Posted on: June 3, 2011 11:44 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 11:44 am
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Preditors Sports Talk

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Category: NHL
Posted on: October 20, 2010 4:04 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2010 5:04 pm
 

Fan bashing

The NHL has a memorable history when it comes to fans and fighters dropping the gloves. They are in-tune these incidents and punish them harshly.

This year, the league went so far as to clarify the penalties for these confrontation in its yearly rules adjustments , stating "Any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person runs the risk of an unsportsmanlike penalty and possible supplemental discipline."

Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien became the first to test the laws Tuesday night when he lunged into the stands to grapple with a Minnesota Wild fan. If dropping a few F-bombs at fans alone would be enough for punishment, you can bet Rypien's attack will keep him off the ice for a long time.

As unacceptable as it was, Rypien's actions were tame compared to some of the NHL player-fan altercations of years past. Among the most memorable:

 

Calgary Flames goon Sasha Lakovic jumps into the stand after a fan dumps a drink on coach Guy Lapointe 's head:

 

Buffalo Sabres enforcer Rob Ray plays the role of judge, jury and executioner when a Quebec Nordiques fan jumps onto the ice:

 

A brawl between the Vancouver Canucks and Quebec Nordiques shifts to the stands:

 

Toronto Maple Leafs tough-guy Tie Domi squirts a Philadelphia Flyers fan, who falls into the penalty box and proceeds to get beaten:

 

And the creme de la creme of all brawls, Boston Bruins defenseman Mike Milbury climbs into the Madison Square Garden stands and beats a rowdy New York Rangers fan with his own shoe. (At 0:30, you can see Milbury at the top of the screen pulling the fan's shoe off.)

 

We're aware this is only a fraction of the great player-fan confrontations in NHL history. Feel free to add your links to videos of other incidents in the comment section below .
Posted on: February 22, 2010 12:38 am
Edited on: February 22, 2010 12:41 am
 

One more magical moment for USA Hockey

The clock is just a few ticks away from Feb, 22, 2010, the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.

I'm sitting here trying to comprehend the hockey game I watched tonight. The United States upsetting the all-star Canadians on their home soil? To win the group with an undefeated record and potentially claim the top seed in the Olympic hockey tournament moving forward? I can't help but think we've all witnessed another miracle.

As Americans, we're taught from a young age about the greatness of the United States. We've done amazing things in this country. We're the world's last superpower. Even when we're down, we're better than the rest of the world.

Hockey is one aspect of American culture where we're not among the best. Team USA is never regarded as a threat. USA Hockey has had its moments of greatness, but hockey is just one of the few things where we're actually the underdog.

Back in 2001, I covered the IIHF World Championship in Germany. Out of an entire worldwid media contingent spread across three cities, I was one of three Americans covering the event.

Objectivity at international events, it seems, gets tossed aside pretty quickly. You're obviously not in the press box cheering for your country, but every now and then you show your colors. You get a little more excited around others when your country's chances in the next game. You proudly sing the national anthem when your team wins, and feel miserable when you don't get to hear it after a loss.

At the tournament that year, the United States pulled off an improbable 4-3 victory over Canada in the quarterfinals. I wish I had been in Hannover, where the game was played. I was covering other games in Cologne, but I still remember the feeling of walking with my head higher than all others that night.

And that's how I feel tonight.

Fans of USA hockey don't get to enjoy moments like these very often. We can probably count our major victories on one hand, maybe two. The Miracle on Ice. The 1996 World Cup victory. The 1998 Women's Olympic win. The most recent World Junior Championship.

We may not have the trophy case other nations boast, but that's fine. I kind of like this underdog feeling. It makes victories like tonight even more special.

Doesn't it?


Category: Olympic Games
Tags: Team USA
 
Posted on: February 5, 2010 10:18 pm
 

Son of Maple Leafs GM killed in car accident

Sad news in hockey circles tonight...

Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke , succumbed to injuries suffered in an auto accident in Wayne County, Ind. Friday afternoon. Treacherous conditions due to snowfall caused Brendan Burke's 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee to slide into oncoming traffic, The Palladium-Item reported. A statement put out by the Maple Leafs confirmed his passing.

Our deepest sympathies go out to the Burke family.
Category: NHL
Posted on: February 5, 2010 5:23 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2010 5:51 pm
 

The Kovalchuk Aftermath

There's plenty of wreckage left in the wake of the Atlanta Thrashers blockbuster trade which sent Ilya Kovlachuk to the New Jersey Devils.

