The Irish contingent, live from Cork. 90% of what I write will be done through a haze of sleep deprivation & alcohol. @brightblack76 on the Twitaarghs
Posts by mightymikeD
That was fun, wasn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but I had a certain sense of resignation coming in to tonight’s game. Having seen the weary, lacklustre performance against the Stars, knowing it was the last game of a long road trip and just how hard a place to win Glendale is, I was expecting the worst.
Instead we got two periods of scintillating Hawks hockey sandwiching one where they lost their focus. The bombardment started as the Hawks pinned the Yotes in their zone for most of the early running, before ending up with a minute and a half of 5 on 3 time. Duncan Keith made the pass, Marian Hossa took the shot and Patrick Kane turned it past Mike Smith. Smith’s evening took a turn for the worse a few minutes later when a shot from his Bestest Friend In The Whole Wide World, Andrew Shaw, somehow dribbled in between his stick & the post. Almost immediately it became 3-0 when Offensive Juggernaut Nicklas Hjalmarsson placed a peach of a shot beyond Smith’s glove hand. We held our breath, anticipating a stick-smashing or the hook for Smith, who was clearly struggling. No such luck, however, and that did it for the 1st.
The 2nd period was a whole new kettle of fish: the Yotes came out reinvigorated and quickly got a goal back from Rob Klinkhammer. Then the Hawks started taking penalties: first Oduya went off for a cross-check. Almost immediately after the Hawks killed that one, Hjalmarsson took a slashing penalty and turned it into a double-minor for opening his mouth to the ref. Mike Riberio, who the cretins calling the game for Phoenix apparently compared to Patrick Kane, set up Radim Vrbata to bring it to 3-2. With Hjammer still in the box, Oduya hooked Vermette and joined him. The Hawks killed off the 5-3 and then Martin Hanzal demonstrated exactly what sort of Dumb Fuck he is by pointlessly slashing Seabrook. That, mercifully, was it for the 2nd.
The 3rd period was a return to relentless Hawks dominance and Brandon Bollig, of all people, scored with a nice wrister to restore the two goal advantage. If you ever want to see sheer nonchalant genius, watch the way Marian Hossa tucks away his ENG. I swear he’s not even watching when it hits the back of the net.
Job done. 6-1 on the Circus Trip and a potential hurdle negotiated.
- Antti Raanta did very well tonight. He has some issues with his game that need sorting: lateral movement and any time he skates out of his crease being the main ones. However, his shot-stopping is exemplary and he had to stop 32 of them, some of which were point blank redirects. This kid is going to be just fine.
- Duncan Keith grabbed two assists tonight, which, I believe, puts him in the Top 3 League-wide. Pat Kane has started a new points-streak and Sharp, Toews & Saad were relentless. Even Brent Seabrook had a good night.
- Shane Doan is apparently Captain of the Coyotes. Swear I didn’t see his elbowy self all night.
- Mike Smith managed a couple of half-hearted flops and was bitching to the refs about Andrew Shaw being in the same timezone as him, but no stick-smashing theatrics, sadly. He was not good tonight, but was spared the hook because who knows what a Thomas Greiss is?
- Brandon Pirri appears to be the newest resident of Q’s doghouse. 7.07 TOI. More on this another day, I think.
- There was a true battle of the Dumbass Callers going on tonight: FOX had the Yotes callers comparing Mike “Varly-Lite” Ribeiro to Patrick Kane and CSN had Pat Foley, his voice cracking with emotion/scotch, lamenting Eddie Olcyzk’s heavy 1st Class travel schedule between his two high-paying jobs over the holiday weekend. I’m sure all the MinimumWage-earning retail staff who had to skip Thanksgiving and then face floods of assholes on Black Friday are clubbing together to buy him a big bunch of roses.
- Sellout for the Yotes for the first time ever. And it looked like 75% Chicago in there. The “Let’s Go Hawks” chants were as loud as any at the UC. The Hawks should have done their fan salute at the end.
