Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mad Hatters Schedule

The EPHL released the schedule for their league today. For the Mad Hatters, things begin on Saturday November 1st against the Rome Chiefs, who it seems will be the main rival of the Mad Hatters as they play each other 7 times with the other teams being played 6. Most of the home games are on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays totaling at 23 games of the 25 game home schedule. Certainly the league is looking to be fan oriented. With games on these days of the week, more fans will generate more revenue and interest in the team. This is a smart business move considering the league is just starting.
Opening night will be a white out while Saturday March 21st is Fan Appreciation night in Danbury and is also the last home game. 
This is a good start for a league that is trying to get things rolling. With teams within short distances of each other, transportation will not be a huge issue and with games mostly on weekends, fans will make their way to the arenas for games more often than not. Tickets will not be expensive and will appeal to people of all financial backgrounds. For those that live in areas near NHL teams (Danbury, Brooklyn, Jersey) it provides an alternative to high priced NHL games. The EPHL is definitely heading down the right track right now in terms of establishing themselves as a legitimate minor league. Hopefully this first season is a huge success. 

Mad Hatters Sign 2 more players

Look at me breaking Mad Hatters news before it hits anywhere else. 

(DANBURY, CT) – The Danbury Mad Hatters of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL) have announced the signings of defenseman Shawn Breaker and forward Erik Kent. As per club policy, the terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Shawn Breaker is a 25 year old defenseman from Strathmore, Alberta. Shawn’s only professional season was in 2004-05 and was split between Huntsville and Winston-Salem in the SPHL. He racked up 2 goals, 16 assists, and only 17 penalty minutes in 51 games. After his first professional season, Shawn decided to return to school in Alberta. He played 2 seasons at Grant MacEwan College, playing in 40 games with 4 goals and 24 assists.

General Manager of Hockey Operations Brendan Tedstone said of Breaker, “Shawn came to me from a high recommendation. He’s a stay at home defenseman that is very smart in his own zone. He's excited to join our back liners and start working towards a championship. His past experience in the SPHL should help bring a few rookies along throughout the season.”

Also joining the Mad Hatters fold is forward Erik Kent. Kent is a 26 year old native of Newburyport, MA. Kent has played a total of 5 professional games over the last two seasons: 2 with Huntsville of the SPHL, and 3 with Jamestown of the MAHL. In those 5 games, Erik has scored 6 goals and added 6 assists with 9 penalty minutes. Before his professional career, he played 4 seasons for the University of Southern Maine. In 102 games, Erik notched 42 goals and 37 assists, each season eclipsing his previous seasons goal and point totals, with 150 penalty minutes.

“Erik is a guy that will put the puck in the net, pure and simple,” Tedstone said. “I expect he'll be a first liner and get his points this year. He's the type of player I'd like to model my whole team after. He is great in open ice and loves the corners. He's excited to come to camp in October.”

The Mad Hatters are also still accepting players for open tryouts for this season. Please visit for more information.

The Mad Hatters have also set a date for the release of the schedule for their 2008-2009 inaugural campaign. Team and league officials have slated July 31 as the date for the release of the Mad Hatters’ schedule. As soon as the schedule is released, fans will have the ability to view it online at the team’s website. Individual tickets will go on sale approximately 1 week after the schedule is released.

Opening night for the Danbury Mad Hatters is November 1 at 7:30 p.m.

The Mad Hatters are scheduled to begin training camp on October 22, and will play 50 games in their first season.

Two more players signed to the team. Shawn Breaker (good name for a defenseman) sounds like a good stay at home defenseman who is defense first and is a young guy that maybe could learn a thing or two on the offensive side of the puck to boost his stats up. Hopefully his last name reflects his style of play.

Erik Kent (Blue guy in picture) sounds like the kind of guy who will be in the box score every night. I mean 12 points in 5 games is nothing to shake a stick at on any hockey level. The Hatters will need guys to put the puck in the net. Kent definitely sounds like a guy who will be doing it alot. 

Tomorrow I will break the schedule down a bit and see where the Hatters will be going and the format of the schedule for this new league. I am excited as hell for November 1st to roll around. 

Image found here

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Finnish Flash in Phoenix?

The likelihood of this happening is slim to none. I am not going to make it sound like this is actually going to happen considering it probably won't. But a rumor was whispered that the Coyotes may be in the hunt for the services of former Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne. 
Yes, the man who set the franchise for goals and points in a season and the record for most points and goals by a rookie in NHL history with 76 goals and 132 points. Selanne has scored 40 or more goals in a season 7 different times and has broken the century mark in points on 4 separate occasions. 
So why would Phoenix want him? Don Maloney has a self imposed age cap on the team of somewhere in the low 30s which Selanne is not because he is 38. If signed, he would be the oldest player on the team.
But an even bigger question would be why would Selanne want Phoenix? Teemu has won his Stanley Cup so it isn't going to be for that reason. Does he want to be a mentor to a young team? That is definitely a possibility and Phoenix is definitely a good suitor for that. A 1 year contract for Teemu with Phoenix wouldn't hurt the Coyotes in their cap future considering they are barely at the floor. His signing might also put a few more butts in the seats which is never a bad thing. 
Not to mention, the Coyotes just acquired fellow Finn Olli Jokinen who could be some kind of lure to the team. 
So is this a realistic possibility? If you take in all the conditions I could certainly see it happen. I would be absolutely shocked if it did but thinking about it, the move for Selanne shouldn't be that big of a shock. It would be more of a shock because the Coyotes are spending past the self-imposed cap they have and Maloney broke his age cap. 
The fact that can't be ignored is that Teemu would certainly add leadership to one of the youngest teams in the league, going by the ages off the Coyotes roster on the website and adding in Mikkel Boedker, at 26 years old. Obviously Selanne would drive that up a tad but his value to the team could not be ignored off the ice and on the ice. Before this past shortened season, he had 2 consecutive 90+ point seasons and was almost at a point per game pace in the shortened campaign. 
So like I said, I am not expecting anything to happen with this. In fact I am willing to guess that this is never mentioned by anyone ever again but it is always interesting to look at how players will affect a team if they do indeed sign with the team. Selanne would certainly have a profound effect on the Coyotes and would bring his career full circle. 
Now if he could break those totals he set in his rookie year...

