Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Round Three Is Done

In the first time in this contest's history, the HBIC Playoff Pool saw points risked in an effort to close the gap between the leaders and everyone else. We'll talk a little bit about that risk in a second, but the two series in Round Three were drawn out to six and seven games respectively, so there were a lot of chances to score points. And a number of entrants did score points if you're keeping an eye on the leaderboard. Today, we recognize two entrants who did Round Three right in scoring the most points in those series.

NASHVILLE-ANAHEIM: One entrant decided to go off and call this series perfectly. Dan F. called all six games correctly to give him six points. He picked Nashville to win in six games to add another five games. And he also picked up game-winner by James Neal in Game One to set him up for a 13-point series! Well done, Dan! However, we'll talk about you a little more below.

OTTAWA-PITTSBURGH: A lot of entrants had this series ending in either five or six games, but one entrant decided to go the distance with his picks. Ted A. picked the winning teams in Games Two, Three, Five, Six, and Seven for five points, and correctly picked Pittsburgh winning in seven games for another five points! Ted's ten-point series was the best of the bunch, so congratulations to Ted on his picks in this series!

As I said above, I have to hand it to Dan for taking a chance. The only problem was that he wagered 21 points on the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series. Because he incorrectly predicted the series, he lost the 21 points he put on the board. Had he bet on the Predators-Ducks series where he correctly predicted all six games, he would have doubled his 21 points. If everything played out after that, he'd be sitting with 68 points. Unfortunately, the risk didn't pay off and Dan is currently sitting with less than 68 points. I will credit Dan for taking the chance, though. That was bold!

With that, here is the spreadsheet for the Stanley Cup Final. Best of luck in Round Four! Peter S. has a bit of a lead, but there's still a ton of opportunities for those trailing to get into the prizes with some good predictions on the Risk It! option. Will we see a major jump? Check the leaderboard for how much you can risk!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 May 2017

We Start On Monday

I'm in a ball tournament that begins tonight, so the updates will be short and sweet this weekend. Chris Kunitz became the oldest player to score a Game Seven overtime winner last night as the Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final to become the first team to have their first six appearances in the final as back-to-back appearances. This will also mark the first time that two American-born coaches will face off in the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Sullivan joins Toe Blake and Larry Robinson as the third coach to win his first seven NHL Playoff series.

And all of that means nothing once the games start on Monday. I'm excited as a Penguins fan to see if the team can repeat, but the Predators will be the toughest team that the Penguins will encounter yet based on how effectively they have dispatched the Blackhawks, the Blues, and the Ducks. And I'm not certain the Predators have faced a team with as much speed in their forward ranks as the Penguins have. These two teams split the season series with each team winning at home, so Monday will add a new chapter to this battle.

Are you ready?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 244

The Hockey Show returns tonight with some more Survivor: NHL Playoffs exit interviews as we get caught up in that pool. With Game Seven going tonight between Ottawa and Pittsburgh from Steel City, one of Tom or Barry will be doing an interview in the near future as well. There's been a pile of stuff happening all over the planet when it comes to hockey, so we'll talk about all the major news stories, hit on a few fun stories, and get everything caught up after a few weeks of fun interviews! Make sure you cozy up to the ol' radio tonight for The Hockey Show!

As you can see above, the field has thinned out a little from the last time one of these images was posted. Because of this, we'll catch up with Matthew, John, Adam, Al, and Derek to have them deliver their teams' respective exit interviews. We'll also preview Game Seven tonight and pick winners, chat a little about the surprising Nashville Predators and their resiliency without their top-two centermen, recap the IIHF World Championship with respect to how shootouts to determine gold medal winners are dumb, talk some overseas news as Russia begins to make some noise, and we'll cap off the show by talking about the twelve teams who will alter their look for next season under the Adidas logo.

Honestly, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! 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.

Tonight, we talk Game Seven, the final three, one shootout, the second Wild Card team, twelve new looks, and Russian numbers only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: May 25, 2017: Episode 244

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Russian Belt Tightening

I'd like to say that I'm shocked, but the reality is that I'm not. You shouldn't be shocked either when I tell you that today's news of the KHL cutting two teams from its membership finally happened. For a league that has had numerous reports of players not being paid, potential franchises leaving over costs, and owners and sponsors unable to keep up with the US dollar amidst the falling price of the ruble, the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time. Today, the announcement came from KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko that the league would contract Metallurg Novokuznetsk while allowing Medvescak Zagreb to walk away as they had promised in March. 29 teams are now 27, and the cuts being made don't appear to be stopping any time soon.

Again, I'd like to say that this is a shock, but I wrote about the possibility of the KHL making drastic changes in November. Today, the money problems that were discussed back then have become the reality we see before us today. Chernyshenko stated that the reasons that prompted the league to contract Novokuznesk were their 14-46 record from this past season and small crowds attending the games - two factors which often sees the latter as a result of the former. What makes this contraction a little more puzzling, however, is that Novokuznetsk was still making player transactions as recently as two days ago!
I have no idea what Alexei Tkachuk's status is at this moment in terms of who owns his rights, but it seems he's getting screwed over in a big way with this decision by the KHL. Again, it seems strange that the team is still making deals when contraction was clearly on the table, but this is Russia where the inexplicable often happens in the business world.

The other team that is leaving is Croatian team Medvescak Zagreb who finally made good on their promise to leave the KHL. It seems that for the last few summers, the threat of Zagreb leaving the league was always in play yet they always wound up playing another season in the KHL. In March, however, the club announced it would be joining the Austrian-based EBEL league for next season, finally cutting its ties to the Russian league where it always seemed it was behind in payments to players, staff, the arena, the league, and a host of other vendors. It appears they will keep the majority of their roster intact during the move to the EBEL, including Canadians Alexandre Giroux, Derek Smith, and captain Mike Glumac.

The other major piece of news that was floated by Chernyshenko today was that the league will also contract three more teams next season to reduce the field to 24 teams total. The Associated Press reports,
From 27 teams next season, the KHL will cut three more for the 2018-19 season, Chernyshenko said. A statistical rating system measuring teams' on-ice ability, their finances and crowd appeal will be used to determine who quits the league.
In total, the league will have reduced its footprint in and around Russia by five teams by the time the 2019-20 season starts based on the fact that teams are struggling. While they were once a socialist country when they went by the USSR name, it appears that there will be no help given from the league or the other 24 clubs, some of whom have budgets that rival small countries.

I read through the statement put out by Chernyshenko on Tuesday about how he views the finances of the KHL. You can read that report here, but there are some glaring issues he brings forth in his statement that should be addressed sooner than later when it comes to keeping the KHL viable.
"Such support for sport is a task for us all, but few would argue that it is the professional leagues and clubs which supply the personnel for our national teams. And professional sports should aspire to be financially sustainable. The KHL has just returned a profit for the third year running, but on average 52% of the clubs' budgets derive in some way from state funding, and not all the teams spend this money in a way that justifies these subsidies. As a result, the League has developed a set of measures designed to raise the level of competitiveness and to increase demand for the product."
Obviously, having a financial solvent and stable league is good, so good on the KHL for turning a profit three years running. However, the point Chernyshenko makes about 15 of the 29 clubs getting operating money from some state-funded source should worry the pants off Chernyshenko. If taxes and utilities are keeping half the teams in the league afloat, there's a serious issue with the accounting and funding of these teams. I fully understand that taxes and bills are a certainty in life, but we've seen industries fall in countries like the US that were once thought to be impervious to these perils. This should have Chernyshenko looking for other sources of income for his league and teams or ways to control the spending, and he addresses those methods two paragraphs below this one.

