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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tyler Bozak Pays Tribute to His Idol and Faces Criticsm

Halloween is an opportunity for people of all ages to dress up in costumes and go out for a night of fun. Some people choose to dress up as their favourite athlete, movie characters or their idols. Professional athletes, especially hockey players, also like to partake in dressing up. Usually by this time NHL teams are hosting their own costume parties but because of the lockout those parties aren't taking place. But that didn't stop Toronto Maple Leafs centre Tyler Bozak from dressing up as his idol. Now you're probably sitting there thinking, so what if he dressed up as his idol? The only problem is he decided to dress up as Michael Jackson, yes the black pop singer and to make his costume complete, he used black face paint to turn himself black.


Unfortunately for Bozak he decided to post a picture of his costume on twitter for the world to see. The picture was met with two different views: Some thought the costume was really cool while others saw it as a blatant attempt towards racism. Within minutes Bozak took the photo down and twitter was blowing up with people stating that he was a racist. Now to call someone a racist because he decides to "go black" and dress up like MJ is a little drastic, it's a halloween costume to pay tribute to his idol for goodness sake!

Whether you think his costume choice was racist or not, is your opinion and I'm not likely to change that. But let's all take a step back, a deep breath and think logically about this for a moment. Anytime the Toronto Sports media is fed a story of this nature obviously it's going to be blown out of proportion, it's the type of thing the media lives for. Bozak virtually threw a bunch of hungry dogs a t-bone steak, not his smartest decision. This is Bozak's second run in with the media based on a halloween costume, when himself and a few teammates dressed up as the Jamaican bobsleigh team a couple years back. He came under scrutiny for that costume and for him to think he wouldn't for this one is absurd.

But would someone who was truly a deep seeded racist dress up as a black man? It was simply a costume, just because he painted his face black doesn't mean he hates black people. Sure he could have dressed up as the "white" era MJ but he chose not too, his decision to put on that costume. But he must be willing to live with the scrutiny that comes from; Being a Leaf player, posting a controversial picture on twitter and living in the 21st century in which people can instantly respond with their thoughts.

Here's what really drives me crazy, if this had been any other regular person there wouldn't be nearly as much uproar about him becoming black to honour MJ. But because this is a "professional athlete" people act like it's the end of the world. Athletes are no different than regular people, they like to have fun. All Bozak was doing was having a little fun, and with the state of his sport can you blame him for wanting to have some fun?

So was Tyler Bozak's Michael Jackson racist, In my opinion no. Was it stupid, incredibly so. Bozak needs to smarten up and stop posting such controversial things on twitter. But for everyone who was offended by his costume, Bozak was not the first and will no be the last to wear a controversial costume for halloween.

Monday, 29 October 2012

What Would the NHL Be Like Without Gary Bettman

After reading the title of this post you probably think I'm nuts for attempting to tackle a subject like this, you're right I am nuts. But I am writing this post in honor of a dear friend who passed away last week. If you're on twitter chances are you've probably tweeted with or heard of Patricia Thoms. She was a follower of mine and a huge supporter of my writing, and by huge I mean never missing a single article. But she was also a friend and one of the nicest people I've ever come across. When I had my contest on my FaceBook fanpage 2 month ago, Patricia submitted an idea and her idea was:


It's a pretty tough topic to cover and because of that I picked another topic instead. But Patricia knew I could tackle this subject, and I've decided to give it a try in her honur. Here we go:

There's people who believe he's done a fantastic job and others who want him fired, either way Gary Bettman has made quit an impression on the NHL. But with this latest lockout he has taken the game into, more and more people are calling for his head. So to satisfy those people let's take a look at what the NHL

would be like without Bettman.

