“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

June 30, 2007

Further NHL Expansion Is Stupid, Likely

There's really no better way to put it. Expanding the NHL to include more teams (like in Vegas) or simply moving existing teams from one lousy market to the next is a terrible way to promote the sport.

What expansion does is dilute talent. There are a limited number of truly great hockey players in this world, and their skills are best showcased by playing on teams with each other. One superstar on a lousy team doesn't stand out because he's held back by his teammates who chuck lousy passes, bobble one-timers and more or less skate around without a clue. Florida comes immediately to mind, much to Olli Jokinen's dismay.

When a team is filled with true superstars, chock-full of great talents whose skills are multiplied by playing with each other, the fans come flocking.

As Eric at the Fanhouse pointed out yesterday, the Penguins have now been forced to create a waiting list for season ticket purchases because of out-of-control demand. Why is this, you wonder? Perhaps it has something to do with three young men named Crosby, Malkin and Staal. Three true superstars whose innumerable skills are even further multiplied by playing on the same team as each other. This is not a "problem" facing teams like Phoenix, who have nobody even close to superstar status and are already at a disadvantage by playing in a non-traditional market.

In an ideal world, the NHL would contract to at most 28 teams (but ideally 24), and concentrate the limited talent pool in fewer cities. Expansion would only further diminish the on-ice product. You want to know the real reason goal-scoring has been down in the past twenty years? Because too many teams were added. Back in the 1980s, it was easy for Wayne Gretzky to score 200 points in a season (and his team over 400 goals) because the Oilers had Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. There were only 20 teams back then, and the talent was heavily concentrated.

In 1989-90, ten teams scored more than 290 goals---out of 21 total. In 1999-2000, zero teams out of 28 scored that many. It's not because the goalies got fatter or the creases were too large. It's because there weren't enough good players on each team.

Through contraction, the NHL could easily kill multiple birds with one stone: increase ticket sales, increase goal scoring, decrease team deficits in weak markets. Why make the goals bigger when you can just stack the offense full of superstars?

Too bad it's never going to happen. The league seems dead-set on further expansion at the expense of all common sense. We're all worse off as fans because of it.


Foote Admits He's A Lousy Gambler, Shouldn't Have Left Colorado

photo courtesy PokerStarsBlog.com

Adam Foote, at one time, was a solid, exciting defenseman for the Avalanche. Not an offensive defenseman, but a great stay-at-home heavy-hitter. Then he went and signed with Columbus a couple of years ago and found himself having to carry the load for a seriously sub-par team. Things haven't gone well for him since.

His bad.

Until now, he hadn't publicly said anything to suggest that he regretted his decision to follow the money just to get stuck on a lousy, mismanaged team. Until now, that is.

In an interview with Vic Lombardi of KCNC in Denver (video here), Adam Foote actually admits to wishing he had never left his "home"---Denver and the Colorado Avalanche (around the 4 minute mark).

Dear Lord Stanley has a very short memory. I may support the Avalanche players while they're still in Denver, but once they leave, they're dead to me. I have less sympathy for departing free agents than those just unlucky to be traded, but my concern for all of them ends the second they suit up for another team. Foote, Peter Forsberg, Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay, Rob Blake, the list goes on and on. All dead to me.

But, if they were to come to their senses and return to Colorado (even if it means less money for them), then all is forgiven. Hugs and kisses all around.

Too bad most are too old to return and be of any real help, like Adam Foote (and that cripple Forsberg), so their chance to get back in my good graces has passed. I hope they don't take it too hard.

(Thanks to AD for the heads-up on the Foote interview.)


June 29, 2007

Messier To Be Inducted Into Hockey, Strip Club Halls Of Fame

It was announced yesterday that six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier will be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame in November, along with fellow players Scott Stevens (dick), Ron Francis (pansy) and Al MacInnis (total stud). There was little doubt that Messier would make it into the Hall in this, his first year of eligibility.

If Messier was really good at something during his 25 years as a player in the NHL, it was leading his teammates on the ice. He is considered one of the greatest leaders in the history of the league, but he was also one of the classiest, if by "classy" I actually mean "kind of gross". Kind of gross in that he's a dirty old man who really, really likes strip clubs.

"The Messiah's" total points are second on the all-time list, but when it comes to actually scoring, he leads all other players in Most Embarrassing Strip Club Appearances with two. Which two? Those would be the two times he took the Stanley Cup to visit his favorite exotic dancers, once in Edmonton and once in New York.

The first incident was in 1987, when Messier took the cup onstage at an Edmonton strip joint called the Forum Inn, where it no doubt became intimately familiar with the various intricacies of the female anatomy. God bless it. Nothing says "great leader" like a guy willing to help a late-blooming buddy lose his virginity, only in this case the buddy was a 35-pound hunk of polished metal considered the greatest trophy in professional sports. What a stud.

I have no idea as to the quality of the strippers in Edmonton, but I have a feeling they can't hold a candle (so to speak) to the ladies of New York City. Specifically the ladies of the famous strip club Scores, where Messier took the cup after winning it with the Rangers in 1994. No doubt the poor trophy was fondled only slightly more than the classy ladies with which it "performed".

That incident actually led the NHL to appoint a 24-hour security detail to protect it from the players, and that practice continues today. Before it required babysitters, I'm sure getting to take the Cup home was a lot of fun for those who won it. But Mark Messier's "leadership" has ruined it for everybody. Now strip clubs aren't half as fun as they used to be. Thanks a lot, buddy.

But, if there's a bright side to the story, it's that the Cup can't get herpes, unlike professional athletes. Right, Mark?


June 28, 2007

Secret Lovers: Leipold Cheats On Balsillie

The National Post (of Canada, of course) is now reporting that Predators owner Craig Leipold has dropped Blackberry tycoon Jim Balsillie's offer to buy the team in favor of a bid from William DelBiaggio. But the Predators will still be moving. Instead of going to Hamilton, Ontario like Balsillie wants, the team will likely find themselves next in the hockey hotbed of Kansas City, where "Boots" DelBiaggio seeks to bring them.

What a brilliant move by the NHL and Gary Bettman, who are obviously pulling Leipold's strings on this one. Why move a current NHL team from a weak market to an extremely strong one? Just send it to another unproven, non-traditional American hockey wasteland and hope for the best. That's a sure recipe for success!

However, that will stop plans to grant an expansion team to Kansas City, so Bettman will have to find another new market to plop a brand-new NHL team nobody really wants to see (other than Las Vegas, which is a sure bet---sorry). I suggest Nashville, which will obviously "need" a new team once the Predators ship off to the Great Plains.

Oh, and Hamilton ticket buyers, sorry about your luck. Good thing they're giving refunds.