OK, that’s that. First home game is our old pals Dallas at the UC on Tuesday. The guys can catch some rest and be proud of this road trip: the real hard labours lie directly ahead as December is shaping up to be a very tough month. Still, the Hawks are the team to beat in the league. I like the view from up here.
So, tonight is going to be the record-breaking single-game atttendance revenue for the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale. As the previous record was $825.41 (Marci and Wade splashed out and bought the jumbo fries instead of regular: it was their anniversary, after all) this wasn’t so hard to do. Obviously the conveniently-located Jobing.com Arena is going to be full of brand new Hockey fans from the excellent work that new owners IceArizona are doing in growing the game in the desert, further showing their long-term commitment, right?
It’s probably as good a summary of this game as any to point out that, at its conclusion, 22 Professional Hockey players skated in unopposed to take shots on goal and 19 of them failed to score. It was that sort of a night.
It’s often said that the marl of a true Champion is the ability to eke out a win when not playing well and the Blackhawks certainly seemed to be testing that theory. They were outshot 29-26, and seemed to have difficulty passing to a teammate. Shots were deflecting off shinpads, pucks were bobbling and it just seemed like one of those nights. Corey Crawford caught the mood, going walkabout behind the goalline which allowed Horcoff to get the puck back in front for Rich Peverley to shoot it home.
The second period was a low-shot trudge, the only incident of note being the horrible injury sustained by Stephane Robidas, whose ankle seemed to give way as he competed for the puck, exarcebated by him sliding into the boards. He was stretchered off in agony and taken to the hospital, where the word is that he has, indeed, broken his ankle. Nasty.
Third period saw the Hawks upping the tempo a little and when they did the Stars becan to chase shadows. The game was tied when Patrick Sharp glanced in yet another Duncan Keith long-ranger, giving Duncs 21 assists for the year, good for 4th in the league, just behind some guy called Crosby. No winner was to be found in the rest of the period or OT, although Patrick Kane tried hard to keep his point streak alive, and we proceeded to the shootout. Regulation scoreres Sharp and Peverley converted on their attempts and then 16 shots were saved, missed or otherwise biffed until Ben Smith stepped up and rifled one past Lehtonen.
Ugly two points, but two points nonetheless and on a night where St Louis lost, allowing a tiny bit of daylight to open at the top of Conference III. A better efort is going to be needed against the Yotes in Phoenix tonight as the Hawks finish off this road trip. talking points:
- Expensive screw-up aside, Crawford had a pretty good night, turning away 28 shots at 0.966%. He also remains perfect in his career vs Penalty Shots, although he didn’t have too much to do with this one: Alex Chiasson hit the post with his attempt after Brent Seabrook hooked him. He was looking thoroughly bored by the time the SO finished
- The Stars did their best impersonation of the Blues last night: there were many cross-checks, cheap shots and general asshattery. Roussel, Garbutt and Dillon were the main culprits, Roussel getting away with butt-smashing Patrick Kane to the ground which sparked a confrontation between Sharp and Daley. Brent Seabrook looked like he was going to remove the head of the next person to get in Crawfords face. Aded to the generally scappy ugliness last night.
- Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad both did their level best to get something going but the final pass or shot just semed to be missing all night.
- Hopefully Robidas heals quickly: horrible to see a player suffering like that.
- Pat Foley, Cold Warrior, referred to Valeri Nichushkin as a “Skilled Soviet”. Clearly Pat hasn’t been sober since the Wall came down or he might have noticed that Nichuskin wasn’t even born when the Soviet Union stopped existing.
One to forget, two more points in the bag, the Circus Trip now 5-1-0 with one to play.
Preview up later. Have a good day!
Having seen off all four of the Western Conference Canadians, the Blackhawks are back on Conference III duty tonight against that Conference’s surprising basement-dwellers.
Of course, the Stars are not as bad as their position suggests: they’re 7-3-0 on their last 10 and have games in hand on Nashville & Winnipeg. They’ve just come off a high-speed mugging of Anaheim, scoring a very-Blackhawks-like three goals in under a minute of the Third period.The last meting between these two was closer than the eventual scoreline suggested (Offensive Juggernaut Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s 200 foot empty-netter, remember?)
In Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin the Stars have a top-line that can skate with anyone. It falls off fairly rapidly after that, though. It’ll be interesting to see where Lindy Ruff deploys them tonight; as usual the Blackhawks are rolling deep and with Marian Hossa restored to the lineup there is truly phenomenal power on the Blackhawks Top 6. Michal Handzus is there, too.
Last time in Dallas the Hawks managed to take 6 penalties: they got away with it because the Stars PP is ranked 29th in the league and, frankly, sucks. However, staying out of the box is always a smart move, yes? On the subject of smart moves, it would be a decent idea to give Antti Raanta another look against the average Sh% Stars, but it looks likely that it’ll be Corey Crawford back in net. Kari Lehtonen will start for Dallas.
The Stars are the definition of “Middle-of-the-pack by pretty much every metric that counts. This is not to say they’re not dangerous: they can hurt you and quickly, as the Ducks found out. As journey’s end for the Circus Trip draws ever closer, a better than .500 record guaranteed, the Hawks will need to watch out for any complacency or thinking ahead to Phoenix. If they can avoid that, then they should be far too strong for the Stars.
Puck drops at 7.30 Central.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are taking the opportunity to relax with friends, family and a beverage rather than fighting over cut-price TVs in Best Buy.
We’re at the half-way point of the Circus Trip and the Blackhawks seem to have put a couple of chastening losses (in Nashville & Denver) behind them to see off the Jets, Canucks and Edmonton. A win tonight in Calgary will guarantee a better-than 0.500 result from the trip to the West. Injured players like Michal Handzus and and Michael Kostka are returning to the fold, Marian Hossa is available again. Duncan Keith is in imperious form and Patrick Kane is on a record-equalling points streak. Tonight we will see backup goalie Antti Raanta make his first NHL start.
Yet for the last couple of days Hawks fans on the internet, the blogs in particular, have been angry, confused and argumentative. The reason? Head Coach Joel Quenneville and his perplexing personnel decisions (and yes, I know that the decision to send Jeremy Morin to Rockford rests ultimately with Stan Bowman: we’ll get to that)
From the Genius that brought us “John Scott as Power Play Forward” and “Daniel Carcillo On The 2nd Line“, Joel “Stache” Quenneville is proud to present “Michal Handzus: Winger“. I think he’s doing it on purpose at this stage, just to annoy.
DAT CRAWSTINK CANT STEAL NO GAMES MY FRENT!
Chances are, if you spend any time hanging out where the Meatballs be at, you’ve heard this or something similar. This was a common theme even before Crawford’s new contract further fanned the flames of ill-informed fautuousness (Alliteration is fun!)
Remember these guys? You could be forgiven if they’d slipped your mind of late. Despite fighting out some of the bitterest Playoff Series of the last five years and usually managing to pack plenty of incident into their Regular Season games, the Hawks and Canucks only played three times last year. They split a pair of SO victories and a Hawks team sleepwalking to the Presidents Trophy had one of their rare off-nights, dropping a 3-1 decision in British Columbia. The Nucks were then swept out of the first round while the Hawks.. well, we know what they got up to in the Post-Season.
There’s an English soccer chant that goes something along the lines of “CAN WE PLAY YOU EVERY WEEK?”. That’s how I feel about the Winnipeg Jets. They’re bad. Bad with a capital “Beej”. Four more games as hopelessly mismatched as this would be just dandy, thanks (he said, dooming the Hawks to lose the rest of the series) I’ve got some grousing to do, so I’ll get through what was a fun, if forgettable, game as quickly as I can.
