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21 posts from February 2007

February 27, 2007

Bye Bye Bert

BerternieThe Panthers tried to put a pretty face on Tuesday's deals, but after giving away Todd Bertuzzi for basically a conditional draft pick and a prospect, that was tough.  (The Panthers got two conditionals for Bert on Tuesday, but if he doesn't resign with Detroit -- and as Ernie would say "that ain't likely homey'' -- the Cats only get the one.)

Whether or not Mike Keenan was told by ownership to trade Roberto Luongo or not, Iron Mike took the fall. It ended up costing him his job as GM (although he gets to keep the cash!) and led to some humorous jokes in his direction today on TSN. Of course, he wasn't laughing.

The Panthers weren't going to sign Bert for the money he was seeking, so now he's gone. Basically, the Panthers gave up Roberto Luongo for Bryan Allen and hope of something better out of Alex Auld, the prospect (Shawn Matthias) and the conditional picks.

Even kids on Sesame Street know that sucks with a capital S.

Not that the Panthers had much choice in the matter, not with Bert only playing in seven games this season. Keenan, for one, is excited for the Red Wings. "That's a great deal for Detroit,'' he said on TSN, where he serves as an analyst.

AA Florida did better on the Gary Roberts deal, getting a young defenseman (Noah Welch) who will not only help Rochester in its playoff push this year but will be looking for one of the starting 6 d-men jobs in training camp next year. Give JM credit for swinging this deal; everyone knew Gary's a goner after this season and the Panthers got something credible in return. Good move for Pittsburgh too, although it's a short-term deal.

Mark Recchi on Gary: "He does the right things every night and that’s going to make a difference for us.''

Sir Sidney: "For him to show us he wants to be here, we’ll that’s pretty special for us. He’s been in the playoffs, been in the league for a while. His experience is huge for us. I think he’s a great pickup for us.''

AA Joel Kwiatkowski was moved to Pittsburgh too, and good for him. He didn't factor into Florida's plans next year, so maybe he'll get a better shot in Pitt. The Pittsburgh Panthers? Heard that name's already taken.

Gary's a Goner


[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Panthers were able to swing their first major deal of the season Tuesday morning, as Gary Roberts decided to waive his no-trade clause in his contract and will join Sidney Crosby and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins.

Roberts, a 40-year-old forward, figures to be a key piece in the Penguins chase for the playoffs. Once on the outside looking in, a 14-0-1 run that ended last week helped them race up to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

It is thought that Roberts will be put on Crosby's line as the Penguins -- the worst team in the east last year -- try to make the postseason for the first time since the 2000-01 season. The Panthers haven't been to the playoffs since 1999-2000.

Florida will receive 24-year-old defenseman Noah Welch straight up for Roberts with no draft pick in return. The Panthers said a trade was imminent Tuesday morning, as Roberts' agent told the AP the deal was done as Roberts had agreed to it.

Roberts signed with the Panthers as a free agent on Aug. 1, 2005 along with childhood friend Joe Nieuwendyk. Both signed identical two-year deals worth $4.5 million. Nieuwendyk retired earlier this season because of chronic back pain.

• Welch is a second-year pro who has split his time the past two seasons between Pittsburgh and the team's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A former captain at Harvard, Welch has been brought up slowly by the Penguins. With good size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and range, the Panthers could give him playing time in the final 19 (assuming he suits up tonight) games. In 22 games with the Pens this year, the 2001 second-round pick has tallied one goal and an assist. The native of Brighton, Mass., has five goals and 16 assists in 27 games for Wilkes-Barre.

February 26, 2007

no show

gary roberts is not on team flight to washington.

Trade Winds

PalmsThey are swirling right now, and Gary Roberts finds himself smack dab in the middle of the storm.

Canada's TSN is saying the Panthers have a deal in place for Gary, but it's not one of the two teams (OTT and TOR) he has said he'll lift his no-trade clause for. Speculation is it's Pittsburgh looking to swing the deal.

