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14 posts from May 2009

May 31, 2009

Joe Nieuwendyk Leaves Toronto: To Become Dallas Stars GM

Joenieuw This Joe Nieuwendyk fellow just cannot hold down a job.

One year he's working for the Florida Panthers under GM Jacques Martin. The next, he's in Toronto, working in the Maple Leafs front office.

Today, he's working for his third team in three years.

Of course, Nieuwendyk has moved up the ranks quite a bit: He's the new GM of the Stars.

Great opportunity for Joe Nieuw, a cool guy with a great hockey mind. I think he's going to do just fine running his own franchise.

''I am very excited about returning to the Dallas Stars as General Manager," Nieuwendyk said in a statement.

"I am ready for this opportunity. The Dallas Stars have built a winning tradition over the years and I want to help continue that legacy. My family is very excited about returning to Dallas. I have great memories from my playing days with the Stars and look forward to helping this team win as general manager."

Brett Hull and Les Jackson, the Stars' co-GMs, have been reassigned.

Nieuwendyk helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup championship in 1999, and also won Cups with Calgary and New Jersey. He signed with the Panthers along with pal Gary Roberts soon after the lockout ended, with Nieuwendyk playing parts of two seasons with the Cats before serious back problems forced him to retire in the middle of the 2006-07 season.

Nieuwendyk played 80 games with the Panthers, but only 15 in 2006 when chronic back pain forced him into retirement.

Some of my favorite Newy moments with the Panthers include his diatribe in the 2005-06 season after a horrendous game in Los Angeles.

On Halloween night 2007, Nieuwendyk spoke to his former teammates in the locker room, his pep talk leading to three unanswered goals in the third period as the Panthers rebounded to beat the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He definitely gave us a wake-up call. Enough is enough," captain Olli Jokinen said moments after Florida beat Carolina 4-2 at BankAtlantic Center.

"We came out with a fire in our eyes. He believes in us. He knows how good we can be."

Nieuwendyk, who was working under JM during that time, left the team at the end of the 2007-08 season and ended up working in Toronto -- with the team that he left to sign with the Panthers after the lockout.

May 30, 2009

2009 Stanley Cup Finals ... Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins II: The Wrath of Hossa

Wingspens Lets just get this out in the open: I'm picking the Penguins to win this year's Stanley Cup Finals. As much as I enjoy the Red Wings and have been impressed by their run to the Finals again this season, I've been even more impressed by what the Penguins have done.

And I think they are going to be helped along by NBC's back-to-back-so-we-don't-mess-up-Conan-O'Brien schedule. Not only are these two teams playing on consecutive nights (the first time this has been done in the Finals in 50-plus years to Placate the Peacock) but are playing three in four nights. I think that will suit the younger Penguins. Detroit? Maybe not so much.

But we'll see. Would be neat to see a repeat champ, and honestly, Pittsburgh fans are becoming as bad as Boston fans these days. Almost insufferable. No such problem with the Motowners.

Ran a preview box in today's Herald, but I wrote long as usual and we didn't have the room. Here's the full box. And a Frozen Poll after that. Come on in and take a vote. Don't cost nuthin.


-- Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

-- Season series: Split two-game series.

-- How they got here: Detroit swept Columbus in the opening round, beat eighth-seeded Anaheim in the semifinals and Chicago in five games in the Western Conference finals. Pittsburgh opened by beating Philadelphia in the opening round, then defeated Washington in the semifinals and swept Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals.

-- Recent postseason history: The Red Wings are trying to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since Detroit did it in 1998. Pittsburgh, which lost to the Wings in 6 last year, is trying to win its first Cup since 1992 – when the Penguins were repeat champions.

-- About the Finals: This is the first time in 25 years that the Stanley Cup Finals is a rematch from the year before. In 1983, the Islanders won their fourth consecutive Cup by beating Edmonton; in 1984, the Oilers returned the favor and beat New York in five. This is only the third Finals rematch since 1978. Detroit and Pittsburgh are the first teams to make consecutive trips to the Finals since New Jersey (2000-01). Eighteen of the 20 Red Wings who dressed against Pittsburgh are back this time around, with the Wings adding Marian Hossa (who had three goals and four assists against Detroit in last year's Finals) as well.

-- The Red Wings: The quick turnaround to get these Finals started could really effect a Red Wings team that is really banged up and could have used some rest. Detroit, which dispatched Chicago in five games on Wednesday, could be without Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper (all three practiced on Friday). Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson had an appendectomy on Wednesday but could play Saturday. Playing on back-to-back nights and three games in four nights could seriously put the Red Wings at a disadvantage. Goalie Chris Osgood took over in net during Detroit's opening round win against Nashville in 2008 and has gone 26-8 since with a 1.79 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Osgood, who has led the Wings to a pair of Cups in his career, now has 71 playoff wins.

-- The Penguins: Pittsburgh becomes the first club since the 1983-84 Oilers to return to the Cup Finals after losing there the season before. The Penguins have been on fire the past couple of months, with the team in real danger of missing the playoffs. On Feb. 15, the team fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with minor league bench boss Dan Bylsma. The Pens went on a tear after that, finishing the regular season 18-3-4 and earning the fourth seed in the east. Nine Penguins who were part of the 2008 Finals squad are no longer around, most notably Hossa – who left Pittsburgh in the offseason for a one-year deal in Detroit, saying he felt he had a better chance to win a Cup with the Wings. The Pens have gotten plenty of scoring from captain Sidney Crosby (who has 23 goals in 42 career playoff games) and MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin (22 in 42). Both have 28 points in 17 playoff games this season. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots in Pittsburgh's Game 4 win over Carolina, and has stopped 91 percent of his shots in these playoffs.

