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The 2017 NHL China Games

Okay, Mr. Bettman, what did we learn?  That travel for Western Conference teams is bad enough as it is without compounding it with random excursions to the Far East?  I can’t imagine how badly jetlagged the players will be upon their return back to North America, but I know I’m pooped from it all, and I only traveled a few hours to Victoria, BC!  Crossing the international date line to play meaningless hockey (although at a very meaningful time) doesn’t seem like a worthwhile investment to me, and I think anyone who watched these two games would agree.  Now that the novelty is gone, I doubt I’ll stay or get up at past-midnight (PT) to watch any more of it should the league extend the initiative.

Mr. Bettman, while I understand the financial benefits of enticing the world’s most populated nation into becoming NHL fans, I believe you create the impression of being two-faced.  You are trying to make inroads with the hosts of the 2022 games in Beijing, while denying NHL participation this upcoming February in Korea.  Are you worried about the North, Mr. Commissioner?  Nuclear fallout from all those failed tests contaminating your players, who will then spread radiation throughout the ranks, destroying your precious league?  Really, explain the  mixed messages here…

With all due respect, Gary, if I can call you that, I’m not sure the Chinese were all that stoked about it anyway!  The first game, in Shanghai, was played in front of a reported 10,000+ people, which makes me think they counted a few spectators twice.  It was a smattering of fans comparable to what you see at a Canadian Junior game.  Not the worst, but certainly not overwhelming.  There was no bitching and moaning about not being able to get tickets!

The second game’s head count was reported as a sellout 15,000, which again is a generous count if you watched the game and saw all the empty seats (in all areas of the rink).  So, while I call BS on the attendance figures, I can also point to the overwhelmingly unenthusiastic looks on the crowd’s faces, unless the camera happened to fall on what I assume were either North American or European fans, just judging by appearance).  Even the cheerleaders made it look like an ordeal to be active participants in what was a nicely presented welcoming of NHL hockey.  The acqueil in China is always grand, but even this was somewhat subdued by contrast to the fanfare surrounding things like the world volleyball or ping-pong championships.

All this to say that I am not in support of growing the game in China this way.  Drop your dictatorial stance on the upcoming Olympics and I’ll consider the China experiment a fair (albeit misguided) attempt at establishing the NHL as China’s premier “Big 4” sports league for viewer consumption.  But, you can’t play these preseason games over there anymore!  I beseech you to stop the madness!  It’s gimmicky and counter-productive (split squads too, yeesh!) and I won’t watch any more of it.  Do it in the middle of the summer if you absolutely must, or wrap it into your World Cup tourney.  Nobody pays mind to that anyway, so it won’t interfere with the Occidental sleep schedule.

Gary, again, if I may call you that, somehow you manage to retain your Commission.  Despite all the idiotic things you’ve done along the way, I hate have to admit the NHL has grown in both size and strength under your leadership.  I can’t explain it!  So, I guess this is just a fancy way of giving you a heads up that I won’t be watching this junk any longer.

6:30am (PT)

OUT!

DR

 

Hockey (Night?) In China

Nothing better to do at 4:30 am?  Tune in for some Vancouver Canucks hockey, live from Beijing!  The Los Angeles Kings face the ‘Nucks in the first game of an NHL awareness project hoping to promote the game in China, who has an active program encouraging the uptake of winter sports.

1.3 billion people.  That is a large market to try to tap into, and the NHL likely didn’t do itself a great service by withdrawing from the upcoming games in South Korea.  But, they are (in my opinion) basically committing to 2020, when China will be the host.

The Chinese are already attempting to grow their hockey program, called “Red Star “.  In games against more established Red Star gets pounded into the ground, but that might be set to change, as they are offering incentives to North American Chinese players who come over to play on their team and in their program.  Notably, their women’s program has already tried to make inroads by adding a team which will play in North America.  Not sure about the status of all that…

All in all, I think growing the game is always a good thing and this is no different, even if it is a communist country.  The new Soviet?  NAH…

Anyway, this game will feature some top-line players, as the Canucks already played the other half of their split-squad against the Flames earlier in the night.  I know Doughty is playing for the Kings as is Muzzin, but it’s early yet.  Oh, there’s Kopitar!

Anyway, it’s late, so I won’t get into this too much save to say it feels strange being up this early watching non-Olympic hockey.

