Kovalchuk Retires… Wait, WHAT???!!!

Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk announces his retirement from the NHL. He leaves $77 million on the table and heads back to Russia, where one can only assume he will play in the KHL. No one leaves the NHL to go play in the KHL because the hockey is better, it always comes down to $$.

Clarkson Inks 7-Year Deal With Toronto

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At one point this weekend I was a little sad for the NHL and then at another point of the weekend I was smiling because all I could imagine was Brian Burke laughing his ass off.

I’m not going to argue that David Clarkson isn’t a stand-up guy or that he doesn’t do a lot for the people in his community because he does. He still has a charitable organization in Kitchner where he played his minor league hockey and there are countless organizations he gave his time to while in New Jersey but he’s being paid to play hockey, not run charities. And while he’s a decent hockey player, I do question the amount of money he is now being paid to play hockey.

Clarkson is going to get $5.25 million per year for the next 7 years. Nathan Horton also signed a 7-year deal for a cap hit of $5.3 million per but many thought that was too much but then seemed ok with the Clarkson deal. Horton has six seasons with 20 or more goals, a Stanley Cup ring and a  0.84 points-per-game average in the postseason. Clarkson has one 30-goal season, no ring and a 0.32 PPG average in the postseason.

I don’t want to take too much away from Clarkson because he does serve some good out on the ice. He’s a tough guy to get off the puck which creates opportunities for him and his teammates, he knows how to forecheck, isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and can deliver a big check from time to time. But at $5.25 million, I would expect to be getting a guy that would stay a top 6 foreward, something he wasn’t always in NJ. He’s also been known to be undisciplined at times and wildly inconsistent with his goal scoring. In 2013, he had one goal in 17 games; in 2012, he had one goal in 10 games; and in 2011, he had one goal in 19 games.  In my opinion, David Clarkson had failed to play up to his potential until Peter DeBoer, who coached him in Kitchner, got to NJ.

I also must take into account that Clarkson is coming from a team that has missed the playoffs 2 out of the last 3 years. Yes, NJ made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 but that wasn’t because of the play from David Clarkson. If David Clarkson is such a powerhouse of offensive talent to bring in the kind of contract that Toronto has given him, then why wasn’t he able to carry the Devils to the playoff this year while Ilya Kovalchuk was out of the lineup? In the final month of the season, which was a very critical time for NJ, Clarkson found the net only 3 times (1 of which came after the Devils had been eliminated from the playoff race).

The bottom line is that David Clarkson is a good player and can be an asset to many teams but I question the amount of money and the length of the contract.  Hopefully for Toronto’s sake I am wrong and David Clarkson can prove he’s a power forward worthy of such a big pay day.

What We Learned: Quick Thoughts on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft

Schneider gone, Luongo’s the man for Torts

What We Learned will be a weekly Monday Morning feature to cover the things that happened over the weekend in hockey. Of course, with this being the off-season, you might not see a ton of what we learned posts until training camp.

The Draft, it was an interesting one. A few unexpected plot twists happened. Here are a few of my thoughts on the things that happened.

Chicago – Hey, thanks for putting home that goal that brought us the cup but we think that’s probably the pinnacle of your career so have fun in Toronto. They traded Michael Frolik as well and did so to overpay Bryan Bickell which is kind of a head scratcher.

Columbus – Tides are turning in Columbus and I thought Jarmo Kekalainen did very well. It’s about time, really would like to see Columbus turn the corner a bit. I say that while cringing as they move into my division but still, they’ve been horrible for so long.

Dallas – I can’t believe Valeri Nichushkin dropped to them. Maybe the biggest shock of the draft for outside of Seth Jones going No. 4.

Nashville – THE winner of the day because Seth Jones dropped to #4 and they scooped him up. What a team/organization for Jones to end up on. It’s the equivalent of NFL running backs ending up in Mike Shanahan’s hands.

New Jersey – The Cory Schneider deal was incredible and this Santini kid could turn out to be something as well. Devils fans love Marty but finally Lou is realizing he needs to address the future. The Marty drafting Anthony moment was nice moment but it certainly meant more if your last name was Brodeur.

