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Posted on: May 28, 2009 11:01 pm
 

Stanley Cup Finals Preview 2009

The matchup is set. The lines are drawn. A rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals will take place between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.

The road to the final was long for both teams, and they are so close to that ultimate reward: Lord Stanley's Cup. They can almost taste it, and the next 4-7 games are the most important they will have played this entire season.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS


The Pittsburgh Penguins are going into the final as arguably the hottest team that entered the playoffs. After a coaching change, Dan Bylsma turned the Pens into a solid team, not only getting them back into the playoff picture, but securing the 4th spot in the conference, and home ice in the first round. That advantage proved to be very critical, as they took down the state rival Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games. The Pens won the first 2 games at home and took control of the series early. They went into Philly having beaten the Flyers 4-1 in game 1, and 3-2 in game 2 in overtime. Marc-Andre Fleury had stepped up and been a critical component of both wins, outplaying Philly goaltender Martin Biron in both games. Game 3 went to the Flyers at home, and the Pens stole game 4. They headed back home up 3-1 in the series with a chance to close out, but Philadelphia had other plans. They stormed into the Igloo and stole game 5, shutting out the Pens 3-0. Biron did his job to keep his team alive, and it was up to them to return the favor in game 6. They didn't. The Pens came out with the determination to win, and ended up taking the series 4-2 with a 5-3 win in game 6.

The win over the Flyers set up the marquee matchup. Everyone wanted to see the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins battle it out over 7 games. The series didn't disappoint, with game 7 being the only possible exception. The only thing that would have made the series better was if it was the Conference Finals instead of the semi-final. The Caps came out with fire hot goalie Simeon Varlamov and took games 1 and 2 at home in pretty convincing fashion. Alex Ovechkin, who the New York Rangers did a good job of containing most of their series, finally woke up, scoring 4 goals in the first 2 games. Arguably the most exciting game of the playoffs to that point was game 2, where BOTH Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin netted hat-tricks. OV's tally ended up pushing the Caps to a game 2 win and a 2-0 series lead. They now held the lead they had faced as a defecit in the previous round, and unfortunately for them, they couldn't take a strangle hold over the series.

Game 3 shifted to Pittsburgh, and the Crosby-Ovechkin showdown continued. Ovechkin scored yet another goal in the game (8), but the biggest goal was a first for young blue liner Kris Letang. Letang buried a shot at 11:23 of overtime for his first career playoff goal, and gave the Pens their first win of the series, and a critical change in momentum. Game 4 was a quiet one for Ovechkin, who registered one assist, while counterpart Sidney Crosby helped his team to a 5-3 win with 1 goal and 1 assist.

The scenery shifted back to the nation's capital for game 5, and once again, it came down to overtime. This one went Pittsburgh's way yet again, with Evgeni Malkin netting the winner 3:28 into overtime, giving the Pens a 3-2 series lead. Ovechkin added 2 more goals (9, 10) and 1 assist, but fell short of winning the game for his team.

Game 6 was, believe it or not, yet another overtime finish. The Caps were on the brink of being eliminated yet again. They avoided 3 such games against the New York Rangers to move on to the next round, and hoped to pull it off yet again in Pittsburgh. Enter Dave Steckel, who redirected the winner for the Caps 3:22 into overtime. The Caps finally won an overtime game, a situation in which they were only 1-7 against Pittsburgh in the last 8 matchups.

Game 7. Ovechkin vs Crosby. What more could an NHL fan want? Overtime? Not gonna happen in this one. The Penguins came out ready to win, and dominated most of the game. They ended up winning by a final of 6-2, and sealed the series with a somewhat anti-climactic game 7. Crosby 1, Ovechkin 0

The Pens moved on to face the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that stormed through the New Jersey Devils with impressive wins. One came with 0.2 seconds left on the clock in the 3rd period, and game 7 was a meltdown by the Devils, with Carolina coming back from down late with under 5 minutes to play to win the game. The Canes then went on to shock the Bruins and win the series, setting up for a matchup with Sid the Kid and the Penguins. The series was a bit of a letdown, but nobody expected another Pens-Caps series. The Pens swept the Hurricanes very convincingly, with game 1 (3-2) being the only real nail-biter. They put themselves into the Stanely Cup Finals for the 2nd straight year, filling 1/2 of the rematch puzzle.

DETROIT RED WINGS

The Detroit Red Wings are heading into the finals looking for back-to-back Cups, but they have their share of injury problems. Adding to the drama of a rematch is Marian Hossa, who left Pittsburgh for Detroit to win a cup. Now he has a chance to steal the cup away from his former team, or to watch them celebrate what could have been his. Drama all around in this series, and one exciting matchup coming

In the first round, the defending champs got the young Columbus Blue Jackets, led by rookie goalie sensation Steve Mason. Mason was going to be the deciding factor for Columbus, but nobody gave them a chance to keep up with the Wings. Games 1, 2, and 3 were enough to convince people that the Jackets weren't ready to take down a giant like Detroit. Veteran goalie Chris Osgood surrendered only 2 goals across the first 3 games, getting 4 goals of support in each win. Game 4 was easily the best of the series. Columbus finally showed up, but, like most were probably thinking, it was too little too late. They put up 5 goals, surpassing their total for the first 3 games by 4 goals, but fell short. Detroit won 6-5 and took the series in 4 games handily, erasing doubts that they could defend their title.

