Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Lot Less Time

I have to admit that getting HBIC Headquarters up to the standard I want has occupied a number of weekends. Renovations are consume a lot of time when one does them him or herself, and I've been knee-deep into renovations. I love doing it, but it occupies a lot of time that I could be using elsewhere such as HBIC. And now, more of my time will be eaten up as I've been enlisted to call balls, strikes, and outs for the softball league in which I umpire.

Thanks to the league adding a couple of new teams, they needed an umpire on Monday nights. That assignment started last week, and will run through to the end of the season. This past week, I was assigned a second evening of softball action as one of the elder statesmen in our stable of umpires has opted for surgery to correct an injury he's had for some time, so I'm taking over his Tuesday night assignment. So much for being an extra umpire this season.

Because my Monday and Tuesday nights are being occupied by umpiring, my weekends are filled with renovation work, and Thursdays are always radio show night, it leaves very little time for writing and researching. Researching is 90% of great writing, and I love doing research because it's where one finds the amazing details in hockey's rich history.

So here's where you come in! I want you to write. I want you to find a hockey topic you love, and write like there's no tomorrow. Write whatever you like - funny, serious, crazy, anything - as long as it's about hockey. Write often. Submit it to HBIC, and I'll post it. Your voice matters as much as mine does, and very rarely do I receive reader submissions, so let's change that. Let's get the writing going, and let's have a discussion. History has shown that we learn my by sharing and discussing, so let's make this summer one of knowledge sharing and information overload!

I have always enjoyed the interaction with readers because when all the layers are stripped away, we're all fans of this incredible game. It doesn't matter that I have a blog. I'm no better or worse than anyone reading this. It's all about the passion for the game. Being that we're fans, we both have that passion, and that's from where good writing comes!

Maybe you're passionate about women's hockey. Excellent! I could really use some additional insight on the game. Do you like minor-league or junior hockey? Perfect! I can always use more great stories outside of the NHL ranks. What I want is passion. A passion for the game. A passion for the nuances and intricacies of this great game. I doesn't need to be a seven-part on-going series of articles - it can be if you like - and it doesn't have to be a 10,000-word thesis on the game. All I want is a passionate article about hockey. That's all. I know it's in you!

Now I want to be clear: I can't pay you. This blog earns me nothing as I'm extremely selective about advertising on HBIC. However, that doesn't mean that you can't advertise a product that you own - write an article about it! If you're looking for a paid writing job, though, HBIC cannot help you there. I make nothing, so I pay the same in turn to anyone who writes for this blog. Would I like to? Hell yes, but right now it's not in the cards. This is a blog fueled by passion, not by dollars.

I also don't expect articles on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis nor will I give you deadlines. You write when you can, and I'll fill in the gaps. And don't feel like you can't rip me a new one if you've disagreed with an article I've written - that's the passion and discussion I want! Still interested? Excellent!

Have at it, and fire it in to me here. Again, it can be about ANYTHING related to hockey! You will get full credit for the writing, and I'll vouch for you if you want to use it as a submission piece for a writing job. Feel free to use this online soapbox as a way for you to get published. As I've always maintained, this blog is "of the people, by the people, for the people" and you're a major part of why I love doing this thanks to the interaction.

Sometimes, though, we can all use a little help. And I'm asking for that today from the people I trust the most when it comes to excellent hockey chatter.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Creative Accounting

I'm not sure what Ryan O'Reilly has done in the NHL thus far to warrant him receiving his latest contract from the Buffalo Sabres, but GM Tim Murray clearly sees something I don't. It was announced yesterday that the Sabres handed O'Reilly a $52.5 million, seven-year contract extension to make him the highest-paid player on the Sabres. O'Reilly had 17 goals and 55 points in 80 games last season despite leading all Avalanche forwards in time-on-ice, so I can't really fathom how he squeezed $7.5 million for the next seven seasons out of the Sabres. That's their problem to solve, though, if it comes to that, but I'm far more concerned with how O'Reilly is being paid because it seems like he's become quite avaricious.

While I struggle with the amount of money he's being paid, it's more HOW he's being paid his annual deal that irks me. O'Reilly's deal pays him $1 million annually with the remaining amount coming as a signing bonus per year. Yes, you read that correctly. The reason for this, apparently, is because the signing bonus is taxed less heavily than the annual income is, and therefore he keeps more of his $52.5 million than he would had he been paid like any other normal human being on the planet.

I get that it's within his negotiating right to have the contract structured however he pleases, but does it not bother anyone else that he's complaining about paying taxes on $11 million in 2016-17? I won't see $11 million in my life over the course of my work career, and O'Reilly has a gripe with the taxes he pays? Are you serious?!?

