Saturday, December 09, 2006

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I'll be writing pretty much every day on everything that's going on in the hockey world!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Farewell to Joe Nieuwendyk

Wendel Clark was drafted 1st overall in 1985. Two hundred and fifty-one picks later, the Flyers took Paul Maurice with the final pick in the draft. But it was the player taken at #27 out of Cornell by the Calgary Flames who would go on to become the best player from the draft year.

Joe Nieuwendyk became a star as soon as he got to the NHL. In his rookie year he won the Calder Trophy, scoring 51 goals and adding 41 assists. In year two he matched his goal total from the previous year and added another ten in the playoffs, as the Flames beat Montreal to win the Cup. During his tenure in Calgary, Nieuwendyk had 274 goals and 616 points in 577 games. Following a sixth straight year without winning a playoff round, the Flames decided to make a move for the future, trading the 29-year old to Dallas for Corey Millen and the Stars' recent first round pick, Jarome Iginla.

While some may think the Flames got the better end of the deal in acquiring Iginla, they would go on to miss the playoffs in all but one of the next 8 seasons and it took seven full years before Iginla took his game to the next level. Of course Nieuwendyk helped to carry the Stars to the finals in back-to-back years, winning the Conn Smythe in 1999 as Dallas won their first Championship in franchise history. In my opinion Dallas made a fantastic deal - the cost of acquiring a future Hall of Famer and winning a Cup was high but absolutely worth it.

In 2001-02 with the Stars struggling, they decided to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade, sending Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner to New Jersey for Arnott, McKay and a 1st round pick. Joe's stay in New Jersey was short - just one full season plus the final 14 games in 02 - but it did bring him his third ring on his third team.

After winning the Cup in 2003, Joe became a free agent and decided to come home to Ontario, reuniting with his friend Gary Roberts. The Leafs had a strong team and expectations went through the roof with the addition of Nieuwendyk along with trade deadline deals for two more future Hall of Famers Francis and Leetch. Joe battled through injuries and finished third on the team in scoring with 50 points. As usual it was in the playoffs where he took his game to a new level, scoring 6 goals in 9 games and carrying the Leafs to a first round win over Ottawa. The aging team ran out of steam in the second round, losing to Philadelphia.

Most thought that this would be the final stop in his illustrious career, but Joe would stay just one season in Toronto after failing to come to terms on a new contract the next summer. Negotiations with GM John Ferguson Jr. went down to the wire but in the end Nieuwendyk and Roberts decided to move down South to play for the Panthers. After the lockout a lot of veterans had trouble keeping up in the new NHL. Joe Nieuwendyk was not one of them - at age 39, he had 26 goals and 56 points in 65 games. Unfortunately he struggled with injuries throughout the year (something that plagued him for much of his career) and in the end it was his back that forced him to call it a career today. It's a shame that he couldn't make one last run at the Cup and retire on his own terms but we did have the privilege of watching him for almost 20 years.

Nieuwendyk also represented Canada twice in the Olympics. All Canadian hockey fans will remember him doing whatever it took to bring home the Gold in Salt Lake. He took on a defensive role where he excelled and was outstanding in the faceoff circle. He led by example and did whatever it took to win.

Joe Nieuwendyk was a star on and off the ice. He may have won three Cups, an Olympic Gold, the Conn Smythe and Calder trophies and was a four-time all-star, but I'm sure one of his proudest accomplishments was winning the Kings Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1995, for Humanitarian of the Year. I've never met him but I have the utmost respect for the way he carried himself on the ice and off.

The debates have already started over whether Nieuwendyk is a Hall of Famer. To me there is no doubt that he is. He may not have as many goals as Ciccarelli or as many Cups as Anderson, but if I had to pick a team to play Game Seven for the Cup and could take anyone from the past 20 years, there are few names I would take ahead of Joe Nieuwendyk. He was a consummate pro. A leader. A warrior. A winner.

Congratulations on a fantastic career Joe and I look forward to seeing you continue to impact the game off the ice for years to come.

Thumbnails used from Getty Images

Amazing Goal - Should it Count?

Bouchard's skate is clearly in the crease and making contact with Khabibulin's pad, but he was also in full control of the puck at the time - tough call...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday in Review

Quite a bit of news today other than the Eagles' big win tonight:

Tonight's Games:
* Bruins win a thriller over Montreal, 6-5. Before the game there was a ceremony to commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Canadiens' franchise - players like Schmidt, Bucyk, Cheevers, Bourque, Lafleur and Beliveau were on hand for the festivities. Outside of the Yankees I don't think there is a pro sports team in North American that has such a rich history
* 10 different players had goals in this one, with Brad Stuart potting a pair. Primeau and Sturm also scored for the Bruins, giving the trio 13 on the season, 6 more than Joe Thornton
* Marc Savard had a three point night, bringing his season total to 31. I wonder how many teams are regretting not making a move for him (Calgary perhaps)?
* Huet got the hook for the first time this year.

