Yet ANOTHER Brad Richards Post (It’s a Little Different)

The ( ) are merely to explain the line.

Compliments to Mike Henn for challenging me  do this; even though it’s not perfect, I like it.

Now this is a story about how

My life got flipped, turned upside down (hip check)

And I’d like to take a minute just sit right here

I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called New York (Too bad ‘Melo beat me here)


In Prince Edward Island born and raised

On the pond is where I spent most of my days

Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool

And all shooting some rubber outside of school

When a couple of guys, they were up to no good

Started pounding faces in my neighborhood (It was actually one John Scott)

I got in one little fight and my mom got scared (Because John Scott murdered me)

And said “You’re moving with ya auntie and uncle in New York”


I begged and pleaded with her day after day

But she packed my equipment bag and sent me on my way

She gave me a $58.5 million and then she gave me my ticket

I put my skates on and said I might as well bank it


First game yo this is bad (Gabby is hurt again)

Drinking beer out of Stanley’s cups

Is this what the people of New York livin’ like?

Hhhmmm this might be alright


I whistled for a cab and when it came near the

License plate said “UH-BOOT” and had waffless in the mirror

If anything I could say that this cab was rare

But I thought nah, forget it, yo homes to New York!


I. Pulled. Up to MSG

And I yelled to the cabby “Yo, homes now the Stars suck!”

Looked at my kingdom I was finally here

To sit on my throne as the prince of New York


The snowball of failure continues to grow in Denver

I’m about to do something very unprofessional, so bear with me for a second.  *ahem*  WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, COLORADO?  ARE YOU OFF YOUR COLLECTIVE ROCKERS?  JEEZUM CROCKETT, Y’ALL’RE GONNA END UP IN A TITAN SIZED TOILET.

*breathes heavily*

I think I’m better now.  Seriously though, the Colorado Avalanche are now shining examples of what it means to be short sighted and oblivious of the league around them.  In my article about the losers in the West in regards to free agency, I thought the Avs addressed a goaltending problem (not very well, but still) and didn’t do anything else worthwhile.  I think they’re young and Paul Stastny is impressive and Matt Duchene will be a great player someday, but besides those two young stars, there isn’t a whole lot the team has to be proud of.  I figured “Hey, they didn’t really screw themselves all that badly, they got some new goalies but they needed that, the kids will mature into leaders like Peter Forsberg was and Milan Hejduk is to an extent nowadays after a season or two, this won’t kill them”.  In my fact checking process, I (in another glorious lack of professionalism) managed to overlook exactly what they traded to the Washington Capitals in return for netminder Semyon Varlamov.  What Colorado bartered wasn’t something reasonable like a young prospect and a mid-round pick or something comparable to what the rest of the league does when trading for a player of Varly’s caliber.  Nay, they gave Washington, arguably the most dangerous team in the league since their acquisition of one of the most talented goaltenders around, Tomas Vokoun, a first round draft pick for next year’s draft, and a second round for either the same year or the following.

Varlamov is a pretty good goalie, there’s no doubt about that, but can he really handle the workload of a number one starter?  The Caps tried that with him and he’s proven himself to be injury prone, which is the absolute last thing the Avs need.  They’ve gone and traded away talented young ones like Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis prior to the deadline last year, and the player they got in return (Erik Johnson) has been all but invisible since becoming an Av.  The legendary Forsberg even attempted a return last year, only to break himself in half and retire again after two games, registering an impressive zero points.  So ever since their surprise playoff run and subsequent first round exit two years ago, the team has hit a spate of bad luck, and clearly they’re hoping the 23-year-old Russian will help break the curse.

The problem is that they’ve invested far too much in him.  Yes, this is a young team with a good chunk of potential, but they won’t reach it this year, not with the mediocre team around the young players.  If their hilariously tragic second-half skid last year was any indication, it’s gonna be a good while before this team figures out how to play together and produce consistent threats in either end of the zone, and until that time they’re going to be the whipping boys of the Northwestern division.

As mentioned before, Varlamov is injury prone.  And in addition to that, his stats were merely okay when he had one of the best teams in front of him.  Sure they weren’t all that defensively minded but he still couldn’t step up like, say Jonas Hiller.  Hiller faces roughly ten quadrillion shots per night and keeps Anaheim in the game when they’re having a slow offensive night, Varly simply isn’t up to that.  Not to mention that Washington always had a solid tandem in net, if Varlamov was faltering, they could swap him out for Neuvirth or Holtby, and now that that safety net is gone, there’s just that much more pressure on him.

But as I’m sure most of you have just wondered “How could he be missing a safety net when he has Jean-Sebastian Giguere behind him?”, and that’s a valid query.  Giggy is a both a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe winner (one of only five to ever do so on the losing side), and at 34, he’s certainly aging and past his prime but is still able to play at an adequate level.  The problem is that he doesn’t want to play backup, and never has.  He caused a stir in Anaheim back when he was quoted as saying he’d “rather retire than play backup”, and was shortly shipped off to Toronto, where in a shocking twist of fate, he ended up playing backup for the young James Reimer.  Now he’s being brought into a struggling team who is sure to play poorly against the tough Western Conference for the sole purpose of being a backup.  He’s gonna have something to prove, and will play his heart out and surely get extra time when Varly ends up injured like we all know he will.  With that said, Giggy himself has been prone to groin injuries over the last few years.  Colorado has put all of their eggs into broken breadbaskets, and it’s sure to backfire on them.

