Nervous about a certain Russian's contract status in the wake of Sid the Kid's megabucks deal earlier this summer? Don't be. The Hockey News (by way of Japers' Rink) informs us that Ovie is currently in talks, without an agent and directly with McPhee, to hash out an extension.
Not that there was ever any doubt the Caps would do everything they could to keep this kid around as long as possible, but its still nice to get the official word that things are, at the very least, starting.
Just a quick administrative note - I'll be in and out a little less frequently for at least the next week to attend to some serious lemonade making. Should a major story break I'm sure I'll pop by for my thoughts, but until then please, as usual, visit any of my much more talented cohorts in the links along the righthand side for your daily dose of Caps news, opinions and sarcasm.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Nervous about a certain Russian's contract status in the wake of Sid the Kid's megabucks deal earlier this summer? Don't be. The Hockey News (by way of Japers' Rink) informs us that Ovie is currently in talks, without an agent and directly with McPhee, to hash out an extension.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Steve Eminger recently sat down with Mike Vogel and talked about everything and anything. As usual, Mike didn't shy away from the tough questions - they discussed how Steve's training this offseason, what it was like to come into the league as an 18-year-old, how it felt to watch games from the press box during a long stretch last season, and much, much more.
He's actually much more well-spoken than I thought he would be (no offense, Steve!) and it's definitely worth a read.
Check it out here.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Caps @ Flyers 11/04/06
Capitals 5-4-4, Flyers 2-9-1
In goal: Brent Johnson (WSH), Robert Esche (PHI)
Watch along at home
So here's the backstory: the Caps have traditionally had a few teams that have simply owned them throughout history, regardless of the relative skill on each team in any given season. The Flyers have unfortunately been one of those teams, to the point that the Caps have gone winless in Philadelphia for almost ten years. Their last win in Philly was January 31, 1998, going 0-15-1 since. It seemed it would take some sort of miracle to break that curse...
Enter the miracle known as the record-setting craptacular season of the 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers, a team that before the season was through would provide a platform for the Caps to exorcise not one but two demons and reset the history books. This game would prove to be the first of these two monumental occasions in the lifespan of any Caps fan.
Things to watch for include any mention of history, with some delightful historic footage sprinkled in. Also, keep an eye on the mystery that was Morrisonn's / Fleischmann's / Pettinger's goal. It was eventually credited to Morrisonn, but you make the call.
We have ourselves a true clash of the titans in goal tonight, with Brent Johnson taking on Robert Esche, whose save percentage is less than 84%. Ouch.
19:50 Locker mentions the empty arena: “lots of fans not too happy with the start to the season.” Sure, they were 2-9-1 at this point, but come on - when are Flyers fans ever happy?
18:30 Ovie draws a holding penalty against Pitkanen. Wait...a Philly defenseman too slow to keep up with Ovie? Weird. Joe B. and Locker mention that Philly really wants Pitkanen to step up as a leader. Well, maybe he will in Edmonton.
18:04 First shot on goal on the power play? Philly. Good start. We learn that the Caps power play is ranked 11th and Philly’s PK is ranked 9th. One of those rankings goes down dramatically before the end of the season. And if you don't know which one I'm referring to, you obviously haven't been paying attention to the offseason moves made by a certain GMGM.
16:07 Nice power play cycle (gasp!) ends with Muir taking a point shot, the rebound is collected by Ovechkin, curl, drag, goal. 1-0 Caps and the building is so quiet you can hear his happy yell.
15:20 Eminger, fresh off a night in the press box as a healthy scratch, really redeems himself with a beautiful turnover to Ben Eager. Emmy now owes Johnson a beer for bailing him out. But wait, Philly’s not done yet – here comes Forsberg...and there goes Semin for high-sticking Forsberg.
14:43 Tonight marks the return of the CBS line and thus the end of that ill-fated experiment I like to call “defenseman Ben Clymer makes CapsChick cry”. The CBS line may not have matched their outcome from the season before, but at least it gets Benny’s ass off the blue line. Literally.
13:17 REALLY ugly cycle by Philly in the Caps zone. Fans are yelling “shoooooot” – it helps if they have the puck first, kids.
• Ooh, Toyota Ones to Watch – here’s an ironic one for you: Zubie with 9 goals, which leads the Caps, and Forsberg with 9 whole points, which is tied for the most on the Flyers. Ouch.
12:45 A couple of defensive turnovers by the Caps (gasp gasp!) are followed by two sparkling saves by Johnny. Let me repeat that – two sparkling saves...by Johnny. Moving on.
11:23 Ovie tries to gain the zone and goes absolutely flying over Freddy Meyer IV, and offside no less. I have to ask...how do you get stopped by a Roman numeral guy? Shouldn’t he be sitting at a country club with a sweater tied around his shoulders, talking to a girl named Muffy?
9:37 Randy Jones takes a minor for elbowing Clark. Here’s a fun fact for you, courtesy of Locker – Jones went to Clarkson. As did Clarkie. As did Locker. Yes, Craig, we know you went to college, stop reminding us.
8:22 Pothier takes his 17th missed shot of the night, high and wide. Okay, that may be an exaggeration...but not by much.
7:27 Gagne breaks in and takes a gorgeous shot – and we’re tied. Ooh, Gagne’s workin’ the sweaty mullet, very nice.
7:07 Clymer whacks at a bouncing puck and somehow it goes in, 2-1. So...they answer a pretty goal with a fluky, hard-working goal. That’s what I like to call the “Caps Special”. Welcome back to the wing, Clymes - man, that was ugly.
6:51 Some discussion of the high-scoring CBS line, with Locker saying “they’re not gonna dazzle you with brilliant stick work, dekes – they’re a lunch pail bunch.” That’s for sure. Apparently the line “simplifies the game of hockey”. Well, big words confuse them.
5:31 Petty just demonstrated the skating through pylons drill for the crowd. Playing the role of the pylons for tonight? The Flyer defensemen. It’s really the role they were born to play.
4:04 The Flyers apparently want 21 year old Ruzicka to, and I quote, “get into some dirty places”. Ahem. I’m not even touching that one, make up your own jokes, people.
2:40 Grenier and Clymer are having a little chat at the faceoff. I bet they’re swapping recipes.
• Aw, Chief!! Hi, Berube.
1:36 Holy crap, Morrisonn gets a goal. Locker: “Esche didn’t pick it up until it was past him.” Yeah, teams tend to prefer that goalies pick those up before that. 3-1 for now until...
0:58 ...Ovechkin makes it 4-1. Wow. Clarkie literally stepped around a defenseman to create a 2 on 1 and Ovie buries it because...well, he’s Ovie. It’s what he does.
0:00 So the Caps bombard Esche with 8 whole shots and 4 go in. That’s math I like. Also a quick history note from Joe B. for those of you keeping track at home – the Caps haven’t beaten the Flyers in Philly since 1998. Wonder if that will change...
Esche out, Niitymaki in. Anyone surprised? Anyone?
19:41 Delay of game on Bradley. For the love of god, aim lower. The glass did not shrink on you, I promise.
18:41 Fleischmann got the Morrisonn goal but it was Pettinger, or so sayeth Joe B. and Locker. Confused? Me too.
16:52 Niitymaki is so far back he’s practically hiding in the net. Of course, I’ve seen the team in front of him so I can’t really blame him. I’d be hiding too.
15:42 Greenie yawns, stretches, and turns over the puck, leading to an odd-man break by Philly and an even odder bounce to keep the score 4-1. Mike, I really wish you would save the herbal enhancement for after the games, okay?
15:17 Kapanen takes out Gordon from behind, which is a bad idea because here comes Brash, followed by Grenier in to save Sami...and nothing happens. Kapanen gets the gate for holding. Holding? Oookay, sure. Why not.
14:06 Apparently Muir led all Caps defensemen in goals last year. Nothing to brag about – I could have led them in goals and I can’t even skate.
• A little Chief retrospective as we see Craig Berube in the only jersey he ever looked good in. Love it. Cue footage of a goal he scored against Philly, which incidentally was Hunter’s 1000th point. Love it more.
10:20 Calder takes an interference penalty – time for this stellar Caps power play to get to work! (Yeah, I can’t even type that with a straight face.)
9:18 Semin draws a high-sticking penalty on Richards, which is weird – I didn’t know he knew how to draw penalties, he’s usually just taking them. Good to see him branching out. So 5 on 3 for the Caps aaaaand...there’s the timeout. Good ol’ Hanlon, you could set your watch by him.
9:01 Zubrus misses a gaping empty net. Pothier shoots wide. Par for the course.
8:14 Wow, I’m so glad that Comcast doesn’t put penalty time up on road games. No pesky clocks distracting me from wondering how much damn time is left on the penalty. I’d much rather deal with Joe B. saying “90 seconds left...60 seconds remaining...12 seconds to go...” Much better.
7:14 About 12 pretty passes from Pothier during a nice little flurry from the Caps, but amazingly nothing hits the back of the net. It’s okay, goals are overrated.