New York Rangers – Didn’t have a pick until #65 and they pick Adam Tambellini?? Was John Tortorella in charge of scouting because the Rangers just seemed unprepared to me.

Pittsburgh – More signs that Marc-Andre Fluery is on the way out as they drafted a goalie.

Vancouver – Traded Schneider to NJ for the 9th pick which they used to pick Bo Horvat so this was basically a Schneider for Horvat trade. Maybe Torts already pissed off Gillis already so Gillis decided to start tanking this team? Awful day for the Canucks.

What did you think about yesterday? Any huge surprises on your end?

Boston and Chicago Rolling Along

Wow, was I way off base on my predictions for the Conference Finals. At least Game 1 in the West was a close one but the other 3 games, especially both games so far in the Bruins and Penguins series haven’t been close, AT ALL. Take last night for example, Marchand scores :28 in and then I felt this would have more accurately summed up what Boston was shooting at all night.

I’m a little shocked by what the Penguins have brought to the ice so far in this series, especially after dominating Ottawa the way they did. After losing the first game to Boston, I would have expected to see the Penguins best game last night but instead we were treated to their worst. I’m not sure where the Penguins entire defensive unit is but clearly they haven’t been anywhere near the Consol Energy Center. For those Penguins fans out there, I hope they know what time their flight to Boston is and how to get to the airport.  I was right about one prediction going into this series, I just didn’t realize it would be greeted with such thunderous applause.

If I am a Penguins fan, I am a bit worried that I’ve dropped the first two games and that they haven’t been close. Now, the Bruins get to go home and get the crowd behind them, get last chance, etc. Pittsburgh better figure it out quick.

Look, while my predictions on the number of games won’t turn out to be right, I’m not sold that LA and Pittsburgh aren’t going to find a way to come back. Both of these teams are too good to just roll over here and head home for the summer. LA has been great at home so Chicago will have some work to do. Pittsburgh’s situation is a little tougher because now they have to go win on the road.

What do you think? Boston and Chicago continue to roll or can LA and Pittsburgh find a way back into this round?

 

Conference Finals Preview

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The battle for Lord Stanley’s cup resumes tomorrow night. It’s kind of amazing that the 4 teams that remain have all won the cup in the last 4 years. If you’re a fan of any of the teams that remain, you’re on a pretty good ride.

Boston vs Pittsburgh

These are the two teams that most of us were hoping would meet in the Eastern Conference Final. There’s a lot of bad blood between these teams. As a reminder, here are some of the reasons why:

  • Pittsburgh steals Jerome Iginla right from under the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. We all thought Iginla was headed to Boston, as did Boston management.
  • Boston then made a trade to bring Jaromir Jagr, one of the most hated ex-Penguins, to Boston after the Iginla deal went south.
  • Ulf Samuelson ultimately ended Cam Neely’s career with a knee on knee check
  • Matt Cooke has appeared to have ended Marc Savard’s career with hit to the head.

This is a series that will feature a high-octane, up-tempo Pittsburgh squad against a very physical and aggressive Boston squad. On paper, this is going to be a great series. Both are coming off a semi-final series that was pretty much a piece of cake. Don’t expect this one to be.

If Pittsburgh is going to win this series, it’s going to be because of their speed and ability to score a lot. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Iginla, Morrow and Dupuis give the Penguins A LOT of depth. Paul Martin has looked decent in the playoffs and the Kris Letang isn’t a Norris Trophy finalist by accident. Tough team to beat, especially since they are on a roll.

If Boston is going to win this series, they will do so because their 4 lines are going to wear down the Penguins. They come at you in many different ways and are relentless on the puck. The one thing we saw in the Rangers/Bruins series is that the Rangers defense NEVER got a rest because the Bruins had all 4 lines working. If they can do that against the Penguins, it could mean problems for the Penguins defense. While Vokoun was solid against the Senators (and the Islanders when he came in) I’m still not sold that the Penguins don’t have a goalie issue.

