Category Archives: Hockey

The NHL Lockout

Is it just me, or was this lockout more of a surprise than both the NBA and NFL lockouts? The NFL lockout you knew was going to happen, but you also knew was going to be resolved before the season started. The NBA lockout was expected, and there was even the potential for a lost season. The NHL lockout? Didn’t we just have one of those?

That was really the only thought I had when it become obvious that this was going to be an issue. The entire time I thought: isn’t hockey doing great right now? Hasn’t it accomplished almost everything it could’ve hoped for after the last lockout? Do they really want to risk that growth now, especially after they saw what happened after the last one?

After the last lockout the NHL lost their deal with ESPN. In their place? College football. While never completely forgotten, the NHL clearly felt like it was just on a different level from what became the major three team sports in America: baseball, basketball, and football.

Slowly things turned around. The rule changes implemented after the lockout made the game faster and more exciting. There was more parity in the league, and exciting playoff finishes each season. NBC just put together a new sports channel (cleverly titled NBC Sports) with hockey as its main draw. The NBA and NFL lockouts gave the NHL some good will back from fans. It made their lockout seem a little more excusable, and made them seem like the stable league since there was no way they would have another lockout so soon (stupid, stupid, stupid).

Now I’m just at a loss. This entire situation seems like it was avoidable.

One look at the NHL’s original proposal could make you laugh out loud. I swear, I thought it was a joke. To me it reads like this: Hey players, there will be a lockout this season.

How else do you explain the owners demanding a player cut in profit percent from around 60% to almost as low as 40%? All this while extending the years a player has till he reaches unrestricted free agency, and eliminating arbitration. It is just too much, and entirely unreasonable to expect the players to accept it. Didn’t they just agree to a salary cap? Baby steps people.

This isn’t to say I feel badly for the players, simply that I don’t really see what they could’ve done differently.

Once again, though, the ultimate losers are the fans. Honestly, this is probably the most infuriating lockout of the three. Now, I haven’t sat in on any negotiations. I haven’t talked to anyone involved in negotiations (100% to do with the fact that I’m one of a large number of people who paid the minimal fee to have their own low traffic blog on the internet) so take what I say with a grain of salt. To me, it is beyond insulting. It is saying that there is absolutely zero thought for the fans. I see this as the owners observing the NFL and NBA lockout their players, get what they wanted, and, in the end, not lose any fan support. They see us as a group they can abuse all they want, because in the end they know we’ll be back.

They’re right. When the lockout ends, I will no doubt be watching the Rangers again. That doesn’t mean the whole situation doesn’t make me angry. Worse it almost makes me apathetic. I haven’t paid much attention to the lockout. This after reading articles every day on the NFL and NBA ones. Right now, I don’t care about the NHL. Still love hockey. Can’t wait to make it to my undergrad to see some D-I hockey. Might even check out some AHL games, and I’m currently interning with a Junior Hockey team. But the NHL I’ll live without. What’s the point in doing anything differently.

This lockout was completely avoidable. Having one shows a complete lack of respect for the fans, the players, and the NHL product itself. Apparently all of it is worth risking to make more money.

Richards Signs

Nine years? NINE YEARS?!? Do the Rangers even read my blog? (don’t answer that)

I guess (after moving past the shock and horror of the deal) I can see the positives. There is a lot of money invested in Gaborik and we cannot afford him having as poor of a season as he just had. If Richards can raise the level of Gaborik and the powerplay, this was a good signing. In addition, this move can push the Dubinsky-Callahan line down to the second line, which could take pressure off them and have them improve for yet another season.

This team is still young, but if Richards has a good 4-5 years in him, he should be around for a few title runs. Let’s hope he and Torts can recapture some of that magic they had back in 2004.

Also, I’m praying Richards decides he doesn’t want to play hockey anymore at the age of 36-37. The guy will be in NY…maybe he lands a part in a Broadway play? How much fun will he have playing for the Connecticut Whale anyway? (hello Wade Redden) Being serious though, I don’t see Richards playing till he is 40. If you look at the breakdown of the contract, the last four years he is only making $1 million a year, and that is generally a move teams do to make the cap hit more friendly during the years the player is on the team. (think about the whole Kovalchuck issue with the Devils last year) Reportedly his cap hit will be $6.67 million a year, not a terrible number if he can stay healthy and play at the level the Rangers expect him to.

It also doesn’t hurt to know he left around $10 million on the table to sign with the Rangers. Always nice to have players that wanted to come to New York than wanted to grab the most money.

I guess all in all, my problem with this signing has never been specifically with Richards. Instead, I am just worried we will fall into the same trap we have with Drury and Gomez and other players with high salaries and high expectations that haven’t worked out. Who knows, maybe this signing will be different (just thinking about probability…don’t we have to get it right once?) I’ll just hope that the concussion he had last season doesn’t lead to any ill effects (like another concussion) and focus on next season.

…Chris who? Right?

The Definition of Insanity

I would love to believe that Brad Richards is the missing link for this Rangers team. That putting him on a line with Gaborik would solve their scoring problems and coupled with the development of their young players, and another spectacular season from Lundqvist they could win a championship. Unfortunately, I’m not insane.

The idea of signing a center to a long lucrative contract, right after buying out a center that you signed to a long lucrative contract (Chris Drury) is insane. Shouldn’t having Wade Redden reappear on the team’s cap be a friendly reminder of this ridiculous thought process?