Notes:

  • In the earlier game, we saw some great play from Brock Boeser, who I think is an amazing prospect.  He has great instincts for a young defenceman, and can back it up with the skills to finish.  His goal tonight, while likely different against real NHL defencemen, was a thing of beauty, exhibiting great patience, a nose for open-ice, and the poised finish you see from the greats.

  • But the highlight of the night was a save by Calgary goalie, Jon Gillies.

  • The Ottawa Senators have lost center Colin White for 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist.  White looked like he was due to crack the opening night roster.
  • Jonathan Drouin made his long-awaited debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, grabbing an assist.  He looked right at home.
  • Blues forward Alex Steen will miss the rest of training camp with a hand injury.  Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, also of the Blues, will have his leg injury re-evaluated in three weeks.  Finally, forward Zach Sanford will be out a good 4-6 months rehabbing a dislocated/separated shoulder.
  • Erik Cole signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trochek will miss some time with an injury.
 

Things I missed – catching up

Sep 18, 2017
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I can only watch, read and write so much, so periodically I fall behind.  I’m sorry, but I do have some extra time coming up, so expect me to be posting up a heck of a lot more stuff and far more regularly.  Anyway, here’s what I think is important stuff that I have missed:

  • Bryan Little agrees to 6-year extension with Jets | I really think Bryan Little is a very over-looked and under-rated player.  He consistently puts up solid numbers and has been a solid leadership presence on what was once a very young Jets team.  From the Jets’ perspective, I think they know what they are paying for, and got reasonable value for their money here.  I believe a bit of it is a payment for past performance, but repaying loyalty is something I applaud.
  • David Pastrnak signs 6-year, $40 million deal with Bruins | Boston got great value here.  I am stunned that it took so long, as the Bruins had been offering pretty much this package from the very beginning.  Either way, they needed to get this done, as Pastrnak is their most gifted offensive talent and a complement to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.  Pastrnak’s camp showed class by accepting significantly less than the Leon Draisaitl numbers that had been bandied about in the press.  He’ll still get a shot a bigger money as a UFA while he’s still in peak playing years.
  • Clarke MacArthur fails medical test after concussion plagued seasons With the Ottawa Senators saying that they don’t know why he failed, some have suggested they are trying to bury him on injured reserve a la Joffrey Lupul.  I have a hard time believing that, as MacArthur has always been known as a good team guy, well liked and coach-friendly.  Hopefully he gets better soon.
  • Wild agree to terms with LW Foligno on 4-year, $11.5M deal | I think again, Minnesota got good value for an every occasion player who still has untapped upside.  Foligno is nothing flashy, but fits in well as a third line winger who can move up if needed.
  • Avalanche agree to 2-year deal with defenseman Nikita Zadorov | Second most urgent thing on Joe Sakic’s to-do list is now in the books.  This in no way impacts the much discussion Duchene situation.  Zadorov is one of those guys who I think could still bolt to Russia if he doesn’t see the Avalanche improving.  He is too good of a player to waste of a team being run into the ground by an incompetent GM.  This is really Sakic’s proving ground.  If he mishandles Zadorov, he will be removed as GM.  Write that down!
  • Wild, captain Mikko Koivu agree to 2-year, $11 million deal | I think Koivu’s on the down-slope of his career, but out of respect for their captain, they paid more in order to pay him for less years.  He will continue to be extended like this in perpetuity until he can play no longer.  It is a decent value extension for both sides, and I think the next one will be around the $4.5 million mark.

Well, that’s the important stuff.  I’ll be back to posting tomorrow, so until then, be safe and be sane!  Well, at least safe!

DR

 

Monday Musings – Sept. 18/2017

Sep 18, 2017
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Oh, it's in! Tyler Wong scores leading Vegas to a 9-4 win over Vancouver | Photo: The Province

First off, did anyone else overdose on lackluster pre-season hockey?  Thought so!  Anyway, at least we know there isn’t going to be a lockout or other form of work-stoppage, and real hockey is just around the corner!  That said, I won’t bore you with any real “game analysis” or the like, rather, let’s just peek at some highlights of the weekend.