3:50 Does Green forget he’s a defenseman sometimes? I think so. No, Greenie, it wasn’t a dream – you really do have to protect the goalie. Meanwhile, Clymer is playing better defensively as a forward than he ever did on the blue line - I’ll say it again, welcome back to the wing, Clymes!
• Olie’s dancing on the bench. Shake your groove thing, Olie! Always, always cracks me up.
0:03 As Ovie is breaking in Gauthier makes the mistake of lining him up for a huge check and ends up being the one who goes flying. (Remember? He’s the guy in the Flyers’ jersey hurtling through the air on those “Great Checks” compilation videos at Verizon, Caps fans. Good times.)
0:00 Still 4-1 Caps and it really makes you wonder what exactly happened to the Flyers...and also how we can bottle whatever it was and spray them with it next season.
19:31 Sutsy behind the net feeds a pass out front which is meant for Bradley but it bounces to Clymer, who buries it for his second of the night. Do I need to repeat that too? Clymer with his second goal of the night. Cue Twilight Zone music...and cue the mass exodus of Flyers fans who aren’t about to sit through another twenty minutes of this crap. Lucky for them I’m here to archive it for their reading pleasure.
18:10 Flash, how do you take a penalty for interference? You were on the ice for about 90 seconds this whole game. Way to earn that call-up.
17:44 So the Flyers have played eleven games at this point and already have lost five of those by 3 or more goals. Hang on, let that sink in...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, schadenfreude, thy name is Caps fans.
16:35 Flyers fans are booing but stop to insert a sarcastic cheer for Niitymaki, who just stopped a clearing attempt. Ah, I love Philly.
14:44 Yes! We have our first “he scampers into the zone”! Joe B., you’re the man.
13:20 Meloche with a laser to make it 5-2, screen courtesy of Steve Eminger. Emmy, do you miss the press box? I have a feeling a return trip could be arranged
• Ovie gives the camera his patented bedroom eyes as we return from commercial.
11:47 Johnny, don’t play the puck. Johnny, please don’t play the puck. For the love of god, Johnny, DON’T PLAY THE PUCK! *Sigh* Graceful.
11:10 Ready? Here’s the least terrifying 2 on 1 EVER – Clymer and Gordon. I think Niitymaki actually just yawned. (Oh, I kid because I love, boys...)
10:40 Clark off for high-sticking. Luckily the Caps have a 3 goal lead, Philly’s power play sucks, and I love Clarkie more than life itself, or I’d be a little pissed.
10:00 Did I mention Philly’s power play sucks? Yeah. It really does. It makes the Caps power play look like a powerhouse, and Flyer fans agree with me as the boobirds return. I’m not going to lie - it’s truly a sound that warms my heart.
8:45 Whoa, Johnny! Whoa. Just...whoa.
• Flashback to January 31, 1998 – the Caps beat the Flyers in Philly with Michael Pivonka providing the overtime winner. Since then the Caps are 0-15-1 in the City of Brotherly Love...gee, I think Comcast is trying to imply that some big historical record is about to fall. Could it be the longest losing streak in the league is about to come to an end? Let's not get ahead of ourselves...
7:58 Heward takes a high hit and absolutely loses his mind, clotheslining Meloche in retaliation. Jamie, our little goon. Meanwhile Joe B. and Locker digress into wrestling talk and collapse into fits of giggles. They’re like a very weird old married couple sometimes, aren’t they?
6:49 “Shoooooooot!” Ha! Miiiiiiiiiiss.
6:22 Muir takes a penalty to give the Flyers a 5 on 3, and this is the loudest the arena has been all night even with the booing. Let’s take bets on whether the Flyers score.
5:01 Umberger makes it 5-3. Okay, who had the over on that one?
4:21 Philly’s got momentum all of a sudden...56 minutes into the game. Squash it, boys, squash it. What’s that weird sound? Flyers fans cheering?? MAKE IT STOP!
1:36 Flyers pull their goalie and somehow the Caps don’t score.
0:00 Booooooo...seriously, it’s like music. 5-3 Caps as history takes a back seat to sheer Philadelphia suckitude. Now if only they could sweep the season series...but that’s a story for another day and another game diary.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Big, exciting news out of Capsville - the Caps have avoided arbitration with defenseman Milan Jurcina, signing him to a two-year deal that will pay him $850,000 next season and $912,500 the season after. That's a significant raise over the $500,000 he made last year, a price at which I think we all can agree was a steal for the steady, gritty blueliner.
Good news for the team and for Jurcina, great news for fans, and the best news? No more arbitration! That just leaves a few RFAs to sign - Fleischmann, Klepis and Erskine. If Kevin Lowe happens to come sniffing around Flash and/or Klepis, he's welcome to them...
Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure everyone has heard that the Simpsons' movie, a project its diehard fans (read: computer nerds) have been awaiting for almost 20 years, opens nationwide today. Whether you're a fan of the jaundiced family or not, its hard to deny that this show is something of a cultural revolution...but it has nothing to do with hockey.
Or does it?
After all, the characters themselves are a veritable who's who of NHLers and NHL-adjacent:
Homer - Not the brightest lightbulb in the bunch, quick-tempered, yet extremely happy and ultimately lovable...I think we just described about half of the NHL.
Bart - Playful, mischievous, smart when he needs to be, dim when he wants to be, gets himself into and out of extremely sticky circumstances. Am I crazy or is that not our own Ovechkin?
Ned Flanders - Mike Fisher. Or Peter Budaj. Or Shane Doan. Nice, likable guys with a bit of a religious thing going on (and a killer body easily disguised in everyday clothing...but I digress).
Chief Wiggum - Bill Daly. 'Nuff said.
Otto the Bus Driver - Those long, flowing locks, the slightly dazed and glazed look, the existential nonsense that can probably be attributed to some sort of herbal enhancement...gotta be Ryan Miller.
Marge - Soft-spoken and protective, she knows when to stick up for what she believes in and is quick to defend her family with the temper that lurks beneath the surface. I'm not calling him a woman, of course, but that's Glen Hanlon in a nutshell.
Comic Book Guy - Every Caps fan, and I quote: "Worst ... trade ... EVER."
Rod and Todd Flanders - They look perfect, they sound perfect, but every once and a while there's a smidge of crazy in them. Eric and Jordan Staal, of course.
Mayor Quimby - Your typical politician, making crazy new laws and speaking with a funny accent. Who could that possibly be, let me think...
Of course, no discussion of the Simpsons and hockey would be complete without looking back at a few classic Simpsons hockey moments. Enjoy!
Hockey Dad...not the most politically correct clip, but still funny all these years later.
Ah, Viktor - welcome to DC! May your hockey tree be...er...never mind.
And of course, "Lisa on Ice" - the best of the bunch.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The recent Staalgate scandal has sent the hockey blogosphere, the message boards and even the mainstream media into a bit of a frenzy as everyone (myself included) clambers over each other to have the last snarky word. It's an entertaining story to be sure, but as a wise man points out, it's really much ado about nothing.
Underaged drinking? Shenanigans at a bachelor party? Someone alert the media! Oh...wait.
The tale of two wealthy Canadian youngsters and their friends living it up in thrilling Minnesota is certainly a seedy one, isn't it? In a summer of scandal this has to trump them all.
- Steroid use continues to cast a shadow over America's pasttime as the record of a beloved legend stands on the brink of collapse from one of the most notorious "alleged" users of performance-enhancing drugs. That'll make a nice byline in Cooperstown.
- A potential gambling conspiracy threatens to shake the foundation of professional basketball, with implications unknown as names are named and fingers are pointed. Yeah, because the NBA had so much credibility to begin with.
- And everyone's favorite feel-good story of the summer, Virginia's native son Michael Vick has been indicted and will stand trial for participating in a competitive dogfighting conspiracy, buying and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the operation across state lines. Vick has been suspended from training camp and the Falcons want to suspend him for 4 whole games, although they've been asked to hold off by the NFL.
My favorite quote? Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who had this to say: "We are committed to doing the right thing on and off the field. No one will compromise what we stand for."
It's just fascinating to me, the double-standard that we place on culture and society in general. I've long since accepted the fact that certain allowances are made to ethics and morals when it comes to sports and other facets of pop culture, that things people do in the real world are judged on a far different spectrum then things done by people in the spotlight.
But even taking that into account we have our limits - in movies, books, even the quasi-real world of celebrities, we don't outwardly root for the bad guy. We don't cheer for the evil villain or applaud Britney Spears when she drops her kid on his head. We root for the plucky underdog, the scrawny kid with glasses and a weird scar or the child star turned legitimate actor who bypasses the legal/mental/drug issues that divert so many talented youngsters.
Yet we cheer for guys like Barry Bonds, so clearly a villain whether he abused steroids or not. We tune in weekly to watch a league filled with guys who, while maybe not heading a major dog-fighting ring in their home, are certainly not angels. We buy shoes and soft drinks and cars from these so-called role models, we put them on a pedestal, we shake our heads lovingly and we say "boys will be boys".