If so, that's a perfect place for Roberts to end up. Pittsburgh is young and talented, and getting Gary's veteran leadership in the playoffs would be key.

Also hearing rumors that Chris Gratton may be going back to where it all started in Tampa Bay. Gratts has another year left on his deal, so this one may be tough. Gratts isn't very popular in the greater Tampa area, so that too may sour the deal.

Florida also has a number of offers on the table regarding one Todd Bertuzzi. We'll see if any of them blow JM away. Haven't heard anything yet regarding Gelinas or Belfour.

It's 1:15 p.m. right now and I'm about to get on a plane to Washington DC (The Big Apple).

Any updates here will come from my Treo so they'll be short and to the point -- and no cool pictures.

ALSO: Alex Auld confirmed today that he needs surgery and is out for the rest of the season. Hate to say this because he's such a cool guy, but Alex may have played his last game for the Panthers.

February 24, 2007

Judgement Day

SmailsLike Judge Smails, it appears Jacques Martin needs to make some crucial decisions in the coming days -- maybe even hours.

Before the Panthers took on Boston in the final game before Tuesday's trading deadline, JM talked a bit about the whole trading process. Not surprisingly, he says assistant GM Randy Sexton is taking most of the calls right now. It appears JM is setting the price, with Randy set to haggle on the details.

Sounds a lot like buying a car. Think of Randy as the salesman, working the pitch, telling you how nice the ride (Gary Roberts, Martin Gelinas, et al) is. Then you write down a figure and he laughs and goes back to the little office to talk it over with his manager. Then JM sends him right back with an answer. "Sorry, we can work a little on the trade in, but the undercoating can not, I mean CAN NOT, be taken off the price! That comes from the factory you know."

OK, so I got off track a bit. Still. Feeling is someone is not going to be around here come Tuesday and I'm thinking it's probably Gelinas. JM says he has a pretty good idea of the guys who want to come back to the Panthers next year, and I'm thinking Marty's been away from his home in Canada a bit too long. Marty's going to play next year, I just don't think it's going to be on this side of the Mississippi. Marty has never said anything like this, mind you, because he's a pro and he wants to help this team win. Just a feeling I got.

And as much as JM doesn't like the guys running things in Ottawa, don't be surprised to see Florida and the Sens make some sort of deal.

JM also said don't expect any contract extensions to be completed by the trade deadline like last year. He did say the groundwork is being laid to sign some guys for next year.

THE NEWS:  Not much to report these days.

February 22, 2007

Beware of the Penguins


Yeah, we know how the Penguins have been dominated by the Panthers in the past few years, but those days may be long gone.

We'll find out for sure tonight.

Pittsburgh has won only once in the past nine tries in Sunrise, and that was last year when the Panthers had just been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. The fellas sure didn't give their best that night.

But, let me tell ya, the Penguins have been giving their best for quite some time now. Since being beaten by the Panthers back on Jan. 10, the Pens have gone an amazing 14-1-2 with their lone regulation loss coming Monday on Long Island.

The Panthers have their hands (claws?) full tonight. Also, Pittsburgh has really struggled in Tampa Bay as well. They've only won once in the past 10 tries there. Welcome to the Sunshine State, Pens.

THE NEWS: Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien has benched starter Marc-Andre Fluery in favor of backup Jocelyn Thibault for tonight's game. Hey, either Therrien is ticked off at MAF (which it sure sounded like Monday) or he's seen Florida's record against backups this season. Don't feel like doing the research right now, but let's just say the backups have a very good winning percentage against the Cats this season.

-- The big news in Pantherland is that Todd Bertuzzi won't play tonight, and probably won't play Saturday either. That means he will not have returned to play in a game after his back surgery before Tuesday's 3 p.m. EST trading deadline. One might deduct that Florida probably won't get much in return for an unproven Bertuzzi, so the bet is dude stays right where he is.

Also hearing Gary Roberts wanting an extra year tacked on to his contract if he is traded is slowing any potential deal. Me thinks JM wants to resign both Todd and Gary for next year and, at least in Todd's case, beyond. Keeping those two around will help in that. Can't blame Gary for wanting to go to a legitimate playoff contender though, and it looks like he's giving max effort to the Panthers. So if he goes, he goes with a clean conscience.