-- Prediction: Penguins in 6

Panthers Development Camp in Ontario ... Starts Sunday

Development The Panthers will open their developmental camp on Sunday in Orangeville, Ontario, with a number of the franchise's top young players participating. Included on this list is Michael Frolik, last year's breakout player of the year. Also attending is Michal Repik, Keaton Ellerby, Shawn Matthias and Jason Garrison -- all guys who will be fightning for a roster spot when training camp opens.

The Panthers will have five goalies participating, including newly-signed Alexander Selak. Jacob Markstrom, Florida's starter-in-waiting, will also participate.

JM the GM will be there, as will Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer.



32 Michal Repik FLA 2nd pick (40th) - 2007 RW 5'10" - 182 12/31/1988 Rochester (AHL) 75 19 30 49 -13 58

Florida (NHL) 5 2 0 2 1 2

36 Dan Collins FLA 3rd pick (90th) - 2005 RW 6'1" - 195 2/26/1987 Rochester (AHL) 56 5 2 7 -11 25

39 Keaton Ellerby FLA 1st pick (10th) - 2007 D 6'4" - 186 11/5/1988 Rochester (AHL) 75 3 20 23 -8 44

41 Shawn Matthias AIT for T. Bertuzzi - 2007 C 6'4" - 216 2/19/1988 Rochester (AHL) 61 10 10 20 -34 16

Florida (NHL) 16 0 2 2 -3 2

42 Ryan Watson FLA 7th pick (191st) - 2007 LW 6'1" - 175 3/1/1988 Western Michigan (CCHA) 35 4 2 6 -8 22

46 Brady Calla FLA 2nd pick (73rd) - 2006 RW 6'1" - 205 3/14/1988 Kamloops (WHL) 19 5 8 13 8 31

Spokane (WHL) 31 11 14 25 10 27

WHL Totals 50 16 22 38 18 58

Playoffs 12 1 3 4 4 6

Rochester (AHL) 8 0 1 1 0 9

47 Colby Robak FLA 2nd pick (46th) - 2008 D 6'3" - 207 4/24/1990 Brandon Wheat (WHL) 65 13 29 42 30 41

Playoffs 12 6 8 14 12 4

48 Luke Beaverson FLA 7th pick (283rd) - 2004 D 6'5" - 227 12/11/1984 Rochester (AHL) 15 0 1 1 -3 21

Florida (ECHL) 28 0 3 3 5 36

49 Andrew Sweetland FA - 2008 F 6'2" - 204 10/21/1986 Rochester (AHL) 48 1 2 3 -4 12

Florida (ECHL) 23 10 13 23 4 8

ECHL Playoffs 11 2 4 6 1 2

51 James DeLory FA - 2008 D 6'5" - 225 3/3/1988 Oshawa (OHL) 33 4 6 10 -11 53

Florida (ECHL) 1 0 0 0 0 0

52 Jason Garrison FA - 2008 D 6'2" - 220 11/13/1984 Rochester (AHL) 75 8 27 35 -14 68

Florida (NHL) 1 0 0 0 0 0

54 Matt Duffy FLA 5th pick (104th) - 2005 D 6'2" - 201 2/21/1986 Maine (HE) 39 7 10 17 -15 64

Florida (ECHL) 2 0 0 0 -1 0

ECHL Playoffs 3 0 1 1 1 2

Rochester (AHL) 9 2 4 6 2 4

55 Jordan Henry FA - 2007 D 6'2" - 198 2/11/1986 Rochester (AHL) 69 4 12 16 -8 111

56 Adam Comrie FLA 3rd pick (80th) - 2008 D 6'4" - 196 7/31/1990 Saginaw (OHL) 52 9 21 30 13 70

Playoffs 8 0 2 2 0 8

59 AJ Jenks FLA 4th pick (100th) -2008 LW 6'2 - 206 6/27/1990 Plymouth (OHL) 61 21 31 52 -7 78

Playoffs 11 1 2 3 -1 18

60 Evgeni Dadonov FLA 3rd pick (71st) - 2007 RW 5'10" - 178 3/12/1989 Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL) 40 11 4 15 2 8

World Jrs. (Russia) 7 2 5 7 6 2

Playoffs 2 0 0 0 1 0

62 Michael Caruso FLA 3rd pick (103rd) - 2006 D 6'2" - 187 7/5/1988 Rochester (AHL) 73 1 9 10 -10 66

63 Roman Derlyuk FLA 7th pick (164th) - 2005 D 6'5" - 198 10/27/1986 Balashikha HC MVD (KHL) 54 3 8 11 7 50

67 Michael Frolik FLA 1st pick (10th) - 2006 C 6'1" -200 2/17/1988 Florida (NHL) 79 21 24 45 10 22

68 Mike Duco FA - 2007 LW 5'9" - 192 7/8/1987 Rochester (AHL) 68 14 14 28 -19 147

70 Peter Aston FLA 5th Round (155th) - 2006 D 6'1" - 204 2/24/1986 Rochester (AHL) 53 2 8 10 -10 24

71 Kenndal McArdle FLA 1st pick (20th) - 2005 LW 5'11" - 190 1/4/1987 Rochester (AHL) 58 12 12 24 -4 79

Florida (NHL) 3 0 0 0 -1 2

72 John Lee FLA 5th pick (131st)- 2007 D 6'1" - 173 1/16/1989 Denver (WCHA) 39 0 5 5 3 32

NCAA Tournament 1 0 0 0 -1 0

73 Eric Selleck TRY-OUT F 6'1" - 195
Oswego (USCHO) 26 13 13 26 N/A 45

33 Marc Cheverie FLA 6th pick (193rd) - 2006 L 6'3" - 183 2/22/1987 Denver (WCHA) 40 23-12-5 2.34 4 .921 1182 1089 93

NCAA Tournament 1 0-1-0 4.00 0 .862 29 25 4
34 Brian Foster FLA 6th pick (161st) - 2005 L 6'2" - 175 2/4/1987 New Hampshire (HE) 33 18-10-4 2.63 3 .910 960 874 86