The following round brough another young group of players in the Anaheim Ducks, who took down the President's Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. The Wings won game 1 3-2, but dropped games 2 and 3 4-3 and 2-1 respectively. Game 4 was theirs for the taking. They won a convincing game 6-3, and went home for game 5. Another convincing win as they beat up on the Ducks 4-1. Game 6 went back to Anaheim with the Wings up 3 games to 2. The Ducks didn't want vacation yet, and sent the series back to the motor city for game 7, winning a tight battle 2-1. Game 7 was the moment the Wings decided that they weren't going to sit down and let the Ducks steal their shot at the Conference Finals. They came out and won a big game in front of their home crowd by a score of 4-3, taking the series in 7

Bring on the Chicago Blackhawks, yet another young team, led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The Wings, who desperately needed a shorter series, got their wish, winning in 5. They took games 1 and 2, and the series shifted to Chicago. The Hawks finally showed up and won the game 4-3 in overtime, only after blowing a 3 goal lead. Games 4 and 5 didn't end as well as Chicago would have liked, with the Wings winning 6-1, and clinching the series in overtime 2-1 in game 5.

The rematch is finally set. Detroit against Pittsburgh. Champs vs the runner up of the 2007-2008 season. Does Pittsburgh have what it takes to win the series and get revenge? Or will Detroit pull of yet another great playoff run and win the cup? Let's take a look at how the teams matched up this season.

The Penguins and Red Wings played in . On November 11th, the Wings lost a scoring battle 7-6 in overtime at home. The next matchup, on February 8th, they won 3-0 in Pittsburgh, with Ty Conklin shutting out his former team, adding even more to the newly brewing rivarly. So the teams split the 2 games this season, with Detroit winning once on a backup goalie. You read those numbers? The scores? Okay good

Now forget about them completely

Regular season numbers mean absolutely nothing. Look at the Sharks getting knocked out in the first round, at the Rangers taking the Caps 7 games (or Caps taking the Rangers 7, whichever you prefer). Look at how the Blue Jackets' stellar rookie goalie faltered completely. Look at a Norris Trophy candidate in Mike Green who was invisible nearly every single playoff game. Do regular season accomplishments help you in May? Not at all

This series will be, without a doubt, a great battle. Rematches are always exciting, but this one will be special. The Wings are the veteran club that has cups galore in it's history, while the Pens have a group of young star players that are ready to shine and take Lord Stanley home with them. Youngsters Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, if you can call them youngsters, will look to make improvements on what they did last year in order to avoid the same fate. Veteran Chris Osgood will try to show Marc-Andre Fleury how to win back-to-back cups.

Who can forget the drama of Marian Hossa? He left Pittsburgh for Detroit and a shot at the cup. Now he gets a shot at it, and a shot at his former team as well. Need drama? Watch the Stanley Cup Finals. Nothing better in the world than playoff hockey, and this finals matchup is sure to be a great series.

PREDICTION

Here comes my prediction. See the word "prediction"? That means it's my opinion. I don't base it all on facts. I go with gut feeling on some things, so complaints about me being wrong on who I say will win or who will stand out will be ignored. Arguments and constructive criticism are always appreciated.

The series, in my eyes, will come down to several key factors:

  1. Goaltending : Chris Osgood against Marc-Andre Fleury. Who will stand tall? Who will fail to capture glory? Everyone knows that Ozzy has been there before, and he has shown during this playoff run that he still has what it takes to win. Fleury is a young star in the making, and has the potential to be great. He has the same inconsistencies that most young players have, but when he's on, he's almost unbeatable. I give the edge to Detroit in goal, only because Osgood has been through it all several times before, and has proven that he can win. I won't say that Fleury won't outshine Osgood, but he'll have to be pretty good to do so. Edge: Red Wings
  2. Scoring : Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin against _______ (insert any player there): This one goes hands down to the Penguins. I'm not saying that Detroit can't score goals, but they don't have a single player to compare with Crosby OR Malkin. You could argue either Marian Hossa or Johan Franzen, but nobody on that team can dominate the same way Crosby and Malkin do frequently. I expect the Pens to score more goals overall in the series, with Crosby and Malkin having the bulk of them. Jordan Staal could be a key factor for the Pens in terms of scoring, especially if Detroit can lock down either Malkin or Crosby, or even both on any given night. Edge: Penguins
  3. Experience : No question here that Detroit wins in experience. They have many cup winners on the roster, and have their share of playoff experience. The Pens did go 6 games in the finals last year, and that should give them plenty of knowledge on how to keep up with a battle-tested team like Detroit. Detroit gets the slight win in this category, but only because they're the defending champs and have plenty of cup winners to show off. The Pens have enough experience to win the cup now, but I have to say it here. Edge: Red Wings
  4. X-Factor : Each team, in my eyes, has one x-factor that can change the series all by himself. For the Red Wings, the x-factors are Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen. Hossa has a level that he can go to and take over a game for a short period of time. He can bury the puck without breaking a sweat, and if he heats up, the Wings could become deadly. He and Johan Franzen are both keys to Detroit's success in this series. For the Penguins, the x-factor is NOT Sidney Crosby. It is NOT Evgeni Malkin. No, it isn't Marc-Andre Fleury either. I have a feeling that, if an x-factor rears it's head in this series, it will be Jordan Staal. He has shown plenty of promise, and has that typical Staal determination and talent that the NHL is going to see for many years in Jordan, as well as current NHL brothers Eric (Carolina) and Marc (New York Rangers). If the Penguins have one player that can push them over the top, I see it being Jordan Staal
That does it for my Stanley Cup Finals preview. See you all on the boards during the series. Here's to a great matchup. Good luck to both the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. May the best team win
Posted on: May 11, 2009 5:32 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2009 5:34 pm
 