February 20, 2007

Pink Panthers

Pink_1 Tell you what, it's good to be back in the Sunshine State. Don't have to worry about bundling up before you go outside, don't have to worry about frostbite. Sure, it's a little chilly here in Tampa at night, but nothing a nice sweatshirt can't handle.

Was hanging out by the pool at the team hotel today, saw the singer Pink down there chilling out before her big concert here on Thursday.  Seems very nice BTW. Like me, Pink and her entourage really seemed to be digging the bright sunny February afternoon. Sure beat shopping for shirts with a certain radio broadcaster (rhymes with Goldie) let me tell you.

Don't know if new goalie Craig Anderson got to get poolside today, but after spending his entire fall and winter in Rochester, hard to blame the guy if he did. Talked to Craig today, and he says he has not been told how long he'll be up here, says he has no idea how serious Alex Auld's knee injury is. He just says he's -- go ahead and groan -- happy to be here.

Ed Belfour will be back in net tonight, the cagey veteran getting another shot in net against the Lightning. On Saturday, Tampa Bay scored two goals off its first four shots and had three in seven. Sure Eddie would like to limit those chances tonight.

THE NEWS: The Panthers get to face another backup tonight as the Bolts go with Marc Denis in net. The former Blue Jacket was brought in to be the starter here, but Johan Holmqvist has stolen the job by his stellar play of late. Denis is 12-13-2 with a 3.10 GAA and a save percentage of 88 percent.

-- Jozef Stumpel says he feels pretty good and will be back in the lineup tonight.

-- Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while; took Sunday off and was doing baseball on Monday. I love spring training and will not apologize for that. In fact, can't wait to visit Orioles camp sometime this week. Orioles3

February 15, 2007

Bundle Up, Kiddies

RalphieGoing to be cold tonight (yeah, even in South Florida).

According to the weather folks, it's going to get into the low 50s/high 40s tonight in the Greater Broward Area (GBA) so don't get caught outside without at least a hoodie or something.

As for me, I'm wearing shorts and sandals tonight. I feel like one of the those high-and-mighty snowbirds we always see on nights like tonight, the ones walking on Fort Lauderdale beach with shorts and a Hawaiian shirt on telling the news cameras 'Ah, this is nothing! There's 10 inches of snow on the ground in Newark! You should be there, not here!' Only the wind is whipping around the beach, the dude's toupee is flying off and he's shivering. But he's not in Newark, he's tougher than this so-called South Florida cold.

And you know what? So am I. Fifty degrees is going to feel like 72 after the cold I just went through in Montreal/Ottawa. It was so cold, every time I breathed outside (and sometimes inside) it looked like I started smoking again.

So, I'm braving this latest cold front (HA! I sneer at your cold front and taunt it a second time) the way a true hockey writer should.

PS: I do plan on keeping a sweatshirt handy. And a pair of jeans. And my ski cap. My sneakers too.

Fifty-something degrees is still cold, isn't it?

THE NEWS: Nothing much to see here. I just got back into town and the players had the day off -- save for the charity event at CSA called 'Ice and Dice.' It's for a good cause (the Panther Foundation) and the guys seem to enjoy it. I was going to head over, but I just realized my tux is at the cleaners. Oh well.

-- Again, more props to the USAir baggage folks at Philly. That's two trips in a row where my bag hasn't been lost. One more and we have a winning streak.

February 14, 2007

Planes, Trains, ah, you know the rest

PlanestrainsGreat times up here in Canada boys and girls. Seriously, this is not a time to be vacationing in the aptly-named Great White North.

The snow was so bad this morning, me and Palm Beach Brian (he's pictured at left) took the train from Montreal to Ottawa. That's been the highlight of the day, so you know what kind of day it's been.

Anyway, big night for your Panthers after a nice win over in Montreal last night. They're trying to win their third straight. That doesn't happen very often. It has, however, happened before.