NCAA Tournament 2 1-1-0 3.50 0 .897 68 61 7
35 Tyler Plante FLA 2nd pick (32nd) - 2005 L 6'3" - 203 4/16/1987 Rochester (AHL) 19 5-10-1 3.25 0 .902 501 452 49

Dayton (ECHL) 20 6-11-1 3.35 0 .888 538 478 60

Markstrom, Jacob FLA 2nd pick (31st) - 2008 G 6'3" - 178 1/31/1990 Brynas IF Gavle (SEL) 35 14-14-5 2.38 3 .917 954 875 79

World Jrs. (Sweden) 5 4-1-0 1.61 1 .943 140 132 8

Friendly vs SUI 1 1-0-0 3.00 0 .889 27 24 3

Salak, Alexander FA-2009 L 6'1"-189 1/5/1987 TPS Turku (FIN) 53 20-20-9 2.40 4 .923 1548 1429 119

May 29, 2009

Panthers Get a New Goalie: Czech's Alexander Salak

This comes right from the Panthers. Have nothing really more to add...

Florida Panthers General Manager Jacques Martin announced today that the club has signed undrafted free agent G Alexander Salák to an entry-level contract. As per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Salák is a talented, young goaltender who has played very well while developing his skills and competing in Europe,” said Martin. “He will attend our development camp next week and we look forward to his continued growth and production within our organization.”

Salák 22, played in 53 games for TPS Turku (FIN) this season posting a 20-20-9 mark with a 2.40 GAA and a .923 save percentage. While playing for TPS Turku he was coached by Urpo Ylönen who has coached former TPS Turku goalies such as Miikka Kiprusoff and Antero Niittymäki

The Strakonice, Czech Republic native, played for Budějovice (2002-2006) on their U-18 and U-20 teams, before signing in Finland, prior to the start of the 2007-08 season.

May 22, 2009

Mike Keenan Fired in Calgary ... Batman and Robyn Regehr: Good Riddance ... Hello Versus? Call Keenan Now ... Jay Bouwmeester to Flames for Dion Phaneuf? Olli Jokinen Done in Calgary?

Keenan INDIANAPOLIS - Former Florida coach/general manager Mike Keenan is out of Calgary after leading the Flames to the playoffs in each of his two seasons on the Red Mile.

Calgary has been an underachieving team for years, one big reason why Mike was hired in the first place. There are a lot of problems in Calgary, a team that was so stretched to the salary cap it couldn't field a whole roster at the end of the season.

I had high hopes for the Flames earlier in the season, but after seeing them sputter to the finish, I didn't think they had much left. Chicago took care of them rather easily on paper, although the Flames had late leads in the early games of those series. And if I recall, in the losing Game 6, they outshot the Blackhawks something like 40-16 (I'm at Indy and don't feel like looking it up.)

"Our team did not meet expectations," Flames GM Darryl Sutter said in a statement. "Following detailed evaluation over the past three weeks, and taking into consideration all factors affecting our season-ending result, we believe this is a necessary change required to allow our team to continue toward our objective of winning the Stanley Cup."

I thought Mike did a decent job in Calgary. Robyn Regehr obviously did not. The Flames alternate captain told Steve MacFarlane of the Calgary Sun that this was a great move, that Keenan was too set in his ways and stuck listening to the 80s on 8.

From The Sun: "I think it's a very good thing for the team," said Regehr. "I think we will become a better team with this decision made. It's just my feeling."

"Probably the biggest issue we're dealing with right now is philosophies. (Keenan's) a coach who had most of his success in the '80s when the strategy was so much different. I think a lot of coaches from that time, the game has sort of moved past them. I think that was holding us back as a team."


We'll see where he lands up. I'm sure he wants to get back with another team as soon as he can, but television is always a possibility for the outspoken and opinionated Keenan.

If I'm Versus, I have already put in a call. Mike Keenan sure could add some spice to that bland production.

-- Speaking of the Flames, I've heard rumblings that Jay Bouwmeester wasn't the biggest Mike Keenan fan. Perhaps this helps smooth the way for Jay to move on to Alberta?

Regardless of who the coach is, Calgary has a lot of money tied up and would need to free some up (Flames are committed to $47 million for next year) to sign the Florida defenseman.

There had been an idea floated by The Hockey News and also from Hockey Night in Canada that the Flames might be willing to trade Dion Phaneuf and his big contract ($6.5 cap hit for the next four seasons) to the Panthers in exchange for the exclusive negotiating rights to Bouwmeester (the only way this deal goes down is if Jay agrees to a long-term deal with the Flames beforehand).

I don't know if this is so far fetched, and it's a deal JM would do right now down at the Team Penske trailer. Would Calgary do it? Would JayBo? 