So, Friday was pretty tame, with only anticipation of hockey to come.  Dialed in some TV pre-season shows, and generally had a stress-free day (well, after I got back from the hospital for a checkup).  Saturday is always hockey day in this Czech-Canadian household, so needless to say I was up at the crack of dawn, eager and ready to turn on the television and take in my heroine-like fix of the greatest game on ice!

The joke was on me, however, as I had completely forgotten that I had moved to the West coast, and that we were three hours behind the action.  Even though it was only 4:30am, it meant I would have to shuffle my viewing schedule to omit some soccer.  Not a big sacrifice, right?  DONE!  Now, come on time – please fly by and get me to my game of the day:  Vegas at Vancouver.

I had watched an almost complete Canucks team play against an almost complete Kings team the night before (not really worth going into much detail about it), and it was nothing but a parade to the penalty box, as the officials are apparently going to crack down hard on faceoff infractions and stick taps around the hands (slashing?).  The players, apparently, had not been properly informed or instructed or even told what the criteria for the call would be, and thus ended up really giving both coaching staffs a chance to view what might well end up being 8th liners at best.

But this would be different, right?  Because it’s the first opportunity to see what the motley assortment Vegas GM George McPhee cobbled together in Sin City.  To see how many defencemen one team could actually ice in a given game!  So many new things!

It went pretty much as expected.

17 total power plays were called, and I would estimate about 65% of infractions would not have been called last season.  The penalties were evenly doled out, with Vegas enjoying nine man-advantage situation’s to Vancouver’s eight.  The Golden Knights converted three times, while the Canucks potted two.

The standout players were all on Vegas, as part of the Canucks was likely either packing or on their way to China (Boeser was good, with a goal and an assist, Jordan Subban was also solid).  The biggest notable was likely Tyler Wong, an undrafted right winger, who is a tad undersized but very determined.  He scored three goals and added a helper, but his tenacity and nose for the puck…  The drive he showed (and the scoring touch) make me believe he has very good chance of breaking camp with the big club.

Another player who really showed some promise was right winger Tomas Hyka, who was drafted in 2012 by the Kings in the sixth round.  He had a previous sniff in North America, but never found traction, went back to Europe to develop, and now wants back in to the NHL.  I think Vegas presents just the perfect opportunity for him to play useful minutes, and entrench himself into a full-time NHL job.

Finally, only because I could blurb a bit about everyone which would be painfully uninteresting, Cody Glass is someone who is a high-risk/high-reward player that I think will emerge a masterstroke for McPhee.  If he ever fills out his 6-foot-2 frame, he has the potential to become one of the cornerstones of this franchise moving forward.  Great skating ability, good view of the game and smart decisions was all I saw from him.  Scrappy, if not feisty at times during the game, we can only hope he develops into at least a second line center.

The game was borderline hockey, but it did the trick in terms of hearing the commentary, the arena sounds, the fans…  At least you wouldn’t get looked at funny if you called it hockey in public.

Duh – Golden Knights win 9-4.


Sunday is always awkward, with football being another household religious affair.

Football won out the day (CFL first, then NFL), so I won’t bore you with anything but the fantastic news that the Falcons beat the Packers!

Monday is still going on, and I’m watching the “Battle Of Ontario“, part 0.1 (pre-season notation).

The Senators look really good, despite missing captain and defenceman supremo, Erik Karlsson, who is now expected to be out until possibly late November, early December.  All eyes are on 20-year old defensive stud prospect Thomas Chabot, who looks solid, but unspectacular on a pairing with Dion Phaneuf.  I think the reality is that Phaneuf is simply not the right fit, and we won’t be able to properly evaluate Chabot’s immediate role on the team until we see him with Karlsson.  Shame that it won’t be until later in the season.

Among forwards, Mike Hoffman looked like he’s ready to go, with two nice goals.  He had a comedic moment that you hope is only a preseason thing though…  (Not posted to youtube yet, will update hopefully!)

The Leafs don’t look quite right, although they are icing a deep forward corps.  Curtis McElhinney was a sieve, and is now in peril of losing the backup job to Garrett Sparks, who didn’t look much better.  But this team isn’t going anywhere if Frederik Andersen goes down for any length of time.

Matthews seems like he’ll pick up where he left off last season, and I believe he will benefit from Patrick Marleau‘s presence on the powerplay, where he scored an astonishingly low eight goals last season.  The rest of the contingent looks impressive, and I believe the Leafs may well win their division this season.