I'm sorry, but that is not what I see. The Staal brothers doing a little celebratory drinking, that is "boys will be boys". Ed Belfour being stun-gunned after a little tussle with police, that is "boys will be boys"...and hilarious. The rest? It's nothing more than sanctioned stupidity, paraded before the masses as harmless fun and celebrated by a country that is seriously mixed-up.
Viva la NHL - home of the harmless misdemeanor, the Staal brothers, the battle of Ovechkin vs. Crosby, the hip check, the tricky deke, the glove save, and the best role models in the sporting world.
Edit: As if on cue, ESPN.com's Terry Frei comes out with this piece to wipe a bit of the smug off my face. Okay, okay, so all of it could happen in the NHL. It's still the best damn league out there.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I just...I can't...too many jokes...can't...type...
Read: Staal, Younger Brother Arrested
(Does it make me a bad person to laugh at other peoples' misfortune? Or just a bitter Caps fan? Conundrum.)
- As we wait for the oh-so-thrilling results of Brooks Laich's arbitration hearing with baited breath, I think it's pretty safe to say unanimously that the offseason stinks. This one in particular seems incredibly unbearable - people seem about ready to jump off a building or worse, watch America's Got Talent.
I think, like the rest of us, the folks over at NHL.com are getting a bit antsy. In their own well-intentioned way they've provided a vault of milestone highlights for the rabid hockey fan to get their fix of ice during the sweltering summer. Great idea, right?
Only if you don't mind seeing the Caps getting scored on again...and again...and again. I wish I was kidding, but we all of course remember Shanahan's 600th. Sakic's 1500th point. Jagr's *shudder* 1500th point.
But still, it's a nice thought and there are some truly wonderful accomplishments on the list - the one they're highlighting today is, appropriately enough, Peter Bondra's 500th career goal. Don't worry, it wasn't against us.
Just remember, while it's great to see that familiar smile and enthusiastic celebration once more - he's not coming back.
- To all you Bettman-haters out there, here's an article aimed at you. I'm personally not sure where I fall on the issue of Uncle Gary so I'll let you decide for yourself how much merit this piece has. I could do without the requisite mention of the poor TV ratings, though. When has hockey ever had good ratings? Enough, stop beating the horse already - I assure you it's dead.
I also think we all can agree that even "Operation: Slapshot", despite having the worst code name ever, is peanuts compared to some of the crap going down in the other major leagues. Take that, Michael "the Dog Days of Summer Indeed" Vick.
UPDATE: Per Capitals Insider, Brooks Laich has been awarded $725,000 for one year in arbitration. He gets a slight raise and that precious one-way deal, which makes me happy. Whiners of the world, feel free to jump all over Laich and say he's not worth it or he may not even crack the lineup.
Here's how I see it - Laich can play the wing and does so skillfully, at least in my humble opinion. Fleischmann and Klepis, both right wingers, remain unsigned. Neither has really proven they deserve a roster spot, again at least not in my humble opinion. I see one or both either being traded or simply released. Depth is a wonderful curse to have but the roster has to be whittled down one way or another, and those two still seem like "prospects" to me. Time is running out for Flash and Jakie...at least in my humble opinion.
Take it with a grain of salt.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sorry for the lack of updates, kids...life is a bitc-, er, pain sometimes. Luckily for me there's not a whole lot going on around the NHL, but here's a quick rundown on what's going on in Capsland:
- Brooks Laich was the first arbitration hearing out of the box, for both the Caps and the NHL. A lot of people think he's crazy, others are wondering whether the team will walk away...I'm betting neither is true. First of all, the arbitration award would have to be upwards of $1 million plus for the team to walk away, which as much as I love Laich would be extremely unlikely (unLaichly? Sorry...had to be done.)
Secondly, since when is it a crime to at least try for a raise? I'm sure he doesn't think he's going to get millions - best case, he gets a slight raise and the Caps hang on to him, worst case he gets a huge reward, they walk away and he's free to go somewhere that will play him more consistently. It's a win-win for him, although if he leaves I'm sure a few Caps with nice rims on their cars are worried he'll hightail it out of DC...and take his bus with him.
For the best view on the whole arbitration process and Laich's case in particular, check out the Caps' head scribe in all his wisdom, Mike Vogel. Next up: Milan Jurcina, July 30.
- The funniest picture I've seen all week has to go to this one of Ovechkin and Kozlov sporting their new look. So scruffy. Check out OnFrozenBlog for an Ovechkin-esque interview about his offseason activities, including mention of a disco ball and stripper pole, and an Ovechkin-esque quote about doing dishes...or not doing dishes as the case may be. All in all it sounds like he's going to be very ready for the season to start, more so than last season - and last season he scored 46 goals.
By the way, am I the only one weirded out by the fact that Malkin continues to live with Gonchar and his family in St. Petersburg? How very Crosby of him.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Caps @ Calgary 10/30/06
Capitals 4-3-4, Flames 3-6-1
In goal: Olie Kolzig (WSH), Miikka Kiprusoff (CGY)
Tonight’s Drinking game: Six Degrees of Calgary
Watch along at home
This will be my first foray into the boredom-induced attempt at injecting a little hockey into the long and painful summer. I hope to provide you, the lucky reader, with a snapshot of what it's like to watch a game with me, the crazy blogger. What follows is a combination of my usual thoughts and the things I would say out loud during your average game, so like I said before, be afraid...be very afraid. Proceed at your own risk.
This game marks the last game of the Caps’ west coast road trip, which they finished with a record of 2-1-1. After playing Calgary they don’t leave the Eastern time zone again for the rest of the season. Not that it helps them at all.
Some things to watch for: 1) The Z’s. No, not sleep...Zednik and Zubrus, who actually put together decent games and 2) The Calgary Connection. Every player on the Caps has some connection to Calgary, Alberta, or the Western Hockey League, if you listen to the announcers. Hence tonight’s drinking game – drink whenever they name-drop!
19:51 An early flurry by Ovechkin/Zubrus/Clark finishes with Green shooting the puck...directly at Ovie. He’s down, he’s up, play continues and we have our first forehead-slapping moment.
19:33 Apparently Greenie is a former Saskatoon Blade and Calgary native...I sense a trend coming on.
18:49 Laich starts the rush up ice but forgets the puck. Oops. I think we may have pinned down our little lack of scoring problem.
18:05 Hey, it's Jeff Friesen! Why’d we let him go again? I ponder this as he leads the offensive rush into the zone and promptly turns the puck over at the line. Oh, that's right. I remember now.
17:59 Phaneuf lines up Beech, who wisely flies through the air out of the way. Maybe the last smart move made by Beechie last season.
17:49 Shane Morrisonn? No. Shaone. “Sean”. Check your pronunciation guides, boys.
17:30 They say Heward spent a number of years in Calgary with the Canadian National Team. Fascinating stuff, isn't it? I don't miss Joe B. and Locker at all. (And drink.)
17:18 Gordon, former Red Deer Rebel. Drink.
15:59 There is some discussion of Brian Pothier’s name, and I quote: “It’s an English [sic], Pothier, you can trace his roots back to England.” “Vermont, I believe, correct?” “Yes.” Huh? Right, that charming English village of...Vermont.
15:43 Pettinger, former member of the Calgary Hitmen. Drink.
15:03 Zubrus shoots the puck in the slot and actually hit the net! Kipper makes the save, though – damn goalies, always getting in the way.
14:55 Zubie draws two flames and makes them run into each other instead of him. Heeee...okay, I'm going to miss him a little.
13:53 Oh, I forgot, this is when Clymer was still on defense. Ouch. No. Just...no. Ben, you know I love you but defense? Not so much. Stick to the wing like a good boy.
13:12 Laich turns over the puck for the second time. And then the third.
12:07 Semin with a sick move to set up Beech (former Hitmen – drink)...and naturally Beech shanks it.
11:41 Shocking – Zubie takes a hooking penalty. We are informed that this is penalty minute 21 and 22 for Zubie, which surprisingly leads the team. Surprising, sure, but only if you don’t watch him play on a regular basis.
8:38 Semin rifles the puck towards the net but shoots it way wide. Aaaand Kipper just soiled himself a little.
7:56 At the faceoff, a Flame does a weird pencil roll move out of the circle and two Caps seem unable to get out of each other’s way. Hilarity ensues.
6:11 Laich takes a hooking penalty – he’s having a rough first period, poor little Brooksie. Meanwhile on the bench Hanlon (former WHL goalie, drinkity-drink) goes from 0 to pissed in 2.3 seconds but I have no idea why. I'm just waiting for him to break out the chicken dance.
4:42 Hey, there’s that Shane Morrisonn guy again. Yeah, that’s going to bug me.
4:03 The penalty expires and then a bad change by the Caps leads to another Calgary flurry during which Muir tackles Olie. What play did they diagram for that move? "Hey, Bryan - when the Flames start to create chances just tackle your own goaltender...it'll really freak 'em out."