However, he continues,
"We are also increasingly active in attracting some formidable new member clubs. A recent example is Kunlun Red Star of Beijing, whose arrival has seriously expanded our marketing prospects in terms of raising additional income. With our product – a League set up in Russia with headquarters in Moscow – we can and should be pulling in revenue on the Asian and European markets. We are doing this. Our television rights, our main source, have already been sold to 28 countries, and we need to increase that number."
This isn't good enough. Two teams have already been set adrift and three more will join them, so the number of markets clamoring for KHL hockey is shrinking. I don't know what "formidable member clubs" he is boasting about attracting, but the league already tried and failed in Croatia and the Czech Republic as well as within its own borders in Russia. They might be able to get into Sweden or Great Britain, but that will only strain the league's finances once more. And if the league is already televised in 28 countries, there aren't a lot of remaining countries left to which they can sell KHL hockey.

Chernyshenko goes on to say,
"At the same time, however, we must reduce costs, and we can do this by lowering the wage ceiling. Tomorrow the KHL Board of Directors has its meeting, at which we shall discuss these measures. It might be necessary to make some unpopular decisions, but we cannot please everyone. Clubs that are unable to meet certain criteria will have to search for openings in other leagues, but the overall effect will be the release of funds from the budget, especially in the regions. These measures are aimed at improving all hockey operations and enhancing the prestige and quality of the League as our product. And the funds which will be made available, including the funding our clubs receive from the state, can be directed at strengthening the national teams. In tackling this issue, we will cooperate closely with the Russian Hockey Federation."
So not only is contraction seemingly the best way to manage costs, improve hockey operations, and enhance the "prestige and quality" of the KHL, but lowering the salary cap - which never seems to be enforced anyway - is also a good way at curbing the growing costs. This seems like the old USSR again - suppress wages and control growth so a few can benefit greatly! Honestly, if the KHL had enforced the salary cap from the beginning, there wouldn't be an arms race between three or four clubs when it comes to winning every year. When SKA St. Petersburg and Metallurg Magnitogorsk go 29-7 in the playoffs - including 5 of those losses coming in the final against one another - there's a problem. Both teams were 12-1 entering the final, and neither team was challenged along the way. They are consistently two of the top teams in the KHL and arguably boast the most talent of any of the KHL squads. I expect these two teams and CSKA to cruise through the regular season once again next season.

In the end, there will be no changes until all the money filtered into the Big Three starts getting spread to teams like Lada Togliatti, Amur Khabarovsk, and Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk followed by the strict enforcement of a lowered salary cap so that some of the smaller teams can catch up to these powerhouse big spenders. Secondly, there would have to be strict penalties in place for these big-spending teams so that if they did exceed the salary cap, they would be hindered moving forward. I'm not sure what could be done in this case - fines would have no effect when these teams are sometimes spending 800% more than the low-budget teams - but perhaps there would be loss of draft picks or loss of cap space for the following year in the same amount that exceeded the cap. Either way, these big-spending teams are more the problem than the solution right now when it comes to evening out the playing field.

Lastly, stop expanding. Until the KHL can get its house in order, expansion stops immediately. Chernyshenko talked about reducing costs, yet wants to add teams in far-off countries. The contradiction in this method is astounding if this is how the KHL believes it will strengthen itself, and I'd suggest that the KHL is turning more into a Champions League than an alternative to the NHL by looking outside its borders for more clubs to join the league. Fix the house before making additions. It's the only way to get stronger.

Out of all this, the only question will be which three teams join Metallurg Novokuznetsk and Medvescak Zagreb as former KHL teams. My guess is that HC Sochi, Slovan Bratislava, and Dynamo Riga are the most likely to be under the gun with this new calculation system, but we'll see who the three will be next summer once the calculations are done. Despite Chernyshenko stating about the missed payments to players from clubs that, "“The KHL will not stand for this," it seems he's only making things worse for a number of teams, players, and communities by either contracting their clubs or not helping them to attain some sort of parity with the free-spenders.

When all is said and done, the numbers don't lie, and the only guaranteed number for next season's KHL is 24. Good luck with that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Going The Distance

Craig-bleepin'-Anderson.

If there was one reason why the Penguins will host the Senators in Game Seven in Pittsburgh, Craig Anderson is the reason. Anderson stopped 45 shots in the must-win game to extend the series to Thursday where the Senators will look to win the best-of-one game now. To say Anderson was huge in this game would be doing him a disservice because he was the only reason why the Penguins weren't out to another big lead like they were in Game Five.

"You know, as far as tonight, you just try to stay in the moment as best you can and focus on the baby steps," Anderson told reporters. "One shot at a time, and the big picture takes care of itself when you worry about the details."

The details, if you're keeping track at home, is that Anderson's performance pushes this series to a Game Seven where neither team has a particularly great record. The Penguins are 9-7 in Game Sevens, but are 3-7 at home in the final game of a series. The Senators, on the other hand, are 0-5 in Game Sevens with a rather spectacular 0-4 record on the road. Pittsburgh dropped their second game of the playoffs after scoring first, so there's some hope that the Penguins can score first in Game Seven. They have just one win when their opponent scores first.

Pittsburgh is hoping for the same effort they got tonight and on Sunday when they trounced Ottawa 7-0 at the PPG Paints Arena. Ottawa is looking to weather the storm and capitalize when they can just as they did tonight. Only one will advance to host the waiting Nashville Predators on Monday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Predators Feast On Ducks

I don't eat a lot of duck. Besides me not being particularly fond of removing majestic waterfowl from our wetlands for conservation reasons, I simply have no interest in buying the meat. That being said, it seems that Nashville has acquired a taste for duck after sending the Anaheim Ducks back to California with nothing to show for their cross-country migrations. Nashville will make their first Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history after downing the Ducks in six games, but this should have been expected after the first few minutes in Game Six.

It didn't start well for the Ducks when Austin Watson banked a shot in off Brandon Montour's skate 81 seconds in.

With the insanity sparked early at Bridgestone Arena, the Smashville fans really got on Jonathan Bernier.
From there, former Milwaukee Admirals captain Colton Sissons elevated his play after being promoted to the top line as he notched his first career hat-trick in helping lead the Predators over the Ducks in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Anaheim's Cam Fowler had tied the game at 3-3 with 11:08 to go in the third period, but it was Sissons' dagger with 6:00 to play that gave Nashville the lead they would never relinquish. Two empty-net goals later, and the crowd in Nashville nearly blew the lid off the arena.

