“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

April 30, 2007

Changing The Rules

There's a saying in most temperate climate cities that "if you don't like the weather, wait until tomorrow, it will be different." Something similar could be said about the NHL. Don't like some minor issue in one game, wait until tomorrow, the NHL will change the rules. Or at least the NHL most columnists seem to want.

Not a week passes without another high-profile hockey writer calling for sweeping changes to how the game is played, usually in response to some minor, insignificant annoyance they perceive to have occurred. Maybe a playoff game goes on too long one night, so somebody calls to end overtime. Or maybe a game ends with a very low score, so somebody calls to widen the goals. Or maybe some douchebag goon gets knocked out in a fight, so somebody calls to ban fighting. Or, just today, a goal was dis-allowed because a player kicked the puck, so somebody calls to allow kicking pucks into the goal. You name it, if any aspect of the game of hockey has been just a tiny bit annoying in one game somewhere, some columnist has joined the fight to change it.

Usually they mean well. The most common explanation is that the insignificant annoyance they seek to change is hurting TV ratings or is driving fans away from arenas. Or maybe it's keeping hockey from catching on among "casual" sports fans. You know, the moron in your office that never watches football but wore a Colts jersey to work the day after the Super Bowl. Yeah, we desperately need that guy on our side. But he doesn't watch hockey because he heard that a game went to double overtime once and he just couldn't imagine sitting still long enough to find out who won.

Does any other sport suffer from such constant introspection and demand for upheaval? Do baseball fans constantly call for a home run derby instead of extra innings? Do football fans demand that a field goal be worth five points instead of three? Do basketball fans insist that the baskets be raised to eleven feet because it's way too easy to score? If not, why not?

Maybe my memory is weak but I don't remember this attitude among hockey columnists prior to the lockout in 2004-05. The shootout during the regular season was batted around for a long time, and while I don't care either way, I understand the argument that it has improved the fans' experience. Other than that, I just can't recall anything like what we now have to endure.

Hockey is not basketball. The final score will never be 110-98. Come to think of it, who takes the NBA seriously anymore? Hockey is also not football. It is not a game so dumbed down and accessible that literally any knuckle-dragger can walk in the room and understand exactly what is going on. Hockey is not baseball, either. It's not a relaxing, recreational escape for people bored in the hot summer months. There is no reason hockey has to be anything like any of these sports.

There are lots of hockey fans already, and many more just waiting to discover the sport for how great it is. The rules don't need to be changed, the sport needs to be promoted. And constant introspection and hand-wringing among those who should be the NHL's greatest champions only makes the league look like a figurative politician, changing the message every day just to pander to more people.

Knock it off and enjoy the game for what it is. If you can't do that, why are you still here?


April 29, 2007

A Mess In Hockeytown

A couple of days ago Christy at Behind The Jersey (yes, a Dead Wings blog) posted a revealing look at why Hockeytown (or, as I prefer, America's Worst City) is getting worse when it comes to attending sporting events. Specifically Dead Wings playoff games. Seems you can't squeeze blood from the turnip that is Detroit's underpaid and underemployed populace, even if your team hasn't missed the playoffs since 1990.

As an Avalanche fan, I admit I'm jealous that Hockey's Biggest Homers even have a chance to see their team in the playoffs, but c'mon, $63 for first round nosebleed seats? In a decrepit arena now almost 30 years old?

No thanks.


Avalanche Stuff Watch™

To be honest, I don't collect a lot of hockey memorabilia. Other than an Avs jersey, a Nordiques jersey (both replicas) and a bunch of old hockey cards I collected as a kid, very little of my personal budget is spent on hockey-related junk. Oh, I do have a couple of pucks and a few McFarlane toys of Avalanche players. Almost forgot about those. But yeah, other than all of that, my hockey swag is limited.

While I don't buy a lot of stuff, I appreciate and encourage others who do. So Dear Lord Stanley will periodically comb the internets (it's a series of tubes!) for cool Avalanche-related junk.

Without further ado, I present to you the first installment of Avalanche Stuff Watch™!!

Item #1:

On eBay, a 9.5-rated Joe Sakic rookie card from O-Pee-Chee. A total steal at a $229.99 buy it now price. Be the first on your block to spend more on a small piece of cardboard than most guys do on a suit (sad but true).

Item #2:

Also on eBay, a complete set of head-shot photo slides for the entire 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche team! That's right, you too can own tiny pictures of each Stanley Cup winner and bore your children to death with a private portraiture slide show! Totally worth the starting bid of $50!

Item #3:

At SportsFanfare.com, an autographed 8x10 photo of Alex Tanguay in the Colorado "alternate" jersey. So what if he's no longer on the team? At $53, how can you not buy it?

Item #4:

On the NHL.com Auction Network, a goalie stick signed by Jose Theodore and actually used in a Colorado Avalanche game! Current bid is $299 with only three days left, so don't wait! And remember, you know it's high quality because if Theodore used it in a game, it's never been scuffed by a single puck!


April 28, 2007

Barely Enough Canucks

Though I'm definitely rooting for them to beat the Ducks, Vancouver right now just doesn't look like a team that can win the Cup. Sure, they won game two of the series, but just barely and it took two overtimes.

As usual, their offensive production is lacking. They've scored only three goals in two games so far, and they still struggle to get any offensive momentum going. The good news is they took 40 shots on goal during regulation in game two, which means they are getting open fairly often, but the true quality scoring chances are rare.

As for Anaheim, I feel sorry for them. They have one of the most potent offenses in the entire league and they have to face Roberto Luongo, who can beat opposing teams sitting on his ass. If that isn't frustrating, I have no idea what is. Last night he had 43 saves on 44 shots for a save percentage of .977. That's just inhuman.

But you can't win a series with superb goaltending alone. Just ask the Devils, who are losing already to the Senators' super offense. You have to have the total package. The only team that really looks like they have the perfect combination of defense, goaltending and offense is the Buffalo Sabres, but they've looked that way all season.

I can't wait for more games.


Empty Threats

photo courtesy of Don Heupel/AP

I'm still waiting on Sean Avery to back up his big mouth. So far, things aren't going so well for the big, bad Rangers.