Image found via Google Image search here

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Poll Results and Fast Freddie is back

      Well this is one of the closer polls that has been up here but it seems Peter Mueller will be the highest scoring player among this group. It will definitely be between Mueller and Zherdev. If Zherdev gets it going with Gomez as his center then I could definitely see him taking this race but with Peter Mueller playing on a line with Olli Jokinen and Shane Doan, he has to be the early favorite. Dubinsky and Turris will both have good years but not to the point that Mueller and Zherdev will. But stranger things have happened.
     Tough writing these days as news is pretty much non existent. The only news to report today is that Fredrik Sjostrom has resigned with the Rangers for 1 year, 840k according to a Swedish newspaper report. Great to see Freddie back for at least another year. I hope Renney gives him the chance on a scoring line that Gretzky seemed so unwilling to do. Coyote fans remember the VHS line? Put Sjostrom with Gomez and Naslund and see what happens. Zherdev is more of a playmaker anyway, despite what highlights may suggest, and would be more suited to a shooter like Drury and Dawes. Freddie is the fastest player on the Rangers right now....yes even faster than Gomez and Dubinsky... He doesn't belong on the bottom line. 
     The Rangers have been looking for one more top 6 forward to round things out on the top 2 lines. They have one right in front of them in Sjo. Use him. He can be productive. 
     Another poll will be up later.

Image found here via Google image search. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

High or Low?

When it comes to the NHL, one of the things that alot (or at least it seems like alot) of people want is high scoring games. Talk about enlarging goal nets and shrinking goalie pads could easily be mistaken for a bad Viagra commercial. 
For me, the best kind of game is low scoring. When two goaltenders are playing absolutely incredible, stopping every shot that comes their way, it is like a chess game. It makes teams have to think of different ways to beat the goaltender other than just getting a simple shot on goal. 
Defenses are constantly adjusting to the different strategies that offenses are employing. In essence, these low scoring games become chess matches because 1 goal is going to decide things.
Lets look at the playoffs. For the most part, playoff games are tense, exciting, and have a caliber of play that separates it from the regular season. But if you look at most playoff games, they are low scoring. Only 2 times in this past Stanley Cup final did a team surpass 4 goals in a game. In fact, 38 times in the past post season did the winning team score 3 goals or less in the game. That is just under 45% of all post season games. 
The reason the playoffs are the most exciting is because they are chess matches in which play with the puck is just as important as play with the puck. When teams are scoring 5 goals apiece, it all comes down to whoever scored last (Yes that is usually the case anyway). 
But with 1-0, 2-1. 3-2 type games, the excitement level comes out and you sit on the edge of your seat. It is those types of games that show true team work because they aren't just trying to score goals like in 5-4, 6-5 type games. They are trying to hold their opposition down while trying to break through the intricate play of their defense or the brick wall that their goaltender has built in net.  
In a nut shell, a low scoring game takes much more perseverance and determination to win. You have to outplay your opponent in every zone, not just the offensive. Defense and neutral zone play are just as, if not, more important than offense in low scoring games. 
Remember, less is more. 

Image found via Google Image search here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mad Hatters News

Here is some minor league hockey tidbits from the Danbury Mad Hatters:

(DANBURY, CT) – The Danbury Mad Hatters of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL) have announced the signings of three more players. Forwards Mykul Haun and Brett Riley, and defenseman Mike Utzig have all signed contracts to join the Mad Hatters this season. As per club policy, the terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Mykul Haun, a native of Oakland, CA, is a 26 year old forward who plays primarily the center position. He played his first professional season in 2007-08 between Jamestown of the MAHL and Richmond of the SPHL before succumbing to injury. In 3 seasons at Plymouth State University, Mykul appeared in 70 games racking up 9 goals, 22 assists, and 141 penalty minutes.

“Mykul had a great camp last season in Richmond and was the last guy released. He went to Jamestown and was having a great season there until he broke his wrist and ended his season,” General Manager of Hockey Operations Brendan Tedstone said of Haun. “He's one of those players that plays bigger then he is.”

The Mad Hatters also signed Brett Riley. Riley is a 22 year old native of Rochester, NY who can play both wings. In Brett’s first professional season, he saw action in 5 games for Richmond of the SPHL, but registered on 2 penalty minutes. His second professional season numbers were much improved. In 30 games for Wooster of the MAHL, Brett had 13 goals and 11 assists while amassing only 32 penalty minutes, a number among the lowest in the MAHL for players appearing in 25 or more games.

“Brett's a wiry little guy that zips all over the ice. He has a knack for the net, and is a guy that gets as many assists as he does goals,” Tedstone said. “With his discipline, he'll be a good 2nd liner and great on the penalty kill.”

Mike Utzig, a 6’ 3”, 29 year old defenseman from Buffalo, NY, was the third player signed by the Mad Hatters. Mike has played three seasons in the SPHL with Huntsville, Winston-Salem, and Fayetteville, playing in 54 games, scoring 1 goal and adding 7 assists while racking up 111 penalty minutes. Before turning pro, Mike played 2 seasons for SUNY-Brockport playing in 47 games, scoring 6 goals and adding 16 assists and recording 121 penalty minutes.

“Mike's a smart, steady defensive defenseman. He's surprisingly mobile for a big man. He's got a cannon from the point and is tough as nails,” Tedstone said. “He's had offers elsewhere, but he wants to win a championship and sees Danbury as his best shot.”

With the addition of these three players, that brings the number Mad Hatters signed to 8: Forwards Hutcheon, Payne, Cook, Haun, and Riley, and defensemen Hickman, Fiddler, and Utzig.

Danbury is starting to sign the forwards they will need to score some goals and rack up points along with pounding opposing players into the ice. Riley and Haun sound like offensive forwards who will be relied on for point producing. Having Utzig as a big point shot will be great to have and being a big guy will help him be physical. 
And for all of you amateur hockey players out there looking for a shot at being on a team, the Mad Hatters will be holding a tryout camp for those 20 and older and are looking for some good players to play for the team. Visit here for more details about how to get into the camp. 

Image found here via Google Image search. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bad Boy Back in Town: Carcillo Resigns.

Daniel Carcillo has signed a 2 year deal with the has not been disclosed but I will post it here whenever it becomes available. Check out the Coyotes website for more information on this great news here.
The Coyotes are set for this upcoming season as it seems the team is in place and Don Maloney is happy with what he has got. Its now up to Gretzky to get these young guys to mesh together and create a team that will be dangerous every night.