* Marty Turco picked up shutout #2 on the year, beating the Sharks 1-0.
* Dallas had just 13 shots on goal (5-4-4) but won anyway
* Modano scored the lone goal of the game before leaving with a "lower body injury". Seems like a lot of those going around.
* The Stars were also missing Morrow, Lindros, Miettinen, Daly and Sydor due to various injuries

* Phoenix came from behind to upset Nashville, 3-2. The Coyotes outplayed the Preds and outshot them 42-21 - 16-3 in the third
* Georges Laraques picked up two more assists - his 6th multipoint game in his last 12 games

* The Oilers shutout Vancouver 4-0 behind 36 stops by Roloson
* The Canucks continue to really have trouble scoring while Luongo struggled as well, allowing 4 on 18. Vancouver has no scoring depth and are relying way too much on the twins and Naslund.

Today's News
* Stillman activated: You have to think that the Canes will look to deal a forward for some help on D. Maybe they'll even look to Vancouver?

* Bob Clarke back with Philly (as Senior VP). Sounds like a very low-stress position that still allows him to stay active with the franchise. Good move for all..

* Canada's World Junior hopefuls announced - 11 returnees from last year's Gold Medal squad. One of the most interesting battles will be in goal where Carey Price and Leland Irving should be pushed by Jonathan Bernier and Steve Mason.

* Viktor Kozlov named first star of the week. 6 goals in 2 road games put him in a class with Red Bereson, Gretzky, Sittler and Mikita. Something about Chad Kilger and Viktor Kozlov stealing the headlines this weekend feels very strange to me.

* NHL salary cap going up - apparently somewhere between $46 and $47.5 mil. Good news for the league and for the upcoming UFAs.

* Balsillie interviewed by team owners. As expected it sounds like it went well. The big date is fast approaching (Dec 20) when the decision is expected on the Slots licence for Downtown Pittsburgh:

''Obviously if they get the (slots) licence there's a contractual commitment to the team,'' said Bettman. ''If there isn't (a licence) then there will be an opportunity, I suppose, for other places to make their interests known. Although he reiterated, as did the executive committee, that we would like this team to stay in Pittsburgh if it's possible." (TSN)

* Schedule changes discussed. Sounds like Bettman is on board, the players are on board and the fans are definitely on board. However, everything I've read has said any changes that are made won't be made for another year, which is too bad (if true)

'I did indicate that the majority of players who I've spoken with would certainly support some increased play outside of their division,'' said Saskin. ''We all recognize there are challenges and competing interests anytime you make adjustments in the schedule, but the benefit of seeing more teams in the regular season is one that is understood and supported by the membership.'' (TSN)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Al Iafrate... Al MacInnis... Chad Kilger?!?

According to, Chad Kilger set the record today for hardest shot recorded. During the team's skills competition, Kilger had a 106.6 MPH slapshot, which broke the NHL record (105.2 MPH by Al Iafrate) and minor league record (106 MPH by Shawn Heins).

Kilger also won the fastest skater competition, posting a lap time of 14.233.

So let me get this straight: Chad Kilger has the hardest shot - ever. AND Chad Kilger is the fastest skater on the Leafs.

Ummm this can't be the same Chad Kilger that I'm thinking of. The one who was drafted in the first round ahead of Langkow, Doan, McLaren, Dvorak, Iginla, Giguere, McKee, Biron, Sykora, Nabokov, Morozov and Denis and whose year-by-year goal totals are:


It can't be the same guy who has 3 goals and 2 assists in 36 career playoff games, can it?!

I wonder if Anaheim, Winnipeg/Phoenix, Chicago, Edmonton and Montreal are now regretting giving up on such a talented player.

I also wonder if the radar gun was calibrated properly and how he beat out Gill and Belak to win fastest skater.

The Week Ahead

Just in case you were planning your week out, I decided to take a quick look at the week ahead:

(4) Monday, December 04, 2006
Boston at Montreal 7:00 PM
San Jose at Dallas 9:00 PM
Nashville at Phoenix 9:30 PM
Edmonton at Vancouver 10:00 PM

(8) Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Ottawa at NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Florida at Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Buffalo at Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Atlanta at Toronto 7:30 PM
Chicago at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Detroit at St. Louis 8:00 PM
Carolina at Calgary 9:00 PM
Columbus at Colorado 9:00 PM

(5) Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Ottawa at Washington 7:00 PM
Montreal at New Jersey 7:30 PM
Phoenix at Dallas 8:30 PM
Carolina at Edmonton 9:30 PM
Nashville at Anaheim 10:00 PM

(10) Thursday, December 07, 2006
Toronto at Boston 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
St. Louis at Detroit 7:30 PM
Buffalo at Florida 7:30 PM
Montreal at NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Atlanta at Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Calgary at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Phoenix at Chicago 8:30 PM
Nashville at Los Angeles 10:30 PM
Colorado at San Jose 10:30 PM

