Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Good Coin For Little Return

It was expected that the Ottawa Senators were taking a bit of a loss when they traded Jason Spezza to Dallas for Alex Chiasson, but I'm not sure that a 26-point season was the return they were expecting. Chiasson was supposed to provide some immediate scoring on the wing for the Senators, but he didn't really pan out in terms of being the scorer they needed. While he was effective at using his body along the boards, finding the back of the net was more of a challenge. It was expected that Chiasson would ask for a raise upon becoming a restricted free agent, but asking for one and deserving one are two completely different things.

I'm not one for calling out bloggers who do work for specific teams, but the garbage I read today over at a certain site regarding Chiasson's play last season is beyond laughable. Chiasson earned $900,000 for his play last season, and was awarded a $1.2 million, one-year contract by an arbitrator this season. While a modest $300,000 raise is fine by most salary cap standards, I'm not sure that Chiasson deserved a raise based on his lackluster stats and rather indifferent play.

One of the more unfathomable statements by the writer above was,
"Last season, Chiasson was instrumental on the power play, scoring three goals and adding three helpers, while using his 6′ 4, 205-pound frame to his advantage, dishing out a career-high 93 hits."
How three goals and three assists on the power-play makes one "instrumental" is beyond me. He was ninth-best on his own team in power-play points - one better than "defensive MVP" Patrick Wiercioch - and four points back of Clarke MacArthur who played 14 fewer games than Chiasson.

To make matters worse, the writer above dropped this gem of a line in writing, "... he brings just as much to the table as the aforementioned Ryan and Hoffman" in his article. Yes, the 26-point Chiasson brings as much to the table as the 54-point Bobby Ryan and 48-point Mike Hoffman. This comparison is beyond insane. How is that Chiasson can average one minute less per game than Mike Hoffman yet finish 21 points fewer than Hoffman if they bring the same amount to the table? Could it be effort? Heart? Determination? The will to head into high-traffic areas? The sacrifice of giving up a puck to get it back? Any or all of the above?

Let's be honest here in saying that the 25 year-old Chiasson has all the potential in the world to be a gamer. He could show up next season with a little more muscle and take some major steps forward in being the solid power forward the Senators need. The difference between potential and talent, though, is a wide gap, and it's up to Chiasson to close it. Asking for a raise when you've done little to justify said raise is pretty ballsy in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

"In our opinion, both sides made fair, detailed arguments and we are satisfied with the ruling of the arbitrator," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said after the arbitrator's ruling. "We are happy to have Alex under contract and anticipate that he will be a productive player for us this season. Alex will be given the chance to have an important role in the team's success."

Sounds like the ball is squarely in Chiasson's court to prove to the Senators that he's worth the money. There's no question that the Senators want him to become more of a regular scoring threat, and they were prepared to meet Chiasson's demands with an arbitrator's ruling. After all, when a writer who is signing your praises writes just below that Chiasson "... will also have room to improve his defensive game which admittedly needs work," chances are you aren't a very strong player at the NHL level, especially when Ottawa needs a very good defensive game in the division they play.

But when writing statements such as Chiasson's "tireless contributions and tremendous potential will definitely be something that the Ottawa Senators can take to the bank", you have to wonder if people are watching the game at all. If 26 points are "tireless contributions", there should be a number of overpaid players in the NHL. And all the "tremendous potential" and a loonie will still only get you a cup of coffee. It's the realization of that potential that makes players rich.

You can take that to the bank instead if you're looking to yield a payoff.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Semin-imum Risk

Alexander Semin's time in Carolina was cut short by three years after the Hurricanes decided they had seen enough of his disappearing act. It wasn't surprising considering his six-goal performance last season, and it's being very apparent that he was the beneficiary of a system in Washington that prided themselves on offence. Never scoring less that 21 goals per season in his six seasons with the Capitals, he eclipsed 21 goals only once in three seasons in Carolina in 2013-14 when he notched 22. After signing a contract with the Montreal Canadiens, one has to wonder which Semin is going to show up this season.