3:20 Ovie moves around Amonte as though he were standing still. Which, let’s face it, he probably was.
1:34 Somehow Heward ends up leading the offensive zone attack. All I can think is, for the love of god, Jamie, pass it to someone else and get back! He hears me and wisely looks to do just that...oops, wrong team. Well, red jersey, white jersey, they all look the same.
0:00 Pretty even period, neither team looks spectacular. Could it be the lack of intensity created by the weird scheduling? Naaaah.
18:49 Dion takes down Zed, who sits down on his rump rather gracefully to draw the penalty. Questionable call, but I’ll take it.
16:49 0 for 1. Who says our power play needs work?
16:38 Clymer on D. Ouch again. I had blocked it out but it all just came screaming back.
13:59 Pettinger takes his favorite (and my least favorite) shot from the circle and Kipper as always makes the save. Matt, crash the freakin’ net – those shots never go in for you!
13:11 Huselius makes it 1-0 with a goal from the high slot. Laich skates right by him, Clymer is motionless in front of the net...*sigh* rough night for two of my faves. This goal prompts the “duh” moment of the night from the Calgary commentator: “The Washington Capitals defensively aren’t as good as they are offensively."
I’ll let that insightful comment sink in for a moment...and we’re back to live action.
12:23 Just as the play by play guys are complimenting the second period play of the Friesen-Nilsson-Amonte line, Friesen shows off his defensive prowess by slashing Clarkie’s stick. Power play Caps.
12:10 Kipper does a backbend over the top of the goal to snag a Pothier dump-in out of the air. Okay, I guess he’s a fairly good goalie.
11:59 But not good enough – Zubie collects the rebound from a point shot, curls and drags it around the fallen Kipper, and just like that it’s 1-1. Ovie almost pushes Zubrus through the boards with his celebratory hug.
11:39 First shift after the goal and Hanlon puts out the 4th line for some reason, Brashear-Gordon-Zednik. Ooookay. Result? Zed takes a holding penalty. Way to carry the momentum for exactly 3.2 seconds, guys. Just absolutely beaming with pride over here.
10:24 Calgary gets a shot on goal on the power play. Only took them three tries.
7:15 Huselius flips over Zubie’s back at center ice. The play by play guy thinks its Ovie – “that’s what is neat about this young guy, he is as physical as he is talented with the puck.” True. But that was Zubrus – not sure that statement would work the same way.
• Ha! At the stoppage the other play by play guy almost rubs in his partner's mistake – “pretty hard to tell, 9 looks like an 8.” Uh-huh. Black on white can be awfully hard to read, I agree.
6:28 Wait, wait! A good Laich-Clymer sequence! Laich wins a battle behind the net, gets puck to Clymer at the point, Clymer misses the net...but still, yay!
5:38 Semin and Ovie wreaking havoc. (Beech is out there too, but I think he was hanging out along the boards picking daisies.)
4:07 Zednik scores on a wraparound, his first of the season to make it 2-1 Caps. Wooo!
3:40 Tanguay takes a penalty for holding and on the power play Zednik makes a gorgeous between the legs backhand pass (I know, stop fainting) out to Zubrus, who shoots it while diving across the slot....clank. *Sigh* Zubie.
2:32 Warrener takes a cross-checking minor, 5-on-3 for 1:10. Where’s the timeout? Where’s the timeout? There we go. Thanks, Hanlon. (By the way, Dean Evason is a former coach of the Calgary Hitmen. Drinky-poo.) Pothier FIRES...and misses the net. He gets it back again, FIRES...clank. *Sigh* Potsy.
1:59 Pettinger does some excellent penalty killing work for the Flames by taking a charging penalty.
1:38 Kipper makes a fantastic glove save on a phantom puck. Too bad the real one grazed his glove and bounced into the corner. Hey, he fooled me for a second – how very A-Rod of him.
0:32 Shane’s back again. Can’t get rid of that guy.
• Wow. Andrew Ference. Hello.
...ahem. Where was I?
0:00 The Caps have a lead after two. What’s not to like?
19:46 Hey, Clarkie’s a former Flame? Who knew? (Driiiiink.)
18:40 Whoa, scary moment in front of the net – Olie didn’t know where the puck was and Muir was lurking. Hang on, I need to breathe into a paper bag...okay, we're good. Carry on.
• After some requisite bellyaching about the unbalanced schedule and lack of travel by the commentators, we resume play. (Uh...who just won the Cup? Yeah, that’s what I thought.)
12:55 The Flames start to buzz and naturally Semin goes off for hooking. Lazy ass.
12:36 Question - if Sutherby and Iginla line up for the faceoff...and you say that Sutsy loses the draw...is it necessary to also say that Iginla won it? Isn’t that just common sense? No? Okay.
10:29 Another faceoff with Zubie flopping around oddly on the ice at the faceoff dot. The man’s a born center, and don't let anyone tell you different.
9:38 That Shane guy blocks a shot. Zubie gets the rebound and breaks Zednik out of the zone, who scores his second of the night (and pushes Kipper into the net for good measure). 3-1 Caps.
• We are treated to some footage of Olie scoring a goal in 1989 with Tri-City. Apparently when he first came up to the NHL he got sent down a lot because he couldn’t control his temper, whacked guys with his stick, etc. Olie? Temper? Our Olie? Nah...
8:26 Zednik tries for the hat trick. You know, I think this may have been that elusive good game he had with the Caps. It’s like discovering the Holy Grail or something.
7:51 Bad defensive play (wha???) leads to an Iginla breakaway and obviously an Iginla goal. 3-2 and the Saddledome is rockin’.
7:16 Heward makes a great defensive play by hiding the puck in his jersey. Hope he taught that move to the youngsters before the Caps shipped him out to LA.
6:09 Hamrlik called for holding. Zednik draws the penalty. Fans shower the refs with chants of “Bullsh*t”. I heart hockey.
5:12 Three times now the play by play team has referred to “the young Russian” when both Alexes have been on the ice. I’m thoroughly confused.
1:15 Ovie gets open and blazes a shot over Kipper. You know, it’s funny – in Canada you get the feeling that the crowd is always torn between wanting to see Ovie do something spectacular and not wanting him to score on their team. These people really love hockey, folks.
1:05 Empty net
0:18 Clark with a tremendous individual effort to break out of the zone and takes out a defenseman, allowing Zubrus to collect the puck and score on the empty net. Dion angrily whacks at the puck and almost takes out the ref with his stick. Easy, boy.
FINAL SCORE: Caps 4, Flames 2
There you have it...how'd I do?
Craving more of my half-baked ideas and crazy opinions? Tune into CapitalFanatic.com's weekly radio show tomorrow at noon when I'll join our host, Allen Popels, and Kevin from Kevin Hatcher Fan Club in discussing the latest Caps' news.
Should be a good show (despite my presence)!
Update: Thanks to Allen for having me on the show, and to Kevin for making me sound a little less insane by comparison (oh, I kid, I kid...). Check out the show here and please, no mocking. I'm very sensitive.
The USA edged the home team by a final score of 2-1 to win the first International Jewish Hockey Championship, a tournament that brought together Jewish hockey players from the US, Canada, Israel and France for a week in Israel.
Organizers hope that the event and its success will serve as a precursor to the inclusion of ice hockey in the Maccabi Games, an Olympic-like tournament that brings together Jewish athletes from around the world every four years.
Even in the middle of the desert, hockey lives on - it's a beautiful thing, and nice to see fellow members of the tribe dispelling the myth that we Jews (myself not included) are not athletic ;)
Congratulations to Team USA and all the participants of this very special event!
Friday, July 20, 2007
- They've been highlighting this on NHL.com but I thought I would give it an extra push - if you haven't read any of Andrew Ference's diary from his recent Right to Play trip to Africa, do it now. It's an extremely well-written and thoughtful piece; whoever said that athletes aren't intelligent never met Ference, I can assure you. Also be sure to flip through the photo gallery for some funny pictures and some heartbreaking ones that show exactly why this organization is so crucial. There's something to be said for letting kids be kids, and that's what Right to Play strives to achieve.
For more information about Right to Play, visit their website.
- We're rounding the corner into one of the slowest stretches of the offseason, which save for a handful of arbitration cases in the next few weeks means there is not much to report. On that note, I thought I would try something new.
Someone once commented that it must be fun to watch a game with me, and while I'm sure that my family and friends who have experienced this wouldn't call it fun so much as utterly terrifying, I'll let you judge for yourself. In an idea blatantly stolen from my good friends at IPB, I've decided to watch one of the Caps games from this past season on Google video and diarize it for your reading pleasure. Look for it sometime this weekend!
Be afraid...be very afraid.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
On the heels of happy news comes sad word that Dave Fay, longtime Caps' beat writer for the Washington Times, passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. You didn't have to agree with him to know that Fay loved the game and was truly an institution in this city - and with his induction this fall into the Hockey Hall of Fame, an institution in the game itself.