Image found via Google Search Here

Sunday, July 20, 2008

USA All the Way?: A Look Ahead at the Future of USA Hockey

Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin, Brian Leetch, and Mike Richter. All of these names were the headliners of the USA Hockey team in almost every international competition in the 1990s and early 2000s. But with a few retirements and age catching up to these guys (despite the fact Chelios refuses to accept it) the old guard of USA hockey is vanishing into the annals of hockey history.
Who is going to replace these guys? Many of these names were stars in the league and have great NHL careers to their credit meaning it will certainly be tough to replace them in the coming years. While players who were considered young the last few times such as Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Mike Knuble, Ryan Miller, Brian Rafalski, and Brian Gionta were the future they are now the present and the 'veterans' of the USA Hockey teams. So who is the future?
Lets start in the crease. With Miller and DiPietro the two big names in the goal crease, it may not seem like they will need to be replaced anytime soon. But you never know what is going to happen. Jeremy Smith is a Nashville Predators prospect who is certainly a consideration when it comes to down the road. Thomas McCollum is another name to look at. He was ranked by some as the top goalie in this past year's NHL draft. Jimmy Howard, currently a prospect in the Detroit Red Wings farm system will definitely get a look someday. 
Having a lesser name in goal isn't all that terrible considering the defense of the United States is very stacked. Young up and comers such as Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson are two of the big names coming up on the blue line for the United States. Both of them are top 3 picks in the NHL Draft. Both of them are getting NHL experience right now with the St. Louis Blues for Erik and the Los Angeles Kings for Jack. 
Zach Bogosian, who was drafted this year by Atlanta, will certainly play a huge part in the development of the USA blue line when he is ready.
Matt Niskanen had a breakout year for Dallas as a rookie this past year and certainly is making a case to be a future member of the USA Hockey program.  
They join Keith Ballard, Jordan Leopold, John Michael-Liles , and Paul Martin who are now anchors on the blue line. Players to look forward to on the blue line are Bobby Sanguinetti, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Summers. 
However, the future of USA Hockey lies in the forward position. Joining the likes of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury in the forward trenches are guys that have already made their mark in the NHL and elsewhere. 
Patrick Kane was the top pick at the 2007 draft and made a huge impact this year for the Chicago Blackhawks as he won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in the NHL. Not bad for a kid who is small. 
Peter Mueller had a spectacular rookie year in the NHL as he helped lead the Coyotes offense on the first line. While he is a center, his sniper abilities are letting the Coyotes put him on the wing, making him a versatile player being able to play the wing or the center position.
Zach Parise has been around the NHL with the New Jersey Devils for a few years but he is certainly going to be an integral part to the USA offense of the future. His goal scoring has increased every year in the NHL with the last two seasons being 30+ seasons. Look for him on USA teams for a long time.
Phil Kessel had a great college career and is really starting to turn into a great forward up in Boston. His speed is unbelievable and his shootout abilities have already made him renowned on the NHL stage. Once considered a number 1 pick in the draft, Kessel fell down to the Bruins who hope he turns into something special. USA Hockey does as well. 
James vanRiemsdyk or 'JVR' is currently up at New Hampshire (with Ridgefield favorite Tyler Scott, another USA goalie destined to stardom...) and developing with the Flyers. He is turning into a very big power forward that has speed and skill. He dominated the 2008 World Juniors leading the entire tournament despite the fact USA didn't medal. 
Lesser known guys that will certainly make an impact include Brandon Dubinsky (NYR), TJ Oshie (STL), Dustin Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan (both LAK), Blake Geoffrion (NSH), Kyle Okposo (NYI), Max Pacioretty (MTL), Tyler Ruegsegger (TOR), Justin Abdelkader (DET), and David Booth (FLA). These are some of the forward names that are up and coming with many other that I haven't even mentioned. 
Will these guys win a gold medal some day? It is definitely a possibility. However, the caliber of teams they will play are unbelievable. Canada has won the World Junior Championships 4 times in a row showing how potent and dangerous their future is. The last team other than Canada to win the event was the United States in 2004. 
European teams are hard to judge because their teams not only include NHL players but also guys from the elite leagues in Europe where there are many great players. The perennial European powerhouses like Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia always pose a threat and have great future players coming with other young players already making their marks on the international stage.
But for USA Hockey fans, times are exciting as ever with so many great young players coming in. Not only is it the quality shown by these guys but also the quantity as this great sport seems to be spreading all across the country and players are coming out of every place imaginable, other than the usual USA powerhouses of Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts. 
USA as a gold medalist in 2010? It will be tough but it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility. 
What do you think about USA Hockey's future? 

Image found via Google Image search here

The Winter Warriors

When it comes to die hard sports fans, there is always a time of year that they dread. For hockey fans, that time is just beginning now as the free agent frenzy dies down into the doldrums of summer. 
I have been asked alot about what my summer vacation will be. Summer does have good things. Time off from school. Alot more time to hang out with friends. 
To us die hard hockey fans, summer is the worst. We sit and wait and wait until the doors of our favorite arena open back up to welcome us home (no matter what the price is). We eagerly wait for the familiar voices to come over the radio or television to give us play by play. 
But we await to see our boys on the ice. That first home game where each player is introduced to the raucous crowd that is your home team. Familiar team favorites are welcomed back with applause and and a roar as they salute the crowd. Guys that maybe weren't the favorite last year are given another chance (even if it isn't a big one). The new faces get introduced to their new home crowd, usually met with thunderous applause. As the puck drops you begin to forget about the last season because you are so caught up in the moment of the first game thinking about the long season ahead. 
It is anything but long to hockey fans. The season zooms by like a speeding bullet. Before you know it, the All Star game approaches and then the trade deadline. Then the stretch run to that second season, all passed by in an instant. Team move up and down the standings. 
And then, it is the playoffs. 
When all is said and done, odds are that your team isn't the champion. Even if you are the Detroit Red Wings, there is that inherent fear that your team won't make it all the way even though it seems like they are destined to do so. And when it happens, it is the worst feeling, knowing you won't see your team again until the fall. 
So we come to this point where the real grind starts here in the latter half of July. Hockey news seems to vanish except for a whisper and a murmur here or there. Fans on the internet message boards begin to talk about the most random things to help quell their insanity. And then, when a small scrap of news happens, it is pounced on and looked at from every single possible angle within a matter of minutes. 
But then, it is back to the dull existence of a summer die hard hockey fan. Sure there is the beach, pools, late night stay ups, and alot of fond memories made. Holidays are celebrated with family and barbeque smells fill the air wherever you go. Baseball is in full swing (no pun intended) and is the only thing on ESPN (not that any hockey fans watch it).
To everyone, you can have your beaches, your warm weather vacations. You can have all the barbecues you want. Baseball can take those baseball bats and shove it. 
We die hards want to be in a cold rink where years of beer spillage and cheap hot dogs fill the air with the greatest smell ever. We want to sit in our favorite chairs that many of us have sat in since we were just kids. You see old friends who you know only through hockey games but are some of the best friends you have. As your favorite team takes the ice for the first time, its like seeing your best friend for the first time in months. 
But for now, we hockey die hards have to wait. And wait. And wait some more through the boring baseball days, the warm weather, the sun burn, and the barbecues. 
I want bitter cold winter while just wearing a T-shirt and a hockey jersey. Give me weather so cold I can see my breath and when you go outside for the first time, your hair freezes from just coming out of the shower. I want winds that are so brisk, that you have to turn your face away. Frozen hands and feet are a welcome feeling to me all for one reason. I know hockey season is starting. 
You know why the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year? Because its hockey season. 
But for now we diehards wait. And I keep saying die hards for a reason. And I keep saying die hards for a reason. Hockey die hards are everywhere. Some follow other sports during the season and offseason which is great because they become a broader fan of sports. But for those of us that have no real interest in other sports, especially during the offseason, it is worse
We may casually pay attention because we have nothing else to do but nothing more. We are the ones who eagerly wait for schedules to come out so we can circle all the games we will be able to go to. We keep track of player numbers and order that new jersey for the new season. And then we wait. Every night we go to sleep is the best feeling, knowing it is one day closer to hockey season. One day closer to going home. 
For those of us that write on hockey, this time of year is tough as topics to keep our readers entertained are few and far between as the predictions are written up. But every now and then we do find something good to write about.
So for my fellow die hards, I wish you well in surviving the grueling month of August that is certainly going to be a bear as we wait as our good friend Kari Lehtonen is waiting on top of his goal. If it helps, just go to your air conditioner and put your hands up to it until you can feel that numbing cold and maybe, just maybe, you will get a little bit of that feeling of happiness back as your hands become numb. 

