Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 141

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back with a huge show tonight as we're proud, honoured, and privileged to welcome back two guests who appeared way back in Season One of The Hockey Show! Since that time, he's played in Russia and has established a new career in Denmark while she has continued her excellent freelancing work from all sorts of places across Europe as the pair traveled and found new locales! To say we've been excited for this show would be an understatement!

We've tried to keep our listeners up-to-date on what's happening with Brandon and Jessica through the last couple of years with our Russian Roundup pieces, but we'll get to hear from the two travelers today as they fill us in on the last couple of years of hockey, travel, moving, and life in foreign countries. If you've listened over the last couple of years, Brandon was playing in the KHL for CSKA Moscow last year before an injury made him reconsider his options. In his decision, he found a job coaching Vojens in Denmark, and things have gone pretty well for him! Jessica Scott-Reid has been writing up a storm for various publications including the National Post, VICE, CBC.ca, the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, and Notable.ca! Needless to say, being a writer has allowed her to travel with Brandon while maintaining her position as a freelancer, and, from the amount of work she's doing, she's doing extremely well too!

Tonight on the The Hockey Show, we are proud to have the Reids back in the studio with us as we talk to them about life in Moscow and playing in the KHL, life in Vojens, becoming a coach and some of the transitions Brandon was forced to make going from player to coach, the return of the Manitoba Moose and whether or not Brandon and/or Jessica has approached them for a position, and we'll have a chat about the TV series Hockey Wives as both Brandon and Jessica are fans of the show! We may have to petition the W Network to follow Jessica next season as the first European hockey wife when she and Brandon return to Denmark!

We're super-excited to have the Reids back on the show tonight as we have lots of questions for them about how life is going for them. 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. The Manitoba Moose's seventh-overall scorer all-time and one of my favorite writers will be on the The Hockey Show tonight!

PODCAST: May 28, 2015: Episode 141

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 4

The AHL Calder Cup Playoffs feature just four teams, and one of those teams is on the brink of going home this evening as Antler Banter is back again for the weekly look at the American Hockey League. One of the kids in Grand Rapids looks like he'll be a good fit there while he develops as the series between the Griffins and Utica Comets continues, and there has been little change on the newest old website as the Moose website has yet to be updated since the announcement of the return of the team to Winnipeg. I'm also happy to announce that, tomorrow on the radio show, we'll feature a guy who wore the old Moose colors for a while as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, and he's been doing a heckuva job over in Denmark as a coach. With that, Antler Banter is off and running for another week!

Monarchs Way Ahead

If you're a fan of the Hartford Wolfpack, you're hoping they can add their names to the history books starting tonight as they find themselves in a 3-0 hole to the Monarchs. Manchester has won games by one goals, two goals, and three goals, and they seem to be getting stronger as the series progresses. After posting a 3-2 win, they followed it up with 7-4 and 5-3 victories as Hartford has had no answer for the Monarchs' offence. Game Four is tonight, and the Wolfpack might be cleaning out their lockers after the game if they can't stop the bleeding in a hurry.

West Is All Square

The Grand Rapids Griffins and Utica Comets are tied up at 1-1 in their series with Game Three happening tomorrow night. Utica took Game One by a 2-1 score while the Griffins responded in Game Two with a 4-2 victory. 18 year-old Dylan Larkin, playing his second AHL game, had a pair of goals for the Griffins, and it appears that the Red Wings have another solid player in their pipeline to go along with some of the great talent on the Griffins.

I'm not anointing Larkin the next great thing, mind you, but the Griffins have some excellent talent on their roster right now. With Jeff Blashill having met with Ken Holland recently about the vacant head coaching job in Detroit, we could see a lot of roster turnover with Blashill knowing his team in Grand Rapids extremely well. While not everyone is ready to make the jump, Larkin included at this point, it looks like Detroit has another excellent wave of layers coming up thanks to the Griffins.

Thank Goodness He's Alright

Game One between the Griffins and Comets was marred by a rather brutal hit committed by Griffins centerman Louis-Marc Aubry on Comets defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti. This is rather hard to watch, so you've been warned, folks.
While the hit is rather brutal, referee TJ Luxmore, whose arm is raised and was watching the play, somehow only handed out a two-minute boarding penalty despite Sanguinetti being helped off the ice. Thankfully, Sanguinetti was cleared for Game Two and played in the contest, but one has to wonder how Aubry escaped a fine or suspension on that play. That was dangerous, folks, no matter how you watch it.