I’m being cruel, because I will admit that both Varlamov and Giguere are solid goalies currently, and the former will probably improve before his time in the NHL is up, but they don’t have a good team in front of them.  Not only that, but Washington was given a potential lottery pick in return for Varlamov, so Colorado has given themselves a new, shaky foundation while simultaneously making the best team better.  It’s gonna be a brutal slide for the Avs, and I’ll be at the top of their mountain screaming “I told ya so!”.  They’re a struggling team who gave up too much for a vague hope and a prayer, while not bolstering the rest of their roster in ways they so desperately needed, like defensive capability, scoring touch, skating skill, toughness, and basically every aspect necessary to play hockey.  To close, I’ll just make the bad pun I’ve been debating making throughout the entire time I’ve been writing this… the folks making the decisions in Denver have got to be Rocky Mountain High.

I am profoundly sorry.

Tearful Reunions and the Quest to Fill Brad’s Hole

The biggest prize in the free agency pool this year was a double whammy of both top center Brad Richards, and his teeth.  No doubt, the man is a top line centerman who can win faceoffs and play extremely well with a man up.  He has had some pretty abysmal +/- numbers lately, but that isn’t necessarily his fault.  People have yapped for hours upon hours about the Richards deal, so I’ll spare you all from my gum flapping and will instead focus on the Mr. Ed shaped hole now residing in Dallas, and what the organization has done to fill it.  And surprisingly enough, they’ve done a spectacularly solid job of mending the exit wound.  The Dallas Stars have so far signed six free agents to accompany their draft picks this year, and they’ve continually made the right moves all offseason.

Draft wise, apart from Jamieson Oleksiak (their 1st round pick and 14th overall), nobody really stands out as being all that spectacular or promising.  And honestly, the main reason Oleksiak stands out at all is because you could spot him in a crowded room from half a mile away.  That’s right, the 18 year old defender stands at a whopping 6’7” and 244lbs.  He allegedly has great puck moving abilities and remarkably impressive stick handling not only for a young defender, but also one who’s certifiably gigantic.  As suspected, he’s already drawing comparisons to Zdeno Chara and Tyler Myers, but I’m not so quick to put him in such lofty company so soon, the kid still has a lot to prove.  He’ll grow into a good defender, no doubt, just not this year or the next.  He just barely learned how to drive a car, let’s not go Japanese over him quite so quickly.

Despite my skepticism on the potential of their prominent draft pick, I think that Dallas most definitely scored on their free agency activity.  Richards is irreplaceable at the moment, there is nobody in the organization nor available on the market with the skillset he currently has, but the team doesn’t need another Richards.  He was great, but he wasn’t the lynchpin in their success over the last several years.  People like Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, Stephane Robidas, and until last year, Mike Modano, have been the true heart and soul of the team if you ask me.  Richards didn’t get along with the owners in Dallas and seemed pretty set on jumping ship once his contract was up.  He wanted to win, first and foremost, and the poor financial handlings of the team made it clear to him that he wouldn’t win the Cup in Texas.  He may have been the point leader the last two years, but when I think of the leaders on the team, I think of Morrow’s steely determination or Ribeiro’s strange fish eyes.  So with his departure, the team didn’t lose a leader as much as it lost a huge scorer, and with this in mind it’s actually a lot easier to fill the void he left in his wake.

To demonstrate, Dallas signed four forwards during the first days of free agency.  The first I’ll discuss is right winger Radek Dvorak.  Dvorak was a 65+ point player one season out of the last 16, and it was ten years ago.  Since then he’s reached the 50 point mark only once and struggled to get past 35 for most of the rest, hopping between Edmonton, St. Louis, and Florida before being traded to Atlanta and tallying a grand total of one assist in 13 games.  So he’s old and declining, not quite the best addition to a team full of solid, consistent point getting veterans.  Not the best signing but he’s a good depth player and he certainly can’t hurt to have around.

Next up are a pair of centers, the former Blackhawk, Jake Dowell, and the former Coyote, Vernon Fiddler.  Fiddler scores even less than Dvorak, but I’d rather have him on my team.  Why?  The man is a solid and underrated defensive forward, capable of winning faceoffs and killing penalties on par with any Selke finalist.  He may lack a scoring touch, and with Richards gone they definitely need one, but he generally stays out of the box and is a great shutdown center that will fit well with Dallas’s style.  Dowell is another acquisition that fans should be in favor of.  Dowell played decently well in Chicago, he was never a standout player on a team full of superstars, but he played his role well enough and was rarely a negative force on the ice.  In Dallas, his style of play translates better with what the team as a whole tries to do.  There was very little toughness in Chicago, while in Dallas it’s the opposite.  Brendan Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson, and youngster Jamie Benn handle almost all of the offense nowadays, while the rest of the team focuses on playing a tough, physical, gritty hockey, just the way Dowell can play when he needs to.  I personally think that Chicago focused too much on finesse last season, and while people who can be bruisers certainly can adapt to skate better and score more (Troy Brouwer and Bryan Bickell are prime examples), Dowell just isn’t one of those people, and he’ll play much better if he isn’t being pressured to be pretty.  Not to mention, he’ll probably end up on a line with another former Wisconsin Badger and perennial good luck charm, Adam Burish, which will certainly provide great chemistry and up each other’s games.

