Monday, January 18, 2010

Olympic Preview: Group C

With the Olympics approaching, Nonsense Hockey will be breaking down each team group-by-group to give you a little glimpse of how things may shake out in Vancouver. The teams will be ranked by points. After pool play, the top four teams will get a bye and teams seeded 5-12 will play quarterfinal matches. The winners will play the top four seeded teams in a battle for Olympic gold.

Team: Belarus
Current IIHF Rank: 8
Outlook: This may be the best team Belarus has ever fielded. Offensively they may be able to score some goals, with the Kostitsyn brothers (Montreal Canadiens) and Mikhail Grabosvki (Toronto Maple Leafs) possessing NHL abilities that can be showcased on an international stage. Konstantin Kolstov (Salavat Yulayev Ufa) is a speedy playmaker and former first round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins whose quickness is an asset in a more open game on an Olympic-size rink. Defensively Ruslan Salei (Colorado Avalanche) will be leaned on as their top defenseman and Viktor Kostyuchenok’s experience will be invaluable, having played at the World Championships from 2005-2009, being a plus-player on an otherwise minus team three of the five years. Andrei Mezin (Metallurg Magnitogorsk) will likely get the start in goal despite being 35 years of age. He played net at the 2009 World Championships for Belarus, standing on his head with a 1.72 GAA and a .948 save percentage. Belarus has some nice pieces and will compete, but like some of the other bottom-tier countries lack the depth to make a huge splash in Olympic competition.
PREDICTION: 9th

Team: Finland
Current IIHF Rank: 4
Outlook: The Finns will be a fun team to watch in Vancouver, coming off a silver medal performance in 2006. Miikka Kiprussoff (Calgary Flames) is a rock in goal and can win games almost by himself if he is playing his best (which he usually is). Defensively the Finns are slick-skating with Joni Pitkanen (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia Flyers) leading the charge. The Finns play a solid, error-free game and move the puck very well. Offensively they are lead by captain Saku Koivu (Anaheim Ducks) who brings experience and goal-scoring touch. Olli Jokinen (Calgary Flames) is a world-class offensive weapon, and the “Finnish Flash” himself, Teemu Selanne (Anaheim Ducks) is no stranger to playing on the world stage. Finland is solid and play a very tight game, something that is very important in a short tournament.

PREDICTION: Bronze medal


Team: Germany
Current IIHF Rank: 12
Outlook: The team will be well-coached, lead by former NHLer Uwe Krupp and will be looking to medal for the first time since its bronze medal 78 years ago. Unfortunately for the Germans, it’s not likely to come this Olympics. Goaltending is shaky, with San Jose Shark Thomas Greiss likely getting the starting nod. Defensively, Christian Ehrhoff (Vancouver Canucks) is reliable and Jakub Ficenic (ERC Ingolstadt) can shoot the puck hard and is a good offensive weapon from the point. Dennis Seidenberg (Florida Panthers) is a slick but quiet defenseman who goes unnoticed but plays fundamentally sound. Offensively Marcel Goc (Nashville Predators) will be leaned on heavily, as will Marco Sturm (Boston Bruins), but after those two the scoring falls off drastically. Philip Gogulla (Portland Pirates), who is Buffalo Sabres property, may chip in offensively but is not the game-changer that Germany desperately needs in its line-up. After finishing 10th in Italy, things don’t appear to have changed a whole lot for Germany.

PREDICITON: 11th

Team: Sweden
Current IIHF Rank: 3
Outlook: The Swedes will be defending their gold medal in Vancouver, but unfortunately their efforts may be in vain. Despite being rock solid in net with Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) who is perhaps one of the top two or three goalies in the world, the team is lacking offensively. The back end is set, with Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings) who has a Norris trophy for every day of the week, and Nicklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings) who is a smooth-skating defenseman who tallied 45 assists last year for the Wings. Tobias Enstrom (Atlanta Thrashers) is another diminutive Swede who skates well, play his position very well, and has a nice play-making touch. Offensively the Sedin twins (Vancouver Canucks) will be the focal point of the offense with Peter Forsberg (Modo) and Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators) aging. Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals) is a world-class play maker who could very well find himself centering Alfredsson come February. Henrik Zetterburg (Detroit Red Wings) is another sniper who can change a game by himself, perhaps being the best pure scorer on the roster. The Swedes have an uphill climb to defend their gold, however, with other nations simply boasting more depth and talent.

PREDICTION: 5th

PREDICTIONS RECAP:
Gold medal: Canada
Silver medal: Russia
Bronze medal: Finlan
4th place: United States
5th place: Sweden
6th place: Czech Republc
7th place: Switzerland
8th place: Slovakia
9th place: Belarus
10th place: Latvia
11th place: Germany
12th place: Norway

Group A Preview
Group B Preview

That's all for our Olympic preview. The Olympics will be a fantastic tournament with a lot of open ice for the top players in the world to showcase their creativity.

I may chime in with quick hits later today. The AHL All-Star game is in Portland, Maine, tonight, so we'll undoubtedly be dicussing that and some of the best up-and-coming talent in the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quick Hits For 1/17/10

With the whole ref debacle, hits to the head, and other nonsense going on, it has been a busy 24 hours.

QUICK HITS:


-TSN and the Boston Globe are both reporting that the Bruins are scheduled to open up play in Prague for the 2010-2011 season. Their opponent will be the Phoenix Coyotes. I can't really say that is an interesting opening night game, but it's not for us, it's for them.

-For any of those of missed the Ryan Wilson on Patrik Elias hit from last evening, the clip is below. Wilson claims it was a clean check, and that Elias simply had his head down. Maybe so, however, it doesn't mean that it won't add fuel to the fire on trying to ban hits to the head. Wilson followed "the code" later in the game by accepting a fight challenge from Mark Fraser. Speaking of "The Code", everyone should check out that book. Very rich and compelling stuff.


Wilson hit on Elias:






-With the Olympics this year, that means no All-Star game. TSN came up with their starting line-ups for each squad should thereof been a game. Cannot really disagree with those names. At first, Chris Pronger was a question mark to me. I had no idea that he is having a ridiculous season in Philly. Posting 6 goals and 26 assists, which would make him a shoe-in. Not to mention he is +18. As the article mentions, Mike Green was left out, but Tyler Myers has been outstanding as a rookie. He is a serious contender for the Calder trophy, pending Tavares or Duchene do not go on scoring tears. Nevertheless, one must realize that Myers is a defenseman; he is not going to post 60 points.



-Rick DiPietro received a loud ovation for his return to Long Island last night. He was able to pick-up the victory in a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo.


-Earlier this week we touched on the upcoming movie, The Tooth Fairy. Well at the Staples Center yesterday, the film's star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson made an appearance by dropping the puck at a ceremonial faceoff. You can also go hear what The Rock has to say about the movie as well.


-The NHL donated $100,000 to UNICEF for Haiti relief. A classy move made by the NHL. For those of you who wish to donate, or would like to help those in need in Haiti, click here. The NHL headquarters were not the only ones helping either. Teams from all around the league were helping out in one way or another. Through 50/50's, collections, and raffle money; teams found a way to help.

-Interested in seeing whom the fan's thought the decade’s best in the NHL are? Well nhl.com has that list and more.



I was going to post some predictions for the remaining games tonight to try to help Buottes career prediction record! However, I did not want to do that without his approval. So, maybe another night I shall do just that. Look out for Buotte's Olympic Preview: Group C and more Nonsense tomorrow!



Good night.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Refs Botch Another One

In the wake of the entire Stephane Auger fiasco, this was the last thing the NHL needed; another botched replay that calls the integrity of the game and the sanity of NHL officials into question. The play in question came in the 6th round of the shootout during the 1/16/09 game between the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings. Steve Ott appeared to have slipped the puck under Wings' goalie Jimmy Howard, but referee Rob Martell, in perfect position, very adamantly waived the goal off.

NHL rules state that if a call on the ice is to be overturned there must be substantial video evidence to back up overturning a call. In this case there was none whatsover--just the word of Mike Leggo, the trailing official who claims he saw what no video camera could--the puck crossing the goal line. Here is the play in question:



What is the point of having video replay if it's not going to be used for it's intended purpose? With two teams battling for a very important extra point, assuming the puck crossed the line and going against standard practice, which is substantial video evidence, is absurd. Yet, for the second time in a few days, we have an officiating controversy. Maybe the call was correct, but the point is that we cannot assume a puck crossed the line. It's an injustice to the Red Wings, who for the second time this season have been on the wrong end of, plainly stated, an incorrect call. Coincidentally or not, both games were against Dallas.

I do support the instant replay and getting the call right; but if the replay can't show it, one official who is eighty feet away should not be able to determine a point in the standings, especially when the official who is two feet away in correct position very emphatically said the goal was no good. I'm sure Wings GM Ken Holland will have something to say about this at the next GMs meeting. I think the officials need a meeting, especially after the last few days, to set the record straight and get back to making the correct calls.