In related news, Thomas Vanek is a hockey god. If the Sabres win the Cup, he's a shoe-in for the Smythe.


April 25, 2007

Going It Alone

We are but one again. We will now dispense with the plural "we" and return to the singular, and extremely lonely "I".

Such is life.


April 24, 2007

This Should Be Good

Well, the Sean Avery Shit-Talk Express has already left the station, ladies and gentlemen!
All aboard!

"I'm going to hurt them, I'm going to hit them, I'm going to be in their face as much as I can."

I really hope somebody on Buffalo lays him out in Game 1. Flat on his back, out cold, Kariya-style. And Elisha, if Sean gets knocked out and you get lonely, don't be afraid to give us a call. We'll be there for you.

And Buffalo, if you need any help, Lappy isn't doing anything much right now. Give the man a ring and I'm sure he'll help you out.


Refuel The Bandwagon

The first round of the playoffs is over, and our adopted favorite teams didn't fare so well. The Predators and the Penguins are both out of it and surely heading for tee times on sunny golf courses somewhere. So, once again, we're without a horse in the race.

In the interest of staying interested (like that's tough), we've decided to select new favorite teams, starting fresh in the second round. Below we'll list the matchups and pick the club we want to win (not necessarily who we think will win, of course).

Rangers VS Sabres
Gotta love the Sabres. They won the President's trophy and they're led by a former Avalanche hero, Chris Drury. Definitely the deepest, most talented team in the league, and extremely deserving of a Cup. The Rangers were impressive against Atlanta, and it's always good to see an Original Six team go far, but we're going with the Buffaslugs, despite their unfortunate uniforms.

Devils VS Senators
Avalanche fans have long memories, and as a rule we can't root for the Devils. It's high time for the Sens to be successful in the post-season anyway, so we'll have to go with Alfredsson's boys in this one. And it will slow Fatty Brodeur down from catching Patty Roy for most playoff wins.

Ducks VS Canucks
What a great matchup, purely from a poetic perspective! And speaking of poetry, Roberto Luongo couldn't be a better goaltender if he tried, and the 'Nucks are lucky to have him. We've developed quite a man-crush, but it's not what you think. With Bertuzzi where he belongs in Detroit (how poetic is that?!), we have no trouble rooting for Vancouver in this one. They better find some offense, though, and quick.

Dead Wings VS Sharks
No explanation necessary. Go Sharks!


The Roundies - Round 1 Awards

Well, ladies and gents, the first round of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially over. Eight teams advance, eight teams hit the links.

In an effort to begin a completely pointless tradition, we here at Dear Lord Stanley have created an award for those teams we feel really deserve recognition for their hard work and determination during the first round of the playoffs. That award is hereby called "The Roundie".

A Roundie will be given to the winner in each of six statistical categories and one special category for a very special kind of achievement. Each Roundie is named for a particular player, hockey theme or related concept that epitomizes the achievement necessary to win the award.

And, without further ado, we present to you the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Roundies! The envelopes, please...

The Broken Stick Roundie
Awarded to the team with the fewest average goals per game.

Winner: Atlanta Thrashers (1.5 GPG)
Nobody was as painfully impotent as the Thrashers, who managed to score only six goals in four games. Their first-round opponents, the Rangers, averaged 4.25 per game.

The Empty Clip Roundie
Awarded to the team with the fewest average shots per game.

Winner: Calgary Flames (21.5 SPG)
Calgary's troubles getting pucks to the net were worst in Game 2 of their series against Detroit, when they managed only 15 shots on goal. In that same game, the Red Wings managed 51. The Red Wings led all teams with an average of 42.5 per game.

The Tiger Williams Roundie
Awarded to the team with the most penalty minutes per game.

Winner: Nashville Predators (29.6 PIM per game)
Considering their series with San Jose started dirty and ended dirty, it's no surprise the Preds topped the list in PIM. The least penalized team was the Sabres, who averaged only 8.8 PIM per game in their peaceful series against the Islanders.

The Scott Stevens Who? Roundie
Awarded to the team with the fewest number of hits per game.

Winner: New York Rangers (16 hits per game)
The Rangers didn't have to hit the Thrashers too much, since Atlanta rarely even had the puck and the Blueshirts were scoring at will. The hardest hitting team was the Red Wings, who averaged 30.67 hits against Calgary in six games.

The Kurt Sauer Roundie
Awarded to the team with the most giveaways per game.

Winner: New York Islanders (13 per game)
Nobody turned over the puck like the Islanders, who led all other teams in giveaways. The stingiest team was the Senators, who only gave up the puck to Pittsburgh an average of 5.2 times per game.

The You Keep It Roundie
Awarded to the team with the least takeaways per game.

Winner: Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins (Tied at 5.2 per game)
While the Senators didn't cough the puck up to the Pens very much in their series, they also didn't take the puck much either. By the stats, it appears neither team did a lot of fore/back/side or any other kind of checking at all. The Predators topped the list with 13.80 takes per game.

The Ulf Samuelson Roundie
Awarded to the team that played the dirtiest overall.

Winner: Calgary Flames
This was a very close race between the Flames and the Predators, with the Sharks Ducks* following behind in a respectable third. While the Predators played dirty, and totaled 64 PIM in Game 2 of their series, the Flames stellar performance in their own Game 5 took the cake by far. Slashing, butt-ending, elbowing, boarding, you name it, they did it. It was worth it, too, since they lost that game and the series. Congrats!

So that's all folks.

Hopefully in the coming seasons we will remember to continue this fine new tradition, and honor all truly great first-round performances with truly great awards: The Roundies. Hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.

*Good point made over at JibbleScribbits. Any team led by Brian Burke has to get points for playing dirty, especially since Brad May is on the team now.


April 23, 2007

Finally Gone

photo courtesy Larry Macdougal/AP

Alex Tanguay is on a whole different team and he still gets jacked around by the Red Wings. Too bad for him, and his new teammates.

Goodbye Calgary, and good riddance.