Image found via Google Image search here

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008-2009 Schedule: Phoenix Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes schedule is an interesting one as the league changes the format from the division oriented schedule to a more league wide format. Here are a couple of dates for the Coyotes that could be big for the club.

October 11th vs Columbus: The home opener and first game of the regular season is always important. The young Coyotes will look to start the season the right way vs a different Blue Jackets squad.

October 15th @ Chicago: The first of 4 meetings between 2 teams that could be at the top of the Western Conference in the future with so many great young players on their rosters. 

October 23rd and 30th vs Capitals and vs Penguins: Ovechkin and Crosby come out to the desert in their only meetings of the season with Phoenix. Look for the Coyotes to try and show their stuff against teams that have found success following the same path they did.

November 15th vs Dallas: Daniel Carcillo vs Sean Avery. Any questions?

November 24th @ NYR: Of course this game is important....Why wouldn't it be on this list? Another day where my 2 favorite teams go at it and I sit in Section 420 not knowing who to root for.

December 13th vs Detroit: The Stanley Cup Champs come to Phoenix and the Coyotes will be looking to make some noise against them. Definitely a measuring stick game.

January 8th vs Tampa Bay: Radim Vrbata and Rick Tocchet make their returns to Phoenix with their new team while this year's top draft pick Steven Stamkos makes his debut in the desert.

March 5th @ Boston: Coyotes visit Blake Wheeler and his new team after snubbing the Coyotes. Look for a little bad blood between the Coyotes and their former prospect.

Those are the biggest games of the year besides the usual divisional games which I decided not to put on here. The Coyotes will be looking to make some serious noise this year and get a serious bid at making the playoffs. With alot of young players and leadership, they should be able to. But with a schedule like this, it won't be easy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Poll Results

Well it seems by almost unanimous decision that the Phoenix Coyotes have the best prospect pool in the NHL. I really hope that is true and it all works out so they can really be a contender for a long time. I will put up another poll soon. If you haven't noticed things are slow these days in terms of hockey news. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Best Defense is a Good Defense

The Phoenix Coyotes blue line went through a major overhaul this offseason when Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton were traded to Florida as the main pieces of the Olli Jokinen trade. Going into free agency, Don Maloney was certainly going to be looking at a deep defensive crop. 
However, speaking to him at the Coyotes Rookie Open House, he said that he would not be going after the big name free agents rather focusing on what he called "value" players. Guys that would be able to replace Boynton and Ballard and eat up the minutes they played and take over their role. 
Maloney certainly did that this offseason. The first defenseman he signed was Kurt Sauer. Kurt is a big kid at 6'4 220 pounds and is only 27 years old. He has played with Colorado for the past few seasons where he has excelled as a shutdown defenseman. 
In a great article on Hockeybuzz, Daniel Tolensky broke down the number of minutes among Colorado defensemen going up against the big offensive producers in the Western Conference. Tolensky was trying to show that the Toronto Maple Leafs had signed the wrong defenseman when they signed Jeff Finger to an outrageous contract and that they should have signed Kurt Sauer. If you don't feel like reading it, it shows that Kurt Sauer was the man out there against those big name players like Iginla, Thornton, and Sedin. 
The points scored by these players on the ice against Sauer is not told but the fact that Sauer was out there for these kinds of minutes shows the kind of skill he has and the trust that the Avalanche put into him. He isn't a big point producer but he will definitely help prevent points from being scored.
The other defenseman that the Coyotes snagged was David Hale. He is another young defenseman at 27 years old who played for Calgary. While not a big point producer, Hale is a good depth defenseman who will play a safe style knowing that in his case defense is more important than offense. He is still looking for his first NHL goal. It would be nice to see him get it this year but as long as he does his job as a lower pairing defenseman I will be happy with this acquisition. 
These two players join Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris, Zbynek Michalek, and Keith Yandle (maybe) on the blue line. Jovanovski finally played a full season this past year and set a career high in points with 51 (12 goals, 39 assists). He finally looked like the defenseman that the Coyotes signed to that big contract. This year he will be looking to not only improve on his point total but also provide leadership on a blue line that is relatively young with an average age of 27 when the season starts. 
Derek Morris is coming into a contract year this upcoming season and will also be providing leadership as one of the alternate captains to captain Shane Doan. His defensive play improved greatly this year even though his offensive production has been better than recently. The Coyotes will be looking for that same defensive play along with a bit more offense to help stabilize the defense. 
One of the most unknown yet best young blue liners in the game is Zbynek Michalek. He spent much of last year playing with Jovanovski primarily as a defensive partner rather than in an offensive role. He is a young guy who is learning how to be a solid defensive force on the blue line while also learning the offensive skills needed to become an effective puck moving defenseman. Hopefully he can move off the pairing with Jovanovski and show his abilities that he showed when playing his first few seasons with Keith Ballard, scoring 20+ points each year.
The last spot on defense is sort of a mystery. Matt Jones just signed a one way contract that could give him the spot if he can earn it. However, young defenseman Keith Yandle is certainly making a run at it. He played 43 games with Phoenix last year tallying 5 goals and 7 assists. Not much right now but he has the skills to become a very good puck mover in the NHL someday and the Coyotes are counting on him to be that considering their lack of prospect depth on defense relative to the rest of the team (Chris Summers is a name you will be hearing soon). He had some defensive lapses this past year but if he is paired with someone like David Hale who focuses on defense most of the time, then Yandle should be able to loosen up the grip on his stick and play a simpler game rather than trying to do too much at once. 
The Coyotes certainly lost 2 big names on the blue line in Ballard and Boynton. Keith Ballard is a great young defenseman whose hip checks are second to none while Nick Boynton brought grit and a bit of an edge to the back end. But the additions of Sauer and Hale along with the growth of Michalek and Yandle, and the leadership of Morris and Jovanovski will be plenty to let this blue line really improve from last year and be an effective defense for the team to be supported on. 
Things are really looking up in Phoenix. 