For myself being so young it's almost impossible for me to fathem a NHL without Bettman, as he's been the commissioner for my entire life. I grew up learningthat Bettman was a jerk who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, including sacrificing the fans. Over his 19 year tenure of the league the game of hockey has drastically changed. A salary cap was implemented, more teams were planted south of the boarder, they signed a television deal with NBC and who could forget the 3 lockouts the game has faced. One thing that can not be refuted is the growth of the NHL under Bettman's reign. He has turned the NHL into a multi-billion dollar business and has convinced NBC to carry hockey games to help the game reach more people in America. One could argue that right now, aside from the lockout, the NHL is in the best position it's ever been in terms of popularity and fan support. Love him or hate him, the game right now is because of him and he's done a lot of good.

Unfortunetly the good he's done has been over shadowed by some of his less brilliant moves and as a result not a lot people like him, in fact many believe it's time for him to move on. Due to the fact he is so unpopular and my task in this article is to talk about life without him, I'm going to talk about 3 things that would be different in the NHL if Bettman had never been NHL commissioner.

1. US Expanantion

When Bettman took over the NHL his goal was to expand the NHL, particularly in America. When he took over the NHL was functioning with 24 teams, he added 6 more and re-located 4 other franchises, 3 of which left Canada and landed in the US. His decision to focus on southern markets and move teams to "non traditional hockey markets" has earned him a lot of criticism as many of the teams placed in smaller markets are losing money. One could say his focus on expanding the game into places it shouldn't have been taken is the reason behind this latest lockout, as smaller market teams are crying poor looking for support. While you can't say there would be less teams in the states if Bettman had never taken over, it's a safe bet to assume they wouldn't be in such small markets. Who knows under a new commisioner would we see more Canadian teams? His goal to take hockey to the small markets may just be his dimise.

2. Donald Fehr as NHLPA Head

The moment the NHLPA hired Fehr to help them negotiate a new CBA is the moment the 2012-2013 season became jepordized. The reason the NHLPA hired the man responsible for ruining the MLB is

because Bettman and the owners pushed around and took advantage of the players during the 2004-2005 lockout. As a result the players were determined to not let that happen again and decided to bring in the big guns to stand up for them. How's this for a resume; 6 of the last 8 union contract negotiations Fehr has been involved with have involved work stoppages, not good news for fans holding out optimism. If Bettman (or another comissioner) hadn't taken advantage of the players last time, we probably wouldn't be witnessing a spitting match between two egotistic men.

3. Salary Cap

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having a hard salary cap as I love the parity in the league right now. Virtually every team enters the season with a chance to succeed and challenge for the Stanley Cup and without the salary cap that wouldn't be the case. There would be 5 teams that would dominate the league and the rest would be left in the dust. The main reason for the last lockout was because the owners and Bettman wanted to put a hard salary cap into place so teams would have a limit on how much money they gave their players. Had another comissioner not been so determined to get a salary cap, the players would be making much more and there would be no parity in the league. The rich owners would literally be buying the Stanley Cup.

There you have it folks, 3 things that would be different in the NHL if Gary Bettman wasn't around. If you didn't like this article, I'm sorry but I wrote it for a friend. At the end of the day hockey and the NHL are just a game, life extends beyond just hockey and we need to make sure we're living life to the fullest because we never know when the final buzzer will sound. Remember it's just a game, don't take it too seriously. RIP Patricia, you will be greatly missed!

Friday, 26 October 2012

How the Winter Classic Will Save the NHL Season

With the NHL and NHLPA still unable to agree upon a new CBA, frustration is growing and optimism about a new season is quickly fading. But there is one big money making event that may save what hope is left for some hockey during the 2012-2013 season. That event is the Winter Classic. The one time during the season when teams take the game back to where it started, outdoors.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is threatening to cancel the outdoor game if the two sides are still unable to make a deal. But is he bluffing or actually serious? Right now Bettman has to be bluffing, the last thing he should want is to have to cancel the leagues biggest revenue generating event. Today it was announced that the league has cancelled games through to the end of November but still no mention of the Winter Classic. There is rumbling that the WC will get axed on Monday or Tuesday of next week, but it is likely a bluff.