The final forward signing is one I really, really like.  In an effort to actually regain some of the lost scoring ability, Dallas signed Michael Ryder for two years (at 3.5 million a year).  Ryder’s last few seasons haven’t been as impressive as his first few in Montreal, but he’s a seasoned veteran who won the Cup last year, can still undoubtedly score, and has played in a defensive system similar to Dallas while he was in Boston.  I believe there is more room for him to play aggressive offense in Dallas than there was in Bean Town, which was an even more defensive system.  This is the perfect blend for him, it’s a defensive focus (which he’s used to now) with a high scorers that are able to put the puck in the net with the best of them.  Bonus factoid: Ryder was a linemate with Ribeiro back in Montreal several years ago, so perhaps the reuniting of old buddies will reignite the spark within the both of them to start putting up their old numbers.  I think this will play out nicely, and will definitely be anticipating the regular season.

Rounding out their signing blitz are two defensemen, Calgary’s Adam Pardy and Edmonton’s Sheldon Souray.  Pardy looked promising for the Flames, but had an injury shortened season last year and the full potential of his talent remains a mystery, and Dallas hopes he can realize it with them.  Dallas doesn’t have any huge name blueliner like Shea Weber or Niklas Lidstrom, so I suppose he could become a force down there, but don’t expect him to be a savior of any sort.  The one I’m really interested in, is the signing of 34-year-old Souray.  This man bleeds the essence of sheer determination, and is one monstrously scary presence on the ice.  Not only will he rough up any opponents who step out of line (making him one of several on the team willing) and hit like a Mack truck, but he can score.  The Dallas Stars franchise record for most goals by a defenseman is 19, Studly Wonderbomb has scored over 20 twice in the last four years, and the two in which he didn’t were because of a crippling hand injury after the first one and being banished to the AHL after the second.  That’s the other thing going for him, he’s a scrapper with a temper and a howitzer shot, and he has got to be extraordinarily furious with his treatment in Edmonton.  Public disputes with the ownership of the franchise and his request for a trade lead to his eventual exile into the minor leagues, despite being far and away the best defender the Oilers had on payroll.  He wants to play in the big leagues, he has the ability (he actually holds the unofficial record for hardest slap shot (106.6 mph)), he has the drive, the only question is whether or not his attitude will improve.  If Dallas falters, is he going to be a baby and refuse to give his all?  He only has a one-year contract, so we’ll see if he gives 110% throughout the year.  Personally, I believe he will.

Once the dust around Richards settles and people remember that he didn’t spawn out of the ooze, more casual fans will take a look at Dallas and see what they’ve done to fill his hole.  If the casual fan has half a brain, they’ll realize that while they didn’t sign any one individual player that will replace their top center, they’ve certainly built a very good team in his wake, and one that I believe will agitate their opponents both through physicality and the scoreboard.  I see a bright season on the horizon down south.

Free Agency in the East: Who Won So Far?

The 2011-12 NHL free agency period is only a few days old.  There was a bevy of moves made in a frantic first day.  I am going to focus on a five winners in the Eastern Conference so far.

Washington Capitals

The moves that the Caps made so far haven’t gotten a lot of publicity.  There was a draft day deal that traded their 2011 1st round pick (pick 26) for the Blackhawks winger Troy Brouwer.  As a Blackhawks fan, I think the Caps gave a lot for him, but Brouwer does the things that go unnoticed to the television viewers, he has the strength and will to win battles in the corners.  He may not live up to his offensive potential, but he’s a nice player.

The best trade the Caps made was the 1st round and 2nd round conditional pick for the 2012 draft in compensation for, eh, Semyon Varlamov?  Colorado is giving away assets in some stupid deals, this is worse than the Stewart/Shattenkirk deal last year.  I do like Varlamov, Neuvirth, and Holtby; so I believe Washington has some of the best young goalie talent in the league, but a deal like this you can’t pass up.  Because of this trade, Washington is probably going to have a top-5 pick in the draft next year.

And their best deal so far is the signing of Tomas Vokoun at a cap hit of $1.5 million, a steal if you ask me. You ask, “$1.5 million for one of the best goaltenders in the league?” Yes, it’s true.  Think about this as well, the Avalanche signed Varlamov for 2 years at $2.75 per year.  What?  Washington received a steal here, plain and simple and Vokoun will certainly be on all of my fantasy teams.

Other key players they’ve signed are 37-year-old puck-moving defenseman Roman “The Hammer” Hamrlik and two-way forward Joel Ward who gives them even better winger depth than they already had.

