Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Burned

Unless you are a Doors fan hopped up on acid car fires are nothing to laugh about most of the time. At best a usable piece of machinery goes up in flames, and at worst people get hurt or killed, and usually there is some kind of riot involved.

In a fit of rage after Adam Foote decided to leave the Avalanche for Columbus for marginally more millions, a friend of mine envisioned Foote dying in a car fire en route to Ohio as a way to mentally compensate for the loss of the great leader:

Me: "Did you hear about Footer going to Columbus?"

He: "Yes. It's unfortunate though, since he died in that car fire on the drive there. Tragic really."

Me (biting my lip): "Yeah. Car fire. So hot that heat."

After it was reported last week that the Minnesota Wild lost their pads in a van fire most of the media, like mosquitoes steaming towards a bug light, spoke about how unfortunate and inconvenient it was that an NHL team lost thousands of dollars of customized equipment.

It is bad for an entire team to lose their pads, especially for true "gentlemen" like Derrick Boogaard, who no doubt lost that pink teddy bear that I'm convinced he keeps in his breezers. But absolutely everyone missed the most obvious and biggest loss of all: Nick Backstrom lost his goalie pads.

To most people the loss of one's goalie pads doesn't seem like a big deal. It is an expensive deal, but not end of the world bad. But to a goalie the loss of one's pads goes beyond missing the wretched stink of success.

It means losing your luck.

Many hockey players are superstitious to a fault. Most have to tape their sticks the same way, or wear their socks on the same feet, and that is before they can leave their houses in the morning. But keepers, well let's just say most of us aren't considered right in the head even before you find out we never, ever wash our pads. Ever.

Patrick Roy had a litany of superstitions. The most obvious was his habit of never stepping on a line on the ice unless he absolutely had to. I've never had a chance to ask Patrick if he washed his pads, but I would bet you if he ever did he was either tricked or coerced. He didn't change his leg pads in an attempt to exploit the rules. Somebody probably washed his old ones.

The reason for never washing your pads is that your pads have been there through all of your successes and failures, and these events amount to "luck", even if you are the worst goalie in the world.

So in light of the Wild losing their equipment all I can think is that Nick Backstrom is in for a rough month. He has to build up the luck in his old pads.

You may be reading this and shaking your head thinking that the I've lost it, and you are probably right. But take a look at the shorthanded game winning goal scored by Matt Hendricks in Colorado's win over the Wild, which involved a dump-in caroming straight off the end boards, past Backstrom and onto the welcoming stick of the Avalanche forward and you'll see. No skill was involved in finding that sweet spot on those Minnesota end boards.

It was bad luck, boy. Bad luck.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Charging the Net

After tonight's game against the downtrodden and desperate Florida Panthers, a game which included two Avalanche goals in the final minute of regulation with Craig Anderson pulled for the extra man, I can't help but think the growing problem of opposing forwards charging the net is quickly coming to a head. And by "head" I mean the one perched upon Anderson's shoulders which was smacked by Keith Ballard in the closing minute of overtime.

For those of us who have played keeper in even the lowest of beer leagues it is easy to sympathize with the plight of the Avalanche goalie. Having been kicked, jumped upon, and maimed by round and clumsy 30 and 40-something's on skates it is never a good experience, and I have the bad back and shattered knees to prove it. I can only imagine what it is like to be wrapped around a goal post by 225 pounds of muscle charging at 30 miles per hour.

For Ballard, who managed to rush past the entire Avalanche squad in a desperate attempt to gain his team two points on the night, charging directly at Anderson's left post was the only option available. Having known many defenseman I can understand Ballard's choice of direction considering most defenders, even at the NHL level, have maybe one or two shots in their bag of tricks.

It hasn't been an easy week for Ballard in the public relations department, as he managed to put his own goalie, Thomas Vokoun out on Monday with a clumsy and anger fueled slash to the head following an Ilya Kovalchuk goal. Yet his latest endeavor involving a goalie has me applauding the retaliation by another defenseman, Adam Foote. A retaliation which featured Foote pummeling the prone Ballard after he steamrolled the defenseless Anderson.

In light of this season's trend of opposing players running into, over, and through goaltenders, and considering the scattershot approach of the NHL in enforcing existing rules, there seems to be little in the way of actual protection for goaltenders. One could argue that with new developments in goalie equipment that keepers have never been safer, but try explaining that to a goalie like Cam Ward, who not but three weeks ago was treated to the displeasure of Rick Nash accidentally lacerating his right quadriceps with a skate after a save.

The fact of the matter is that goaltending is the most difficult and dangerous position in the most difficult and dangerous of sports. But outside of commissioning warhorses like Foote to punish those who would charge goaltenders in the now speedier and even more dangerous NHL, there may be little else in the way of actually providing consistent protection to the men between the pipes until the league decides to act accordingly.

A league, mind you, that is intent on reducing the size of goaltender equipment, which in and of itself does little to prevent an injury when struck by another human being traveling at a high rate of speed.

In the case of Ballard, he was charged with a two minute goaltender interference penalty, but that won't do much to ease the ringing sensation in the head of Craig Anderson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dees and Pees.

It's been awhile since my last in-game blog and to be perfectly honest, I didn't miss it much.

I don't own a TiVo so for me blogging during games has meant one of two things. I either have to strap myself to the keyboard and type faster than a court reporter while fighting off the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome for three hours, or I have to sit and watch the game with a notepad and jot down the events in scrambled shorthand. Since I never learned to write in shorthand the latter has meant I have to go back after the game and attempt to translate my own hastily written comments, which is about as easy as reading a prescription from a doctor.

Often I spend far too much time trying to make sense of lines that look like "Mike Ricchi shed to boards like dog pizza BANG!" Either way it isn't fun times, and it interferes with my in-game beer consumption.

This season I took the opportunity to purchase a little miracle of technology known as NHL Gamecenter which allows me to watch as many as four games at once, rewind to previous events in games, and even view archived games all on my computer. Since I'm living in Korea and have been weaned off of cable tv this is pretty much all I watch outside of movies, and frankly I doubt I'll ever go back to buying cable again. It isn't worth my money to watch the irritating crap-fest that American television has become over the last 10 years.

So without further adoooo...let's get it on!

Coming to you live from the spartan confines of my apartment located in the Daedok Techno Valley portion of Daejeon, Korea it's YOUR Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks! The Canucks are coming off of six days of rest and the Avs are playing their third game in four nights. This of course means the Avs may get punked like a Korean pop star in a Philly night club, but whatever, it's hockey!

Pregame: Oh good it looks like I'm going to get the Canadian feed for this one. If there is anything that is exciting about Gamecenter it is that I often have the opportunity to watch Canadian commercials, which feature the kind of dry wit that only Canadians can truly understand. Canadian "humour" pretty much involves staring at people and waiting for them to do something stupid, or politely prodding them into doing something stupid, and then pointing it out.

Fortunately I spent my college years watching every Kids in the Hall episode ten times, so I'm familiar with a facial expression Canadians all share which involves tilting your head slightly to the side and smirking matter-of-factly while pointing out obvious things like "I guess it would have been a good idea for you to leave the house with a coat, eh? I mean what with all the snow and such...let's see if we can dump some hot water on your hands and get some blood back into 'em."

Samantha Bee on the Daily Show has the best Canadian smirk on the planet. Dave Foley is a close second.

The National Anthems: Just wanted to take a moment to point out that Robbie Luongo is practically digging holes in his crease. Please feel free to reference my above comment about the Avs possibly getting punked like a Korean pop star in a Philly nightclub. Good choice of games here Aaron. Good job.

20:00- First Period- Ryan Kesler wins the opening draw against Paul Stastny. Just once I want Stats to unload on the opposing center Paul Newman style as soon as the puck is dropped. Can we make this happen? I know Stats is a nice guy and all but he can't really lose any more teeth at this point. Pretty please, can we get a little bloodshed off the draw?

19:01- After a minute of warming up with a deflection on net by Stats, the puck is touched up for icing in the Avs end by Kyle Cumiskey. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is beating Cumiskey down the ice this year. He's in the Scott Niedermayer echelon of good skaters.