June 27, 2007

A Little More Than Fashionably Late

I didn't want to bring it up again, because the whole incident is over, done, history. Denver Post writer Adrian Dater's now-more-than-infamous rant against ESPN last week has been blogged into oblivion, partly by me. And others. And others. And still others.

But it's over now. The Post took the blog entries down, Dater said he was sorry, and everybody has gone back to giving ESPN the verbal and written handjobs it so richly deserves.

But nooooooooooo, just when you think it's all been put to rest, in waltzes some Johnny-come-lately with a half-assed report on the incident. Denver Westword (is that a newspaper or just some web site? I don't live in Denver) has decided to run a hatchet piece less-than-comprehensive story on the exchange between AD and the Four-Letter.

Blatantly missing from the report is any mention whatsoever of Dear Lord Stanley or fellow Avs-blogging hero JibbleScribbits, the very people who brought attention to the whole mess in the first place. Not that we're proud of that. I'm sure Dater would have preferred the whole thing not have drawn so much attention (or maybe not---you never know in this sensationalist media environment). But anyway, nothing about us. There's a brief mention of Greg at the Fanhouse, but no link to his post about the whole sorry blowup. Nothing about the very people---nay, the very heroes---that alerted the hockey blogosphere to a truly remarkable train wreck of an opinion piece in the first place.

If Denver Westword is in fact a printed publication, it just further illustrates the blatant failures of that medium, especially when trying to cross over to the web. If it is primarily a web-based outfit, then shame on them for just being lazy.

But it's cool. Whatever. I'm just sitting around in my underwear in my mom's basement anyway, and she just made me cookies. Thanks Mom.

At least she still loves me.

UPDATE: Tapeleg over at JerseysAndHockeyLove has politely informed me that Denver Westword is a free, weekly (printed) publication with a focus on the local arts, music and media scene. Just to clarify.


The Obvious Solution To Low-Scoring Hockey Games

As I've detailed (and lamented) before on the hallowed pages of this blog, many hockey columnists and NHL officials are convinced that goal-scoring is far too low and an increase in said goal-scoring would play a major role in attracting American fans to the league. More goals = more eyeballs, the theory goes.

With that premise firmly rooted in their minds, these columnists and officials see no better option than to simply increase the size of the nets, thus, theoretically, making it easier for shooters to get past the swollen goalies and score more goals. Which is a good thing, they say. The end-all, be-all of good things.

It's not a surprise that a league run by Gary Bettman, a former NBA executive, would favor such a scheme. In the NBA, goal-scoring is completely out of control. A typical final score for an NBA game is 129-109. Obviously, in professional basketball there are no goalies (goaltending is a foul play) and strong defense (and even the tiniest physical contact) is highly discouraged and/or penalized.

If Bettman really wants the NHL to mimic the NBA, there's really only one solution: ban goaltending. That's right, I said it. Quit screwing with the rules of the game, the lines on the ice and the size of the goals. Just ban goalies. No more Roberto Luongo, no more Martin Brodeur, no more Marty Turco. All teams would have to do is skate past the blue line, lob the puck at the net and hope no defensemen are in the way. Simple enough. We'd easily see final scores like 36-30 and 41-38, and the red light would constantly be flashing---which is a fail-safe recipe for league success, right?

Isn't that what everybody really wants?

As Greg at the Fanhouse pointed out, Martin Brodeur has quit the NHL Competition Committee out of frustration that nobody is listening to his concerns. The league should take this as an obvious sign that goalies are troublemakers and just do away with them altogether. We wouldn't have to worry about adding asterisks to the stats of any future goalies in a bigger-goal era---there wouldn't be any more goalie stats!

Dear Lord Stanley hereby officially endorses the banning of all goaltenders from the NHL, effective this coming season. There is no better way to ensure more goals scored, which is obviously an idea bigger than Jesus right now. Do it for Baby Jesus.


June 26, 2007

Fellow Avalanche Fans Should Keep A Lower Profile

It doesn't make me feel good to say it, but Avalanche fans should probably keep a low profile in public these days. In case you didn't hear, our team didn't make the playoffs last season. Sure, it was the first time in more than a decade, and sure, they only missed it by one point, and sure, they had the highest point total of any non-playoff team. But they missed the playoffs, and among hockey fans, that's the ultimate sin.

So, knowing this, you'd think most Avalanche fans would have the foresight to minimize their public "footprint" when attending hockey-related events. Unless it's an actual Avalanche game, leaving the Avs jersey at home is probably not a bad idea. Also not a bad idea: not carrying around a "Red Wings Suck" sign at the NHL Draft in Columbus during a concert by Yellowcard, the bassist of which is from Detroit:

Toward the later half of the concert, a Colorado Avalanche fan made his way through the crowd holding a sign reading “RED WINGS SUCK” with a bunch of photographs glued on. After seeing that sign, the lead singer tells Ryan [the bassist-DLS] to look at that sign. Ryan, who hadn’t said a word all concert, steps up to the microphone and says something like this…

"Hey 'Red Wings Sucks' guy, how did your Avs do in the playoffs? 2nd round? Oh, that’s right. They didn’t even make the playoffs."

The entire crowd that had booed Red Wings fans at the start of the concert goes “Ohhh” much to the dismay of this Avs fan.

Hey, genius, why ask for abuse? I totally understand the argument that we Avalanche fans should be proud of our team and should never resist the urge to support our boys in public, but really, why invite the wrath of a guy with a microphone and the attention of a large crowd? Just put the sign down, blend in, and patiently wait for next season with the rest of us.

Better yet, anonymously sit behind a computer and toss insults at the Dead Wings from the safety of your own home like I do. Always the safest option.

Red Wings Suck.


Mark Messier: Hero Of Men

It's a slow day in the hockey world, so I'll aim your attention toward the Sports Hernia, who reminds us all why Mark Messier is a true leader among leaders, a real hero of men:

The crowd burst into a thunderous ovation as the visibly fatigued Mess was helped off-stage by a couple of swimsuit models. Right before disappearing into the darkness though, he turned and winked to the crowd, which immediately erupted into a giant orgy.

Canadian officials have confirmed that they are in fact erecting the "Le Coc Tower" in Montreal to honor Messier’s entry into the Hall.

That's right, Mark Messier has been named the newest member of the Bone Zone Hall Of Fame, whatever that is. He deserves it.

Thanks to Jes Golbez for the link.


Patrick Kane Embraces Chicago's Proud Tradition Of Failure

Photo courtesy Jerry Lai/AP

Patrick Kane, drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, threw out the first pitch as the Chicago Cubs faced the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field last night. The Cubs blew a five run lead in the top of the ninth inning but barely managed to rally in the bottom and win by one run. They still remain three games under .500 with a record of 36-39.