The biggest reason the two sides are fights is because they can't figure out a way to divide up hockey related revenue, a word i'm sure all hockey fans are sick of by now. Why would the commissioner want to cancel the event that provides them with the most revenue? Both sides have been using the WC as a bargaining chip  and a way to get fan support, it's been suggested by both sides that the season could even kickoff with the outdoor game. Realistically there is probably room to leave the WC scheduled until mid November. The rink could be constructed in no time, the fans who have already shelled out money for tickets would be more than happy to show up and because this is the 6th edition of the event fans know it's happening and will tune in.

Here's 3 reasons why the Winter Classic is too valuable to cancel.

1. Revenue

The last two Winter Classic games made $30 and $36 million respectively, not including the $300 million in television deals, big money for the NHL. The outdoor games are averaging roughly 4.1 million people, one of the most viewed games in the entire season. With this years game those totals are expected to grow and hit record numbers with two historic teams facing off. There is an expected attendance of 115,000 (most ever), dollar signs are everywhere. Between the old fashioned jerseys, pictures, memorabilia, tickets and food there is all kinds of money to be made at these unique games and because of the uniqueness of the outdoor game fans are driven to come out and watch. If the Winter Classic does get cancelled Detroit will be out roughly $80 million.

2. Historic Rivalry. 

One thing that hasn't happened in the Winter Classic yet is the inclusion of a hockey team from north of the boarder, a distant land called Canada. This year pro American Bettman finally caved by allowing the Toronto Maple Leafs, arguably the most historic franchise in NHL history, to play in the WC. It was about time Bettman did something that showed his support for hockey in Canada and as a result made Canadian hockey fans, especially Leaf fans, extremely happy. On top of naming the Leafs as one of the teams to play in the outdoor game he also named the Detroit Red Wings another historic franchise from south of the boarder. The Leafs and Red Wings are both original 6 teams and have quite a history between each other dating back to 1926, oddly enough the Leafs have won more games (1,387) than the Wings (1,347) who have built themselves a dynasty.

For those people who can't stand Bettman (myself included) you have to admit he isn't a fool. The Red Wings and Leafs have two of the largest and most dedicated fan bases in the entire league. I mean what other fans would still cheer for a team who hasn't made the playoffs in 7 years? The number of people north of the boarder that would tune in to watch the game or even make the trek down to Detroit would be fantastic and would only help generate more money. Having the Leafs and Red Wings in the Winter Classic is a recipe for success.

Television Deals

The other bonus to having the Winter Classic and turning it into a large event is the television deals and sponsors that want to support. The NBC and NHL have a $200 million contract providing that they have sole right to the game, a pretty penny to pay for such exclusive rights. The game is big for NBC and the NHL because fans, especially in America, begin to tune into the NHL around the end of December and as a result NBC's coverage of the NHL goes into full force from the Winter Classic to the Stanley Cup Finals. The American television network carries many large events and doesn't like to get "screwed" and by cancelling the Winter Classic and the season the NHL could potentially make a major enemy with one of the largest American broadcasters. Not exactly the way to help grow the sport south of the boarder. Not to mention the new feature that gives fans a behind the scenes look into the two teams participating in the Classic with HBO's 24/7 coverage, another money maker and creative way to entice fans.

What started as a fun experiment has turned into a great business venture for the NHL. The Winter Classic games draw the fans out, even fans that wouldn't regularly watch tune in to see the great game going back to it's roots. The Winter Classic is a wild card during these negotiations nether the owners, players nor fans want to lose the game and at the end of the day the owners would be stupid to let the Winter Classic game be cancelled. The money and popularity lost would hurt the game and maybe push Bettman out of a job.



Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Was 2005 the Best NHL Draft Class?

For players it's their first step to having a career in the NHL. For teams it's an opportunity to "re-tool" and stack their system with prospects. The annual NHL Entry Draft is one of the biggest and most important events that take place for the NHL. It's all about the future. If your team had a rough season it's their chance to get a high draft choice to make tomorrow better, what happened in the past is gone. But of course some draft classes are better than others. There's hidden gems that get taken in the later rounds and duds that get taken in the first round. But looking back at recent drafts my attention immediately goes to the 2005 draft in which the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby and ultimately saved their franchise. But when you look deeper into the 2005 draft class, you discover that Crosby was not the only gem found in the draft. Other star players such as Jonathan Quick, Carey Price and Bobby Ryan were all taken after Crosby and have had a tremendous effect on their respective teams.