17:30- Ryan Johnson with a solid shot on Craig Anderson. Andy shrugged it off to a defenseman, no big whoop. It's too bad Peter Budaj is so bad that the coaching staff is going have to play Andy until his hips are ground into a fine powder. I like Andy but the Avs have to do something about getting him some support. Budaj has less confidence than a skinny, pizza-faced, middle school student.

17:00- Tell me Tony Soprano wouldn't eat at an Italian joint named T.J. Galiardi's. I see a chain of successful restaurants in his future.

16:35- Somebody tell Willie Mitchell that a good way to avoid getting called for hooking is to not raise your hand like you may be doing something wrong. I don't care if Stastny's arm pit had a hammer lock on your stick, you will always get called for whining. Always.

Power play-Avs!

15:43- Goal! Little tipper by David Jones on a nifty slapper to the net by Wolski. How nobody has made any "David Jones's locker" jokes at this point in his career is beyond me.

Time for a commercial break.

So, you and your fleet of boat owning friends decide to head into the bay with with a bunch of rocks, sand, lights, generators, and palm trees and build a small island in the middle of the bay so that you can have your own private party island! Great idea gang...right up until an Exxon tanker ends up grounded on it the following week. Thanks Bacardi.

12:23- Wow, we're barely back and Jannik Hansen hooks Svatos to get the gate. If there is anything that the Avs are incredibly good at, it is being faster than every other team and drawing hooking calls.

Power play-Avs!

Hejduk. Shot. Whistle. Svatos. Shot. Whistle.
Stastny to Wolski for the slapper, rebound to Liles for the tip and Duschene scores while diving into the net!

2-0, Avalanche!

WHEW! The Canucks are lookin' a bit rusty dere!

I'm not sure if you've heard, but this Matt Duchene kid is kinda good. On the last cycle he touched the puck four times before diving in for the finish. The Avs may not make the playoffs this season, but methinks they won't be having too much trouble making the playoffs in coming seasons.

10:09- Ahh, the ol "broken glass, steal the momentum" trick eh, Vancouver? I'm on to you!

Let's fast forward to the 2nd period and a commercial break.

Ya know, if Tim Horton's came to Korea it might cause social upheaval. Trucker coffee and crullers? SPARKLE!

15:54- 2nd Period- Uh oh. After some scrambling in front of their own net David Koci gets rung up for striking a Canuck about the head and neck. Time to see if the Avs mediocre penalty kill can be less mediocre.

15:38- Andddd no. Christian Ehrhoff with a top shelf slapper from the point.

2-1 Avs.

Time for a DNP public service announcement.

If there is anything annoying about young players these days it is that many of them have pretentious names from the late-80's and early 90's. Case in point, Mason Raymond. I don't necessarily dislike Mason, aside from the fact that he's a Canuck, but I just dislike pretentious names. I can only imagine in 5 years we're going to have far too many Cody's, Sage's, Canoe's, and Tucker's in the league, and I can only hope these names will be offset by hardened hockey names like Brett or Jack. Please parents, stop naming your children like toys or pets.

Thank you.

Back to the action.

10:30- Power play Avalanche. The boys need to get some momentum back here. The Canucks are starting to wake up, and the Avs appear to be getting tired. Good chances by Tucker and Hejduk and some flailing by Luongo and we're back to even strength.

7:26- Good chance for Cumiskey but he missed the open net. The kid is feisty to say the least! I'm glad Sacco is giving him room to grow. I'm staring in your direction Tony Granato. Thanks.

The rest of the 2nd period- Ping pong hockey! Fun, fun, fun!

More commercials! Yay.

I'm trying to figure out if Courtney in the Fountain Tire commercials is hot. There's really no way to debate this with anyone unless a Canadian reads this post and has a strong opinion on the issue.

20:00-3rd Period- Gotta love starting a period on the power play. Willie Mitchell may or may not have put the puck over the glass in his own zone right at the end of the 2nd. Either way, it screws the Canucks so I'm happy.

Luongo getting shelled, Luongo getting shelled, annnd Luongo getting shelled. No goal. I'm getting the feeling like Robbie might have put up the force field. Not good.

17:40- The Avs may or may not have broken Sami Salo and Christian Ehrhoff on the same sequence. Two defensemen down could bode well for the Avs!

16:30- Whoa! Big rush from the Canucks with Anderson making some big saves! Batten down the hatches boys! Those injuries to Salo and Ehrhoff seem to have angried up the natives.

14:48- Oh man, I think I jinxed the Avs. I took a minute to argue with my brother about fantasy hockey and how it would be nice for Luongo to get some wins this week (but not against the Avs) as he's on my squad...and like that Christian Ehrhoff scores. Noonan! Not cool.

2-2. Tie game.

14:30- Mommy! Anderson just had a weak shot bounce over top of him and deflect off the far post. The Canucks are awake. In the words of Tommy Boy "Bees! Bees! They are eating my flesh! Run for your lives!"

14:10- Anderson is very slow to get up after the craziness. Please don't be hurt. Sweet Jeebus don't be hurt!

12:02- Finally play is stopped with Anderson diving on the puck. Stop the insanity!

Commercial break.

Oh good, Blackberry remade "All You Need is Love" by the Beatles. Puke. Whatever happened to the days of hiring people to make stupid jingles? Of course this brings up the question, who owns the rights to the Beatles songs now that Michael Jackson is dead?

11:13- Score. Canucks. Henrik Sedin. Since when does this guy score goals? He has 13, his career best is 22 and we're a quarter of the way into the season. To repeat my assertion from a previous article, hockey makes no sense anymore!

3-2 Canucks

10:20- Power play Canucks. Boo. Anderson was for some reason roaming like Patrick Roy which forced Hejduk to have to run Alex Burrows into the boards, making him have pain about the head and neck.

8:48- Oh man. Kyle Quncey dumped a Canuck in front of his own net, drawing a penalty before the first power play was over. What happened to this game?!

8:21- Score. A Bernier tipper off of a slap-pass by Ehrhoff. Four unanswered goals for the Canucks and the wheels have completely come off of the Avalanche bus.

6:26- Score. Canucks. And that should just about do it folks. That was an easy tip by Mathieu Schneider 5-hole on Anderson. The boys are tieeeerrrrdddd. Not fun.

In pure Peter Budaj fashion I would like to take responsibility for that loss. I jinxed the Avs. I feel shame.

Smirk away Canada. Smirk away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Predictably Irrational

Over the course of the last month my brother has been reading a book by M.I.T. economist Dan Arley entitled "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions". From his descriptions of the book it is a cold and creative analysis of why widely accepted market-based ideas don't seem to work in our current world where market-based capitalism doesn't seem to work for many people anymore.

I can't wait to read the book not because I have a fascination with the intricacies of markets, (I have little interest in becoming a tycoon, I just want to be able to pay my bills and my taxes, and maybe find an occasional bargain at the store) but because the title "Predictably Irrational" fits so well with what I go through every fall in regards to my fantasy hockey team.

I know, I'm deep like that.

This season hockey makes little sense to me. Play has gotten faster and seemingly more erratic. Certainly this has been great for the game, but for those of us who have a habit of living and dying with our fantasy (and real) teams there doesn't seem to be anything on which we can hang our hats.

Except maybe the Avalanche leading the Northwest and possibly making the playoffs, which has many an esteemed columnist scrambling for excuses.

Just ten years ago if you wanted a great fantasy hockey team all you had to do was analyze a particular team's defensive system, who was in that system, and whether or not a capable goaltender was behind that system, and act accordingly. Anything beyond that was gravy because the offense was simple: nobody did much scoring.

This season with the rash of injuries to top players as well as important role players, the shocking collapse of the Red Wings and to a lesser extent teams like the up and coming Blues, combined with half the coaches in the league deciding that platooning capable goaltenders is a good idea...well hockey has evolved from a simple equation into a calculus problem from hell.

Surely it is great to see the new generation of players finally getting their shot at the big time en masse, but for those of us who study the game (and aren't directly involved with the NHL) this has left us with plenty of homework.

Simply attempting to gauge the season-long production of upstart players like Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duschene is enough to make one storm their cabinets for antacid. Not to mention the strange and immediate fantasy influence of players like Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Rich Peverly, Evander Kane, and Nicklas Bergfors.