Looking For Updates

I totally get that there's not a lot of news coming out of the Manitoba Moose camp right now, but when websites aren't updated it's hard to get the excitement brewing in the community. How many season tickets have the Moose sold? How close to capacity are they with all the mini-packs sold? Are we going to see any promotional nights? Who is the radio partner?

Lots of questions, but there are little answers. I know they are still looking for a number of positions to be filled - including the Manager of Communications who would handle a large part of this - but there is literally four months before the Moose hit the ice for their first regular season game in Winnipeg in four years. It's time to get this groundswell moving!

Former Moose Returns

I am happy, honoured, privileged, and proud to announce that The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM will feature former Manitoba Moose Brandon Reid in-studio tomorrow night! Brandon and Jessica Reid will be stopping by the studio for the second time in our short history, and we're excited to get caught up with them! The last time we spoke to them, Brandon was preparing to join CSKA Moscow in the KHL two years ago. Since that time, he's retired, taken a coaching job in Denmark, and won a championship! Jessica, for her part, has found life in Moscow and Vojens to have its ups and downs, but she's always kept a smile on her face as she's captured some amazing pictures in her travels!

We'll talk to them tomorrow about a pile of stuff, but the one thing that they found they loved? The TV series Hockey Wives! I know I said I'm not interested in talking or watching the show, but Brandon and Jessica have forced me to brush up on the show's finer points, so we'll have a discussion about the show tomorrow night. It should be interesting!

That's all for tonight, kids. If you want to hear the interview tomorrow, hit up the UMFM website and listen online if you're outside the Winnipeg region! The podcast will go up after the show as well, so feel free to download that if you can't make it for the live broadcast!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Hold On Now, Bobby

Bobby Clarke is a polarizing figure in hockey. He's brash, he speaks his mind, he breaks the ankles of Soviets if asked, and he bleed the orange-and-black of the Philadelphia Flyers. He's proud of his career and legacy, and I see no reason why he shouldn't be. However, his track record in NHL management leaves a little to be desired after the problems he had with Eric Lindros amongst other slips. However, Clarke is still a respected hockey man, and it's always interesting when he has something to say. Like today, for example, he went off on teams that tank to improve.

In speaking with Sam Carchidi of The Inquirer of Philadelphia, Clarke states,
"We've been to the Finals so many times and played so good and so hard and didn't quite get it done. It [angers me] that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys... and Malkins."

"The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn't want to be."
I appreciate and understand his passion for keeping integrity of the game intact by not having teams tank. However, Clarke's history might be a little fuzzy since Pittsburgh wasn't tanking to get Malkin and certainly didn't tank to get Crosby. Let's take a quick peek at what led to the Penguins drafting those two players.

Malkin was drafted in 2004 by the Pittsburgh Penguins at second overall that year. Taken before him by the Washington Capitals was some guy by the name of Alexander Ovechkin, but he hasn't really done anything in the NHL yet (I kid, I kid). The Penguins, having spent freely in the 1990s to acquire and retain big-name talent, were in the midst of battling for their very survival after claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 1998.

To continue to tread water, the Penguins dealt away their high-priced talent such as Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved, Alexei Kovalev, Kevin Hatcher, and Tom Barrasso for lesser players who demanded much less in the way of salary. The Penguins were a shell of themselves by the time 2003-04 rolled around, and things got bleaker when Mario Lemieux suffered a season-ending hip injury that saw the team average the lowest attendance in the league at 11,877 fans per game. The Penguins, icing mostly an AHL team under the coaching of inexperienced Ed Olczyk, stumbled to the NHL's worst record at 23-47-8-4 and a goal differential of -113!

To be fair, Washington's 23-46-10-3 record was only one-point better than the lowly Penguins, so "tanking" to finish with the worst record wasn't really something the Penguins were looking to achieve when icing a lineup that saw defenceman Dick Tarnstrom (!?!) lead the team with 52 points while posting a -37 and Ryan Malone leading the team in goals with 22. Rico Fata was fifth in team-scoring with 34 points while posting a -46 on the season. No Penguin who played more than 20 games that year finished on the plus side of the puck. Ric Jackman, who played 25 games that season, recorded 24 points and a -5. RIC JACKMAN!?! Oh, he was acquired from the Maple Leafs on February 11. That explains it.

