Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

Let the words ‘lock-out’ and ‘Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations’ never be uttered again.

News of a pending work stoppage for the National Hockey League in September was catastrophic, coming eight years after the previous period of such circumstances. Days quickly escalated into months, but we can be thankful that it did not require a full season to solve the dispute between the owners and the Players’ Association.

With the madness behind us and the National Hockey League’s return just days away, fans can relax and finally enjoy the action, soon. On Saturday, 26 clubs are slated to start their campaign, starting at 3:00 P.M. An observer will have the option of seeing the Philadelphia Flyers renew their rivalry with Pittsburgh, a promising all Canadian match-up between the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets or the Los Angeles Kings raising their Stanley Cup banner prior to hosting the Chicago Blackhawks—the choice is yours.

While some will be bemoaning a 48-game season, there are a few benefits to a campaign of this length for the rabid fan base and the players themselves. (more…)

February 21, 2003.

In front of 11,866 fans, which makes up 63.5% of HSBC Arena’s offered seating, the Buffalo Sabres are embarrassed by the Los Angeles Kings, losing 4-1.

Zigmund Palffy opens the scoring and puts the nail in the coffin with a third period shorthanded marker, the 11th such goal the Sabres have allowed already. As the center of recent trade suggestions, the Slovakian silences the discussions with his performance and gives the Kings further incentive to hold on to him.

But there is no quieting the anguish that exists for the Buffalo Sabres. Wins are scant, empty seats are visible in their home arena, Dominik Hasek’s withdrawal to Detroit remains a lingering problem, Martin Biron is overwhelmed by the increase in his goaltending workload and the allegations that team owner John Rigas committed fraud with his two sons casts a dark shadow over the club.

Bankruptcy declarations are uttered as a possibility while the National Hockey League controls the team. Everything is spiraling out of control in every way imaginable and the season cannot finish fast enough. (more…)

Joffrey Lupul’s career took a dramatic reversal in 2006 and the worst part is that he had no way of knowing it was in the works or that it would cause a damaging chain of events.

The Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks were Western Conference finalists a few years after their shocking appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, which was pushed by a goaltending feast from Jean-Sebastian Giguere.

A big role was played by Lupul in their 2006 postseason, as the sophomore scored nine goals, four of which arrived in one game against the Colorado Avalanche. In the words of Ian Laperriere, then a forward for Colorado, Lupul was “making a name for himself.”

Anaheim was a well-built club and despite losing out to the Edmonton Oilers in five games, their postseason mettle was growing and another run for the Cup was on the horizon—just not for Lupul. (more…)

If Teemu Selanne is the ‘Finnish Flash‘, Ville Leino is coming dangerously close to being recognized as the Finnish flash in the pan.

Undrafted, but an accomplished player in Europe, Leino’s first North American contract was with the Detroit Red Wings. Those days in ‘Hockeytown’ didn’t last long and he has since received a look from two other organizations, showcasing mixed results.

Hardly a model of consistency, this puck-mover has played with the emotions of clubs that seen him as a suitor and for the most part, hasn’t warranted a place in their line-ups. While the Philadelphia Flyers saw Leino at his best, at least so far in his career, Detroit and Buffalo cannot share the same opinion.

Obviously, Leino’s status as a controversial and confusing figure aren’t without reasoning, which is why we shall dissect the curves in his National Hockey League dossier.

How does one exactly summarize a career that is merely 220 games old?

Honestly, it’s like one of the rides available at a fair or carnival being held in a mall parking lot: you get excitement, uncomfortable feelings and the occasional vomiting. (more…)

As the old adage goes, “like father, like son.”

Mike Foligno, a member of the Buffalo Sabres for a decade that spanned most of the 1980’s, was and still is a popular figure in the city. Receiving five consecutive Frank Eddolls Memorial Trophies at one point, which went to the team’s favorite player, the fans certainly appreciated him.

Unafraid to barge to the net or fight for teammates, Foligno was a scrappy forward who was willing to put himself in danger for the greater good of the club. His 1,450 penalty minutes are second-highest among all Sabre players.

More than that though, the Sudbury native had a great scoring touch, evidenced by his 247 goals with Buffalo. After each one, he’d show his enthusiasm by leaping in the air in celebration. (more…)

Nicklas Lidstrom does not need an introduction. If anything, people are likely running out of superlatives to describe him with.

Put together on one sheet of paper, everything he’s achieved is nothing short of remarkable. Four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Memorial Trophies, one Conne Smythe award, 12 All-Star Game inductions and one Olympic gold medal place him amongst the legends of the sport.