In looking at his deal, O'Reilly's contract is approximately 87% in bonuses, meaning he's paying less taxes than he should be on more than $46 million. Those are taxes that will benefit the state of New York and, hopefully, the city of Buffalo, but he's not willing to shell out a few more dollars to help the people paying his salary - and taxes, apparently - for those seven years.

Further to that, the buyout process, if O'Reilly becomes expendable, becomes an absolute headache for the Sabres as they are still on the hook for $7.5 million annually despite paying O'Reilly just $1 million annually. In other words, O'Reilly's contract messes up the Sabres' salary cap dramatically if the Sabres choose to buy him out in the future. Guess what won't be happening in the next eight years?

O'Reilly's career stats show him with a career-high in goals and points in 2013-14 with 28 and 64, respectively. It's hard to imagine that he's a "franchise" player based on those stats despite what Tim Murray believes, so it needs to be asked if O'Reilly is worth the amount of money Murray threw at him to become Buffalo's all-time highest-paid player. To me, it says he's not worth the money, so O'Reilly will have to find a way to score 30 goals and 80 points for the next eight years for this contract to reflect other players' contracts who are making that much money. To put O'Reilly on a level with Crosby, Ovechkin, and Stamkos seems way out of whack.

Then again, maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Perhaps he's the most affordable player in the league at $1 million per season that just happens to have a gargantuan bonus payment added to his bank account every summer. I have yet to see another established NHL player who scores about fifty points per season play for just a million bucks per season. It's just that massive $45.5 million asterisk that can't be overlooked.

All of that to save a few tax dollars. Seems petty, no?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Give It A Rest, Edmonton

Edmonton's orientation camp for rookies has started, and there's a different feeling in the air, reportedly, about this camp. As we all know, Connor McDavid is in town, and a source has made it very clear that the citizens of Edmonton have already elevated him to Gretzky-like status despite him not having played a single second of NHL hockey yet. While my source's position on the matter is more of a wait-and-see perspective, the oohs and ahhs that were heard when McDavid did anything - stretched, scored on an empty net in the warmup skate, took a drink, inhaled, exhaled, and more - tells me that Oilers fans might be expecting a lot from the teenager. While no one is doubting his talent, an Art Ross in his first full NHL season seems a little unlikely.

Oilers fans have every right to be excited as McDavid appears to one of those talents that comes along once every five or six years that has the ability to step into a lineup and have his addition pay dividends. He's done some rather remarkable things in his OHL career, but the slate is wiped clean when we're talking about a jump to the NHL. Many "can't miss" talents have followed the same route, and many have found that the path is a lot harder to walk than they may have thought.

Again, that's not to say that this will happen to McDavid. He's got an ability few have in terms of his scoring talents, but the NHL has defencemen - particularly in the Western Conference - that can erase undersized players in a heartbeat. McDavid's going to have to overcome the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Alex Pietrangelo, and Ryan Suter when playing the Western Conference's best teams. These defencemen have size, strength, and experience to use against McDavid at this point, so it will be interesting to see if he can overcome these disadvantages.

As the Oshawa Generals proved this past season, stopping McDavid is possible. You have to believe a lot of NHL scouts and GMs got their hands on that footage for the upcoming season because Oshawa stopped McDavid more often than the rest of the OHL combined. McDavid and the Erie Otters didn't overcome it in the OHL final, and they went home after five games of Oshawa dominance. McDavid can be stopped, as seen in the OHL, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that he can and will be stopped until he can learn the pro game. He'll get his points because he's a natural scorer, but if people think he's an 80-point man in his first season I'll happily take that bet.

Let me make one thing clear: McDavid is going to score points. A lot of them. There's no doubt about that. However, when the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski writes, "They cheered when he shot pucks into empty nets during warmup, they ooohed and aaahed when he ran through basic, boring hockey drills and they lost their minds whenever he did something even slightly impressive," I have to wonder if Oilers fans are setting themselves up for another season of high hopes and prolonged disappointment.

This is a team with a backup goalie for a starter. This is a team with Andrej Sekera as its top defenceman, and we saw how well that worked out for Carolina with him in that role. This is a team that has Justin Schultz coming off a disastrous season on the blue line, and the other five defencemen who played behind him were just as bad in terms of their defensive play.

Or maybe this early outpouring of support for McDavid is Oilers fans' ways of cheering him on before the rain of boos starts up this season. While I'm certainly not endorsing the jersey-throwing incidents seen last year, the Oilers are still in a bad place defensively and appear to be on their way to struggling through another 82 games. Maybe this is the point in the season where the fans can be wowed by McDavid's brilliance against players near his own age before they see the Oilers get worn down by bigger, more skillful teams.