April 22, 2007

Pathetic Part 2

As Avalanche fans, it's just not possible for us to root for the Detroit Red Wings. The rivalry may have died out a bit, but there's just something about America's Worst City™ and their hockey team that rubs us the wrong way. So, despite some misguided remarks in previous posts, we must once again reaffirm our complete distaste for the Dead Wings. We definitely don't want them to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Now, that out of the way, we must also reaffirm our distaste and disappointment in the Calgary Flames, who stayed true to form with another horrendous, pathetic performance on the road. Detroit kicked the crap out of them. Utter and complete domination.

Some teams take a beating with grace, and keep their focus on playing good hockey and turn their frustration into something positive. Even down three games to one, the Islanders played clean hockey as hard as they could, and had only six penalty minutes in their Game 5, series-ending loss to Buffalo. They acted like adults and just played the game, win or lose.

Not Calgary. The Flames, whose captain Jerome Iginla has been a total no-show for the entire series, have resorted to nasty, dirty cheap-shots. The worst example has to be backup goalie Jamie McLennan's completely unprovoked slashes on Johan Franzen, who wasn't even in his crease at all when the attacks came. McLennan had to skate out of the crease and away from the net to hit Franzen, who went down like a sack of potatoes. While we support rough, physical play at all times, and would oppose any ban on fighting, crap like McLennan's slashing doesn't belong in the game and neither does he.

If we had our way, neither Detroit nor Calgary would advance to the second round. Neither deserves it. Both are incapable of winning on the road and both play dirty. Instead, we'd advance both Dallas and Vancouver, who both have earned the right to keep playing. It will be sad to see either Marty Turco or Roberto Luongo go home early after Game 7 of their series---both of them have proven themselves to be the epitome of class and determination. Calgary and Detroit couldn't even come close.


April 21, 2007

If This Isn't Hart-Worthy, What Is?

Sidney Crosby is officially the baddest mofo in the NHL, bar none. Not only was he the youngest player ever to win the scoring title (120 points, no less), but he also played the last month of the season AND the playoffs with a broken left foot.

If Don Cherry ever calls Crosby a whiner again, we'll beat him right out of those stupid suits he wears.

Please, give him the Hart already. We love Roberto Luongo to death, but unless he's been stopping all those shots from Dallas with a ruptured disk, the hardware belongs to Sid The Kid.


April 20, 2007

Our 15 Minutes

Dear Lord Stanley is a new blog. We've only been posting since the middle of last month, and not surprisingly, our average traffic counts are pretty low. We've got a few regular readers and the occasional Google image search, but that's about it. If we manage to top 30 unique visitors we feel "bigger" all day long, ifyouknowwhatwemean.

But, lo and behold, the ever-snarky, ever-hilarious sports blog With Leather graced us with a link mention today, and things just haven't been the same since.

It's just now 1:30 PM EDT, and we've already topped 110 unique visitors for the day, with no signs of slowing down. Holy Hockey Jesus, Batman!

While we're enjoying the spotlight today, we know full-well that by tomorrow we'll be back down where we belong, in total and complete obscurity. At least we'll still have our five regular readers, those horny chicks searching for pictures of naked hockey players, and a "sympathy click" from our moms. Thanks, Mom.


Playoff Roundup - WTF?! Edition

photo courtesy of Jonathan Hayward/AP

Looks like the Senators actually came to play this year, and won't be bowing out of the playoffs early. They finished off the someday-mighty Penguins in just five games with a shutout yesterday. Ray Emery looked like a total class act in net, in addition to looking like one all the time anyway, and stopped all 20 shots he faced.

Sidney Crosby didn't have such a great day, but he did manage to score five points in as many games, and played his ass off as always. We're generally opposed to bandwagons but Sid deserves every ounce of hype he gets. He'll be a force for years.

Hang in there Sid, you gotta lose a few to win a few, they say.

photo courtesy of Phillip MacCallum/Getty

As for other series, the ongoing war of attrition between the Stars and the Canucks continues, as yet another goalie duel ends in overtime. This time, the score was a riveting 0-0 at the end of regulation, and Brenden Morrow put everyone out of their misery a little more than six minutes into OT. Because of the low score, all NHL goals will now be expanded. Anyway, thanks Brenden. If you hadn't scored that goal, the NHL would have changed the playoff format to include 3-on-3 Rock-Paper-Scissors or something.

Also out west, the Flames remembered how to play hockey and have now managed to tie their series against Detroit at two games apiece. WTF?! Calgary looked all but dead a few days ago. Oh wait, their two victories both came at home, the only place they feel comfortable playing. The definition of the term "homer" can vary a little bit, but we'd argue that the Flames are certainly in the running for the title Biggest Homers Ever. If Detroit doesn't finish these jokers off in the next two games, we'll give somebody, anybody, ten bucks.

And finally, the Ducks put the Wild out of their misery. Yawn. Some people might think the Dallas-Vancouver series is boring, but nobody plays duller hockey than the Wild, and it's good to see them go. Freshly victorious, the Ducks should be a formidable team for whoever get's stuck with them next, even if they aren't that Mighty anymore.


April 19, 2007

If It's Not Really Broken...

So Game 1 of the playoff series between Vancouver and Dallas went a little long. Four overtime periods is a lot to ask anyone to watch, and a lot of East-Coasters expressed frustration over having to stay up super-late to see the end of the game.

One would assume that the discussion would last a couple of days and then be forgotten, but this is the "new" NHL, where every tiny public relations flap is considered a horrible crisis that must immediately be addressed by sweeping rule changes.

ESPN.com contributor Tery Frei, though ultimately siding with tradition (20-minute, 5-on-5 overtime periods until one goal is scored), offers several alternative options for playoff games that are still tied at the end of regulation. While we often doubt much of Frei's judgment, he's right to want to uphold the current formula.

Sports Illustrated columnist Michael Farber, on the other hand, does not share Frei's conviction. In fact, Farber is the first into the lifeboat of the doomed SS Hockey Playoffs, or so it would seem. In one of his suggestions, he offers this:

If you are in the business of attracting eyeballs, you want to make sure those eyeballs are still open when the winning goal is scored.

Well sure, that makes sense. But does it really have anything to do with the NHL playoffs? How many games actually go until 2:00 AM? How many fans are turned off from the games simply because there is a chance it might go to double, triple or quadruple overtime? Does anyone ever say to themselves, "Man, I'd really like to watch the Canucks play Dallas tonight, but there's a small chance it might not end in regulation and I just couldn't handle staying up an extra hour. I just won't bother at all."