When I toss in the fact that anyone who puts on a jock next to Alex Ovechkin in the locker room is going to score somewhere between 60 and 10,000 points what I am looking at is the potential of a wholesale shift away from traditional fantasy thinking.

Or maybe I'm just having a bad season.

On draft day I was certain I had a team that would coast. I landed Robbie Luongo and Joe Thornton, both of whom were going to post stratospheric numbers, and buttressed them with the likes of Illy Kovalchuk, Milan Lucic, Johan Franzen, Jason Spezza and sure-fire, 100% guaranteed, puck stopping weapon of the future Jonas Hiller. I even landed great sleepers in later rounds like Alex Goligoski, Mike Knuble, and Derrick Brassard.

The 2009-10 Iron Mullets were rock solid! I had it MADE! I envisioned I would be lighting up my league's message board with insane Gandalf quotes every week:


Now, a little over a month later, and having seen my team torn to shreds by injury and under performance I have lost all confidence, and possibly my mind. What was last season's groin injury has become this season's torn ACL, or broken finger or foot. Or in the case of Paul Kariya and the rest of the Blues "chronic suckitis".

I've become the Red Light Racicot of fantasy managers, and I know two things:

Peter Budaj is still a bad goalie, and I have become predictably irrational.

Pass the antacid.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Popeye Has a Nightlife

A few years back when I was playing goalie for one of my work teams in Boulder, Colorado we made a point of taking our games a bit too seriously at times because playing hard is a part of hockey, yet we knew we weren't going anywhere in the sport. It wasn't as if one day a scout for the Avalanche would pop up in the stands with a contract, but we loved our time on the ice nevertheless.

We never drew big crowds, and often the "crowds" that attended the games were supportive family members and friends. What is a beer league game if you don't have somebody's kid around to fish out a puck from behind the soda machine when the ref runs out? I still remember an old girlfriend of mine who would show up and knit, and throw out a compliment or two after the game, "I thought it was nice when you stopped that shot at the end of the second period" or "are goalies supposed to punch people?"

Whenever I'm playing sports I always seem to have a song stuck in my head. In cross country in high school I would inevitably get Beethoven on a loop because it would go along with my pace. For me in hockey it is always something faster and harder, and AC/DC fits the bill most of the time. But as I get a bit older and more settled I've started to like music that doesn't make me want to throw bottles.

My best friend since the age of one, Ron Marschall has lived in Phoenix for the last ten or so years, and the band he is in, Tierra Del Fuego (Ron and his friends Brock Ruggles, Matt Wiser, and James Pyper, with some help from Jeff "Jelly" Livingston), is one of those local-type bands which is excellent, yet never for whatever reason gets the recognition they deserve. Brock writes the songs, Ron hits the skins, Matt plays the best pedal steel this side of the Mississippi, and James makes Bryan Setzer look like just another guy with a pompadour.

Over the past few years TDF has been rocking out the country swing at small beer houses and the occasional outdoor event. They always draw a crowd although the numbers aren't large, but everyone has a good time. Especially when they changed the lyrics of a song the last time I was there because I mentioned in passing that I thought the lyric sounded like this or that, and I was wrong. They did this for me before I left for Korea. It was a great going away gift: "Popeye has a nightlife..."

Fortunately the guys are pretty good natured about their station as a band. In a conversation a few weeks back I asked Ron what he would name a Tierra Del Fuego anthology someday, and without flinching he said "Why Bother?" They are doing what they like to do, and that is point of living.

Lately "The Legend of Neckbeard" by TDF has been buzzing around in my lobes, and has provided my step with a good hop. According to Ron it is Matt's song. It is upbeat and has some great pedal steel, and if they ever get it onto their next album I'm going to run it into the ground. I miss the band and their music. Korea could learn something from these guys.

Here in Korea there is a glut of terrible boy and girl bands. SHINee, Big Bang, Abracadabra, the list goes on. They all sing, they all dance, there are always a minimum of nine of them on the stage at one time and they are all plastic, and commercial, and stink... but with sparkle! The music gets into your head and rumbles around like a ball of razor blades until nothing is left but high pitched squealing. For the love of a band without some pencil-thin, bleached blond guy trying to keep it real and act hardcore while pirouetting!

Fortunately these days I have "Neckbeard" to shelter my mind from the idiocy when it isn't thinking about pucks or kick saves or girlfriends in the stands knitting.

Check out Tierra Del Fuego HERE, and drop 'em a line, I'm sure Ron and the crew wouldn't mind sending a cheap CD your way.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Season of Seasons

One of the classrooms that I teach in is located on the corner on the fourth floor of a relatively new concrete and granite building in a relatively new concrete and granite portion of Techno Valley in Daejeon. Two of the walls are lined with tall windows and if I raise the shades to the top then I am provided with a sprawling view of the adjacent buildings and a pedestrian corridor which heads to the north for about 300 yards until the strip is halted by a major street.

The north side of the street is fronted by a row of shops and restaurants, one of which my brother and I have stopped going to due to their rather transparent dislike of foreigners. Behind that strip are tall 15-story apartment buildings. The whole vista is rather impresive in the way that it maintains a human scale before being halted in the distance by the broken wall of the apartments.

As the day rolls on from afternoon through the evening and into the night I am privy to watching this small portion of Daejeon change in color from the striking yellows and reds of the trees below, to the flash and sparkle of the neon Korean night.

Below our floor is a music hagwan where children will go to practice their various instruments. Often my classes are treated to the moaning and squeaking of a beginner clarinet, or the fumbling mishmash of a intermediate pianist, which prompts the closing of windows and the misery thereafter of a muggy classroom. But every now and then we will be gifted by a young Rachmaninoff and the room is transformed from a place of diligent learning into something more content, relaxed, and natural.

There are many times when I'd like to go home. Back to the familiarity of the language and food and friends. Back to the places I know, where I am at comfort. But on these days when Autumn is in full bloom and Beethoven is high in the air I doubt I would move for anything short of eviction.

October is my favorite month, but in this month, in this country I have rediscovered my love of the fall. I missed the seasons in Phoenix. There is only one season there and one would not be caught outside during most of it. Trapped inside to languish in boredom for fear of the heat and dust.

October is when hockey starts and baseball ends, leaves turn and fall, and if you are in a place where the snow has held, the most beautiful of months. The sound of skates swooshing and scraping on ice, the slip and crunch of leaves underfoot, the smell of good food hanging in the air to be carried away by an occasional breeze. October is a month for all senses, even the sixth one which notices how time slows in the fall.

October, at least for me, is always a month of frustration and anguish as hockey goes. It takes time for an old dog to get up, and the hockey we see in October is rarely the hockey we see in April. Younger players champ at the bit and sprint, while older players ease into the season and let the kids fly by. It is always about this time every year that my impatience with the season reaches its peak, as what we are seeing now is an illusion.

After their win against Calgary yesterday there is some reason to believe that the Avalanche could be a great team. But then I look at Craig Anderson's astronomical .940 save percentage and I realize all good things, like the pleasantness of fall, must come to an end. The Avalanche won't maintain this pace. They can't. They are too much bluster and thunder, and all too quick. They will be great, but we must be aware.

The old dogs will soon rise.

Until then, with Beethoven on the breeze, I'm enjoying my favorite month with my favorite team.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Supplying Demand

Recently, while trying to make sense of the utterly astounding start to the season by the Avalanche it occurred to me that the Avs, in becoming upstart world beaters may in fact be doing the right thing, despite my desire to see them stink for at least one more year in order to secure another top draft pick.

In professional sports over the last decade much effort has been put into making leagues, especially football and hockey, into something along the lines of shared resource systems, i.e. markets driven by parity.

In the world of professional sports money is king, and if you have a league which supports teams which are always terrible versus always good, then that means your league will always have fans who either buy nothing, or all of only a few products. While this doesn't matter for top franchises (believe me, I'd love nothing more than to see less Dallas Cowboys jerseys on the streets of America), it does matter for say, the New York Islanders of the world (again, the Cowboys), and consequently the league as a whole.