The three goalies that season who saw the most rubber were Sebastien Caron, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Here are their stats from the season, and it's pretty apparent that the Penguins were awful. Not one goalie had a double-digit win total!
You could have leaned a stick against the crossbar and it would have had a better goals-against average than these three combined. If the Penguins were tanking, it would have happened at the management level, through the coaching staff, and right on down to the players with this kind of effort. I'm very sure that anyone who played on the Penguins during this time would have spoken up by now if they were told and coached to lose. Players have pride and no professional likes or enjoys losing. Especially if they're being told to lose on purpose.

On top of all this, the Penguins set an NHL record that year for the longest home losing streak at 14 losses on home ice, allowed the most power-play goals at 84 while finishing 30th-overall on the penalty kill at 77.24%, and allowed the most shorthanded goals in the NHL at 15. This team was absolutely terrible. They went an unfathomable 2-14-0 in January yet finished the season in March and April with a combined 10-4-3 record. That's not how one tanks whatsoever, but Mr. Clarke is welcome to his opinion.

Entering the summer, there were high hopes that the Penguins would win the lottery with their horrific season behind them, enabling them the privilege of drafting first-overall and the rights to Alexander Ovechkin. And things went off the rails once more when it was announced that their archrival, the Washington Capitals, had secured the first-overall pick via the lottery, pushing Pittsburgh to second-overall. Ovechkin went to Washington, and Pittsburgh selected Evgeni Malkin.

Now, one can make the case that the Penguins really didn't lose here with either of the top-two picks. However, it's pretty clear that, like Buffalo this year, the Penguins would have preferred the first-overall pick. After all, a first-overall pick doesn't always guarantee you a blue-chip prospect (Patrik Stefan? Alexandre Daigle?), but it's similar to the race between McDavid and Eichel this year: the team with the first-overall pick has the luxury of choosing which player they prefer. Fans can rationalize that getting Malkin really didn't hurt the Penguins, and that's true. But would Ovechkin have made them even better? That's something that we'll never know.

With the situation in Pittsburgh at an all-time low, Mario Lemieux explored the idea of relocating the team, meeting with officials in Kansas City to see if the team's finances could be resolved with a possible move to Missouri. Thankfully for fans in Pittsburgh, the lockout in 2005 was settled, a new arena deal was struck, and Mario Lemieux pledged to keep the team in the Steel City with things looking up. All they needed now was to ice a decent team.

The NHL Draft Lottery in 2005 was a little different than previous lotteries in that all 30 NHL teams had a short at the first-overall pick. Teams with multiple playoff appearances would receive less balls in the lottery pool than teams that had been struggling in the past three seasons, and those who had drafted higher would have less balls than those who drafted lower to balance out the shift. All teams would have between one and three balls in the lottery pool, and a team would draft at a position once all the balls in the lottery had been pulled.

Teams with three balls in the lottery were the Buffalo Sabres, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Teams with two balls in the lottery were the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Calgary Flames, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild, the Nashville Predators, and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Teams with one ball in the lottery were the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, the Detroit Red Wings, the Florida Panthers, the Montreal Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Flyers, the San Jose Sharks, the St. Louis Blues, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Washington Capitals.

Thanks to their recent playoff success, the Flyers would have one ball in the lottery. They would be selected to draft 20th-overall, but had swapped their pick with the Florida Panthers so their first selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft would be at 29th-overall. The Penguins? Well, they won the lottery that year, finishing ahead of Anaheim and Carolina - two teams with two balls - and five picks better than Columbus who also had three balls.

With the first-overall pick that season based on the finishes of the previous three seasons and draft positions of the previous three seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins would select Sidney Crosby. In other words, this tank job that Bobby Clarke is implyiong would have begun in 2002 with the management, coaches, and players knowing long before anyone else that a lockout would cancel the entire 2005 NHL season in order for them to plan a draft strategy to get Crosby. While Craig Patrick is a highly-respected hockey mind, I doubt that even he could pull off this kind of masterminding and predicting of future events.