"It feels so good," Sissons said in a post-game on-ice interview. "Listen to this crowd. Our fans are amazing, a great group of guys. We just believe in ourselves. That's all it is."

Peter Laviolette will now see the Stanley Cup Final with a third team, becoming the fourth coach to achieve that dubious distinction and the first since 1994. For Laviolette, he's 1-1 in Stanley Cup Final, winning with Carolina in 2006 and losing to Chicago in 2010 while with Philadelphia. He joins Dick Irvin, Scotty Bowman, and Mike Keenan in that highly-regarded group, but Laviolette had a much different view on his "success".

"Probably means that I got fired a lot," Laviolette joked. "I'm fortunate to be here working and fortunate David Poile gave me a job. And when you do that, you're not thinking about things like that, you're just thinking about coming to work."

Is there any doubt that the blue-collar approach that Laviolette takes to his job hasn't rubbed off on all his players? You can certainly point to the fact that Nashville arguably has the best top-four defencemen in the NHL along with an elite netminder who can steal games when needed, but they also have four lines that can play whatever style of game they are asked to play. Whether it be a scoring role, a checking role, a grinding role, or anything else, Colton Sissons is the personification of this hard-working, do-whatever-it-takes team when it comes to their success. Normally a third-line centerman behind Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher, Sissons jumps to the top line and bags a hat-trick. Not bad for the kid's first spotlight moment of the playoffs!

While it certainly can be said that the strong Nashville defence deserves some consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy, I'd be inclined to look deeper in the zone at Pekka Rinne. Rinne was outstanding in this series just as he's been all playoffs as he stands with a 12-4 record. He stopped 172 of 186 shots in the six games, including 38 of 41 when Anaheim looked like they were gaining momentum throughout Game Six. His rebound control has been outstanding throughout the three series, and he handles the puck in his own zone like a third defenceman, often looking like he's daring forecheckers to try and take the puck from him. Had it not been for some incredible goaltending from Rinne in the first and second periods, we might be talking about a Game Seven right now. He's earning his keep in these playoffs without doubt.

And let's not forget the ever-present Sixth Man in Nashville. The fans are rabid about hockey in Nashville, and they party from morning until, well, next game. From celebrity anthem signers to celebrity towel wavers to the mass of fans that assemble outside to watch on the big screen, the atmosphere in Nashville may be unmatched in these playoffs. The "All Your Fault" chant shows how into the game these fans are, and they're serving notice that Nashville's barn is one of the hardest places for opposition teams to play. As Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle stated last week, "You see these elderly women out there with a sledge hammer taking a pounding at a car that's got a Ducks logo on it... those are the kinds of things you look to, that passion that's been developed in their market."

There was some worry in the building when the Ducks began to chip away at the lead, but it seemed to evaporate with Sissons' hat-trick goal to give the Predators the 4-3 lead. From there, it was effort and fan support that carried the Predators into the Stanley Cup Final as the Ducks couldn't muster another goal in their comeback. While I wouldn't say that Nashville was the favorite going into the series with the Pacific Division champions, the early goal tonight followed by the solid team effort to stake the Predators to a lead had to have the Ducks worried. By the time the final horn sounded, it turned out that their goose was cooked.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Out In Treherne

I'm lucky enough to spend my Sunday in Treherne, Manitoba where I'll be umpiring a ball tournament for the local hockey team known as the Treherne North Stars. It's a rather small town about 90 minutes from Winnipeg to the southwest, but it is a quaint and friendly town with lots ot offer the road-tripping souls who make their way here. While I have yet to start writing Travel Blog In Canada, there is a hockey tie-in as one player from Treherne has gone on to play under the bright lights of the NHL. That player is none other than Florent Robidoux.

I wrote about Florent last year on the same weekend, so I'm not going to do that twice. What I do want to talk about is the senior men's North Stars team who wears the North Stars' uniforms proudly. Check out this photo of Treherne's finest hockey players!
That is outstanding! That photo was grabbed off the North Stars' Twitter page after the North Stars downed their arch-rivals in the Notre Dame Tropics at the annual Winter Classic. While that "classic" gets less press and TV people to it, the action on the ice was pretty insane as per reports with the North Stars coming out on top via a 4-3 margin!

I'll admit it here, folks, that I'm happy to support any team who goes full North Stars on the ice. When the NHL North Stars changed their jerseys to the generic black-and-green "Stars" uniforms, I was pretty disappointed. Granted, I'm pretty disappointed with most teams who ditch colour for a black jersey in hockey, but that great logo and green jerseys were iconic. Modano, Propp, Tinordi, Casey, Beaupre, Ciccarelli, Gartner, Parise, and Masterton are all names who wore the great starred-N during its time in the NHL.

Of course, that got me thinking of the other great logos we've lost in relocations of NHL franchises. Along with the North Stars, we've seen the Nordiques, the Whalers, and the Jets' original logo in moves during the 1990s, and it got me to thinking about which logo did I miss the most? There were some great logos in the 1990s that moved, so I wanted to ask you, readers, on which logo you missed most. In saying that...
Which NHL logo do you miss most?
Minnesota North Stars
Quebec Nordiques
Hartford Whalers
Winnipeg Jets
While I don't have the funds to license any of the above logos, I'd like to see all four make a comeback at some point. I know the NHL is making serious coin off the Whalers logo in sales, but that only goes to prove that these four logos may be as popular or more popular than current logos. Have your say in the poll above, and we'll check the results in a few weeks!

My time out in Treherne saw me up at 4:45am, on the road by 6:30am, in Treherne by about 8:15am, and back home by 9:15pm. It was a long day, but I had a great time and I'm already looking forward to next year's tournament. Because of my day, though, I missed the 2-1 shootout gold-medal win by Sweden over Canada (and I really want to grumble about shootouts deciding gold medals, but alas) and the Pittsburgh rout of Ottawa in their Game Five 7-0 win. There's still a ton of hockey to be played, but gimme your vote in the poll!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Windsor Looks Sharp

With the CHL's Memorial Cup kicking off this weekend, the tournament features the three champions from the respective CHL leagues - the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL - along with the host city's team. The responsibility and tradition of the host team wearing a special Memorial Day jersey is a tradition that I think is one of the coolest traditions in all of hockey. I haven't actually looked into which team started the tradition, but it did start after 1983 when the Canadian Hockey League brought in a fourth "host team" to compete alongside the three league champions for the trophy.

Captain James T. Sutherland reportedly proposed the idea of a trophy being awarded to the best junior-aged hockey team during World War I as a memorial to remember the Ontario Hockey Association players who passed away during the war. Sutherland was an OHA player at the time, and the trophy was originally created in honour of those who passed away in World War I only. In 2010, however, the CHL rededicated the trophy to represent all Canadians who passed away in all battles.

This year, Windsor, Ontario is playing host to the tournament, and the Spitfires donned these uniforms last night for their opening game against the Saint John Sea Dogs in keeping with tradition.

