Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Hockey Show - Episode 192

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, hits the airwaves tonight talking all things ball hockey as Winnipeg gears up for two major tournaments this weekend! It's funny that I think back to my days as a kid on the cold, snowy streets where we would battle nightly with a rickety old net and a frozen tennis ball, and now we have a national tournament that embraces the street hockey mentality and another that embraces the organized hockey idea. If only I could go back and tell my youthful self what was to come!

Kevin Wilson, the man behind the FXR Cup, will join me tonight as I navigate the airwaves alone! Kevin will have two of last year's FXR Cup Champions with him tonight, and we'll talk about this year's tournament, some of the great prizing available, and who may challenge for the FXR Cup title! Of course, we'll also chat about the NHL Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, Game Seven of the Lightning-Penguins series, Matthews vs. Laine, and much more tonight! These guys know their hockey, and they'll be filling in for Beans who will be working a job late into the evening, and filling in for TJ who will be off to a conference in Calgary! Good luck to these fine gentlemen on these excursions!

The phones are wide-open for any question you may have about the FXR Cup tonight so give us a call at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM) if you wanna get in on the discussion! Make sure you tune your radio dial in the Winnipeg region to 101.5 on your FM dial or listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have 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're talking FXR Cup on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: May 26, 2016: Episode 192

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Rare Playoff Trade

It's not often that we see rostered players get traded during the playoffs, but that happened tonight. The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers swapped players and draft picks in a surprising deal that begins the transition of the Panthers as analytics take over from Dale Tallon's instincts. Vancouver addresses a need in getting a solid defensive defenceman while Florida gets a couple of good picks and a relatively unproven young talent that they can mold into a solid NHL player.

Vancouver dealt rookie centerman Jared McCann, a 2016 second-round pick, and 2016 fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round draft pick. What makes this deal a little odd for the Panthers is that they had just agreed to an extension for Gudbranson on May 9 to the tune of one-year at $3.5 million, so dealing him some two weeks later comes as a bit of a surprise.

Gudbranson wasn't ever going to be a offensive dynamo, but he was a guy who stood out on the Panthers blue line due to his size: 6'5" and 220lbs. He blocks shots, he skates fairly well, and he plays a more rugged game than most did in Sunrise, but he was fourth in minutes-played for the Panthers' defencemen. He was also the youngest of the Panthers' rearguards, so he still had room to grow. Or so it was thought.

"He is an important part of our young core who has continued to develop into a reliable, physical presence on our blue line and a strong leader in our locker room," former GM Dale Tallon said after Gudbranson has re-signed. Now, all that lip service is hot air as Gudbranson moves to the west coast.

The Canucks were looking to upgrade their blue line, and they can do so by trading a second-round pick for an NHL-experienced, young defenceman who towers over his opposition. There is some work to do to make Gudbranson a top-pairing defenceman, but his size and rugged play will be put to good use. You have to wonder if the Canucks will pair him with 6'7" Nikita Tryamkin at some point to have the twin towers on the blue line, but he should fit in nicely with the youthful Canucks defencemen.

Jared McCann was the 24th-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, and he played 69 games in his rookie season this past year as he posted nine goals and nine assist. His face-off winning percentage was only 30%, but that's a normal trend for rookies and a stat that will only go up from this past season. McCann was viewed as a future scoring centerman, but he'll take his talents to Sunrise where they'll work to make his sophomore season a success.

McCann will have some work to do in grabbing a roster spot with the Panthers next season, though, as he'll need to slot in behind Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad next season. He'll battle Quinton Howden and Vincent Trocheck for a spot, but Trocheck's great season this past season may keep him on the Panthers' roster, making the last centerman spot a battle if Dave Bolland is healthy.

Having McCann start the season in Springfield shouldn't be seen as a setback or a demotion. He does ned to work on winning more face-offs with regularity, and finding his scoring touch will be vital in seeing McCann step into an already dynamic line-up that Florida ices. Getting some AHL experience against experienced teams and players in Toronto, Hershey, Providence, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won't hurt McCann's growth as a player whatsoever.

With Florida getting the 33rd-overall and 93rd-overall picks added as part of the deal, they should be able to pick up additional talent on which to build. Restocking the cupboard is something all teams have to be on top of, and by grabbing a couple of decent picks with a solid prospect the Panthers have done a good job in adding some potential scoring with the possibility of adding more.

If analytics told the Panthers to deal Gudbranson, some one missed what can't be quantified in size and skating ability with Gudbranson. If we're talking about a winner in the trade, though, the immediate winner would have to be Vancouver as they get an NHL-experienced defenceman, but the Panthers may win this trade if we look five years down the road.