If wearing a Cubs jersey wasn’t bad enough (disclaimer: I like the Cubs), Kane will be forced to represent another once-proud Chicago sports franchise now reduced to chronic mediocrity by misguided management, the Blackhawks, for at least the first few years of his NHL career. At least the food there is good.


June 25, 2007

Blue Jackets Can't Win, Won't Look Good While Losing

I have to admit something: I like the Columbus Blue Jackets. They're never any good, their "stars" never quite perform up to their abilities, and the general management---at least to date---has never really been competent. But they're an endearing bunch, and they try hard, and their fans love them. I don't live in Ohio but my cable provider carries Fox Sports Ohio, so I watch a lot of Jackets games each season. I have to admit they've grown on me.

But while the team as a whole and the fans in general have become like friends to me, I have never been satisfied with how the Jackets looked on the ice, and the new RBK Edge uniforms for the team aren't really an improvement, either.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have only been around since the 2000-01 season, so they don't have a long aesthetic history. What they do have isn't that impressive, either, so they can only really go up from here---unfortunately, it's more like they're treading water.

From their inaugural season until 2006-07, the Blue Jackets have worn these jerseys:

They had the right idea with the horizontal waist stripes, but the color palette has never been that bold or eye-catching. A lot of blue, some red, and that's about it. And the primary team logo has always left much to be desired. Why the bizarre font? Why all the stars? If the original logo was meant to emulate the Ohio state flag, it was four stars short of the seventeen used to represent Ohio's place as the seventeenth in the United States. In general, the original logo (now retired with the new RBK Edge uniforms) was rotten.

The original alternate logo of the team wasn't any better. While the name "Blue Jackets" is understood to be a reference to Union soldiers from the American Civil War, a war in which the state of Ohio sent thousands upon thousands of troops, the team originally tried to create a fictional insect, a blue jacket (like yellow jacket), to be the mascot. The original alternate logo looked as such:

Lame. Sure, the bug is wearing what appears to be a Union uniform and holding the hockey stick like a rifle, but it's cartoonish and silly. Apparently, this dawned on Blue Jackets management because 2004 was the last year the bug was used. After the lockout of 2004-05, Columbus adopted two new logos, a replacement for the bug on the shoulder patches and a new alternate primary logo for a third jersey. First, the new shoulder logo:

Of all of Columbus' logos, this is by far the best. It is far less cartoonish or childish, directly relates the team name to its historical reference, and is simple but still memorable, specifically through the use of crossed hockey sticks in place of rifles on the cap. All in all, a solid team logo.

The new "alternate" primary logo that entered use in 2005, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired:

Not much of an improvement from the original dark and white Columbus jerseys, really, and the new logo looked generic. The Ohio state flag (kind of) sweeps around a large silver star to form a "C" for Columbus. But the "C" doesn't really pop out at you, and the flag is missing some stars as well---it only has twelve. With the six stars on the sleeves (three on each side), the total comes to 18, which is one too many if an accurate representation of the state flag is the point.

Despite the obvious weaknesses of this logo, it has been adopted as the new primary logo of the Blue Jackets, and will appear on both dark and white RBK Edge jerseys:

Both jerseys are unbelievably boring, featuring only minimalist sleeve stripes, no horizontal striping at all (the tiny lines along the bottom front don't count), and a boring color scheme for each: all or nothing. The dark jersey is all blue, the white jersey is almost all white. They both look exceedingly sterile. And as for stars, the logo again features only twelve, and the sleeves have one each, so the connection to the actual Ohio state flag, which the logo is supposed to emulate, is just plain lazy at best. Is this nitpicking? Not if the expressed purpose of the logo is to represent the state in which the team plays.

The only redeeming quality is the inclusion of the shoulder logo featuring the Union cap with the crossed hockey sticks.

Personally, I would have chosen that as the primary logo and used the flag/star emblem on the shoulders, but that's just me. I still haven't been offered a job in Blue Jackets management, so until then, I can only make suggestions.

Overall, I'm disappointed by the result of the Blue Jackets' redesign efforts. Both Columbus and Washington have failed to impress me, and Boston remains the one true success so far.

If you just can't get enough of the new Columbus jerseys, check out fellow Avs blogger Tapeleg trying one on. His photos show up close how lousy the faux-futuristic nameplate typeset is as well. The number font is fine, but the names just look silly to me. So, if I had to give a rating, I would give the new Columbus jerseys five stars (out of 14).


June 24, 2007

No Deal For Lappy?

photo courtesy Jack Dempsey/AP

The Colorado Avalanche management has already announced the signing of several prospects and free agents. Tyler Arnason will return, along with defensemen like Kurt Sauer and Jeff Finger, and captain Joe Sakic will be back, just to name a few.

Noticeably absent from the announcements is any news about the forward enforcer Ian Laperriere, the loud, rambunctious alternative to Sakic's quiet leadership of the team.

The Rocky Mountain News reported back at the end of May that The Best Nose In Hockey would soon be re-signing with the Avalanche, but nearly a full month has passed with no further word on the matter.

It should come as no surprise that Ian Laperriere is a Dear Lord Stanley favorite, and his re-signing is much encouraged. Even Scott Parker has re-signed, and that guy is damn near worthless. At least Lappy can score a few goals, in addition to throwing down every once in a while.


Jersey Redesign For The Washington Capitalszzzzzz...

On the first day of the NHL Entry Draft, last Friday, the Washington Capitals unveiled their new RBK Edge jerseys for public consumption. While Capitals fans seem to like them, I'm perfectly comfortable admitting my absolute lack of excitement for the new designs. They couldn't be more boring.

Everything good about the old-school Washington sweaters of years gone by and even the redeeming qualities of the most recent incarnations have been abandoned for a new, sterile and socceresque aesthetic.

Please, follow me on a quick stroll down memory lane with the Washington Capitals.

When the Capitals became an NHL team in 1974, they did so with one of the brightest, most recognizable uniform designs of all time---white pants. Sure, that ill-advised and never-duplicated fashion faux pas didn't last long (one season), but it was memorable, something that can't be said about the new RBK Edge uniforms.

For many years, the Capitals relied on the red-white-blue color palette for their team identity. With a few small variations, the jerseys and team logo remained fairly static. Below (in the order that they appear) is the road jersey from 1985 and the home jersey of 1993:

Not bad, but the horizontal stripes across the stomach tended to dominate a player's body and overpower the eye. And really, all those bright colors and the stars on the pants were a bit busy. Just too much to take in all at once. The various individual pieces of the uniform were solid as far as hockey designs go (horizontal stripes on the jersey, striped socks, blue pants), but not great all together.

Nothing much changed for two decades until the lockout of 1994-95. The following season, like many other teams, the Capitals unveiled entirely new designs for their jerseys and team logo:

Both the white and the dark version featured the word "Capitals" written across the waist. The diagonal sleeve stripes and the odd crooked line across the lower half were a significant departure from hockey tradition, not to mention the long precedent set by the Capitals themselves.