Regarding the design, the Spitfires worked in conjunction with the CHL to come up with the gorgeous jerseys above. As per the release,
"... the jersey pays tribute to the Victoria class long range patrol submarine HMCS Windsor which is named after the City of Windsor. The HMCS Windsor was originally built for the Royal Navy before being purchased by Canada when the United Kingdom decided to move to an all-nuclear power fleet in 1998. Last fall, the HMCS Windsor was among the Canadian warships deployed to the NATO naval training exercise 'Cutlass Fury' off the east coast of North America."
All are available right now via auction if you're interested in acquiring one of these amazing uniforms.

After 44 days off, the Spitfires came out wearing these jerseys tonight and knocked off the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs by a 3-2 score. Despite losing to the London Knights in the opening round, the Spitfires showed no rust as they played well. They represented the HMCS Windsor extremely well as they moved to 1-0 in the tournament. Could Windsor be the tenth host team in Memorial Cup history to win the trophy? We'll know on May 28 when the Memorial Cup is hoisted!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 May 2017

An Improving Germany

At the start of the IIHF World Hockey Championship, the Germans pulled off an impressive upset over the Americans. Since that time, there have been victories, but none over the top teams on the planet. When Canada and Germany met yesterday, there were a few new players since the opening game, and it's clear that if the Germans have their full squad they can be a formidable opponent. Canada won their game against the Germans by a 2-1 score to advance to the semifinal, but the Germans weathered the oncoming attack from the Canadians all game and lost by just a goal. While the score favors the Germans' efforts, the stats tell two stories: Canada was dominant, but Germany was resilient.

I've resisted the temptation in all mock expansion drafts to grant Las Vegas the opportunity to pick up Philipp Grubauer simply because I believe that Washington values the netminder more than they let on. I can't speak for Washington management, but my guess if that Grubauer's play for Germany yesterday was both a message for current Washington management and an audition for a former Washington GM and current Vegas GM George McPhee.

Grubauer was outstanding in turning aside 48 shots for the Germans, some in spectacular fashion, as the Canadians imposed their will on the Germans. As an example, Germany didn't put a shot on Canadian goaltender Calvin Pickard for the first fifteen minutes of the second period as the majority of play took place in the German end. Instead, Grubauer kept it a 1-0 game at that point by denying chance after chance including a laser by Matt Duchene and a one-timer from Claude Giroux that looked like a third Canadian marker.

"What can you do when you run up against a goalie like him?" Canada's Chris Lee asked Andy Potts. "He was fantastic. We put pressure on him all night, we created chances but in the end we got the win, and that's what matters for us."

Germany's longtime defender in Christian Ehrhoff had an outstanding game as he seemed tireless and was on the ice for every second shift as time ticked away in the third period. It was Ehrhoff who set up the Germans' lone goal as his outlet pass found Yannic Seidenberg behind the Canadian defence while shorthanded, and Seidenberg beat Pickard to make it a 2-1 game with 6:39 to play. Ehrhoff was amazing in his poise and durability as he nearly willed his team to another upset.

Where Germany may need improvement is in developing scorers. While Leon Draisaitl is certainly in the mix, players like Dominik Kahun and Brooks Macek have to start improving as players such as Patrick Reimer and Yannic Seidenberg begin to hit the twilight of their careers. Not one forward under the age of 25 had more than two points, and that should worry Germany when it comes to setting themselves up for future international tournaments. Germany will need to score goals to win games against the big-six teams.

While Germany's stated goal was to make the top-eight in this tournament, they were legitimately one goal from pushing Canada to a next-goal-wins contest. And while that should excite German fans, there's still tomorrow to think about when it comes the next tournament for Germany. They're in a good position, but they just need to take that next step!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 243

The Hockey Show had every intention to continue the Survivor: NHL Playoffs exit interviews tonight, but when an opportunity to welcome back two amazing people to the program you have to make the tough choices. Both of our guests tonight have been in the studio before, but there's so much more to talk about now as things are changing, new faces have been added to the journey they're on, and so much opportunity lies ahead. Honestly, I don't think I've been more excited to have these two guests in than I am today, and I'm proud, honoured, humbled and privileged to welcome them back to the show!

Of course, I speak of none other than Brandon Reid and Jessica Scott-Reid who are home from Denmark for the summer as they prepare for another nine-or-so months in Aalborg next season! If you follow the show, you know that I kept my eye on how Aalborg did this season, so we'll get the Reids' thoughts on how the first season went from both a coach and a coach's wife's perspective! Along with that, we'll talk to Brandon about the recent player movement seen on the Pirates roster over the last three weeks or so, we'll talk to him about his work with Sledge Hockey Canada, his hockey camp, and if he's been watching the NHL Playoffs! We'll also talk to Jessica about her experiences over in Denmark as a freelance writer, a new mom, and cheering on Brandon as he took Aalborg to new heights this season! And, of course, we'll talk about daughter Clover who may just be the cutest baby on Facebook of all-time!

Honestly, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! 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.

Tonight, we talk to Brandon and Jessica about life in Denmark, life as a coach, life as parents, life as a writer, and welcoming a new little life into the family only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: May 18, 2017: Episode 243

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Cold Night

I'm not sure this image will accurately represent my outing this evening, but I'm going to miss another game in the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series as I work four games as an umpire. With the temperature hovering around the single digits in the Celsius range, it's going to be a long and chilly night for me. That being said, there's a pivotal Game Three happening in the nation's capital tonight as one of Ottawa or Pittsburgh will be two wins away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. Both teams are looking for statement games, so we'll see what happens when I finally get off the diamond around 11:30pm CT. Yikes.

For Pittsburgh, they need another big game from Marc-Andre Fleury and they need their stars to find some time and space to make things happen. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel need more than one goal between them in this series, so they'll to find a way to break that suffocating forecheck and neutral zone clog-up that Guy Boucher has drawn up against them. Avoiding injuries and getting a few key guys back - Rust, Hornqvist, Hagelin, and Daley - would also do wonders for the squad.

Ottawa, in their efforts, need to keep pressuring the Penguins into mistakes, and they need to capitalize on their chances if Fleury is going to play out of his mind. As we saw in the Washington series, Pittsburgh can collapse quickly if the Senators can score a few quick goals and put the Penguins in a hole, so there will be some pressure for the Senators to get out in front early in Game Three. Some magic from Turris, Ryan, Hoffman, and MacArthur wouldn't hurt either.

I'll check in later this week and we'll see where we are. Until then, it will be a chilly night watching four games of slo-pitch on a clear, cold, and starry night.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Thrill

There will be very little said in this blog entry simply because it seems Phil Kessel had a lot to say last night. Sportsnet's Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson may have done the best play-by-play of Phil's chatter in the game.
If nothing else, Phil was highly entertaining last night. His frustration may have reached a boiling point when it came to his teammates moving the puck, but Kessel turned that inferno burning inside of him into something positive with seven minutes to play in the third period and the game still tied at 0-0.
Game Three goes on Wednesday in Ottawa. Will we see another Phil Kessel outburst? I'm hoping so because this animated version of Phil the Thrill is something I could watch for days!

