Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soooo What's Up in The Hockey World Today?

Soooo ... What's Up in The Hockey World Today?

Perhaps a more accurate headline would be/is "So, what news broke in the NHL world yesterday?" Since I'm working for a living at my "day job" a lot lately I really can't get out and see much first hand - I didn't go to any of the Rookie Camp, I continue to hope to see at least an hour or so of Caps Training Camp, though I'm not at all sure that has much of a chance to happen ... So I cruise the interwebs after I get home in the evening and perhaps at lunch to see what I can find out and use to gather my thoughts about the coming season. As I do, I continue to get more excited about the upcoming season - some of that is inevitable given my usual MO (modus operandi) this time of year, but some is exactly because there are some unknowns when it comes to my favorite professional hockey team - the Washington Capitals.

There's a lot of trepidation amongst the Capital's Faithful, to some degree one might even call it consternation. Yesterday one of, if not my ultimate favorite Caps bloggers - Peerless, posted a couple of thoughts that I felt sort of sum up my own growing consternation with those naysayers as well. If you haven't read his post "Yeah, Well ...@#%$ 'Em" yet, you should. It's a total 180 out from the recent posts at places like "On Frozen Blog." Speaking of OFB, this morning's post there "Market Demand Response". It's a horrible post and frankly it's all just more babble that doesn't make sense but that seems to be supportive of OFB leader pucksandbooks' view that the old tyme hockey game is alive and well in the post season and that's why the Caps haven't been successful in the post season party. I don't agree with his general view and frankly this last post - the text of it, etc. none of which does he attribute to any particular players or even specific enough group of players sounds like total BS to me.

Look I grew up in Philadelphia in the '70's, I went to ice hockey clinics with the "real" Broad Street Bullies. etc. I'm not naive enough to think that some guys don't, at a particular point in their trek up towards their goal of making it in the NHL, adopt a role and persona and try and use that to achieve their dream of playing professional sports. I mean my understanding is that the guy I knew and watched as Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, some would say the original skating perfection of "The Enforcer" did just that. I know I've posted this before, but in addition to his skills with his fists, Schultz was a talented skater and has a nose for the net. However, because of his size he couldn't get noticed as a goal scorer so he began to fight more and the rest was history including a 20 goal season in the NHL. Unlike pucksandbooks, I see a lot of similarities between DJ King and "The Hammer" - though I expect and believe DJ King understands how the game and the rules have changed - unlike the OFB contingent that screams for the return of Olde Tyme Hockey (it ain't gonna happen.) The key here is that when expansion occurred and the original Enforcers like Dave Schultz and Marty McSorley, etc. came into the league, there was a lot of talent in the minors and juniors and these guys could also play hockey, pretty well. I've talked about this before but the original "Broad Street Bullies" - Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, Bob J. Kelly, and Andre Dupont all had a set of solid hockey skills, they weren't just goons. That sort of stuff came later, in the form, of, for example, Nick Fotiu. All that said, the simple facts are that with the Salary Cap at $59.4M, and a situation where a lot of teams have 20+% of their available cap space tied up in two players, no one can afford to spend even a league minimum contract on a player who is nothing else but an enforcer, at least that's been my opinion for some time. Regardless of what you think on this topic, I urge you to go and look at the teams that have been successful in both the regular season AND/OR the playoffs the past several years and point to a team that has a guy on their roster who is basically solely an enforcer. The usual stat characteristics being ATOI/G of less than 9:00; little to no offensive production; and a greater than the rest of the team average number of Penalty Minutes...

Anyway, bottom line on this - I'm tired of the gloom and doom prognostications relative to my favorite team. I'm tired of hearing folks talk bad about a guy who's recently been rated as the #5 best wing in the league by a publication that isn't a group of Caps fans, or even generally European/Russian player friendly. I'm tired about hearing about what Alex Ovechkin did not accomplish, YET, in his career. I'm tired of the seemingly now endless debate about whether or not the Caps have an issue with inexperience in goal. Finally, I'm really tired about the silliness about whether or not Mike Green is good enough on defense and ready to be a part of the core group to lead the team to the next level. I could go on but basically I've just read what I wrote and I'm thinking I'm sounding like Lilli Von Schtupp in "Blazing Saddles" - see here for those who might not understand the reference ...