QUICK HITS FROM 1/16/09:

-There was plenty of afternoon action on this Saturday, including the Colorado Avalanche bouncing the New Jersey Devils at home, 3-1. The Los Angeles Kings snagged an extra point from Boston in a shootout, 4-3, and the Chicago Blackhawks rallied behind three points a piece from Jonathan Toews (2 G, A) and Patrick Kane (3 A) to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-5 slugfest.

-Tobias Enstrom of the Atlanta Thrashers passed legend Yannick Tremblay for the franchise record in scoring by a defenseman. Enstroms 108 career points eclipsed Tremblay's 107 in a 5-3 win over Carolina Saturday night.

-A couple key injuries: Patrick Elias suffered an injury in the Devils loss Saturday. Updates on the severity are expected on Sunday. Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is listed day-to-day with a fractured finger in his catching hand. He did not start the team's final game of a brief west coast road trip in Vancouver Saturday night.

That's all for today; more Nonsense tomorrow.

-Buotte

Olympic Preview: Group B

With the Olympics approaching, Nonsense Hockey will be breaking down each team group-by-group to give you a little glimpse of how things may shake out in Vancouver. The teams will be ranked by points. After pool play, the top four teams will get a bye and teams seeded 5-12 will play quarterfinal matches. The winners will play the top four seeded teams in a battle for Olympic gold.

Team: Czech Republic
Current IIHF Rank: 6
Outlook: I really like the looks of this team on paper. The 2006 bronze medalists are back with a solid roster and have solid firepower throughout their line-up. In goal, Tomas Vokoun (Nashville Predators) is solid with Olympic experience and has the potential to steal a game here and there. What stands out is their holes defensively; Pavel Kubina (Atlanta Thrashers) and Marek Zidlicky (Minnesota Wild) will anchor the defense, but after that your best option is either Filip Kuba (Ottawa Senators) or Jan Hejda (Columbus Blue Jackets). Offensively the team should be able to bury the puck, with Martin Havlat (Minnesota Wild) and former NHL stud Jaromir Jagr (Avangard Omsk) leading the charge. Patrick Elias (New Jersey Devils) is a quiet leader who will captain the team and David Krejci (Boston Bruins) is a slick playmaker who would look good on a line with Jagr. This team will hold its own and score some goals, but at the end of the day may not have the depth necessary for a short tournament like the Olympics.

PREDICTION: 6th


Team: Latvia
Current IIHF Rank: 10
Outlook: Latvia is playing in it’s fourth Olympics and third consecutive after going 66 years between appearances. After finishing 12th in 2006, there is certainly room for improvement and this team may be able to build on its disappointing finish in Italy. A team short on NHL talent (four North American players) and long on Dinamo Riga players (fourteen) the team may be troubled defensively. Latvia did tie the United States in 2006, something they look to build on here. They also had Arturs Irbe between the pipes then. Edgar Masalskis (Dinamo Riga) will likely be the starting goaltender after starting all seven Olympic qualifying games and putting up stellar numbers which included a 2.53 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Martins Karsums (Norfolk Admirals) and Herberts Vasiljevs (Krefeld Pinguine) are two of the teams top offensive threats, and captain Karlis Skrastins (Dallas Stars) will anchor the back end, but they simply don’t have the depth to run with the big guns, especially having to face Russia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia in pool play. Tough draw there.

PREDICTION: 10th


Team: Russia
Current IIHF Rank: 1
Outlook: This team is certainly going to be fun to watch, if nothing else. The goaltending is set with Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose Sharks) and the offense is going to be lights out. Hockey purists are already dreaming of seeing Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers) working together to create what could be the most explosive Olympic hockey team in recent memory. Round that out with other dynamic players such as Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings), Alexander Semin (Washington Capitals), and Maxim Afinogenov (Atlanta Thrashers) and you have a team that will score goals by the bunches. Defensively the team needs a shutdown defenseman or two, but Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh Penguins) will be steady along with Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens). The team is not built on playing defense, it’s built on scoring goals—and a lot of them. In a short tournament like that, that’s okay. They may rely on Nabokov to bail them out, but all they have to do is get the puck over the oppositions blue line and they become an automatic threat to start lighting up the scoreboard. A deep run is almost guaranteed and I look to see Russia competing for gold against Canada in 2010.

PREDICTION: Silver medal

Team: Slovakia
Current IIHF Rank: 8
Outlook: Slovakia is coming off its best Olympic finish ever, a 5th place showing in 2006, but I look at 2010 as a step backwards for Slovakia. Goaltending is suspect; it’s a toss-up between the young Jarsolav Halak (Montreal Canadiens) and Peter Budaj (Colorado Avalanche). Budaj did play well in 2006, going 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA, but Halak may get the nod over Budaj despite Halak’s inexperience. Defensively the team can push the play on the back end with Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins), Lubomir Visnovsky (Edmonton Oilers), and Andrej Meszaros (Tampa Bay Lightning) all being experienced puck movers who can shoot the puck and start the breakout. Offensively the team runs thin, with a significant falloff after Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks) and Marian Gaborik (New York Rangers). Case and point? Jozef Stumpel (Barys Astana) and Zigmund Palffy (HK 36 Skalica) will both be counted on to score goals. That could be a problem. It will be fun to see Marcel Hossa (Dinamo Riga) and Marian Hossa playing together, should they be on the same line. Overall, despite having some elite level scorers, there is a significant drop-off on the bottom three lines and the Slovaks simply cannot compete with the big guns in this tournament.

PREDICTION: 8th


Stay tuned as I may get some quick hits and predictions in before tonight's action. The Group C preview is upcoming for tomorrow at Nonsense.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Olympic Preview: Group A

With the Olympics approaching, Nonsense Hockey will be breaking down each team group-by-group to give you a little glimpse of how things may shake out in Vancouver. The teams will be ranked by points. After pool play, the top four teams will get a bye and teams seeded 5-12 will play quarterfinal matches. The winners will play the top four seeded teams in a battle for Olympic gold.


Team: Canada
Current IIHF Rank: 1
Outlook: How can you pick against Canada? The 2002 gold medalists are looking to reclaim what’s theirs, and they may just have the team to do it. There are no questions in goal with Marty Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) likely being the number one guy and with Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins) waiting in the wings just in case. They do have a young team, with forwards Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) both making their first Olympics and being 22 or under. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) on the back end is a ripe twenty years of age and will be getting his feet wet in Olympic competition.

There will be no questions about youth when it comes to the rest of the line-up. The team has a nice mix offensively, with finesse and power. Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) will dazzle; Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets) will bang in his rebounds. There is a nice veteran presence as well, with Brodeur, captain Scott Neidermayer (Anaheim Ducks), and sniper Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames) rounding out the roster. All in all the team has perhaps the most firepower in the line-up, and when you can afford to leave a guy like Mike Green off of your roster, you know you’re in good shape.

PREDICTION: Gold Medal


TEAM: Norway
Current IIHF Rank: 11
Outlook: Norway will likely struggle in this pool, lacking the firepower and experience to compete at the international level. Not only that, they’ve got to face the U.S. and Canada in preliminary play and haven’t been to the Olympics since 1994. Defensively the team is respectable, with Philadelphia Flyer Ole-Kristian Tollefsen anchoring a relatively solid back end. Lars Erik Lund (Valerenga) is a veteran presence and has played for Norway since 2004, but after sustaining an eye injury in 2008 it’s questionable how effective he’ll be. Offensively they will likely key off of Per-Age Skorder (Modo), who led the Swedish league in points in 2009. Tore Vikingstad (pictured above, Hannover Scorpions), a former 6th round pick of the Blues, will be counted on to contribute as will 21-year-old Martin Laumann Ylven (Linkoping), who represented Norway in the 2005 and 2006 U-18 Championships, the 2007 and 2008 U-20 Championships, and the 2009 World Championships. Pal Grotnes (Stjernen) will likely be counted on to be the starting goalie. In Olympic qualifying in 2009 he played in three games with a 2.00 GAA and a .910 save percentage and posted a solid .901 SVP at the 2009 World Championships despite a porous defense in front of him. Wins may be hard to come by for an upstart country like Norway, but competing is all the Norwegians are really looking for.

PREDICTION: 12th

Team: Switzerland
Current IIHF Rank: 7
Outlook: This team may actually surprise people in Vancouver. Goaltending is solid; Martin Gerber (Atlant Mytischi) will likely get the starting nod, although Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks) is proving his worth at the NHL level. Defensively the team is solid, with Luca Sbisa (Portland Winterhawks) on the back end. Mark Streit (New York Islanders) provides a great power play option and is a good puck-mover. Hnat Domenichelli (HC Lugano) and Yannick Weber (Hamilton Bulldogs) will be threats offensively, though Martin Pluss (SC Bern) is a veteran with a good scoring touch, posting 4 points in 9 previous Olympic games and registering four points in six games at the World Championships last year. The team has not medaled since 1948 and there isn’t enough here to say that they’ll do that this year, but they could definitely open a few eyes by being solid enough to squeak out some points. They don’t have the firepower to compete with the Russias and Canadas of the world, but they must just have that Olympic magic.