Until next time, "you have to move the puck!"

Monday, 15 May 2017

Caspita!

When Italy met Denmark in today's games at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, there was some hope that Italy could pull out a victory to keep them in the top division of hockey for next year's tournament. Granted, it was a tough task against a rising team in Denmark, but hope was all that Italy needed to spur their efforts. Instead, things unraveled late in the game when Italy needed a goal or two to keep their hopes alive. Let's just say this is not how Italy wants to be remembered.

Alexander Egger is a 37 year-old defenceman who has played in Italy with HC Bolanzo for the majority of his career. He's a fairly productive scorer in Italy with 117 goals and 303 assists in 579 career games, but playing against some of the world's best in this year's World Championship has seen the Italian go scoreless in seven games.

Unless you count this one.
After stumbling over his own feet, the puck comes off Egger's stick and slides directly into his own vacated net. While it's completely an accident, it was the last goal "scored" by the Italians in this tournament as they will be relegated back to the Division-1A next season in the hopes they can battle back and participate in the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

For a guy who has been so good in Italy, it sucks for Egger to be remembered on the world stage like this.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Bounty

If you've submitted your entries for Round Three of the HBIC Playoff Pool, you're one step closer to everything below! In full disclosure mode, there are no dollar signs on any of the prizes below despite the image to the left, but there are some solid prizes to choose from if you happen to end up in the top-three of the contest. That's really the only catch when it comes to the following bounty that's up for grabs. If you're prepare to see what you're battling for, read on!

We'll start with Prize #3 and work our way up to what I consider to be the top prize. You may feel differently, but this is my blog entry today so I'll arrange these as I see fit. If you end up in first-place in the HBIC Playoff Pool, though, you can choose any one of the three prizes that tickles your fancy. Second-place in the contest can choose from the remaining two prizes, and third-place gets the remaining prize. In other words, it benefits you to shoot for the top in this contest!

So what are you playing for?

PRIZE #3: THE IIHF GUYS

Based on the fact that Mark Scheifele is playing for Canada and there are Rangers playing for Sweden and USA, this prize package features a Mark Scheifele bobblehead and two XXL New York Rangers shirts. Neither the Jets nor the Rangers have captured the big prize yet, so this can't be the top prize in the contest.

PRIZE #2: THE PETER FORSBERG

Drawing upon the fact that Forsberg played for the Nordiques and Team Sweden, this prize package features a Rogers Edwards XL Quebec Nordiques jacket and an Adidas flex-fit L/XL Team Sweden World Cup of Hockey cap. While Forsberg has won a Stanley Cup or two, he never won as a member of the Nordiques and he never won a World Cup of Hockey, so this too cannot be the top prize in the contest.

PRIZE #1: THE PHIL KESSEL

Aptly named after Phil the Thrill for a reason, this prize package features a Reebok Pittsburgh Penguins XL jersey and an Adidas flex-fit L/XL Team USA World Cup of Hockey cap. While he was left off the World Cup of Hockey team and sent out tweets about the team's struggles, there's no denying that Kessel was a major part of Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup run last season and possibly in their title defence this season!

There are some solid prizes up for grabs this year, so make sure you consider the "Risk It!" option of the leaders seem too far out of reach in the Stanley Cup Final! If you're right about all the games in that series, you might just jump to the top of the leaderboard!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Ended His Season

You may think that, as a Canadian, I have little respect for the Russians when it comes to hockey. Yes, I'll always cheer for the Canadians when the long-time rivals meet, but I'd have a hard time denying my respect for Russians who have played the game well and accomplished amazing things. One such player is Sergei Mozyakin, and the image just above is how he finished his IIHF World Championship after it was announced today that the veteran sniper would miss the remainder of the tournament.

Mozyakin isn't one to simply pack up his bags after a few bumps and bruises. The proud Russian is one of the best players on the planet to lace up the skates, so his absence must mean that the injury he sustained off a vicious Patrick Hager slew-foot late in the Germany-Russia game on Monday may have been worse than the Russia team let on after Mozyakin was seen with teammates at dinner following the game.

Mozyakin has never been one not to represent his country proudly, and he's often seen as the one Russian whose KHL loyalty has always represented the homeland. He has played in eight World Championships where he's posted 19 goals and 19 assists in 51 games, but the greatest scorer in Russian hockey history has been left off every Olympic team. I can't imagine that sits well with Mozyakin, but he continually shows up for Russia at the World Championships where he was named the captain this year. Everything seemed to be going well as Russia was getting stronger through the three games he played, and then Patrick Hager committed an atrocious act that, in this writer's eyes, deserved more than two games of suspension.

If the IIHF is serious about protecting players, the penalty that Hager incurred would have carried a much harsher sentence. The slew-foot was premeditated, it was vicious, and Mozyakin landed on his shoulder and head aftr having his feet kicked out from underneath him. There is no excuse or rationale for Hager's attack as Mozyakin wasn't part of the play nor was he in any sort of pursuit of the puck. Conversely, Hager's attack came from behind where Mozyakin didn't see him, and the end result was Mozyakin landing on his head and shoulder after the slew-foot. The jarring of his head and neck alone could have caused a concussion, but no one talks about what injuries were suffered.

The official statement today reads, "The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia now announced that he will not be able to play anymore at the tournament and travelled home today." Russia has some elite snipers still on their roster, but losing the man who redefined scoring in Russia is a loss that Russia may feel down the line. I'm hoping that Mozyakin's leaving the team is more precautionary than it is due to concussion symptoms, but if he's not going to be available for the next week of games I'd guess he's simply not feeling right.

As a Russian player I've always respected for how he played the game, here's hoping that Mozyakin is alright for next season where he'll continue to decimate KHL scoring records. The IIHF, however, should really start looking at making vicious slew-foots like the one that Hager committed an eject-able offence that would see the player who committed the action sent home from the tournament as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Updates And Honour Rolls

I'll throw a disclaimer upfront here: there's actually only one honour roll, but the pluralized version sounds better in keeping this uniform. In saying that, the HBIC Playoff Pool leaderboard has been updated to reflect current point totals after two rounds of play, and the third round begins tonight. Don't delay in getting the latest spreadsheet sent in to the playoff pool inbox either! The puck will be dropped on Round Three tonight with Anaheim meeting Nashville at 9pm ET, so you have until that time to submit your picks and continue adding points to your total!

Like we did in Round One, I want to throw a spotlight on a few people who did extremely well with their predictions in this past round. Before we get to that, the number of people who called the Nashville-St. Louis series perfectly was rather astounding. I counted some ten people with perfect series in that match-up, so kudos to those ten people! That's outstanding predicting, and you deserve a pat on the backs for those prognostications. There's more to look at, though, so let's see who did the best in each series.

NASHVILLE-ST. LOUIS: One of the people who called the series perfectly was Dave F. Dave picked up five points for calling a Nashville series win in six games, correctly called all six games right, and then added the game-winner off Tarasenko's stick in Game Two and the game-winner in Game Six by Johansen. All tallied, Dave racked up an impressive 15 points in this series which also makes his total the highest of all the series played in the Second Round! Congratulations, Dave!