The home and away jerseys remained the sole options for the team until the 1997-98 season, when Washington introduced a new black jersey as an alternate (featuring truly unique arching for the nameplates):

This black version became the primary dark jersey in 2000-01 (a white version was used in team practices). The already existing white jersey lost the word "Capitals" from the front but was still in use for home games. The long tradition of red, white and blue, stars and stripes, and all the other patriotic garb was obviously gone for good. What remained were cartoony logos featuring a diving eagle, the US Capitol dome and a couple of gold (bronze?) stars. Wearable, but nothing to write home about.

Now enter the RBK Edge.

The red-white-blue scheme has returned, along with a modern take on the traditional Capitals logo (complete with hockey stick "t"), but minus most of the stars and the bold horizontal waist stripes of old. With the exception of a small red area at the bottom, all the stripes on the new white jersey are vertical, and dominate the sleeves.

The dark jersey is very similar, but is almost entirely red, a color already prominently worn by eleven other NHL clubs.

There's really not much going on with these new jerseys, and overall they're pretty dull. They're not offensive to behold like white pants and huge alternating color stripes, but they're not very memorable, either.

The only interesting feature of the entire new design is the shoulder patch logo, in which an eagle with outstretched wings creates a silhouette of the US Capitol Dome. Paul at Uniwatch thinks the patch looks too much like the Pontiac Firebird logo, but I don't think it's all that bad---especially since it's the only remotely exciting thing to be found.

Overall, a dull, fairly uninspired update for the Caps. Not that they had a lot to work with, mind you, but they could have come up with something a little more hockey-like and a little more eye-catching.

Teebz runs through the basic elements, and ultimately gives the new design a thumbs-up.

Can't say I agree with him, but it's not the worst route the Capitals could have gone, that's for sure.

For more photos, info and documentation concerning the uniform history of the Washington Capitals, see CapsJerseys.com.


June 23, 2007

Colorado Draft Pick Recap, Saturday Blog Post Orgy Continues

With all seven rounds of the draft now over, nine new players have joined the Colorado Avalanche system. Most of them will play more time in their local beer leagues than in the National Hockey League. Statistically speaking, only a small number of the 200 or more young players chosen in the NHL Entry Draft every year actually make it to the NHL, and even fewer become stars. The majority play most of their careers in the minor leagues and then unceremoniously retire while still fairly young. Such is life in all professional sports, not just hockey.

Since fame and notoriety will likely escape most of them, it's my duty to give these young players at minimum the glory of a Dear Lord Stanley blog post, so I'll run down the list of new Avalanche prospects one at a time. Hopefully their mothers, at least, will be proud.

I already profiled first round pick Kevin Shattenkirk here. The rest are as follows:

Second Round

Colby Cohen, D - 45th Overall: Another offensive defenseman in the style of John Michael-Liles, a kind of player the Avalanche just can't seem to get enough of. Has decent size at 6-2 and 200 pounds, and was a major scoring threat from the blue line for the Lincoln Stars in the USHL this past season. Cites Chris Pronger as his main hockey influence, so Cohen's likely an asshole.

Trevor Cann, G - 49th Overall: Put up modest numbers in goal for a lousy Peterborough Petes team in the OHL, but gained notoriety by shutting out team USA in the final game of the World Under-18 Championships, securing the gold medal for Team Canada. Has inspired favorable scouting reports so far.

TJ Galiardi, F - 55th Overall: Had a good past season playing for Dartmouth, scored well with linemate and fellow Avalanche prospect David Jones. Is fast and has good puck-handling abilities. Now out of college, is seeking an assignment with the Lake Erie Monsters this coming season.

Fourth Round

Brad Malone, F - 105th Overall: Though listed as a center in the draft, Malone has played right wing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL and has committed to playing for the University of North Dakota next season. Is a tall power forward with average offensive abilities.

Kent Patterson, G - 113th Overall: Ranked 12th among all goalies in this year's draft class by NHL Central Scouting, is of slightly above-average height and has strong athletic ability. Played for Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the USHL this past season.

Fifth Round

Paul Carey, F - 135th Overall: Played well for Connecticut high school Salisbury, leading them to the Division I prep school championship. Is fast on his skates and idolizes Sergei Fedorov (hopefully the Fedorov of 1997, not 2007).

Sixth Round

Jens Hellgren, D - 155th Overall: A tall, still-growing defenseman from Sweden with decent offensive ability but inconsistent defensive play. Will likely stay in Sweden.

Seventh Round

Johan Alcen, F - 195th Overall: Another inconsistent Swede, this time a forward. Is considered talented but fails to shoot the puck often enough. Will also likely not find his way out of Sweden.

What's really interesting is that, out of nine total picks, the Avalanche chose three current USHL players and two Swedes. The USHL is comprised of teams from mostly western and mid-western US towns and cities. Also, one Colorado pick plays for a US university and two have already committed to one. In other words, the Avalanche generally avoided the Canadian junior ranks with the exception of goalie Trevor Cann and focused their recruiting in the geographic area surrounding Denver. Very much a regional strategy, it appears.

Now it's up to the players to prove themselves in elite junior hockey or the varsity leagues over the next couple of years if they want a shot at the NHL. Most will fall short, but there could be a sleeper superstar among the above names.


Fire Sale In Nashville Continues, Except For The Team Itself

The Nashville Predators are still busy dumping salaries, this time trading star goalie Thomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers for an array of 2008 draft picks. While surprising to some extent, the Preds still have breakout netminder Chris Mason to rely on. Mason actually put up slightly better numbers than Vokoun after filling in for him during a stint on the injured list.

But while they continue to downsize the payroll, current owner Craig Leipold has requested that the NHL halt all activity in favor of Jim Balsillie's bid to buy the Nashville team until a final agreement is reached. The current deadline is June 30th for a binding deal on the sale. While this doesn't mean the sale is off, it does indicate that Leipold is wary of Balsillie's not-so-subtle intention to move the Predators to Hamilton, Ontario as soon as the 2007-08 season.

Could the Predators end up staying in Nashville? If so, what then? They'll be missing some key stars and have only eventual draft picks to show for them. It could be years before they're a legitimate post-season contender again. Oops.


Avs Draft Defenseman In First Round, Surprise Nobody

photo courtesy Jay LePrete/AP

With a noticeable lack of depth in defensive prospects, the Avalanche surprised no one by picking a defenseman in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The lucky young man? None other than captain of the silver medal US under-18 team, Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk hails from Greenwich, Connecticut and has been compared to current Avalanche d-man (and fellow American) John-Michael Liles.