So here's my prognostications for this upcoming season:

Ovie (2010-2011): Conn Smyth; Hart; Richard; 120+ points; 50+ goals including 5 shorties;

Semin (2010-2011): 40+ goals; +45 - only problem will be his price for next contract ...

Green (2010-2011): Norris Finalist and maybe the third time is the charm?; 25+ goals; +45

Varlamov (2010-2011): #1 Goalie through the playoffs including the Stanley Cup Finals

Neuvirth (2010 - 2011): Traded for the needed 2nd line center - Patrick Sharp when the current experiments there don't pan out.

Holtby (2010 - 2011): Steps in and backs Varly up superbly

That's right no issues in goal for the Caps.

Carlson (2010 - 2011) Steps up and becomes the Caps # 2 blue liner; lays out BOTH Crosby and Malkin with legal, bone crushing appropriate hits during the playoffs....

Knuble (2010 - 2011) Has best season EVER, making the decision to retire following it, really hard and we won't know the answer until July 31st; oh yeah and also scores at least 1 GWG against the Flyers during the regular season and another one against them if the Flyers and the Caps face each other in the playoffs ...

Dave Steckel (2010 - 2011) Has best season ever, becomes THE Capitals 3rd line Center and notches 15+ goals, as well as leading the league in FO % Wins for Face Offs in the Cap's own Zone.

DJ King (2010 - 2011) Makes his own mark on the NHL by playing a role that is a combination agitator (like Matt Cooke and Sean Avery); Enforcer; and actual useful, non-harmful member of the team. Plays 60+ games; ATOI: 10:30+; +/- +15 or better; 10+ goals.

Matt Bradley (2010 - 2011) Has best year of his career improving on his 2009 - 2010 numbers.

Nicklas Backstrom (2010 - 2011) Another 100+ point season for Thor the Super Swede (new nickname - what do you think?) which means he'll be on the box cover of next year's hockey video game...

So me, yes I'm a Homer McFanboy and I figured I'd let it show but like Peerless and Lilli I'm just "friggin' tired" of all the negative waves man.

Finally here's a few general feel good stories from around the league yesterday:

A) Brad Richards donated $500K to a Children's Hospital up in his home province Prince Edward Island in honour of his late cousin and best friend Jamie Reynolds. Now that's a story worth tweeting about and celebrating.

B)A lot of folks are willing to publicly point out their belief that the Columbus Blue Jackets signing Steve Mason to an extension is a good move. Add me to that list by this post.

C) I love this quote from Ovechkin after yesterday's training camp scrimmage between his squad (Group A) against Mike Green's Squad (Group C) which Group A won but where everyone including Ovechkin got a turn at playing Center since Andrew Jourdrey was out. Said Ovie relative to his experience at playing in the middle: "I was surprised when [assistant coach Dean Evason] told me, 'You're going to play in center,' " Ovechkin said. "I was like, 'Okay.' I won one faceoff, so I was happy, but I think I didn't play well in the defensive zone . . . so that was bad." It just shows a continuing maturing attitude, instead of talking about the fun, etc. he focuses on what he needs to improve upon. It just says to me that this guy will strive to continue to improve every aspect of his game, basically forever.

D) The Caps Preseason opens tomorrow in Columbus against the Blue Jackets ... As of right now looks like it's only available on Radio ... why CSN isn't covering it and somehow making it available or the Caps doing so via some simple streaming web feed is silly but hey that's my thoughts and I'm the rabid hockey fan...

E) Over at Japer's Rink they have a bunch of links to pictures from training camp at Kettler... some of the pics are pretty awesome, or at least tasty enough to continue to fuel my excitement.
F) Sports Blog Nation DC Morning Commute discussion: Morning Commute: Last night's game drew an all time low at Nationals park. Can baseball work in D.C.? Seriously... field a competitive team guys and the fans will come, the park and the experience is already pretty awesome.

G) Interesting post about the importance and often overlooked importance of skating ability in Ice Hockey that ties back to some great work by Dan Steinberg re: Brooks Laich.

H) On a sadder note, here's hoping the impossible - that some wealthy philanthropist buys Mark Wells' 1980 Gold Medal and either gives it a) back to him; b) to the HHOF, or C) the USOC for enshrinement in a suitable museum as tribute to one of the greatest moments in US Olympics Histtory.

So that's about it today folks...


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