Since the 1999-2000 series, exactly THREE playoff games have gone as long or longer than the recent Canucks-Stars game. Since 1995-1996, the number is four. In more than a decade, only FOUR playoff games have gone to four or more overtime periods. Is that a crisis? Is that a major PR disaster for the league?

The endless soul-searching, currently the fad in the NHL, has got to end. Every time someone gets knocked out in a fight, the lemmings line up to ban fighting. Every time a game ends with a score of 1-0, the lemmings line up to widen the goals. And now every time a playoff game ends in overtime, the lemmings line up to dump the traditions of the sport and implement cheap gimmicks like the shootout.

Let the playoffs be. With four exceptions in the past decade, the system works just fine. Stop trying to fix everything that isn't broken.


Future Hopes For Hensick

photo courtesy of Melissa Wade

They may be out of the playoffs, but one thing the Colorado Avalanche have going for them is a strong crew of young talent, some already on the team, some poised to join in the next couple of seasons.

Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastney, John-Michael Liles, Marek Svatos and Peter Budaj have already made names for themselves. Kyle Cumiskey and Brad Richardson have the potential to make major impacts in the coming seasons while Ryan Stoa and Cody McCormick continue to develop in the minors.

Now joining their ranks is TJ Hensick, the star player for the Michigan Wolverines, who led the NCAA in scoring with 69 points in 41 games. The Avs have signed him to a three year entry-level contract. Unless he is stellar in training camp this summer, he will likely start play next season in the AHL with other Avs prospects still learning the ropes.

Hensick was a Hobey Baker finalist this season, but he was not among the final three candidates for the trophy---despite leading all collegiate players in scoring and acting as alternate captain for his team. The one reason given for this slight is Hensick's unfortunate 10-minute misconduct for barking at the refs during the Wolverine's playoff game against North Dakota on March 24. Despite a relatively clean year played in a leadership role, Hensick was denied the ultimate award in college hockey for a single misconduct.

But is Hensick a loose cannon like some now insist? It would be tough to argue that. Hensick turned down a previous offer from the Avs and delayed his professional career long enough to graduate from a major university. His reasoning is both mature and sound:

"I've got to face reality," he said. "There's a good chance I'll play in the AHL for a while. I hope I play well enough to get to the NHL and take advantage of the chance. But it's tough to play at that level for a long time, which is why I wanted to get an education, something to fall back on if I get to my late 20s and don't make it."

Hensick's mentality says a lot about him. While many NHL players, especially from Canada, skip college to play major junior hockey or play just a couple of collegiate seasons and then sign pro contracts (see: Paul Stastny), Hensick chose to stay in school and complete his degree. His decision proved wise for his playing, too, since his senior year on-ice performance was his best yet.

Colorado's potential free agent signings during the summer will likely dictate whether or not Hensick will get a chance on the team next season, but it is highly unlikely that he won't eventually join the Avalanche roster. He's fast, hard-working and has an excellent offensive "IQ" on the ice. A little more development in his defensive game and a little bit more muscle and he's pretty much good to go.


April 18, 2007

Good Work, Jerk

photo courtesy Julie Jacobson/AP

You've got to hand it to Sean Avery. Well, under normal circumstances, we'd like to hand him his ass in an old-school hockey beat-down, as he is still the most hated man in hockey. But he's really come into his own with the Rangers, especially in their first round playoff series against the Thrashers.

Just last night, as the Blueshirts continued their utter domination of the poor saps from Atlanta in Game 3 of their series, Avery scored two assists and managed to amass 19 penalty minutes by fighting both Ilya Kovalchuk and Keith Tkachuk. We're sure if Dale Hawerchuk was still playing, Avery would have fought him too.

In Game 2, Avery tallied a goal and an assist. To say the least, he's on quite a roll.

While we still feel that the world would be a better place if Avery was accidentally struck by a very large, very fast-moving object like this or this, it is good to see the Rangers successful in the playoffs. If only one Original Six team makes it far this year, we'd prefer the Rangers over the Dead Wings any day.


April 16, 2007

NHL Aesthetics Part 2: The Alternates

While watching Game 2 of the Vancouver-Dallas playoff series the other night, we noticed a peculiar site in the stands: a literal crap-ton of blue and green jerseys on the home fans. They were wearing the current "alternate" (see also: "third") jersey of the Canucks which is based on the very first design worn by the team that debuted in 1970.

They're definitely sharp. Far better than some other Canucks designs, that's for sure. Like many Canucks fans, we favor a return to these uniforms and a ditching of the silly orca design currently worn by the team. For anyone interested, this article follows the history of the Canucks' duds from Season One to today.

Some other alternate jerseys around the NHL are vintage throwbacks like those of the Canucks and some are newer creations. Other teams that have lucked-out in the third jersey department include the Avs, Sabres, Canadiens, Flyers, Leafs and Panthers.

As alternate jerseys go, those teams are pretty lucky. There are other teams that don't have it so good. Nashville comes immediately to mind, as do Edmonton and the Islanders. Gross.

However, none of the above quite compares to the absolute ultimate in horrible third jerseys: the infamous "Burger King" jersey worn by the Los Angeles Kings several times during the 1995-1996 season.

Wow. Gretzky actually had to put that thing on. Luckily that design didn't survive past the first year they were worn, and now the very few remaining game-worn jerseys fetch huge sums on auction sites.

There is one more example of an alternate jersey gone wrong that must be cited: the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers stuck to the same two jerseys (white and navy) for several seasons, until 2003-2004, when their first alternate jersey was introduced. Somehow, since then, the alternate has replaced the original dark jersey to become the current choice of the team when they play at home. Sadly for them, it's not a pretty sight:

Seriously, what the hell? One sleeve is totally different than the other, and only one shoulder bears the player's number. The color choices are dull and the arrows across the waist are ugly as sin, not to mention the boring and uninspired team logo mucking up the chest area. Since the old Phoenix Coyotes jerseys have been retired, this takes the cake as the NHL's worst current jersey design.