GM For A Day

I was having a very interesting conversation the other day about the upcoming offseason for the NHL. Many things came up. The obvious topics were re-signing players or letting them go, trades to be made, and the best targets to focus on in the free agent market. It got me thinking about what I would do with the team, and an idea came to me.

What would you do if you were GM for a day? The New York Rangers are going to be my team of focus in this post, but by all means, if you support another team or just have ideas for other teams, feel free to respond with them. I'm always interested in what other teams' options/goals are

EXPIRED CONTRACTS

The most crucial members of the Rangers are fresh out of years on their contracts this year. The only mainstay that they don't have to worry about re-signing is Henrik Lundqvist. Unfortunately, they do have to work on contracts for several key members of the team. As GM of the New York Rangers, my first priority this offseason would be to give contracts to the key players that certainly deserve to be treated well after their efforts in the 2008-2009 season.

Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky would be immediate signings. They were easily the two most consistent forwards on the team, and the hardest workers. Both struggled offensively at times, but under John Tortorella, they both showed increased scoring. Callahan had 9 goals with Tortorella as head coach, and Dubinsky scored 5 goals in the final 10 games of the season, and carried that momentum into game 1 of the playoffs, scoring the game-winning goal against the Capitals midway through the 3rd period. Another player that I would focus on trying to work out a deal with is Blair Betts. He was arguably their best penalty killer, although under John Tortorella, Brandon Dubinsky and Lauri Korpikoski emerged as a solid pair of penalty-killing forwards. After re-signing those players, I would turn my focus to the free agent market.

I mean no disrespect to players like Paul Mara, Derek Morris, Nik Antropov, or Nikolai Zherdev. They all contribute to the team game, but they don't fit the mold for the goals of this team. Mara has been a solid leader on the blue line, but he didn't deliver the scoring punch they needed him to deliver on the blue line. Morris and Antropov were great pickups at the trade deadline, but both are far too expensive to keep. The only way they could remain in New York is if there is a trade to eliminate a big salary like Michal Rozsival or Scott Gomez, OR if Callahan and/or Dubinsky don't get re-signed. Based on the fact that I would immediately re-sign them, Antropov and Morris have to go. As for Nikolai Zherdev, I'm pretty sure everyone saw what happened to him in the second half of the season, especially under John Tortorella. It looked like he just quit on the team. Tortorella benched Zherdev after the first period in one game because of his lackadaisicle performance. Everyone knew that Zherdev was a bit of an enigma coming in. Could he deal with discipline? Under Tom Renney, it wouldn't have been an issue, but John Tortorella is a well-known coach for his disciplined means of getting a message across. If you slack off, you get punished. If you work hard, you get rewarded. I would have no problem letting Zherdev walk this offseason. He has the ability to be a very solid goal scorer, but he doesn't fit in with John Tortorella's system or coaching style. Discipline and Zherdev DO NOT MIX

FREE AGENT MARKET

Turning our focus to the free agent market, I wouldn't expect to make to many moves, especially considering the limited cap space the team has. The main target is one elite goal scorer, or two players who can put up between 40-60 goals total. It became very clear during the season that the team lacks scoring ability. Younger players like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, and Daniel Girardi are ready to have breakout seasons. That being said, there's no way of telling how productive they will be. All four of them responded well to John Tortorella's coaching style, so you can expect big improvements over a full season.

I would target Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin first. Unless Vancouver re-signs them, they should be very busy fielding offers this summer. Both have the ability to finish off plays and put the puck in the back of the net. They are both reliable players, and would be a great addition to any team they end up on. I could see them on either side of Brandon Dubinsky or Scott Gomez next season. Both Dubinsky and Gomez are solid in terms of carrying the puck through the neutral zone. The one thing they both lacked for the majority of the season was someone on their line that could bury the puck. Adding the Sedin twins would improve the Rangers, and would be my first choice in the free agent market.

If the Sedin twins don't work out, the next move would be to look at Erik Cole . I haven't seen too many people mention him, but I believe he's a free agent this year, and could definitely add some punch to their offense. He's a hard worker and crashes the net, something the Rangers sorely lack on all 4 lines. The only players that go to the net consistently are Sean Avery and...well...he's the only one that can be pointed out every night going to the net. He can't do the job by himself, and Cole is the type of player that isn't afraid to go to the net. He drives hard and has the finishing ability that the team needs desperately.

I would try very hard to stay away from any big names like Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, or Jay Bouwmeester this summer. Hossa and Gaborik are far too expensive and not right for John Tortorella's system. Hossa puts up decent numbers, but needs to be surrounded by good players that the Rangers DON'T have. As for Gaborik, everyone knows his injury problems. I would leave him alone this summer.