Boston Bruins

What have the Bruins done in free agency so far?  Nothing, and that’s exactly why they are winners.  Unlike the Blackhawks the season before, the help of a raised salary cap and the lack of expiring contracts, the Bruins are able to keep their core together.  They lost Michael Ryder who signed with Dallas.  In addition, they lost Tomas Kaberle, whose play in Boston surely means fans won’t miss him much

With Kaberle and Ryder coming off the books they have room to sign a couple more veteran players to take their place.  They could take a chance with a younger player like Zherdev, or an older winger like Samsonov.  With Savard hopefully coming back from multiple concussions, they have some of the best center depth in the league, along with Krejci and Bergeron.  I see no need to do this, but they could get a lot in a trade for any of the three.

The Bruins made a trade with Carolina, sending a 4th round pick and received defenseman Joe Corvo in return.  I think this is a  good trade for Boston and think that Corvo will pay big dividends this year.

Carolina Hurricanes

No big splashes here.  What is there to do in Raleigh, North Carolina?  I don’t have a clue….ok, I just looked up some things to do: apparently they have a lot of museums, there is an annual beer festival (I guess I could live in Raleigh), and many other things that every major city has like historic sites and shopping.  At least they get nice weather, sometimes, with hurricanes, hence the name.

So to the good, I got sidetracked.  The keys here are the re-signing of Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Chad LaRose.  Jokinen was re-signed at $3 million a year for three years, which is laughable, because Tomas Kopecky signed a four year deal in Florida for the same cap hit.  Jokinen contributes in both ends of the ice and is a 20-30 goal scorer with a healthy Eric Staal.  A couple free agent signings were two solid forwards who will give you between 15-20 goals, Alexei Ponikarovsky and the lesser of the Stewart brothers, Anthony Stewart.  Also Brian Boucher is a serviceable backup to Cam Ward who is still a top-10 goaltender in the league.


The Hurricanes also signed Tomas Kaberle to a 3 year $13.75 million deal.  The Hurricanes have better defensemen on their roster and a prospect would have been better playing this position instead of an overrated “puck moving” defenseman who refuses to shoot from the point.  I still count their free agency a win, but this is a stupid signing.

Philadelphia Flyers

Many would hardly consider Philly as winners this offseason.  When the first of two blockbusters was revealed, the one that sent Jeff Carter away, I was so confused.  I figured it must be so they can sign Ily Bryzgalov, who they traded for the negotiating rights of.  Well, I was right, but I didn’t think it would result in trading away Mike Richards too.

The deal for Carter netted them the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft (drafted C Sean Couturier), a 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft (drafted Nick Cousins), and Jakub Voracek.  The Richards deal gave them more in return; they received promising prospect center Brayden Schenn (drafted 5th in 2009 draft), Wayne Simmonds, and a 2nd round pick in 2012.  Yes, they gave up two experienced, talented, two way centers for a lot of prospects basically, but in the end this could still be a fair deal.  All three players received can contribute immediately.

Right winger Jaromír Jágr signed a $3.3 million deal and was poached away from the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Jaromír Jágr that tortured Philly for several years during the 1990’s is now wearing the Flyers sweater.  He’s been almost a point per game layer in his later years.  I see him having a decent season; something like Mark Recchi has had in Boston, but just a tad bit better.

The biggest signing was the 31-year-old goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year, $51 million deal.  Signed until he is 40, Bryzgalov is the goaltender that they needed the past few seasons.  Last year I said if Nabokov would have signed with the Flyers they would have won the Cup.  Well that’s not the case this time around with Carter and Richards gone.  This team will still make the playoffs and compete very well, but there will just be that lack of scoring.  Also with those two gone, Briere is very likely to play center, and it’s well known that his scoring decreases when he plays this position as opposed to wing.

Other moves the Flyers made were the signing of Maxime Talbot to a 5-year deal, he will fit nicely here.  Andreas Lilja will take care of the third pair on defense.  They’ve lost Darroll Powe, Ville Leino, and Daniel Carcillo.  They should be happy to “lose” Carcillo, although.  He was nothing but an idiot, he goes out and gets penalties on stupid plays, he has energy but is a worthless turd that was a Broad Street Idiot, not a bully.

Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff (not the Sabres)

Both players signed with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason.  There is a reason they are winners and not the team though, they were highly overpaid.  Leino inked a 6-year, $27 million deal.  Ehrhoff’s deal was longer, 10-year, $40 million deal.

Right now this hurts the Sabres because they have to shed some more salary (they are over the cap right now), which shouldn’t be too hard because they have some useful players and many teams are struggling to meet the salary floor.  They were reportedly going to be in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, and were going to meet with him and his agent.  But with the window closing for Leino to be available; so they chose him over trying to get Richards, who honestly probably wasn’t going to choose them anyways.

Leino is a winner in this whole thing because he is now making $6 mil-6 mil-4 mil-4 mil, 3.5 mil-3.5 mil (for each of the 6 years) and he gets to play his preferred position, center.  Leino was a centerman until he was 23 (now 27), then switched to wing.  Because he is now playing center, likely on Buffalo’s second line, he will be centering probably Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe; an uptick in points is possible.  He had a career year and a fantastic post season last year.  Really though, the main reason Leino is a winner is because he is not “worth” that much money.  He’s a decent penalty killer and camps in front of the net, but his defensive skills combined with his scoring ability do not warrant that much money.