The proof of his strength of character truly lies in the kind, heartfelt words that have been spilling out from those who knew him and those who spent their time working, laughing, and disagreeing with him, either in person or in print:
I'm sure in the next few days we'll see even more tributes to this Washington icon - because even though at times he picked on our team, he was for many years the only one who cared. It is a life tragically cut too short and he will truly be missed.
One final tap of the stick to a legend...R.I.P., Dave.
Update: This seems as good a time as any to plug a few charitable causes dedicated to stamping out this horrible disease that has affected so many lives. Take your pick and make a donation or two...or ten - just remember that every little bit helps.
In a move that I'm pretty sure no one can find fault with, the Caps have signed captain and all-around heart and soul Chris Clark to a three year extension. Read about it here - I have nothing more to add except to merely say thank...god.
Clarkie, we love you here in the Cheap Seats!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Sutherby and Eminger re-signed with the Caps, inking one year deals to keep them in the District and in the mix for another season. It's nice...now they don't have to look for new roommates!
Monday, July 16, 2007
Over the past few weeks the Caps have received some reluctant respect for their drafting ability and their free agent signings. Now the focus shifts to the youngsters..and even NHL.com is taking notice.
From the article:
Change is painful, the Washington fans and management would agree, and results don't come quickly, but like a Doppler weather screen, a storm can be seen brewing and it will soon be bearing down on the Capitals.
Just as only a small part of an iceberg is visible above the water line, you have to look below the current Capitals' roster to see the talented group of Capitals prospects being groomed in the American Hockey League and in a variety of other developmental programs.
That's a lot of metaphors, but you get the idea. The Caps' future is looking pretty bright.
It's so nice to see a piece on the Capitals basically saying what a lot of us have known all along - that this team is quietly, slowly building a foundation that will hopefully keep it competitive and ultimately successful for many years to come. Anyone who caught even the smallest snippet of last week's development camp can attest to that fact, and if you missed it there are assorted video clips circling the interweb as we speak.
I'm trying to get myself pumped up because a) I hate Mondays and b) there's nothing going on in Caps' world.
There is now an official countdown until the first day of training camp for those of you needing to see how far away it is spelled out in black and white, courtesy of Japers' Rink. Players report September 13, on-ice sessions start September 14...59 days and counting!
Someone get that man a stepstool and a phone book to sit on...
Saturday, July 14, 2007
- Derek Boogaard is giving back to his community in what some might think is an unusual way. Some people have hockey camp, Derek and his brother Aaron hold fighting camp.
Hearing the name, I'm sure most people's initial reaction is to roll their eyes, whether it is at the player or the activitiy itself. It's easy to criticize something like this as unnecessary and merely a way to glamorize what a lot of people see as one of hockey's weaknesses. Believe me, I was all set to hurl a bunch of insults at professional jackass Boogaard when I read the headline - that is until I read this:
Their intent, Derek said, is not to create teenage bruisers. "A lot of times when people don't understand something, they don't like it," he said. "We're not teaching kids how to fight and how to hurt people. We're teaching kids how to protect themselves so they don't get hurt on the ice."We have camps to teach kids how to skate safely, how to check someone so they don't get hurt, how to wear the appropriate padding. Kids go through years of training to learn to play a game that can at any point be extremely dangerous. So as long as fighting remains a part of NHL hockey and regardless of one's personal feelings about that, maybe there's something to say for more "hands-on" training like this.
Hell, at $40 a pop maybe I'll sign up - could come in handy the next time Penguins fans come to town...
- Caps development camp has officially come to an end. For anyone who made it out to Kettler this week the sentiment seems to be unanimous - hockey in July just can't be beat. It provided us with relief from the heat, the humidity, the tourists, the mind-numbing months that separate one season from the next. Kudos to the organization for continuing to make strides in bringing the game and the team closer to their fans; having the development camp in the DC area for the first time was a remarkable experience and turnout was amazing.
I'm not good at saying who did what well and who stood out, per se. Just as I am admittedly not a draft geek, I am also not a prospect geek.
I can say with a fair amount of certainty, though, that our last two top draft picks are well on their way to being very skilled, very valuable franchise players. Thursday's scrimmage saw Backstrom putting on a puck-handling clinic, weaving in and out of the opposing team as though they were pylons or Philly defensemen. Alzner was equally impressive, showing great presence of mind in controlling the puck and making the timely passes to his teammates, promising skills for a young defenseman.
→ At one point I found myself sitting one row over from Assistant Coach Jay Leach and what I can only assume was the scouting staff, which was interesting. They seemed to be getting a kick out of the volume of scoring from what they termed their "no-name line", centered by local product Luke Lynes.
→ Joe Finley is huge. I mean absolutely massive. Hard not to notice him on the ice, and if he can get his skating skills up to par with his incredible reach he is going to be a tough defenseman to get by.
→ I've heard of changing on the fly, but Thursday's scrimmage featured a new trick I had never seen: changing goalies on the fly. Not only was it entertaining but it also provided me with my first look at suddenly controversial goaltender Varlamov, who held his own amongst the bodies crashing the net.
→ There were some good hits all over the place, more so on Thursday then during the brief snippet I caught on Wednesday, with Osala and Leffler throwing the body around pretty consistently. It's nice to see some intensity even in what amounts to meaningless scrimmages and some of these guys have the potential to really throw it around at the NHL level in the next few years.
→ Others I thought stood out: Mathieu Perreault, Kyle Wilson, Stephen Werner, Oskar Osala, and Francois Bouchard, whose recent success is profiled in tomorrow's Post. I have to say it's refreshing to see the WaPo giving any coverage to the development camp in the first place, let alone two straight profiles.
Bouchard also wins my award for the best hockey hair (with the runner-up prize going to Backstrom...)
All in all I was very impressed with everything - the skill level, the dynamic within the two teams, and of course just the hockey in general. I can't really add much more to the thoughts of others who took in one or more days of the camp other than to say I'm glad I wasn't the only who found it to be just a fantastic event. In the blazing Virginia sun its nice to get a little respite from the mundane day to day July and take in the coolest game on earth - hope everyone made the trip out to see the future Caps!
Friday, July 13, 2007
He's in there somewhere...
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Sorry for the lack of updates today, kids - I was unavoidably removed from my computer and thus the hockey world. I did manage to sneak out to Kettler today for the entire rookie camp scrimmage and I'll have more on that tomorrow. For now, though, I leave you with a few random slices of hockey life...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
(But we'll call it "Fred" for short.)
- Finally! Here is the 2007-08 Washington Capitals Schedule. We open in Atlanta October 5, then back to VC for our second consecutive home opener against the 'Canes. Seemed to work out pretty well for them the first time around...
Preseason schedule is as follows:
Sun Sep 16, 2007 Capitals @ Hurricanes 3:00 PM ET
Thu Sep 20, 2007 Capitals @ Senators 7:00 PM ET
Sat Sep 22, 2007 Capitals @ Lightning 7:30 PM ET
Tue Sep 25, 2007 Hurricanes @ Capitals 7:00 PM ET
Wed Sep 26, 2007 Capitals @ Flyers 7:00 PM ET
Fri Sep 28, 2007 Flyers @ Capitals 7:00 PM ET
Sun Sep 30, 2007 Senators @ Capitals 5:00 PM ET
Bastards. Three home games and I'm out of town for all but the last one. I know they're meaningless, but this hockey withdrawal thing will be at critical mass by then. And so I repeat...bastards.
A couple of things that stick out on this year's schedule:
- The Caps kick off the season in full gear, playing five games in five cities over eight days with only one home game during that stretch. That's going to be fuuuun.
- Our one visit to the Western Conference will be to the Central Division, which features at least a few teams that have improved themselves (at least on paper) and the
old farts Detroit Red Wings. The Caps get a reprieve from the Pacific Division and the defending Champs but will host the Northwest Division.
- No road trips longer than 3 games until, get this - the end of March. A big, fat 6 game road swing right when (we hope) the Caps will be in the thick of the playoff race. The first two games of the trip see the Caps taking on Nashville and Chicago, then down the coast to face all four division rivals.
- Three home games finish off the season after that long road trip, as Carolina, Tampa, and Florida all stop by for a visit.
- At first glance it looks like we won't have to suffer through another home and home and home stretch against any of our Southeast friends this time around, nor will there be any periods of time where we see one team 5 times in 2 weeks or anything like that. Chalk one up for the scheduling gods for that one...
- ...but take it away again for trying to kill me at the end of January. A home and home against my Habs? Booooo. In fact the Caps have two straight home and home series, one against the Leafs a little less than a week before.
- The traditional New Year's Day game will feature a visit from the other nation's capitals, Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa.
- Sidney alert: the Penguins and all their mulleted friends slide into DC on October 20th and March 9th
- Jagr alert: the Rags will be in town December 12th and February 10th...get those boos ready!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
- The Caps announced the roster for this week's development camp out at Kettler, including a lot of familiar names such as super Swede Niklas Backstrom and newly drafted defenseman Karl Alzner.