PREDICTION: 7th


Team: United States
Current IIHF Rank: 5
Outlook: The United States is anything but a favorite, but according to GM Brian Burke, that’s the way they like it. The team will be solid in net, with Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) likely getting the starting job with good competition from Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins). Defensively the team is young and relatively inexperienced. Jack Johnson (Los Angeles Kings) and Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues) will be making their first Olympic appearances. Overall, the team is solid on the back-end, though it could use another puck-moving defenseman. Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins) will be a nice fit and Brian Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings) will be the rock on the back end and is competing in his third Olympics.
Offensively the team will key off of young stars Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), all of whom are playing in their first Olympics. Chris Drury (New York Rangers) and Jamie Langenbrunner (New Jersey Devils) are the gray beards on this team, the only other Team U.S.A. players with Olympic experience. This team may be offensively challenged when stacked up against Canada, Russia, and even Sweden and Finland. They should take care of Switzerland and Norway in pool play and will likely be seeded 5th or 6th going into the quarterfinals. I expect a deep run from this club, but they may be lacking the firepower to medal in Vancouver.

PREDICTION: 4th

Make sure to check back for our Pool B & Pool C previews that will be coming in the next few days.

Rookie Watch



Nonsense Hockey's first ever poll has ended an the fans have spoken. Tuukka Rask came away with 35% of the votes on who has been the top rookie this season. John Tavares was 2nd, with 28% of the votes. There were no big surprises in the voting. Nonsense has a rather large Bruins fan base, attributing to the Rask victory. Tavares was expected to grab some votes because of the name.

I was extremely shocked to see that people overlooked a player like Tyler Myers. The 6'8" monster defenseman has chipped in 6 goals and 20 helpers thus far. Perhaps he is not the household name in the NHL like Tavares, but that will change soon. Matt Duchene started hot, cooled off, and is now performing just fine. His season totals are 13 goals and 16 assists. Not bad statistics for a rookie, but he does see 17-20 minutes of ice time on average. Jimmy Howard has been lights out for the Red Wings this season. Boasting a 2.17 GAA and .928 save percentage, the Red Wings should be more than happy with his progress. After waiting several seasons for the chance to play, he is thriving.



There are a handful of other rookies around the league looking to make their names known as well. Semyon Varlamov was playing outstanding in net for Washington before he was demoted to the Hershey Bear of the American Hockey League. Nicklas Bergfors has been a pleasant surprise for the New Jersey Devils this season. After spending the previous 3 seasons with Lowell (AHL) developing his skills, the Swedish right winger has scored 13 goals (8 on the power play), and picked up 14 assists. Another winger in James Van Riemsdyk has not done anything spectacular, but the former UNH Wildcat will be looked upon for big things in the future for the Flyers. Like Myers, Michael Del Zotto is having a tremendous rookie season on the blue-line. Tied for Myers with 6 goals, he also has 16 assists, but carries a -15 in plus/minus.

Jamie Benn (DAL), Ryan O' Reilly (COL), Evander Kane (ATL), and Scott Parse (LA) round out the top 10 in rookie scoring. Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning is a rookie defenseman who is hard to leave out. The 2nd overall pick in the most recent draft has done exactly what the Lightning wanted out of him. On paper, he only has 4 goals and 10 assists, but he plays big minutes and strong defense, attributing to a +3. Buffalo's other rookie, Tim Kennedy, has evolved into a nice third line center. Expected to be a playmaker with some grit, the Buffalo native has found a home-at-home for years to come. Some players that are starting to be noticed include Dan Sexton (ANA), Rob Schremp (NYI), and Brandon Yip (COL) have played in 21, 25, and 11 games, respectively. None of these 3 players were really expected to help the big club in any way this season, but they are starting turn heads.

In other news:

-The Ducks-Kings game got ugly last night, deaturing four fights, including Raitis Ivanans vs. Ryan Carter? Well, that is because Ryan Carter had a dirty hit Kings' Captain Dustin Brown earlier in the contest. Props to Carter for actually willing to drop the mitts though. 'The Code' does still exist after all. Corey Perry got ejected in the final minutes, Bobby Ryan took a questionable run at Kings' Oscar Moller, resulting in a  5 minute charging major and a game misconduct. We will see if any suspensions are handed out, but Bobby Ryan told the media he would be shocked if he was. By the way, the Kings won the game 4-0.

-Zdeno Chara likes to take slappers from the hashmarks in shootouts. Did you know that? Bruins won 2-1 over the Sharks in the shootout.

-Brodeur shutout the Rangers. Mike that is.

Do you think Curtis Joseph is Hall of Fame worthy? Let us know by voting on the right side of the page! The poll will expire in one week from today. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section regarding rookies, Joseph, and other nonsense. Perhaps I will chime in with more Nonsense tonight, but until then, look out for Buotte's Olympic Preview: Part 1!



Good day all!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quick Hits For 1/14/10

It was an interesting night in the NHL last night. The Ducks won again, but lost Teemu Selanne to a jaw injury for 4-8 weeks, possibly jeopardizing his Olympic appearance for Finland in February. The Capitals beat the Panthers in a shootout and move into 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.

KOVALCHUK UPDATE:

According to Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, on his Twitter page, Grossman said his client's first priority is to stay in Atlanta.

"It takes two to get something done," said Grossman, perhaps implying that Atlanta does not want to match the proposal the Kovalchuk camp has put forth. "He knows the fans are behind him and we are hopeful with a resolution he and the team will stay in Atlanta."

QUICK HITS:

-Jason Chimera had a notched a Gordie Howe hat trick last night in the Capitals 5-4 shootout win over Florida. Gordie Howe hat tricks are just, well, awesome. I have nothing to back this up but will assume it was Chimera's first Gordie of his career.

-Jarome Iginla's full name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla. I swear to God.

-Sheldon Souray may want out of Edmonton. That's likely just what the Oilers, who have lost 12 out of 13, wanted to hear.

-According to various sources, the Penguins and defenseman Sergei Gonchar have opened up contract talks. Simply put, the Penguins need to make this happen and likely will. Their power play is atrocious without him. According to TSN, contract talks are currently focused around term of the deal.

-Nikolai Khabibulin is out indefinitely for back surgery. This is bad news for the Oilers, who just signed Khabibulin to a monster deal last summer. Even worse news? They'll still be paying him serious coin when he's 41 years of age.

MATCH-UP OF THE NIGHT:

Anaheim Ducks (21-19-7) @ Los Angeles Kings (25-18-3), 10:30 p.m.

The Ducks are hot, the Kings are cooling off, and the Western Conference playoff race is intensifying. The Ducks are coming off a big home win over Boston, but will play tonight without Teemu Selanne. The Ducks will need big contributions from their young guns, as well as Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf if they want to keep up their winning ways.

PREDICTION: Kings, 5-4 OT

That's all for today. Look for our Olympic preview coming up in the next few days and don't forget to follow us on Twitter or add us on Facebook.

Calling All Enforcers

With Buotte's blog yesterday regarding the almost Ovechkin fight, it got me thinking about team's need for enforcers. Some say that the Capitals are in desperate need for a "true enforcer" oppossed to the occasional scrappers like Matt Bradley. I don't have a problem with teams have the Matt Bradley, Mike Rupp, or Kyle Chipchura type of players. Those who don't go out looking for a fight, but will when necessary. But I can see people's points about a team such as the Capitals. Boasting talent like Ovie, Semin, Backstrom, and Green; you want them protected. The Capitals let Donald Brashear go in order to make room for a more skilled player. Not a bad decision, but that spot has been overtaken by not one player, but several. Consistently recalling and reassigning prospects between the minors, no one has really stuck on the 4th line.

Below I am going to break down each team regarding enforcers. I will point out the obvious enforcer (if any), and the runner-ups (again, if any).

Anaheim Ducks - George Parros is the obvious choice here. Mike Brown hasn't fought as much during his time in Anaheim, but it is a suitable replacement should Parros go down. Kyle Chipchura has surprisingly dropped the gloves 5 times since being acquired from Montreal earlier this season.

Atlanta Thrashers - Eric Boulton is really all they got. He has been there for awhile now and knows what Coach John Anderson expects out of him; to beat people mercifully. Chris Thorburn is second on the team in fights, but Ilya Kovalchuk would rather take on his own fights than have him come in to fight them for him.