I like the Rangers' blue line the way it's shaping up. Wade Redden is going to be a mainstay. Under Tortorella, he will improve. He's much better than the player we saw last year, and I refuse to accept his performance and give up on him. He WILL improve. Michal Rozsival will either be traded or kept on the team until his contract expires. I see no future for him on this team. If the right offer comes from a team like Dallas, who desperately needs defensive help, then I would part ways with him. If he stays around, you have Redden, Rozsival, Girardi, and Staal on the blue line next year. That leaves 2 spots to be filled.

YOUNG BLOOD

I have no problem letting young hopefuls like Matt Gilroy, Corey Potter, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Michael Del Zotto competing for those spots. They all have good promise, and getting them into the NHL would be a great way to help them mature.

Along with those young defensemen fighting for spots, I expect to see Artem Anisimov and Evgeny Grachev on the roster next year. They both have talent, and Anisimov was solid in the few games he played for the Rangers this season and in the playoffs. Anisimov was a point-a-game player for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL, and could easily put up very similar numbers if given the opportunity in the NHL. Grachev is a highly touted forward who is considered to be the Rangers' top prospect. John Tortorella likes a "run and gun" style, and younger players like Anisimov and Grachev would fit perfectly with that style. I expect to see one, if not both of them, on the roster in October.

July is still pretty far away, but it never hurts to think about what can be done to improve this team. It's very clear that they're right on the edge of being a cup contender. Adding a few of the above mentioned pieces, making some small adjustments, and getting a full year under John Tortorella could all lead to a playoff berth and a deep playoff run. Feel free to comment on these thoughts, as well as share your own for the Rangers or your team of preference

Posted on: May 10, 2009 11:46 am
 

Pink Lumber: An MLB Mother's Day Tradition

Today is Mother's Day. Many of you already know about Major League Baseball's tradition of donning the pink on this day. For those who don't know the story, this shold enlighten you a little bit

There's no denying that the game of baseball is amazing and fun to watch. On this day, however, the players have something on their minds other than baseball. Their mothers, and victims of breast cancer. Major League Baseball began a campaign three years ago in 2006. Every year on Mother's Day, the players pull out their pink bats, put on pink sweat bands, and shine the spotlight on breast cancer. Players don't have much to excite them early in the season, but this event is something that they all look forward to.

Every player dons the pink, whether it's the bat they swing, a sweat band on their wrist, or even just a small sign of pink on their spikes. No matter how small, the message is clear: Mom, we love you, and today is YOUR day.

In 2008, San Francisco Giants catcher Bengie Molina said it best:
"It's about Mom and it's about breast cancer. It's everything together. We're playing a game while people are dying and getting sick with cancer. Using the bat is a nice way for us to show our respect and support... I wasn't going to use it at all (referring to the pink bat), or maybe one at-bat. It all depended." Molina had intended to use the bat only once, and then send it off for the MLB auction. He decided that his first at-bat, which resulted in a single, was a sign of things to come, and kept the bat. His next time up, he drove a double off the center field wall. Just one more moment to talk about on this wonderful day in Major League Baseball.

Of course, you can't talk about this event without mentioning those responsible. Who would make the pink bats these players swing for one day? Hillerich & Bradsby made the custom pink bats, offering their support for the event. It wasn't hard to convince the players to swing pink lumber once they told them what it was for. Charitable faces quickly grabbed their pink bats and swung away for breast cancer awareness. MLB charities also donated over $50,000 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, going through the Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer program.

Anybody asking "Why just one day? Why not do more for breast cancer?" The league is one step ahead of you. The auction on game used "Pink" gear goes through the following week, and will continue on MLB.com through auctions for several weeks.

"Major League Baseball is committed to giving back to our communities in meaningful ways and we are proud to again partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to help raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer." Breast cancer affects countless women and their families each year and we at Baseball feel fortunate to be able to use our game as a platform to help raise awareness in the ongoing fight to eradicate this disease." - Commissioner Bud Selig
"At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we collaborate with a variety of organizations to provide creative ways for people to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. Partnering with Major League Baseball increases breast cancer awareness and allows fans nationwide to make a valuable contribution to breast cancer research and community outreach programs." - Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The pink bats provide the worldwide symbol for their message of breast cancer awareness. "Get out and help." That's what Major League Baseball wants the fans to take away from this day.

Prior to a Tampa Bay Rays home game against the Angels, breast cancer survivor Peggy Cisilski threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Rays won, 8-5, and superstar rookie Evan Longoria swung his first pink bat and drove in the Rays' second run. Teammate Carl Crawford drove out a 3-run homer with his pink bat. As you can probably imagine, those bats went sky high in the bidding race, all for a good cause.

Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers has become one of the so-called "pink All-Stars", having solid games on Mother's Day, using the pink bat. In 2007 against the Oakland Athletics, Kinsler went 3-5 with 1 rbi and 2 runs scored. The Rangers lost the game 12-6, but it was a memorable game for Ian Kinsler. He followed that up in 2008 with a home run using the pink bat. Kinsler said exactly what the message should be to all Major League Baseball players, and all people around the world:

"It doesn't really matter what color the bat is, but it's nice to show appreciation for all the moms out there. It's Mother's Day and it's a big deal for a lot of people." We can all look at the "Pink Movement" by Major League Baseball and smile. This is completely unnecessary, but Bud Selig hit gold with the idea. It's not often that a sport can give back to the community on a large scale like this, and they take full advantage of the opportunity every single year. Here's to supporting Breast Cancer awareness. Keep up the tradition MLB. You're REAL heroes for a day
Posted on: May 9, 2009 1:50 am
Edited on: May 9, 2009 1:56 am
 

The Sean Averys of the World

I was watching the Lakers-Rockets playoff game tonight, and seeing Ron Artest brought back some fond memories of a game that I'm sure you all remember. Does a certain incident with the fans ring any bells? I'll stop there, assuming you know what I'm referring to. This got me thinking about his overall demeanor and attitude, which, of course, reminded me so much of beloved (or despised) Ranger Sean Avery. That, in turn, made me ask the question: How many Sean Avery's are there in sports? I decided to write this up to humor myself and gauge the reaction/opinion you all have of the Sean Averys of the world. Enjoy and be nice when posting about those you hate (ideally Sean?haha)

SEAN AVERY
Who better to start with than Mr. Sloppy Seconds himself? He is arguably the most hated person in the NHL. At the very same time, he is one of the most beloved Rangers. How is this even possible? The antics that drive most people crazy just happen to please his supporters at Madison Square Garden. Sean Avery is a simple player with simple needs. A quick hit here, a hidden verbal jab there. What more could you want from someone who interned at Vogue during the 2008 offseason? He's the NHL's poster bad boy, and does a good job of keeping up appearances. His most recent string of incidents started in the playoffs in the 2007-2008 season. Everyone who pays the slightest attention to hockey knows what went on between Sean and hated New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur ("Fatso" for you Rangers fans who forgot who he is). His actions are now legendary. The play continued on the ice, while Sean went about his business, facing Brodeur with the play going on behind him (in front of Brodeur). Avery waved his arms frantically, likely in an effort to get Brodeur off his game. Did it work? Avery scored a goal later on that shift. You tell me. In the aftermath, the NHL immortalized Avery for his efforts, creating the "Avery Rule". This was, of course, unnecessary. Did they bother to read the rule book? What he did was already illegal. Oh, what's that? Right, I forgot. Thank you for reminding me. Gary Bettman needs to take advantage ofevery opportunity to make it look like he actually knows how to run the NHL. Moving on...

Everyone knows about Sean Avery's antics, and they certainly know that he slips in cheap shots when he can. He knocked Marty Brodeur to the ice in a game against the Rangers, an image now legend, sitting with the likes of Broadway Joe's finger held high and Mark Messier's bold "We will win" statement in the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up. Avery at his finest (or not-so-finest if you're one of the countless haters). Avery departed from the Rangers after the 2007-2008 season, but returned later on in the 2008-2009 season, after the now infamous "Sloppy Seconds" scandal. His return was welcomed with open arms by Rangers fans. He came back "changed". That being said, Avery put it best, said, of course, with a grin spread wide across his face:
"Even a milder version of Sean Avery is still...not that mild This was clearly Avery's way of telling people to relax. His old antics would show up soon enough. Low and behold, they did. In a game against the Boston Bruins, with play halted, Avery skated towards his bench, and in the process, "accidentally" clipped Boston goaltender Tim Thomas in the back of the head with his stick. Naturally, Thomas was incensed by this and chased after Avery like a crazed beast (yes I know that clearly isn't what it looked like...dramatic purposes). Avery took a few shots, and Fredrik Sjostrom took a waffle board to the face, courtesy of Thomas. After the game, it was clear that Avery knew exactly what he was doing. Looking at the tape, you could see how he subtly looked around to make sure he wasn't being watched. Sean, you forgot one thing. Cameras see everything. Thus, you see one more page of the Sean Avery Book of Antics . The final straw, however, led to his benching, courtesy of new head coach John Tortorella. In the playoffs against the Washington Capitals, Avery took a slew of penalties in the 3rd period of game 4. Tortorella was very upset with the performance, and benched Avery for game 5. The irony of such acts reared it's ugly head as Tortorella was suspended for game 6 because of "Bottle Gate". Oh the irony...

Despite all of his antics, Sean Avery has become a beloved Ranger, and arguably the most popular member of the team. Fans would crown him captain for a day if they had such power, and it may be deserved. Hard working Sean does great things for the Rangers on the ice, and if he can control his off-ice antics, he should be a Ranger for a long time.