-- And with Keenan gone, does Olli Jokinen follow him out? Yeah, probably. Olli is in the final year of that four-year deal Keenan signed him too during those Florida years. Calgary would probably like to shed Olli's salary hit and move on.

More rumblings out of Calgary regarding Olli's locker room influence (and not in a positive light) but all that is bunk, I say. If Olli was scoring the way he did when he got to Calgary, no one would be saying boo.

Olli had two goals and three assists in six playoff games this season, with both goals coming in the same game. Like last year in Florida, Olli struggled down the stretch, scoring no goals with five assists in his final 13 games as the Flames limped to the checkered flag by winning six of those games.

At Indy With Andy: Craig Anderson Digs Racing

Andy4 INDIANAPOLIS -- Craig Anderson's love of motorsports has been well documented. The Panthers goalie even has Corvette racing logos on his mask.

Friday, Craig and his father Richard -- who drove GT cars and such -- were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway seemingly having the time of their life. The two had VIP passes and spent part of Carb Day hanging out in the pits watching the aAndymask1 ction up close and personal.

''It's always a good time coming out here hearing those engines and smelling that race fuel,'' Anderson said from outside Gasoline Alley. ''Being around these cars makes me want to get in one. But seeing all these guys, I think I'm just too big. There's only one guy who is over 6-foot. They are tiny. And they don't weigh but 100 pounds. Looks like I have to lose some weight.''

As far as hockey goes, nothing new on the Anderson front. A free agent come July 1, he says he hasn't spoken to JM and that he's just playing the waiting game. It sounds like he would like to come back to the Panthers, but that may not be in the cards.

''Nothing has happened,'' he said. ''I'm just waiting around to see what happens.''

May 18, 2009

The Conference Finals -- Tonight: Carolina Hurricanes @ Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittcarolina Pretty impressive showing by the Red Wings yesterday in the opener of the Western Conference finals, Detroit turning a close game against the youthful Blackhawks into a 5-2 rout that had the good folks of Motown in quite a spirited mood.

Should have another good one tonight as the upset-minded Hurricanes go into Pittsburgh with little fear. Should be a terrific series. I hope they have Versus in Bloomington, Ind. I think they should, but one never knows.

Prediction time kids. Who do you like in these conference finals? As I've said a few times before, I'm going with a Detroit-Pitt rematch for the Cup. Leave comments below...

George's Picks -- West: DET in 6; East: PIT in 7

Previous selections -- West semifinals:

Vancouver over Chicago (7); Detroit over Anaheim (6). East semifinals: Boston over Carolina (7); Pittsburgh over Washington (7). West quarterfinals: -- Boston/Montreal: Bruins in 5
-- Washington/Rangers: Caps in 7
-- New Jersey/Carolina: Hurricanes in 6
-- Pittsburgh/Philadelphia: Penguins in 7
-- San Jose/Anaheim: Sharks in 7
-- Detroit/Columbus: Red Wings in 6
-- Vancouver/St. Louis: Canucks in 6
-- Chicago/Calgary: Blackhawks in 7

May 16, 2009

Back in The Coop: High School Softball State Championship LIVE! Cooper City 3, Jax 'Fletch' Fletcher 1 (FINAL) ... Cowboys State Champions

Coop1 PLANT CITY -- Good morning kids, and greetings from the state girls' softball championships in scenic and always exciting Plant City.

The strawberry festival is over, but there are still fresh berries to be had. I'm now out of Plant City material.

Covering those world famous Cooper City Cowboys here in their first fast-pitch championship game. The Coop has won three slow pitch titles, but the state acts like those tournaments never happened. But they did. St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaminade-Madonna, Westminster Academy and others also won slow-pitch titles. And good for them.

Anyway, we're in the bottom of the first here, The Coop surviving a big-time scare in the top of the frame. Jax Fletcher (31-0) loaded up the bases, but the Pokes got out of it.

With one out here in the bottom of the first, CCHS has loaded up the bases...

-- CFletchCHS 1, Fletch 0: Jessica Stewart just drew a bases-loaded walk and The Coop takes the first lead. They are partying like it's 1989 on Stirling Road as we speak..

Coop pitcher Corinne Clauss just hit into a 1-2-3 double play, the inning is over. But like we said, Cooper City takes the lead. One run off one hit...

-- Fletch goes down in order in the top of the second...poor Fletch. He's 6-foot-5 you know (6-9 with the afro)...

-- The Coop is up in the bottom of the 2nd...I'm looking forward to going to the pool later today. Looks like a nice day.

Put a runner on second with two outs, but can't get no further...still 1-0 heading into the third. Hello Andy Slater.

--Fletch goes down in order in the third; since leaving the sacks full (I need some White Castle) in the first, Fletch has gone six up, six down.

-- Bottom of the third, and the Cowboys open with a double to left by Rebecca Fingles, then a walk from Stormi Gryzbek. But despite having runners at first and second with no outs, The Coop can't push another run across. Missed opportunity right here kids. The Coop sure would like to have that inning back. Still, the Pokes lead 1-0. We're heading to the fourth.

-- The site of the state tournament is the former spring training home of the Reds. Then they up and left this joint (leaving Plant City hanging) for Sarasota. Now the Redlegs are off to Arizona. Word is the Orioles could take over the Reds complex as early as this coming spring. I saw it on the local news so it has to be true, right?

-- Someone's making popcorn...smells so good...