So, in sum, some alternate jerseys, especially the vintage throwbacks like those of the Canucks (and Sabres, Canadiens and Leafs, too) are really great. Others, not so much. And some, like the Thrashers with their alternate-turned-home jerseys just have no chance whatsoever.


Maximum Suck

We've got to hand it to the Calgary Flames, at least they're consistent. Not only are they consistently bad on the road anyway, but in the last several games of the season and the first two playoff games against the Dead Wings, they've been consistently horrible. As in, really, really bad.

Detroit beat them easily again in Game 2, taking a 2-0 series lead. At the start of the game, it looked like the Flames were some kind of ECHL team out on the ice, all out of position, making horrible turnovers and taking ridiculous and undisciplined penalties, especially in the first six minutes.

What amazes me is how lenient the refs actually were, as Robin Regehr took some serious liberties with little Jiri Hudler after the latter fell down near the Flames goal in the first period. Regehr just started punching him in the head the second Hudler hit the ice, and for mostly no reason at all---and the refs did nothing.

A little roughing around the crease is to be expected in the playoffs, but remember that Hudler is just 5'9" and 178 pounds. Regehr is 6'3", 225. A bit of a mismatch, we'd say.

At any rate, the Flames continued their suckage and proved once again that the Avalanche deserved the final playoff spot far more than them. It's difficult to imagine the Avs, coming off of a successful late-season run, playing with the same incompetence and resignation that Calgary has these past two games.

But, as the late, great Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying, "so it goes."


April 15, 2007

How 'Bout Them (Big) Apples?

With the exception of the strangely successful New York Rangers, every Eastern Conference playoff series is now tied. The Islanders somehow managed to beat the Sabres (and don't tell me DiPietro is suddenly earning his 15-year contract), Tampa Bay remembered that they used to score a lot of goals and barely beat the Devils and Pittsburgh lived up to the hype and squeaked by a loaded Ottawa offense. Sidney Crosby once again rubbed everyone's face in the fact that he's still too young to buy beer, but can beat you with a one-timer on the edge of the crease with his freakin' eyes closed.

Every game was decided by just one goal.

Yep, looks like the playoffs to us. Just because we're Avalanche fans doesn't mean we've forgotten what those are like. Yet.


April 14, 2007

NHL Aesthetics Part 1: The Buffaslug

Sometimes it is awkward for us to admit: we're fashonistas. Or, at least, a little obsessive about the aesthetic qualities of NHL uniforms and equipment. We care about what the players are wearing on the ice. We're not quite as obsessive as some about sports apparel and player appearances, but we're still pretty interested.

This is the first in a multi-part series where we will examine the sartorial specifics of teams around the NHL---where they've been, where they are and where they're going. With Reebok's major overhaul of the league's uniforms starting next season, what better way to usher out an old era and bring in a new than with a multi-part analysis? Gosh that sounds fun!

There's only one place to start, really, and that's with the Buffaslug™!!

No other logo redesign has inspired as much wrath and hatred in the past few years than that of the Buffalo Sabres. Called the "Buffaslug" by many, the new logo replaces the more traditional (and appropriate) crest that featured a buffalo and two crossed sabres. It's definitely a mental stretch, but we guess it made sense. At any rate, the Buffaslug didn't go over very well with some fans.

The more traditional design is now used as an "alternate" jersey by the Sabres for occasional home games.

But despite the initial negative reaction to the new jerseys and logo design, a funny thing happened: sales went through the roof. In fact, for two straight seasons, Buffalo Sabres jersey sales have skyrocketed, consistently leading all other teams and players (other than Sidney Crosby, of course). It doesn't hurt that the team has been one of the best in the "New NHL" since the end of the lockout in 2004-2005, and it also doesn't hurt that the team boasts some seriously hot players like Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Ryan Miller and Maxim Afinogenov. A third factor working in Buffalo's favor is that jersey and logo redesigns frequently trigger increased sales as dedicated fans update their team wardrobes.

To be honest, we hate the Buffaslug and the new jerseys in general. We don't like the "streamlined" look, we don't like the colors and we don't like the logo. Other than the ugly Slug, the Sabres' jerseys are pretty boring overall. The trend away from bolder, more traditional team colors and logos is a bad one, if you ask us. While constantly changing uniforms may boost apparel sales in the short run, it damages the long-term "brand identity" of each team---and this identity is bigger than just merchandising. It translates into life-long fans. People who spend money on the teams their entire lives, not just for a couple of seasons while they're hot.

If the Sabres really wanted to look good on the ice, they would have considered a more traditional update like the one proposed by graphic designer John Slabyk, whose "New Blue And Gold Project" was truly impressive. Tradition and aesthetic appeal---a great combination.


April 13, 2007

No Goal For You

Photo courtesy Chuck Stoody/AP

Marty Turco just put on one of the best goaltending performances we've ever seen. 35 shots, 35 saves, and a 2-0 shutout victory for the Dallas Stars against Vancouver, which evens the series at one game each.

Turco, who has a bad reputation for choking in the playoffs, was simply perfect tonight. He controlled all of his rebounds, didn't let the Canucks push him around in the crease and even tried to score an empty-net goal himself near the end of the game. Overall, it was one of the best hockey games we've seen him play in a long time.

We're still rooting for the Bad Luck 'Nucks to pull this one out, but it's good to see Turco erase the negative talk he's gotten over the years. He's a great goalie, any way you cut it, and he works harder than most guys much younger than him.

Can't wait for game 3.


Games Two

Well, all of the first games of the first round of the NHL playoffs are over, and for the most part the strongest, predicted-to-win teams came out on top. The Senators' complete domination of the Penguins was a bit of a surprise, and hopefully the youngsters known as Sid's Kids™ come out swinging in the second game. It would be a shame for them to be swept. Even so, we haven's seen the last of them in the playoffs. They have at least a couple of Cups to win before their contracts run out and Pittsburgh goes broke trying to keep them all.

The two most exciting series in the West will definitely be the Sharks-Predators and the Stars-Canucks. Both matchups are nearly even in team skill levels, with great goaltending to be had all around. We're rooting for the Preds and the Bad Luck 'Nucks, but whoever wins will deserve it. It won't be easy.