Naturally, Sean Avery can be found in nearly every single sport. It's not hard to find athletes that get bogged down in "extracurricular activities" that have no relation or place in the games they play. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees comes to mind. Who can forget his exploits with Madonna, or "A-Fraud". Better yet, let's bring up "A-Roid". You can't miss. Rodriguez gets his beatings off the field as much as he does on it, and can definitely be labeled a "Sean Avery", not necessarily for being a "goon", but certainly for getting caught up in tabloid nonsense. Then there's Terrell Owens . Need I remind you of his tears of sadness.
"That's my quarterback." Oh the drama builds with him every day. Luckily for the Cowboys, TO is nowhere to be found this year, leaving for Buffalo. Don't forget about his escapades with Paris Hilton. Who could ever imagine that you would feel bad for Paris Hilton? I never thought I would see the day, but I'll be damned, TO gave us that gift. In the NBA, of course, you could obviously say that the Avery lies within Ron Artest . His "fan interaction" is legendary. I just happened to stumble upon that game on television just as the incident unfolded, and witnessed a meltdown of epic proportions. Fan interaction with athletes is always a good thing, but I think Artest misunderstood the meaning of "interaction" when he decided to get up close and personal with a few that were getting on his nerves

Clearly, you can find any number of athletes that could be labeled a "Sean Avery". This is a small sample size, and mostly just an ode to the most beloved Ranger

Our hero. Our warrior.

Sean Avery

If you have any "Averys" you would like to salute, by all means, please go ahead. I would love to hear your thoughts on the malcontents and players that just seem to have bad luck follow them around, wherever they go. Here's to the athletes that give us something to talk about when the season gets long, and the games get tiresome.

Here's to the Averys of the world
Posted on: May 8, 2009 12:21 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2009 12:23 pm
 

Leadership: Who Needs It?

A note from the New York Rangers fans to the team:

Dear Rangers,

This past season was filled with turmoil. The ups and downs, highs and lows, all of it, provided by you, the players. We fans support you completely, as frustrating as it may be to watch you sometimes.

The one complaint for us is this: Where's the leadership? Where's the accountability? Who stepped up? Those letters ("C", "A", "A") mean something, and no, it's not "Complete waste", "Awful performer", and "Absolutely useless". Those letters are given to the players on a team who have been through it all and have the wisdom to share with teammates in times of trouble. Games 5, 6, and 7 were your moment to shine. If this were a test of your ability to get your team up for a game, you all failed.

As captains of a New York sports team, you have to carry the name with pride and pour your heart into your game. Perhaps it's time to take a look at your fellow New York captain, Derek Jeter. He pours his heart into every single play, and HATES to lose. Am I implying that you all love losing, or that you accept it?No, but your performance indicates otherwise. You each had your moment to shine, and all failed miserably. In the end, young players Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and "superpest" Sean Avery had a greater impact on the series than you did.

Chris Drury , you are our leader. You were given the "C" because you earned it. The Rangers moved on from your crushing last minute goal that led to their demise in the series. New York welcomed you with open arms, and has embraced you as their captain. Where was your leadership? You broke your hand? Okay, not all leadership comes from your performance on the ice. What did you say to the team off the ice, behind closed doors? Apparently, not enough. The time for you to step up came and went, and you didn't get the job done. Time for you to reflect and learn from your mistakes. Next year, you'll lead the team further if you use that voice God gave you.

Scott Gomez , where do we start? Your game 1 performance was brilliant. 1 goal, 2 assists, as your team went on to shock everyone and win 4-3. The momentum built was supposed to help your team, especially after taking game 2 in a similar fashion, tight and close the entire way. Your experiences with the Devils should have prepared you for the tough challenge to come, in what was eventually a 7 game series. Did you step up? Did you share your knowledge and experience with the team? I would have to lean towards "No" on that one. Becoming invisible after game 1 and posting an overall -4 in the series is not what a leader does. You didn't step up, so now you can take a seat next to Chris in the corner

And Markus Naslund , our former player. Former "A" holder, now sitting at home, looking back on your career. A word of advice: SKIP YOUR YEAR WITH THE RANGERS. For a player who had a history of scoring goals with his brilliant wrist shot, you sure did disappear in the playoffs when your team needed you most. 2 goals, while being tops on the team, is NOT good enough. Your experience is supposed to make you better in those key situations. You're supposed to stand out and shine, not drift into the back with the other "stars of the past". While the fans are disappointed in your performance, we can do nothing but thank you for giving us one season of your best (if you call it that) effort. Good luck in retirement, and do yourself a favor. Stay away from New York if you pull a "Favre". We don't like you THAT much

To summarize our grief and anger over your performance, I'll share 6 words with you for next year, if you make the playoffs. This pertains to the first round, and ideally the second round as well. WIN OR GET OUT OF TOWN . The fans do NOT need more failure in the playoffs. We want the CUP, not an early exit for the THIRD year in a row. Leadership...Who needs it? I think you know the answer. We do! Get yourselves into shape, wake up, and get back at it next year. We'll be behind you, but if you pull a "2008-2009", we'll have our booing ready in our back pockets. Don't let us down boys. We're counting on you. Earn your paycheck. Go Rangers!

Signed,

Fans of the New York Rangers

Posted on: May 7, 2009 6:14 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2009 7:30 pm
 

The Phoenix Coyotes: Woe Is Me

With the NHL playoffs in full swing, there's a lot of great news to talk about. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby battling it out, and even putting up hat-tricks in the same game, great goaltending, amazing plays, and all the highlights a hockey fan could ever want. Amidst all those exciting playoff stories, the league has a "playoff" of it's own to deal with. Enter the Phoenix Coyotes

The current economic state in the United States and around the world is having a heavy impact on everything, including the NHL. Among the turmoil, the 'Yotes seem to have found themselves on the verge of collapse. No, not losing a playoff series. A literal collapse. Rumors began building a while ago about their current situation in Phoenix. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said repeatedly that the Coyotes are NOT leaving Phoenix. You would have to believe the commissioner knows what he's talking about. Or do you? It seems that Gary Bettman has somewhat lost his power in this situation.