Shattenkirk is 5-11, 193 pounds, so he's not exactly tall but he has a solid build. His style of play is offensively-geared, which is not quite what the Avalanche are most in need of at the moment. The team still lacks a physical, stay-at-home blueliner with hitting ability and a mean streak. Shattenkirk is not that guy. The Avs passed on Nicholas Petrecki, a high-ranking defenseman who is that guy, in favor of more offense, something the team hasn't lacked in years. Petrecki was eventually chosen 28th by the San Jose Sharks.

But, draft picks rarely make an immediate transition into the NHL. Petrecki won't be ready to play at hockey's top level for some time, so the Avs didn't exactly blow a huge opportunity. Shattenkirk is young and should develop well, and by the time he's ready to enter the lineup, offensive d-men like Liles and/or Jordan Leopold could be long gone. He will play for hockey superpower Boston University next year, a great place to hone his skills. The Avalanche could have done much worse with their first pick.

With three picks in the second round and three more over the next five after that, the Avalanche still have the opportunity to increase their defensive depth. They should probably pick up a goalie while they're at it, too.


DLS Favorite Tyler Arnason Re-Signs With Avs

He's no superstar, and he avoids physical play like Ed Belfour avoids sobriety, but during the great (but ultimately futile) late-season run for the playoffs, Tyler Arnason played his heart out for the Avalanche.

In thanks, the Avs signed him to a two-year, $3.35 million contract. $1.6 million this coming season, $1.75 million the next. The Avs secure a solid third-line center and Arnason secures employment for a couple more years. Not a bad trade-off.

Hopefully the same drive that propelled his play at the end of last season will continue to power Arnason's efforts as the Avalanche avenge their first elimination from post-season eligibility in more than a decade. I'm glad to see him return.


June 22, 2007

Bruins Unveil New Coach and Uniforms, Same Old Sucky Team

photo courtesy Elise Amendola/AP

The Boston Bruins unveiled two new aspects of the franchise on Thursday---a new coach and a new look.

Claude Julien, unjustly dismissed from his post as head coach of the 100+ point New Jersey Devils just before the playoffs, found a new home behind the bench with the struggling Bruins, who finished 13th in the Eastern Conference this past season. Julien proudly begins what will likely be a very short career in Beantown.

As for the uniforms, the Bruins became the first NHL team to unveil the new Reebok (RBK) Edge "uniform system" and logo re-design. Likely hoping to bring past glory back to Boston, the Bruins opted for slight changes to their color scheme and logos that recall the origins of the franchise.

The changes to the Bruins' uniform are worth analyzing in depth. First of all, the retired designs looked as such:

Simple enough, and one of the more tradition-friendly jersey styles in the NHL. The updated jerseys feature slight coloring changes, the addition of horizontal sleeve stripes, and a slightly modified primary logo:

Notice that the colored panels on the shoulders no longer extend to the end of the sleeves, while an additional panel has been added to the chest just below the shoulders. On the dark jerseys, this panel is white. On the white jerseys, the panel is gold. This recalls a design not seen on Boston uniforms since the 1974-75 season.

Also different is the order of colors in the waist stripes. On the old dark jerseys, the colors are white-gold-white, and on the new jerseys they are gold-white-gold. A similar alteration appears on the white jerseys.

The most significant change has to be the horizontal sleeve stripes, though, which recall the design worn by Bobby Orr in this 1966 photo. In fact, Boston jerseys had horizontal sleeve stripes throughout the history of the team until 1995-96, when many other teams also changed their uniform designs following the lockout of the prior season. Any homage to historic and traditional designs is A-OK in my book, so I definitely approve of the changes so far.

While the sleeve stripes are a major change, a more subtle and interesting modification appears in the logos, both the primary logo and the shoulder patches. The new primary logo---the letter B among the spokes of a wheel---is largely the same except for the addition of serifs. This was actually the same style used by the Bruins starting in the early 1930s until 1948. A sans-serif "B" has been in use since then. As for the shoulder patches, they are a brand-new design altogether, but bear (sorry, had to) a similar appearance to the original Bruins team logo.

Apparently, the shoulder patch design will also be used as the "alternate" team logo in the event that the now-defunct third jersey option is re-instituted in the NHL in the coming years.

Oh, and I'm a big fan of the lace-up style collars. Very nice.

Overall, I highly approve of the Bruins' new look, in that it's really a very old look. Though many seem to think that constant reinvention is a good thing, nothing beats good, old-school hockey uniforms when it comes to athletics aesthetics. Hopefully the Bruins can emulate the teams of old in more than just appearance. Right now they suck pretty bad.

For further reading, Teebz over at Hockey Blog In Canada has already posted his reaction to the new Boston uniforms. I'm really anxious for the verdict on all the new NHL outfits from Paul at UniWatch in the coming weeks, which I'm sure will be fascinating.

UPDATE: Paul posted an extremely favorable review of the Boston uniforms today, along with a not-so favorable review of the Capitals, based on a leaked shot of the new jersey. I'll do a detailed analysis of every team's new digs in the coming weeks, so I'll save my opinion on Washington until later.


June 21, 2007

Dater VS ESPN, Round 3

A day after the initial scandal created by Adrian Dater's now-infamous anti-ESPN rant on his blog at the Denver Post's web site, Greg at the AOL Fanhouse and Eric at OffWingOpinion have picked up the story.

In the meantime, as everyone now knows, the rant and Dater's non-apology follow-up post have been removed from the Post site, the follow-up forever lost into the memory hole (I wasn't able to save that one before it was gone).

But who's decision was it to remove the outbursts?

According to Dater himself, it was a mutual decision by him and his bosses at the Post to remove the blog entries because he was "a little over the line probably." In an email he sent me today, he wrote:

The one thing I do regret is naming individual names at ESPN. I just ticked off some names of reporters off the top of my head at that moment. I was trying to criticize in the collective sense, not the individual, so naming any names was dumb and I am sorry for that.

And I'll let that be the final word on the matter.


Goats Part II: Down The Media Memory Hole

(Dater VS ESPN, Round 2)

After causing
an immediate blog frenzy by posting a foaming rant against the evils of ESPN, Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater has apparently been censored by his employer, the Denver Post, upon whose web site he posted his spastic emotional outburst. The first post (the rant itself) and the follow-up post (the clarification of---but not apology for---the rant) have both been yanked from the site.

Because I care about historical preservation, and because I figured this would happen, I made a copy of the initial post (the rant) the second I started reading it. I have saved it in convenient jpeg format, for posterity, and will soon be submitting it to the National Archives.

Click here for the full text of his initial rant, via screenshot.

Don't thank me all at once.

Sadly, I was not so foresighted to make a copy of the follow-up post, but such is life. I'm sure somebody has a screenshot or an html copy lying around.