-- Top of the fourth...With two outs, Coop makes two errors on the same batter, runner now at second;

FLETCH 1, CCHS 1: The Sens (not from Ottawa) tie the score as someone (she wears No. 10) singles into right field and the CCHS pitcher cuts off the throw in...wouldn't have gotten her anyway...

Fletch2 Fletch defines grace under pressure...

-- Now in the top of the fifth; still tied...make that bottom of the fifth...uno, dos, tres for Fletch. The story IS Utah, Frank...

--Cooper City has runner at third, two outs; Jessica Stewart may just be the game MVP..she just sends a shot to deep center..it's now...

COOP 2, Fletch 1

Make that COOP 3, Fletch 1...Corinne Clauss, the pitcher of record, just singled in a third run...Fletch has six outs to make things right...

Who is it, Mr. Sinlindin?

--We head to the sixth, The Coop holding a nice 3-1 lead...it's not over, but...

Traffic was murder. One of those manure spreaders jack knifed on the Santa Ana. Awful mess. You should see my shoes.

-- Welcome to the top of the sixth...nothing much going on...Fletch goes down 1-2-3...

It's all ball bearings nowadays.

--The Coop goes down in order in the sixth, so here we go: Three outs left. Cooper City going for its first fast-pitch state title in school history. And this, by my count, would be the school's fifth state Cchsmegna championship. Four in softball, one in tennis. Yeah, I know..

And Cooper City has won the Class 6A state softball championship. Congratulations to the girls from Broward who are bringing home another trophy. American Heritage won earlier in the week.

Here's a pic of athletic director and CCHS alum Paul Megna with Cchssofty the state championship trophy. The other pic is of the Cowboys awaiting their medals.

Thanks for visiting everyone, and as always, drive careful.

Oh, and I'm charging this trip to the Underhill's American Express card. Want the number?

-- On a side note, congrats to CCHS alum Rob Busher for winning my Facebook Cooper City trivia contest. Rob will recieve a hearty handshake from me at our upcoming reunion later this summer. Way to go Rob!

May 15, 2009

Hello, Nova Scotia: Panthers Training Camp ... Exhibition Game 1: Panthers vs. Ottawa Senators in Halifax, Sept. 15

Novascotia The Panthers will hold training camp in the small town of Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, before opening their preseason schedule against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 15.

So, that means no trip to western Canada for the traveling Cats. And that (hopefully) means a lot of lobster and clams for me.

Florida will bus over from Port Hawkesbury (population: 3,922) and play the Senators at the Halifax Metro Center (capacity: 10,595).

The Panthers say they are still working on the rest of the preseason schedule, but want to get this out since JM the GM is in Halifax to announce this tilt and get those tickets out to the peoples.

Florida will hold training camp here the next three seasons; looks like we're done with Vail.

“We are excited about the opportunity to open our training camp in Port Hawkesbury and to play an exhibition game in Halifax,” Martin said in a statement. “This is an ideal situation because it gives our team the chance to train at a great facility and allows our players the opportunity to bond together early in training camp. At the same time, it will provide the residents of Port Hawkesbury and Halifax the chance to see NHL hockey in their hometown setting.”

What a Night: Big Wins for Wings, Canes ... Schedules for Conference Finals Here ... And Another Frozen Poll

Wingscelebrate Well, that made up for Wednesday's dud, didn't it?

Both Detroit and Carolina won exciting decisive games tonight, with the Hurricanes doing it on the road -- and in overtime.

Scott Walker scored the game-winner for Carolina (Chuck Kaiton called it the prettiest dirty goal in NHL history on Canes radio) and a number of Bruins refused to shake his hand afterward.

Hard to blame them after what happened in Game 5 when Walker dropped Aaron Ward with one punch. Walker was fined $2500 for the hit but not suspended.

The Bs said it was a dirty shot since Ward hadn't removed his gloves yet. Anyway, he gets the goal and will probably never play for the Bruins.

Anyway, great game for the Hurricanes and aside for the non-handshake, the Bruins seemed to be gracious in defeat. Boston goalie Tim Thomas seemed to give Cam Ward some nice words of encouragement, but you could see the crushed looked on the Bruins faces. They had high hopes.

As did the Ducks. Really have to feel for Jonas Hiller after he gave up a greaser for the decisive goal in Motown by knocking the puck in himself (Dan Cleary with the shot), and the Ducks never recovered. Crummy end to a great two rounds for Hiller. You could really see the pain in his face.

Give Anaheim plenty of props for sticking with this thing from the start. They took the game to San Jose and did the same at times with the Red Wings. Detroit was up 2-0 tonight and playing on home ice, but in the final five minutes, were a greasy goal against Chris Osgood from going from defending Stanley Cup champs to simply the reigning champs.

At the end of the day, however, the Wings continue to defend their crown. And good for them.

Love this quote from Mike Babcock on the Ducks. Think there's a little respect there?

"What made this series so hard and what people don't understand, the people that have won know what it takes to win," Babcock said. "That's what made them so hard to get rid of."

As it stacks up, I went 7-1 in the opening round (missed on the Ducks) and 2-2 in the semifinals (missed on Chicago and Carolina). I was leaning toward the Hurricanes when the playoffs started (I thought it would come down to either Pitt or Carolina) but went with the heavy hitting Bruins after they skated past Montreal with complete ease. Oh well. Will have my picks for the Stanley Cup Finals by the weekend.

Leaning toward staying with my original pick of a Detroit-Pittsburgh rematch.

Last year was fun. Let's do it again.