From the on-and-off ice impact in New Jersey and Atlanta, as well as those who were hit by the aftershocks, we're here to break it down. We'll get the optimistic perspectives out of the way because, frankly, the words coming out of Atlanta are somewhat depressing.

Globe & Mail writer Eric Duhatschek offers his views about the trade in a thoughtful column as long as Tolstoy's "War and Peace ." He pegs New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello 's experience and guts as the reason the Devils now possess one of the world's top goal scorers.
Lamoriello essentially won the Kovalchuk sweepstakes for two basic reasons: One, after all these years as one of the top GMs in the game, he has the courage of his own convictions and knows when he can afford to make a big-time play; and two, some of his younger, more inexperienced colleagues essentially chickened out at the 11th hour, afraid to give up real-world prospects for a player that would likely join them only as a rental. On the flip side of the deal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist, Jeff Schultz (not the NHL defenseman, excuse the linkage), who previously covered the Thrashers beat, is skeptical Atlanta's take in this deal is worth what they gave up .
It's another quantity-for-quality trade. That’s the way these things work. ... [Niclas] Bergfors? A nice young player, hardly a star (27 points in 54 games). [Johnny] Oduya? A solid puck-moving defenseman. [Patrice] Cormier? A train wreck. He elbowed a player in the Quebec juniors, sending himto the hospital, and has been suspended for the season. The No. 1 pick? Maybe this one works out. And stays. ...

It’s another ugly ending. Two years ago, it was [Marian] Hossa. He went to Pittsburgh, and the Thrashers celebrated the package they got back. But look at it now: Colby Armstrong (third-line winger, impending free agent), Erik Christensen (washed out), Angelo Esposito (flawed prospect) a No. 1 pick (Daultan Leveille, Michigan State). Maybe this deal turns out better. But history tells us otherwise. Another star was just shipped out of town.
Unlike the Hossa situation, Thrashers GM Don Waddell had as many as eight teams pursuing Kovalchuk after it became public the winger was to be traded. Teams fell out of the mix quickly, and Waddell said at the end of the day there were only two offers that really stood out: New Jersey's and one from an un-named Western Conference team. Kings Insider Rich Hammond, while unable to confirm the team Waddell was referring to, certainly made it seem like Los Angeles was the other top bidder :
In the end, the Kings simply didn’t want to take players out of their locker room for a rental. Atlanta sniffed around Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds, at least one of whom would have had to have been the center of a trade package. Atlanta wanted NHL players. The Kings offered prospects. There wasn’t going to be a fit unless one side budged, and neither did. -----

The impact of simply hearing "New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk" is mindblowing, given the team's staunchly defensive mentality. It really is the most Earth-like representation of hell freezing over. Or as New York Times hockey blogger Stu Hackel puts it :
The Devils have never had a player like Kovalchuk. A world-class offensive talent, he doesn’t fit into their team identity. They’re a club composed of defense-first, solid, all-around — and affordable — players. Even New Jersey's franchise player, goaltender Martin Brodeur , laughed at the idea of the sniper joining the Devils when he heard rumors. Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger :
All my buddies were calling me. I said, 'I don't think so. Usually if [rumors are] out there we're not going to get him.' I definitely was surprised.I still didn't believe it until I saw it on the ticker. In the 28 games Kovalchuk faced New Jersey, he was not one to beat the Devils often. The winger's 15 goals and 23 points against New Jersey are the smallest career amount against Eastern Conference teams, Atlanta excluded.  Still, Brodeur is pleased to have Kovalchuk playing with him rather than against him:
I was excited. Anytime you're adding a player of that caliber to your lineup I think we're definitely looking at the big picture and how it's going to effect our team. We're definitely delighted to have a guy like him. I'm excited. I think everyone is. He definitely brings another dimension to our hockey club both ways. Offensively and presence-wise also. -----

Kovalchuk's rejection of two lucrative offers has prompted some to ask about the winger's future. Does he just want money? Did he want to get out of Atlanta? Is he planning on returning to Russia? Only Kovalchuk knows, but that hasn't stopped pundits from speculating. (Update: Actually, maybe we do. former teammate Pascal Dupuis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , "I knew he wanted to get out of there. Obviously he didn't sign a $101 million contract for 12 years.")

There's a lot to be said about the culture Kovalchuk is entering into and how it may impact his next contract. Just walking through the Prudential Center and the Devils' locker room is enough to convey how the players are steeped in what it takes to win championships, and the effort given by management and coaches to make it happen. That isn't something Atlanta, no matter how hard it tries, can mimic.