I don’t see this series being anything less than six games and I do think there will be some issues in goal for Pittsburgh (whether they are bad enough to make another change, I can’t predict) but I also believe that Pittsburgh’s quickness with the puck will keep Boston on its heels, much like Toronto did but the difference in this series is that Pittsburgh has a lot more skill than Toronto.

I pick Pittsburgh in 6 maybe even 7.

Chicago vs Los Angeles

The Blackhawks are coming off an emotional 7 game series against the Detroit Red Wings. Down 3-1 in the series, they battled back. The Kings are coming of a 7 game series against the San Jose Sharks but it wasn’t as emotional as the Hawks/Wings series.

The Hawks had an impressive regular season and pretty easy first round matchup against a very inexperienced Minnesota team but something is just missing for me when it comes to Chicago. They have a lot of depth but I haven’t felt that a lot of that depth is playing to its potential. Detroit wasn’t a very strong team on the blue line and the Hawks struggled against them.

If Chicago is going to win this series, then they are going to do so because they’ve figured out a way to solve Jonathan Quick (something that wasn’t done last year and so far this year.) Chicago has the depth to do it but Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa need to play like they did in the regular season.

If LA is going to win this series, they’ll do so by being great on the road and continuing to be great at home. Quick is no doubt the best player of the 4 remaining teams and as long as he continues to be that, LA will certainly have an advantage in this series.

I’m actually going to say that LA rolls right over the Hawks in this series. They are big, they are mean, they have excellent defense and goaltending and I see no reason why the Kings can’t win in 5 on their way to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.

Back From Vacation: Torts Out, Hawks Advance

So yeah, I spent a week in Disney World in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I know, WHO DOES THAT RIGHT?? Well, I did but now I am back so let’s catch up on a lot of stuff. I did stay at the All-Star Movies resort and stayed in the Mighty Ducks rooms so I was close to hockey. Plus, I didn’t tune out from the playoffs, just the daily blogging of them.

Rangers Fire Tortorella – I completely agree with this move. Tortorella, during his tenure in NY seems to have been a Tortorella first guy and a team second guy. I never liked the way he conducted himself or seem to treat his players. Maybe it was different on the inside but from the outside it certainly appeared that he lost the respect of a player or two. Go back a few years ago and look at Sean Avery’s tenure. The whole league hated his bullshit but the Rangers always seemed to be a better team with him in the lineup because he got the other teams focused on his bullshit but Torts hated him and the room is split on whether or not maligning Sean Avery was the right thing to do. However, other names that you can add to the list that Torts alienated are: Wade Redden, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, Mats Zuccarello, Marion Gaborik,  Brad Richards, and even the untradeable Chris Kreider. It would appear that Henrik Lundqvist’s name may even be on that list.

Yes, Torts won a cup once but this shot blocking, rely on defense to grind out wins isn’t the style the New York Rangers play with. You have guys like Richards, Gaborik, Nash, Callahan, etc. and they finished 15th in scoring? In fact, the Rangers have never done better in that a 2.7% in Goals For under Tortorella. That’s not Rangers hockey, not a team that once had Messier, Graves, Leetch, Gretzky, and Duguay in their history.

I do believe it was Henrik Lundqvist that put the final nail in the Torts coffin. His exit interview made it sound like he was done with the Rangers and done with Torts. I also believe that if it wasn’t Lundqvist it was the Brad Richards healthy scratch that did him in. Despite his poor play, you don’t bench a former Conn Smythe winner in an elimination game. That does nothing but send the wrong message to your players.

The Rangers are FAR from a Stanley Cup contender in my opinion but firing Torts is a step in the right direction.

Chicago Blackhawks – That certainly was some series against the Red Wings. A fitting end to the Chicago/Detroit rivalry. Maybe one day we will get a Cup Final with these two but for now, the rivalry is done. I do believe that every cup winner needs a scare in the playoffs and if Chicago proves to be the cup winner, this series will have easily been that scare. It’s hard to believe that both Chicago let the series get to a 3-1 lead in favor of Detroit and Detroit failed to close out a 3-1 series lead but bravo to one great series. Had Chicago lost, I have no doubt in my mind that there would be another coach firing to talk about.