Boston Bruins - To the minds of Bruins fans, Milan Lucic is the enforcer here. To people with intelligence, Shawn Thornton is the enforcer. Milan Lucic has 1 fight this season and it's going to stay that way. Sure, he missed a ton of games, great, I get it. However, he just had surgery on his main throwing hand, #8 is not going to risk that while he has to be expected to put up 50 goals in 50 games.

Buffalo Sabres - The days of Rob Ray and Andrew Peters are long gone. This need could pick-up an enforcer towards the deadline in order to protect Thomas Vanek and Co. That is, unless Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier still believe that Patrick Kaleta is a good fighter. Oh wait, they have Steve Montador, everything is okay.

Calgary Flames - With Brian McGrattan and Brandon Prust holding down the fort in Calgary, the kids are gonna be alright.

Carolina Hurricanes - Not much to mention here. And, who cares?

Chicago Blackhawks - Ben Eager is supposed to handle the task at hand here, but it appears as if he is uninterested this season w/ 5 fights. Colin Fraser has a respectable 6 fights to lead the way. But if anyone forgot, this is the team with Kane, Toews, Sharp, Versteeg, Seabrook, Hossa, and Keith.

Colorado Avalanche - Hard to believe that you cannot even call Darcy Tucker an enforcer of any kind nowadays. He sits far down on the list as far as the Avs are concerned. Cody McLeod, still a rather unknown fighter in the league, isn't afraid to take on the tougher customers of the league. Most recently he fought Brandon Prust of the Flames. Tough guy David Koci is the true heavyweight here, despite being 3 fights behind McLeod with 8. Koci doesn't play nearly as many games or minutes to his credit though.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Jared Boll has things under his wing in Columbus. Derek Dorsett wouldn't mind being Boll, but he's not.

Dallas Stars - Krys Barch handles the enforcer role just fine, despite not looking like one. Steve Ott is there too, to fight anyone that cannot fight.

Detroit Red Wings - Oh the Detroit Red Wings. How miserable for a fan it would be should you not be good year in and year out. Near the bottom of the list for fighting majors once again with 14, Brad May has 9. So there is reason to cheer for one person atleast. May wasn't even supposed to apart of the mix there until they signed him just after the season got under way. He hasn't lost his touch either.

Edmonton Oilers - 12 guys have been willing to drop the gloves for the Oilers this year. Not a bad thing for fans out there. Unfortunately their enforcer in Zach Stortini just cannot win a fight. Then they have J.F. Jacques who can step in if necessary.

Florida Panthers - Bryan Allan, Kenndal McArdle, and Gregory Campbell. Awesome.

Los Angeles Kings - Raitis Ivanans needs no help in LA.

Minnesota Wild - The Bash Brothers: Derek Boogaard and John Scott. There's a reason why the two biggest goons in the NHL only have a total of 11 fights this year: The rest of the league is SMART. But Boogaard also lends his skills off the ice to the youth of Minnesota by hosting a fighting clinic with his brother Aaron.



Montreal Canadiens - Georges Laraque and Travis Moen = 8 fights. Don't know what happened there.

Nashville Predators - Jordin Tootoo and Wade Belak got sick of fighting. 12 fights total for team. Dead last in NHL.

New Jersey Devils - They have Andrew Peters, Pierre Luc-Leblond, and David Clarkson to protect the house when one of them plays, which isn't a lot.

New York Islanders - Tim Jackman is all they got, and he doesn't have the pugilistic skills one would like.

New York Rangers - Donald Brashear can take on the best of the best, as he has been doing for years now. Sean Avery can take on goalies, fans, and the media. Aaron Voros, ummmmmm, yeah, he is just there.

Ottawa Senators - Matt Carkner came out of nowhere to rack up 14 fighting majors thus far. He, unlike some of the potential fighters in Washington probably saw the void in the enforcer role and took it upon his self to make sure everything was okay up in Ottawa.

Philadelphia Flyers - Asham, Hartnell, Laperierre, and Carcillo are all fighting to be the fighter. It's a close race so far, but Laperierre is on top with 13 fighting majors.

Phoenix Coyotes - Paul Bissonnette has 14 of the team's 22 fighting majors. The fans coming out to jobing.com arena have been surprised by not only the record, but this up-and-coming fighter's skills.

Pittsburgh Penguins - Mike Rupp is developing into a true heavyweight and breezing past Eric Godard. Not a bad thing for the team and fans alike. Rupp has some hockey skill that can't be denied. Even Evgeni Malkin will stick up for the top players as well.



San Jose Sharks - I wish I could be in San Jose for every game. Not only do you have the scoring of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley, but you have the fighting skills of Jody Shelley and Frazer McLaren.

St. Louis Blues - Lately, David Backes didn't think that the likes of Rick Nash, Corey Perry, and Johnathan Toews should be left untouched. Give credit to Backes for taking on some truly tough customers for the main events. BJ Crombeen and Cam Janssen are jealous they didn't get the chance.

Tampa Bay Lightning - It took Zenon Konopka a long time to make a home in the NHL. But he found it in Tampa, and with that he leads the league in fighting majors. They also got cheapshot artist and piece of crap Steve Downie.

Toronto Maple Leafs - With Brian Burke running the show things have toughened up. Jamal Mayers, who some may of thought vanished from fighting, has returned to his old form with 8 fights so far. Colton Orr isn't shying away either with 10 majors.

Vancouver Canucks - Rick Rypien , Tanner Glass, and Darcy Hordichuck have created a scary trio to deal with. You probably won't see a whole lot of of people messing with the Sedin twins now.

Washington Capitals - The main purpose of this blog is finally here. Tied for the least fighting majors in the league with 12, it comes as a shock to me. With no Brashear, no one can expect big numbers, but 12 is low considering Matt Bradley and John Erskine are on this team. You figure a few others would get into the mix eventually. Maybe Coach Bruce Boudreau told the team to do otherwise.

Well that's all for that.

In Other News:

- Teemu Selanne is out 4-8 weeks with a broken jaw for the Ducks. Not good news for a team that has been performing well as of late. With Selanne out, maybe Dan Sexton can receive more playing time and impress even more.

- The Bruins lost another one last night as they took on the Ducks. Are we going to see a major shake-up in Boston soon? We know how Bostonians can be in tough times; they expect big things regardless of the roster.

- Fresh off his $2,500 fine, Alex Burrows picked up a few more minor penalties in a game that wasn't reffed by Stephane Auger.

That's all for me today. I am sure we may hear from Buotte by the day's end. Check back later for more Nonsense Hockey.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Great 8 Must Answer The Bell

Props to Matt Bradley. He may have saved his Washington Capitals teammate, Alexander Ovechkin, from getting his kisser rearranged last night in a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After Ovechkin threw a questionable hit, Steve Downie and Ovechin exchanged words before getting matching roughing penalties. Upon stepping out of the box, the two dropped the gloves before Bradley came flying in like Superman to save Ovechkin.



This is all fine and dandy; the enforcer, or as close to the Caps have to it, sticking up for the star, until you consider that this was perhaps what Ovechkin had coming. Ovechkin plays on the edge; that's a given and is perfectly fine. But his open-ice hits that many have cried are illegal have drawn more attention to Ovechkin and the fine line he walks between edgy and flat-out dangerous. Was Bradley right in doing what he did? Well, yes, he saved the face of the franchise--literally. But is it time Ovechkin mans up and follows the unwritten "code" that lies within the game?

I am an Ovechkin supporter. He's an unbelievable talent and pretty much accepted as the NHL's best player--that is, unless you're from Pittsburgh. But even Sidney Crosby, sometimes nicknamed "Cindy" Crosby, has held himself accountable for his actions and heck, even played enforcer to defend Evgeni Malkin. While I agree Crosby can be soft, he has adhered by "the code" for the most part. And Crosby doesn't even throw vicious body checks that could end another player's season the way Ovechkin does.

So now Ovechkin is in the spotlight again, for throwing a malicious hit and not sticking up for himself. Heck, even the mild-mannered Jeff Halpern is pissed. Ovechkin has already been suspended once this season and likely will not be suspended for his latest action. But it's about time somebody takes action--and that person should be Oveckhin.

Burrows Fined, But Has Valid Concern

Alexander Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks, who has been one of the hottest players in hockey yesterday, was fined $2,500 by the NHL after his remarks after the Canucks 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday night. He claimed that Stephane Auger, one of the officials for Sunday's game, told Burrows he had made him look bad earlier this season and that he was "out to get him". While the only two people who know what was actually said for certain are Burrows and Auger, I may actually have to support Burrows in this situation. Auger clearly did have a chat with Burrows before the game:



Again, I have no idea what is being said here. However, it is still unusual for a player and a ref to have this kind of conversation before the game and if they do are likely not catching up on the weather. So, the game starts. Burrows racks up 14 minutes in penalties; a relatively soft diving call, an interference call that is perhaps the worst I've seen in the sport, and a misconuct major in the waning seconds. The interference call can be seen here:



Um...? Look, I understand missing a call every now and then. But really? This is the worst phantom call I have ever seen. To compound matters, Auger was also the referee for this perplexing no-goal call earlier in the season against Detroit:



Please watch that video and tell me how the referee didn't lose his job then? This is clearly a case of an ego that is too big to referee at the NHL level. The call against Detroit still dumbfounds me and the fact that Auger has shown up in more allegations just adds fuel to the fire. The NHL's answer? Fine Burrows and close the matter.