Christian Ehrhoff’s bargaining rights were traded twice before he became an unrestricted free agent.  The first trade was the Islanders giving their 4th round pick in next years draft to the Canucks.  After talks with him and his agent, they realized they weren’t going to sign him, and traded his rights to the Sabres for their 4th round pick next season.  Now, Ehrhoff is a good offensive defenseman and is no slouch in the defensive end.  But his specialty is offense and the power play.  I have no doubt he’s still going to be very good and help this team win, but he was signed for 10 years; the deal will pay him $10 million in the first year, and $8 in the second.  This is more of a win for Ehrhoff because he gets most of his money in the first half of the contract and if he wants to he can retire, or be traded to a contender when he’s in his late 30’s.

The reason I picked the players as winners and not the Sabres is because this gives the team the inability to sign another free agent or two to give them a chance at a Cup run.  I do not see the Sabres as being cup contenders with this current roster, they will make the playoffs, but won’t make it to the finals.

Bettman’s Realignment Proposal: Less Chiropractor, More Sub Zero

A quick show of hands, who here loves Gary Bettman, and thinks he does a great job as commissioner of the NHL?


That’s what I thought.  I have yet to meet one hockey fan, either in person or over the Internet, who doesn’t think Bettman is a slimy, weaseling, unsifted sack of kitty litter.  After the winner of the Stanley Cup Finals is determined, this little suited troll comes out onto the ice to congratulate the winners and present the Conn Smythe MVP and Stanley Cup to the winners.  During this time, no matter where he is, regardless of whether the home team won or lost, the second his little midget self waddles onto the ice, the arena erupts in boos, jeers, and occasionally, hurls debris his way.  A few weeks ago, shortly after Boston earned their first Stanley Cup since 1972, goaltender Tim Thomas could barely hear him while being presented with the Smythe trophy.  As soon as Bettman awkwardly left center ice, the bitterly defeated Vancouver crowd began politely cheering for the victors (they booed again when Shawn Thornton held the Cup, but I’d do the same thing).

There are several reasons for the unrelenting hate of our commissioner, be it his clear favoritism of owners above players or fans, his boneheaded determination to make hockey an “American game” by doing his best to keep a financially troubled team in an uninterested market, his non action regarding Colin Campbell’s utterly confusing disciplinary judgments, or perhaps the fact that he always seems like he has some shady agenda that he plans on unleashing upon us unsuspecting mortals when we least expect it.  All of those are great reasons to believe a howler monkey with a poo-flinging fetish would be at least a slight improvement in the commissioner’s chair, but I’m here to talk about one thing of his in particular: his proposal on how to deal with Atlanta’s move to Winnipeg.

For those of you who aren’t nerds and/or don’t understand the title, I believe the NHL needs a slight realignment, it does not need its entire spine ripped out.  While everybody was distracted with the impending doom of the Phoenix Coyotes, some folks went out and bought the Atlanta Thrashers (another woebegone franchise) and moved them back to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The return of the Winnipeg Jets has been met with much fanfare, with the team selling 13,000 season tickets within a few hours.  While this has been a triumph overall, the move has left a hole in the Southeast Division and a discrepancy within the conferences.  Winnipeg resides north of Minnesota, clearly in the realm of the Western Conference.  This left Gary Bettman with some actual work on his desk, how would he compensate for the move?  The short term decision is to just play the team as if they’re still located in the Southeast for this upcoming season, and I can understand that since rearranging the entire schedule on such short notice is surely a daunting task.  This still begs the question, what to do next year?

Well The Penguin has hatched a scheme, and I hate it with the burning intensity of a million exploding suns.

Instead of a simple realignment (aka shuffling a few teams and swapping one over a conference), Gary Bettman has proposed an entire overhaul of the system.  As it currently stands, there are six divisions, three in each conference, five teams in each division.  One team plays their division opponents six times throughout the year, they play each team outside their division but in their conference four times, and each team outside their conference at least once, some twice, for a total of 82 games on the year.  Come playoff time, the leaders of each division get one of the top three seeds, and the remaining five for the conference are determined by points earned throughout the regular season.  It’s not perfect, but it’s simple and works.  For the 2012-2013 season, if the Commish has his way, the entire division system we currently have will be decimated and completely reworked from the ground up.

In his proposal, the current six divisions are scrapped entirely, being instead replaced with four, two for each conference.  Playoff seeds will then be decided by the top four teams in each division, first round would be divisional play and teams would be reseeded for the second round.  The final would still feature the West champion versus the East champion.   His plan also includes Columbus and/or Detroit migrating to the Eastern Conference.

Admittedly, this does seem a little simpler and will allow for more interconference matchups, but as it stands, those are the only two advantages to this proposed system.  Interconference play is exciting and adds more variety to the schedule, which is great for fans and players alike, and I’m 100% in favor of that, but it’s only one advantage that is outweighed by several negatives.