THE NEWS: With Gregory Campbell back in the lineup, JM sits Joel Kwiatkowski.

-- Eddie "I'm ready to speak" Belfour back in net tonight. First back-to-backer of the year for Ed.

-- Rostislav Olesz may be back Saturday; still doubtful on Bertuzzi and Stumpel.

February 13, 2007

Last chance

Barasso Wednesday is your last chance to get in on the 'Panther Memories' contest listed down below. Going to pick a winner (if you laughed at that line, you're as immature as me) tomorrow from the beautiful city of Ottawa.

To get in, just go to the post titled 'New Contest' that one with George Costanza pictured. Then type in your story as a comment.

Again, top story wins an official rubber rat from the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

Island Dreaming

VivacubaEach time I visit the lovely country known as Canada, all the ads touting Cuba as a vacation spot throws me a little.

Cuba for a vacation? Really? I didn't know we could go there.

Well, actually, I can't. But the good folks up here in Canada can. Something about the U.S. having a trade embargo against Cuba because of some sick dictator dude who happens to have not only a ratty beard, but a ratty set of camos too.

Well, got to give Fidel and his tourism people some serious props. They know where to market. You can't cross a street in downtown Montreal without seeing a billboard like the one posted above. According to the billboards, Cuba is a party place where everyone drives around in their 1957 Chevy and has a pretty good life. I wonder if it's really like that there?

It's currently 3 degrees above zero right now, and it was in the negative most of the day. Right now, I don't care if Castro is still in power of not. I want some sunshine and 80 degree weather. And I want it now. So if I have to go to Cuba to get some nice weather, fine.

Actually, I'll just see if the pilot can drop me in Fort Lauderdale on his way to Havana. I don't need a cigar that bad.

Oh yeah,

THE NEWS: Alexei Semenov will be in the lineup today. Spoke with him today and he is in fine spirits. He had already come back to South Florida from Russia to be with his expectant wife (she's due any minute now) when the Panthers called to see if he wanted to play with them again. Since he was already here, he said 'sure, why not.' I have a lot of good stuff on Alexei, but I don't have a notebook in tomorrow's paper so it's going to have to wait a day. It might just be worth it. Key word: Might.

-- Ed Belfour in net. Belfour, Ed.

-- JM says he doesn't expect Olesz or Stumpel to play Saturday against the Tampa Bay Thunderbolts. He hopes one of them comes back next week.

-- More importantly, don't bank on seeing Todd Bertuzzi in the lineup that night either. He won't practice with the team until Friday at the earliest. There's a report floating out there that Bert won't be back on the ice until after the trading deadline passes. If true, that's going to cut down on quite a few rumors.

-- Montreal is cold.

-- A special shoutout to the boys and girls at USAir in Philly: "Thanks for not losing my bag yesterday. Your friend, G."

Getting my bag as scheduled in Montreal broke a four-trip streak where my bag was lost when going through Philadelphia. Get to play Philly Roulette again Thursday. Wish me luck.

-- When in Montreal, try and find Denis Potvin and then ask him to lunch. Dude knows the best places in this town to eat in. Every time we come here we eat at a different place. Every time, it's phenomenal. Today's lunch spot was St. Hubert, a rotisserie chicken place. Good stuff. Try the chicken noodle soup.

-- REMINDER FELLAS: Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Get your ladyfriend something nice. It doesn't have to be very expensive, but put some thought into it. You can thank me later. Ladies, you can get us gifts too. We like presents. And hockey.

February 12, 2007

From Russia With Love

RockydragoGreetings from Philadelphia, home of the cheesesteak, President Ben Franklin and one former world champion heavyweight named Rocky Balboa.

True story: The stores in the Philadelphia airport sell Rocky t-shirts as well as a gotta-admit-it's-cool black sweatshirt that says "Italian Stallion" on the front.

True story II: If you are flying through Philly on U.S. Air, don't even bother checking a bag. If you do, make sure you bring a carry on with your essentials. Why? They're going to lose it, that's why. Trust me on this one.