Do analytics allow one to predict the future in five years? We'll soon find out!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Character Shouldn't Be Questioned

There were guarantees and promises made, and we witnessed the Penguins make good on pushing this series to a Game Seven in Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on Thursday night. In making those promises, Pittsburgh's stars showed up to play: Kessel, Letang, and Crosby all scored en route to a 5-2 victory over the Lightning. It was a game that Pittsburgh had to win or they would have headed home with a number of media outlets waiting to rip them for coming up short again. Instead, they head home looking to silence their critics once more.

It's strange how a team that has silenced their doubters time and again this season has to go home to do it yet again. At first, they were a floundering team with stars that weren't producing early in the season. With Mike Sullivan stepping aboard and losing three-straight games, the Penguins' offensive stars weren't doing enough to justify the salaries they were receiving for the responsibilities they were getting.

Instead, Mike Sullivan took a team that was woefully bad in the early part of the season, established himself as the man calling the shots behind the bench and in the dressing room, and guided this Penguins team to an improbable run that culminated with them finishing in second-place in the Atlantic, ousting their rivals from Manhattan, and then decidedly beating the Presidents Trophy winners in the Washington Capitals.

Yet this team still isn't good enough in some eyes. The stars were questioned after the Game One loss. There were injuries and a slow start that hampered Pittsburgh in Game Four. There were questions about goaltending in Game Five that saw the Penguins lose a lead and lose in overtime. There were additional questions about a goalie controversy after the Penguins dropped two-straight games. If you put it all together, there were major questions about the Penguins loading up on talent and missing the goal again.

We've seen this story before under former GM Ray Shero. The Penguins made a couple of big acquisitions to give them a push in the playoffs only to fall short of the Stanley Cup, sometimes in rather spectacular fashion. Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa didn't bring a Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, and there was a lot of chatter about how Phil Kessel's time in Pittsburgh was looking awfully disappointing.

Instead, GM Jim Rutherford retooled on the fly once more, adding Nick Bonino in the off-season in what was thought to be a cost-cutting measure after offering up Brandon Sutter in the Bonino deal. Rutherford looked at his slow-footed and often inept defencemen, and made deals to bring in Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz, and promote some of the kids. In doing so, he added youth and speed to a blue line that was sorely in need of some, and vastly improved the back-end of the Penguins team.

Toss in a deal where the struggling David Perron was dealt for the speedy Carl Hagelin, a wise signing of the veteran Matt Cullen, some promotions in Connor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust, and this Penguins team is working together from top to bottom. Management and coaches are identifying needs, players are responding to coaching, and teammates are working together.

Yet there are still some who question the makeup of this team.

They made a guarantee like almost every athlete does to push this series to a Game Seven. They made promises to send this series back home to Pittsburgh. They looked to their stars who were making these promises and the stars responded with an effort. It's easy for reporters to sit back and make accusations about the leadership qualities of Sidney Crosby or the make-up of the team and how things aren't quite gelling as they should be, but the Penguins still have a shot at the Stanley Cup.

I'm not going to make a prediction one way or the other. I will say that Sidney Crosby has scored the game-winning goal in each of the three wins that Pittsburgh has earned, and that he stood up in front of the dressing room when down in Game Four and demanded more from his troops. He got it. He made promises, along with Malkin and others, about the effort they were going to give in Game Six, and they delivered.

Character isn't a term or intangible that can be quantified, but character and talent can be and we saw that effect tonight. The Penguins' stars decided that they weren't done in the these playoffs and wanted one more home game at least. They talked the talk and then walked the walk. Reporters got a great story out of it, and they filed their pieces knowing that they'll get one more game between the Lightning and Penguins.

This Penguins team, for all its been through this season with their ups and downs, have developed some real character. From the GM's office to the coach's office to the dressing room, this team has been spun through the ringer by the press and bloggers enough to know there are massive expectations on their heads. If the Penguins lose on Thursday, these questions will all be asked once more by reporters who should know they got beaten by a better team on that night.

If they win, however, let's put the questions about character and effort to rest for this season, ok?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Brothers Of Victoria (Day)!

Victoria Day is a federal Canadian holiday that honours Queen Victoria's birthday. It's a pretty important day in Canadian history as it is generally recognized as the day of Canada's sovereign birthday, and it usually seen as the first long weekend of the summer in the Great White North. In my neck of the woods, it's usually a weekend marked by rain and/or snow depending on the temperature, but precipitation is normal. Today, however, we look at the city of Victoria, named for the former Queen of the United Kingdom and British North America, and the many exceptional NHL players who have called this city home!

The first two players are brothers, but the name is very current in the minds of anyone following the NHL. Both players play for the Dallas Stars, and Jamie and Jordie Benn are front-and-center at the heart of the Stars' resurgence in the NHL.

Jamie has become one of the NHL's best scoring threats, and has been in talks for a number of NHL trophies. He has an Art Ross Trophy to his name already, and helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Despite his scoring prowess and NHL stardom, he's actually the younger brother of the other Benn child, Jordie!