For example, if the Detroit Red Wings were to stink up the joint (as they did to my delight in the pre-Steve Yzerman era) then fans who are already struggling to pay their heating bills would not be inclined to funnel some of junior's college tuition towards loud, obnoxious garb in order to support their team, much less fork out good money to actually go see games.

Conversely, if the Red Wings were always good, as they have been over the last decade, fans will be inspired to purchase said loud, obnoxious garb in bulk.

If you spread that theory out over the entire NHL, what you have is a few teams who make all the money, and a majority of people who simply don't care, and that isn't good for business.

Here's where the Avalanche come in.

During the halcyon days of yore when the Avalanche were steaming their way through opponent after opponent in an effort to not only win Stanley Cups but "build a fan base", revenue was flowing into Kroenke Sports and Entertainment by the boatload. Tickets were highly priced, and fans would be damned if they didn't own something "Avalanche". (The downside of the "Cold War" with Detroit was that two teams iced expensive legendary rosters on a nightly basis while the rest of the league not named The New Jersey Devils was killing itself to stay afloat).

Then, as things do on this silly planet, the good ship Avalanche ran into the mighty iceberg known as "post-lockout salary cap driven decline and rebuilding during a recession". Ticket prices dropped, apparel sales plummeted, and all of a sudden what is otherwise a good fanbase looked to be drifting on the Sea of Lost.

If Gary Bettman has done anything that can be perceived as good during his years of meddling it has been that in over-expanding the NHL into controversial markets (Phoenix, Tampa, that other city in Florida, and Raleigh) he has managed, however inadvertently (or vertently), to stretch the top notch talent thin enough to create a league where, with luck, hard work, and short term sacrifice, any team can go from bad to marketable in a very short period of time, thus buoying a league where revenue during even good times is difficult to come by.

The best example of late has been the Pittsburgh Penguins, which went from "Canada's next team" to Stanley Cup winners in less than five years.

How this theory works for the Avalanche is somewhat of a mystery at this point, and I keep falling into two camps, because at least on paper the boys in burgundy should be the doormat of the NHL at this point:

1. The Avalanche are taking advantage of early season slow starts by late season juggernauts.

2. The Avalanche are employing the only ethos that can work in a system ruled by parity, teamwork. And have managed to leap way ahead of the curve, especially on defense with some savvy drafting and good coaching.

(Strangely enough I'm waffling between the same two camps in regards to the Broncos)

If the NHL is going to be a league wherein a vast majority of the teams are on the exact same level then perhaps "rebuilding" isn't what it used to be as well. Perhaps all it takes is a bit of luck, and good scouting. What I can't decide is if what we are seeing is the product of an incredible rise in talent, or above average talent taking advantage of an average system which can be abused.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Razing Arizona

During my tenure in Sweat Town (Phoenix, Arizona) over the last year, I couldn't help but notice that there was something strange in the air. No, it wasn't sand, or ozone, or the stench of housing foreclosures and failure. It was the notion that despite the fact that Phoenix harbors a significant amount of transplanted people from the Midwest, few people ever seemed to care that Phoenix had a hockey team.

I heard excuses ranging from "the arena is all the way in Glendale" to "Wayne Gretzky is a terrible coach", but really none of them rang authentic. The excuses came across as blustering and whining. This is because most of the time when I would try to talk hockey, all but a couple of people would stare at me like I was from the moon.

I got the sense that not only were the residents of the town not interested in hockey, they despised hockey. For a hockey fan like myself, this was the ultimate in alienation, in a place which gives new meaning to "fending for yourself".

Certainly the relocation of the Jets from Winnipeg caused a stir, and the triumphs of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk led teams drew in a crowd. But that was years ago. These days the Coyotes have been a mess of bad management, bad trades, and bad blood.

In recent months the travails of one Jim Balsille have made news, and considering his blunt, shady nature and past attempts at owning an NHL franchise, I was not one of his fans. Yet after the events of today, and my experience over the last year I can't help but consider a different postition on the matter.

Wayne Gretzky has always been an ambassador of hockey. He set every record in the book in Edmonton, he blew up the game in LA, and he brought it to a new level in New York. Wayne has invested millions of his own money in a Coyotes team that, as it turns out few people seem to care for.

Is it his fault the Coyotes have been bad? Maybe. Is it his fault that few people in the Valley of the Sun seem to care much about any local sport that doesn't involve swinging a golf club? No.

Face the facts. Hockey does not work in Phoenix.

On a day in which Wayne Gretzky stepped down as coach of the Coyotes, we may have seen the last gasp of hockey in the desert. The sad part is that when it is gone, I doubt few people will really care.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Tax Man

In a world with so many problems it is sometimes unusual when you find yourself with no problems. The job is good, people are being kind, life is a veritable panoply of chirping birds and squirrels throwing daisies. It is enough to make Lewis Black puke asphalt.

This is why my current predicament can't really be viewed as an actual predicament...and shouldn't if it didn't mean that I would be missing out on my first hockey game of the season, as well as my first hockey game in another country.

As it is right now, Korean customs has my skates and pads locked up tight as a drum, all because a FedEx employee in Phoenix over a month ago insisted on having me estimate the value of my equipment as equivalent to $500 American.

This shouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong.

As it turns out, Korea has this little issue with duty and taxes that has been blown up to the point where they are the only country in the civilized world that considers wine, for example, to be a "luxury" item and not a food. In my case, I declared over $100 in used equipment, so somewhere on the peninsula some guy is currently holding up my stinking-to-high-heaven blocker and glove and trying to disseminate their actual worth so that he can eventually decide how much I will have to pay in order for customs to release my gear.

As anyone who has played goalie before knows, nobody on Earth wants to pay actual money for used goalie equipment. It has no real worth. It is filthy, disgusting, and does nothing to attract the opposite sex. The purchase of used goalie equipment is a transaction that is forced upon parents and goalies out of necessity. Because nobody ever, for example, wants to pay over a grand for new leg pads. But Korean customs doesn't know this, so I am stuck waiting.

In the meantime I'm content in knowing that if this is the worst of my problems, then I have it pretty darn good...aside from knowing that somewhere in Daejeon there is a hockey team with no goalie.

Sorry guys.

And thank you FedEx.

Friday, September 4, 2009

NHL Films


As I sat at a table outside of a Korean convenience store after work the other night, knocking back a couple of OB Blues and some Soju with my brother and a coworker, for the first time since my arrival in this strange land a couple of weeks ago, our conversation to my delight turned to sports.

Maybe it's just me, but every time I have been outside of the US nearly every conversation, be it with a native of whichever country I was in at the time, or with some other English speaking person always ends up centering around American foreign policy.

Not that I don't care about American politics, but I'm not a person who necessarily enjoys talking about the goings-on streaming from Washington, even when I'm in America. For me there are two things that I'd rather talk about before settling into unsavory arguments about American geo-political or economic endeavors. Instead, I'd rather talk about the interesting facts and figures of the country I'm in or even better, the goings-on in American sports.

If there is one thing that will bring Americans together overseas other than the defense of the homeland, it is a heated discussion about football, or hockey, or baseball. Sports is the tie that binds us.

One of the good things I have encountered when traveling abroad is that in every country in the world, in nearly abundant numbers as Americans, Canadians can be found either rarin' to tear into an unsuspecting Yankee about whichever country the US has bombed lately, or in their less sober moments throw out the "curveball" of hockey. It is times like this when my brain goes into overload, because few things tickle my lobes quite like informing a Canadian that a Russian (Alex Ovechkin) is better than their wonderboy (Sid Crosby), and then watching as their eyes turn south as they try to think of a diversion from the truth.

In this fact I am relishing that I am in line for a beer league goaltending position for a team full of Canuck expatriates. Every time one of them gets worked on the point, or gets beaten in the corners, I might just be inclined to take a poke about a perceived decline in quality in the Canadian hockey elite. But I digress...

On this night as three Americans posted up with the fire water on the corner, reveling in the fact that Koreans not only don't care about loitering, but support it, we shared a good laugh about how NFL Films, no matter which team they are covering, will never hesitate to spin the "things are looking up!" angle for whatever bad team they are featuring. They are probably just trying to slang more videos to die-hards, but it has never failed to amuse me when they try and make an absolutely terrible team seem like they are going in a positive direction.