I don’t understand how the Rangers can insist on having a youth movement, and then after ONE season dole out a huge long term contract to an aging center who just had concussion problems. I can’t see Richards being worth the money in the last two years of his contract, a time the Rangers are going to want to lock up some of their young players. As for now, it’s not as if the Rangers are one player away. This is a team that just made the eighth seed on the final day of the season, before winning one game against a team that was subsequently swept in the next round.

Listen, if Richards was coming on a four or five year deal, I don’t think I would have that big of a problem with it. He is a good player, and while the Rangers have been burned in the past, perhaps he can give the Blueshirts a few good seasons. The problem is, Richards is not signing for cheap, even though he claims he would “love” to play for the Rangers. The Flyers just traded away two of their best players to have a chance to sign this guy. Would a team really do that if they didn’t intend to throw a lot of money at this guy, and have a good chance of signing him? If it takes 6-7 years to sign him, I don’t want him.

I just can’t comprehend how Sather can be at this again. Drury, Gomez, Redden and the list goes on. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity. So while I’d love to believe Richards is going to come to New York and light things up, eventually helping the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, I just can’t keep believing these high profile signing won’t blow up in our face. Call me crazy, but I want to stick with our young guys.

Playoff Push

For the second season in a row it looks like the Rangers will be making a push for the playoffs. Luckily for the Blueshirts they are in a better position than they were last year. In seventh place and within shouting distance of sixth the Rangers should make the playoffs, especially if they continue their strong play.

The past two games were blowouts in favor of New York, with their most recent win a 7-0 thrashing of the first-place Flyers. A very satisfying win as it was the first one of the season against their heated rivals, and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.

More importantly for the Blueshirts was the return of Gaborik, making the Rangers the healthiest they have been all season. While he was not a big contributor, the focus the defense put on him definitely opened things up for his teammates.

Another note to make was the game Callahan had. He has been great all season and looks like the Rangers captain of the future. In a game they had to win, Callahan put up four goals making it an easy win.

Of course Lundqvist had a great game, shutting out one of the best offenses in the NHL. If Lundqvist can get hot he can lead this team to a long playoff run. With the slow start the Rangers had to the second half of the season, these last two games have been nice to watch. Hopefully they continue to play well and give us an exciting spring.

Islanders’ Win Streak At Four

It was euphoric at the Nassau Coliseum on Monday night when Brendan Witt scored his second goal of the game. It was at a fever pitch when he was going for his third. The 34-year-old defenseman notched his first career two-goal game, and despite missing the hat trick on an open net late in the third period, the Islanders’ stay at home d-man hit the final note on a 4-game win streak-symphony on the Island.

At 5-4-5 on the season, the Islanders now are 7th in the Eastern Conference and have 15 points after a dismal start that saw the team get only one regulation win against four losses and five overtime losses. Unlike the lowly Maple Leafs, who still only have one win on the season, the Islanders were able to stay fairly competitive until the win streak kicked in. Head Coach Scott Gordon’s “overspeed” system seems to be paying dividends early on: AHL-refugee Matt Moulson leads the team in points along with John Tavares, the first overall pick, who has lived up to every bit of pre-draft hype. Former first-rounder Kyle Okposo is one point behind Tavares and Moulson for the team lead, and has shown maturity and moves that belie his 21 years.

But the win streak, although a collective team effort (along with stellar goaltending from Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson, who split time in net) could be called The Reemergence of Jeff Tambellini. The former-AHL stud and 27th overall pick in 2003 (by the L.A. Kings) who scored a record 76 points in 57 games in Bridgeport (AHL) in ‘07-08, is one goal behind his career high in the NHL. He’s already had more than half of his total points from last year (15) in only 9 games this season (he already has 8 this year).

Is it possible that the beleaguered winger finally has hit his stride? Perhaps. Gordon cites a Matt Moulson-esque mentality in Tambellini that has him driving to the net, shooting and converting more—he has had a stellar 24% of his shots go in the net so far. Capped off by his first career hat trick against the Sabres, Tambellini’s resurgence has been a revelation for the Isles. A genuine scoring threat, Tambellini’s confidence now seems to be overflowing; watching young Islanders like him, Tavares, Okposo, Moulson, and Frans Nielsen connect with hard nosed effort and often beautifully improvised and flashy plays, the Islanders have gone from a surefire repeat of basement dwellers to an exciting team in the course of a week and a half.

Captain Doug Weight, since returning from a bout with the flu, has made a noticeable difference in the surging Islanders’ game, often setting up drives to the net, especially from his linemates, Okposo and Tavares. Although the Islanders still have holes and haven’t proven they can keep up Gordon’s system over a full 60+ minutes, this progress has to be encouraging for the coaching staff. Despite last year’s first rounder Josh Bailey’s lack of production, a mediocre fourth line, and lack of production from the likes of Blake Comeau (a healthy scratch of late), it has been offset by solid offensive performances, an excellent defensive game by veteran Andy Sutton and Jack Hillen, and an improving Bruno Gervais.

As long as Gordon’s Isles continue to knock off good teams and get solid goaltending from Biron and Roloson until Rick DiPietro returns (sometime in late Novermber or early December), things are looking good for the upstart Islanders. For the first time in recent memory, there is good reason to be excited for the future of the oft-down and out team from Long Island.

By: Zach