Phoenix has finally overstayed it's welcome in Arizona, and has begun it's search for a new home. Take three steps back. Gary Bettman has repeatedly assured the fans and public that the Coyotes are going to stay in Phoenix. Perhaps it's time for Bettman to read the headline in the sports section.

The Coyotes declared bankruptcy on Tuesday, May 7. Shortly after that, Jim Balsillie made an offer to buy the team and move it to Ontario.(Balsillie has made previous offers to buy other teams; the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators. He was turned down both times, perhaps a sign of the way he runs things) Gary Bettman's worst nightmare was beginning to unfold and his grip on Phoenix is starting to slip. The Toronto Maple Leafs, however, are opposed to the move. Balsillie wants to move the team to "Southern Ontario", which, conveniently enough, is close enough to Toronto where you could say it's Toronto, but Balsillie is sticking with Southern Ontario for now

The Maple Leafs aren't the only ones irked by the proposed move. Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes entered negotiations with Balsillie to sell the team on Tuesday and the fire storm has only gotten bigger since then. Gary Bettman is pulling out all the stops to kill this story before it becomes fact over rumor. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy on Tuesday, Moyes was stripped of the authority to run the team. Bettman made his first move, and a bold statement.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said:
"We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the club. The league will appear and proceed before the bankruptcy court in the best interests of all of the club's constituencies, including its fans in Arizona and the league's 29 other member clubs. Despite Balsillie's attempts to move the team, the city of Phoenix seems optimistic after the league took over control of the franchise.
"The City appreciates the decision by the NHL to assume control of the Coyotes and we are confident that every effort will be made to honor all contractual commitments. It is our hope that the NHL action will provide immediate stability to the franchise and allow the Coyotes to remain an important part of the Arizona community." - Statement From the City of Glendale, Arizona This story is still developing, but it's become very clear that the Coyotes are very likely to be moving out of Phoenix. Gary Bettman has tried his best to keep the situation within reason, and time will tell how this dramatic story unfolds.
"Our goal is to bring in new capital and make this franchise solvent. That's our direction, and at this point moving the franchise elsewhere is not on the table." - Commissioner Gary Bettma The only thing that is certain is Bettman's stance on the team's proposed move. He may have to change his tune in time, because all signs point to the Coyotes leaving Arizona for good.

Posted on: May 5, 2009 8:44 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2009 11:58 am
 

More Thoughts On The 2009 Offseason

I have a few thoughts that I've been tossing around the old noggin, so I thought I would share

Stephen Valiquette isn't re-signed for next season, and I would personally keep it that way . They have Matt Zaba and Miika Wiikman in the minors, who are both solid. I would bring one of them up for backing up Henrik Lundqvist. They could clearly learn from him, and goalie coach Benoit Allaire is arguably the best in the business. He turned Lundqvist into the goalie he is right now, and working with Valiquette during the lockout, got him back into the NHL. Bringing up a young gun wouldn't hurt. Lundqvist doesn't like to sit too often, and Valiquette deserves to be a starter somewhere else. He could be a number one goalie somewhere, so I would let him go. As good as he's been for them, I would rather go the cheaper route and use a young guy like Zaba or Wiikman there

Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan MUST be re-signed immediately .They're probably going to wait because Glenn Sather will want to test the free agent market first and see who's interested in the Rangers. If he can't afford a free agent AND re-signing everyone they want, it might come down to choosing between Dubinsky and Callahan, in which case I will be very disappointed. They should re-sign both of them right now. They showed the most heart on the team all year, and arguably were their best in the playoffs outside of Lundqvist. Keep the young guys on this team around. They'll get even better next season. That includes Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.

I also would just like to point out something that was very interesting. During the struggles this season, you could usually point out one line in a game or one player that was standing out and giving effort constantly, and the same went for the playoffs. I found, more often than not, the best line usually had Dubinsky somewhere on it, and most nights, even without scoring goals, hey was their best player (aside from Lundqvist). I think that's enough to re-sign him. I can never say enough about Brandon Dubinsky. His experience in his rookie season with Jaromir Jagr clearly had a positive impact on him. You can see that he somewhat emulates Jagr when he skates with the puck. I expect a breakout year from Dubinsky next year, and it would pain me to see him have it with anyone but the Rangers

I've discussed this with a few people, and it might seem like a horrible idea and out of left field, but hear me out. Trade Scott Gomez . Yes, you can argue that getting a goal scorer will, in turn, improve Gomez's game and pay enormous dividends. I understand that, and I agree with it entirely. I just think that trading him would pay off in the future. You free up $7 million for next year if you trade him and get either draft picks or a couple of cheaper forwards. I know everyone will chew my ear off for this one, but I still think it shouldn't be left off the table completely. People have started to wonder if he likes it in New York at all. When he was with the Devils, he was surrounded by great finishers, something the Rangers clearly lack. I just don't think Gomez will ever be the player that the fans and organization think they got, and if a trade opportunity presents itself, I say take it