Jordie Benn is a defenceman with the Dallas Stars, and his path to the NHL has taken a little longer than Jamie's path did. He's a solid two-way rearguard who often plays a shutdown role for the Stars. Jordie has seen time in the ECHL, CHL, and AHL, taking him from Victoria to Allen, Texas to Cedar Park, Texas with him finally landing a top-six spot in Dallas. Perhaps the greatest fact about Jordie's career thus far? He played for a BCHL team called the Victoria Salsa. Yes, Jamie played for the Salsa as well. Ok, a better fact would be that Jordie's first NHL point came on a goal that both he and Jamie assisted on tht was scored by Loui Eriksson. The brothers are doing everything they can to catch the Gretzkys!

Born in 1912, one of hockey's greatest innovators and builders called Victoria home. Lynn Patrick played in 455 NHL games, scoring 335 points and winning the 1940 Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers. His father, Lester, and uncle, Frank, were founders of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, and both have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. His brother, Muzz, and sons, Craig and Glenn, also played in the NHL! Lynn also served two years for the United States military in World War II!

After returning from the war, he played one more season before being named as the AHL head coach of the New Haven Ramblers before taking over the head coaching duties for the New York Rangers in 1949. He would move onto the Bruins in 1950 where he coached until 1955, and took of the general manager duties from 1954 until 1964! He would be named as the first GM and head coach of the St. Louis Blues before giving the coaching job to Scotty Bowman. He retired in 1977 from the game, but still attended Blues games as often as he could.

January 26, 1980 saw tragedy fall upon Patrick as he suffered a heart attack while driving home from a Blues game, and died in a car accident. In recognition of his accomplishments, Patrick was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and was a recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1989. He was 67 when he passed away. Rest in peace, Mr. Patrick.

Since I mentioned him above, Murray "Muzz" Patrick was also an NHL veteran. Muzz was born in 1915, and he was a multi-sport athlete before settling on hockey. Muzz won the Canadian amateur heavyweight boxing title in 1934, and began playing for the Eastern Amateur Hockey League's New York Cresecents in the winter of 1934 after spending the previous years studying at McGill University. In 1938, Muzz got the call from the New York Rangers and suited up in the NHL!

Along with his brother, Lynn, Muzz helped the Rangers win the 1940 Stanley Cup as a defenceman. He was fierce and rugged on the Rangers' blue line, never shying away from the rougher game. Muzz only managed five goals and 26 assists in 166 NHL games, but he was respected for his toughness.

Muzz also served in the United States military from 1941-45 where he attained the rank of captain as he helped the Allied Forces win World War II. He, like Lynn, would return from the war and play one more season with the Rangers before finishing his playing career in the minor leagues. He would also gain experience as a coach in the lower tiers before the Rangers called him to take over the coaching duties in 1954! In his one-and-a-half seasons as the Rangers' boss, he missed the playoffs both times. He jumped upstairs to the GM role for the next ten years after his brief coaching stint. He named himself as the interim head coach for two games in 1959-60 - he went 0-1-1 - and as the head coach in 1962-63 before resigning after 34 games where he posted an 11-19-4 record - worst in the NHL at that point.

Muzz would become a family man after his last stint in the NHL as head coach. He and his wife, Jessie, had four children who would bless them with twelve grandchildren! Muzz would pass away in 1998 at the age of 83. While he wasn't honoured with any major accolades, he will always be a Stanley Cup champion! Rest in peace, Mr. Patrick!

There are other names that fans will recognize who hail from Victoria - Tyson Barrie, Joe Reekie, Ryan O'Byrne, and Rick Lapointe - but the Patricks and Benns are the only sets of brothers to hail from Victoria and have both play in the NHL on the same team. And if the Benns can get Dallas out of the Central Division in the NHL Playoffs, they could become the second brother tandem from Victoria to win the Stanley Cup while playing on the same team!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Day In Sunny Treherne

I'm off the grid today as I'll be spending a sunny day in the town of Treherne, Manitoba. It's located about halfway between Winnipeg and Brandon, and about a half-hour south of Portage la Prairie. They have a brand-new aquatic center that might be one of the best in the province, and I'll be working as one of the umpires at the Treherne Northstars Slo-Pitch Softball Tournament! The Northstars are the local hockey program, and I'm pretty excited to be a part of this long-running tournament! But being that HBIC is a hockey blog, it's time to profile the only NHL player who hails from Treherne: Mr. Florent Robidoux!

While he born in Cypress River on May 5, 1960, Florent grew up in Treherne. He certainly knew how to put the puck in the net as his two seasons with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks proved, but he never seemed to be able to crack an NHL lineup. Robidoux scored 79 goals and added 98 assists in 140 WHL games over two seasons! While he filled the net with regularity and certainly set up his teammates, Robidoux wasn't drafted by an NHL squad in 1980. Instead, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks and was assigned to the New Brunswick Hawks for the 1980-81 season.