Never mind the fact that Michel Therrien won't stand for his disappearing act, but the Canadiens will expect him to work hard, back-check like a demon, and play defensively sound hockey. Montreal is a defence-first team that has some offensive stars, but they're probably not going to have an Art Ross Trophy winner on their roster any time soon. While adding a former firty-goal scorer to the lineup is fantastic on most accounts, Semin is six seasons removed from that year and hasn't broken thirty goals since. It's going to be difficult to see him potting forty this season based on how Montreal plays as well.

However, if Semin plays like he did in the following video night-in and night-out, everyone will welcome him with open arms.
Giveaway at the blue line aside, that's some solid hustle. The problem is that Semin doesn't often give that kind of effort.

Plugging Semin into the roster spot vacated by PA Parenteau will be interesting considering the one major complaint about the Canadiens is their lack of size up front. Semin is listed at 6'2" tall, but plays like he's 5'9". He's seems somewhat allergic to the corners of the rink, he doesn't throw the body all that much, and driving to the net is a phrase Semin hasn't quite figured out yet. For a guy listed at 6'2" and 210 pounds, he needs to play more like a Max Pacioretty if he wants to succeed in Montreal. Heck, let him work this summer with Brendan Gallagher on how to fight one's way to the net.

While his $1.1 million contract will allow for the Canadiens to bury him in the minors if things go sideways, his cap hit won't sink the team if Therrien uses his healthy scratch option on him. Semin is near the league minimum for salary and he's working on a one-year contract, so there's plenty of motivation for him to play as hard as he can. He admittedly stated in his press conference and, depending on how this season goes, it may have been the beginning of the end for the 31 year-old. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis cited competitiveness as a reason for waiving Semin while head coach Bill Peters scratched him due to conditioning on occasion. Those are the kinds of marks on a player that can kill a career.

"Alex is a pure goal-scorer with a good shot," general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "We believe his addition to our group of forwards will strengthen our offensive production and our power play. A veteran winger with size, Semin has reached the 20-goal plateau seven times since the beginning of his NHL career 12 years ago. His signing represents a great opportunity for the organization and for Alex's career."

The last part about the opportunity for his career has probably never been truer. Semin's on a thin thread in terms of staying in the NHL, and he'll have to show everyone that he still has the hustle and drive that made him one of the league's best goal scorers in Washington. Otherwise, no team will take a chance on him next season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Capital Expenditure

According to Wikipedia, a capital expenditure "is incurred when a business spends money either to buy fixed assets or to add to the value of an existing fixed asset with a useful life extending beyond the taxable year." If one were looking at Braden Holtby's new contract, I'd say that the Capitals spending money on their asset for the next five years is a wise investment. Holtby and the Washington Capitals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a five-year deal worth $30.5 million as the Capitals locked down their goaltending for the immediate future.

Holtby certainly proved his worth last season after posting a record of 41-20-10 with a 2.22 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He was a major reason why the Capitals went from a wild card team to a legitimate playoff team, and his work in the series over the Islanders can't be overlooked. Holtby really has solidified a position that had been shaky over the years for the Capitals, and he supplanted both Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov after those two netminders were expected to rise to the occasion.

The salary commitment by the Capitals is a little unorthodox, though, as Holtby will receive $3.5 million plus $3M bonus this year, two years at $7 million, and two more at $5 million. I'm not sure a signing bonus was necessary, but the average cap hit of $5.1 million isn't terrible, and he'll be 30 years-old when the five-year deal expires which gives both Holtby and the Capitals some options at that time.

There will be questions as to whether Holtby is the netminder that can lead the Capitals to the promised land, but he had better regular-season stats than both Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford, and they played for the Stanley Cup. He tied for second in wins with 41, fifth in GAA and save percentage, and was tied for second in total shutouts for the season. There aren't many goalies with those kinds of numbers who are being paid less than Holtby, so it's now on Holtby's shoulders to continue to deliver those kinds of numbers.

"Since Day One I've wanted to be the guy in the Washington Capitals net, since I got drafted by them," Holtby told Katie Brown of NHL.com. "It doesn't change. I'm just happy to have the opportunity, and like in the past I know I still have to prove it."

Clearly, he had a great season, finishing fourth in Vezina Trophy voting, but he set a number of career-bests last season while tying a number of Capitals franchise records. "My goal has always been to win as many games as possible and work toward that goal of a Stanley Cup," Holtby said. "Obviously, we fell short, so we know we need to get better - myself, our group - and I think we're doing the right things to do that. I try and focus on my job to win games and accomplish the main goal."