Today I'm going to dive deeper into the 2005 Draft to discover some of the top players that got their careers kicked off and further prove that the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was the best draft class of recent history.

Notable players:

Sidney Crosby: 1st Overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins

If you're reading this post chances are you've heard of Sidney Crosby before. The golden kid, Sid the kid whatever you call him, the point is you know who he is.
Crosby was the first overall pick in the 2005 Draft and became the immediate future of the Penguins. 7 years later he's the Penguins captain and became the youngest captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup in 2009. In his 7 seasons he's racked up over 220 goals and 609 points, what do those stats say? he's not a selfish player more than half of his points are from assist. He's the face of the NHL and one of the most marketable players. His addition to both the NHL and the Penguins has been fantastic, a true gem discovered from the draft.

Nathan Gerbe: 4th round 142nd Overall to the Buffalo Sabres

One of the little guys on the Buffalo Sabres, Gerbe gives it his all night in and night out, he plays with heart and plays the game the right way. Most importantly he doesn't let his size intimidate him or stop him from fighting through. Last season Gerbe at 5 foot 5 was seen taking on the Boston Bruins giant Zdeno Chara. Gerbe has been with the Sabres full time for the last 2 seasons, but has missed time due to injuries during both campaigns. Gerbe is proving that no matter how small, or how late you were drafted, you can make a difference and be an important player.

Jonathan Quick 3rd round 72nd Overall to the Los Angeles Kings

The 2012 Stanley Cup and Vezina winning goaltender, not a bad résumé! Quick was another gem that was drafted in the 2005 draft, but unlike fellow goaltender Carey Price, Quick had to wait until the third round to hear his name. But with his Stanley Cup ring I don't think that's bothering him anymore. 2011-2012 was a big season for the young goaltender, he established himself as a starting goaltender, put up fantastic numbers and was able to knock off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams in the Western conference while playing for a 8th place team, quite a feat! He also surprised a lot of people with his play but has solidified his spot amongst the elite goaltenders in the league.
The Los Angeles Kings have a dangerous team and with Quick as their goalie there's no telling how good this team can further become, they have all the tools to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.

Carey Price: 1st round 5th Overall to the Montreal Canadiens

Price was taken 5th overall in the "Crosby draft" and was the highest goaltender selected, turning a lot of heads by his selection. It's odd or rare to see a goalie go inside the top 10 let alone the top 5, but obviously the Montreal Canadiens saw something special in him and were willing to take him. He had a rocky time getting adjusted to the NHL and quickly earned himself a reputation as a winer, as he was often seen pouting and arguing with the refs. He found himself riding the pine during the 2009 season and during the Canadiens Playoff run, but was given a vote of confidence when the guy who stole his job away was traded. Over the last 2 seasons Price has greatly matured and his play reflects his new found maturity. The Canadiens had a very rough year finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference, but Price still played well losing many 2-1 or 4-2 hockey games. But even during his teams struggles you did not find the goaltender pouting or blaming his teammates, a drastic change from his earlier career. Price is the franchise goalie and one of the building blocks for the Habs, they will only be as good as Price can play.

Jack Johnson: 1st round 3rd Overall to the Carolina Hurricanes

Whether it was bad luck, bad timing or he just ticked off the wrong people you have to feel bad for Johnson. He was dealt from the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for Jeff Carter a year after signing a 7 year contract extension. He was the captain of the 2010 US Olympic mens hockey team that won Silver. Johnson has great leadership skills and will be a huge part of the Blue Jackets rebuild.