Image found via Google Image search here

Dawes re-signs with the Rangers; Fritsche signs

Nigel Dawes has re-signed with the New York Rangers on a 1 year $587,500 contract. This is a great signing, allowing Dawes to have a contract year this upcoming season and show the Rangers what he can really do. The Rangers also signed restricted free agent Dan Fritsche, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Fritsche was acquired earlier this offseason along with Zherdev from Columbus. 
The bottom 6 of this team is starting to get crowded and surely Glen Sather will be shuffling guys around whether it is through waivers or small trades for prospects and draft picks. Also, Brendan Shanahan is still out in the cold so to speak and Sather wants to bring him back, considering Shanahan doesn't want to go anywhere else. But at his age and the way his skating is, will he fit on this team? If he does, it will definitely have to be a lesser role even strength wise. The Rangers still have cap space meaning they are not done. Every cent is going to be used to build this team.  
Also thank you to Thirdeye of HFboards for making me my new picture which can be seen in the About Me section. It definitely suits me very well. 

Image courtesy of Rangers website

Hanzal to have Back Surgery

Phoenix Coyotes website is reporting that Martin Hanzal will undergo back surgery after suffering a herniated disk during the World Championships playing for the Czech Republic.
Don Maloney says Hanzal will be fine for training camp and the season. Hopefully this doesn't become a career nagging injury for Marty. He is an integral part to this team's future. Check out the Coyotes website via the link to the right for more information. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Battle of the Pacific Blog

There is a new blog that I will be contributing to. The Battle of the Pacific is a blog being started by myself and a couple of other writers, each representing the teams of the Pacific division of the NHL. I will be writing Coyotes articles for that site and engaging in debate with writers from the Coyotes division rivals. Make sure you check out my stuff there along with the other writers' contributions to the site. The link to the site will be put in the links column to the right. I will still be very active here so make sure you stay tuned to here as well. Alot of exciting things are happening. Hope you can keep up!

Phoenix Coyotes Goaltending

When it comes to the Phoenix Coyotes, one of the bigger question marks over the years has been goaltending. After Nikolai Khabibulin left, Sean Burke took over and later Brian Boucher. And despite the fact Brian Boucher set the record for longest shutout streak in a Coyotes uniform, the Coyotes were still looking for stability. Along came Curtis Joseph who had a few solid years in Phoenix but still he wasn't the answer as age seemed to be catching up with him. 
At the beginning of this year, Mikael Tellqvist was the starting goalie with Alex Auld and David Aebischer behind him on the depth chart. Tellqvist is a good goalie but he isn't a starting goaltender in the NHL on a night to night basis. Don Maloney needed to find someone who could be the bonafide number 1 the Coyotes have been looking for. They had been looking at Anaheim's backup Ilya Bryzgalov for awhile at this point but Brian Burke was asking for more than Don Maloney was willing to give. However, Burke had promised Bryzgalov he would get him to a place where he would be the number one guy. Bryzgalov was put on waivers with Burke knowing that someone would take him.
Don Maloney pounced and the Coyotes had the man they were looking for. Bryzgalov met the Coyotes in LA and played in a game vs the Kings. Not only did he win, but it was a shutout, signaling that the Coyotes had found their man. With Bryzgalov starting and Tellqvist backing him up, the Coyotes made a surprising run towards the playoffs but ultimately fell short.
But what about the future? Obviously Bryzgalov is a young goalie at only 28 years old but This Coyotes team is always looking to the future and there are 3 goaltenders that have shown promise and really caught the eye of this team. 
The first goalie is Josh Tordjman. Last year's starter in San Antonio for the Coyotes farm team, Josh posted a 2.65 goals against average and a .910 save percentage over 22 wins. His stellar play over the last few seasons in the Coyotes farm system has him penciled in as the Rampage's starting goalie for next season.
But a trade at the deadline brought in a Maloney draft pick from his New York days. Al Montoya was acquired by the Coyotes and somewhat of a goaltending controversy was created in the AHL. Despite Montoya's sub-par year last season, he is a solid goaltender who, with a little help, could get back to his high potential and really become a great prospect again. His 2006-2007 season was where he really turned things on with a 2.30 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Look for him to seriously battle with Josh Tordjman for the top spot in San Antonio this coming year.
The 3rd goalie that I am talking about is probably someone not many people know considering he played in Europe until this coming season. Joel Gistedt has spent the last 2 years in Frolunda, Sweden where he has turned into a real goaltending prospect. He really impressed me when I saw him at the Coyotes prospect development camp here in Phoenix. Any Ranger fan who watches him would say he looks exactly like another swedish goaltender on Broadway. He has unbelievable leg speed and really could turn into a surprise for Phoenix. He was one of the best goaltending prospects at the 2007 draft and really could be something interesting to watch for the Coyotes. With Tordjman and Montoya in front of him now however, look for him to start in the CHL with the Arizona Sun Dogs who will be looking to repeat their championship. 
For the first time in a long time, the Coyotes goaltending situation isn't a question mark in the present or for the future. It is definitely their most underrated position when it comes to the future. But for now, Bryzgalov could make it something really special. What do you think?

Top 10 New York Rangers of All Time

This is arguably one of the tougher things I have done in terms of writing when it comes to anything, let alone hockey. A top 10 list of any Original 6 team is going to be tough to make considering how long they have been around and the numerous players that have played for them. This is my list but by no means do I think it is concrete. Many of these players could be moved up with a bunch of them easily considered for number 1. So here we go:

10. Brad Park: Park played just over 7 seasons with the New York Rangers and is considered one of the best defenseman not only in Ranger history but certainly in the history of the game. His offensive style of play started the change that ultimately revolutionized the position when Bobby Orr came around. He ranks 19th on the all time points list but despite that, he is one of the best players to ever put on the Ranger blue.

9. Vic Hadfield: The first Ranger to ever score 50 goals comes in at number 9. His goal scoring record held up until Adam Graves broke it in that magical season. Hadfield was an integral part of the GAG line that lead the Ranger offense for many years. He ranks 9th on the all time list in points and 5th in goals. His record of 50 goals set the goal scoring mark that many great Rangers could not break.

8. Mike Richter: Now here is where it starts to get really tough. Arguably the best American goaltender in hockey history, Mike Richter is number 8 on my list. He has the most wins of any Ranger goalie and a Stanley Cup to his credit. His absolutely stellar play in the 1993-1994 playoffs lead the Rangers to breaking the curse of 1940 and made it a tough decision for voters to decide on the Conn Smythe trophy (MVP of the playoffs) which Richter could have also won. His number 35 is retired in the rafters and is one of the most beloved Rangers of all time.