Be excited for McDavid, Edmonton. But let's stop cheering the mundane like he's the second coming, alright?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 146

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with another jam-packed show. The phone lines will be open and we'll happily take your calls as we run down the free agency madness, the trades, the draft, some of the bigger news stories, and more on tonight's show. Honestly, I have more notes for tonight's show than any other show I can remember, so we'll work through all that and more tonight with a focus on the moves and decisions made by the Jets and Moose.

It was a pretty crazy day on the free agent front, but only due to the action rather than the storylines being about the money. Usually, we see GMs spending ludicrous amounts of money on third-line players, but I have to admit the GMs really contained themselves this year. Yes, some teams did spend money, but most of the deals were quite reasonable given the salary cap and the demands. Obviously, there were a few major trades as Brandon Saad and Phil Kessel find themselves in new homes, and we'll break down which side of the trade came out on top. We'll also talk about some of the news stories that broke this week including Mike Richards having his contract terminated, a senior writer at The Hockey News ripping into an NHL owner after the writer makes an error, and the denial of the Coyotes moving once more. Like I said off the top, it's going to be a jam-packed show!

The phones will be wide open and we want to hear your thoughts on any or all of these topics! 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. Free agents, draft picks, and trades will be served hot tonight on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: July 2, 2015: Episode 146

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 9

Your weekly AHL roundup is back for another week as Antler Banter actually has some Manitoba Moose news to report! It's been a while since we've had any Moose news to report, so we'll dive into that right away as the new-look Moose start putting pieces in place. There was another coaching appointment, a former Moose great finds a new home, and a pile of players moved addresses as AHL rosters begin to take shape. I'll also throw a special mention out to a couple of good people who received a qualifying offer from the parent NHL team, and there's hope we'll see him pass through Winnipeg during his time with either the NHL or AHL team with which he's been qualified. There's lots to get to, so let's get the Banter rolling!

Moose Sign Four

As I said, it's been a while since any Manitoba Moose news has broken, but there are four players confirmed to be wearing the new jerseys this winter at MTS Centre. One name is familiar to Jets fans if they followed the ECHL last year while the other three will be breaking into the professional ranks after successful collegiate careers.

Goaltender Jussi Olkinuora, 24, played in 43 games for the Ontario Reign of the ECHL during the 2014-15 season, posting a 27-9-6 record with a .916 save percentage. The Helsinki, Finland native has played in 15 career games at the AHL level with the St. John’s IceCaps, with a record of 7-5-1.

Defenceman Aaron Harstad, 23, recorded nine points (5G, 4A) and 32 penalty minutes in 30 games with Colorado College last season. At the college level, the Stevens Point, Wisconsin native scored 30 points (9G, 21A) in 127 games. He was selected in the seventh round, 187th overall by the Jets at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Defenceman Brennan Serville, 22, picked up seven points (0G, 7A) in 33 games with the University of Michigan last year. The Pickering, Ontario native just completed his fourth year with the Wolverines. During his college career, he recorded 21 points (1G, 20A) and 46 PIM in 129 games. Serville was selected in the third round, 78th overall by the Jets at the 2011 NHL Draft. Of the four players listed here, he'll be the only one in the Jets' orientation camp this weekend in Winnipeg.

Defenceman Peter Stoykewych, 22, had 11 points (3G, 8A) and 42 PIM in 34 games for Colorado College during the 2014-15 season. The Winnipeg native played in 139 games for the Tigers over the past four seasons, recording 34 points (6G, 28A) and 122 penalty minutes. He was selected in the seventh round, 199th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 NHL Draft.


To The Birds

The Anaheim Ducks named Dallas Eakins the first coach in San Diego Gulls history in terms of the new Gulls last week on Thursday. The former Marlies and Edmonton Oilers coach spent some time away from the game with family after being dismissed by the Oilers, and rediscovered his passion for the game after the shock of being fired had subsided.

"He was on the radar from day one," Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. "He's a teacher and communicator. We got lucky."

Eakins was very successful in the AHL as he compiled a 157-114-41 record with the Marlies over four seasons that saw him lead the team to the Calder Cup Finals in 2012. There was thought that Eakins might stay closer to home in Vancouver and not uproot his family as an opportunity with the WHL's Vancouver Giants appeared to be on the horizon, but he'll take his skills to San Diego for the upcoming season.

Following The Aeros

The Houston Aeros were a fixture in the IHL and AHL for some time. They were a solid team that had a number of excellent players go through their system, but they were moved to Des Moines, Iowa after being bought by the Minnesota Wild. They were also renamed as the Wild, and that's how we arrived at having a team in Iowa after the Chops left town.