- Brookbank at forward. It’s dumb. Q has his reasons (Brookbank deserves to stay in the side but Roszie needs the rotation) but they make sense only to Q.. if you’re playing a guy for 8.14 minutes (and more than half of that in the 3rd when the game was safe) and in an unfamilar position, it’s really doing nobody any good (for the record, Brookbank played 0.47 in the 1st and 2.45 in the 2nd). This may be a one-off, if so fine. If not…
- Patrick Sharp looked to be having “One of those evenings”, drawing iron twice, before another handsome goal from close range. His linemates, Toews & Hossa, were operating at a level so far above Winnipeg that they were on the other side of the Pole.
- Patrick Kane is very, very good at stickhandling. you heard it here 1,254,821st
- “Big Buff” as Foley dribblingly called him all night, did a very good impression of an extremely large headless chicken.
- Seriously, can we play the Jets every week? Please?
- OK, to the angry bit. Yes, it’s the Pardy-Through-the Looking-Glass incident. You’ve all seen it and read about it, I won’t dwell overmuch on the utterly disgraceful lack of respect shown by the couple who grabbed the helmet and dumped the beer. What appalled me was the blatant disregard for Pardy’s safety: here we have a player who has just gone head-first into and through the glass at high speed, so clearly the thing to do is to yank his helmet off his head as hard as you can, because there’s no way that he might have already suffered a serious neck or head injury. For that alone I hope that the guy gets a lifetime ban from the UC. In the UK or Australia he would have been arrested for such conduct.
- The other angry bit, from the same incident, also touches on Player Safety: even while Pardy was draped over the boards with fans and players trying to hold the giant sheet of glass away from his head, his teammates, particularly Anthony Peluso, decided that now was the time to jump Brandon Bollig. Aside from being yet another example of the asinine trend of players trying to fight after hard but legal hits, this was ridiculous. I hope Claude Noel or someone else in the Jets org has taken the time to sit him down and talk to him about ‘Timing’.
OK, so much for that. It’s off to Dallas on Saturday. Peace.
I think we all saw this coming. There were gleeful prognostications on Twitter all day about what sort of firestorm was going to come down on Reto Berra in his very first NHL start.
Making his debut against the Hawks? Wow, that poor kid was going to get shelled, broken and possibly sent scurrying back to the AHL.
Well, he got shelled all right: 44 shots, the Hawks highest total this year. However, he stopped 42 of them, was the 1st Star of the game and is doubtless feeling very good about himself this morning. So it goes.
This was a tedious and ultimately forgettable game and not something to get worked up about: dropping a point to Calgary in November is unlikely to come back to haunt us in the Spring (right?). After a 18 shot but no result 1st for the Hawks, Patrick Kane got it started in the 2nd with a nice wrister and we anticipated the floodgates opening. However, Mike Calamari tied it up; tipping in a shot from Wideman then, in the 3rd, Calgary took the lead via Curtis Glencross. Marian Hossa continued his nice recent run of form; finally scoring in the dying seconds of a PP after the Hawks had squanderd a minute and a half of 5 on 3 time.
To OT and a Kris Russell slapshot ended things.
It pinches to lose to dumpster fires like the Flames, but these things happen. What else we got?
Oh yes, TOI. Jeremy Morin got 7.21. Smith, Pirri and Bollig between 10-11 minutes. Meanwhile Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa were all over 20 minutes. I wish I knew what Q is thinking. Three of those four are Olympic locks and, well, you know the rest. I guess its “First World Problems” if that’s the biggest issue; but the sudden sidelining, due to bits falling off them, of one or more of those guys for any long period of time could have serious consequences.
In Q’s favour, the D was more balanced with only Leddy (19.51) and Brookbank (16.54) not breaking the 20 minute mark.
It’s the Jets up next on Wednesday. As good an opportunity as any to wipe last night from the memory.
I was supposed to recap the Hawks/Sens game but real life got in the way. However, the main talking point has been the performance (or lack of same) of a certain bibulous backup. Such ineptitude can really only be expressed through the medium of verse and, considering its Halloween and all… I give you
Those of you who play Fantasy Hockey may be familiar with this feeling: when a player that you have high, high hopes of, a player that’s slipped under other’s radar, falls to you in the Draft and you rub your hands with glee; thinking about how smart you are, about how your secret weapon is going to propel you to glory and then… pfffft… not a disaster but nothing special either. Know that feeling? Do I?