Florent played well in his first pro season at the AHL level. After 35 games where he scored 12 goals and 11 assists while showing some toughness in amassing 110 PIMs, the Chicago Blackhawks called him up to the NHL! It was here that Robidoux was asked to continue to play that tough role, often lining up against some of the NHL's toughest hombres. One such incident in his rookie season came when he and Boston's Stan Jonathan - never one to shy away from the roughness - got into an altercation!
In Robidoux's defence, I'm not sure I'd want to tangle with Jonathan either, but he did his job in wrestling with one of Boston's agitators so that skilled Blackhawks such as Denis Savard and Tom Lysiak didn't have to worry about him.

The Blackhawks would miss the playoffs in 1980-81, but Robidoux finished the season with six goals and two assists to go along with 75 PIMs in the 39 games in which he appeared. It seemed as though he made enough of an impact with the Blackhawks to warrant a longer look next season, but Robidoux started the 1981-82 season in New Brunswick once more.

Once more, Robidoux made an impact in his AHL season as he posted 31 goals and 35 assists in 69 games while adding 200 minutes in the penalty box. Robidoux was tough, he could score, and he was a play-maker. The Blackhawks called on him once more, but this call-up only lasted four games. He did manage a goal and two helpers in those four games, but the Blackhawks would miss the playoffs once more.

Instead, Robidoux went back to the New Brunswick Hawks - a team he helped to the top spot in the American Hockey League with 107 points - and dominated in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Hawks dispatched the Adirondack Red Wings in five games and the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in five games before downing the Binghamton Whalers in five games to win the Calder Cup! Robidoux finished second in playoff scoring with the Hawks, putting nine goals and ten assists on the board in 15 games!

With guys like Steve Larmer, Mike Kaszycki, and Warren Skorodenski on the Hawks' roster, there was a sense that the Blackhawks may move a number of players up. Robidoux appeared to be on the short list of players that the Blackhawks would promote, tragedy would strike Robidoux that would keep him off the ice for the entire 1982-83 season. Robidoux was in a car accident in July that resulted in injuries that required the entire season from which to recover, and it was a setback that changed Robidux's career trajectory for good.

Chicago assigned Robidoux to the AHL's Springfield Indians in 1983-84 where he put up decent numbers: 26 goals, 22 assists, and 123 PIMs in 68 games, but Springfield finished fourth after changing players and lines on a weekly basis. They were ousted in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Robidoux, it should be noted, was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks for nine games in this season, but he recorded no points and no penalty minutes in being used sparingly by the NHL club.

Unhappy with the direction his career was taking in Springfield, Robidoux moved to the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals for the 1984-85 season where Chicago had placed players. Things seemed to get better for the power forward as he finished second in team scoring with 29 goals and 35 assists in 76 games while spending 184 minutes watching from the sin bin. Milwaukee, however, would have a dreadful season, finishing the year with a 25-47-10 record, dead-last in the IHL.

Chicago, after seeing Robidoux bounce among lower-tier minor-league teams, cut Robidoux loose, making him a free agent in the summer of 1985. Looking to add some additional toughness to their team and affiliates, the Philadelphia Flyers signed Robidoux and assigned him to the AHL's Hershey Bears for the 1985-86 season!

Things didn't go as well as Robidoux could have hoped, however, as he found himself down the depth chart and certainly down the enforcer chart in Hershey with some of the big kids they had. Robidoux only managed to get into 47 games, and his role was reduced to being a third- or fourth-line player. He managed just six goals and three assists to go along with 81 PIMs, and Robidoux would leave Hershey unsatisfied after playying in just three Calder Cup Playoff games while the Bears fell to the Adirondack Red Wings in the Calder Cup Final.

Robidoux would sign with Milwaukee for the 1986-87 season, but he'd find himself sitting more often than playing. Robidoux would retire from professional hockey after just 15 games in his second stint with Milwaukee. His final season would see him post two goals and seven assists to go along with 16 PIMs, but he still showed the offensive capabilities in the playoffs that got him in the show. Robidoux would score three goals and three assists in six IHL playoff games before Milwaukee was eliminated from the Turner Cup Playoffs.

There's the career of Treherne's only NHL player to date, and he appeared to be a good one before the car accident in 1982. He was a heckuva scoring threat, didn't mind dropping the gloves, and certainly could dish out a few helpers when needed. While there is very little information on where Florent Robidoux is today, he did appear in the news in 2010 when he and his son were part of a traveling AAA minor team that went all over the continent to play hockey!

Florent Robidoux - a small-town Manitoba hockey legend!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!