All on-ice sessions are open to the public free of charge, just another in a long line of things this organization has done to provide access to its grateful, hockey-starved fans this summer. And while all eyes will likely be on the Caps' top picks from the last two years, Backstrom and Alzner, I will be looking forward to getting my first glimpse of a few others that have been floating around the system.
Want to see how the Caps' blue line corps looks for the future? Check out Patrick McNeill, Sami Lepisto, Viktor Dovgan and the twin towers, Sasha Pokoluk and Joe Finley (6'5", 220 lbs and 6'7", 233 lbs respectively...those are big boys). How about the next generation of flashy wingers? Oskar Osala, Andrew Gordon, and local boy Steve Werner should provide plenty of killer dekes and blazing slapshots for anyone in attendance. Up the middle is looking pretty promising, as well, with new Cap Kyle Wilson leading the way.
And let's not forget the anchor of the team, the man between the pipes - the Caps will have their eyes peeled for the heir apparent to Olie's throne, and this is the first chance for many of us to see highly touted prospects Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
As if that wasn't enough, George McPhee went on SportsTalk 980 this morning and apparently provided a little teaser for fans still on the fence about checking out this year's camp, implying that the tone will be much more competitive than in the past to see how the players perform in gamelike situations - so there will be contact. (h/t to OrderedChaos for paraphrasing...)
Sounds good to me!
- Mark your calendars for September 25th - that's the only confirmed preseason home game I've seen for the Caps as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes, 7:00 pm at Verizon Center. Two other games on the schedule (and there may be others confirmed, this is just what I've pieced together) will be September 16th in Raleigh and September 22nd in Tampa. More as the dates trickle in...
September, eh? A little over 2 months and counting.
Sidney Crosby has just been inked to a five year, $43 million contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2012-13 season. Tap of the stick to my super junior reporter Chris...
$43 million dollars - for you math geniuses out there, that shakes out to about $9 million a year. That's a lot of shiny red lip gloss, folks.
(Okay, I can be serious and mature, I swear.)
I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Crosby, although I hide it really well. And $9 million a year is a lot of money, an amount that a lot of players are not worth. Briere? Please. Jagr? Don't make me laugh. But as much as I hate to admit it, other than Ovechkin there is no one more deserving of this contract for what he has added to his team than Crosby. The kid is a darn good player despite my best efforts to point out his shortcomings and will be for years to come.
As Caps fans, this actually does effect us - if as it has been hinted Ovie is in negotiations for a contract extension of his own, this pretty much cements the asking price. The Caps really can't offer him any less than $9 million a year...although if anyone's worth it, it's Ovechkin. Anyone here in DC not willing to give that kid as much as he wants if it means he stays in a Caps uniform until he's old and gray? Exactly.
It's really an interesting deal on the Penguins' part. You have to think that five years for their golden boy compared with some of these life sentences being handed out across the NHL is a little strange. To me its just a sign that, like many native Pittsburghians, Sidney has no interest in spending the rest of his life there. (If he continues to act like native Pittsburghians, we may even see him here in DC.)
There's no way that, given the chance, the Pens don't give him the maximum salary they can if they can also lock him up for as long as possible. Under this deal Crosby will just have to wait one more year to test the free agent market at the ripe old age of 26 (?), and in the meantime he'll have a nice fat wallet and job security (like that was ever in doubt). Pretty sweet deal for Sid.
Serious, mature time done.
Insert requisite "now he can afford to get his own place" joke...here.
Update: Eternally ten steps ahead of the rest of us thanks to their fabulous connections, the boys over at OFB have Ovechkin's reaction to the contract. He's pretty smart, that Ovie.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The Islanders announced today that they were naming Bill Guerin, who signed a two year deal last week, their new captain. The move was a surprise to Guerin, who apparently had no idea of the decision until he was handed a jersey with a 'C' on it during the press conference announcing his arrival and that of the other new inhabitants of the Island
Bill Guerin, who has been a member of the Islanders for exactly four days, is the newest captain of the Islanders.
Guerin, who was a member of another team until July 1, is the Isles' new captain.
Sorry, it doesn't matter how many times or how many ways I say it - its still weird. Weirder than Sidney Crosby, who is still learning how to tie his shoelaces and not wet the bed like a big boy, being captain of the Penguins?
...okay, no, not weirder than that. But it's still strange, right? I always find it weird when teams make brand new players the leaders - it seems to fly in the face of any logic that would usually take into account team chemistry, leadership, etc. Had Halpern departed our nation's capital a year earlier than he did, I doubt very much that the Caps would have named Clark as the captain at that point.
But I guess...congrats, Bill.
The NHL continues to help Olie and his fellow Athletes Against Autism founders, Scott Mellanby and Byron Dafoe, shed some light on an often misunderstood disease with an article on AAA's recent golf tournament. The event, which included 35 athletes and 100 golfers (including Matt Pettinger and Brian Willsie) raised over $300,000 for the cause - and check out the picture of Olie's specially made mask that was auctioned off, featuring the new Caps' colors of course. Pretty sharp!
To learn more about the disease or to help them in their crusade to raise awareness visit the Athletes Against Autism site or AutismSpeaks.org.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
A little something to make me sweeter
Oh baby refrain from breaking my heart
I'm so in love with you
That you give me no reason
Why you're making me work so hard
That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no
Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby, please give a little respect to me
"The Capitals are much improved -- without breaking the bank [...] Nylander had a great year for the Rangers, Poti is a solid addition on defense and Kozlov gives them depth. I think they've signed three of the top nine free agents available."
This of course comes right on the heels of Scott Burnside's analysis calling the Caps a team on the rise:
"Slowly, quietly, GM George McPhee is building the Caps into a dangerous team in the east. Hard-working and tough already, the Caps added some offensive juice down the middle in the form of Viktor Kozlov and Michael Nylander (now Public Enemy #1 in Edmonton, not that anyone in Washington cares) who combined for 51 goals and 134 points a year ago. Tom Poti, another New York Islander ex-pat should help out a power play that ranked 24th. The Caps hung around the playoff race for two-thirds of a season a year ago -- look for them to be in it until the end this coming season."
To quote Winnie the Pooh's friend Eeyore: thanks for noticing us.
Now I'm just waiting for that flashy NHL.com cover story and I'll be happy. You know, like the other teams that did less. (Hello, Detroit, I'm looking at you - signing two geriatrics does not a spectacular offseason make...)
Saturday, July 07, 2007
It's always nice to open the paper (or in my case, click on a link) and see Dave Fay's byline in the Washington Times. It just sets the mood for a happy day.
Sarcasm, folks. Live it, love it.
Just days after the Caps made a pretty significant splash in the free agent market, a collection of moves that seem to have pleased both pundits and fans alike, we get an article from everyone's favorite crotchety old man with the following title: Caps Still Must Address Defense.
Okay. We all were here last year and the year before. We know that defense has, in recent years, not been a strong suit in Washington. No one is arguing that point, nor is anyone arguing that while the moves GMGM made were good this is still not a Stanley Cup-caliber team and they will at some point need a veteran, stay at home defenseman. Even McPhee himself has hinted that the Caps are not necessarily done retooling, a process that will likely and should continue through the arbitration period and right up to training camp.
But do we have to get all gloomy so quickly? McPhee has pulled off some near-brilliant moves, starting with the draft, and has improved this team significantly. Instead of pointing out that "All [three new Caps] have warts", (and honestly, very few players don't have "warts" as he so nicely puts it) why not focus on what they can add to this team? Power play presence, puck-moving ability, veteran experience...nothing? Nope. Here's what he says about the newbies:
Kozlov, 32, has worked with Alex Ovechkin previously in Russia. Assuming Kozlov is Ovechkin's right wing, that opens up avenues for the third-year player that were not there before. [Gee, I think he likes Kozlov, who to me was the weakest of the three signings...]
The complaint against Nylander, who turns 35 in October, wherever he has been is that he holds the puck too long, passing up scoring opportunities while playing keep-away. Chances are that can't be cured, but at least no one has been complaining about his defense. [Oh, snap! Clever, Dave.]
Poti's reputation has been as a "soft" defenseman, one who is not as reliable killing a penalty or even in normal defensive situations as he is setting up a power play, where he excels. Poti, 30, should be able to build on his reputation with the Caps. [Not really sure if he means that in a good way or a bad way...]
Dave does praise McPhee for doing what he's done and admits the team is better, but there are a few too many "buts" in this article for my liking, a few too many backhanded compliments. I'm not surprised, I'm just pointing it out - it's what I do.
One last rant and then I'll let ol' Dave be - Mr. Fay, please don't put words in my mouth or thoughts in my mind by saying stuff like this: "[i]t's just that fans are anxious to hear what sound a second shoe makes."
Please, I'm a Caps fan. I've heard plenty of other shoes dropping. Let me be happy, if only for a little while longer...
Going through hockey withdrawal in this global warming-induced heat of summer? Check out a brilliant solution:
You just can't make this stuff up...even on horribly slow news days like this.