After a harrowing 5-3 loss to Minnesota at the UC on Saturday, the Hawks headed for the Twin Cities for a second go-round with one of the hottest teams in the league. The first game was one where it felt that every single rub of the green went against Chicago, coupled with a goalie standing on his head. Tonight it was very much the reverse.
Here we go then: the Hawks head away from the UC for the first (sort of) extended trip away and it’s off to the Sunshine State with Mothers in tow (which should at least spare us the endless golfing anecdotes from Pat & Eddie later on). Not that Florida is the sort of place I’d care to take my own mother.
Rumour has it that the real reason that Joachim Nordstrom was sent back down to Rockford is that the Hawks did not feel that an impressionable young Swede should be exposed to Florida or, at least, not until he’s warmed up with a couple more trips to St Louis.
These are never easy to write. It’s one thing losing to a strong St Louis team after a close, hard-fought game. That stings. Losing after a close, hard-fought game where the Blues also got away with behaving like meth heads fighting over the last rat roasting on the garbage fire? That really hurts. But that’s not the worst of it..
At the moment no one in St Louis gives a shit about the Blues. Now they know how the rest of the NHL feels, all the time. The Best Fans In Baseball are too busy laying in the meth and practicing pushing wheelchair-bound ushers down stairs ahead of Saturday’s playoff game to expand their precious bender-scratch on Hockey. (It’s a meaningful Playoff game, too, with the StL side not being the ones facing elimination, a situation entirely alien to Blues fans.) Luckily this game is in Chicago so Hawks fans are supposed to outnumber Blues supporters.
Time for more fun with numbers and your views on proceedings in sunny Carolina the other night.
Well, that was harder than it should have been. Two points secured, a lot of dominance from the Hawks (the Stats make hilarious reading), some good things, some bad things., some things to learn. My brother the Stats Guru was assuring me, prior to the game, that this Islanders team is the real deal and are going to tear it up in the Metropolitan Division. Colour me unconvinced, but they do have a very impressive sucker-punch and they got to use that a couple of times tonight. Also, John Tavares is very good at Hockey. Let’s get into it ..
Going from Coast-To-Coast to the most confusing of the new Alignments, the Atlantic. That contains exactly none of the Old Atlantic Division teams (all in the Metropolitan Division). Also, teams from Ontario & Michigan, which are land-locked (and in Detroit’s case over 600 miles from the Ocean). The Atlantic isn’t the first body of water you’d associate with Buffalo, either. Anyway, it’s a strange mix of old North Eastern teams with a couple of terrible Floridians from the South East and an escapee from Western time-zone tyranny in the Red Wings.
Let’s take a quick look at the Realigned Divisions, starting with the Westernmost, the excitingly-named “Pacific” (or “Pacific + Bits of the old NW”)
This looks like being a very hard-fought (if not especially exciting) Division: Four of the Seven teams made last year’s Post-Season, Anaheim finished Second in the Western Conference for the Regular Season and LA went to the Conference Final. Phoenix were on the Playoff Bubble and hope to be back there again. The less said about the Albertans the better.. and then there’s the Curious Case of the Canucks, of which more in a moment.
Battle Of California
The three Californian teams will all be spoken about as contenders this year. Anaheim, whose remarkable run last year was ended by a fairly heavy regression to the mean, traded away the permanently disgruntled Bobby Ryan, picking up a decent return from Ottawa in highly-rated young winger Jacob Silfverberg, 1st round pick Stefan Noesen & a 1st rounder next year. Teemu is, of course,back and Dustin Penner has crawled wheezing from LA to Orange County. Their Blue Line looks like a problem area, with Beauchemin dinged up, Sheldon Souray out for at least a couple of months and after that.. Mark Fistric? Luca Sbisa? Yuck. Luckily their cup runneth over in goal with Hiller in a contract year, Fasth building on his breakout season and that John Gibson hovering in the wings.