And thank Hockey Jesus that the Flames will cave completely to the Dead Wings. Just remember, Wingers, to lose badly in the second round. Don't forget.


April 11, 2007

The Cult Of Theo

There are a lot of Avalanche fans, mostly the message board-crawling kind, that are obsessively supportive of Jose Theodore. Say anything disparaging about him, and they instantly see red. To criticize him for his poor performance this season is to be unfair, even mean, they say.

But let's be objective here and look at his numbers.

In 33 games played, Theodore won only 13 of them, and lost 15. His goals against average for the season was 3.26, considerably higher than Peter Budaj's admirable 2.68. Theodore also was only able to muster a save percentage of .891, which is really not good at all. Unless you're Olaf Kolzig playing behind a non-existent defense like that of the Capitals, you have no excuse. No shutouts. Six penalty minutes compared to Budaj's zero. All in all an inferior performance.

But, the Theo-lovers argue, he was coming off a season almost completely lost to injury, and he won the Vezina and Hart trophies a few years ago. This is all true, but Montreal wasn't willing to trade Theo for David Aebischer because Theo was still a great goalie. They traded him because he was a financial burden, and he still is today.

I have a distinct feeling that the Avalanche fans so quick to come to Theodore's defense do so purely out of emotional sympathy. In fact, that's the only possible reason, since he hasn't done anything in the crease for the Avalanche that is worth sticking up for. Maybe a good record in shootouts (he only faced six total shots), but not much else.

The Avalanche don't have time for emotional sympathy. They are a business, and the bottom line is that Jose Theodore's performance is not worth six million dollars a year. It wasn't worth two million dollars a year, which is what the Avs will save if they cut his contract now and send him on his way. This is not an emotional argument, it is objective, based on his performance and the salary cap needs of the Avalanche as a franchise.

Jose Theodore is a waste of money, and was unable to prove himself when given numerous chances. There is no reason the Avalanche should continue to carry his bloated contract when they cannot count on him, even as a backup. It is time to admit the trade was a gamble that failed. Such is hockey.


April 10, 2007

You Can Pick Your Friends...

The Avalanche get the 14th pick in the 2007 NHL Lottery Draft

Other notable #14 picks:

1964 - Ken Dryden
1973 - Rick Middleton
1979 - Brian Propp
1990 - Brad May
1992 - Sergei Gonchar

To be honest, other than Dryden, the 14th pick hasn't historically been all that great. Decent players here and there, but hardly any real stars or legends in the bunch.


The Playoffs?! !

With the Avalanche out of the playoffs, it's tempting to just ignore the whole NHL post-season and find something else to do, like watch baseball or take up playing golf. Tempting, but totally impossible. Who are we kidding?

Most hockey blogs are now posting their half-brained post-season predictions, saying things like "Sharks in Six" and "Senators in 10 Years" and such. We're not going to play that game, since everyone knows that predictions are worth nothing once the pucks start dropping. Seriously, who picked Edmonton and Carolina to be in the finals last year? Don't lie. It wasn't you either.

So, we'll take another route. Without a home team to root for this year, we've decided to choose two new "favorite" teams, one from the Eastern Conference and one from the Western Conference, for the sake of fairness.

But how do you choose a couple of new favorite teams? What do you look for? Geographical proximity? Quality of roster? Aesthetic strength of uniforms? Raw sex appeal? The process can be very complicated, obviously.

In the East, we decided to pick arguably the most exciting team in all of hockey, a team that has completely turned itself around in just one season on the backs of the most talented crop of young players the NHL has seen in a long time. With youth comes sex appeal, and this team definitely has it in spades. Studs barely over the age of 18 who score all the time, hot Russian mail-order husbands, you name it, they've got it.

In the West, the only criteria the team really had to meet was "Do the Red Wings hate them?" The answer is a resounding yes! The team we chose is both underrated, under-appreciated and the Dead Wings hate their guts with a passion. Even better, two of their players used to play for the Avalanche. That's good enough for us!

Obviously, the teams aren't too difficult to figure out.

So, without further ado, the newly-crowned OFFICIAL NEW FAVORITE TEAMS OF DEAR LORD STANLEY for the 2007 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are:

- Pittsburgh Penguins - - - - - - - - - - Nashville Predators -

We'd love to see these teams win their conference championships and face off in a finale that lasts no fewer than seven games. And we'd love to see Sidney Crosby try to grow a playoff beard. Talk about entertainment!

Go Preds! Go Pens!


April 9, 2007

Farewell Forever, Dear Floppa

Please allow us here at Dear Lord Stanley to go on the record ONE MORE TIME by saying that the Colorado Avalanche, unless he agrees to play for free, should NOT re-sign Peter Forsberg to any kind of contract whatsoever. Forsberg is no longer the star he once was. He's good, but he's not worth the price and not worth the uncertainty. He's getting older, slower and before long the three remaining tendons in his body are going to explode.

Let some other team shell out a ton of money for him and then panic when he collapses in game four of next season with some kind of new physical affliction that puts him on the bench for three months. Let some other team struggle to fill a gaping hole in their offense when the "star" they thought they acquired turns out to be just a rickety old man unable to play more than 60 games since 2002-2003.

Wipe the nostalgia and petty emotion from your eyes and shake the cobwebs out of your head. THINK. Forsberg's time in Colorado is over, and no amount of money thrown down the bottomless pit that are his bad ankles will bring back the glory days of 2000-2001. Forget about it. Move on.

Time to look forward, not back.


Postseason Housecleaning

Now that the season is officially over for the Avalanche, and before we get caught up in all the playoff hoopla, we here at Dear Lord Stanley would like to share with you our recommendations for free agent signings and free agent cuttings. Below is the list of players we think the Avs should re-sign to new contracts as well as the dead weight we think the Avs should dump prior to next year.

Without further ado:


Word on the street is that Super Joe has already agreed to a new deal, which comes as no surprise whatsoever. And despite other rumors that he would like to finish his career in Vancouver (some day, probably in 2034), we highly doubt it. The Captain is here to stay until he is no longer able to score 100 points in a season---which could be a very long time from now, by the looks of it.