Look, I'm not Alex Burrows' biggest fan. But he has a valid complaint here. This guy has a history, including accusing Shane Doan of making "culturally insensitive" comments toward Auger in the game, who is French-Canadian. Doan denied the remarks and was cleared by the NHL. Now, I don't know Shane Doan personally, but can someone honestly tell me that they think he made any remarks toward Auger, especially with the track record he's got going now?

It's amazing this guy still has his job and as a fan of the NHL with concern for integrity of the game, I want to see him lose it. Matter closed.

QUICK HITS:

-Curtis Joseph has retired after 19 NHL seasons at the age of 42. CuJo, as he was widely known, was 454-352-90 in his NHL career that saw him play for six teams. He posted 51 shutouts over his career and finished with a 2.79 GAA, all excellent numbers. He also posted 63 career playoff victories. Our question? Is he Hall Of Fame worthy? We here at Nonsense think he is despite never winning the Stanley Cup. Make sure to weigh in on your thoughts; CuJo a Hall member or not?



-Coming into tonight, 5 points seperate the 5th place Boston Bruins from the 12th place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference. Talk about a tight race. The only match-up of two Eastern Conference teams tonight is the Washington Capitals visting the Florida Panthers. A victory will move Washington past idol Buffalo for 2nd in the Eastern Conference.

-No news on Ilya Kovalchuk, except he had a goal and two assists in a 6-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday. It had been 43 days since the Thrashers last regulation win, which came on November 30th in a 4-3 win over Florida.

-What a goalie battle at Madison Square Garden last night. Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur both posted shutouts as Patrik Elias scored in the 4th round of a shootout to give the Devils a 1-0 win. The amazing thing? Lundqvist stopped 45 shots and Brodeur stopped 51. This is a game I'd like to just see end in a 0-0 tie. Banish the shootout!

And tonights MATCH-UP OF THE NIGHT:

PITTSBURGH (28-18-1) @ CALGARY (26-14-6)

A rare match-up of titans tonight in Calgary as Evgeni Malkin looks to get out of his scoring drought and the Flames look to just score, period. Pittsburgh hasn't won in Calgary since December of 2007. That was also their last trip there. Anyone else think the NHL schedule needs reassessment?

Prediction: Calgary, 4-3

That's all for Buotte today. I've got much more to say and will be chiming in with more Nonsense later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Expansion Experiment A Failure?

The National Hockey League’s expansion to the southern and western parts of the country has created controversy over the years, with hockey in non-traditional markets such as Tampa, Atlanta, and Nashville. Another hot topic has been the NHL’s division re-alignment, in attempts for regional rivalries instead of time-tested rivalries like Chicago-Boston or Detroit-New York. The splitting of Original Six teams will always create controversy, but do the fans who have qualms with the NHL’s new alignments have a point? And do teams really belong in non-traditional markets?

We have analyzed the 2008-2009 attendance data by division. The divisions are divided geographically for the most part, so our hope is to answer the question many fans (especially Canadian fans) have posed: is hockey’s expansion to non-traditional markets good or bad for the game?

2008-2009 ATTENDANCE FIGURES BY DIVISION:
ATLANTIC DIVISION: 16,851 (92.9%)*
NORTHEAST DIVISION: 19,020 (100.2%)
SOUTHEAST DIVISION: 16,282 (82.7%)
PACIFIC DIVISION: 16,704 (96.8%)
NORTHWEST DIVISION: 17,751 (95.9%)
CENTRAL DIVISION: 18,243 (93.6%)
*=Capacity percentage was determined by dividing average attendance within the division by average arena capacity within the division.

Not surprisingly, the Southeast’s numbers are significantly less than any other division and by quite a bit. Two franchises in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina will do that to you. Despite the Capitals averaging over 18,000 people last season, they averaging 14,720 in their last season before drafting Alexander Ovechkin; not a surprising number by any stretch. The point? The Southeast expansion may have backfired. Despite the Stanley Cup going to Tampa Bay and to Carolina in 2004 and 2006 respectively, the division doesn’t have much else to boast.

That being said, the Central Division, which puts the 2nd most people in the seats, has two of the Original Six teams. Coincidence? Hardly. The Blackhawks resurgence as well as the perennial success of the Red Wings has lead to a spike in attendance in the Central. It was also the first Blues playoff season is years which contributed to high numbers.

The Northeast boasts a ridiculous attendance ratio, but also has three Original Six teams in the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Canadiens. The Senators, another Canadian team, are also situated in this division and Buffalo, which many now consider to have taken the “Hockeytown U.S.A.” crown, also blow up the numbers. The tradition in this division will lead to high numbers annually no matter how the team produces on the ice. In Southern divisions, attendance can be attributed to winning. The Tampa Bay Lightning fielded the 2nd worst team in the NHL in 2008-2009 and saw their attendance dip to 21st in the NHL. But when the team was on their Stanley Cup quest in 2003-2004, their attendance was 12th in the NHL.


Above: The Coyotes had no problem attracting fans during winning times.

For hockey to succeed in non-traditional markets, it must field a winning product. The exception to this may be the current Phoenix Coyotes, who sit 4th in the highly competitive Western Conference but amidst filing for bankruptcy, relocation threats, and being owned by the NHL, are last in 2009-2010 attendance and are averaging a measly 10,732 fans per game.

It is no secret that fans in Canada will come out to support their teams no matter what; as we further break down the 2008-2009 numbers this becomes more evident. The Maple Leafs filled the Air Canada Centre at a 102.7% clip last year despite picking 5th in the 2009 Entry Draft. Of the top 10 teams in 2008-2009, five were Canadian teams (the exception being the Oilers) and four were Original Six teams. The four Original Six teams were in the top five in the entire NHL in league attendance. The Original Six team with the worst attendance in 2008-2009 was the Bruins, but even they filled the building at a 97% pace.

The verdict? It is a more difficult draw to put teams in non-traditional markets and winning definitely helps. Some gambles have succeeded; the three California teams (Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim) have all been very successful. But in the southeastern United States, where football and baseball will always reign supreme, fan bases support winners. Even the Atlanta Thrashers, who drew less than 10,000 people in their January 7th victory over the Rangers, had eleven sellouts in their 2006-2007 season which saw them win the Southeast Division and make the playoffs for the only time in franchise history.

Fans will always support teams with history; those in markets that won’t host a Winter Classic any time soon need to start winning if they want to keep their place in the NHL. Hamilton is always waiting.

Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

It’s 1999, turn on the tube on a weeknight, ESPN or ESPN2 probably was airing a NHL game. 10 years later, the only hockey you see on ESPN is on the top ten segment, and maybe a few game recaps here and there. However, rewind 5 years from the current year, it was almost as if hockey was forgotten outside the hockey bubble. The bad, not the good was what was made public on ESPN. The Bertuzzi incident created a bad public image for the game, and no one has forgotten that. It is much easier to find ESPN clips of that incident on YouTube, rather than any coverage of anything positive.

I've tried really hard to dig up any ratings/numbers from ESPN and Versus, but not much luck. That really isn't even the point of this blog, but more so to talk about the need for the NHL and ESPN to once again have a positive partnership. The funny thing about hockey is a lot of the NHL depends on the people who aren't fans. We need to reach out to sports fans and the casual hockey fans. You cannot tell me you know about Versus unless you are into the outdoors, cycling, or hockey. And that is where the main issue is boiling.

People say that if hockey was on ESPN that only a select few would actually watch it. That if it switched from Versus to ESPN, numbers might go up slightly, but nothing drastic. That's what HOCKEY needs! How could you even complain about more people watching hockey. Versus doesn't have 1/4 of the reputation that ESPN has. Put hockey on ESPN, people will watch. Just like they did a decade ago. I did manage to find ratings from tvbythenumbers.com. If you go to that link you can see that numbers declined after hockey left ESPN. Sure the match-up has a lot to do with it. But when ESPN aired hockey, people knew about it. They promoted it regularly. NBC didn't air nearly any promotion for the Winter Classic this year until the weeks before hand. Sure NESN and Comcast did, but that doesn't help outside their respective markets.

Speaking of match-ups, in 1996 the Colorado Avalanche squared off against the Florida Panthers. Did anyone actually care about this? Maybe some people were pulling for the Avalanche's lineup, but Florida? Really? No, not even the fans down there probably. But it's the championship! That's that. I rank basketball at the bottom of my list for sports to watch, but when the championship is in session, it's on my TV. Something about championships draws people to them regardless of the sport. That is unless no one knows about it. And like I've been saying, as hockey fans we know about the games, dates, and times because we watch and follow hockey religiously.