June 20, 2007

Avs Beat Writer Says ESPN Blows Goats. Goats Not Available For Comment.

(Dater VS ESPN, Round 1)

A couple of weeks ago, when I interviewed him about his book, Adrian Dater seemed like a pretty laid-back, friendly guy. Cool and calm, he responded to each of my silly questions and graciously humored a blogger he probably couldn't care less about.

Today, though, the gloves are off. He's got an axe to grind with a little network called ESPN, and he's not afraid to let it all out:

You can take your ESPN and all the alleged superiority that comes from being on it every day and you can shove it in that little space where there is very little sunlight, ever.

Hmm, a classy way to get the ball rolling. He goes on:

Do you hear me, ESPN producer schmucks? You didn’t break JACK SQUAT. Some real journalist at a newspaper broke that story. You’re nothing more than a bunch of pathetic piggybackers, trying to fool that gullible sports audience out there - of which you have legions of the duped tuning in daily.

This is getting good.

We newspaper people - the real journalists out there still - do not need to feel inferior to a bunch of made-up clowns with microphones in hand. Cash your paychecks and feel superior if you need to. But remember this: you’ll never be half our equals when it comes to being able to write and really report a story. Oh, and good luck making it in your business when the wrinkles start to show a little.

Now that's a blog entry! Raw emotion, sweeping generalizations and the uninhibited throwing of insults and accusations. Man, you can't beat that!

I'm not sure how things work over at the Denver Post, but I have a distinct feeling that this little blog entry of his may not go over too well at the next staff meeting. Then again, that's the same paper that has employed Woody Paige for years, so maybe they won't even notice.

Speaking of Woody Paige, a long-time ESPN talking head, I have a feeling he and Dater won't be playing golf together any time soon.

(Check out Jibblescribbits' take on the rant, while you're at it.)

UPDATE: Dater takes a deep breath, gets a little sleep, and calmly expands upon some of the points he made in his fierce old-school journalist beat-down of the pretty TV people. He's still really mad, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Both the original rant and Dater's more reasonable follow-up have been yanked from the Denver Post web site. Because I possess a keen sense of foresight, I made a copy of the original rant just in case something like this were to happen---and it always happens. It's available in handy jpeg format, so anybody can read it! Click here and enjoy.


Mock Drafts: Hockey Journalists Just Make Stuff Up

For hockey journalists, there is no bigger cop-out than running a "mock draft" just prior to the actual NHL Entry Draft. It's about as complicated as pulling names out of a hat and writing a quick blurb to the effect of "this great player would be good on this team because..." A mock draft article is not exactly Pulitzer material, obviously.

Any top quality hockey player is good for any hockey team, even if they don't need that player to actually play, just stand still, look pretty and be traded somewhere for somebody they do need. Sure, the teams try to find prospects that will potentially fill projected future needs, but sometimes they just pick the best guy available at the moment and hope they figure out what to do with him later on. It's not an exact science.

So a mock draft is just barely more ridiculous than the actual draft itself, which is exactly why sports media outlets like ESPN and TSN can't resist them. And that's why bloggers---we non-journalists---love them too. Nothing fills pixel space like wild speculation.

So, as for the mock drafts themselves, who are the projected picks for the Colorado Avalanche, the little team that almost could, the once-great former powerhouse desperately in need of some punch on the blueline in the absence of Adam Foote and Rob Blake?

ESPN: Ryan McDonagh, the reigning Mr. Hockey in Minnesota, who has committed to playing for the University of Wisconsin next season. He's a defenseman, obviously, since that's what the Avs need. According to ESPN, "his complete array of skills and size will have the Avalanche giddy over the selection." Except that he's only 6-1 and 200 pounds. That's not exactly "size" in the NHL. But whatever.

TSN: Kevin Shattenkirk, another young defenseman. TSN isn't very specific about why the Avs would pick him, just that they'd rather have chosen Mikael Backlund, a center, who they project the Maple Leafs grabbing. Ummm, okay. Anyway, TSN thinks the Avs would choose a d-man even smaller than McDonagh, in that Shattenkirk is shorter and weighs less. Yeah, a tiny defenseman. Awesome. Good pick, TSN.

Sports Illustrated: Mikael Backlund, that mysterious center TSN also wanted to pick for the Avs. What's Backlund's strong point? He's still recovering from a serious knee injury. Great. And he's a center, of which the Avalanche system is stuffed full. This is getting silly.

Hockey's Future: Jonathan Blum, a defenseman from the Vancouver Giants, the WHL team that won the Memorial Cup this season. Blum would make sense as a good pick except that he's 6-0 and 163 pounds. 163? Seriously? Guys in the AHL could crack his sternum just by looking his way. He'd have to go on an immediate diet of raw egg yolks and protein shakes, not to mention some growth hormone.

So, like all wild speculation, these mock drafts have about as much use as an NHL defenseman that weighs 163 pounds or a star center with a leg injury. Hopefully the Avs avoid everybody but Ryan McDonagh, who might be good as long as he's not done growing. Somebody go buy some eggs.


Hockey Used To Be Cool, Part 3

I hate to post this picture, since obviously Tupac was wearing the wrong team's jersey. But, when you think about it, maybe his choice of hockey team apparel is the reason he got his ass capped. Anyway, I submit to you further evidence that hockey was hip in the early 1990s because gangsta rappers were sportin' team sweaters:

Strangely enough, though a southern California resident at the time, he was acting just like a typical Dead Wings fan...

The previous DLS posts concerning hockey cameos in hip hop culture can be found here and here.


June 19, 2007

Veteran Goalie Thinks Modern Netminders Are Fat, Bitchy

The official Dear Lord Stanley position on goaltending and the size of the nets is this: the dimensions of the goal should never change---the dimensions of the goalies should. I'm not alone in this, much to my surprise. In fact, I've even got actual NHL goalies (well, at least one) to back me up in a fight.

Phil Myre, a 14-year NHL vet and the current goalie coach of the Florida Panthers, thinks the idea of bigger nets is just a ploy by the NHL to scare the goalies back in line on equipment dimensions, not to mention a lousy strike against record-keeping:

"I think there's still some options to exhaust other than the drastic measure of making the nets bigger," said ... Myre ... "I think that should be the last straw to reintroducing offence, because not only is it going to be tough on goalies, it's going to destroy all previous stats.

"The net should be the last resort, because it changes the whole game. From the time that they make the nets bigger, they are going to have to have asterisks beside the stats."

He also thinks the netminders are fat and need a serious diet.

What could the goalies do with less of? Gloves and huge chest protectors, says Myre. He points out that police officers can stop bullets with super-thin kevlar vests but goalies cling to enormous padded fat suits to stop thick rubber pucks. If official DLS patron saint Ken Dryden could be the best goalie in the NHL during the 1970s looking like this (barely bigger than the other players on the ice), why does Martin Brodeur get to look like Santa Claus with a mask on?