Friday, July 06, 2007
- I can't believe I'm about to spend my 450th post talking about the Sabres, but what can you do...
So when Kevin Lowe lost out on Nylander he made what sounded like a somewhat empty threat - he would tender offer sheets to restricted free agents. His rationale is that the Oilers cannot take the ice in the fall with the roster they have right now, and I am inclined to agree with him. Still, I highly doubted that Lowe, up until recently one of the more respected GMs if only for his glorious history as a player, would stoop to Bobby Clarke's thuggish ways.
Boy, was I wrong.
In what some would probably call a desperate move, Lowe presented an offer sheet to Tomas Vanek, Buffalo's young emerging superstar, for a whopping 7-year, $50 million deal. Being no dummy Vanek signed, putting Buffalo in the position of having to match or lose yet another offensive talent from their already depleted roster. Regier, obviously not wanting to see that happen (I'm picturing Slug riots the likes of which you've never seen), will hold a press conference this afternoon to in all likelihood announce that Buffalo will match.
Wow. It's a little ridiculous to me that a) such a huge contract would be offered to someone like Vanek, who while talented is not yet a proven superstar and b) Buffalo would open their wallets for Vanek and not for Drury or Briere. Puzzler, isn't it? So much for these small-market teams not having the cash or cojones to go after those fat contracts...$50 million is nothing to sneeze at.
- The Caps will hold their development camp at KCI next week and all events are open to the public - if I recall correctly, in past years this event has been exiled to Hershey, so if you're around and want to check out some of our young talent make an effort to come out and see them play. That means not only getting your first glimpse of new Caps studs Backstrom and Alzner but also some of the lesser known but equally talented guys in the system like Varlamov, Pokoluk and Werner. If I can swing it I know I'll be there!
Here's the schedule, per Tarik:
Tuesday, July 10 -- Players arrive
Wednesday, July 11 - On ice in two groups beginning at 8:30 a.m.; scrimmage from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 12 - On ice in two groups beginning at 8:30 a.m.; scrimmage from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
Friday, July 13 - On ice in two groups beginning at 8:30 a.m.; scrimmage from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 14 - On ice in two groups beginning at 8:30 a.m.; scrimmage from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 15 -- Players depart
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The wheel o' backup goaltenders continues, as the Buffalo Sabres replace Martin Biron/Ty Conklin with Penguins' castoff Jocelyn Thibault.
In other signing news, the Islanders signing spree continues, signing Bill Guerin to a two-year deal and Mike Comrie to a one-year deal...good news for the Oilers, since Comrie was probably the one free agent they didn't want.
- One of the biggest splashes in the free agent market this offseason was made by, who else, the New York Rangers. Signing first Scott Gomez and then Chris Drury was a bold move to be sure, but the jury's still out on whether it was a smart one.
With these two signings the Rangers' salary, pre-arbitration, was inflated to $39,711,310. Still under the cap, so no problem, right? Wrong.
There is this tiny nagging problem that four of their cornerstone players remain unsigned: Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery, Marcel Hossa, and Henrik Lundqvist. (Prucha was the fifth, but he re-signed today, terms undisclosed.) The remaining cap space is just enough to cover Lundqvist at $5 million, Avery at $2.5 million, Hossa at his qualifying offer, and Shanahan at $2.5 million plus cap-exempt bonuses.
Lundqvist is in the best position to negotiate, arguably being the biggest reason for the Rangers' success in the postseason this past summer, and could file for arbitration before tomorrow's deadline.
Raise your hand if you think any of these guys, particularly King Henrik, is going to settle for these amounts after the numbers thrown at Drury and Gomez. No one? Me neither. Now raise your hand if you think Shanahan is as good as gone. Everyone?
- In other Rangers-related news, the Devils have stolen away Lundqvist's backup Kevin Weekes, signing him to a $1.375-million, two-year contract. I guess all this really means is that Clemmensen is on his way out and the Devils will now overpay someone different to ride the bench for 79 games a year. Good plan.
Enough cheesy patriotic mumbo-jumbo - we've all had our fill of hamburgers, beer, fireworks and rain...back to the important matters at hand.
- Looks like this Nylander thing is going to work out fine, at least for the Caps. According to Tarik (by way of the Edmonton Journal) there was no binding contract with Edmonton, just a verbal and e-mail exchange between Lowe and Nylander's agent. Lowe apparently called Nylander in Sweden on Monday and was informed that he had signed with the Caps instead. I understand Lowe's reasons for being upset and truthfully Nylander should have kept him apprised of the situation if he was reconsidering - but bottom line, a contract with the Oilers was never signed and until it was Lowe should have continued to pursue other avenues.
It's sometimes hard to remember that all of this wheeling and dealing of players actually involves real people and real lives. This was clearly a change of heart based on Michael's decision to put his family first, ahead of a more lucrative contract with the Oilers, and stay in an area they were familiar with. I feel sorry for Lowe and the Oilers but I applaud Nylander for really putting the concerns of his family before anything else. That's exactly the type of player I want wearing the Caps' jersey.
- Guess what? The Islanders actually signed someone! Ruslan Fedotenko (former Bolt and probable future recipient of another "kiss my [rear]" quote from Tortorella) agreed to a one year deal with the Isles that would pay him $2.9 million. Woo.
- Speaking of that quotable quote by the ever-classy Lightning coach...who out there thinks Eric Perrin is going to play just a little bit harder those 8 times he has to see his former team now that he's with a division rival? Should be fun to watch.
- I'm sure I'm the only one who cares but I'm feeling extremely let down by Bob Gainey's efforts to bolster a Canadiens team that found itself outside the playoffs looking in just a few short months ago. The only good thing he has done is rid himself of dead weight (aka Samsonov and Souray). Hamrlik and Smolinski are good players but are not enough for this team that is lacking in a lot of areas. You've got your captain, Saku Koivu; solid goaltending for years to come with Huet, Halak and Price likely competing for the number one spot, a handful of promising youngsters (Ryder, Higgins, Komisarek) and then...what? Even the Caps at least had Ovechkin to build around. I see a couple of rough years ahead for this storied franchise, my beloved Habs.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
I've never considered myself a particularly patriotic person, I'll admit it; but there is something magical about today that makes me a bit sentimental. So I hope you'll indulge me in a bit of non-hockey chatter on this, the birthday of our country. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I have often expressed my love for Canada and consider myself extremely lucky to have spent four years immersed in the history and culture, the traditions and people of our neighbor to the north. There wasn't a moment I regretted fleeing the safety and comfort of the place I was born to explore new things and new places. Still there was never a question of whether I would return to the States at the end of my studies, and it's nothing against my adopted country - I just missed my home.
I am something of a history junkie, and it is for that reason that I am grateful every day to have grown up in Virginia - the birthplace of so many founding fathers, one of the original thirteen colonies, and the staging ground for some of the battles that formed and re-formed our great country. For many people, touring Mount Vernon or the battlefields of the Civil War is a family vacation, something that must be planned far in advance and taken in all at once. For me, it was and remains little more than a short car ride away.
I am now lucky enough to live in Washington, DC, and I'll tell you something - you can keep your New Yorks, your Bostons, your Chicagos. In my mind nothing tops our nation's capital. We may not have the bustling nightlife or the Central Park views, the funny accents or the great sports franchises. But we have something else, and its something I can never fully put my finger on.
I just know that I feel it when I walk along the Mall, swathed in pink from the latest cherry blossoms. I feel it when I drive in over the Potomac River and get a breathtaking view of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol. I feel it when my bus passes the White House everyday on the way to work and I feel it when I am allowed entrance, free of charge, to view up close the treasures of the art, science and history world. This is a great place to live, a great country to live in for all its problems and neuroses, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
231 years ago today a group of men did something tantamount to treason and punishable by death - they declared that henceforth this would be an independent nation, free from the colonial grasp of the mighty British Empire. With that declaration that small group of men set in motion something that would change the course of history not only for the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies but for the rest of the modern world.
The country has since had its share of ups and downs, its wars both home and abroad, its proud moments and its shameful episodes. Yet it all really boils down to one thing: freedom. I have the freedom to sit here and write whatever I want, and if someone disagrees with me they have the right to do so without fear of retribution. I can criticize the government, practice whatever religion I want, vote for my leaders, and as I've recently discovered through personal experience, serve on a jury of my peers to help administer justice.
Now I consider myself a halfway decent writer; I can spin the odd phrase, use the occasional clever wording, and sometimes it even makes sense...but let's face it, I am no Thomas Jefferson. Of that I am absolutely certain. And so I leave you with the words that so beautifully and eloquently announced the birth of a nation:
Tomorrow we resume the normal hockey discourse here in the Cheap Seats - for now I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe 4th of July.
(And to my friends north of the border? Happy Wednesday!)
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Okay, nobody panic...I'm not a betting woman but I would put all my money on the fact that Nylander will in fact be with the Caps come training camp. From everything I've read and everything I understand about contracts 101, this thing with the Oilers is nothing more than a little blip on the radar. Until I hear otherwise, that's what I have to believe.