Kovalchuk's contract demands are rather hefty at the moment, but his focus during contract negotiations may change after he gets a taste of victory. At least that is what The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy thinks :
[I]magine him on a team with Martin Brodeur in net and linemates like Zach Parise, Patrik Elias or Jamie Langenbrunner, not to mention a solid, workmanlike defense corps. It even gets me wondering if his hardball contract stipulations will melt somewhat.

Right now, Kovalchuk is technically a ‘rental’ for the Devs; as of now, he’s an unrestricted free agent come July 1. But with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup not only this year, but at least next season as well (who knows how long Brodeur will play), maybe Kovalchuk signs a short-term deal in New Jersey, a la Marian Hossa in Detroit in 2008.
As for Kovalchuk returning to Russia, it has been an option in the back of everyone's mind, especially Sportsnet's Mike Brophy, who touched upon the possibility a while back:
Could the lure of $20 million a season cause Ilya Kovalchuk to leave the NHL and return home to play in the KHL? At least one NHL general manager thinks it is possible.

"(KHL President Alexander) Medvedev is on a mission," said the GM, who requested anonymity. "He’s paying (Sergei) Fedorov $14 million this season so how much do you think he’d pay to get Kovalchuk? Twenty million a season? That’s what I’ve heard." ...

Considering players in the KHL do not pay taxes, nor do they pay escrow like they do in the NHL, if this is true then Kovalchuk stands to make a lot more playing in Russia than he could in North America. Not only that, there has been speculation NHL players could face another salary rollback during the next collective bargaining agreement talks.
CBC's Elliott Friedman says Kovalchuks rejection was a statement about his view of the franchise :
I think what it comes down to is that Kovalchuk doesn’t want to sign with Atlanta long-term because he believes the franchise is unstable. Thrashers ownership has been in court five years and there are concerns the team will eventually move. I understand why Waddell would feel a bit betrayed, because Kovalchuk constantly told him he loved it there and created the impression he would sign.

Deep down, both Kovalchuk and Grossman have to know the player is not getting the max contract of 20 per cent of the salary cap from anybody. Most of the teams who can afford it and might be willing to do it don’t have the cap room. Plus, it’s borderline impossible to win with one guy taking that much of your space. Personally, I think it came down to the captain saying, "If I’m going to take the risk that the franchise moves, I need to be paid for it."
The whole situation, whether it be Kovalchuk rejecting all Atlanta could offer or the Thrashers trading yet another franchise player,  amounts ot a slap in the face for fans. You almost have to feel sorry for the hardcore puckheads in Atlanta, who have supported a team through mostly bad times, only to be hurt once again. Journal-Constitution fan blogger Bill Tiller turns those frustrations on Waddell and team management , in a post that paints Thrasherville as Mudville:
So, the Kovalchuk era in Thrasherville officially ended last night. However, the sun still came up this morning. Well, at least I’m assuming so…it’s so rainy and cloudy out there today I can’t say that I’ve actually been able to eye-ball confirm that rumor. ...

I am just sick and damn tired of see this Thrashers teams formed and shaped because Don Waddell found himself in a less-than-favorable circumstance. We have, for over a decade now, seen great players come and go...leaving D-Wad to have to clean up afterwards “the best he can”.

This organization needs a general manager that can direct the circumstances that make up his team…not simply “do the best he can” to make lemonade out of lemons. I don’t think Kovalchuk, or Hossa for that matter, rejected the offers Don Waddell made them when contract time came around. No, moreover I think it was more a rejection of what this team has become…and probably will be…under the management of Don Waddell and the Great Octocluster that is our current ownership.
-----

It isn't something we normally do on Changing Lines , but we're closing out the blog by snagging a tradition from CBSSports.com's Scott Miller. It seems rather apropos...

Rock & Roll (Country?) Lyric of the Day

The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cos he was way behind: he was willin' to make a deal.

-- Charlie Daniels, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"


Posted on: January 26, 2010 6:03 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2010 6:34 pm
 

What was that about Bouwmeester again?

How does that Hives song go? "Hate to say I told you so / I do believe I told you so"?

I don't normally flaunt predictions that come true, but after I nailed our unofficial, intra-office survey for a Colts-Saints Super Bowl, I couldn't help but look back one projection I made last year.

There's been a lot of hubbub as of late about the Calgary Flames' slide, and that has led some pundits to call out the lackluster play of Jay Bouwmeester.

Chances are you heard plenty about the defenseman last season when he was one of the most targeted free agents. Bouwmeester finished out the year with Florida, matched a career high in goals and fell just shy of doing the same in points. The Panthers, realizing he wouldn't re-sign by July 1, traded his rights to Calgary. The Flames inked him to a five-year, $33 million deal.