ANAHEIM-EDMONTON: Strangely, this series didn't have a very good average point value when looking at the scores, and most of it was due to entrants calling the series in six games or calling an Edmonton win in seven games. One entrant, though, saw the light. Justin S. went ahead and correctly predicted the right team winning in Games Two, Four, Five, Six, and Seven, and correctly had Anaheim as the winning team in Game Seven to add another five points. His ten points was the highest total earned in this series, so another congratulations goes out to Justin in this round!

OTTAWA-NY RANGERS: This was another series that saw many people pick New York as the victor, so point totals were low throughout the round. Katie, the lone woman in the contest, decided to show the boys up by winning this series! Katie correctly picked the winners in Games One and Six, correctly had Ottawa ousting New York in six games, and then tacked on the Erik Karlsson game-winner in Game Six to make this a nine-point series for her! Well done, Katie, in this series!

WASHINGTON-PITTSBURGH: If there was ever a series that appeared to be destined to go seven games, this one had to be it. The only problem was that a lot of people thought that this was Washington's year and missed out on the big five-point score. Nevertheless, one entrant racked up a big series. Chris C. called the right game-winners in Games One, Six, and Seven, and he had Pittsburgh as the winning team in Game Seven to give him eight points. However, Chris also correctly predicted the Backstrom game-winning goal in Game Six and the Bryan Rust game-winner in Game Seven to add four more points to his total! When the dust settled, Chris walked out with 12 points in this series! Well done, Chris!

That will set us up for the next round. Remember that NO ONE is out until the Stanley Cup is awarded thanks to the "RISK IT!" option where you can wager a boatload of points in an effort to double whatever amount that you risk! It's all-or-nothing for that series, though, so make sure you choose the right team to win each game! If you do this like the ten people did in the Nashville-St. Louis series, you could double the wagered amount!

Well done to everyone above, and the HBIC Playoff Pool pushes forward! This weekend, I'll post the prizes for the eventual winners, so tune in for that to see what's up for grabs! Personally, there are some solid prizes this year, so you might want to risk some of those points in the Stanley Cup Final!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 242

The Hockey Show returns to the airwaves tonight with all sorts of stuff to discuss with a special guest! There were two Game Seven games yesterday, the Conference Finals are set, there's World Hockey Championship stories to discuss, and my guest tonight is the man at the top when it comes to a great local tournament being run in our city and in cities across Canada! Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud to welcome back our friend and local radio great in Tom McGouran as we get set for another year's worth of action at the PlayOn! ball hockey tournament!

If you've listened to radio in or near Winnipeg in the last decade or so, his voice is instantly recognizable. Tom McGouran is more than just a radio guy, though, as he runs the Winnipeg chapter of PlayOn!, and we'll welcome him back to the studio tonight to talk about the ball hockey tournament happening on and around Chancellor Matheson Road at the University of Manitoba on May 27 and 28! Tom's always looking for good volunteers and solid officials (who get paid!), so if you want to volunteer or officiate follow the links on this page. Beans and TJ are both off tonight for business-related matters, so I'll sit down with Tom and get the info about the tournament that you need as well as getting Tom's picks for the Conference Finals and his thoughts on some of the hockey news stories as well! It should be another great show with Tom, so make sure you tune in at 5:30pm!

For those in the HBIC Playoff Pool, Game One of the Nashville-Anaheim series goes tomorrow night. Here is the next spreadsheet for the HBIC Playoff Pool that you need. I'll also post this tomorrow, but make sure you get your picks in prior to the 9pm ET puck-drop!

For those in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest, we'll pick up with the contest next week in doing four more exit interviews for the Blues, Rangers, Capitals, and Oilers!

Listen, if you haven't done it already, you really should download the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! 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.

Tonight, we talk ball hockey, puck hockey, playoff hockey, World Championship hockey and much more as I welcome Tom McGouran back to the show only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: May 11, 2017: Episode 242

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

This Seems Familiar

They say that one should win with class. That one shouldn't flaunt victory in front of fallen opponents. That one should act like one has been there before. If these clich├ęs are a little much for you, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals ended tonight's series just as they have nine out of ten series before: handshakes after Pittsburgh eliminated Washington.

I'm not here to dance on the grave of the Capitals. This is going to be a tough off-season for them as changes will be made whether they want them to happen or not. That's life in the salary cap era, and this team might have been the last true contending squad that would have made players such as Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby champions together. The harsh reality will set in as the Capitals begin to clean out their lockers and issue season-ending interviews in the coming days.

The Penguins will now hold home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Final over the Ottawa Senators, and that series is scheduled to begin on Saturday night. It will be a different series for the Penguins as they will face a true trap team for the first time in a while. While they will try to utilize their speed, Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap will be formidable as the Rangers and Bruins both found in their series.

The President's Trophy-winning team once again fails to win the Stanley Cup. Washington's sorrows against the Penguins continues. Justin Williams - Mr. Game Seven as he's called - suffers his first loss in a Game Seven in his career, falling to 7-1 and being kept off the scoresheet for the first time in a Game Seven in his career. If there was ever a curse, this one that Washington deals with every spring seems to affect even the most accomplished of players when that red jersey is pulled on.

There will be changes in DeeCee this summer. How deep and how far those changes will go is up to management and ownership, but there will be a number of different faces with the Capitals next season if they face these Penguins again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Another New Jersey

This post has nothing to do with New Jersey as a location, but it does have to do with another new jersey for Ben Bishop. Seen to the left in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, Ben Bishop's rights were traded today for a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings to the Dallas Stars as the Stars look to shore up their netminding issues. Bishop, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, now has the ability to negotiate with the Dallas Stars until that time, and it sounds as if the Stars are very interesting in locking up the goaltender in a deal that will solidify their crease defender position for some time.

While some may say that having three goaltenders in Bishop, Kari Lehtonen, and Antti Niemi on the payroll could cause GM Jim Nill some headaches if Las Vegas decided not to opt for one of Niemi or Lehtonen in the expansion draft, I don't think Nill cares much about that scenario right now.

"We still have to get the contract done, but I'm pretty confident we're going to get that done," Nill told reporters. "Ben is excited about coming to Dallas. He's got a history there. It's a place that he enjoys, I think he likes our team and the potential of our team.

"I'm hope that this can move along pretty quick. We'll see where it all goes. But I'm hoping this isn't an extended negotiation."

To be fair, Bishop's numbers last season weren't going to wow anyone. He was 18-15-5, including going 2-3-2 after the trade from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles, and he posted a 2.54 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Granted, those numbers were considerably better than Lehtonen's 22-25-7 record, his 2.85 GAA, and his .902 save percentage as well as Niemi's 12-12-4 record, his 3.30 GAA, and his .892 save percentage, but the bar was set pretty low in Dallas last season when it came to goaltending. Nill is hoping Bishop can find the same form in Dallas as he has in Tampa Bay in 2015-16 when he went 35-21-4 with a 2.06 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Those numbers would translate to a drastic increase in points for the Stars as they look to return to the playoffs next season and erase the memories of having the second-worst GAA in the NHL and the worst save percentage among all teams.