Make the goalies smaller, don't make the nets bigger. There's no argument as far as I'm concerned. If you don't agree, I'll set my boy Phil Myre on your ass.


The NHL Entry Draft: Why Even Bother?

My illustrious Avalanche blogging colleague InTheCheapSeats doesn't care about the upcoming NHL entry draft. Why? He lists the reasons, and they consist of the players themselves. In the entire decade of the 1990s, only a couple dozen first-round players went on to respectable NHL careers. The rest struggled briefly or never made it at all. Many eventual stars were chosen in the late rounds, far behind others whose names nobody remembers today. In sum, just about every draft of the '90s was a crap shoot at best.

This trend continued into the new century, with only one real exception: the class of 2003. Maybe you've heard of Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nikolai Zherdev, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Dion Phaneuf, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Eaves and Corey Parey. Not a bad group of players by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, as for ice-time, only one player in the entire first round has failed to play at least one game in the NHL: Brian Boyle, chosen 26th by the LA Kings. Granted, not all the players ended up as full-time NHL players, and not all of the guys I listed are stars or even potential stars, but they are all solid professionals who have specific roles on their respective teams. What more could an NHL team ask for from its draft picks?

But anyway, ITCS is right. Despite all the scouting money can buy, all the projections and all the stat crunching, the NHL draft has always been and will always be a shot in the dark with a half-loaded pistol. Sometimes you score big, but most of the time you end up with a bunch of minor league short-timers.


The Predators Put On Their Running Shoes, Begin Race To The Bottom

The Predators, in the first of many moves (and non-moves) to jettison player salaries, have traded talented free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to the Flyers for a first round draft pick. That's right, two good players for a single draft pick. And, to make matters worse, it was the draft pick the Predators originally gave to the Flyers as part of the trade for Peter Forsberg, who will not play for Nashville next season. The Flyers are clearly the winner in this series of exchanges.

Obviously, the Predators are simply dumping salaries and racing for the bottom (cap-wise). Why? Because current owner Craig Leipold wants the hell out, NOW. No better way to speed the process of a sale than to quickly deflate the team's operating costs through salary elimination. Secure a draft pick for the future but dump the stars and veterans and get primed for a rebuilding process that will likely take place north of the border.

It's not a stretch of the imagination to think that Nashville's quick dumping of players like Timmonen and Hartnell will be followed soon by the departure of Paul Kariya and others. And it's also not a stretch to assume that Nashville's front office is simply following the direct orders of Leipold through all of this.

So the Predators spend next season as the NHL's Tampa Bay Devil Rays and then slip quietly in the night to Hamilton, Ontario, and into the open arms of more than 10,000 season ticket holders and new owner Jim Balsillie. The writing, as they say, is on the ice.


June 18, 2007

Thanks For All The Success, You're Fired (Part II)

In a move strangely reminiscent of the Devils' recent firing of coach Claude Julien, the Senators announced today that general manager John Muckler should start looking for other employment.

Despite engineering the trade of playoff-worthless Marian Hossa to the Thrashers for playoff hero and goal-scoring phenom Dany Heatly, not to mention making an appearance for the first time in the Stanley Cup Finals, Ottawa decided they just didn't need old Muckler hanging around the place anymore.

It made sense for the Bruins to fire coach Dave Lewis---kind of---since the team continued its stretch of worthless seasons, not to mention Lewis' creepy Hitleresque mustache. I'd fire him for that. Forget the fact that the Bruins' front office has been particularly inept for some time and it's easy to blame their failures on the coach.

But Muckler and Julien were, by all accounts, extremely successful leaders. And their departures are eerily similar in that their replacements are pulling double-duty. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello took over as coach and Senators coach Brian Murray will take over as GM. Both will keep their prior assignments.

(UPDATE: Initial reports were inaccurate. Murray will not keep the coaching job and instead will start interviewing for a replacement very soon. Doh!)

So, what have we learned? We've learned that Randy Carlyle better watch how many Stanley Cups he wins with Anaheim or he might just be out of a job. This is the New NHL.


Hamilton Fans Can't Wait To See Nonexistent Hockey Team

Hamilton, Ontario doesn't even have an NHL team, but that isn't stopping local residents from making deposits on thousands of season tickets at Copps Coliseum. Ticketmaster even has a seating chart up for Copps with the title "Hamilton Predators NHL Franchise Deposit Map".

In what can only be a PR stunt by potential Predators buyer Jim Balsillie, the ticket sales have already surpassed the 9000 held by fans in Nashville. Make Nashville look bad, make Hamilton look great, seal the deal. That has to be Balsillie's game plan, or otherwise there'd be no reason at all to sell tickets for an NHL team that doesn't yet exist, and may not exist by next season anyway, even if Balsillie's purchase of the team goes through.

I've only been to Hamilton a couple of times, and only then to drive through on the way to Toronto. I don't know much about the city, but it must be boring as hell. How else would fans have money just lying around to throw at a nonexistent hockey team? Can't be much else to do, apparently.


June 16, 2007

Choice Beats And A Short Break

Several weeks ago I made a post about hockey's once-cool perception in American pop culture during the early 1990s. I posted the video for Snoop Dogg's famous song "Gin And Juice" in which he wore a Penguins jersey throughout. I submit to you another example---A Tribe Called Quest's video for the song "Oh My God" from 1993. In it, Phife Dawg wears a Devils jersey customized with his own name.

Side Note: I'll be at the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis this weekend, so DLS will be quiet for a couple of days. Try not to miss me too much.


June 15, 2007

Avalanche Stuff Watch™

He may not have won the Lady Byng, but Avalanche captain Joe Sakic has won the honor of becoming just the third hockey player to join Upper Deck's roster of ridiculously over-stylized vinyl toys.

Limited to just 1500 in home (dark) colors and 500 in away (white) colors, the toys hit the market on June 19th at a completely reasonable action figure price of $49.99. They go up for sale at exactly 9:19AM PDT next Tuesday. Unfortunately, they don't seem to allow pre-orders. Looks like I'll have to stop whatever I had planned to do and instead sit anxiously at the computer with credit card in hand.

Not like I had anything better to do anyway.

Close-ups of the toys after the jump.

For more shots, go here.


ESPN Columnist George Johnson Loves Mike Keenan, Too

The hockey writers at ESPN.com aren't too keen on the hiring of Mike Keenan to coach the Calgary Flames. Yesterday, Scott Burnside dissed him. Today, aloof and mustachioed columnist George Johnson chimes in with words that are slightly south of supportive:

Yes, "Iron Mike" Keenan is back. Harder to get rid of than a zit a day before the prom. His authoritarian jackboots traded in for a pair of cow-pie clogged cowboy kickers, bringing his blunt, uncompromising, signature style to Calgary.