Anyway, the beat up Panthers are getting a little lift today, with defenseman Alexei Semenov coming back from Siberia to join the team. Semenov, you might remember, took a two-way contract during the offseason after apparently being told by Mike Keenan he was going to make the team. Well, since he and Ari Vallin were the only two D-men at camp with a two-way, he lost the numbers crunch and was sent to Rochester. He eventually left Rochester and was (wink-wink) suspended by the Panthers.

Anywho, now he's back. He practiced with the team at CSA this morning and is on the trip to Montreal. So, too, is Gregory Campbell. Not on the trip: Jozef Stumpel, Todd Bertuzzi and Rostislav Olesz.

Wasn't at practice and haven't been around the team since Thursday's loss at Minnesota, so that's all I gots for ya. Oh, except for this: Semenov

Welcome back, Alexei....

February 08, 2007

Rumor Central

RumorWith each loss these Florida Panthers endure, the more rumors kick up and out. JM and Mike Keenan heard all this stuff last year, and instead of trading away guys as had been the story, they signed Olli Jokinen to a four-year deal, inked Chris Gratton to a two-year extension and grabbed Ric Jackman from Pittsburgh.

No one, including myself, is saying the Panthers are about to sign some of their top young players to long-term deals this Feb. 27. But if JM truly thinks this team is a playoff contender, he'll stand pat and might trade FOR a player or two.

That said, I think guys are going to be shipped out by the trading deadline. Not the young guys whom the Panthers are banking on for the future, but veteran players who would be beneficial to someone in a legitimate playoff race. Players like Martin Gelinas, Gary Roberts, Ed Belfour and even maybe Todd Bertuzzi. The latest rumor has Big Bert going to Detroit. Dude hasn't played since October, so I'm betting the Wings haven't offered anything huge just yet. I think JM thinks he can resign Bertuzzi in the offseason, and that'll be much easier if he's, you know, actually here. If the Panthers trade Bert and hope to get him back in the summer, well, good luck. It almost never works like that.

-- Thanks to all those who have been sharing their 1996 Stanley Cup memories on the post below. Getting some good stuff. Going to keep the contest going for another week. Keep 'em coming.


Juraj Kolnik and Jozef Stumpel both out after getting hurt Tuesday in Colorado. Kolnik had a root canal yesterday, and according to JM, is due another. So he might still be out Saturday against dem Desert Dogs. Stumpel (shoulder) is day to day. Aren't we all?

-- Kamil Kreps comes up to replace Stumpel in the lineup.


-- Eddie Belfour back in net. Silently.

-- Don't be surprised if Bert is back in the lineup Saturday night. Just a hunch. JM is still saying next week.

-- Have Red Deer and Goldie sitting behind me. It's like listening to WQAM only without the delay and the Spanish music. They send their best.

February 07, 2007

On Frozen Tundra

GmanwildYou know you're in for a rough day when on approach, the flight attendant announces the following: "Well, folks, good news in Minneapolis. It appears to be warming up. It's now minus-2 degrees. Welcome to the Twin Cities."

I honestly think she was serious because some folks on my flight -- the ones wearing the Gophers caps -- chuckled and nodded as if there was some silly inside joke and they were the only ones in on it.

Well, memo to them: It's COLD out here! I'm serious. I was so cold today, one of the local writers up here told me he just had to take my picture. Because I needed something for the blog, I let him take his precious picture.

I don't know why a Minnesota hockey writer would be at a Panthers practice on an off day. Maybe he covered the team in the past or something? Anyway, Mike R., thanks for playing the role of photog today. And before you ask, that's not my hat. It belongs to our friend Brian X from Palm Beach.

"This is the worst-looking hat I ever saw. What, when you buy a hat like this I bet you get a free bowl of soup, huh? Oh, but it looks good on you though!" Rodney


And now,

THE NEWS: Juraj Kolnik had to be sent back to South Florida after last night's game. He got smacked in the face with a stick and had to have stitches. He went home to have oral (not Orel Hershisher) surgery because JM says he had some teeth broken. Yuck. PS: JM still ticked no penalty called on Kolnik's stick to the face.