The Central Division's playoff teams this season had solid, bonafide starting netminders - Chicago with Crawford, Minnesota with Dubnyk, St. Louis with Allen, and Nashville with Rinne. The teams that got poor goaltending - Dallas and Winnipeg - saw their playoff hopes flicker when the stakes were raised in the second-half of the season. By getting Bishop, the Stars are looking at matching the puck-stopping abilities of at least one of those four teams mentioned above.

By acquiring the rights to Bishop, the Stars also potentially weakened another Western Conference playoff team in the Calgary Flames. The Flames were reportedly interested in pursuing Bishop this summer via free agency as they too were looking to shore up their netminding issues. The asterisk to this story, though, was that Bishop submitted a list of teams to Los Angeles to where he preferred to be traded, and Calgary was not on that list. That's not to say that he wouldn't have listened to an offer, but the fact is that he didn't want to go to Calgary if the Los Angeles Kings were looking for a trading partner. If you want to ramp up some early controversy for next season, there's a juicy tidbit.

While it's obvious nothing is even close to being finalized yet, the Dallas Stars may have found their man when it comes to their last line of defence. Ken Hitchcock will employ a defensive strategy just as he's always done in his previous stops in the NHL, so expect Bishop's numbers to improve next season. That being said, the Dallas Stars should be better with better goaltending provided by Bishop, and that raises the stakes in the Central Division once more.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 8 May 2017

The MVP Isn't On The Ice

Music City is hopping once again as the Nashville Predators have done the unthinkable in sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in Round One and downing the St. Louis Blues in Round Two to advance to the Western Conference Final. Honestly, I don't know if there's a city that I've been to that enjoys a party as much as Nashville, and the Predators are giving their fans every reason to stay up late, watch hockey, and engage in celebration. While the city if known more for country music, various acts are emerging from the city in a number of genres. The one genre that you won't find in Nashville for the rest of this summer? The Blues.

The Predators look like they're having fun out there. They are getting monster contributions from their rearguards and Pekka Rinne is looking like one of the best to ever put the pads on once more. Roman Josi wad a pair of goals and three assists against St. Louis. PK Subban had a goal and five assists. Ryan Ellis had three goals in the series. In total, the six men playing defence combined for six goals and eleven assists against St. Louis, and that's a huge effort from the men who are supposed to keep the puck away from Pekka Rinne. It seems that task is made infinitely easier when it's in the other team's net.

Rinne improved to 8-2 with a 1.37 GAA, a .951 save percentage, and two shutouts - both in Chicago - in 10 games this post-season. He hasn't had to work very hard for a number of those wins in stopping 29 shots per night on average - some six less shots per night than his next closest, still-alive netminder in Braden Holtby - but some of his saves have been of the timely variety to thwart what appears to be scoring chances for the opposition. In other words, Rinne is being Rinne once again.

"He gives us the confidence," Josi told reporters. "I think every game he's been our best player. He's so confident back there. He's confident in making saves. He's confident in passing the puck. And he's been unbelievable for us."

A lot of the credit for where this team is should to GM David Poile for pulling off two monster trades to change the dynamics of his team. The first was the trade of young defenceman Seth Jones to Columbus for young centerman Ryan Johansen on January 6, 2016. At the time, there was much head-scratching about this deal, and even Poile was reluctant to give up Jones in a deal when he told Sportsnet's Hockey Central, "I never thought I would trade him. I didn’t want to trade him. I wanted to have our cake and eat it too.... It wasn't easy for me to pull the trigger."

However, the astute GM looked at his roster and realized he needed a big piece down the middle. With Columbus off to a terrible start and a coaching chance that saw John Tortorella come in and find fault with Johansen's play, things changed for Poile in terms of finding that young number-one centerman.

"It was pretty simple. I asked Jarmo if he was ever going to trade Johansen we coveted trying to get a top centre and he told me right off the bat if he was ever going to do it that it would take one of our top young defencemen," Poile explained. "Our offence has been inconsistent and we needed to find that No. 1 centre. We've been trying basically my whole career here in Nashville to get that top centreman."

The trade was exactly the change of scenery that Johansen needed. After posting 26 points in 38 games with the Blue Jackets, Johansen went out and scored 16 points in 17 games. The team, however, seemed to need some adjustment to the loss of Jones and addition of Johansen as they went 7-7-3 in those 17 games. Poile's comments at the time reflected the team's struggles despite Johansen's production.

"If you were to tell me that would have happened," Poile told Michael Traikos of the Toronto Sun, "I would have thought our record would be better. He's doing his part, but we aren't getting secondary scoring at all. If you compare our offensive statistics from last year to this year, almost every player is down. There's not too many guys that are having better seasons. So collectively, it doesn't bode well for winning."

Nashville, however, did find their stride in finishing with 96 points for the Western Conference's first wild card position, and they ended up ousting the Anaheim Ducks in seven games before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup finalists in the San Jose Sharks in seven games. No one would have predicted that the Predators would give two of the Pacific Division's best teams a run for their money in 2016, but the Predators were emerging out of the tough Central Division.

Poile, though, still thought his team lacked something in their loss to the Sharks, so he decided to re-evaluate. Once he came to a decision, he shocked the hockey world with a second trade in dealing Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for PK Subban on June 29, 2016 at 3:54pm ET. The deal, however, took a couple of days to figure out, and it wasn't a pitch made by either side despite the rumours of PK Subban being shopped at the NHL Entry Draft.

"No, that's not how it went. But it was logical how it had to go. The dollars, somewhat of a match. But I could tell you the long story about how it always goes in trades. How about Subban for a first-round pick and a younger guy? So it goes on and on," Poile told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Sun. "I think both teams are happy. Statistically, the goals and points per game are about the same. Over the past three years, I think PK is a little bit ahead of Shea per game. We're getting the same offensively. Now there's the other intangibles. Where the game's going, all that.”

Where the game is going is something David Poile has been adept at recognizing. Yes, he was the man who dealt Ryan Walter from Washington to Montreal for Rod Langway as Matheson points out, but he is also the man who has been continually pursuing speed and skill over grit. On April 3, 2013, Poile dealt defensive forward Martin Erat and prospect Michael Latta to Washington for blue-chip prospect Filip Forsberg. His progress and growth behind Johansen has given the Preadtors arguably the best young tandem in the game down the middle with both players being under the age of 25.

"Filip is among the most skilled, dynamic talents we've ever had in the organization and is an integral part of our success for the next six years and beyond," Poile told Mike Johnston of Sportsnet in June 2016. "While we have already seen his creativity, hockey sense and puck skills, he has yet to reach the peak of his abilities. We have full confidence that he will continue to blossom into one of the top players in the world."