"The 2008 Detroit Lions, a team on the RISE!"

This is where the NHL needs to take a bit of direction from the NFL. There needs to be an NHL Films. In the case of the Colorado Avalanche, an in depth analysis of this year's team could actually serve to get a few more fans to jump on the bandwagon, while the bandwagon is still in the shop for repairs.

It could introduce fans to the lesser-knowns of a squad in full rebuild. Don't you think people would like to know more about the potential of the Kevin Shattenkirk's and Ryan Stoa's of the world? Isn't this how the Maple Leafs have maintained a fan base, by becoming overly excited about the next big thing?

The season is nearing, and thanks to the miracle of the interweb I'm actually excited to see the new generation in burgundy take the ice, as at least one team in Denver seems to understand that sometimes admitting a full fledged rebuild is healthier than trying to cover up mistakes and mediocrity.

Now if the NHL could just pump out something like "the 2009 Colorado Avalanche, building for success!" all would be a little better in this strange world.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Know Your Blogger!

Is there anything worse than the offseason in hockey? If your team is horrible and rebuilding like the Avalanche it can be the tenth circle of hell because there is so little to talk about. That’s why I’m introducing a new feature on the DNP called “Know Your Blogger!”

Today I'm talking with Jay Vean of the Avalanche Hockey Podcast, which features regular post-game recaps during the season as well as a plethora of discussion about all things Avalanche.

I wrote “plethora”. Ex-cellent!

Jay, thanks for the time. Tell the readers a bit about yourself. When did you get into hockey?


I've been into hockey since I was about four years old. My Dad sang the national anthem at a few old Colorado Rockies games when I was growing up. During that time I met Herb Brooks and got a stick from Rangers defenseman Tom Younghans. After that, I was hooked. (Pun intended, I guess!) My Dad and I still go to games 30 years later and still have a great time.

What was Herbie like? Did he make you skate any laps?


Herbie picked me up, took me into the training room, sat me on a gurney, and talked to me for a bit. I don't remember a lot of the conversation since I was so young, but I do remember the experience vividly. I still have the Rockies pennant he signed for me that night. Anyone remember pennants? Younghans actually skated back onto the ice to get a stick for me after he ran out of pucks. It was my first exposure to what hockey was all about and I liked it.

He didn't make me skate any laps though. And the arena hadn't closed yet so the lights were still on. That would have lacked some of the drama from the movie!

Fantastic! Did you play growing up? (I'm saying this knowing many bloggers don't have much playing time)


I played for a few years in the University of Denver's youth program when I was younger and then played a season as an adult as well. I've played enough to know how talented these guys have to be to perform at the level they do. And coming from a college baseball player and an avid golfer, I can say that hockey is the toughest sport I have played hands down.

It is easily the toughest sport. I get into arguments with hard-core football fans all the time over this. Just the amount of effort required to play in a beer league is enough to kill people. So what position(s) did you play?


When I played I played all over the place. Goalie was my favorite since I had always been a catcher in baseball though. It was tough to get one by me glove side. If I ever go back to playing again it will be as a goalie. Based on my skating "skills," that would be my best option.

Nice, another goalie! I'm getting back into playing after being out a couple of years because I screwed up my knee in a game. I hear you on the skating. It ain't like riding a bike! So tell me about the podcast. When did you start it up and what inspired you to go on the air?


I started the podcast during the offseason two seasons ago. I've been producing it for two full seasons now. If there were something similar that someone was doing before I began mine I would have never done it. I just wanted to put something out there for Avs fan to enjoy. I feel really lucky to be able to go to about half of the home games every season and watch every game on television. I just wanted to share that fortune with other Avs fans out there who are as passionate about the team as much as I am. It's been a great ride so far. I've met a lot of cool people, like yourself!

The podcast is good one that's for sure! What is your most memorable Avs game?


Game four, 1999 Western Conference finals, against the Stars. Drury scores late in the first overtime to tie the series at 2. We had a great angle to see him beat Eddie The Eagle over his left shoulder. That's the loudest I've ever heard an arena. We were sitting next to some guys from Dallas that were there and we had a great time. They were cool and took the loss pretty well. They were hockey fans and you never mind sitting next to them. I was also at both Stanley Cup Finals opening games. The energy and buzz in the building is awesome during those times.

That was an incredible shot by Drury. I always loved to see the Avs beat Belfour. You mentioned sitting next to hockey fans while watching games. Without being picky or arrogant about the sport I have to say that it is almost a MUST to sit next to knowledgeable people during Avs games. If only because a guy can only explain icing so many times. With that in mind would you say the podcast is directed towards the hardcore hockey/Avs fan?


I try not to get too complicated on the show. I'm hoping any hockey fan would enjoy it, even tough it's obviously geared towards my team. I also do my best to mention things that only people who truly understand the game would notice. Like last season, I noticed that referee Kevin Pollack was wearing a mouthpiece. That's the first time I had ever seen that so I made it a point to mention it during my recap of that game. That's not that big of a deal, but only someone who watches a lot would notice something like that I guess.

So, no glow puck for you then?


They showed some highlights from the glow puck era on NHL Network recently and it was actually more distracting than anything else. I always wondered if they went into the stands to get those things back when they went out of play. If I remember right they were pretty pricey back then. It was a decent idea I guess, but if you need the glow to keep track of things, maybe it's time to watch a different sport for a while.

They had the "glow ball" at the home Run Derby this year. That was the last straw for me because the "trail" didn't even match up with the flight path of the ball. The thing that always got me about the glow puck was that the producers who came up with the idea didn't seem to understand that hockey isn't about watching the puck. It is about watching the play.


Ask any big time hockey fan and they'll tell you the same thing. If you want to keep track of the puck, just watch the players and what they're doing. They'll help you out all of the time. I saw the Home Run Derby as well. Waste of technology there. If you're there or you're watching it on television, and you have a tough time tracking the ball, you're wasting your time.

Okay, lets get down to brass tacks. The Avs are looking at a long rebuild. What do you think is worth watching about the team next season?


I think the Avs and the organization have something to prove for the first time in a long time. They've made it clear that they want to get back to what they once were. A new coach will come in and try to prove why they're there. There's going to be a lot of young talent that has something to prove as well. This is the first time in Avs history that they've been in this situation and I'm curious to see how they'll handle everything. Hopefully it will be something we, as Avs fans, can go back to sometime in the near future, and say, "Man, that stunk, but it was worth it and the team is better off because of it." I obviously hope that's sooner than later, as we all do. It's always been fairly easy to be an Avs fan, and that's not the case anymore. Most every team has gone through this at one point or another. It's all part of sports in general.

We, as Avs fans, will get the chance to see who steps up, and who's not quite ready to take the team big places. That process may make next season interesting to watch for sure.

How do you think the veterans will respond to the rebuild? Hejduk and Foote aren't kids anymore, and without Sakic the team is going to have to fill a huge void.


As far as Foote goes, I think it all depends on whether or not he's named captain. If the organization goes with Stastny right now I think he'll be gone sooner than later. This is a chance for this team to build a new set of leaders though. This will give us fans a chance to see who is going to be a true leader on the club. I'm thinking that it doesn't necessarily have to be a veteran either. It's wide open. I'm curious to see if the veterans on the team (Hannan, Hejduk, Tucker “gulp”) are ready to take over or give up and want to leave.

And by the way, I think Adam Foote will be named captain of the Avs for next season. I didn't mean to make it sound like I want him to leave or anything. I feel he's earned that honor, but that's just me.

Every time Darcy Tucker skates a shift, God kills a kitten. I have to believe they make Footer captain. The guy is one of the great defensive defensemen of his generation, has won two Cups, and has skated in the Olympics and World Championships. Even if he sits on the bench like Chelios (which he won't) he's too much of a leader not to give him the "C".


Totally agreed. Adam Foote has proven to be a great leader in my eyes. He also has some captain experience in Columbus. Stastny will be next, unless someone really steps up, or the organization makes a crazy trade or something like that.

What is your opinion of the Avs landing Matt Duschene? Do you think he is all that he is made out to be?