-- The schedules have come out for the conference finals. Games will be on Versus or NBC. Enjoy.

2009 Eastern Conference Final -- #4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes

Date        Match-up        Time (ET)        National TV

Monday, May 18        Carolina at Pittsburgh        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, TSN, RDS
Thursday, May 21        Carolina at Pittsburgh        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, TSN, RDS
Saturday, May 23        Pittsburgh at Carolina        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, May 26        Pittsburgh at Carolina        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Friday, May 29        Carolina at Pittsburgh        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Sunday, May 31        Pittsburgh at Carolina        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Tuesday, June 2        Carolina at Pittsburgh        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS

2009 Western Conference Final -- #2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #4 Chicago Blackhawks

Date        Match-up        Time (ET)        National TV

Sunday, May 17        Chicago at Detroit        3:00 p.m.        NBC, TSN, RDS
Tuesday, May 19        Chicago at Detroit        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, TSN, RDS
Friday, May 22        Detroit at Chicago        8:00 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Sunday, May 24        Detroit at Chicago        3:00 p.m.        NBC, CBC, RDS
* Wednesday, May 27        Chicago at Detroit        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Saturday, May 30        Detroit at Chicago        8:00 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Monday, June 1        Chicago at Detroit        7:30 p.m.        VERSUS, CBC, RDS

* if necessary 

-- So, who are your picks for the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals? Go ahead and vote for the matchup you would most like to see/figure we're all going to see below. And don't be ascared to comment below on why you want to see a certain matchup -- or why you would hate to see a certain team/player in the Finals.

Comments are fun! And they are free. Which is cool.

May 13, 2009

Back At Ya: Trade Luongo? ... Game 7 Madness ... Alan Cohen: He's No. 29! ... Numbers on Versus? Up ... Vokoun Billboard Gone ... A Luongo Frozen Poll

Louie2 Been getting some much appreciated time off, but have been thoroughly enjoying this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Good games just about every night.

If you aren't a hockey fan, well, you're missing out. Of course, the NBA playoffs -- for the most part -- have been fun to watch as well.

Anywho, plenty of depressed folk up Vancouver way, that Stanley Cup parade route going to have to wait another year. Or more. Whatever. The big talk up there has been the third period implosion of one Roberto Luongo and the Canucks on Monday night in Chicago.

That was one ugly third period, and with Louie only signed for one more season and being overly non-committal for more, there is some talk (from OFP pal Ed Willes) that the Canucks have problems that trading their All-Star goalie could solve.

It's an interesting take; and it may be something Vancouver really has to think about. By dealing Louie, the Canucks would save his $6.75 million cap hit next year. That would help them sign the Sedin twins and go after a big name defenseman who, unlike Luongo, really wants out of South Florida. Of course, the Canucks won't just give up Louie for a bag of pucks, so money will be coming back. But Vancouver only has $31 million ($24 without Luongo) committed for next year, so it has some run to maneuver.

Where would Louie go? Not here, unless Tomas Vokoun was going west (no offense, but the Panthers can't have two goalies with a $6.75 million cap hit). Philly.com is reporting that the Flyers want Martin Biron back and his agent says he wants to return, so all the Flyers are looking for is a backup. There are a lot of other places Louie could fit in, and maybe getting out of Vancouver (after failing to get out of the second round in two of the past three seasons) may not be a bad idea on his part.

-- Looking forward to these Game 7s, you? Tonight's Pittsburgh/Washington game should be a classic for the ages, and the same could be said for Detroit/Anaheim tomorrow. The big question in the third Game 7 is whether the Canes have anything left in the tank. Carolina looked a step off in the past two games with Boston playing with plenty of desperation. If Carolina can get a super game out of Cam Ward, they can still pull this thing out. But their backs are against the wall in Boston.

And I hope you have Center Ice. Versus doesn't have room for both and they're showing Detroit/Ducks.

-- I hate linking to these kind of reports because the only reason they are out there is so they will be linked to by sites like this. So, you can find it yourself. Anyway, SI.com came up with a list of the best and worst owners in all of professional sports. Our very own Alan Cohen was ranked No. 29 in the NHL, just above the Maple Leafs and below the Thrashers and Lightning. Whatever. Pretty dumb poll if you ask me. 

-- And as much as I still think Versus gets it wrong, their numbers have been pretty good of late. I think they can thank the strong play of the game more so than their 1) marketing and 2) actual coverage of the game. But hey. Good for them.

May 06, 2009

Denis Potvin Leaves the Panthers, Out on FSN ... Billy Lindsay Moves Up, Randy Moller Goes Solo ... Denis, Michael Yormark Speak ... NOW! With Frozen Poll

Denis Just got the official word that Denis Potvin, the team's television analyst since Day 1, will not be back next season.

Heard a rumor about this way back in January but that was before FSN re-upped with the team.

Billy Lindsay is moving up to the television booth with Steve Goldstein.

Randy Moller will be back on radio and flying solo.

So the Panthers go from four broadcasters to three. But Michael Yormark says this had nothing to do with finances. Denis does not agree. Nor do I. Michael Yormark says believe what you want.

''I'm not in the job to make sure people believe me,'' he said on a conference call with myself, Barry Jackson, Steve Gorten and Brian Biggane.

"I've always been truthful and up front with our fans. I have a blog like you do. I tell the good, bad indifferent. I respond to every email. The reality, based on financial relationship with Fox is there really is no difference whether we have three, five, one or 10 in the booth. It's not a financial decision. We make decisions that are best for the franchise. I believe in time people will look at this as another good decision. And that's not a slap at Denis. He's a great analyst. We're looking for something different, something that's in the right direction of the franchise.''