What has $6.68 million bought Calgary this season? Two goals and 18 points. He leads the Flames in average time on ice (a little more than 26 minutes per game). He ranks second on the Flames in giveaways (41), second in missed shots (48) and fifth in hits (46). For that kind of ice time, you'd expect more production, no?

Which brings me back to that Hives song. Before last year's trade dealine, I pointed out Bouwmeester isn't all he's cracked up to be , and his departure from Florida wouldn't bury the franchise the same way the Roberto Luongo fiasco did.

[F]or the money [Bouwmeester is] seeking, Florida may be better off parting ways. Not because they're cheap, rather he's not the end-all-be-all in Florida. Bouwmeester is having an outstanding season (offensively), but as a friend put it, "does everyone else not see him enough to know his flaws?"

Bouwmeester is not a Dion Phaneuf- or Chris Pronger-like player who can put up offense and be physical in his own end. Actually, there are a lot of times where the defenseman doesn't use his size. He can be a liability in his own end at times, which is part of the reason why he's paired with Karlis Skrastins , who is about as defensive-minded as you can get.

In Florida's 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals a couple weeks back, Bouwmeester displayed his lack of physicality clearly. He was matched up against Alexander Ovechkin. There's no question Bouwmeester could keep up with the star (so few can), but on two occasions, he failed to play the body. On one of those, Ovechkin tallied the game-winner. A check or bump by Bouwmeester would have disrupted the play.

The Panthers' record is one win and three points off of last year's effort at this same point. The balanced attack from Florida's blueline has continued to some degree, with the Panthers' top four registering at least 16 points. Bouwmeester's departure also opened the door for rookie Dmitri Kulikov, a smooth-skating, puck moving defenseman who has not only been able to hang at the NHL level, but play a significant role. About the only thing Florida is missing from Bouwmeester is the 15 goals he contributed last season. For a team missing its top two goal scorers -- David Booth and Nathan Horton -- that is without question.

On the flip side, the Flames aren't any better either. They are four wins and five points off last year's pace. Bouwmeester's presence alone isn't at fault for Calgary's struggles, yet he is not doing the things expected of him -- and his lofty salary -- that would help the Flames pull themselves out of a rut.

And, while it is absolute speculation , one can't help but wonder what kind of impact Bouwmeester has had on Calgary's defensive corps, Phaneuf specifically. Once lauded as a franchise defenseman, future Norris Trophy contender and absolute Pac-Man when it comes to ice time, Phaneuf has been knocked from the spotlight. Rumors of his unhappines refuse to die down despite endless assurance from Flames GM Darryl Sutter. Calgary may host the Stampede, but in this case, there may not be enough room for two workhorses.

Could the Panthers be better off with Bouwmeester? Possibly. Are they surviving without him? Absolutely.

I do believe I told you so.

Posted on: January 22, 2010 5:36 pm
 

Happy birthday, Elmer Lach!

If you have not stumbled across it already, take a moment to check out the Montreal Gazette 's feature on Montreal Canadiens great Elmer Lach.

Lach, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on Friday, is the oldest living Canadiens player. Montreal retired the two-time leading scorer's No. 16 earlier this season. Although Lach is highly regarded among Habs fans, it is sometimes easy for the average hockey fan to overlook Lach and his accomplishments. He centered Montreal's famed "Punch Line" alongside Maurice Richard and Toe Blake. Sometimes there just isn't enough room under the spotlight for everyone.

The article above doesn't focus on his years with Montreal, rather the transition of growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan to playing for one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history. It is the kind of story you won't hear often about professional athletes these days.
Category: NHL
Posted on: October 21, 2009 1:38 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2009 2:04 pm
 

A cure for Florida's shootout woes

As someone who follows the Florida Panthers, I've seen plenty of shootout losses at the Cats expense. Since the NHL implemented the tie-breaking format in 2005-06, the Panthers are 10-27.

The team's inability to turn shootouts into an extra point in the standings has factored into the team's lengthy playoff drought. Florida, which lost eight shootouts and converted on a league-low 18.8 percent of its attempts, missed out on the postseason by a single point.

Although the Panthers are 1-0 in the mano a mano competition this season, they should consider borrowing the Tampa Bay's new way of preparing for penalty shots.

The Bolts practiced their moves with a team game of strip shootout . Borrowing from the rules of strip poker, the players kept their equipment on if they scored and took of pieces with each miss. Poor Marty St. Louis lost all but his shirt and shorts before netting a goal.

At best, the Cats learn to nut-up for the shootout and come up with some crucial points. At worst, they end up showing more skin than their fellow BankAtlantic Center tenants, the Miami Caliente .

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com