UPDATE: It's not a rumor anymore.


Colorado 6, Calgary 3 (The REAL End)

At least they went out on a high note. Not a Dan Hinote, but a high note nonetheless.

The Avs beat the Flames handily in a come-from-behinder that included Joe Sakic reaching 100 points, Jose Theodore actually winning a game, and rookie hero Paul Stastny recording a goal and an assist.

And to top it all off, Ian Laperriere beat the living crap out of Flames Doucheman Dion Phaneuf for a cheap-shot on Dear Lord Stanley favorite Tyler Arnason.

photo courtesy AP/Jack Dempsey (how fitting?)

Said Lappy:

"Nineteen players out of 20 on their team knew exactly how the game was going to be played: play hard but don't be stupid. At the end, it was a stupid hit. We don't want to hurt them going into the playoffs and nobody wants to get hurt going into the summer. You can play hard and smart, but he decided to take a run at Arnason and I felt it was the place to tell him it's not right.

"You just can't do that. You've got to respect the game because it's going to come back and bite you."

Too bad the game itself didn't really mean anything...

Except this: The team that deserves the eighth spot the most will not be in the playoffs this year.

For the first time in my entire life I'm actually rooting for the Dead Wings to win a playoff series. I hope Detroit crushes the Flames in four games, all shutouts, and reminds them that literally backing into the playoffs with the help of a ridiculous one-point-for-an-overtime-loss system will not cut it in the NHL. Destroy them, Dead Wings.

Just make sure you lose the next round, of course.


April 8, 2007

3 Best, 3 Worst

As just one of Dear Lord Stanley's end-of-the-season wrap-up entries, we submit to you our three favorite Avalanche players of the 2006-07 season as well as our least favorite three players. As a side note, players who spent most or all of the season on the injured list can't be considered as "least favorites" out of fairness.

3 Favorites and 1 Honorable Mention:

Joe Sakic (The Captain never lets us down)
Paul Stastny (The Future Captain has been a true revelation)
Peter Budaj (he deserves to start every game of next season)
Tyler Arnason (played far above his ability in the final 20 games)

3 Least Favorites:

Jose Theodore (really, is any elaboration necessary?)
Marek Svatos ("sophomore slump" doesn't even cover half of it)
Antti Laaksonen (who?)


Nashville 4, Colorado 2 (The End)

Of course the Avalanche would lose at home against the Predators on the same night that the godforsaken Edmonton Oilers beat the Flames. Of course Colorado's playoff hopes were dashed one day before a final showdown with Calgary for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Avs played super hard against Nashville but just couldn't stem the tide. It would be fitting that two former Colorado players, Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya, would play roles in their demise. Arguably Paul Kariya doesn't count as a former Av (dismal single season played with the team), but you know what we mean.

So the magical run ends.

Let's review the lessons learned here, shall we?

1. Don't wait to become a competitive, even dominant team until game 65 of the regular season.

2. Do get to know your teammates and play together like you actually care about each other's success from day one.

3. Don't count on young sophomores (Svatos) to carry the goal-scoring weight early in the season when veterans (Hejduk) should be leading the way.

4. Do give your home-grown goalie talent (Budaj) a chance to succeed from day one, instead of shunning him for out-of-town dead weight.

5. Don't ever trade anyone for Jose Theodore. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever.

6. Do play your hearts out every night of the season.

Next season the Avalanche have lots to look forward to. Young players continuing their development as stars, a now-proven starting goalie with success to build upon, a returning veteran captain still at the top of his game, and a coach who has shown he can motivate his players even if it all came a little too late.

The Avs should be ashamed of themselves for not making the playoffs, but proud that they worked so hard in the end and hopeful for far more success next year. And in the name of Hockey Jesus, bring back the avalanche warning siren to the Pepsi Center for every home goal scored!!


April 6, 2007

Frei'ed Chicken Wings

Terry Frei, Denver Post columnist and ESPN.com contributor, says that even if the Colorado Avalanche don't make the playoffs this year (which is still quite likely), the team has a lot to look forward to next season since a lot of salary cap space will open up and there are numerous talented prospects coming up through the system.

He's right. But there's one premise of his article---something he mentions twice and obviously takes for granted---that we here at Dear Lord Stanley just can't swallow:

Going into the final weekend, the Avalanche are still long shots to catch the Flames for the eighth and final spot, a position that most likely would earn them the right to be thrashed by the Red Wings in the first round.

Followed later by:

The best scenario is Colorado wins its final two, finishes on a 16-1-2 run, but barely misses the postseason. Then, it ends with a "wait-'til-next-year" flourish, not a loss to the Red Wings in the first round.

So it's a foregone conclusion that if the Avs make the playoffs, they are destined to lose against the mighty Chicken Wings, the proud defenders of America's Worst City™.

But if the Avs do make the playoffs, it will be because of a 16-1-2 run over the last 19 games of the season, which includes wins over really good teams like Vancouver, Buffalo, Minnesota, San Jose and yes, Detroit. With the exception of Minnesota, the Avs beat each of those teams on the road, too. In their last ten games, the Chicken Wings are 4-2-4, including losses to powerhouse teams like Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.

To think that the Avs, undoubtedly energized by their incredible late-season run and successful clinching of the final playoff spot in their final game, would somehow immediately collapse against Detroit is ludicrous.

Detroit is one of the most overrated teams in the entire NHL, bolstered in the standings by scoring easy points over the Blue Jackets, Blues and Blackhawks, their pathetic under-achieving division-mates. The Avalanche play eight games each against teams like Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary, and haven't been dominated by any of them all year, even before their ongoing late-season run even started.

The Avalanche have proven over the past month and a half that they can beat any team in the West, and Detroit has proven that they are inconsistent at best. Frei's assumption that Colorado would fall easily to the Wings in the first round defies all logic. If the Avs make it to the playoffs, I say bring on the Chicken Wings, and bring on the napkins. Bigfoot will be dining well.


The MasterDater Strikes Again

Denver Post writer Adrian Dater gave Peter Forsberg a textual hand job today.

Says Dater:

On Saturday - barring another of the countless injuries that added frustration to the awe fans felt toward him - Forsberg will return to the Pepsi Center for the first time as a visiting player with the Nashville Predators.