Los Angeles Kings – Right now are my favorite to win this…AGAIN. This team is rolling and playing some great hockey behind Jonathan Quick who might just be the best player in the playoffs…AGAIN. I wouldn’t be surprised to watch the Kings just roll over the Hawks on their way to the Finals. Having watched both series in Round 2, the Kings just seem like the better team.

That’s it for now. Sorry for the silence for the week but as I said in the beginning of this post, I was in Disney for a week and there wasn’t a lot of time to post about hockey!! I will be posting both the Eastern and Western Conference Final Previews tomorrow.

The Red Wings Continue To Surprise Us

I love playoff hockey and right now, the Detroit Red Wings are a prime example as to why I love it so much. When there were only a handful of regular season games remaining, you really couldn’t browse hockey web sites and forums without seeing the discussion about the possibility of the Red Wings playoff streak coming to an end. But then, this team went on a tear, winning their last 4 games of the regular season and outscoring their opponents 15-3 in those 4 games, which secured them a spot in the post-season. Streak still intact and now Detroit looking to turn some heads but no one really gave them a chance, yours truly included.

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In Case You Didn’t Tune In: Rangers v Bruins – Game 1

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Sometimes when you have kids that have their own sports activities, you don’t get to sit down and watch as many playoff hockey games as you would like but for Game 1 of the Rangers and Bruins, the kids were in bed, the wife was at a friend’s house putting the final touches on a school fair she’s helped organize, so that meant it was me, the TV and some playoff hockey.

This is the one series that I am just so unsure about. For this series, I expect low scoring games, huge hitting and grinding it out in the corners. Both the Rangers and Bruins play similar hockey so it should be a very entertaining series and one that expect to go long. Besides, its the Rangers, win or lose they don’t seem to know how to do that very quickly.

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Playoff Hockey = Raffi Torres Being an Idiot

Here we go again. Stop me if you heard this one because it’s a familiar story that I am getting tired of reading about. The NHL will be having a disciplinary hearing with Raffi Torres.

Seriously?? Again!!!

In case you missed it, As LA Kings Forward Jarret Stoll is playing the puck, Torres decides to put a hit on Stoll. That hit, that decision was Torres impacting Stoll in the side of his head and shoulder simultaneously.

So is it a dirty hit? Well, if I look back to the last round of the playoffs and the NHL decided that the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller was illegal, then this one has to be as well. I’d say 4 or 5 games for Raffi Torres because he’s a repeat offender. I’m just tired of it. What’s this, the third year in a row that Torres is making a questionable hit in the playoffs? Seabrook in 11, Hossa in 12 and now Stoll in 13? At what point do they just tell this clown to go away? Is the hit 100% dirty? No, it isn’t but Stoll was in a vulnerable position and Torres took advantage of it once again and makes contact with the head. He doesn’t learn from his past. He said he had learned when trying to get a reduction in his suspension for the hit on Hossa last year but clearly he doesn’t get it.

Jarret Stoll didn’t return for the third period due to “upper body issues” which is a playoff hockey term for “hurt my brain.”

Penguins-Senators Series Preview

Near the end of the regular season, it looked like the Senators were going to plummet all the way into the 8th spot so this was a matchup I thought we’d be seeing in the first round. They stopped at 7 but never-the-less, we get the match up in the second round.

I don’t really know if Ottawa was impressive in the first round of if the Canadiens just fizzled. I’ll go with my gut feeling and that feeling is that none of the teams in the Eastern Conference thrilled me through the first round so I guess Montreal just fizzled. Pittsburgh made a lot of mistakes against the Islanders and the Senators are a well-coached team.(Shouldn’t Paul MacLean be a slam dunk for the Jack Adams Award?) If Pittsburgh continues to make those mistakes in this round, the Senators might just eat them up. MIGHT!!!

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