-- Jozef Stumpel didn't practice today and may not play Thursday against the Wild. He looked to lose his balance after getting hit with a puck and landed awkwardly on his already sore shoulder. Said he also banged up some ribs.

-- Eddie Belfour usually doesn't practice on the day after a game. He did today. The whole team -- with exception of boys listed above -- was out there today after last night's humbling loss. Belfour back in net tomorrow.

-- Interesting note from The New York Times: When the Panthers beat the Devils at CSA on Jan. 27, a grand total of 736 households (rating number: 0.01) in the mammoth New York market tuned in on MSG. The available households in the market: 7.4 million. According to the report, over 2,000 homes tuned in on Florida's FSN while the arena announced a crowd of 18,136.

February 06, 2007

A New Contest

Seinfeldcontest Sitting here just a short Brian Skrudland slap shot away from the Avs' 1996 Stanley Cup championship banner put me in a reflective mood.

I had a blast at Game 4 of the Finals, the one in which the Quebec NordAvs won the Cup at Miami Arena. Ended up sneaking into the upper deck's press seating and watched it from there with the likes of Joe Rose and Tony Segreto et al. Will never forget it. What a game.

Anywho, where were you during the Stanley Cup Finals that year? Is this the series that made you a Panther fan in the first place? Best story gets an authentic black rubber rat thrown during Game 3 of the Finals (I worked that game for Fox Sports and one of my assignments was to count the rats. I stole a few.)

Historic Night; No Coffee

TimmiesOne of the world's great coffeemen got tied in the NHL record book on Tuesday, and no, it wasn't Juan Valdez.

The late, great Tim Horton -- yes he played hockey -- is now tied for consecutive games played by a defenseman. On Tuesday, Karlis Skrastins started against the Panthers, marking his 486th consecutive game dating back to Feb. 21, 2000. He can surpass Horton on Thursday when Colorado plays host to Atlanta.

Congrats to Karlis, but can you make a Dutchie? How 'bout a double-double? And can you imagine a commercial where someone wonders whether Karlis Skrastins has bagels? I know I can't, and I have tried. Seriously.

Rocky Mountain High

Rockymountain_muppets Greetings from balmy Denver, where the sun is shining bright and it's 63 degrees out.

John Denver and the Muppets would love weather like this. Except for Fozzie. I bet he sweats.

The Panthers are here, trying to break out of their funk and escape the shadows of a 7-0 home loss to the stinky Kings. JM says the team left that game behind in South Florida. We'll see. There were a lot of questions about heart (lack thereof) and character after that loss, so the coaches are looking for a bounce back game from a lot of guys.

One boost is the return of Gary Roberts and the very-expected return of Mike Van Ryn (bruised hand). Todd Bertuzzi is on the trip and skated today, but he won't make his much-anticipated return in Denver for obvious (Steve Moore) reasons. JM says he won't return until next week, but I could see him back Thursday against the Minnesota WILD! or Saturday against his buddies from Phoenix.

THE NEWS: Eddie Belfour makes his return to the net tonight after giving up three goals on six shots Saturday. JM says he didn't pull Eddie on Saturday because he played badly (one goal was a fluke off Bryan Allen, another came off a poor turnover -- although Eddie takes some of the blame for playing that puck in the first place -- and the third off a rebound during a power play.)

He says he was just trying to shift things up, maybe get some momentum and give Alex another shot. As JM himself said today, it didn't work as Alex didn't play very well. Now, Alex has to wait his turn for another chance and way it sounded today, that time isn't forthcoming.

-- It's currently 2 degrees in the Twin Cities. Thought you all should know that.

February 03, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

Robhays1It's Saturday night in South Florida, and the one thing on every sports fan's mind is tonight's Panthers/Kings tilt at the CSA.

I'm serious!

OK, so there seems to be a few thousand empty seats tonight. Maybe there's something else going on in town. The Donn Handicap was run at Gulfstream today. That must be it.