Zits and jackboots. Now those are some lovely images to invoke, George. But Johnson isn't done, not hardly:

Historically, his abrasive style has the shelf life of a wheel of unrefrigerated cave-aged Gruyere. He hasn't had success of any kind since commandeering the Rangers to that 1994 championship (a Cup that really belonged to Mark Messier , anyway). In subsequent pit stops in St. Louis, Boston, Vancouver and Miami, he got no closer to the Stanley Cup than during his days in charge at the University of Toronto.

Only one Keenan team in the past 13 years has advanced past the first round of the playoffs. Hmmm, see a pattern developing?

So, to recap, George Johnson thinks the whole Keenan thing in Calgary is likely to end very badly. So does Scott Burnside. So does Allan Maki at the Globe And Mail. The list could go on.

My only hope is that they're right, and Jerome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Dion Phaneuf and former Av Alex Tanguay are all driven out of town by Iron Mike. The fewer strong teams in the Northwest Division, the better.


The Avalanche Will Get Nothing And Like It

Last night the National Hockey League held their annual awards gala, handing out the hardware to the best players in the highest level of professional hockey. Among those nominated were Avalanche players Joe Sakic (Lady Byng Trophy for most sportsmanlike play) and Paul Stastny (Calder Trophy for best rookie).

Having won it previously in 2001 (along with a few other trophies), Sakic was the favorite by far for the Byng, despite having higher penalty minutes than the other two candidates, Pavel Datsyuk and Martin St. Louis. Stastny faced stiffer opposition from Russian phenom Evgeni Malkin, but some very compelling arguments had been made on behalf of Peter Stastny's sensational younger son---Paul was a dark horse, but a strong one.

But, consistent with the kind of season their team just suffered, both Stastny and Sakic went home empty-handed from the awards show.

Stastny finished second in the balloting to Malkin, who, having the benefit of playing on the same power play unit as the best offensive player in the entire league, racked up more points overall and that's really all the voters care about. Never mind Son Of Stastny's superb performance killing penalties (something Malkin did almost none of) as well as his record-setting 20-game points streak. None of that seemed to matter.

As for Sakic, his defeat at the hands of a dirty Dead Wings player was sadly predictable. With higher total penalty minutes, Sakic's widely respected styles of disciplined on-ice play and quiet leadership just couldn't seal the deal. In fact, he finished third in the voting, not only behind the winner Datsyuk, but also behind Martin St. Louis, who obviously benefited from a few pro-dwarf sympathy votes.

An appropriately fitting end to a similarly frustrating season for the entire Colorado team. Sigh.

The complete list of award winners can be found here.


June 14, 2007

Everybody Loves Mike Keenan

photo courtesy Eliot Schectner/Getty Images

Today's big hockey story is the hiring of "Iron" Mike Keenan as the new head coach of the Calgary Flames, replacing the fan-maligned Jim Playfair who has been demoted to assistant. Keenan, if you didn't know, won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994 and then proceeded to destroy every good relationship he's ever had in the NHL with each subsequent coaching job he took. The Rangers hate him. The Canucks and the Panthers hate him. The Blues hate him. He's not exactly best friends with Boston, either.

The reaction in hockey mediaville hasn't been all that favorable, either. Scott Burnside posted an article whose title should have been, "Mike Keenan? WTF?" Teebz at Hockey Blog In Canada is also not a big fan. And Jes Golbez at Hockey Rants sees the whole thing going south for the Flames real quick.

Oh, and Jim Rome just dissed Keenan on today's episode of "Jim Rome Is Burning" on ESPN and predicted a relatively quick dismissal or otherwise a speedy exodus of the team's talented players.

I'm completely in favor of Keenan being hired as Flames coach if it means the team ends up struggling to make the playoffs and all the best players are driven out. Nothing could be better for that organization, in my totally non-biased-toward-division-rival-Colorado-Avalanche opinion.


Avalanche Likely To Keep Theodore, Losing Hockey Games

According to sports agent Don Meehan, the Colorado Avalanche will not buy out $6 million backup goalie Jose Theodore's contract and will allow him to finish his last year with the team. DLS is not a fan of Paris Theodore, but there are logical monetary arguments for not buying him out, so I'm not surprised that the Avs will keep him around.

Unfortunately, Theodore is still washed up until he proves otherwise, and he's already been given plenty of chances to do so. Hopefully this year Coach Q will not try a two-goalie approach like he did in the beginning of last season. Go with Budaj full time unless he implodes, leave Theo on the bench to ponder his confusing but continued existence in the National Hockey League.

Maybe Theodore will end up being really good this coming season. Maybe he'll re-establish himself as a top tier goalie and lead the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup. Maybe I need to lay off the hallucinogens.

In other Avalanche contract news, the team has re-signed overrated power forward Scott "The Sheriff" Parker and young minor league defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a couple of cheap contracts. No surprises there.


Hero Watch™: Tony Reali Silences Woody Paige

Six minutes into the ESPN show Around The Horn yesterday, the panel was discussing game 3 of the NBA Finals, a low-scoring, low-rated affair that was generally accepted to be one of the worst in league history. Once the conversation had shifted to Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, he complained about the dominance of defense in the game and called for the NBA to eliminate one player from each side, adopting a permanent 4-on-4 scheme similar to overtime hockey. Immediately, host Tony Reali responded in disbelief and then cut Paige off with the mute button. Said Reali, "You've been covering the NBA for the better part of 40 years, Woody Paige, you want them to change the rules like that?!"

Video clip here for those with ESPN360 access.

Tony Reali reacted to Woody Paige's idiocy in the only appropriate way---he cut his mic. You're an idiot, end of discussion.

The same should happen to every hockey columnist who suggests sweeping rule changes and the abandonment of tradition in the NHL just to score an extra goal or an extra quarter-point in the TV ratings. In hockey, no rule---no matter how old or how logical---is safe when an extra goal per game can be tacked on to the scoreboard. Any gimmick, no matter how cheap, is on the table. Shootouts? Snug-fitting jerseys? Kicking pucks in the goals? Wider goal posts? You name it, the NHL will try it.

Baseball survived the onslaught of the TV era by sticking to tradition. The players didn't, but the game did, and the rules today are nearly identical to the rules 60 years ago. Basketball, with the exception of the three point line and the dunk, hasn't changed much either. By adhering to tradition, these sports create a sense of permanence that transcends fluctuating TV ratings and a few bad tournament games.

Woody Paige is just one of many hockey columnists who promote snake oil quick fixes when faced with the tiniest in-game annoyance. The dialogue in the NHL is controlled by two-bit marketing hacks who care nothing for the sport they waste our time covering. Enough. Tony Reali, you're my new hero.


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