San Jose.. It’s hard to know what to make of the Sha-Arks, as ever. Thornton & Marleau are in the last years of their deals and not getting any younger. However, if Pavelski & Couture can repeat their form of last season that’s still a potent line up. Hell, maybe even Marty Havlat will stay healthy for longer than ten minutes? Sadly, they haven’t bothered with any defense again this year which means Antti Niemi will need to be on top form, again.
Meanwhile, in a certain smog-choked hellhole, the Kings are already being picked by many as this year’s Champions. They have changed little on their roster, save shipping off Dustin Penner to Anaheim and taking Gorilla Salad off the Hawks’ hands in return for some magic beans. There’s little doubt that, if they play to their strengths, they are one of the best teams in the League. Their big weakness is their Ent-Like defense with Willie Mitchell & Robin Regehr lumbering around behind Drew Doughty. They continue to praise Slaya Voynov to the heavens, but from what I’ve seen the kid still has a great deal to learn about play in his own end. (Hell of a shot, though). And Jon Quick is Jon Quick.
Dead Men Walking
Phoenix finally resolved their ownership issue and future location for
once and all five years. They will be hoping for a return to the post season after missing out last year. They can keep on hoping. Their only “major” addition has been Mike Ribeiro, for four years at $22.5 M which, were it not for Toronto & Philly, would likely be the laughing-stock deal of the summer. Ribeiro was at a Point-Per-Game last year, for the first time since 2007-08. He was also on the Caps PP with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Good luck with Radim Vrbata, Mike. Shane Doan is another year older and slower and more elbow-y. The rest of the Yotes are made up of the usual collection of pluggers and plodders. One feels that, unless Mike Smith has one of his “Outlier” years, this will be a tough season for the Desert Dogs.
Edmonton re-upped Jordan Eberle (for way too much money) and RNH (see above, though more justifiable in the Nuge’s case). These sort of shenanigans now mean that the Oilers have less Cap Room than the reigning Champions. Sam Gagner’s fresh new broken jaw will sideline him indefinitely so they had better be praying that Hall, RNH, Yakupov et al can stay healthier than they have been in recent seasons. Not that it will do Edmonton any good: they have no defense or Goaltending and will be aiming at the Draft Lottery again. As for Calgary… Just close the door and walk away, sadly shaking your head. Full-on Tank Mode for the Flames with Jay Feaster likely to be out of a job by Christmas and Brian Burke embarking on a long-overdue rebuild.
Diving For Dear Life
That leaves us with the ever-beloved Canucks and, for me, the most interesting storyline in this Division: namely, is this the year the Nucks miss the Playoffs? I would hazard a guess that it could be: we all know about the Presidents’ Trophies and exaggerated seedings won by beating up on a piss-weak NW Division. Last year we saw the Wild make a much better fight of it and the Nucks swept out of the 1st Round. This year they are going to be fighting hard with the formidable trio of Californians for the three automatic spots and they may well find themselves lacking.
What they’ve mostly got this summer is older. The Sedins are starting to show their age (although still a force to be reckoned with) Ryan Kesler and David Booth can’t stay healthy, they still think Kevin Bieksa is a top-pairing D-man, Luongo’s mind may well have been snapped by the goings on and they’ve got noted Locker-Room-Unifier John Tortorella behind the bench. There’s still plenty of threat there if it all comes together. If not, I believe the Canucks may well find themselves on the outside looking in when the Post-season starts, which will cost Mike Gillis his job and instigate a crisis in Vancouver where they have no Cap-Space or Prospects.
While we all stand back and chuckle, of course
Season Previews are like Assholes: Sports Blogs are full of them (you sure about this? .ed).
Nailing your colours to the mast as to how teams and players are likely to perform over the coming year is a risky business and leaves one open to the mockery of your peers when, inevitably, the Hockey Gods make sure that all your confident predictions go horribly wrong.
Therefore, we here at Cheer the Anthem have decided to skip this potential public shaming and would much rather that you do it instead: here is a comprehensive preview of all the other 29 teams in the League. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and you’re on the Path to Hockey Guru Status/Hiding Under A Rock .