I, as well as every Avs fan, sure hope he's everything the experts say and a little more. According to Bob MacKenzie, he may have been/will be the best all around player of the top three picks. I've heard nothing but good things about the kid both on and off the ice. It's always tough to tell how well he'll do against the best players in the world though. Hopefully all the hype is true and we'll have our next great player here in Denver. I'm excited to see what he's got.

And as we all should know at this point, Bob MacKenzie, like, knows things.


It was a new thing for Avs fans to be so interested in the draft as well. That's a good thing in my eyes. I hope last season will count towards something in the future. We deserve something for watching that mess! Bob MacKenzie knows a lot of things! I just hope he's right about our thing...

You managed to actually watch that train wreck?


I'm not going anywhere. I am an Avs fan through and through. It's too easy to quit when things go so wrong. More legroom for my Dad and me if people decide to bail right now!

Exactly. Okay, one final question. You are building a team, who do you take first? Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin?


Tough one...I have to go with Ovechkin because he has produced serious numbers without a ton of talent around him his entire career (think Barry Sanders) and because he stays healthy even though he plays a physical style of play. I always think about where the Pens would be without Malkin and Crosby together. One of them is going to get you and you can't cover them both. I love Ovechkin's approach too. Laid back and fun, but very passionate when the puck drops. You have to love his energy!

I've never been big on Russian players but I have to agree with you. The man is a force of nature! That and Crosby is such friggin’ baby.


It was annoying to me at first, but how can you not enjoy it when he's that good? The NHL shoving Crosby down the throats of the fans gets just a little too much sometimes.

I have yet to see what Crosby can really do, he's hurt too much and always complaining. I tend to think Malkin won them that Cup. Also, I'm bitter because Crosby pin wheeled my fantasy team the last two years because he was out for long periods of time.


Malkin definitely is a beast; I just don't think he would be as unstoppable without Crosby and a pretty decent goaltender in Fleury. Sorry about Fantasy too. Rebuild maybe?

Yes, the Iron Mullets are in full rebuild this season.


Great name! Sounds like something Buccigross would come up with!

Oddly enough I corresponded with him a few years ago, right when he was getting the blogumn up and running and I mentioned the name, which was ultimately the name of my intramural team at the University of Colorado, and he gave me kudos. It was good times.


I love his style. He can be goofy and funny, but his serious stuff is great to read too. Based on what I've read of yours I'm sure you guys would get along just fine.

He's a genuinely nice guy. At the time a friend of mine was considering having a pick up game for his bachelor party, and I asked Bucci if he join us. He said he would, but the game fell apart because we had too many people coming in from too many places.

Okay Jay plug the podcast!


You can find the podcast at You can follow me on Twitter under username avshkypodcast. And I also created a fan page on Facebook here:

The Avs Hockey Podcast is your home for everything Avalanche!

Thanks for the time Jay. Everybody make sure to check out Jay’s podcast, it is good listening!

All is not lost in the world of the Avalanche!


So true Aaron. Thanks for having me and see you around!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Number Nineteen

Upon the retirement of not only one of the greats in Denver sports, but of one of the greats in hockey history, it is difficult to quantify the enormous impact made by Joe Sakic.

Many terms have been bandied about in attempts at describing how great number nineteen was at what he did, and all are appropriate. Leader. Scorer. Teacher. It is a true rarity to find a person who is not only excellent at what they do, but aware of how their skill and influence can positively effect the people around them. Joe Sakic embodies this ideal.

What I'll miss most about Joe is not necessarily his incredible reliability under pressure, but that his teams were always well prepared and fought hard. Many great and legendary hockey players have passed through Denver, but without a doubt the Avalanche would not have found the success they did without Sakic's leadership.

It is a testament to his success that discussions about his career have never seemed to revolve around his numbers (625 goals, 1016 assists, 1641 points), but about his influence and class. He was a complete hockey player in every way.

As he rides off into the sunset after a brilliant career which included two Stanley Cup championships and an Olympic gold medal and MVP, let's not forget what a treat it was to witness one of the great leaders and champions the NHL has ever seen.

Hockey in Colorado won't be the same without him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What If's...

I couldn't help but notice a couple of players still floating around that the Avalanche could use, provided Big Stan Kroenke were to lift his edict that has the team chopping down salary like a cane farmer in the Amazon.

Half of the fun of hockey is creating, and then believing in completely unsubstantiated rumors. I tend to believe this is what has kept the people of Toronto going all these years. In going through the scratch and dent pile of remaining free agents/disgruntled veterans, I managed to find a couple who, if the situation was right, would fit nicely on the Avs.

Dany Heatley

Tell me this guy wouldn't destroy the world getting served up by Paul Stastny for a few years. Sure, the rest of the hockey world believes Heatley is some kind of evil mongoloid who has ruined Ottawa. But has anyone considered that maybe Heatley wants out because he's playing in Ottawa?

Let's see...wedging away a disgruntled superstar stuck on a Canadian team that appears to be blaming him for the downfall of their mighty franchise...sounds like a job for Pierre Lacroix!

Juri Hudler

This little punk from Detroit looks and plays a helluva lot like Marek Svatos...if Svatos still had two good shoulders. Hudler is currently taking the Wings to arbitration, and there is a slight chance they might not meet his demands and he could be claimed in a trade. Should this scenario happen the Avs might be well served to take a chance on this speedy little sniper from hell, if only to cheese hard core Wingnuts.

The only question would be finding an occasionally spectacular, often injured player to send their way. (Uwe Krupp anyone?) What about...Marek Svatos?

Alex Kovalev

Need a moody, selfish, occasionally spectacular, highly paid 70 point scorer who is being run out of town by his or-gan-eye-zation? Look no further than Alex Kovalev. Something tells me the Avs would already have him if there were no salary cap and this was 2001. If only because it would barely make any sense.

Brendan Morrison

Unless I'm missing something and he sill has no knees, or Dallas has already signed him. The Avalanche NEED a guy like Brendan Morrison, even if he is in a wheelchair that he has to control with his lips. Witness Dallas's disintegration after Morrison went out for the season last year. Yes, he's a center and the Avs don't need centers...but really Matt Duschene isn't going to be ready for at least a year. It's something to think about...

Maxim Afinogenov

Maybe his glorious coming out party a couple years back was the product of playing with Daniel Briere, maybe it wasn't. Maybe Afinogenov isn't going to Russia to play, maybe he will. And maybe the Avalanche could use a forward who is still in his prime, who has good hands, and if he played for the Avs we would have plenty of good times making fun of the fact that he looks like a drunk Prince Valliant in his yahoo profile pic:;_ylt=Av_faM3PymUUrBIRraW3_D1ivLYF

Moving on...

Sergei Zubov

Hall of Fame caliber...still unsigned...moves the puck well even when standing still...say, maybe the Avs could get a deal on the old warhorse.

Martin Skoula

(Okay I just threw him in so that you could say "Skoula Sucks")

As you can see, there is still some value to be had if the Avalanche had the wherewithal, and somehow lose all of their discipline, like the Rangers do around this time of year, every year.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Weeklies

After what was an extremely active week for the Avalanche in terms of signings the youth movement is officially on in Denver. Little more than a week ago things looked bleak for the team from The Mountains, (granted this rebuild will take time) but as we have learned never count out the Avalanche front office in terms of scouting and bussing players out of town.

-The Mullet Heads to The Beach

I must say it was a bit of a sad 4th of July at DNP HQ. Seeing Ryan Smyth pack up and head to Los Angeles was a bit difficult to take. Denver will miss his heart, work ethic, and most notably his mighty flowing pelt of glory. Take heed Avalanchos! Mullets with that kind of integrity don’t come around very often.

On the positive side, Pierre Lacroix and crew managed to land some upside aside from dumping the remaining years of Smitty’s 5 year, 31.25 million dollar contract.

At the ripe old age of 23, Kyle Quincey possesses size and awareness, especially from the point on the power play. In leading the Kings in defensive scoring last year (38 points in 72 games) Quincey showed promise. His minus-5 plus/minus requires improvement, but the hope here is that as Quincey steps into his mid-20’s he will round into a decent stopper. Failing that his price tag of $550,000 per year ain’t too shabby.