First off, deciding the playoffs by simply taking the top four teams in each division completely saps the excitement out of the last month or so of the season.  When it’s nearing season’s end and the last two or three playoff spots are up for grabs between five or six teams, every single game counts and everybody gives 110% on the ice.  Great moments happen, players reach potential they previously thought impossible, goaltenders transform into octopi and make saves that even Jesus would look at and go “Oh snap”.   Having a lead in points but several games in hand is nerve wracking and just plain exciting.  By making it purely divisional, you eliminate several teams from your specific race.  In the home stretch, players in Los Angeles have absolutely no reason to care about what happens in Chicago, they can focus all of their energy on one sole threat, which takes a lot of wind out of the sails of excitement.  Yes, that’s what it currently comes down to in the last week when there are only two more teams vying for contention, but now there is the potential for the race to be narrowed to two with a month left to play, and the entire playoffs being decided weeks before the season is over.  Where’s the fun in having the last half dozen games mean absolutely nothing?

In conjunction with that, this also opens up the possibility of a problem that occasionally rears its head in the NFL.  The new format would leave open the possibility of a team with a mediocre record making the playoffs over a team with a better record.  For example, let’s say out of the two Western divisions, Dallas sits at 4th in their division with 92 points, and on the other end, Anaheim (in a more competitive division) brings in 95 points but sits in 5th place.  Despite Anaheim being the better team during the regular season, Dallas proceeds to the playoffs while Anaheim goes golfing.  Especially with the increased play outside of your conference, less losses would give points to teams you’d have to race against in the end.  The best teams should get the chance for the Cup, not decent teams who are conveniently grouped with bad teams.

But I’ve saved my biggest gripe for the end.  Those fancy-pants readers who know their arithmetic may have noticed a problem here.  The way it sits currently, there are six divisions with five teams each because there are 30 teams in the NHL.  Now by cutting the divisions down to four, it isn’t possible for the divisions to match.  That, my friends, is one of my biggest problems with baseball, and the idea of it migrating to hockey is vastly unsettling.  Any sport in where the divisions or conferences are uneven is fundamentally flawed as it gives advantages to certain teams.  Teams in the AL West have a better chance of making the playoffs as they only have three teams to worry about divisionally as opposed to an NL Central team who has to worry about five.  In Bettman’s proposal, there would be 8 teams in one division and 7 in the other for each conference.  Uneven divisions are the bane of my existence.  Even if my favorite team wound up in an easier division, I’d still despise it with all of my heart.  No good can come of this, not in any way, shape, or form can uneven divisions create a fair playing field for all teams involved.


I firmly believe that you don’t have to be good at something to point out somebody else sucks at it.  I can’t play guitar, but I can say that Random Youtube Kid A completely butchered the outro solo to Song B and be justified since I’m speaking the truth.  But since I like to go one step beyond, I’m going to propose a counter solution to Bettman’s supposed “solution”.  Keep the divisions how they are (three to a conference, six total).  Make Winnipeg a part of the Northwest, move Minnesota to the Central, and move Nashville to the Southeast.  Geographically, this makes perfect sense.  Yeah, big blubbering Columus and Detroit won’t get to move to the East like they want, but the East coast is stacked and they’re still the westernmost teams out of them all and in the closest proximity to the rest of the Central division.  Also, despite hating this proposal, I do like the idea of increased interconference play, so a tweak of the schedule could do some good.  Instead of playing your opposing conference once or twice, play them two or three times.  Play your division four times instead of six and your conference three instead of four.  This makes 76 games, so there’s a choice.  Either arbitrarily play six opposing conference teams three times instead of two, shorten the season by two games to play your division five times (or extend it by two in order to play six still), or lengthen it by four in order to play your conference four times.  This is an entirely new can of worms I’ve just opened, and I know many fans would hate the idea of a shortened season and players would hate a lengthened season, but if you want more interconference play, there’s really no other logical way.  The only other option would be to stop screwing with something that works just fine.  Yes, we could soften the debate about which conference is more competitive, but we’d be shortchanging teams in bigger divisions and giving teams in a small division an unfair boost.

Bettman the Butcher, hear me like St. Louis apparently did.  Step back and look at this nonsense, you’re buying a new car because your brakes went bad, you’re buying a new table because you spilled your milk, heck, I could even say you’re buying new shoes because the laces came untied.  Do not overhaul and replace and entire system just because one component needs to be tweaked.


2011-12 NHL Salary Cap

As many of you know the salary cap has been raised for the 2011-12 NHL season.  This can help many teams to keep players they want or to lure in free agents.  But with this it also means that the salary floor has been raised, and this can hurt several teams.  The cap last season was set at $59.4 million and the floor was $43.4 million.  This season both the cap and floor were raised; the cap is now $64 million and the floor $48 million.

Now when a salary cap is raised many fans believe that it’s a good thing.  For example it would have been a great thing for the Chicago Blackhawks after their Cup run.  They had to dump many players like Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Burish, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel just so they could stay under the cap and sign their stars to bigger contracts in order to keep their core.  But the thing that most usually don’t think about is the salary floor.  There are several teams that don’t make a ton of money struggle to meet this floor and still take home a profit.

One such team that had to make a few deals to reach the floor was the Florida Panthers.  There was almost a laughable deal that took place, the one that sent d-man Brian Campbell (from Chicago) and his $7 million cap hit to Florida for Rotislav Olesz and his $3.125 deal.  This was almost a necessary deal for Florida to meet the floor.  After the deal they still had about $24 million to spend to get there.  They then signed Tomas Fleischman and Scottie Upshall to identical 4 year $18 million deals, Tomas Kopecky, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley, Sean Bergenheim, Ed Jovanowski, and Marcel Goc.  I believe Florida will put a better team on the ice than they have the last few seasons, but when you’re losing money that doesn’t mean a lot.  No one goes to sporting events on in South Beach.  The Miami Heat just had LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, and people still weren’t even showing up for the NBA Finals games.  You see the Marlins on TV and there is no one there.  No one goes to Dolphins games either.