The Calder Trophy was one of the few awards he failed to claim, but that was because his competition was one of the most electrifying players of all time in Pavel Bure. In a dual between a natural scorer and an unflappable defenseman, the scorer was voted as top rookie. It just goes to show you, even a performer with the pedigree of Lidstrom can’t win them all.

Steve Yzerman’s introduction signaled the start of something special in Detroit and Lidstrom is a huge factor in its continuity. Two decades have flown by since the veteran was first positioned into the line-up, during which the Red Wings are yet to come up short of reaching the postseason. Few matters are automatic in this day and age, like someone being fairly suspended by Brendan Shanahan for intolerable violations. One thing you can count on though is that Lidstrom’s name is synonymous with success. (more…)

The 2003 NHL Entry Draft, perceived as one of the best in league history, churned out a bundle of cornerstone players in the first round–a few were also snagged in round two. And to think, such a coveted collection of players was forced to be put on hold for one year due to the lock-out. That distinction should have went to the class of 1999.

Going No.1 overall, Marc-Andre Fleury was chosen to fill the void in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net. Ask, and you shall receive. The 27-year-old has decently done what he’s supposed to–the Philadelphia Flyers beg to differ– after a rookie season that saw much trial-and-error experimenting within the club.

As the second player to have his name called, Eric Staal went straight to work with the Carolina Hurricanes by amassing 100 points as a sophomore and sparking the group towards a Stanley Cup. Florida picked up Nathan Horton and while he wasn’t exactly a leader, he wasn’t a bust either. Nikolai Zherdev, as talented as they come offensively, didn’t solidify his selection with the Columbus Blue Jackets. (more…)

Some players, no matter how hard they try or how well they constantly perform, go through their careers as under-appreciated and overlooked athletes.  While the same superstars hog the spotlight year in and year out, their media attention is in stark contrast to others who silently finish their shifts on a positive note.

Take Kimmo Timonen for example, a defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers who is lauded by teammates and opponents alike. It’s his 13th year in the National Hockey League and yet he is still somehow hidden from the microphones and televisions too routinely. Maybe it’s his 5-foot-10 frame that makes him hard to find in a crowded dressing room. Maybe the reporters want to interview those with last names that do not have to be double-checked for spelling. We can’t all have fancy, simple names like Mike Richards and Bobby Ryan.

Although he may not mind his underrated label, it is unjust for a hardy veteran to be so overshadowed by better-known players. Perhaps Zdeno Chara will have improved Timonen’s publicity after he was the first rearguard to be hand-picked by the Slovakian’s team in this year’s All-Star Fantasy Draft. But the Finn is merely one of many.

Then there is Ray Whitney. (more…)

If the National Hockey League’s 1999 Entry Draft became a ship, it would be the Titanic. Leading role would go to Patrik Stefan as the protagonist, not Leonardo DiCaprio. The first round is our iceberg, and…well you get the idea.

There’s little doubt that this class played with the emotions of clubs, as there was so much promise from the talent pool, yet how much was solidified? Stefan, the first overall pick, garnered a huge amount of press attention for his shortcomings, and put the exclamation point on his career by blundering an empty net break-away.

For anyone who purchased his hockey cards in the hopes that they’d be worth a substantial amount of money in the future like myself, you might as well treat it as toilet paper because they are estimated to be that expensive today. (more…)

Few men have enjoyed the illustrious playing career that Steve Yzerman hollowed out. Even less have shown equal brains in the front office so quickly. It’s one thing to to say you’ve played professional hockey and worked in coherence with management, it’s another to claim you’ve been extremely successful in both. Tampa Bay had a lot of changing to do in the summer of 2010, but their first order of business was drawing someone to take care of the business.

After three seasons of turmoil that saw them finish 15th, 14th, and 12th in the Eastern Conference, the club’s brass found the right man to seize control at last. While the Detroit Red Wings’ legend shuffled the deck in the off-season, his agenda in January involved two more subtle transactions to put them over the top.

First, he traded for the rights of Dwayne Roloson, an aging veteran who had playoff pedigree and fighting spirit. He ticked all of the boxes for Tampa Bay and the birth date mattered little, as he still moved well with the New York Islanders. If Roloson was a gamble, Mike Smith (.899 save percentage, 2.90 goals against average) and Dan Ellis (.889 save percentage, 2.93 goals against average) were drugged horses in the Kentucky Derby—and not the performance enhancing kind of drugged. Look at those statistics. Did either of them want the starting goaltender position? (more…)