The Senators, once fully configured, will have a slight setback from last season.  It is just my belief, but when a team over-achieves one season, they often come crashing back to EArth the following year, and that involves cratering – i.e going further down than the surface.

Anyways, one last thing to touch on is Joffrey Lupul‘s Instagram post insinuating that the Leafs are cheating the cap system by keeping him (and others in the same boat) buried on Injury Reserve, while he has declared himself fit to play.

First off, if he’s fit to play, he can go get that confirmed by his own doctor, and apply for reinstatement.  Secondly, he should stop accepting paycheques to make a point.  He wants to play, not just be paid.  The Leafs, of course, don’t want his ridiculous contract on the books, in case they need to fill up at the trade deadline.  $5.25 million is a deadline-type budget, so unless the Leafs can find a trade partner (Duchene?), Lupul should quit his bitchin’ and not make things worse for the NHL.  You can’t have this type of discussion publicly as it detracts from both sides.  First, the Leafs aren’t going to accommodate a trouble-maker.  Do Lamoriello and Babcock strike anyone as the type of men who respond well to allegations of improper behaviour in the pubic eye?  Me neither!

Secondly, Lupul is a veteran, and as such should know the basics of the business.  If you want to be traded, make yourself an attractive commodity.  Lupul’s actions do not accomplish that at all, again because teams don’t want to be part of the court of public opinion when it comes to cheating or circumventing the rules.

Next time slam a cheeseburger in your cyber mouth Joffrey!

See you all again next Monday!  Enjoy your week!

DR

 

Fiddler retires after 14 seasons

Sep 14, 2017
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Fiddler announced his decision Wednesday in a story for The Players Tribune.The 5-foot-11 center says he thought the New Jersey Devils would be his final team when he signed during the 2016 offseason. But, Fiddler wrote, Nashville general manager David Poile and Devils GM Ray Shero, who launched his professional career, worked out a trade sending him back to the Predators where he started in the NHL.

Fiddler says coming full circle was special with the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a “perfect way to finish my career.”

He finished with 104 goals and 261 points and also played for the Coyotes and Dallas.


Takeaways:  I have always liked Fiddler as a third line role-player.  He didn’t bring anything flashy to the game, just good solid work ethic and a willingness to drop the gloves for his teammates.  The hat-trick in the video was the first game I ever saw him play in, having only learned about him through EA Sports, and once I watched that, I always expected him to score more.  But, I’ll always settle for a good knuckle-duster!

 

Devils lock up RFA Severson

NEWARK, N.J. — Being a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, defenseman Damon Severson was hoping to get contract from the New Jersey Devils that would carry him over for a couple of years.

The Devils instead gave Severson, 23, a vote of confidence, signing him to a six-year, $25 million contract that will keep him with the team through the 2022-23 season.

“Damon brings an important dimension to our hockey club and he is a young defenseman that we are excited to work with,” general manager Ray Shero said Monday in announcing the deal that gets Severson signed in time for the opening of training camp this week. “This deal shows our ownership’s commitment in what we continue to build here.”

Severson will earn $2.5 million this season and his salary will escalate to $5.1 million in the final year of the contract. He set career highs with 28 assists and 31 points in 80 regular-season games last season, leading all New Jersey defensemen in assists and points.

It is expected that Severson will get a chance to pair with Andy Greene on the Devils’ top defensive unit.

 

Kelly signed to PTO with Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers signed center Chris Kelly to a professional tryout contract Sunday.

The 36-year-old Kelly had five goals and seven assists in 82 regular-seasons games for Ottawa last season,

Kelly helped Boston win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and has 123 goals and 166 assists in 833 career regular-season games in 13 seasons with the Bruins and Senators. He has 12 goals and 20 assists in 92 playoff games.


Takeaway:  Chris Kelly is a versatile center who won’t hurt you on the ice.  His best offensive days (if he had any) are behind him, and a team needing a defensive forward/penalty-killing specialist would do well to sign him!  I am not sure Edmonton is the best fit, although Kelly can still skate.  The style I saw Edmonton play last season would mean Kelly playing between six and eight minutes per night, depending on penalty trouble.  Prediction:  WILL BE SIGNED BY SOMEONE ELSE

 
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