It's hard to not believe that ratings never dipped below a 3.3 for the Stanley Cup Finals becuase hockey was strong at ESPN and people knew. Sure the 2003 and 2004 finals were weak, but hockey was slowly but surely fading at ESPN and the lockout was looming. But still, a 1.8 rating in 2006, followed by a 1.2 in 2007 is just plain sad. You have to wonder if even the hockey fans showed up those years. 2008 went up to 2.6, but the match-up was more interesting and those numbers are still nothing to get excited about. Puck Daddy over at Yahoo! sports wrote a blog last spring regarding the 2009 playoffs ratings. Things seemed to be fairing well last year, and if the season was to end today, we would have some quality teams and players competing for the cup. ESPN even had a hockey video game! Once Upon A Time

So please Gary Bettman, do yourself, the hockey world, and the sporting world a favor and return hockey to the mainstream. With hockey at an all-time high within the hockey bubble, it's time to move on and capture another fan base as well.


In other news :

-Former St. Louis Blues enforcer Mike Danton has been paroled from his 5-year prison sentence for his murder-for-hire plot to kill his former agent David Frost. Currently he is getting ready to enroll at Saint Mary's University in Halifax with intentions of playing for their hockey squad. All I can say is keep this scum out of the NHL. But, good to know felons can still suit up somewhere. Good to see he always took on the toughest of customers in his old days too:



- I'm not even going to touch on the Alexander Burrows situation. Buotte may do that later, but I could care less about Burrows and this over-publicized situation.

- Next week Buotte and I will be attending the AHL All-Star Classic held in Portland, ME. We should have some good stories to tell afterwards. Hopefully we get a glimpse at some of the future of the NHL in Tyler Ennis (BUF), Logan Couture (SJ), Jonathan Bernier (LA), Lars Eller (STL), and many more. With all the injuries in the NHL, there could be some top prospects yet to make NHL debuts that are knocking at the door.

- I'm sure Buotte will chime in with more on the Kovalchuk situation once again. The Thrashers square off against the Sens tonight. Is Kovy playing some of his last games as a Thrasher, or just the start of many more? What do the Atlanta fans actually want?

That's all for right now. Look out for Buotte's post later today. I may post some final thoughts late tonight. Have a great day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kovalchuk Situation Getting Messy & Quick Hits

So, as we reported last night it appeared that Ilya Kovalchuk was going to be on the move sometime in the near future. While this is not necessarily untrue at this point, things are getting very messy in Atantla. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Thrashers GM Don Waddell is not actively seeking a trade for Kovalchuk--in essence, he's not calling teams. This does not mean teams are not calling him, however, and I still see the Kings as a big player in all this.

The big sticking point in the deal appears to be term of the deal; various league-wide sources have said the Thrashers are targeting a 7-year deal while Kovalchuk's camp wants one in the 10-12 year range. Understandbly so, Atlanta does not want to invest the money Kovalchuk wants (between $9.5-$11 million) into a player who would be over 37 years old by the end of the deal. On the flip side, Atlanta is in serious jeopardy of a terrible public relations scenario should Kovalchuk do what Marian Hossa and Marc Savard have already done--flee Georgia for greener pastures.



It's also understandable for Atlanta to not want to give the maximum contract the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows to a player that is exceptional offensively but has defensive shortcomings. The Thrashers are handcuffed and the situation could get messy. The Thrashers have to do something quickly; they've lost 10 of 11 and were blown out of their own rink in a 8-1 loss to Washington on Saturday. It's time for the Thrashers to either bet or fold, but they cannot bluff any longer. Sadly, it's a lose-lose situation for a franchise becoming accustomed to losing.

QUICK HITS FOR 1/11/01

-Jamie Langenbrunner was named captain of Team U.S.A. for the upcoming Olympics. Not much to say here and a pretty logical choice.

-The Anaheim Ducks beat the Blackhawks 3-1 last night despite being outshot 43-12. That's pretty remarkable. Jonas Hiller stopped 42 of 43 shots for the Ducks.

-Colin Campbell's "Player Supsension Length Dartboard" told him to suspened Ed Jovanovski for 2 games after his elbow to the head of John Tavares Saturday night. Hmm. I'm surprised it wasn't longer considering he elbowed an up-and-coming star.

-Scottie Upshall is back for the Coyotes after missing the past three games with the ever-mysterious "upper body injury". He still leads the Coyotes in goals..with 14. Marian Gaborik has 12 goals on the power play alone. Maybe the Coyotes should get in on the Kovalchuk sweepstakes?

-Henrik Sedin remarkably leads the NHL with 62 points. He is four ahead of Joe Thornton with each player having 37 games remaining. Sadly, Joe Thronton does not have an identical twin.

And lastly, I leave you with this because it's just oh-so-intruiging. Time for a rule change? I'll be chiming in tomrrow with more evidence on why the Southeast Division should be abolished.

Ready, Set...Action!

For those of you yet to see the trailer from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's upcoming movie, The Tooth Fairy, please watch the trailer below:



Seriously Rock? Like what happened to you? First you're beating grown men up inside the ring, then you move onto some surprisingly quality flicks, but now you are playing a professional hockey player who turns into the tooth fairy?!?! I can only imagine what's next.

So now that we have all seen that crap, lets move onto the purpose of me showing that clip. Well as much as I hate the aspect of the movie, it is good to see something actually being done with hockey in film. Hockey is not something done too often in Hollywood. In fact, off the top of my head I can only come up with the following:

The Tooth Fairy (2009)
The Love Guru (2008) ...not even really a TRUE hockey film
Miracle (2004)
Mystery Alaska (1999) ...Russell Crowe likes hockey, yeah...
The Mighty Ducks 3 (1996)
The Mighty Ducks 2 (1994)
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Slap Shot (1977)

I did some research and really cannot come up with any others worth noting. Such as; The Slap Shot sequels, M.V.P. (Most Valuable Primate?!?!?!), and Youngbloods. Since 1977 only 7 major films have involved hockey as a major aspect of the movie. Slap Shot is actually in the process of being re-made (long overdue), and slated for a 2012 release. And love him or hate him, there is a movie getting ready for filming movie about Sean Avery and is life on and off the ice. While I can't say I am shocked at the scarcity of hockey films, it is kind of sad for the hockey fans.

It got me thinking to what the next major hockey movie could be about. There are some good stories out there to be told. Problem with hockey is finding the right one that will appeal to audiences beyond the rink. Mircale worked becuase it was about the country being united. Only released 3 years after 9/11, it was a near-perfect fit. The Mighty Ducks series appealed to all audiences, and they loved it. That is until the 3rd one, which just sucked. What did they think would happen taking Bombay out of the picture? Slap Shot was the first of the hockey movie and featured Paul Newman. It actually is more of a cult movie, than an instant hit. The Love Guru flopped at the box office, but having Mike Myers (an actual hockey fan) headline a hockey movie helps. Russell Crowe did the same with Mystery Alaska, except that one flopped worse than the Guru.

So here are some movie possibilities:

- Travis Roy:

Travis Roy grew up in small town Yarmouth, Maine. Excelling at hockey, he eventually received a scholarship to play hockey at Boston University. In his very first shift in his collegiate career, exactly 11 seconds in, he fell awkwardly into the boards. The result? A shattered 4th and 5th cervical vertebra, leaving him paralyzed. A truly sad story, but comes with some positives. Roy returned to BU less than a year after the injury to complete his degree in Public Relations. Over the years he has spoken at numerous events as a motivational speaker. He also co-wrote a book called, "Eleven Seconds". This type of story, if promoted correctly could be a success I strongly believe.

-The creation of the NHL

This would be a tough sell. But Miracle at the start on paper was a tough sell too. The story seemed as if it would only appeal to hockey fans. But with the acting of Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, and realistically shot, it was a hit. The start of the game or the NHL would appeal to all hockey fans and casual sports fans. Throw in some good actors to play old players/coaches/staff; you never know what could happen. And of course, north of the border would embrace the movie quite well too.

-Wayne Gretzky

There have been a lot of great hockey players over the years and plenty of up-and-coming ones currently. But Wayne's has much more story to it. I never thought it could be an intriguing one until I recently saw a piece on ESPN about it. The short documentary, filmed by Director Peter Berg, who directed such movies as Friday Night Lights and Hancock, tells the very interesting story of Wayne's career, mostly involved around the LA-Edmonton trade. That story alone is extremely interesting when watching the short-film. Here's a clip:



Well that's all I have for today. A little something different, but I think as hockey fans it is something worth considering. Hollywood plays a big part in a lot of things whether we like it or not. It wouldn't hurt having a few more movies on the rink here and there. Look out for a new blog with Buotte soon. Will we see Kovy moved sooner rather than later?