Tukka Rask: 1st round 21st Overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs

Here's a player the Leafs organization is kicking themselves for letting get away. In Toronto he just wasn't getting it done, so they shipped him to Boston to be Tim Thomas' back-up. But with solid play and some mind games from Thomas, Rask has earned himself the job of starting for the Boston Bruins. He signed a 1 year deal worth $3.5 million which guarantees him the starting job for the Bruins for next season (whenever the lockout ends), a smart move by Rask only signing a 1 year deal: If things go well he can just ask for more money and a longterm deal but if things go south he can head out of town and not be a scape-goat for tying up major money. Rask's best season came in 2009-2010 where he started 45 games for the Bruins and won the starting job and the right to start during the playoffs, he was the only goalie in the league to have a Goals Against Average under 2.00 and a Save Percentage over .930 but was surprisingly not named to the Rookie of the Year ballot. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2010-2011 and will now have his chance to lead the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Bobby Ryan: 1st round 2nd Overall to the Anaheim Ducks

Being the guy that was drafted behind Sidney Crosby is not easy, many people don't even know your name. Often times there's trivia questions asking who was drafted 2nd overall in 2005, and to be honest I didn't have any idea. But despite having the distinction of "the guy drafted after Crosby" Ryan has made himself a solid career with the Ducks. He's played 4 full seasons with the Ducks and was playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Before the beginning of the 2010 season he signed a 5 year $25 million extension with the Ducks, and except for some trade deadline rumours that were used to motivate him, the Ducks haven't had any complains. In all 4 seasons with the Ducks Ryan has scored at least 30 goals, proving that he is a reliable and steady forward. He was named to the United States Mens Ice Hockey team for the 2010 Olympics and helped them capture a silver medal in a heart breaking loss against Canada and the guy he was drafted behind. The 25 year-old has a bright future ahead of him and will no doubt turn out to be a key player for the Ducks on their next playoff run.

James Neal: 2nd round 33rd Overall to the Dallas Stars

Neal is the ultimate feel good story. After not playing exceptionally well in Dallas he was traded to the Penguins in 2011 right at before the Trade Deadline. He got off to a slow start with his new team and many were worried he wouldn't be able to stick around on the star-studded Penguins. But he came out and proved doubters wrong with his strong play last season in the absence of Crosby. Neal played in 80 games and racked up 81 points and earned himself a 6 year contract extension worth $5 million. He along with Evgeni Malkin helped to support and carry the team in their captains absence.

Kris Letang: 3rd round 62nd Overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins had an absolutely fantastic draft in 2005. Not only did they get Crosby they managed to get their hands on young defenceman Kris Letang. In 5 seasons with the Pens, Letang has turned into one of the elite defenceman in the NHL and a leader on the Penguins. When Crosby was injured last season with his concussion, many noticed how well Letang flourished by taking more of a leadership role and helping out both on offence and defence. He was voted Penguins rookie of the year in 2008 and was apart of the Cup winning Penguins team in 2009. Letang is a key member of the Penguins and some have even gone as far as to say he is one of their most valuable players and has the biggest impact on the team. Think about it, who else do they have on the back end?

Adam McQuaid: 2nd round 55th Overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets

Another Stanley Cup winner from that phenomenal draft. McQuaid joined the Bruins in 2009 after a trade from the Blue Jackets. At 6 foot 5 he plays more of the "tough guy" role and fits in with the Bruins style of play perfectly, racking up more penalty minutes (216) than goals (6).

There you have it folks, some of the big names that came out of the 2005 draft. 5 of the players listed above have since won a Stanley Cup, all of which have experience success with their teams and the majority have become household names. Let me know, did I miss any big names? What is your favourite or most memorable draft?


Monday, 22 October 2012

What Does Luongo to the Leafs Mean For Current Leaf Goaltenders?

Usually when a sport is in a lockout state all talks about trades are put on hold until the league breaks the lockout, but apparently the never stopping Toronto sports media missed that memo. A report surfaced on twitter last week, that the next time Roberto Luongo plays in the NHL it will be for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The report is initially from SportsNet and hockey reporter John Shannon. While neither team has confirmed the trade, nor can they because of the lockout, fans got pretty excited over the news.

Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis has denied the rumour, stating that talking about trades without a CBA is not allowed, there are as many as 5 teams that have expressed interest in the goaltender and further talks would not continue until a new CBA is worked out. As I said earlier the Toronto sports media loves to cause drama, their motto seems to be; "If there isn't a story, make one up".

Whether the rumour is true or not, and frankly we may never know as there are several variables in a situation like this, the possibility of Bobby Luo ending up in Toronto is pretty good. The Leafs are in desperate need of a veteran goaltender and depending on the new CBA would be one of the few teams that could afford his contract. But the point of this article is not to debate whether Luongo will be a Toronto Maple Leaf but rather to see how his addition to the Leafs would effect the current goaltending situation in Toronto.

James Reimer

Reimer burst onto the Toronto Maple Leafs radar halfway through the 2010 season when then goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere began to play poorly and drove the Leafs out of the playoff race. He was then named the starting goaltender for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season playing in 37 total games and becoming an instant fan favourite, many of whom referred to him as the "Leafs saviour". Reimer had a injury riddled 2011-2012 season that saw him get injured twice and as a result his play suffered. He played in just 34 games and finished with a 3.10 Goals Against Average and a .900 Save Percentage.

Reimer is a solid goaltender and has the capability to be a solid number one goaltender, but not with the Leafs. He's still young and inconsistent a recipe for disaster for a goaltender constantly under the spot light in Toronto. Leafs GM Brian Burke told the media that Reimer and Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens would battle it out in training camp to decide who will become the starting goalie. Interesting that the Leafs won't name Reimer their clear cut number one and a sign that management is looking elsewhere.

Verdict: Reimer Gets Traded- He's a great guy and a solid goaltender. But questions have arrised about his mental toughness and ability to handle the media pressure. As a result Reimer needs to play for a team that is out of the limelight so he can develop his game without the constant criticism.

Ben Scrivens

While there are questions about the young goaltenders attitude there is no question he is a solid netminder. He lead the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup finals  and had a fantastic season racking up 22 wins. His play earned him a call up to the Leafs, where he played in 12 games and won 4. With his play in the AHL last season, there is no question he deserves a chance to crack the NHL roster and challenge for the starting job. But is he ready?

Scrivens was an un-drafted prospect who signed with the Leafs in 2o10 because of goaltending coach Francois Allaire. Although Scrivens is older than Reimer (26) he is still very much a rookie who needs more experience at the NHL level. He is off to a rocky start with the Marlies going 1-2 in his 3 games with a .896 Save Percentage.

Verdict: Scrivens Becomes Luongo's Backup- Last season's run to the Calder Cup finals was fantastic to watch and Scrivens showed he can play. The fact the Leafs are willing to let him battle to become the starter shows they have some faith in him and see a future with him between the pipes. He needs more experience and could benefit from the guidance of a veteran goaltender. If there's another media outlet nearly as bad as Toronto it's Vancouver, Luongo would not only help him on the ice but potentially help him with the media as well. Having the veteran in Luongo and the rookie in Scrivens might be the right formula for success for both goaltenders.

Jussi Rynnas

Rynnas is another un-drafted goalie who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. Rynnas joins the Marlies after playing for Assat of the SM-liiga the top professional league in Finland (2009). After winning a job with Assat out of training camp he went on to post the top Save Percentage (.927) and a solid Goals Against Average of 2.47. His play earned him attention from several NHL teams and he ultimately chose the Leafs, he was sent to the Marlies where he played 30 games in 2010. Last season saw him split time between the Marlies and their ECHL affiliate, but this year he's back with the Marlies and looks to backup Scrivens until he is recalled to the Leafs at the end of the Lockout.

Verdict Rynnas Becomes Marlies Starting Goaltender- With more experience and playing time Rynnas has the possibility and skill to become a solid starting goaltender, if and when the NHL lockout ends he will get that chance with the Marlies.