North American Hockey fans seldom pay much attention to the various European leagues and when they do it’s usually as “The place that all those awesome Finnish goalies come from” or “Jesus God, those jerseys are ugly” or “Somewhere that Don Cherry REALLY hates”. The events on the larger ice really don’t factor much in the tumult of an NHL season.
This year, however, is slightly different and the eyes of Hawks fans will be turning to Europe more often, for reasons that I’ll get to in a moment.
Being of the European Persuasion myself, I’m going to contribute a weekly wrap-up of events from a selected few Teams and Leagues over this side of the pond that may be of interest to Blackhawks fans (and some just for my own entertainment.. humour me)
SM Liiga / Jokerit (Finland)
This one is pretty obvious: there’s a certain Hawks prospect playing there who has created the sort of giddy anticipation last seen when Patrick Kane was drafted. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how Teuvo Teravanien is developing and hopefully providing more awesome “Highlight Videos With Crazed Finnish Callers” for your titillation. Another subplot is the fact that this is the famous old club’s last year in the SM Liiga before they jump ship to the KHL next season.
Slovak Extraliga /HC Dukla Trencin (Slovakia)
This is, of course, an Olympic year and Slovakia are in the USA’s group for the First Round. While no-one expects the Slovaks to cause an upset against the US or Russia, they are a potential landmine and should not be taken lightly. Their best players (and Tomas Kopecky) are mostly in North America or playing for Bratislava, who moved to the KHL last year, but we’ll keep an eye on any developments coming out of Slovakia. Dukla Trencin is the club that rocked the cradle of the Hossa brothers, the aforementioned Tomokop and the late Pavol Demitra (whom their arena is named for). Trencin is also the hometown of Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik.
Elite Ice Hockey League/Belfast Giants (Britain)
Shameless Homerism here: we’ll take a look at Ireland’s only Pro Hockey team as they compete in the British League. The Giants have had an extremely traumatic time off the ice over the last couple of years (of which more on another day) so we’ll follow them and see how the club is picking itself back up off the floor.
Championnat De France Div 1/ Mulhouse Scorpions (France)
This one is personal: I have a weird affection for this happy-go-lucky bunch of schmucks who won promotion to the French Top Division, La Ligue Magnus last year, only to get kicked in by all comers, finish second-last and get relegated back down (yes, they have Promotion/Relegation in France.. damn Eurotrash!). Last time they were in this Division they won it, so I’ll be taking a look at their travails and hopefully give you an idea of Hockey in the real backwaters of Europe.
We’ll be kicking this off with some quick profiles of the teams, the leagues and the key players to keep an eye on. If I can find time in between constructing my shrine to Teuvo, that is.
Corey Crawford was expected to be the subject of much speculation during the forthcoming Season: his current contract (Cap Hit of $2.6 Million) was due to expire next summer, leaving him a Unrestricted Free Agent. The Hawks fanbase was wondering if he would be traded now that his value is at its peak, re-upped, and if so, for how long and for how much in light of some of the blockbuster and/or boneheaded deals given to goalies lately.
Instead Stan Bowman gave an added fillip to Crawford’s Day withe Cup by re-signing him to a 6-year deal worth $36 Million ($6M per year)
Bowman has thus far shown no willingness to overpay for Goaltending and Crawfords deal is closer to the 6yr/$31.8m extension signed between Jimmy Howard and the Wings or Mike Smith’s 6yr/$34.2 than the Tuuka Rask contract (8yr/$56m) .Obviously this is being made with the anticipation of a considerable rise in the Salary Cap in 2014/15. Crawford is now making some Elite-Money.
I’m sure there are some Crow-Hating Meatballs out there tearing out their hair and howling into their Tapout shirts as their dream of Ryan Miller in the Indianhead fades. Thus far, however, the general mood seems to be one of cautious optimism. There are some concerns over the length of the contract and that Crawford will be 35 at its end however, it would be very un-Bowman-like for the contract to be an untradeable monster and there is always going to be some GM willing to pay whatever it takes to get a Stanley Cup winning Goalie on to their roster.