7. Frank Boucher: The orginial Mr. Ranger comes in at 7. Boucher was the center man of one of the best scoring lines in Ranger history as he anchored the Cook brothers and led the Rangers to 2 Stanley Cups. He has a trophy named after him that represents the most popular Ranger on and off the ice (won by Sean Avery this past season). He won 7 consecutive Lady Byngs and is 15th on the all time points list. He is forgotten alot but will always hold the title as THE Mr. Ranger.

6. Andy Bathgate: Arguably one of the greatest scorers of all time, Andy Bathgate comes in at number 6. He is 4th on the all time points list with 729 points. He was a captain and his offense propelled the Rangers through the 1950s and into the 1960s. He was a Hart Trophy winner in 1958-1959 and was a very consistent player, playing 70 games all of his years with the Rangers except for one. While he did win a Stanley Cup with Toronto when he was traded from the Rangers, Bathgate will always be remembered as a Ranger.

5. Eddie Giacomin: At number 5 comes the greatest Ranger of all time (in my opinion). Giacomin was an anchor in net for the Rangers for a decade. He led the NHL in wins 3 consecutive years  while also leading the league in shutouts 3 different times. He posted 30+ win seasons 5 times and won the Vezina Trophy in 1970-1971 as the best goaltender in the league. His play made the Rangers a tough team to score against for a long time and the chants of EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! can still be heard every once in awhile. 

4. Jean Ratelle: The center for the GAG line comes in at number 4. Could have ended up the greatest offensive player in the history of the Rangers if he had not been traded and lost some time due to injury. His record of 109 points stood until Jaromir Jagr broke it, a bar that certainly would have been set higher if not for 15 games missed to injury in the 1971-1972 season. His time was limited in the playoffs as well, surely a big reason the team didn't win the Stanley Cup that year as they fell to Bobby Orr and the Bruins. But Ratelle, ranked 3rd on the all time points list with 817 points is one of the best offensive players the Rangers ever had.

3. Mark Messier: The man that brought Lord Stanley back to NYC comes in at number 3. Arguably the best captain in the history of hockey and one of the best leaders in sports history, Messier's memorable career in NY brought Ranger fans alot of memories. Despite the fact Messier cries alot, the man has earned the right to do so being 5th on the all time scoring list with 691 points. He won the Hart Trophy in 1991-1992. Really, what else is their to say about the Captain? 

2. Rod Gilbert: Coming in at number 2 is Rod Gilbert. He leads the franchise in points and goals and was an offensive catalyst for the team during their great years in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite a nagging back injury for most of his career, Gilbert still managed to put up Hall of Fame numbers and be a dominant player in his time. He is always around the organization volunteering and helping young fans get into the game all the while his number 7 hangs in the rafters.

1. Brian Leetch: Well Number 1 goes to number 2, Brian Leetch. He may not be the leader in points for the franchise but he certainly would have been if it wasn't for a trade. He is one of the best defenseman in NHL history and the best in Rangers history. He would have broken Gilbert's points record and Howell's games played record. Leetch made a huge impression as a young player, winning the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the 1988-1989 season. He won the Conn Smythe during the 1993-1994 Stanley Cup win and he won the Norris Trophy two times as the league's top defenseman. Brian Leetch is the greatest player to ever put on the Broadway Blue. 

Honorable Mentions: Harry Howell, Steve Vickers, Bill Cook, Ron Greschner, Walt Tkaczuk, Adam Graves, Gump Worsley.
This is easily the hardest list I have ever had to make concerning hockey because of all the great players to ever put on the Ranger uniform. Even now I am doubting some of these choices but I am going to stick with them. What do you think of these choices? Who would add, subtract, or move around in the order? Comment or sign the guestbook! 

Image courtesy of The Daily News

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ryan Hollweg shipped to Toronto

Probably to the delight of many Ranger fans, Ryan Hollweg has been dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 5th round pick in the 2009 draft. Obviously more of a return than most Ranger fans thought the organization could get on him and some people would call it overpayment on the Leafs' part. But it was inevitable that something like this would happen considering the depth of the Rangers in the bottom 6. In fact, I don't think this is the end of the transactions for Sather and the Rangers who still have to sign Dan Fritsche, Nigel Dawes, and Fredrik Sjostrom who are restricted free agents. Not to mention the fact Glen Sather has shown interest in wanting to keep Brendan Shanahan around for another season to provide leadership. 
More some time later. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Top 10 Phoenix Coyotes of All Time

The Coyotes have had some great players in their history starting back in 1979 when the organization came into the NHL as the Winnipeg Jets. This is going to be a two part thing with the second article coming at some point after this one. Not sure when but here are 10-6.

10. Alexei Zhamnov: Zhamnov was a catalyst at center for the Winnipeg Jets in their later years and led the team in numerous offensive categories during the 1994-1995 season and had his best years of his career with the Jets.

9. Phil Housley: Certainly one of the best American born players of all time,Housley definitely deserves to be on this list. He only played 3 years but ended up with 259 points in a Jet uniform and was an anchor for their power play all three years. 

8. Nikolai Khabibulin: The best goaltender in Jets/Coyotes history comes in at number 8. His dominating play led the Coyotes in their early years to the playoffs until he was traded to Tampa where he won a Stanley Cup. While not a leader in any statistical category, his 126 wins are 2nd all time (1 behind Bob Essensa) and his Goals Against Average of 2.75 is one of the better marks in the history.

7. Teemu Selanne: It is a shame that Selanne left Winnipeg after almost 4 seasons. His rookie year remains the best rookie year in the history of the NHL with 76 goals and 56 assists for 132 points. An absolute remarkable year that hasn't been broken yet. While this was his best year with the Jets, it still puts him on this list. It is too bad that he was traded.

6. Shane Doan: The only remaining Jet on the Coyotes roster is now the captain and slowly climbing the ranks as one of the greatest players in Coyotes history. He is 4th on the career points list and 5th on the goals list. He is one of the best captains this organization has ever had and could end up being their best ever, especially if he can lead the team to its first ever Stanley Cup.

5. Jeremy Roenick: My favorite player to this day comes in at number 5. He came to Phoenix from Chicago and was an instant sensation to Phoenix. In essence, he brought Phoenix Coyotes hockey to life with his play and his attitude. He ranks 8th in all time points for the Coyotes franchise. Without him, the Phoenix Coyotes don't have the kind of start and popularity they had back in their early years. 

4. Keith Tkachuk: He came to Phoenix from Winnipeg and continued his scoring ways in the desert. The last season in Winnipeg he scored 50 goals and the first year in Phoenix he topped that with 52 goals. He ranks 2nd in goals with 323 and 3rd in points with 623. He was a captain and certainly another big piece to a successful start in Arizona for the Coyotes.

