader for the young roster and all of its new players.
SWEATT RETIRES FROM HOCKEY Free agent defenseman Lee Sweat signed a two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators this offseason, and on Friday surprisingly announced his retirement from hockey before the start of training camp. According to his agent he's looking to pursue outside business interests. The 25-year-old defenseman appeared in three games with the Vancouver Canucks last season and scored one goal to go with one assist, and scored five goals in 41 games with the Manitoba Moose at the AHL level.
GRETZKY SERVES AS AGENT The Chicago Cubs finalized a contract with Trevor Gretzky on Friday, their seventh round draft pick from this year and the son of NHL legend Wayne Gretzy. The interesting part of the story here, because the signing had been reported as likely to happen several weeks ago, is that Gretzky (Wayne) served as the agent for his son and negotiated the contract that will pay a signing bonus of $375,000.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: August 11, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 8:38 pm
By: Adam Gretz
When the Ottawa Senators traded for Nikita Filatov earlier this summer it was a nice gamble by an offensively starved team. They were buying low on a gifted young player that's yet to find his role in the NHL. For a rebuilding team, that's not really a surprising move. Actually, it's the type of move a rebuilding team should always be looking to make.
What did turn out to be a surprise was the word from Dmitry Chesnokov on Wednesday that Filatov claims he was promised (that's the key word) top-six ice-time, as well as power play time, for the Senators this upcoming season by general manager Bryan Murray. Assuming that's how it went down between Filatov and Murray, that seems, on the surface anyway, to be a bit extreme for a player that has managed to score just six goals In 44 career games, and hasn't put one in the net at the NHL level since Nov. 7, 2009.
Four of his six career goals came during his eight-game debut during the 2008-09 season, with only two coming over the following 36 games. Over the past three years he's also spent time in Russia and the AHL, where he scored nine goals in 36 games with the Springfield Falcons this past season.
Once you dig a little deeper, I don't think it's as crazy as it initially sounds for two reasons.
First, Filatov is probably one of the last players you want skating on your third or fourth lines, whether you're a rebuilding team or a stanley cup contender, because he's simply not that type of player, defensively or physically. If he's going to play in the NHL and become a useful player, it's going to be as a first or second line player.
The other reason: the Senators should be absolutely desperate for anything that resembles offense or the potential to create offense. While Filatov hasn't exactly shown he can be a consistent scoring threat at the highest level of competition, he at least possesses the type of skill and talent that could eventually lead to him becoming that sort of player. The type of player he was supposed to become after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him with the 6th overall pick in 2008.
The Senators were 29th in the NHL in goals scored last season with just 192, finishing ahead of only the New Jersey Devils. Only one player on the roster, Jason Spezza, managed to score more than 20 goals, while Milan Michalek was the only other player to score at least 15. This team needs somebody that can score.
The return of a healthy Daniel Alfredsson should help (he appeared in just 54 games last season due to a back injury) but there's not much else coming in as far as potential difference-makers. Filatov may be a huge disappointment to this point in his career, but he's still only 21 years old and doesn't turn 22 until May, and at least has the potential to make some sort of an impact. For a team like the Senators it's definitely a gamble worth taking.
They're probably not going to compete for a playoff spot anyway, and if he can find a way to blossom in Ottawa the way he never did in Columbus they get a useful player for almost nothing. And if continues to play like the Nikita Filatov that played his way out of Columbus? Well, it only cost you a third-round pick to take the chance, and there's nothing forcing you to keep playing him in the lineup or keep him on the NHL roster.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.