Personally I like it, yes, it’s a lot of money and years but when you look at some of the other contracts that have been handed out in recent years, especially to Goalies, it looks perfectly reasonable. I also have an inclination to trust Stan Bowman’s judgement in these things: he’s hardly put a foot wrong in his dealings.
This is going to be a high-pressure year for Crawford: he is now the undisputed #1 (which he was last season, too despite the “WE WANT DAT EMORY GUY” crowd), he won’t be “Playing for a Deal”, instead he will have to justify his considerable price-tag while the well-regarded Antti Raanta hones his game in the AHL.
We all saw plenty of signs of an increasingly confident, aggressive and strong-willed Crawford last season (and not even Pat Kane believes that he didn’t deserve the Conn Smythe). With Chicago looking to repeat and with every team in the league gunning for them, he’s going to need every bit of that strength.
There are very few writers in the Hockey world that need absolutely no introduction, but Sean McIndoe, better known as Down Goes Brown, is certainly one of them. (And if you don’t know who Down Goes Brown is, stop reading this now, go here , start at the start and come back when you’re finished)
He’s unfailingly perceptive and hilarious and I (and anyone else who attempts to make jokes about Hockey) owe him an enormous debt of gratitude and tremendous respect.
What he is also, though, is one hell of a writer.
Recently, Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy asked, on Twitter, for advice on websites to read in order to help ease a newbie friend into the game. Slak, of Hockee Night and Magnificent Beard reknown, suggested Down Goes Brown which, after I thought about it, made perfect sense. Despite all the in-jokes and McIndoe’s encylopaedic knowledge of the game, he writes with utter clarity and provides enough context for the more arcane references to reward anyone who follows up the links and does a little research on their own.
I remember, from when I was, myself, wet behind the ears, tracking down old articles and YouTube clips in order to understand jokes about Toronto 4th Liners from the mid-90s. Which was a good thing, I guess..
This year has seen McIndoe writing for Grantland (while still maintaining the quality at the Down Goes Brown site) These articles have been less surreal than the DGB material but have managed to be interesting, informative and downright hilarious, written in the same spirit of gentle mockery and sharp observation that have been his trademark.
The weekly NHL Grab Bag series was worth reading for the “Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week” section alone (now there’s an education for newcomers!) not to mention the usual head shaking over “What Has Done Cherry Gone And Done Now?” and “The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page” (how it wasn’t Philly every week I’ll never know)
Sean McIndoe manages to be almost universally adored (Chris Pronger was unavailable for comment) right across the notoriously cantankerous and fractious Hockey fanbase, no mean feat. This is, in my opinion, due entirely to the fact that he writes with genuine warmth and affection for this game and those who play it, watch it and even administrate it (just about). His jokes can be cutting, accurate and merciless but they are never nasty or needless and even when he is sticking it to people like Kerry Fraser or Gary Bettman, there is a smile behind the barbs.
Nowhere was this genuine feel for Hockey more apparent than the Grantland article he published on May 30 this year, entitled Absence of Malice. Don’t look for any jokes, there are none in this article about serious accidental injuries caused on the rink. It is an extraordinary piece of writing and, to my mind, this year’s equivalent of the NY Times series on Derek Boogaard in late 2011 in its unflinching yet empathetic look at the very human frailty and vulnerability behind this most physical and dangerous of sports.
It’s a profoundly affecting and thought-provoking piece and a clear demonstration that, behind the jokes and the fun, there is a serious and clear-eyed observer of the game. It hardly seems fair that one man can excel at both things, but I’m sure there isn’t anyone out there who begrudges him this. Instead we all look forward to whatever Sean McIndoe , or his crazed alter-ego Down Goes Brown have planned for us next.
You can read Down Goes Brown at www.downgoesbrown.com, Sean McIndoe at www.grantland.com and you should absolutely, positively buy his book, The Best Of Down Goes Brown, details here