Maxime Fortunus, a longtime fixture on the blue lines of the Manitoba Moose and Texas Stars, will follow the Aeros' path as he'll join the Wild for the upcoming AHL season after not being re-signed by the Texas Stars. Fortunus inked a two-year American Hockey League contract yesterday, and will provide some stability and leadership for a younger Wild team. Fortunus will enter his 13th professional season next season where he will build on his career totals of 64 goals and 178 assists for 242 points. He's also a Calder Cup winner, having been a part of the Texas Stars team that captured the AHL's most illustrious trophy in 2010.

Good on the Wild for signing Fortunus. He's a true professional.


Staying with the Wild, I'm happy to report that Jon Blum and, in turn, Emilie Blue have received a qualifying offer from the Wild, meaning they can continue to negotiate with the Blums in an effort to get Jon re-signed. Jon played with the Iowa Wild for most of the season last year, so there's hope he'll break through the ranks and suit up more often with the Minnesota Wild this season. Emilie, as you may know, has appeared on The Hockey Show, and she's an absolute gem. It's always nice to see good people get rewarded, so I'm hopeful Jon and the Wild come to an agreement.

Emilie, meanwhile, is working on building her pet supply business, Double Dog Pet Supply. There are some great products on Emilie's site, and they're even running a sale right now if you're looking to get your pet something or replace something for your furry friend!

Good on Jon and Emilie with this qualifying offer. Always nice to see good things happening to good people.

Other Notable Signings

We're going to run through this quickly, so hold on tight.

  • Goaltender Michael Leighton was re-signed by the Blackhawks, and will most likely start the season as a Rockford IceHog unless Scott Darling regresses in a big way.
  • Goaltender Tom McCollum re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings, and will handle the majority of the workload seen by the Grand Rapids Griffins.
  • Right winger Stanislav Galiev re-signed with the Washington Capitals and will most likely start the season as a Hershey Bear.
  • Goaltender Mike McKenna signed with the Florida Panthers and will assume the starting netminder duties with the Portland Pirates.
  • Goaltender Richard Bachman, who played in Edmonton late last season, signed with the Canucks and will assume the starting role for the Utica Comets.
  • Winger Jayson Megna, who spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was signed by the New York Rangers. There's a good chance he'll skate with the Hartford Wolfpack this season.
  • Ottawa signed three players who appear to be headed to Binghamton in former Jet Eric O'Dell, former Oiler Zack Stortini, and former Blackhawk defenceman Mike Kostka.
  • Former Washington Capitals defenceman Steve Oleksy signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He may play in Pittsburgh depending on their blue line's health and needs.
  • Former Lightning defenceman Mark Barberio signed a two-way deal with the Canadiens. He may start the season in St. John's, but might get a look with Les Habitants.
  • The Wild were busy in free agency as well as they signed former Hurricane Zac Dalpe and former Lightning and Penguin Ruslan Fedotenko to one-year, two-way deals. Both will most likely start in Iowa this season.
  • Former Avalanche and Blues forward TJ Hensick signed a two-way deal with the Carolina Hurricanes as he looks to crack their roster. The four-time AHL all-star could be a huge help in the scoring department for the Charlotte Checkers, though.
  • The Flyers signed former Kings defenceman David Drewiske to a two-way deal. He'll most likely start the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
  • Dustin Jeffrey will suit up with the Springfield Falcons this season after signing a deal with the Arizona Coyotes. He may have a shot at making that Coyotes roster, though.
  • Matt Hackett jumps coasts as he leaves the Sabres and Rochester Americans for the greener pastures of San Diego. He'll most likely backup John Gibson with the Gulls.
  • Former Winnipeg Jet James Wright was signed by the New York Islanders and will most likely start the season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
There are more signings, of course, and more player movement from trades, but those are the names that you're most likely to recognize this season. I'll have more updates next week as more players are signed.

Carotenemic Condors

The Bakersfield Condors have been dropping hints all week on Twitter about their new uniforms, so here they are. They look, unsurprisingly, like the Oilers do aside from the shoulder patches and the orange condor in the middle. While I'm not suggesting that the condor is afflicted with any diseases or problems, the rather large abundance of orange pigment seen on the condor seems to indicate carotenemia - an increase in the orange pigment carotene in the blood. Normally, this is seen with an excessive consumption of carrots or other carotene-containing foods, so what exactly is the Bakersfield condor being fed?

Of course, all joking aside, the Condors will look very much like the Oilers right down to the font used on the sleeves and back. What happened to all the creativity that the Condors had when they were an ECHL team?

That's it for the Banter today, kids! I'm off to enjoy some Canada Day libations and listen to the various sports networks try to out-scoop the other on free agency deals. Enjoy Free Agency/Canada Day everyone!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!