Potvincup Denis: ''I wasn't prepared for it. They had talked about reorganizing, renegotiating a lower rate. We never got to that. It's all about the economy. Now I'm looking for new opportunities. This is new to me. I've never been fired. I'm not done, not by a long shot.''

More Denis: ''It's been exciting, a good run. Florida has become our home, our kids have grown up here. But their minds were made up. This isn't like the old days. Once you're somewhere for so long, you think you're a lifer. Things are different now. I have a lot of good memories. But once they told me I was done, I walked out.''

Michael Yormark said the fact that Denis spends his summers in Quebec had a lot to do with his not being retained. The Panthers have a new three-year deal with FSN, and will be handling a lot of the ads and all that. So, read into that what you will. Sounds to me like games are going to become one big infomercial. And the team wants its broadcasters to sell the team, sell tickets, sell sponsorships during the offseason.

Steve Goldstein, Bill Lindsay and Randy Moller all live local and spend a good majority of their summers here. So they can go to Panther cookouts and come into the office and call season ticket holders. Denis, being up north, could not. And probably would not.

The Panthers obviously want more from their broadcasters than them just being, you know, professional broadcasters. And that's fine. And it seems the other three are cool with taking on more of that -- especially Randy since he's part of the team's front office.

''That was a factor,'' Yormark said. ''We want our broadcasters here, help market the franchise, meet with season ticket holders. That's very important.''

Michael Yormark on Denis:

''The last conversation Dennis had was last summer. He asked what was going to happen with Fox and he wanted a long-term deal, said he wanted to be here long term. Denis did not contact us after the season. We brought him in today. We spent a lot of time on this. It was a collaborative decision from within. Not an easy decision. He's a wonderful analyst, been here a long time. We just want to go in a different direction.

 Yormark on the new broadcast combos:

''After our new three year deal with Fox, things are structured a little differently. We'll be a little more involved, control the ad inventory. This was the right time to change the look and feel through our talent.

Yormarkmug ''Bill really progressed on radio was involved in TV on every telecast. He's more comfortable on TV. He has good chemistry with Goldie and is probably one of the most popular players in our history. You see him walking down thre street, he's recognizable.

''We want our broadcasters here 12 months a year, be part of our marketing initiatives. We use Randy aggressively, Goldie, Billie. We're going to move forward. I like the feel of this. And the move does give Randy a chance to expand his role on radio. This year, he had a breakout year. He's arguably one of the best color guys in the NHL, he has the experience. He's going to blossom further by being the only guy in the booth. Every team in our division has one guy in the radio booth*. Randy will continue to prosper.

''We feel comfortable with Goldie and Billy on the air. They'll work hard all summer together so when they get on the air, they'll be ready.''

(*) Washington Capitals: Steve Kolbe and Ken Sabourin; Tampa Bay: Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito (home only). Carolina and Atlanta have one radio voice.

Who's the Big Winner? Not You, Mikey ... Vote with Greg Cote ... Detroit Got Jobbed ... Gary Bettman: Not So Fast Dude

Swingers Before I head out to the links to get my swing on, wanted to share some things with you.

Today's topic in hockey is 'Getting Jobbed.'

It's happening in Arizona as we speak, the Coyotes now in the middle of bankruptcy protection and a court proceeding that could find the team playing somewhere else next season. The Yotes could even stay in Glendale, but probably not in the long term.

I know the Jim Balsillie group wants the team out of Phoenix as early as next season but that may not be feasible because of the lengthy court battle that's expected. So, the Coyotes probably continue on in Glendale next season.

Good: The fans get to say goodbye to their team. Bad: The fans get to say goodbye to their team. Nothing worse than a lame duck pro franchise. No one in the stands, nothing but talk about 'where we're going next.'
For examples, check out the Cleveland Browns circa 1995, the Seattle Supersonics of 2008 and the Montreal Expos (any year after the 1994 strike).

-- And Gary Bettman is telling anyone who will listen that he doesn't think Jim Balsillie willl be approved as the new owner of the Coyotes. Of course, as Bettman says, ''I don't have a vote,'' on the approval. But the owners seem to do what ever Bettman wants him to do, so I have no doubt they are going to vote him down whether the bankruptcy courts give him the franchise or not.

Which means a pretty fun, lengthy and probably not all-that-juicy round in the courts. See you in Glendale.

Coyotes Hockey 2009: Live It, Love It, Lose It!

-- The Detroit Red Wings also got jobbed in a big way last night in Anaheim. Marian Hossa scored the tying goal against the Ducks in the final minutes but official Brad Watson 'attempted' to blow his whistle to stop play.

The whistle doesn't sound until after Hossa knocked in the loose puck, but Watson stopped play anyway. Goofball stuff.

And it wasn't reviewable, so screw you Detroit. That's what the NHL rules basically said, anyway.

-- A bunch of fans in Pittsburgh got hosed when they were told via text message that they had won playoff tickets to Game 3 at the Igloo. Sorry. It was a mistake.

This comes to us courtesy of the Associated Press and lovingly ripped off MiamiHerald.com:

Hundreds of Pittsburgh Penguins fans got text messages saying they had won four tickets to an upcoming playoff game, but were disappointed to learn the messages had been sent in error.

Team spokesman Tom McMillan says the message was mistakenly sent to 460 fans who entered a recent contest before a game.