I can solve the problem though, they should just trade and get Olli Jokinen back…

Here are some other teams that should be taking on salary before the season starts in order to comply with the new floor; Colorado, Phoenix, Winnipeg, NY Islanders, Edmonton, Dallas, Nashville, and St. Louis.  Edmonton and Winnipeg are probably in the best positions to still make money.  Winnipeg has no problem they sold out of season tickets in about 12 seconds; it’s as if the hockey starved fans there forgot that the team wasn’t actually that good last year.

The opposite applies to many other teams.  The raise of the cap is a good thing.  It allowed the NY Rangers to sign Brad Richards.  The Kings to take on a trade with the Flyers to get Mike Richards.  James Wisniewski received a huge deal for a defenseman that doesn’t play a lot of defense.  This probably allows the Devils to re-sign Parise.  It will help the Ducks keep their beastly top line together.

With this increase it allows for role players to receive more money.  Several players just filed for arbitration.  Arbitration is when a player is a restricted free agent and they cannot agree to a deal with a team because they think they deserve more money, they will file for arbitration and it could lead to a hearing, often going in the players favor.  When they are “awarded” a higher salary the team they were restricted to must match that amount, otherwise the player can test unrestricted free agency.  The main players that have filed so far are the Blackhawks’ Viktor Stalberg and Chris Campoli, and the Rangers Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Michael Sauer.  These players will more than likely  win in their meetings and will be awarded more money.

There are more than likely a few other blockbusters to come as several of those teams mentioned above try to meet the salary floor.  Just remember because of the floor, some teams will be fooled into giving players like Tomas Kaberle money to be on their team, cough Carolina cough.  Glad you can meet the floor though.  Be on the lookout for high contract players to be traded.

Free Agency in the West: Who is standing tall?

With the bulk of the trades and free agency being wrapped up for the most part, there have been plenty of big moves and subtle changes throughout the entire league. Although the Western Conference didn’t have such star-studded and power-shifting moves as the East with the fight for Richards and the return of a legend, Jaromir Jagr, there have been plenty of deals and inkings being worked out in the wild wild west. Here’s my take on the top five teams of the West to this date based on trades, re-signings, and free agent signings.

5. Edmonton Oilers – A team of youngsters and rookies gets some much needed back up.

Why? Well, Edmonton has talent. They really do. Despite the fact that they had a pretty horrendous season last year… and the year before that… and the year before that… etc etc. The problem is lack of experience. They’re just too young and lack the experience in the big league to get anything going for themselves. Thankfully this year they’re taking a step in the right direction by bringing in some grizzled veterans of the sport for some much needed back up and protection for their young talent with signings such as the gritty and energetic left-winger Ben Eager from San Jose, the toughness of left-winger Darcy Hordichuk from the Panthers, and the massive defenseman Andy Sutton from Anaheim. Also picked up in the mix were talented defenseman Cam Barker from Minnesota and center Eric Belanger from Phoenix.

Will they make the playoffs? Doubtful. They have the talent, and with the newly acquired experience and toughness they’re definitely moving forward, but I don’t see them being much of a contender for at least a few more seasons.

Will they be a cup contender? I don’t see it happening for a number of seasons down the road, and definitely not this season. I guess there is always the chance of a cinderella story, I just wouldn’t get my hopes too high.

4. Phoenix Coyotes – Re-signings, a dash of toughness, and a new hope in net.

Why? Phoenix is by no means a bad team. If anything they’re an extremely underrated team in the West, maybe the entire league. Even despite the financial struggles and various problems throughout the organization that has been a burden on the team’s back for the last few seasons, they’ve still managed to keep pushing forward and making things happen. They’ve already got some star power in captain/right-winger Shane Doan and defenseman Adrian Aucoin, and will also have some more star power returning this season after re-signing all-star defenseman Keith Yandle to a five-year deal as well as right-winger Radim Vrbata to a multi-year deal. Probably the biggest move the ‘Yotes made this year was ill-favored, that being star netminder Ilya Bryzgalov being traded away to the Flyers. Being that the Bryz was a huge reason the ‘Yotes did as well as they did last season, I still have hope for them in goaltender Mike Smith being signed on for a mult-year contract, along with a bit more toughness thrown in with the acquisition of tough guy left-winger Raffi Torres.

Will they make the playoffs? Last year the Coyotes made it to the playoffs only to be eliminated within the first round by the Detroit Red Wings. This was largely in part to the work of the Bryz between the pipes, but I don’t think his leaving will be the end of the Coyotes. Mike Smith definitely isn’t the best goalie out there, but I have faith that he can get the job done. I also can see the rest of the team stepping up their games as well, knowing that they don’t have a solid Bryz wall in front of the net. I can see them making it back into the playoffs this year assuming Mike Smith flips his career around and lives up to his expectations in net.