Good day all.

The future of hockey as we know it:

A True Hockey Player

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kovalchuk Likely On The Move

There have been huge developments in the Ilya Kovalchuk situation over the weekend. Contracts talks have reportedly broken down between the superstar's agent Jay Grossman and Thrashers GM Don Waddell. The consequences? Kovalchuk is likely on the move. Possible trade partners include Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. Boston and Chicago are unlikely dance partners despite several sources reporting Chicago may make a strong push. There's just too much chemistry in that locker room and I think the Hawks will go with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.

I just can't see him ending up in the East; the Flyers, Bruins, and even Capitals don't seem like logistical candidates for one reason or another, be it cap issues or not enough trade bait. The Kings appear to be poised to make a deal happen; GM Dean Lombardi is flying to Atlanta this week to scout and meet face-to-face with Waddell. The Kings are clearly serious and obviously won't be the only team, but with contract talks breaking down and a trade appearing imminent, the Kings appear to be the perfect partner.

The Thrashers play Tuesday at home versus the Senators, just a couple nights after falling 8-1 to the Capitals on home ice Saturday.

That's all for now; more to come as the situation unfolds.

-Buotte

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Hits for 1/8/10

Hello all, Buotte blogging here from freezing cold Atlanta, Georgia. Since I couldn't watch any games last night while I was in attendance at the Rangers/Thrashers game from Philips Arena, I can't comment too much on what I saw around the league last night. A few observations, however:

-Alexandre Burrows had his 2nd straight hat trick last night when he scored 3 against the Coyotes last night. He had three against Columbus the night before. I don't like the guy; his hair-pulling antics were absolutely pathetic, but obviously he's carrying the bulk of the goal-scoring up in Vancouver. Roberto Luongo pitched his 50th career shutout in the 4-0 blanking of the 'Yotes.



-Daniel Carcillo was fined $2,500 for his throat-cutting gestures at the Toronto bench Wednesday night. Yay.

-No new news in the Ilya Kovalchuk situation. He played pretty okay down here in Atlanta last night but missed again in the shootout, which brings up an interesting point: why does Thrashers coach John Anderson continue to put Kovalchuk in the shootout when he has shown he is clearly useless? The guy is 9 of 35 (25.7%) in his career, so why keep trotting him out there? Slava Kozlov has certainly proven his merits as he sits at 27 of 46 (58.7%) and one of the deadliest in the game in the one-on-one skills competition. Whether or not the shootout should be there may be dissected in a future blog.

-Flames GM Darryl Sutter says that Dion Phaneuf trade rumors are "crap". Wait, a trade rumor that's crap? Unfathomable.

-Poor Kings fans. They had to watch University of Maine alumni Jimmy Howard stonewall their team as the Kings launched 52 shots at the Wings tender. The Kings lost 2-1 on a goal by sniper Darren Helm. The first Wings goal came with one second left in the first. It was a tough night in L.A., for certain.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT:

“I can’t say I’m the number one goalie, that’s for sure,” Howard said. “I mean, there’s a guy sitting right over there that’s got three Stanley Cups and almost 400 wins. I’m just going out there and playing.” - Wings goalie Jimmy Howard after turning aside 51 of 52 Kings shots, including all 27 he faced in the second period.

MATCH-UP OF THE NIGHT FOR 1/8/2010

Frankly, there's nothing that cool tonight. But for some reason I'll take the Flames/Blue Jackets match-up. The Flames are struggling to score as of late and the Blue Jackets ugly defensive system could play right into that. The Jackets could be playing to save coach Ken Hitchcock's job, although who knows what's going on in that room. By the way, I'm currently 0-for-4 on predictions, so based on that, I'd go to Vegas and bet the farm on the Flames.

Prediction: Blue Jackets, 3-1

That's all for Buotte in Atlanta. Mike Nick will be chiming in with more Nonsense in the near future. Don't forget to become a fan of our Facebook group and to follow us on Twitter for more exciting hockey news.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Atlantic Division Outlook

Today we are continuing the Divisional reviews/outlooks for each division in the NHL. The other day we started off out on the West Coast for the Pacific Division. Today we are headed east for the Atlantic Division. While none of the teams in the division have been performing poorly, the Penguins are on a slide. Despite being in 2nd place, they are 4-6 in their last 10 games. However, they still hold an 8 point lead on the 3rd place Rangers.

I predict that this division could be the busiest at the deadline this year. All of the teams, including last place Philly have a shot at making the playoffs. But each team is going to need to get better than the one ahead of them. If they can't do it with what they have, then they're most likely looking to bring someone in. So lets take a look at each team and see what they have to offer.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

While the Devils boast one of the most boring teams in the league (in my opinion), it's hard to argue that they are not a good team. That is because they sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with 61 points. But I don't believe that their roster is anything spectacular to watch, and I will not live that down. Does anyone outside of NJ care about Jamie Langenbrunner? Just his name alone makes me upset.

Anyways, despite the Devils record and position in the standings, a Devils fan should worry about a few select players. Defenseman Johnny Oduya has 1 measley point this season in 29 games. Last season the Swedish defenseman posted 29 points in a full season slate. I'm not a big fan of nagging on players who are having somewhat off-years, but this one sticks out as a question mark. Stereotyping defenseman, it is rather easy to pick up a few helpers here and there. But Oduya's lone point is a goal, and despite the goal being decent (see clip below), NJ may want to find a defenseman who might be able to bury the puck a little more than the rest of the pack.

Oduya's goal:



It is safe to say that the Devils will probably be the quietest in the division. Last year the Devils didn't make one trade, and the years before that were pretty quiet as well. Not a bad move to make if you have a team performing the way they do year in and year out. I would think that they may want to tweak a few things in order to add depth. Injuries and inconsistency of a few guys may make the Devils want to find a replacement. But no one wants to be a taker on the injured, well, unless you’re Chicago, and Danius Zubrus is no Marian Hossa.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

It seems as if people don't know what to think of the Islanders' season. Everyone seemed to be split down the middle prior to the year regarding their expected performance. With an extremely up-and-coming young team, they are no doubt exciting to watch. With number 1 overall pick John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Josh Bailey leading the young class into the future, there is reason to get excited for the fans there. That is if the team isn't moved to somewhere with less drama in the near future.

The biggest surprise for the Islanders' has no doubt been the play of Matt Moulson. Tied with Tavares in goals (16), the once upon a time no-name player with only 29 games of NHL experience under his belt has come into the Islanders' system and done nothing but impress. It will be interesting to see if he can continue this streak throughout the season.

I am not even going to touch on the goaltending situation. I will say that Dwayne Roloson has performed admirably for the Islanders. Why not extend him for 10-15 years Garth?

Some would expect to see them ship out some veterans hanging around in exchange for some more youth. I don't see them doing what the Capitals did in 03-04. The Islanders are a little better of a team than the Capitals were back then. The rebuilding process has already begun, so it is time to start shaping the team around the young guns. Mark Streit was a bold, but solid signing. But he isn't the spark back on the blue line that they need.
Seeing them doing something with Bruno Gervais or Freddy Meyer shouldn't shock anyone. They have some talent they could part ways with in minor league affiliate Bridgeport. Package Gervais and a prospect, or something of the sort for an offensive defenseman like a Pavel Kubina or Shea Weber.

NEW YORK RANGERS

All the pressure was on Glen Sather since July 1st. Give him some credit for going ahead and risking his job on oft-injured Marian Gaborik. So far, it has been one of his better signings over the past few seasons. The move to make Scott Gomez go was perfect. Keeping Drury was necessary, and letting youngsters like Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto play big minutes in the big apple has been key. Chris Higgins seemed like it was a good signing, but has only managed 11 points. Can't blame Sather on that one, Higgins needs to step it up.

The big question now is, can Sather keep his risky business going and deal Wade Redden? Despite being a hated by 95% of Manhattan, he does call for a decent return. But what team will want the contract and baggage of crap-shoot skills that come along with it? Sather will have to find the the right piece (s) to ship along with Redden in order for teams to start considering. It seems as if it is a lose-lose in the Rangers perspective.

My idea for the Rangers: Keep Redden, let Kotalik go for a consistent winger, allow Pierre Parenteau a full-time gig up on the club, and hope for last night's Avery performance.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

The aspect of bringing back the Broad Street Bullies day is cool, but not working. Ian Laperierre, Aaron Asham, Daniel Carcillo, Scott Hartnell, Riley Cote have amassed an amazing 19 goals total. Take away Hartnell and you've only got 11 from 4 guys. It would be a cool rat-pack if one of the others had some offensive upside, but there isn't much there. However this has allowed Braydon Coburn to worry more about his job as a player rather than a fighter. Only racking up 28 PIMs so far, Coburn has 5 goals and 8 assists on the season. A little off pace from the past two years, but it is essential for a young defensemen to see ice time on the ice, rather than in the sin bin.