Each of the fans already received an automated phone call, explaining the mistake. Team employees also are personally calling the affected fans.

Every fan who got the mixed-up message will receive a gift package including a $25 gift card, a Penguins cap and T-shirt, and two tickets to a regular season game next season.

-- Herald columnist and blogging fool Greg Cote asks which South Florida sports team is closest to their sport's holy grail?

My thought is the Heat.

Yes, that series against Atlanta was ugly at times, but if they find just one or two of the right players to compliment Dwyane Wade, they can get back to the top of the NBA quicker than I think the Marlins, Panthers or Dolphins can get to the top of their respective leagues. Your thoughts? Vote on Greg's version of the Frozen Poll here.


May 05, 2009

Hamilton Coyotes? Phoenix Files for Bankruptcy ... Jim Balsillie Ready to 'Make it Seven'

Coyotes2 With the Miami Heat now done taking up big chunks of my time, I can now turn my complete attention to hockey (although I must admit I've enjoyed these NBA playoffs. Save for the Heat/Hawks series. That sucked.)

Big news in the league today is the impeding demise of what we've come to know and love as the Phoenix Coyotes.

Looks like they may be heading back to Canada.

As you may remember, the Winnipeg Jets were struggling financially in Canada and moved to Phoenix as part of commissioner Gary Bettman's grand plan to introduce the game to non traditional markets.

It's worked in some (Dallas, Anaheim, San Jose) and not so much in others. Phoenix is one of those places.

Poor product, a bad arena location and an owner's financial troubles have led the Coyotes to file for bankruptcy today. The league says they are removing owner Jerry Moyes from having anything to do with the team, so I guess we can assume the league will be running the Coyotes during this time (as the Arizona Republic reported they were doing anyway a few days ago).

A fresh story on today's Republic website says in the team's filing is a provision to sell the team to a group led by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, the owner of Research In Motion (home of the Blackberry). Moyes toCoppsld the paper that he has an offer from Balsillie for over $200 million, with all the people owed money by the team getting paid (except, perhaps, for investors, although I seriously doubt that).

The team could be playing in Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, by fall.

Balsillie already has a website up and going where fans (assuming Canadian ones since he doesn't care about the ones in Arizona) can sign up to support the move and make the Coyotes the seventh NHL team to be based in Canada.

Log on to makeitseven.ca for more info...

Here's my take: Moyes got the offer from Balsillie but knows the league wouldn't let him sell to him knowing the team would be on the move. The league still wants to make Phoenix work; losing a U.S. television market is not something the NHL wants nor needs.

By going into bankruptcy court, the NHL loses a lot of its power. Moyes is not a very popular person with the league right now, but he's lost a ton of cash and may not care about the feelings of the league right now (although they did help him stay afloat financially).

The highest bidder for this team is going to get it. And no one is going to outbid Balsillie. No one who wants to keep the team in Glendale, Arizona, anyway. And Balsillie is prepared to loan the team $17 million so it can keep things running until the deal goes through -- and therefore also become a creditor, putting himself in the middle of the court hearings. Smart and nifty.

(Seventeen million? The season is over? What they got going on in Glendale during the offseason that they need $17 million smackers? Anyway...)

The NHL says Moyes is no longer in power of the franchise, and the league will be representing the team during court hearings (according to the paper, the league is owed $35 million for loan payments). But Coyotes Moyes is listed as a creditor as well, saying he's owed over $100 million. So, I'm no lawyer, but I think he's going to have some say in court no matter what the league wants.

And by going to court, the lease with the city of Glendale can be negated. Which means the team can move somewhere else.

Again, I'm no lawyer, but I can predict this thing getting pretty messy as we go along. 

It's a shame things didn't work out (I guess it still could) in Arizona. Great place to visit, pretty good fans there. But the on-ice product has been pretty crummy for years, and the arena is in the middle of nowhere. Which is fine if you are going to two Arizona Cardinals games a month. You'll make that drive to see the Dallas Cowboys. But for 41 hockey games? Not going to happen. Hasn't happened.

Jim Balsillie failed in his bid to move Nashville and the Penguins to Hamilton, but thanks to Jerry Moyes and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, he may just get him a team after all.

Olliphoenix2 And according to Moyes' remarks in the Arizona Republic, a new owner could be in place by June. Meaning the Coyotes could be playing exhibition games in Canada by September. Someone call the Panthers. They'll come up for a game or two.

"The process assures that the identities of the new owner and the team's location will be known by June 30, 2009,'' Moyes told the Republic, ''thus enabling the NHL to include the team in its 2009-10 schedule."

A statement from Balsillie:

“The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant Balsillie discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario.

“I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best unserved hockey markets in the world — southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than seven million people.”

Here's an updated story from the Globe & Mail in Canada.

Hard to believe, but the Coyotes may leave the desert without their fans ever getting to say their proper goodbyes. And that sucks.

-- And I am serious about the Panthers playing the Hamilton team come September. Have already been told that the team is probably going to western Canada at the start of training camp, then will work its way east and will probably stop in Montreal for a game or two.

Me thinks Hamilton will work its way onto the Florida schedule, especially since they will be flush in cash and able to write the check.

No six games in six nights like last year, but expect them to play four or five preseason games before heading home. And then to Europe. Air Panther strikes again.

-- Here's some more from the Arizona Republic:

* NHL denies that it's running the Coyotes (as reported by the paper thanks to a ticked-off sounding Glendale city official)

* Coyotes are in big financial trouble..