Will they be a cup contender? It’s hard to say right now. They have what it takes, but bringing in a new goaltender is a huge risk on the dynamics of a team. I can see them making the playoffs again this year, but I don’t see them going much farther than the first or second round again.

3. Dallas Stars – Star power in the Lone Star State.

Why? Why not? Dallas has a great line-up. They have the players they need to get the job done. They may not be the prettiest team in the conference, or the league for that matter, but they know how to play hockey and they’re capable of getting the job done. The already skillful line-up of the Dallas Stars will only be adding more to its fine collection this year, with the most notable signing being that of right-winger Michael Ryder after his great year with Boston last season. Also joining the Stars line-up this year will be former Chicago center Jake Dowell, skilled center Vernon Fiddler out of Phoenix, right-winger Radek Dvorak from Atlanta, and two more bodies on the blue-line in ex-Oiler Sheldon Souray and former Calgary defenseman Adam Pardy.

Will they make the playoffs? Last season the Stars came about as close as you possibly can to making the playoffs without actually doing so. The season came down to the very last game in which they needed to defeat the Minnesota Wild in order to steal away the final spot in the playoffs from the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. They failed in doing so, but this year things could be much different. With the added power it’s hard to imagine them not making the playoffs.

Will they be a cup contender? Probably not. They have talent, quite a bit of it to be honest, but compared to the powerhouses that are Vancouver, Washington, Pittsburgh and so on, they still have a lot of work to do before they’ll be making an appearance in the finals.

2. Vancouver Canucks – Re-signings galore.

Why? The ‘Nucks are already a powerhouse. They don’t need to pick up anyone else to continue to be a heavily favored Cup contender for years to come. The loss of the talented and vital Christian Ehrhoff is but a minor dent on the surface of the winning machine that is Vancouver. Returning this season alongside the force of the Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins comes the incredibly talented and notorious Kevin Bieksa after agreeing to a 5-year re-signing, the incredibly-annoying-to-other-teams center Maxime Lapierre, heavy hitting defensemen Andrew Alberts and Sami Salo, and left-winger Chris Higgins. Although they don’t need the new signings, the Canucks also picked up veteran left-winger Marco Sturm from the Capitals.

Will they make the playoffs? Does that even need to be asked? After their performance last season and despite being defeated in Game 7 of the finals by the Boston Bruins in an absolutely incredible battle, the Canucks are only going to come back hungrier than ever. There is no reason the Canucks shouldn’t make the playoffs again this year.

Will they be a cup contender? Most definitely. Again, after the season they had last year and only suffering minor losses in the off-season, everyone knows they’re going to come back fighting harder than ever for their first taste of cup glory in 41 years of operation in the NHL. The only thing stronger than the desire for a return to Stanley Cup glory is the desire for that first taste.

1. Chicago Blackhawks – Grit and the art of defending the core.

Just to clear things up off the bat, yes I am a Chicago Blackhawks fan. Born and raised. For life. But, I assure you that is not why I have chosen them as the ultimate winners of the West. I had a hard time making this decision. It came down to the Vancouver or Chicago, and I was stuck. But in the end I went with Chicago based off the fact that although Vancouver had some great signings, they were almost all re-signings where as the Blackhawks’ signings were new additions to the already powerful roster.

Why? This year is all about grit for the young and talented Blackhawks line-up, as anyone can see immediately while looking at the players they have picked up so far. Joining the star-studded line-up of such players including Johnathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa will be the rough-and-tumble former San Jose left-wing enforecer Jamal Mayers, veteran left-winger Andrew Brunette from Minnesota, center Brett McLean who has been playing in the Swiss league the last couple seasons, and also veteran defender Sean O’Donnell from the flyers. And then there’s the controversial signing in former Philadelphia instigator Dan Carcillo. Personally, still not sure how I feel about him playing for Chicago, but he adds some much needed grit they so desperately need. Besides the surprising Carcillo deal, the biggest splash Chicago made comes in the form of veteran defender Steve Montador. The former Buffalo blue-liner comes off a season leading the Sabres in blocked shots and brings plenty of experience, grit, and protection the core of the Blackhawks’ line-up. Also worth noting is the 3-year deal Corey Crawford inked with the Hawks earlier this year. Three more years of Crawsomeness, baby.

Will they make the playoffs? Chicago has made appearances consecutively in the last three seasons, and took home the Cup in the 2010 season. Just like Vancouver, there’s no reason they shouldn’t make it to the playoffs this year despite barely scraping by last season. The young talent has another year under their belts, and with the added grit and experience, the Hawks should be a force for years to come.

Will they be cup contenders? I like to think they will. Of course I’m a Blackhawks fan and want to see them be a contender every year, I think they have what it takes to go back for more Cup glory this season. New players are starting to click, experience has been gained, new stars are shining in Ben Smith and Nick Leddy, and the worry between the pipes has seemingly been solved. Any one of the next few seasons could see Chicago return to the finals and take home another championship.

Keep in mind these are personal opinions and there is still a lot of time before the season even starts to see other big moves around the conference, and throughout the league. Anything can happen this season, just as any season, and I’m as excited as ever to see what happens over the course of the next eight months.