3. Thomas Steen: This choice and the next one were the hardest to put in their spots but Thomas Steen comes in at number 3. A career Jet, Steen ranks 2nd on the all time points list and probably would have ended up in first if not for an injury plagued career. He was a captain for the Jets and is one of the few to have his number retired.

2. Teppo Numminen: Teppo comes in at number 2 and is the best defenseman the franchise has ever had. He has the most games played for the franchise with 1098. He ranks 5th on the all time points list with 534 but was more known for his defensive play and despite playing in the most games on a team that had some very bad years, he maintained a +42 in all of his years as a Jet which is second all time. His number 27 will certainly be retired one day by the Coyotes.

1. Dale Hawerchuk: The best player in the history of the Coyotes/Jets franchise is Dale Hawerchuk. He is the career leader in points and goals for the franchise. He was a captain and managed to score 100 or more points in all but one of his seasons as a Jet with his highest point total being 130 points (57 goals, 77 assists). He managed to score all these goals and points on mostly mediocre teams and were the best years of his career. Dale set the mark for all Coyotes players to reach and hopefully someday break.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Young Guns: Broadway Blueshirts

For the New York Rangers, young players have recently been given alot of time to develop as the big club has big free agent signings lead the team with a few young players filling holes. That was until recently considering the majority of this team is now made up of home grown players Henrik Lundqvist, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Petr Prucha, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and others have become the core of this team and will lead it into the future with high hopes. But these guys aren't the biggest excitement surrounding the Rangers organization but rather a bunch of players who will be joining the ranks someday.
The biggest name that comes to mind is Alexei Cherepanov, the top 5 talent at the 2007 draft who fell all the way down to the Rangers has the organization excited. He will be playing with Avangard Omsk (Yes where Jagr went) for one more year where he will get another year of seasoning and hopefully helpful insight from Jagr. The Rangers tried to bring him over to North America for this coming year but Russia is very defensive when trying to bring players over, especially when they are already under contract. Glen Sather and Avangard's GM Anatoly Bardin met earlier this year where it was thought that a sort of trade of Jagr for Cherepanov might happen but it never did. But with Cherepanov staying in Russia, it ensures he will get top line minutes and he will be much happier being in his hometown. He had 15 goals and 12 assists this past year for 27 points in 46 games. He also had 3 points in 4 playoff games. In his rookie year he broke Pavel Bure's goal scoring record with 18 goals which is a big deal in Russia. Look for this kid to come over to North America next year and really start to make waves.
My personal favorite Ranger prospect is another Russian who has already come over to North America and is playing for the Wolfpack in Hartford. Anisimov had a good rookie year scoring 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in 74 games. He is almost NHL ready with the only knock on him being his size. He may be 6'3 but he is only 187 pounds which is a bit light for the NHL but he will certainly be heading into training camp looking to make a splash. He is a very good skater and playmaker with some decent defensive abilities. He can also score goals. For some reason I have a feeling he is really going to turn some heads and be a force in the NHL some day. Can anyone say Pavel Datsyuk? I can. 
The other Russian Ranger is Evgeny Grachev. The Rangers picked him up in the this year's NHL draft. He has a big body at 6'3 211 pounds and is a decent skater for his size. He uses his body very well and is strong on the puck. The best thing is that he will be playing in the OHL this year for the Brampton Batallion. Here he will learn alot about what it takes to get into the NHL and he will definitely improve. The fact that he is coming to North America also says alot about his desire to develop and play in the NHL someday. Him, along with Anisimov, Cherepanov and the newly acquired Nikolai Zherdev will form a very formidable group of Russians to lead the Rangers in the future.
On defense, things aren't as deep as they were with Marc Staal coming up to the NHL this past year but that is not to say things are bad. At the top of the list is Bobby Sanguinetti. He finished out his OHL years this past year playing with the Brampton Batallion where he shined. in 61 games Sanguinetti scored 29 goals and had 41 assists for 70 points, good for second in points in the OHL. His 29 goals led the OHL among defensemen. Bobby Sangs will probably spend a year in Hartford this year since the Rangers have filled out their defense corps but it will be very beneficial getting some top time in Hartford where he can learn what it takes to be a professional and maybe, just maybe, earn a call up or two this year if any defensemen go down to injury (*knock on wood*). 
The other defenseman that has the Rangers excited is Michael Del Zotto, their first round pick from this year. Playing for the Oshawa General in the OHL this past year, Del Zotto put up a solid 16 goals and 47 assists for third in points. Yes he beat out players like Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Alex Pietrangelo who were all picked before him. Del Zotto mostly fell because he didn't improve on his rookie year but he was ranked at the top as one of the best defenseman in the draft. Hopefully he can prove alot of people wrong and really show something this year wherever he plays. I am guessing the Rangers will want him in Oshawa to improve on his already great year.
Goaltending isn't an issue. Enough said.
That is the future of the New York Rangers even though it seems the future is now. It is exciting times for Ranger fans when looking at this young crop of players and hopefully, with Henrik Lundqvist in net, these guys will help bring Lord Stanley back to Manhattan.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Young Guns: Desert Dogs