To say Tom Preissing is a bit of a toss-in on top of this deal is well, a bit of an understatement. Two years off of a career best plus-40 with Ottawa, Preissing struggled to play 22 games with the Kings last season. The mystery with Preissing is whether is if he can return to form as a defensive asset, or if his large numbers from two years ago were the product of a high-powered offense in Ottawa.

Just as playing behind a good defense can skew a goalie’s numbers, so can a defenseman have his numbers skewed by playing with a scoring offense. After being named a Hobey Baker finalist out of Colorado College in 2003, Preissing jumped out of the gate fast in San Jose, which eventually landed him a good contract in Ottawa, and consequently a good season. Then came the doldrums in Los Angeles. If he plays in Colorado, he should be counted on as a serviceable defenseman, but at age 30 he is looking at the downside of his prime, so don’t expect big numbers from Preissing this season, assuming he gets into the lineup.

-Mister Anderson

It has bothered me in recent years whenever the Avalanche bring in a new goalie to “challenge” Peter Budaj for the starting goaltender position. Let’s face facts people, Peter Budaj is not a starting goalie. He never was. If he were he would not require motivation in the form of the Jose Theodore’s and Andrew Raycroft’s of the world.

This brings us to Craig Anderson. At $1.8 million Anderson brings with him upside in the form of a tasty .924 save percentage in 31 games as Tomas Vokoun’s backup in Florida. He isn’t necessarily a top-flight goalie, but he does bring with him a good work ethic and the ability to get hot and carry his team, as was evidenced in periods late last season when Vokoun was out with injuries.

Anderson’s numbers won’t be any better than they were in Florida (2.71 GAA), as he’ll man the pipes behind a spotty defense once again. Still, the Avalanche now have a goalie who can make some stops, and with his rather trim salary leaves room for a potential Jonas Gustavsson signing, who for all intents and purposes is still available despite indications he may be heading in the direction of Dallas.

-Alex Tanguay Part Deux-Do we really need this rumor?

Of all the teams trying to make a dent this free agency Montreal has to be on the top of the list. In landing the likes of Mike Cammaleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez the Habs are once again pushing for the Stanley Cup before the people of Hab-land grow even more impatient and start burning cars.

With the addition of Gomez (and his disgustingly large contract considering how he’s worth maybe 65 points in a good year) as the second line center behind Thomas Plekanec, it appears Tanguay is getting bumped from the top two lines. Furthermore,the additions on Gionta and Cammaleri complicate matters.

So let’s look at what we do know:

1. Tanguay is capable of playing both left wing and center.

2. The Avalanche, who have an overabundance of centermen (Sakic-assuming he returns-, Stastny, Duschene, Hensick, Stoa) are thin at left wing (Wolski, McCloud, Gagliardi).

3. Say, maybe the Avalanche could use Alex Tanguay! Go Avs!

(I love hockey rumors)

Could Tanguay return to the Avs? Certainly.

Will Tanguay return to the Avs? I doubt it.

Even with the departure of Ryan Smyth the Avalanche are still looking to recover money. And the real question here is if the Avalanche are looking at bringing in Tanguay do they want to take the chance of trading away future talent to sign on a less than a point-per-game player for good money?

If yes, then they will have less room to rebuild.

If no, then more power to them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Drafting Up A Future

For those that had become used to seeing the Avalanche succeed up until the time of the lockout (and even for a couple of years thereafter) it has to boggle the mind that the Avalanche haven't managed to land a top five pick in the NHL draft in seventeen years.

Yep, the last time the Avalanche (then Nordiques) landed in a position to certifiably draft talent Dan Quayle was writing "potatoe" on a chalkboard in a classroom full children, John Gotti was getting hauled off to the clink, and yours truly was stumbling through high school while clad head to toe in flannel.

People, few things were good about calendar year 1992.

Flash forward to today, and I have to say the future looks a little bit brighter for our beloved hockey club. For the first time in a very long time, the Avalanche have managed to truck in some talent without having to trade Brian Rolston...or Alex Tanguay...or Chris Drury...or...I could go on.

Matt Duchene!

Now all we need is to find a team looking to fill their lineup with some scratch and dent players (Marek Svatos, Scott Hannan) and the Avalanche will be well on their way to success!

Success you say? How? They stink!

Yes kids, like many a crappy team before them the team from The Mountains is fully engaged in what I like to call "The National Hockey League's Talent Bailout Program!"

It is a simple program sponsored by Gary Bettman's irrational belief that parity is a good thing. All it takes is semi-coherent management and a group of athletes who are completely incapable of winning games. Mix in three to four years of pathetic performance, a few salary dumps here and there, a dash of fan sponsored apathy, and before long your team will be signing up top-five draft picks like NAMBLA sponsors at a Jonas Brothers concert!

No need to look any further than the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins as the best example of the benefits of prolonged tanking! Crosby, Malkin, Fleury. In fact the Pens acquired so much talent during their decade from hell that they were even able to throw some of it away (Esposito) in pursuit of players who later refused to play for them (Hossa), and still etch their names on that glorious chalice!

Need more examples?

Okay, how about the soon to be perennial Western Conference Finalist Chicago Blackhawks?

Oh and there's the St. Louis Blues...and what about the Phoenix Coyotes (save Wayne "I can't coach my way out of a wet paper sack" Gretzky)?

See a trend developing?

This is the great part of supporting a pathetic hockey team. At some point they will suck hard enough that they will be afforded the opportunity to get much, much better.

Better yet, if fans are lucky ticket prices will drop along with attendance, and Jim Balsille will swoop in and attempt to move the squad to Canada. At which point The Commish will step in, shut down the Canadian Supervillain and even *ahem* tilt the draft in your favor. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

And like Christmas in July you have yourself the likes of Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin.

It's juuust that easy!

Now for the next act, getting
Jonas Gustavsson into a nice condo in Cherry Creek.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Because Sometimes You Get A Job

Okay, I admit it, I suck.

Having posted only one single rant wherein I held aloft the accomplishments the mighty Patrick Roy during calendar year 2009 I must hang my head lower than the vaunted Red Wings after they choked away the Stanley Cup.

I feel shame.

There are excuses. Oh yes, there are excuses!

Perhaps the best and worst thing ever to happen in the history of communication has been the advent of the good ol web log. It has allowed many a downtrodden or bored individual to throw up opinions for all the world to see in a public format. This can be good if you are an Avalanche fan (see the playoffs of 2008) and also bad...if you are an Avalanche fan (see the season from hell of 2009).

When I started hammering out these DNP's in 2007 I was in the middle of a quandary of Chaucerian proportions. Simply, it was the best of times, and the worst of times.

I was one of the first people laid off in what has become a very long year and a half for the rest of America. See, I work in architecture (General Contractors please arm your nail guns) and towards the end of the Bush era I think we all know what happened to the construction market. Kaputsky.

Strangely enough my unemployment at the beginning of last year led to me knocking out daily Dog and Ponies for the masses which in a short span of time gained me some notoriety (I think IWOCPO and his gang of idiots over at Kukla's Korner is still trying to find me so they can try and break my knees). I even got published in the Great Book of Denver Sports Lists by Irv Brown and Joe Williams, for which I was paid in nothing but honor. But in that case honor was more than enough.

Therein lay the crux of the problem. Writing gigs don't pay in money.

Flummoxed, and running out of government funding I signed on with a large firm in Phoenix (they have an iced hockey teem), and proceeded to work my living ass off for the entirely of the last calendar year. Much like my beloved Avalanche I was frequently beaten about the head and neck by stingy clientèle, and shortly after my mighty relocation *poof* no more Dog and Ponies for my hockey starved friends.

Bottom line, steady employment ruined by writing career.

All apologies gang.

LET IT BE KNOWN I still do pay attention to the sport of GOD and fully plan on righting this ship. Much like the Avalanche I am hard at work "cleaning house" so to speak, and fully intend to participate in the glorious art of writing for free so that you MY READERS have something to do when you aren't secretly burning discs of your work in your cubicles for use in future interviews.

A couple of quick comments from the last few months:

- Joe Sacco?!