The Capitals have given Holtby 30.5 million reasons to continue to improve and win as many games. There is still the outstanding arbitration hearing for Marcus Johansson who also set career highs in goals, assists, and points last season, but, unlike Holtby, there has been little movement on that front from either side. Holtby, though, solidifies the defensive zone considerably with this signing, and I expect him to continue to provide above-average goaltending going forward.

Especially in an always-improving Metropolitan Division.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 149

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back for another episode of fun-filled craziness, possibly some prize giveaways, and the return of someone whom we've been hunting for some time now! Ok, so maybe "hunting" isn't the right word, but we, along with many fans, have been wondering about the whereabouts of a certain third-(wo)man-in who has been absent for the summer. All of this and more on tonight's episode of The Hockey Show!

We've tracked her down, brought her back, and she'll be in the studio tonight as Columbus makes her return to The Hockey Show! We'll catch up with Miss America on what she's been doing in the good ol' USofA, and we're going to run her through the tasks as our resident fashion police after the NHL debuted new looks at the NHL Entry Draft and the Milwaukee Admirals changed their look. Heck, there might even be something waiting for her tonight at the studio as a "welcome back" gift!

In between the festivities, the three of us will talk about the two expansion team bids, why there weren't more bids submitted, Columbus has a news story to update (see? We put her back to work as our intrepid reporter), Amanda Kessel calling it quits for a college hockey career and what that means for the NCAA and USA Hockey going forward, and much more. Of course, your calls and tweets are welcome, so get those in tonight!

The phones will be wide open and we we'll be awaiting your calls on all things hockey! Hit us up at 204-269-8636! Join us tonight on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. We welcome back the one and only Columbus tonight, and that happens only on The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: July 23, 2015: Episode 149

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 12

Antler Banter returns for its twelfth installment and it's starting to become a little repetitive over at the Manitoba Moose website where nothing has changed since the site debuted when the return of the Moose was announced. The Moose have signed players and should be getting fans ready with some highlights of players who are returning this season, but there hasn't been a single update to the website for nearly three months. If you wonder why Antler Banter is covering everyone else except the Moose, there's your reason why. Instead, we'll run down the AHL news and some signings like we always do as we wait for the Moose to break their holding pattern. In saying that, on with the show!

Roy And Grigo

The Colorado Avalanche signed Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year deal on Friday following his trade to Denver from the Buffalo Sabres. Grigorenko played with both Buffalo and the Rochester Americans last season, and he could see time with the Avalanche this season after being reunited with his junior coach in Patrick Roy.

The 12th-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has played 52 games in the AHL with the Americans, tallying 14 goals and 26 assists. In his 43 NHL games with the Sabres, he's posted three goals and three assists. While many see Grigorenko as having high potential, there are questions about his skating and work ethic from his Buffalo days. However, he was an exceptional player under Roy's watchful eye in the QMJHL, so we may see Grigorenko turn the corner this season.

If he can't crack the lineup in Denver, though, expect him to do everything he can in San Antonio to get back with the Avalanche. Grigorenko likes Roy, and there's a feeling that his work ethic and effort level may rise to new heights this season.

Gulls Get A Veteran

NHL defenceman Shane O'Brien, looking to continue his playing career, signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The 31 year-old spent most of last season with the San Antonio Rampage as part of the Florida Panthers organization, but he'll be given a shot to lead the Gulls and possibly find a spot on Anaheim's blue line.

In 51 games with the Rampage last season, O'Brien had 11 goals and 19 assists for his best AHL totals since 2005-06 when he was a member of the Portland Pirates. After Portland, O'Brien spent time with the Lightning, Canucks, Predators, Avalanche, Flames, and Panthers. In 537 NHL games, O'Brien has 13 goals and 79 assists to go along with 916 PIMs.

If nothing else, the Gulls are getting an NHL-ready defenceman who can help the young Ducks develop into true professionals. O'Brien's signing is a good depth pickup for the Ducks.