(4) Friday, December 08, 2006
Anaheim at Washington 7:00 PM
Philadelphia at New Jersey 7:30 PM
Edmonton at Dallas 8:30 PM
Carolina at Vancouver 10:00 PM

(14) Saturday, December 09, 2006
NY Rangers at Ottawa 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh at Atlanta 7:00 PM
New Jersey at Boston 7:00 PM
Toronto at Detroit 7:00 PM
Buffalo at Montreal 7:00 PM
Florida at NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Washington at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Anaheim at Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Chicago at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Columbus at St. Louis 8:00 PM
Dallas at Phoenix 9:00 PM
Vancouver at Calgary 10:00 PM
Colorado at Los Angeles 10:30 PM
Nashville at San Jose 10:30 PM

(3) Sunday, December 10, 2006
Ottawa at Columbus 6:00 PM
Edmonton at Chicago 7:00 PM
Florida at NY Rangers 7:00 PM

Weekend in Review

Sorry for the lack of activity over the weekend. Since I've posted there have been 20 games over the weekend.

* Tonight the Kings pulled off a big upset over the Ducks. Cloutier looked confident in net for the first time in a LONG time as the Kings came up with a split in the home-and-home weekend series.
* Bryzgalov had to leave the game tonight with an undisclosed "lower body" injury.
* In the earlier game, Viktor Kozlov had a four goal night, bringing his season total to 11. Last season Kozlov had all of 12 goals, and he has only cracked the 20-goal mark once in his 12-year career. On Saturday night he had 2 goals and an assist, so it was quite the weekend for Viktor, who may be finally living up to his draft status - 13 years later!
* Also, Shanahan had a hat trick to tie Hossa for the lead league with 20.

From Friday/Saturday:
* Ovechkin will not be suspended for his hit on Briere. Fortunately for all, Briere was not hurt on the play
* The Leafs continue to struggle, blowing a lead in Montreal
* Ryan Miller was pulled and the Sabres gave up 7 to Washington
* The Wings lost on a late goal to San Jose on a bad turnover at the blueline
* Ottawa looks to be back in a big way
* New Jersey won a pair - over Pittsburgh and in the shootout over Philly
* Patrick Elias is heating up, with 5 points in his last two games
* Hasek had another shutout, beating Minnesota on Friday night. Joey McDonald started the San Jose game on Saturday.
* Chicago also won a pair, beating St. Louis and Nashville. On Saturday the Hawks got three goals and an assist from somebody named Jeff Hamilton
* Columbus' Fredrik Norrena shutout the Oilers 4-0. The loss was very costly for the Oilers, who lost Ryan Smyth with a fractured thumb

Chris Cuthford and Glenn Healy called the first ever NHL game from ice level on Friday night. It was interesting to hear them work from between the benches and there were some interesting moments like the short interview of Lindey Ruff during a stoppage of play. I hope TSN continues to try new things and push the boundaries to bring the games closer to their viewers.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thursday in Review

So I didn't see Marty Turco in my cab or Sidney Crosby in my shower today but after a couple slow nights it really felt like hockey was back:

69 goals + 1 exciting shootout in 10 games.

50% of teams scored 4+ goals.

The Leafs have scored just twice in three games since the return of Mats Sundin.

Dan Cloutier has now given up 8 goals on 17 shots over his last two starts.

Dany Heatley continued to lead Ottawa with 2 goals and an assist. Not to be outdone, Marian Hossa had the hat trick and also added an assist.

Huet stopped 44 but the Habs still lost 4-2.

It took 14 shooters before Tim Thomas stopped Fedotenko to give Boston the win. Boston has won 8 of their last 10.

Jamie Heward took an skate to the face from Modano and was cut really badly.

Philly won with all their young defencemen in the lineup (and no Rathje)

Phoenix, Colorado and Nashville combined for 19 goals in their wins.

Emery and Lehtonen had shutouts.

Just when it seemed like the power may have been swinging back to the goalies, we get a night like tonight where only 3 teams get 1 or no goals (out of 20) and 5 starters (25%) get the hook.

Mike Smith: 4 goals on 14 shots
Alex Auld: 5 goals on 17 shots
Manny Legace: 5 goals on 17 shots
Dan Cloutier: 3 goals on 5 shots
Dwayne Roloson: 6 goals on 20 shots

Game Winners: Hossa, Ju. Williams, Kessel, Semin, Heatley, Knuble, Radulov, Doan, Arnason, Getzlaf
Goalie of the Night: Kari Lehtonen
Sniper of the Night: (tie) Marian Hossa
Defenceman of the Night: John-Michael Liles
Clutch Play of the Night: Getzlaf on the PP (2nd game winner in a row)