Suggesting this kind of conspiracy is ludicrous. Bobby Clarke has to know that taking a shot at his in-state rivals is always good for business, but when it's a completely insane comment, the egg only ends up on his face. I completely respect the fact that he'd prefer that teams such as Edmonton, Arizona, and Buffalo played every minute like it was their last instead of aiming for the tank, but it's not like the Flyers escaped the same idealism this season as they missed the playoffs.

The same Sam Carchidi wrote on December 6, 2014, "There are legions of fans who want the Flyers to tank, want them to be in contention for the No. 1 draft pick and have a chance to select Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, centers considered to be franchise cornerstones." However, he concluded that the Flyers' problem was "a messy cap situation and it's going to take a few years to get out of it" as he tried to divert the chatter away from a tank job. Again, I commend this point-of-view as I too believe that every NHL player should give it everything he has for every minute NHL players are paid. The Flyers seem to believe that as well, so they'll never get a thumbs-down from me for this attitude.

While I respect Bobby Clarke for speaking his mind on most subjects without a filter, aiming his crosshairs on the Penguins in terms of them tanking to get Malkin and Crosby isn't even close to being factual. Had he suggested the tank job the Penguins did in 1983-84 to get the rights to the first-overall selection and Mario Lemieux despite the New Jersey Devils clearly being the worst team that season, I'd give him credit for his comment since former Penguins coach Lou Angotti has admitted to tanking that season. But to suggest the Penguins tanked to select second-overall and first-overall when all teams had a shot at Crosby?

No tanks, Bobby.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Rockets Blast Oceanic

Two winless teams met in Quebec City at the Pepsi Colisée on Monday night as the WHL's Kelowna Rockets and the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic were looking to square their 0-1 records at the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup. Honestly, only one team really showed up for tonight's game as the country was able to see the impressive offensive array of talent that the Rockets have put together this season. This was the Rockets squad that hammered the Brandon Wheat Kings in four-straight games in the WHL Championship series. Rimouski, however, looked nothing like the confident group they were a week ago after winning the QMJHL Championship, and the wheels came off after the first intermission.

The Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 before the game was fifteen minutes old on the strength of goals by Nick Merkley 52 seconds in, Madison Bowie at the 6:16 mark, and Gage Quinney at 14:27. The Oceanic, however, would respond with a pair of goals in the final five minutes of the period when Christopher Clapperton and Michael Joly on the power-play cut the deficit to one goal. It was expected that the Western Hockey League team would be the more physical of the two, but the Oceanic really took the body to the Rockets.

The second period saw the Rockets double their total as Gage Quinney added the fourth goal on the power-play at 1:52, Nick Merkley added another at 10:42, and Leon Draisaitl netted the sixth Kelowna goal at 13:18 for the 6-2 lead. Rimouski goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon wouldn't see the Draisaitl goal from the blue paint, however, as head coach Serge Beausoleil got out the hook after the fifth Kelowna goal, replacing Guindon with Philippe Desrosiers. The second period was a lot more physical than the first period, and the penalties in that period were of the chippy variety: hooking, kneeing, interference, cross-checking, fighting, slashing, and roughing. Between the two teams, they were giving the rule book a workout!

The third period was a lot of "just wrap this up" hockey, but the teams traded special teams goals as Frédérik Gauthier notched a power-play goal for the Oceanic to make it 6-3 before Leon Draisaitl scored a pretty goal while shorthanded to make it 7-3 which is how the game finished. Draisaitl, Nick Merkley, and Gage Quinney each scored twice while Madison Bowie had the other Rockets goal to go along with a pair of assists. Chris Clapperton, Michael Joly and Frédérik Gauthier had the Oceanic goals.

There's something to be said about Leon Draisaitl as it appears that having the Oilers send him back to junior is paying off for his career. He's scoring goals that are NHL-like in his driving to the net and his willingness to go to the high-traffic areas. He's playing extremely well without the puck, and has made his mark playing shorthanded as he killed Brandon with his shorthanded markers and is now doing the same in the Memorial Cup.

It's a little scary to think that Connor McDavid could play between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle next season while the improved Draisaitl could find a home on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and possibly one of Anton Landon, Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, or Nail Yakupov. Granted, the styles of those wingers may not fit with Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl who both have exceptional scoring touches, but Todd McLellan will have the final say there. Regardless of the decisions made, having McDavid and Draisaitl playing with confidence right out of training camp is a massive upgrade compared to last season.