When it comes to young players, the Phoenix Coyotes have very few competitors in terms of quality. An emphasis on a young team has been the emphasis since Don Maloney came to be the general manager. His self imposed age restriction on player signings, which is about 32 years of age, has led to Phoenix becoming one of the most exciting young teams in the league. 
This past year, Peter Mueller and Martin Hanzal were the two big young names that were going to be making the squad. Mueller was moved from his normal center position and put on the wing with Shane Doan on the other side. Because the Coyotes didn't have a number one center, that pivot changed alot over the course of the year. After a shaky start, Mueller came on and finished the year with 22 goals and 32 assists for 54 points in 81 games including 2 hat tricks. He was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for January. Mueller was absolutely stellar in his first year and he will definitely be relied on by Wayne Gretzky to improve on his numbers this coming season. 
Martin Hanzal turned out great for Phoenix but in a different role. The big center, who has been known for his offensive abilities, turned into a very good two way forward this past season. He put up 8 goals and 27 assists in 72 games with his best game coming at New Jersey. Hanzal brought in a big body to matchup against the bigger centers in the West and he did a very good job in his first year doing so. With that defensive responsibility moving to Olli Jokinen, Hanzal will be looked to improve on his offensive numbers and provide a strong lower line pivot.
The Coyotes did get surprises from two younger players. First, Daniel Carcillo came in and assumed the role of enforcer. Despite playing only 57 games, Carcillo managed to lead the league in penalty minutes with 324. He also managed to score 13 goals and add 11 assists with 5 of those goals coming in the final 2 games. With the acquisitions of tough guys Brian McGrattan and Todd Fedoruk, Wayne Gretzky will be looking for Carcillo to improve on his offensive output while letting the other 2 handle the enforcement duties. Although don't expect Carcillo to give up his toughness altogether.
The other player who definitely came out of no where was Daniel Winnik. A 9th round choice of Phoenix in 2004, Winnik made this team after spending a short stint in the Coyotes farm system and instantly became a very serviceable bottom 6 player, scoring his first NHL goal in the first game of the season vs St. Louis. He finished the year with 11 goals and 15 assists in 79 games, certainly a surprise season for a bottom 6 player who was a 9th round pick. I don't think this is a Henrik Zetterberg case but Winnik is turning into a decent checking player with speed. Look for him to continue his success next season.
All of these players were huge pieces to the success of the team last season. But the Coyotes will be relying on another group of youngsters to provide the same, if not, a bigger showing this coming year. Kyle Turris is a lock to make the team this year and has a chance to be the best rookie the organization has had since Teemu Selanne had an unbelievable rookie year back in Winnipeg. Will Turris have that kind of year? I doubt it but the Coyotes will be looking to him to lead the young players into the season and be an offensive catalyst for the Coyotes. 
His newest friend will probably also be his new linemate. This year's first pick for the Coyotes, Mikkel Boedker, signed an entry level contract with the Coyotes during this offseason and will become another key piece to the Coyotes offensive future. After a great rookie year with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, Boedker will look to have a great rookie year in the NHL. When I saw him at the prospects camp they had in Phoenix a few weeks ago, Boedker and Turris played unbelievably well together and certainly will be given a shot at training camp to pull it all together with a third line mate. Todd Fedoruk seems to be a likely candidate since his role as a protector will be well represented there, not to mention he has some offensive skills which will make for a dangerous line. 
Three other players that will be fighting for spots on the Coyotes roster are Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik and Viktor Tikhonov. Porter and Kolarik were linemates for the high flying Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA this past season with Porter winning the Hobey Baker award as top player in the NCAA. He scored 33 goals along with 30 assists for Michigan in 43 games. He finished the year and went to San Antonio for their playoffs where he had 4 assists in 7 games. Kolarik had 30 goals and 26 assists in 39 games for Michigan and followed Porter to San Antonio where he scored 4 goals and 2 assists including a hat trick. These 2 are both good hockey players but when they are together, they can dominate the ice together. 
Viktor Tikhonov was drafted this year in the late first round. Darren Pang reported that Wayne Gretzky had mentioned that they weren't leaving Ottawa without him. That says alot for a kid. He received the award for Best Forward at this year's World Junior Championships scoring 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games, helping Russia to a bronze medal. He is a big kid and a strong skater who seems to have no problems using the big frame to make space for himself in front of the net. His wrist shot is very quick. If he can pull it all together, he will have a good shot of making the Coyotes and making a difference. 
All of these guys are forming the core of the Phoenix Coyotes that will lead them back into contention in the NHL. Other young players like Jared Staal, Brett MacLean, Nick Ross, and Jonas Ahnelov, and more all need to work on specific things but will one day be added to the Phoenix roster to help fill it out and make them an even better team. Everyone better look out for these guys. Their bite will certainly be scarier than their howl.

Poll results

Well it seems that majority for best season for the Rangers free agent signings has gone to Nikolai Zherdev with 54% of the vote with Naslund coming in second place. I think Naslund is going to end up having the best season out of these guys but it definitely won't be long that Zherdev is leading the team offensively, especially when countrymen Anisimov, Cherepanov, and Grachev start hitting the ranks. Thanks to everyone who voted and a new poll will be up soon. 

Sidney Crosby: Posterboy for the NHL? I Don't Think So

Maybe I am a little bias on this. I'm not going to pretend that I like Sidney Crosby. I hate him. Everyone who knows me knows I hate him. He is my least favorite player ever. I never want him on the New York Rangers or the Phoenix Coyotes no matter what and that is the truth. 
His anointment as the second coming of Wayne Gretzky has the NHL shaking with excitement as the catalyst to bring the NHL back to respectability. He will lead the charge in bringing new fans to the new family friendly game that the NHL is trying to make while also attempting to wow the sports world by breaking one of the hockey god's most untouchable records. 
Now I see a problem with this. Sid the Kid (I hate that name) is exactly that. A kid. Regardless of what others may think, Crosby dives. He whines to referees and complains when he doesn't get his way. He does this because the NHL has made him feel entitled to get everything he wants because of what they have labeled him as. Every sport has a face to it. But Sidney Crosby shouldn't be the face of the NHL. The best player in the league should be the face of the NHL. And there are 10 guys that I can think of right now that are better than Sidney Crosby: Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Dastyuk, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Nick Lidstrom, Dion Phaneuf, Rick Nash, and Dany Heatley. Right there are 10 players how are better than Sidney Crosby right now. They all dominate their respective positions and are stars in this league, superstars in some cases. I didn't include goalies in this but there are a few who are very dominant and are better than Crosby is as his position (including an actual King). Is Crosby a good player? Yes he is. I am not doubting his abilities as a hockey player. But to put him at the head because he is or will become the best player in the league is absolutely wrong. Crosby is absolutely nothing right now. He has never won a Stanley Cup. He isn't even close to Gretzky's records. Yes he has a Hart Trophy as the youngest player ever. Gretzky has 9, winning 8 of those in a row. 9 Hart trophies in 10 years. 10 Art Ross trophies including 7 in a row. When Crosby starts doing things like this then we can start whispering his name in the same league as Gretzky. Until then he has nothing and is nothing.
So who should be the face of the league? Usually it is the best player in the league and this guy is. Alex Ovechkin should be the face of the NHL. Why? First of all, he is a better player. He scores, he hits, he plays defense, and he absolutely dominates every single game he is in. He scored over 60 goals this year, the majority of those without playing with anyone to help him. His physical play gives him another dimension to his play that Crosby does not have. Yes Crosby got into a fight but has he ever consistently played physical? No. Ovechkin's personality is perfect for the NHL. He plays like a kid living his dream and his personality is the same exact thing. Watch the Youtube video of the Capitals on the Segway tour and you will see his personality. The interviews he gives always contain some kind of funny moment and he just laughs it off. It is that kind of attitude that should be put forward to represent the NHL and not some guy who sneaks out the other side to not sign autographs (Yes, Sidney Crosby has done that). 
Has Ovechkin won a Stanley Cup or even gotten to the finals? No. But he doesn't have the attitude that he believes he should be there because he is who he is. He knows that getting to that point takes unbelievable work. His personality is great and he is the best player in the league right now and certainly much better than Crosby. Besides, Crosby's playoff mustache looks awful. At least Ovechkin can grow a beard. Why is Crosby the face? Because the NHL made him the face. Before him Gretzky was the face and before him was Bobby Orr and before him was Gordie Howe. But the difference between Crosby and those other 3 is that the other 3 earned that position through their play and personality. Crosby has been given it gift wrapped. You have to earn being the face of a sports league through your play and personality and Alex Ovechkin has certainly done that.
What do you think?