Forsberg is the second highest-scoring player from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, trailing only Alexander Galchenyuk by 13 points. He has the most goals out of the picks that season, and there is still resentment in Washington over this trade as the Capitals - as pointed out in Johnston's article - have nothing to show for the trade just four years later. To say that Poile absolutely stole Forsberg from Washington wouldn't be far off from the truth. What makes this even harder to believe is that Poile got Forsberg after Erat asked to be traded out of Nashville, finding a taker in Washington who offered up a player that Poile simply couldn't refuse. From that point on, Forsberg has been a consistent producer for Nashville as the pivot on Nashville's not-oft-talked-about second line.

Poile also recognized that as the league began changing its focus, there was a need to make a change from a team philosophy standpoint when it came to how the game is played on the ice. On April 14, 2014, Poile informed Barry Trotz - the only coach in Nashville to that point - that he would not return as head coach after spending 15 seasons, 557 wins and seven playoff appearances behind Nashville's bench. Poile's search focused on someone who displayed "strong leadership and communication" skills as the Predators began to get younger with all of their young talent ready to crack the NHL roster. He landed on Peter Laviolette as the man to guide the team on May 6, 2014.

"Having reached the peak as a Stanley Cup Champion, Peter knows the intensity and urgency it will take to help our team reach its ultimate goal," Poile said in a statement. "He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential. We look forward to Peter instilling his culture in Nashville immediately following his duties coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship."

Indeed, we've seen Laviolette's presence over the last three seasons has seen Nashville win no fewer than 41 games in any season. He has a points percentage of .598 as a coach with Nashville, and he's taken Nashville's goals-per-game number from 2.61 in 2013-14 under Trotz to 2.90 this season, the highest in franchise history. It may surprise you, but Nashville's goals-per-game average was better than Montreal, Anaheim, and San Jose this season, and they trailed the vaunted Blackhawks - whose offensive prowess is lauded by many - by 0.02 goals-per-game. In other words, Nashville's young players are getting a chance to play offence under Laviolette as opposed to playing the stifling defence for which this franchise is best known.

For the only general manager this franchise has ever known, David Poile has seen the ups and downs of this franchise. He ran an expansion draft for the Predators in which the Predators acquired some good talent in Sergei Krivokrasov, Kimmo Timonen, and Ville Peltonen for not selecting certain players in that draft. He signed Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya. He matched an offer sheet from the Flyers for Shea Weber. He watched Ryan Suter leave via free agency. He traded Weber for Subban. He's watched his team miss playoffs, lose in the playoffs, and set new franchise marks for wins and playoff success. He's been there for the first goal, the first shutout, the first win, the first loss, the first shootout, the first tie, and the last tie in franchise history. He worked through a potential sale, a finalized sale, and a near-move of the franchise. Through it all, he has made tough decisions to keep the Predators as the big ticket game in town over the winter months.

David Poile might be the best general manager there is in hockey based on his track record and accomplishments with this team, but he's certainly the Most Valuable Person in the Predators' franchise. His tireless work in the GM's office has made this Predators team one of the most fun to watch in these playoffs. More importantly, he has them a mere four wins from their first Stanley Cup Final, and just eight wins from the holiest of Holy Grails in the hockey world.

He may be the most deserving person in hockey to hoist the Stanley Cup if Nashville completes their run.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Gentlemanly Conduct

I don't usually get up early in the morning to watch international hockey unless there's a rather compelling game to be seen. However, my cat seems to enjoy early mornings in terms of making as much noise as she can, and this prompted me being awake at a rather blasphemous hour on this day of Sabbath. The good news is that I was able to catch the Finland-France game at the IIHF World Championship in Paris, and it was a rather big day for the French. Not only is today their Presidential Election Day, the French decided that beating one of the six superpowers in hockey would really be good for country. Honestly, I was very impressed by the French team today.

Look, no one is saying that France is going to contend for a medal. They got timely goals, some monster goaltending, and a couple of breaks to really help them in their 5-1 victory today over Finland, but they are far from routinely beating Canada, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, USA, or even Finland with any sort of regularity. Today's game was about a French team that was aggressive, who capitalized on mistakes made by Finland, and who got some outstanding individual efforts. They carried the play for the majority of the game, and they got the result that one would expect when they are the more aggressive team on the ice when it comes to winning puck battles.

I know he has a defined role with the Dallas Stars, but Antoine Roussel is the player that seems to walk large for the French team. While there are certainly more established players such as Cristobal Huet and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare that French fans may cheer for, Roussel seems to be the guy who sparks his team to push the bar higher. His two goals today were key in the victory, and his physical play let no Finnish player forget about his physical presence. While I'm nowhere close to being a coach of Ken Hitchcock's stature in the NHL, the new Stars bench boss might want to look at expanding Roussel's role with the team once he lands back on North American soil. He is showing an ability to skate and score that most fans in the NHL probably have never seen.

Speaking of Bellemare, there's a reason why this guy is a leader on his French team and with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bellemare had a goal and an assist in the win today, and he kept the Frenchmen on an even keel as they built their lead. When things looked like they were about to come unraveled, it was Bellemare's line that sent over the boards to calm things down for the French. His work on the ice today was only overshadowed by one player, but even Bellemare made that right.

The player I am referring to above is Florian Hardy. Hardy is a relatively unknown player to North American fans, but he's building a solid resume in Europe and on the international scene. Hardy has played the last two seasons in Austria where he's been a member of a particularly weak club called Dornbirn EC, but he's never posted a save percentage below .920 in those two seasons. Prior to that, he played a season with Munich in the DEL where he went 13-9-0, and spent two seasons with Angers in the French league where he was a combined 32-11-3. Late in the first period with France leading 1-0 in today's game, he might have made the save of the tournament off Oskar Osala!

Oskar Osala's stunned mid-celebration says it all with that paddle save by Hardy. And to Hardy's credit, he even swung his arm down to his side while lying on his face to freeze the puck to prevent Finland from finding the puck and scoring on the rebound. Hardy made 42 saves against Finland, so he certainly put in one helluvan effort on this day to help his team secure its first victory over Finland in nine tries going back to 1993!

So it's pretty easy to guess who won the Player of the Game Award, right? Well, this is the IIHF, so nothing is ever as easy as it looks. After all, Roussel had a pair of goals, Bellemare had a couple of points, and Florian Hardy was standing on his head. Who got the accolade?
You saw what may have been an IIHF World Championship first as Bellemare declines the Player of the Game Award and awards it to Florian Hardy instead. There are lots of reasons to toss kudos at Bellemare for this victory, but this moment after the game where he recognized the injustice done by the IIHF Committee when it came to Hardy's performance in today's game is what makes Bellemare a great teammate to these young French players. Bellemare didn't even want to skate over, instead motioning Hardy to go up, before going and setting the record straight. That's a classy move by a veteran player, and it's a moment that can be a teachable moment for a lot of players both young and old.

France did everything right today. They won a game they weren't supposed to win, they played an excellent team game, they got incredible efforts from all players and coached, the fans were loud and boisterous, and they even fixed a mistake made by the IIHF. It was nearly a perfect day, capped off by an election result that should make France stronger for the foreseeable future. It probably isn't said enough, but "Vive la France!"

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!