Adding to Draisaitl's value in Edmonton will be his penalty-killing skills. Finding skilled guys who kill penalties as well as Draisaitl has in junior hockey is rare, and the Oilers should be putting that skill set higher than most others. While I'm not suggesting he'll be the next Jordan Staal or Patrice Bergeron, Draisaitl's ability to drive the net and score goals while shorthanded is something the Oilers desperately need. After all, the opposition can't score when it's fishing the puck out of the back of its own net. It was an effective strategy in the WHL, and I suspect that the Oilers may want to look at deploying this strategy once Draisaitl matures a little more physically.

It's almost as if - stop me if this has come up before - the Oilers are building their forward ranks as they did in the early 1980s with a young, dynamic superstar playmaker and goal-scorer followed by a big-bodied, bruising second-line centerman who can score goals and set up plays. While the Gretzky-Messier comparisons are entirely unfair at this point in their careers, the Oilers seemingly are getting two players who fit that mold once more. It's kind of exciting to think where the oilers may be in three or four years if the trajectory of McDavid and Draisaitl play out as expected.

Right now, though, only Draisaitl is playing hockey and if you're not watching the Mastercard Memorial Cup, you're missing out on a special player. While I wouldn't categorize him as a "generational talent" or any of those other cliché terms, he's vitally important to Kelowna's success at the Memorial Cup and he proved again tonight why he was the WHL's Playoff MVP.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

TBC: He Shoots... He Skewers!

I've been negligent in posting a few reviews of some excellent books, so I plan on posting a few of these over the next week or two. I have to say that today's book featured on Teebz's Book Club is one that I haven't seen in my neck of the woods, and it was found by my mom who spent some time in Ottawa recently. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present He Shoots... He Skewers!, written and illustrated by Randy Duncan and published by Summit Studios. While there aren't many books of cartoons, comics, or caricatures of hockey, He Shoots... He Skewers! is a pile of caricatures of some of the more recognizable faces and people in hockey in various situations that may be a little outside their normal hockey lives. Nonetheless, Mr. Duncan's artistry blends well with the funny situations he puts NHL players in via these caricatures.

Paring down the biography on the Summit Studios site, Randy Duncan grew up on a farm near Ormstown, Quebec. When his parents weren't driving him to minor league hockey games he was playing hockey on the iced-over fields and creeks, or watching Les Habitants work their magic on the television screen. Duncan discovered at a young age that drawing big heads on small bodies was quite humorous, and later went on to study Fine Arts at Champlain College and graphic design at Concordia University. He's had his caricatures published across the country in newspapers such as the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Edmonton Sun, and the Ottawa Citizen. Ultimately it was these cartoons that provided inspiration for the recently released book of hockey caricatures, He Shoots... He Skewers!

He Shoots... He Skewers! was actually published in 2009 so some of the caricatures are a little dated in terms of players having switched teams, but it doesn't detract from Mr. Duncan's excellent artistry and funny comments.

The problem with a book of pictures? The thousand words won't do the caricatures justice. Instead, Summit Studios has some examples up on their site, and I'll post one here so you can have an idea as to why these are so good.
As you can see, Mr. Duncan's caricatures are very accurate in the portrayal of various NHL players, and he inserts them into situations that are quite funny like the handshake incident that went on between the Penguins and Red Wings in 2009. I'm not sure I'd shake Kris Draper's hand if it was presented as Mr. Duncan has drawn either.

There are lots of caricatures over the 160 pages in He Shoots... He Skewers! and no one is safe from Mr. Duncan's pencil and paper. Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, Tretiak, Bettman, the Staals, Mats Sundin, Roberto Luongo, and so many more players are included in a pile of humorous images that were spawned from the mind of Randy Duncan. They're pretty funny and the caricatures are done exceptionally well. I thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the pages of He Shoots... He Skewers! and chuckling at Mr. Duncan's twisted realities for some NHL players, and I think you'd enjoy it too. Because he's an amazing artist and combines his artistry with some great humour, He Shoots... He Skewers! absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You may have to search a number of places to find He Shoots... He Skewers!, but the bigger stores such as Chapters should be able to order it in at the very least. Otherwise, order it from the Summit Studios site!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!