I wouldn't expect the Flyers to get trigger happy at the deadline, but I feel like time is running out with Flyer's fans patience. There are plenty of players the Flyers could send Danny Briere out of the division to a team who wants to gamble on him. In return the Flyers need a speedster with consistent results. They have decent talent in the minors and in the system, but it is unsure when the players will be NHL ready. There aren't a lot of Van Riemsdyk's just chillen in the system.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

I talked a lot about the Penguins at the beginning, but one thing I would love to mention is the possibility of Jordan Staal getting dealt. Staal was rumored to go in 07-08 with only 28 points in 82 games. Came back last season to post 49 points. This season he has 29 points in 42 games. I am sorry but, for a 2nd overall pick, I'd expect bigger numbers from that pick. Not a physical presence of any sort, there isn't any scary aspect of Staal's game. Probably sticking in Pittsburgh due to the name, I think we may see him go this year though. The Penguins could easily grab a few players in exchange for Staal. Get a solid scorer and a playmaker; Penguins have an even better team.


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Check back later tonight, as Buotte may chime in from down south in Atlanta! He is in attendance tonight at the Thrashers vs. Rangers game. A dream come true for so many! All of us here at Nonsense hope Buotte has the grandest of times! I will be back tomorrow to discuss the topic of hockey on ESPN, and how vital it could be to the future of the National Hockey League. Good day all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Golden Effort

It's been since 2004, but the United States has finally struck gold at the World Junior Championships, beating arch-rival and northern neighbor Canada 6-5 in overtime on Tuesday night. A Canadian win would have given them their 6th straight gold, a tournament record, but their efforts were thwarted when John Carlson, on loan from the Hershey Bears of the AHL where he has notched a goal and 23 assists in 29 games this season, beat Canada keeper Martin Jones.

It was a historic win for the United States, undoubtedly. It raises the same old questions: does the United States fan base even care? And what does this mean for the future of U.S. hockey?

While it is foolish to think the United States has caught Canada as far as player development, this is certainly a big step in the right direction. While Canada is 27-6-3 versus the U.S. at the WJHC, it is certainly a mark of how the United States has come along. Their only loss in this tournament was a shootout loss to Canada, proving that the U.S. can indeed play with anyone. But what will it take to prove that the U.S. is catching Canada in player development? It will take more than a medal here and a medal there, for sure. A strong showing at this February's Olympics (and by strong showing, we mean a gold medal) and perhaps another strong showing at next year's World Juniors, which are on U.S. soil in Buffalo, N.Y., are crucial to the future of U.S.A. hockey. While the U.S. has no doubt proved they are among the best of the best at the world stage, supremacy is always the aim here in America, and consistant top finishes are the only way the U.S. will garner the respect it wants.

The win should be savored by American fans, no matter their interest in the best under-20 kids in American hockey. The last victory was six years ago and featured Ryan Kesler, Nigel Dawes, and tournament MVP Zach Parise. Parise is on the 2010 Olympic team, so the 2010 Championships may only be a sign of things to come at the ultimate stage--the Olympics.

Here is Carlson's game-winner:



No matter your interest level in the tournament, how great is it to see 15,000 Canadian fans silenced almost instantaneously?

Moving back to the NHL, the Capitals have named Alexander Ovechkin their 14th team captain in their history. This got me thinking about Capitals history; did you know that between their first two seasons in the NHL they were a combined 19-126-15? That's dreadful. Their first captain was Doug Mohns, who actually played for the Bruins from 1954-1964. He retired after that dreadful season with the Capitals at the age of 42. Enough about Doug Mohns; back to Ovechkin. This is a logical choice for captain after the departure of Chris Clark shortly after Christmas. Tom Poti and Mike Knuble will remain assistant captains, but the Ovechkin choice is just plain logical for the Caps--they can give more responsibility to their franchise guy and keep things going in the right direction. Ovechkin, barring injury, is going to leave a mark on the Capitals like someone like Steve Yzerman left on the Red Wings--a consistent leader and a player of superstar caliber who stays it out with one team for his entire career. There isn't enough of that in the NHL these days. Oh, and Tomas Fleischmann was moved to center for those of you interested.

Other quick hits:

Our predictions were wrong last night and by a lot. I'm not sure how I could ever pick against the Blackhawks, but they beat the Wild last night, 4-1. The Bruins also smoked the Senators, scoring four times in the first period and getting a big night from Blake Wheeler offensively.

Bryan McCabe scored twice in the first period last night against his old team, but the Panthers couldn't hold off the Maple Leafs as the Leafs rallied to up-end the Cats, 3-2.

It's not a well-kept secret that I don't like Alexander Burrows after his hair-pulling incident last season, but he netted a hat trick last night and the Sedin twins combined for five assists as the Canucks blasted the Blue Jackets, 7-3. Ken Hitchcock had some colorful comments to Canwest News when asked if he was worried about losing his job:

We have got a plan and we are willing to stick with it and if it costs me my job then it costs me my job, but there’s a plan.


Unfortunately for Hitch, it may just do that.

MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT

17-18-8

24-13-6


This match-up may not be the most intruiging in the standings, but it does pit two over-achieving franchises and it also is the first head-to-head showdown between 2009 first overall pick John Tavares and 3rd overall pick in Matt Duchene. It should be an interesting battle for those with NHL Center Ice.

Prediciton: Avs, 5-3

Signing off for today. Mike Nick will be back later with his Altantic Division outlook. Make sure you follow us on Twitter as well!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bruins woes continue; Sharks falter.

It was a short schedule Monday night in the NHL, with the only two match-ups pitting the Bruins and Rangers on Versus and the Sharks and Kings later on in the night.

The previous two Winter Classic winners had gone on to win the next four games after the Classic; the Bruins were not so lucky. Their power play looked uninspired in going 0-for-3 and they may have lost Patrice Bergeron to injury after he took a shot in the 2nd period. The Bruins did valiantly fight back in the 3rd, scoring twice in a 1:26 span to tie the game at 2. But Christopher Higgings stuffed in a pretty stoppable shot on Tuukka Rask with 1:29 remaining to give the Rangers a win.

"There is no doubt we have a lot of character," said Blake Wheeler in an AP interview. "I can't even count the number of times where we've been down after two periods and we come out in the third and give a really solid 20 minutes. But it's not good enough. If we compete for 60 minutes, it's a different story."

That sums it up; to win without superior talent like the Bruins are trying to do, it takes a 60-minute effort. Tonight they're in Ottawa, a team that has been playing well lately and features Alex Kovalev coming off a five point (4 G, 1 A) night against Philly on Sunday.

The Sharks also faltered last night, ending an 8-game winning streak. All good things come to an end and the way the Kings are scoring lately it's not much of a surprise. They've won three straight and have scored 13 goals in the process, beating Minnesota, Washington, and San Jose. Most impressively, the power play has gone 5-of-13 in that three game span, good for 38.4%.

The most impressive thing in their dismantling of San Jose was that it was on San Jose ice. They got six different goal scorers in staking a 6-0 lead before Douglas Murray snapped Jonathan Quick's shutout bid with 16:39 remanining. The Kings forecheck was tenacious as well. Wayne Simmonds has been playing extremely well for Los Angeles, and the Kings 6th goal was a result of Simmonds mucking it up on the forecheck. Overall this was a solid win for the Kings as they continue to ascend the Western Conference standings.

Tonights action features a variety of solid match-ups. The top three?

Calgary (24-12-5) @ Nashville (25-14-3), 8:00 p.m.

Tied in the standings by virtue of points, this is a very intruiging match-up. Those Preds just never go away and tonight should be a nice test to see where they stack up in the West. They're quietly creeping up the standings, tie for 5th; the winner of this game could move as high as fourth.

Prediction: Predators, 3-2 in OT

Minnesota (20-19-3) @ Chicago (29-10-3), 8:00 p.m.

The Blackhawks put their 19-4-1 home record to the test as Minnesota enters tonight on Versus. The Wild have won 6-of-8 in Chicago dating back to 2006 however, and this would be the perfect night for the Blackhawks offense to sizzle despite Minnesota's woes as of late.

Prediction: Wild, 4-2

Boston (21-13-7) @ Ottawa (22-16-4), 7:30 p.m.

A big Northeast Division tilt with 2nd place on the line. If the Senators win in regulation they pass Boston for 2nd in the Northeast and 5th in the conference. This is an intruiging battle and the season series has been exciting, most notably the Bruins come-from-behind victory in Ottawa that saw them scoring twice in the final two minutes to tie the Senators. Who knows, maybe Alex Kovalev won't wait another ten games before scoring again.

Prediction: Senators, 3-1

That's all for today. Make sure you check out Minnesota/Chicago game if you can find Versus on your cable box.
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