There you have it folks, my thoughts on the goaltending situation should Luongo indeed end up in Toronto. Of course if he does land in Toronto he will be the new number one goaltender and be faced with the task of bringing the Leafs back to the playoffs. I would not be surprised in the slightest to see the Leafs having a goaltending tandem of Luongo and Scrivens for the next few seasons. What do you think folks, will Loungo end up with the Leafs? If so how does it effect their goalies?


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Fans Thoughts About the Lockout

It appears right now with the NHL lockout both the NHL and NHLPA are more interested in trying to convince the fans whose fault this lockout is instead of actually, you know, working on a new CBA. There have been countless interview, tweets, videos and letters sent to fans with either side justifying their point and taking shots at their opponents. But the one thing we haven't seen or heard is the opinions of the fans. For this post I've joined forces with the wonderful people over at SportsRantz Magazine to bring you a fantastic hockey article about the fans.

I've searched high and low, long and hard and scavenged twitter for the best tweets from the fans expressing their feelings about the lockout. As I expected the majority of you are upset.

There you have it folks, probably one of the few articles that focuses directly on the fans and their opinions. Heck if the NHL isn't going to listen to us, we have to voice our thoughts some how. Thank you to everyone for your tweets and sharing your thoughts. Make sure you read the rest of the article over on Sports Rantz magazine for thoughts from Facebook hockey fans and the effect the lockout will have on junior hockey. Huge thanks to Kristina Chambers for asking me to be apart of this article and motivating me to do a post about the fans thoughts.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Turning Attention to the KHL

Let's face it folks both the NHL and NHLPA are far apart on working out a new CBA, it's unlikely we'll be seeing NHL hockey any time soon. With players all over the world it would be a whirlwind trying to get all those players back to respective NHL teams by the start of the season. If you're truly a hockey fan and not just an NHL fan, it's time to start diverting your attention the other professional leagues. There's the AHL, OHL, QMJHL and many more all with their own unique brand of high level hockey. But perhaps the next biggest league next to the NHL is the recently formed KHL. Last night I was on Sports Rantz radio (83:44, shameless plug) to talk about the latest CBA talks, during the interview I was asked if I was watching or following the KHL. I answered truthfully and told them I wasn't watching the games but was following some of the action, but not nearly as much as I'd like to be. That got me thinking, why am I not watch the KHL?

The KHL officially deemed itself a professional league in 2008 after they broke away from the Russian SuperLeague. In 2008 they started out with 24 teams and today have 26 teams. The KHL is home to many skilled Russian hockey players who could easily be playing in the NHL if they chose to leave their home. But until the current lockout has been largely in the shadow of the NHL waiting for their "big break". Everyone knew the KHL existed, some knew they had some skilled players but few knew where or how to find games to watch those players. The KHL began to gain popularity and recognition when many skilled Russians showed up in the 2012-2013 draft. I myself wanted to watch and focus on more Russian hockey as there are many talented Russian's emerging from overseas. Something had to break and lucky for the KHL it appears the NHL has figuratively broken, giving the Russian league it's "big break".

Now that the NHL is on a temporary break, many top notch Russian players have returned home to play in the KHL, and these players are finally putting a face to the KHL for many North American hockey fans. Two of the biggest being Alexander Ovechkin playing for Dynamow Moscow his former team and Evgeni Malkin playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Not to mention Canadian born Sidney Crosby debating heading over to Russia if the lockout goes much longer. In addition to those big name players the KHL is currently hosting many other NHL players and top notch Russian players.

From watching the highlights it's easy to see that there is some great hockey being played over in Russia right now.

Lots of goals, an up take of physical play and some big saves, everything a hockey fan wants from the game no? It's actually very exciting hockey to watch, even if it's not commentated in english, it's still hockey. Hockey is a universal language that has the power to connect people on various continents no matter what language or cultural berries are present. If it's hockey, it's hockey, who cares where it's being played!