Anyway, the above was written just as an excuse to run the picture to the left. Carry on.

Actually, get used to Sunrise Saturday nights. After playing host to the Devils last Saturday, the Panthers started a stretch of nine straight Saturday nights on home ice (tonight's game is No. 2 in the stretch). The next Saturday night in which Florida isn't playing at home is March 31 -- they do play Washington the night before, however.

-- It's 3-0 Kings. Three goals, six shots. U-G-L-Y. Alex Auld comes in to replace Eddie.

THE NEWS: Martin Lojek, who at this time last year was a Florida Everblade, made his NHL debut on Saturday. He was called up because Mike Van Ryn is out with a bruised hand. Lojek is in his second pro season. He's sporting No. 47, joining such other Panther noteables as Craig "Not the guy with the talk show" Ferguson, Lance Ward and, of course, Michael Irvin.

-- Congrats, Playmaker.


-- During the first intermission, went to see my buddy Jeff and his wife Pam. Here's a pic of me, Jeff and future Panther Jacob:


Kings to Paupers

Gretz_1 Seems like forever ago when the Kings were the toast of hockey, the Wayne Gretzky led team the center of cool in Hollywood. Remember how must-have those black-and-silver jerseys were back in the day?

Tonight the Kings (and their goofy uniforms) come to South Florida, their first trip to CSA since Nov. 5, 2003.

To paraphrase from SlapShot, the Kings are a mess. They have the worst record in the Western Conference, and the only reason people don't make fun of them more is a) they're from LA, and b) the Flyers are still around and much easier to poke at.

Unlike the Flyers, though, it looks like the Kings have a plan. Sure, they're going to stink it up this year (they have lost 10 of 11 and have won just six on the road), but they're looking to become another version of the Sharks.

GM Dean Lombardi and coach Marc "My Avs beat your Panthers in the 1996 Finals" Crawford are going to turn this thing around, they just need some time. Earlier this week, Lombardi sent Craig Conroy back to Calgary for Jamie Lundmark and a second and fourth round pick. It's going to be interesting to see how this young team matures a bit as the season rolls on. Right now they're bad, but the Kings could be OK in the not too distant future.

Only they need to bring back their old threads. Pronto.

-- Speaking of Crawford, did you know JM was an assistant under Crawford in 1995-96 with the Avs? JM never got his name on the Cup however as he left Colorado in the middle of the season to become the new coach of the Senators. He stayed there the next 8 1/2 seasons.

THE NEWS: Ed Belfour back in net again tonight; it's his sixth straight start. Belfour is Florida's hot hand, no doubt, as he has gone 9-2-3 in his past 14. Not too shabby. The Panthers HAVE TO WIN THIS GAME TONIGHT. Not only are the Kings not so good (wanted to use another phrase, you know, the one that rhymes with duck), but they've flown across the country to play in this game. Four of the next five are on the road, so the Panthers need this one. Bad.

-- JM says he plans on holding a team Super Bowl party in Denver. He didn't like it when I asked if there was going to be balloons and a cake though. He says the team is going out on Sunday not only so they can have one full practice in the high altitude, but also so they can watch the football game together. A little team building, if you will. Unless this thing is mandatory, though, I don't know how many of the players want to hang out and watch the game. Football isn't that big of a deal to most of the guys (although Olli was surprisingly upset about having to miss the game).

-- JM's pick: Indianapolis.

February 02, 2007

Bert's Back

BertTodd Bertuzzi was back at practice with the Panthers and is now allowed to take full contact. Dude seemed happy to take advantage of that news, charging into a couple of teammates and getting all, well, physical.

He says he'll be back and playing when he goes through a few practices in a row without pain. JM is still sticking to his two weeks timetable.

I'm betting on Saturday vs. Phoenix, but only if Bert makes the trip west and practices all week.

THE NEWS: Nothing really. Guys were in a good mood today. Could have been 1) giddy over beating Caps again; 2) the sight of Bert and Roberts hitting people again; 3) the sadsack Kings are coming to town.