Caps Add Another Penguin

The Washington Capitals announced on Friday that they had signed forward Zach Sill to a one-year, two-way contract. Sill spent time with Pittsburgh and Toronto last season, and was part of the deal that saw Daniel Winnik end up in Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

Playing mostly a fourth-line role with the Penguins, Sill has a goal and two assists in 42 games with Pittsburgh before being shipped to Toronto where he picked up another assist in 21 games with the Maple Leafs. He has 33 goals and 40 assists in 277 career AHL games, and Sill will make the Hershey Bears a much better team down the middle.

Pirates Get Yann

Yann Sauve, a former Manitoba Moose defenceman, has inked a one-year deal with the Portland Pirates. Sauve spent time on three AHL rosters last season as he bounced around the continent, but he should find some comfort knowing he's got a good chance to be in Portland, Maine all season long.

Sauve played in 17 games for the Springfield Falcons and four games each for the St. John's IceCaps and Providence Bruins in 2014-15, recording a total of one goal and three assists with his one goal coming with the St. John's IceCaps. Sauve has also had stops in Manitoba, Chicago, and Utica on his 221-game AHL career thus far, and he'll be anchoring a young Pirates blue line this season.

Wacey's Back

The Utica Comets announced on Friday that they had re-signed forward Wacey Hamilton to a one-year deal. Hamilton had five goals and ten assists in 41 games last season, and helped the Comets reach the Calder Cup Final last season.

Hamilton has spent time with the Binghamton Senators and the Utica Comets, playing 216 AHL games in his career that has seen him record 18 goals and 36 assists. Hamilton is a good depth signing for the Comets who will look to duplicate this past season's success.

Vlad And Luke

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday that they had re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Luke Witkowski to one-year, two-way contracts. Namestnikov skated with both the Lightning and Crunch last season while Witkowski had a cup of coffee with the Lightning.

Namestnikov recorded nine goals and 16 points to go along with 13 penalty minutes in his 43 games with the Lightning while Witkowski picked up 15 penalty minutes in his 16 games with the NHL club. In Syracuse, Namestnikov recorded 14 goals and 21 assists while Witkowski had two goals and six assists.

Namestnikov is closer to an NHL spot of the two skaters, but Witkowski is a rugged, shot-blocking defenceman and should see time with the Lightning again this season.

Teemu's Back

Not that Teemu, readers. The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that they had re-signed Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year deal. Pulkkinen was dominant in Grand Rapids last season, winning the Willie Marshall Award as the league's top goal-scorer with 34 goals in just 46 games while finishing tenth-overall in AHL scoring.

The 23 year-old Finn should challenge for a roster spot in Detroit, but expect him to be lights-out for Grand Rapids if he somehow ends up back in the AHL. Pulkkinen should be a favorite for AHL MVP next season if he somehow finds himself down in Grand Rapids for more than half the season. Having seen him play a couple of times, Pulkkinen is the real deal.

Manning The Nest

The Edmonton Oilers named the coaching staff for the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday as Gerry Fleming was named head coach and Jean-Francois Houle and Tony Borgford were named as assistant coaches. Oilers assistant general manager Bill Scott will serve as the Condors' general manager while Josh Bennett was named as head athletic trainer, Al Oman was named as head equipment manager, and Patrick Love was named as head strength and conditioning coach.

Fleming took over for Todd Nelson after his promotion to Edmonton, leading the Barons to the second-round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. He was an assistant coach in Springfield before joining the Barons as an assistant coach in 2010. He's also spent time with Fredericton and Quebec as part of the Montreal organization as well as coaching in the ECHL.

Houle was Bakersfield's head coach last season, and will remain as part of the Condors family. Borgford was an assistant coach with the Barons last season and will move to California to continue his role with the club.

"We are thrilled to announce our hockey operations staff, led by head coach Gerry Fleming, who will be a tremendous leader in Bakersfield," said Scott. "Gerry's attention to detail and ability to develop our young players made him a natural fit to return as head coach, By adding JF Houle as assistant coach and with the return of assistant coach Tony Borgford, we believe we have a tremendous coaching staff ready to take the Condors to the next level."

That's all for today's Banter. Let's hope that the Moose can do something - anything - in the next week to make Antler Banter a little more relevant to photo at the top.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!