(I think we also have to consider that this may be a bit of Kevin Lowe trying to save face after getting...oh, what was it again...uh, NOTHING since the trade deadline last season. Oilers' fans, get your torches and pitchforks ready.)
Check out what Tarik has to say about this whole mess on Capitals Insider and in the Post, or Corey's piece in the Times for a little perspective.
In other new Caps' news, Nylander and Karl Alzner both stopped in to SportsTalk 980 this week. Funny, funny guys - give 'em a listen.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Quick update on a few former Caps - Jiri Novotny signs with the Blue Jackets for two years and Dainius Zubrus signs for six years with the Devils. Fascinating.
Oh, and if you're keeping track of all parts to that controversial trade...Timo Helbling remains teamless. Even more fascinating.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Okay. Whew. Done jumping around and ready to look at this signing from a calm, collected point of view.
Oh, who am I kidding?? I'm still giddy as a schoolgirl because Nylander is back!
I know there are people out there saying he's not as good without Jagr or he's overpaid at $5 million plus per year...and those people can stuff it. Because in his two years here and in the years since I never saw anyone who could puckhandle around five opposition players and a goalie the way he could. It was a thing of beauty, something truly breathtaking to behold.
Now picture that dangling ability. Combined with the perfect pass. Landing on the stick of Ovechkin. Uh...I may need to start jumping around again.
But seriously, say what you will about Michael's age or his production being an outgrowth of playing on a line with Jagr. Ovechkin will always beat out Jagr in my book, and I can't wait to see the production from both of these guys once they join forces.
It will be something to see, I assure you.
Day 1 of the "Free Agent Frenzy" has come and gone, and we've all had time to process the moves that were made or not made as the case may be around the NHL.
- Let's deal with the biggest issue on everyone's mind - no, we didn't sign Gomez or the gruesome twosome from Buffalo. Uh...did people actually think we were going to? The prices and length of term for those three guys who, I'm sorry, are grossly overrated, would have put the Caps in a financial and contractual bind and prevented them from moving forward with extensions for our youngsters in the coming years. They're good players, sure. Are they worth $6-7 million a year until the end of time? Absolutely not.
What's more, we all knew those were the kinds of dollars and contract lengths being tossed around for any one of those centers, and had we signed any of them there would have been cries of "overpaid!" coming from every corner of CapsNation. Now I'm well aware that I've repeated time and time again how much I love Chris Drury and wanted him here. But not for five years at just over $7 million a year, no thank you. And now that he's donning the hated blueshirt, my love and respect for him has just taken a serious hit. Sorry, Chris, but you can't be the heart and soul player for a team that has neither heart nor soul. Good luck with
- As always I took a spin around the Caps online world to get a feel for the verdict on yesterday's action, and while I was pretty impressed (and frankly surprised) with how positive many people seemed to be, to the rest of you I have to say one thing: quit your whining. Look around at the deals being made all day yesterday, huge dollar amounts flying left and right, lifetime contracts being doled out...then look at the fantastic job that GMGM did.
He got us a puck-moving defenseman who can, wait for it, quarterback the power play. He locked him up for four years at $3.5 million per year, maybe a tad overpaying but definitely low considering the market. Maybe not a number one defenseman, but still top four and all in all a good pickup. Then he went out and got a guy who has played with Ovechkin, who put up career numbers last year, who at just 30 is still in his prime, and who can fill the need for a skilled right winger. Price tag? Two years, $2.5 million. Voila.
That's filling two holes that needed to be filled with relatively little risk involved, particularly with Kozlov. If either doesn't work out, a 2 or 4 year deal is much easier to move than a 6-8 year contract...we know that all too well. So that's $6 million tied up in two pretty decent players, leaving tons of cash left over to go after one sexy center, whoever that may be...I know who I want.
- Back to the Poti deal - this is a guy that I actually wanted to see here the last time he was available and the more I think about it the better I feel about this signing. People are complaining that he's sometimes prone to defensive mistakes. Guess what? He wasn't brought in to be a Scott Stevens or even a Brendan Witt. He was brought in to do exactly what he does, play the point, boost the offense, and occasionally shut down the other team's scoring.
The organization has quite a few youngsters who will, in time, fill that stay at home d-man position. Jeff Schultz leaps immediately to mind, as does Shaone Morrisonn. Big bodies, young players who will grow into their role, and the only way to let them do that is to actually give them experience doing just that. It may continue to be a little bumpy along the way, but let's face it - how much worse could it really be? And in the meantime you get a guy with playoff experience, a guy who knows a few of his new teammates, a guy who can pick up some badly needed points on the power play...I say well done, McPhee.
- The Rangers are really bugging the crap out of me, I'll say it right now. It's not that I thought Drury or Gomez would come here because I honestly didn't, as I mentioned before. It's the sheer audacity they have in resuming the game I like to call "New York big bucks franchise tries to buy a championship" (See Steinbrenner, George.) Last season I found myself occasionally praising the team I loathed for getting away from all that crap and trying to build through the draft and acquisitions based more on character and ability than on name alone (around Jagr, sure, but still...) Flash forward to yesterday: they sign Drury and Gomez, the two biggest names of the UFA frenzy. They're going to lose Nylander, they just lost Ortmeyer...and they're back to square one. Of course, they still don't have any defense to back up their "firepower", so at least we can hang on to that lovely thought.
- What the hell are the Flyers doing? I'm no expert in the ways of building a winning team, but to me it doesn't seem wise to lock up a handful of second-tier players to huge long-term contracts the year after your worst season in franchise history. To me this looks like the desperate act of a franchise trying to quickly win back their fans. Newsflash to Snider and Holmgren: Philly fans are fickle. Sure, the trades and signings that got done yesterday may make the Flyers an infinitely better team...it could also blow up in their face. As a former division rival, am I the only one who is hoping it's the latter? If that makes me a bad person, I don't care. Too many long nights surrounded by fans in orange and black will make a person bitter.
(I will say that I do like the idea of Briere going somewhere I already hate - makes it easier to continue my own personal loathing of the evil little hobbit.)
- Winners of the first day: Colorado. Wow. Locking up Smyth and Hannan (who went for a lot less than I thought he would) augments what already was a pretty decent team...hey, any team that can make Andrew Brunette into a consistent scorer gets my vote. With Joe Sakic continuing to produce and lead in a way that only he can and now these two new additions, this Avs team is going to look pretty darn scary come the fall.
- Bizarre Award: Pittsburgh. They've already locked up their geriatric duo, Roberts and Recchi. So what's next? Go find a 35 year old defenseman whose best days are behind him to...to what? Increase the average age in the locker room? Okay, sure. Then they pick up Petr Sykora (you know, the "good" one), who has never really lived up to the hype that surrounds him. Just ask Devils fans. Throw in the addition of a new backup goalie after spending this year praising the hell out of Thibault's performance, and rightly so, and you've got one strange, strange day on the market for the Pens.
- The Caps really were the best team in the division at improving their roster after their moves yesterday. Granted, they had more work to do than the other four teams who all either made the playoffs or really sat just on the cusp at the end of last season, but still. No Cup winner out of the Southeast Division this season? What's that all about? Let's take a brief gander around the Southeast:
- Tampa: Signed Michel Ouellet to a two-year deal. Respectable point totals, but the guy couldn't score consistently on a line with Sidney Crosby. Please. I may not like Sid the Kid very much but I hear he's a pretty decent passer...
- Carolina: Agreed to a two-year deal with Jeff Hamilton. Again, I'll say...who?
- Atlanta: Signed Eric Perrin, formerly of the Bolts, to a two-year deal. Not necessarily a bad signing, just kind of...meh. Signed Todd White to a four-year deal. Again, not necessarily bad, just...meh. And they lost their silver bullet, Jon Sim, to free agency. Oops.
- Florida: Signed Richard Zednik (2 years), Brett McLean (3 years) and Radek Dvorak (2 years). I'm sorry, I do love him, but Zed? Suckers. The other two are space-fillers at best, and with Bertuzzi and Roberts departing at the deadline they have very little grit. Of course they did swing that Vokoun deal at the draft, which fills a very urgent need in net and signals the end of Eddie "the Balding Eagle" Belfour's reign of terror, so that's an upgrade.
So now we sit and wait for the rest of the UFAs to go their separate ways, with many eyes suddenly and bizarrely on the Michael Nylander situation but also focused on *shudder* Alexei Yashin. The Caps are still looking for a top line center and I'll bet GMGM has been very busy today trying to lock one up as soon as possible...stay tuned.
Update: Per Japers' Rink (and courtesy of an alert commenter) it looks like my Nylander dream, like so many of my Caps-related dreams, has come crashing back to earth with a resounding thud. A second radio station is claiming Nylander has signed a 4 year deal with the Oilers. No confirmation from TSN as yet, but this is twice now that we're hearing word out of Edmonton of a deal - three times and I say we move on to...*sigh*...Yashin. I guess. Sure.