Keep Blair Betts and Fredrik Sjostrom together no matter what. They were part of the best penalty killing team in the NHL, and were arguably the best pair of forwards on the PK in the entire league. Sure they provide very little outside of that, but if you push Sjostrom up to the 3rd line, or even the 2nd line, he could score 10-15 goals. He's being held back on the 4th line. I love Colton Orr, but he's not the best guy to have on a line if you want to score. I would only keep Colton Orr if they find it absolutely necessary to have an enforcer like him on the team. I feel like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are tough guys and can stand up to anyone. If they keep Orr, I won't object, but I still find it hard to believe that he has a spot on the team while Patrick Rissmiller was sent down to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack

Nikolai Zherdev ... Where to start with him? I really fell in love with his game, as most fans did early in the year. He was fantastic. He is, without question, the most talented player on the Rangers. He can be great if he's focused and putting pucks in the net. The only problem, which came up in Columbus, is discipline. You could see he lost his confidence completely at the end of the season, and being benched (several times) had no impact at all, and you could even argue it hurt his game even more. I would have said re-sign him immediately early in the year, but now I see his game and I doubt he will ever give the Rangers the offense he was capable of early in the year. John Tortorella is a very discipline-oriented coach. If Zherdev doesn't respond well to that, you could see a wasted contract on the Rangers (again), and more cap space being wasted. I say don't re-sign him. He's lost that magic touch he had early in the year, while on the 3rd line (best line for the Rangers at the time), with Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros

The vacant "A" , as insiginificant as it may seem, should be given to someone who will speak up in the dressing room and stand out on the ice. They need one of the captains to be that guy who gives the big quote at the end of the game, and better yet, lets his game speak for him from time to time. I have no problem with Chris Drury as captain. He was the best choice. Gomez certainly deserves the first "A". I just think it's time to pass the torch to a younger guy who will hold himself accountable and step up when the team needs him to. Ryan Callahan is the obvious choice, based on his relentless play. I would also say that Blair Betts is a decent choice. He deserves accolades for his performance on the PK. He leads the dregs on the 4th line, but is clearly a big part of the heart and soul of this team.

One final possibility (somewhat biased because he's my favorite Ranger) is Brandon Dubinsky. He probably won't get it, but I would be in dismay if I didn't throw his name out there for this. He has grit and determination, something the captains lacked frequently this season. He always knows what to say. He calls himself out frequently when he plays bad, and isn't afraid to call teammates out, even the captains, if they're not pulling their weight, and best of all, he stands up for his teammates no matter what. He would tackle Donald Brashear if he could get to him right now, to avenge the hit on Blair Betts.

All of that being said, it really doesn't matter who gets the "A", because it comes down to who steps up on the ice, and putting the "A" on your sweater won't give you the goals. You still have to work for it, so I won't be upset about one guy getting it over another. Just keep it away from Wade Redden and I'll be satisfied. He isn't horrendous, but I don't like giving letters to players who just joined the team recently. I objected to Markus Naslund getting the 2nd "A", and I would object if Redden got it. Give it to someone from inside the organization. Giving it to a younger player would show the emphasis they have on young talent. They're moving in the right direction with the young players, and recognizing one of them with the "A" would be a fitting reward
Overall, I hope for a strong offseason from the Rangers. Their issues and flaws are clearly defined. They know what needs to be done, and how much money they have to work with. Hopefully they won't let their fans down this year. Bring on the 2009-2010 season

Posted on: May 4, 2009 8:30 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2009 11:52 am
 

Markus Naslund

It was officially announced today that Markus Naslund (35) will be retiring from the NHL. Naslund spent 15 years in the NHL, starting his career in Pittsburgh, and then moving on to the Vancouver Canucks, where he spent the bulk of his career (11 seasons). Naslund released a statement today about his retirement
"I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York," Naslund said. "I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career."
Although he never won a cup, he did have quite a few minor accomplishments that I feel are worth mentioning...

  • Canucks Franchise Goals Leader: 346
  • Canucks Franchise Points Leader: 756
  • Canucks Franchise Hat-tricks Leader (tied with Tony Tanti): 10
  • Canucks Franchise Record For Single-Season Points By A Left Wing: 104 (2002-2003)
  • Canucks Team Awards: Cyclone Taylor Award (5), Cyrus H. McLean Trophy (7), Most Exciting Player Award (2), Molson Cup (3)
  • 5 Time All-Star (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) registering 3 goals, 6 assists (9 points)
  • Nominated For Hart Memorial Trophy (2003)
  • Won Lester B. Pearson Award (2003)

Then there were his Junior accomplishments
  • World Juniors All-Star Team (1993)
  • Silver Medalist in 1992 (Germany) and 1993 (Sweden)
  • In 14 games overall, he registered 21 goals, 13 assists (34 points)
World Championships
  • Silver Medalist in 1993 (Germany)
  • Bronze Medalist in 1999 (Norway) and 2002 (Sweden)
  • In 31 games overall, he registered 10 goals, 11 assists (21 points)
Not exactly a career of HUGE accomplishments, but I collected the moments worth mentioning. He went out and did his job as best as he could. He had a solid career, and I'm sure Canucks fans will agree that he's a very classy guy and deserves a standing ovation for his effort

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