The Avalanche have missed him. The fans have missed him.

Yeah, let's run through the list of things the Avs and their fans have missed since Floppa took off for the not-so-greener pastures of Philadelphia last season:

1. A constant string of injuries that minimizes his impact nearly every season.

2. A reckless, physical style of play that frequently results in unnecessary penalties as well as the frequent injuries mentioned above.

3. Constant rumors almost every season that he reserves the right to jump ship and move back to Sweden at any time, depending on his mood at the moment.

4. Poorly-maintained facial hair that periodically threatens to take over his entire face, rendering him completely blind---and not even during the playoffs.

Dear Lord Stanley may be the only one, but this blog is glad to see Forsberg on any other team than the Avalanche. When he was healthy, he was often great, but he's past his prime, nearly physically destroyed and completely unreliable over a full season. All he'd be now is a financial burden for the Avalanche.

The best "welcome home" the Avs could give him and his Nashville Predators is a hardcore beat-down in the form of a 0-5 shutout loss. Maybe afterward, Mr. Dater could personally "console" poor Floppa himself.


Coloardo 3, Vancouver 1

photo courtesy Chuck Stoody/AP

The impossible continues to be the norm as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Vancouver Canucks last night while the Calgary Flames lost to the San Jose Sharks, keeping Colorado in the race for the playoffs and closing the gap between them and the Flames to just three points.

Milan Hejduk scored all three Colorado goals and rookie phenom Paul Stastny assisted on each. Hejduk, who played like he was half asleep for most of the year, has scored ten of his 34 goals since February 27, when the Avs began their desperate run for the final playoff spot. Stastny, who set the NHL record for rookie scoring streaks at 20 games earlier in the year, has scored two goals and five assists in the last four games.

Still standing in the Avs' way are Nashville and Calgary themselves, not to mention a win by Calgary against Edmonton on Saturday that would mean the end to any remaining chance of a playoff spot.

The farther the Avs go, the more potentially painful a Colorado loss or a Calgary win becomes.

And still the question remains: Why the hell didn't Colorado win like this during the rest of the season? Why did they wait until game 65 to remember how to play like the championship teams of 1996 and 2001?

Part of me wants to be proud and impressed by the Avalanche, but the rest of me is nothing but frustrated and disappointed. Hopefully next season they can play like this from the very start. Anything less is unacceptable.


April 5, 2007

Worst Case Scenario

It is true that if Colorado loses to Vancouver tonight, their playoff hopes are over. It is also true that if Calgary beats San Jose, the Avs' playoff hopes are over. Either of those possibilities is depressing enough for most fans, but the real worst-case-scenario won't reach its pinnacle until Sunday.

Pretend for a moment that the Avalanche beat the Canucks tonight, say 11-1 (we're pretending), and the Flames lose to the Sharks. Then, the Avs beat the Nashville Predators at home and the Flames lose again, this time to Edmonton (really, we're still pretending). That sets up a true showdown as the Avalanche face the Flames---at home---in the final game of the season on Sunday. The Avs would trail the Flames by only one point, and would need to win (even if it's in overtime) to surpass the Flames and claim the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Pretend that all of that happens, and the final showdown really does take place.

And now pretend that the Avs blow the game and lose, missing the playoffs on the final day after a phenomenal 14-2-2 run over the last 18 games of the season. Now, wouldn't that be depressing?

It's amazing the Avalanche have made it this far and still have a chance. The only consolation, I suppose, is that if the NHL had never adopted the ridiculous policy of giving one point to a team that loses in overtime, the Avs would currently be only two points behind Calgary instead of five. But enough pretending already.


April 4, 2007

Rookie Mistake

Paul Stastny, look out!

photo courtesy Jeff McIntosh/AP

Try not to lose your head. The Avs need you to have a long and healthy career in the NHL, young Son Of Stastny.


Colorado 4, Calgary 3

Joe Sakic can no longer be considered human. In a must-win situation last night, he led the Colorado Avalanche with four points, scoring the eventual game-winning goal and assisting on every other goal scored by his team. He now has 95 points on the season, and he's 37 years-old. The man doesn't age.

Paul Stastny was one of the other goal-scorers for the Avs and fellow rookie Wojtek Wolski tallied an assist. Peter Budaj was less-strong in goal than he has been on other nights, but he was still better than the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Avalanche had to win, and they did. Now they have to win all three remaining games, and pray for the Flames to lose theirs. It's still not over for Colorado, but they're definitely still not in the clear.


April 3, 2007

Seriously, WTF?!

You can't watch an NHL game on ESPN, but you can watch JUMP ROPE COMPETITIONS.

Are they serious?! ESPN, the sports network to end all sports networks, did away with all coverage of professional hockey after the lockout of 04-05, including the popular NHL 2Night highlight show. Instead, they now air poker, dominos, competitive eating and jump rope competitions. You can't tell me that jumping rope pulls more viewers and more ad money than professional hockey.

Holy crap.


Moment Of Truth

Tonight is the night. At 9:00 PM Eastern Time, The Colorado Avalanche play the Calgary Flames (in Calgary). If the Avs win, they keep their slim playoff chances alive. If they lose, the season is effectively over.

The good news is that the Avs continue to play very well, and Peter Budaj, despite a brief hiccup in his performance due to fatigue a couple games back, has been consistently strong in net. He'll need to be, since Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has been at the very top of his game lately as well.

Should be an exciting game, regardless of the outcome. But since we're not totally impartial here at Dear Lord Stanley, there's just one more thing to say: Go Avs!


April 1, 2007

Colorado 2, Minnesota 1

The Avalanche beat the Wild with a come-from-behind scoring drive in the second period, and Peter Budaj was dominant. But the Flames won again and remain seven points ahead.

The reality of the situation is this: The Avs can make the playoffs only if 1) they win all four remaining games of the season (including two against the Flames themselves) and 2) Calgary loses all four of their remaining games with no more than one overtime loss. Otherwise, it's all over.

Let's just say the odds aren't in Colorado's favor, unfortunately.


Topic Guide

template by free-web-template.blogspot.com