Okay, so Patty Roy didn't want the gig. Fair enough. But could Lacroix have selected someone who has a name that won't completely confuse everyone?

In previous years I got the idea that Pierre always had something up his sleeve. This time around I'm convinced that he is fully intending on tanking the next four years of hockey in Denver.

Certainly Sacco did a good job working out the kids in the minors, but I can't help but get the idea that working as head coach for Pierre Lacroix must be worse than working for Donald Trump, i.e. piss off Pierre and you will never be allowed back in the building.

Bob Hartley isn't up to anything, and Marc Crawford got snapped up by Dallas...and these guys weren't on speed dial once Roy turned down the job? BOTH former Stanley Cup winning coaches weren't considered? Seriously, who did Bob Harley ever hurt? Did he crap in Lacroix's desk on the way out? I don't get it.

-Sidney Crosby didn't shake my hand fast enough and it made me feel poopy.

I find it amazing that all Chris Draper and Nik Lidstrom could do after CHOKING away a Stanley Cup was bitch about Sid the Kid not making it to the post-game lineup fast enough...because he was being interviewed. And then every Detroit fan on the planet spent the next week of their lives whining about it. Really? Weren't the Wings THE CLASS of the NHL? It is whining. It is lame. Stop acting like children. Red. Wings. Suck.

-Deader and Steve. Welcome back.

Even though Adam Deadmarsh and Steve Konowalchuk aren't playing we should all be happy that the Avs have two more leaders back in the or-gan-eye-zation who can help bring the club back to prominence.

-Now that the Avs certifiably suck does this mean Ryan Smyth is due for a career year?

(Someone had to point this out. For whatever reason Smitty thrives when he is THE guy)

-Will Wojtek ever be good?

Ummm...did you catch him in the shootouts last season? I say if he shows up to camp with some more body fat he may just have a (don't take this the wrong way) Todd Bertuzzi-like coming out party. Everyone forgets this but Bertuzzi wasn't Bertuzzi (pre-murderous rampage) until he was in the league for a few years and he grew into his body. I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'...

-Finally, Paul Stastny. Next great center of the Avalanche, or next great second line center?

Pay attention people, this next season will be crucial in Stastny's development. Can he stay healthy? Can he take over games? Again, this next season is HUGE for number 26.

That's all for now gang. It's good to be back from the woods.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Greatest

If ever there were a time to avoid writing an article of any sort about Denver sports now is surely that time. At least that is what I have told myself during most of this hockey season. It is difficult to write articles when there has been so little good to write about; to discover bright spots during a season so bleak.

Last in the West. How terrible that phrase sounds.

In a season that up until last week seemed to only feature conversations about how long it would take the Avalanche to return to relevance, I cannot blame anyone for finding a reason to avoid watching the boys in burgundy. Because really, in a day and age when terrible sports does nothing to ease the sting of “these troubled economic times”, who wants to deal with another letdown?

Unless of course you can find motivation in the support of a cause. In case you didn’t notice because you were too busy plotting a personal economic exit strategy involving living free in national parks, Martin Brodeur has been crowned “The Greatest Goalie Ever.”


The pundits in the East have pointed at Brodeur’s new (and growing) all time wins total. They have trumpeted his impending milestone for the most shutouts. I have even read theories about how Marty may have won more 2-1 games than any other goalie, and like the sheep we are, nearly everyone has been nodding their heads in approval.

Truly, what is not to like about Martin Brodeur? He is a calm, unassuming player, and a fundamentally perfect goaltender. Few goalies of this age instill more respect in the opposing team.

Yet the man who would be king must still bow to those who refined the position for him. Bow to men who paved the way for his success: Benedict, Bower, Vezina, Esposito, Smith, Parent, Hall, Plante, Sawchuk, Dryden, Tretiak, Fuhr, and Roy.

For Avalanche fans who must lean on better times and memories, it is difficult to accept Brodeur as the greatest. Simply, we know better. We have seen it ourselves.

Rarely in sports do we as fans gain the opportunity to see greatness compete against greatness. But up until Patrick Roy’s retirement in 2003, Avalanche fans were treated to just that. It was in Roy that fans witnessed firsthand the triumph of greatness over excellence.

Specifically this triumph can be summed up in the form of a single game. Namely, game six of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.

In the zenith of what was a long and arduous playoffs, two great teams staffed with legends were mired in the equivalent of trench warfare. The neutral zone trap had cinched off nearly all offense. In fact one of the teams, the Devils of New Jersey, had not only ushered in The Trap, they had practically invented the abomination that was destroying the game. And at its center was Martin Brodeur.

The four-time Vezina Trophy winner can hardly be blamed for being the beneficiary of a revolutionary defensive system for most of his career. In his own right Brodeur is, was, and shall be a first ballot Hall of Fame goaltender. But as the lynchpin of a system that could turn average goalies into good goalies, and good goalies into superstars, Brodeur has surely reaped the benefits.

Coming off their second Stanley Cup championship in five years, the Devils had gained the upper hand in a back and forth series and wrestled away home ice advantage from the Avalanche heading into game six of the Cup finals in 2001. Having rolled the Avalanche 4-1 in a pivotal game five at the Pepsi Center, game six was to be a mere formality. Avalanche were staggered and perched on a cliff needing only to be coaxed over the edge.

Enter greatness. Enter Patrick Roy.

Of any critique that has been leveled against Roy the most accurate is that his supreme arrogance was also his Achilles heel. On one hand his belief that he was the best pushed him to incredible heights, as evidenced by his 10 straight overtime victories in pulling a bad Montreal team to the Cup in 1993. On the other hand there is the image of Roy raising an empty glove against Steve Yzerman during game six of the 2002 Western Conference finals. Then, the hallmark of game five of the 2001 Finals was a Roy flub in which he misplayed the puck behind his net, leading to a momentum changing New Jersey goal; an embarrassment that would surely cost them a championship.

So easily we forget our history, and at the time we were no different. Time and again during his career Roy upheld the label as not only one of the greats, but as the greatest “money” goalie of all time for a reason. When victory mattered most Patrick Roy had no peer. To this day his playoff achievements are unparalleled, as he owns records for most career playoff games played by a goaltender (247), minutes played (15,209), most career playoff wins (151), and most career playoff shutouts (23). Again, when it mattered most Roy excelled.

On that June evening in 2001 with the Stanley Cup at stake no team, no goalie, much less the great Martin Brodeur was going to defeat Patrick Roy.

From the start the Devils were furious in their onslaught, peppering Roy at every opportunity as they had in earlier games. In the first period alone the Avalanche and Roy fought off three shorthanded situations and twelve quality chances, with nearly every one seeming to come from within ten feet of the net.

Sakic, Forsberg, Bourque, Blake, Foote, Drury, the presence of these legends did not ultimately seem to matter. Roy would not be shaken in his focus, and gradually his influence grew and empowered his teammates.

Twelve shots against in the first.
Seven shots against in the second.
Five shots against in the third.

By the end of the third the Devils had turned the game into a street fight, not out of necessity, but out of frustration. In the end the score could not hope to illustrate how Roy had controlled not only the Devils, but also Martin Brodeur, who seemed to devolve and stray from his fundamentals as the game wore on. At times he flopped and dove in desperate attempts to regain an edge that only hours before was his.

Four to zero. A shutout. The Devils were broken. In the greatest matchup between the greatest of goaltenders Roy was the resounding champion. Game seven in Colorado was now the formality, and ultimate victory was simple and sure.

In life there are times in which we are made to doubt what we know to be true despite all evidence to the contrary. These are times when certainty can be destroyed by a simple shift in thinking.

The art of goaltending does not revolve around simply stopping the hockey puck. The art is in stripping the opposing team of its confidence. In this way Patrick Roy achieved something that was greater than his position. Roy mastered the art of controlling the mental chemistry of his opponent.

In this area no other goalie in the history of the game seems to measure up. Certainly Brodeur’s numbers will be greater than all others, and when he is finished he may own all the important records. But in the end these numbers ultimately do not matter.

On that one day in 2001, in that one series, Patrick Roy proved why above all else he is the greatest goaltender to ever play the game.