With big name players like the ones mentioned above and others like Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Tyler Seguin, Tyler Ennis, Nail Yakupov and Rick Nash bringing interest and attention from North American fans the KHL is finally in the limelight and not just Russia. The whole world is watching or has the capability to watch the KHL and it's players, could the NHL have handed them a better situation?

Although they can't financially challenge the NHL because of salaries and only a handful of their 26 teams breaking even, they are able to challenge the NHL in terms of talent. There are some darn good players in the KHL who aren't from the NHL, not a single player from the NHL is in the top 25 of KHL scoring, That speaks volumes in terms of the talent over seas. Heck it may even be a good idea for Bettman and the NHL to join forces with the KHL, now I'm not talking about combining them into one league, but perhaps the NHL all-stars can play against the Russian all-stars. It would make the snooze fest known as all-star weekend  lot more exciting and globally would be a great thing for the game of hockey.

So while the players take a nice vacation over in Russia, the KHL benefits from their talent. I think it's time to start paying more attention to the KHL and give them more credit, it's not easy to convince NHL players to come and play in your league while the NHL is on strike. Remember if you're a hockey fan and don't think there's any hockey on, you're not a hockey fan, you're an NHL fan. There's lots of hockey out there folks, open your eyes and look. AHL, OHL

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

NHL Makes Substantial Proposal Ball Now in Players Court

While it may be a little early for full optimism, hockey fans should mark October 16th and November 2nd on their calendars. The Fehr brothers met with Bettman and Daly on Monday and while the media were told a new proposal from either side was not going to be presented, the NHL decided enough was enough and submitted a massive proposal which has the makings to get the ball rolling on the NHL season.

One of the major stumbling blocks in these negotiations has been deciding how to divide Hockey Related Revenue between both the league and the players. As expected both sides wanted a bigger piece of the pie and neither were ready to back down, until today. Gary Bettman submitted a new proposal today that would see both the league and the players splitting HRR 50-50. In addition to the 50-50 split Bettman has given the players the opportunity to play a full 82 game season that would begin on November 2nd. Is it a sure deal, no. But it's a step in the right direction towards getting a deal done.

Up until today Bettman and the owners refused to cave and laid all the pressure on the players to cave and get the game going. Only problem was that all the fans were on the side of the players. With this new offer that appears to be fair everything falls directly on the players; accept the offer and start the season November 2nd or turn down the offer and lose the fan support. Tough choice.

Key points in the NHLs offer include:

  • Players share of HRR will be 50% for the 6 years of the new proposed CBA.

  • The new CBA would be in effect for 6 years with a option for 7th

  • Entry level contracts will only be restricted to 2 years

  • The maximum length for player deals will be 5 years

  • Players over the age of 28 or who have 8 years of NHL experience will qualify for unrestricted free agency. Earliest a player could reach free agency would be 26.

  • All players who signed a contract longer than 5 years will be maintained and will count against a teams cap space.

  • A cap maximum of $70.2 million with a floor of $49.7 millions

  • A full 82 NHL season plus playoffs that will begin November 2nd and possibly end the last week of June.

Oddly enough Bettman has stated many times that he doesn't negotiate in public but released a
detailed copy of the NHLs proposal to the players online. Could this just be a public relations move to get the fans support?
"We’re focused on getting the puck dropped on Nov. 2 and playing a full 82-game regular season and full playoffs, That’s what this offer is all about.” ~Gary Bettman

Sure sounds like Bettman is trying to tickle our ears! The more one reviews the proposal it appears that this is more of an attempt for the commissioner to show the public he is committed to getting a deal done and starting the season. There are points the players are going to like and points they aren't; the 50-50 split is a major positive where as waiting until age 28 for UFA is likely not going to fly well. It just depends on how much each side is willing to compromise.

But the fact the NHL submitted a new, somewhat "player friendly" proposal is a huge positive. It means they are ready to negotiate and get the deal done to get hockey back. Right now it's all on the players, how badly do they really want to get a deal done? They've been saying they just "want to play" so here's their chance. If the players don't accept the deal and counter something the league will scoff at, they will lose the PR battle with the fans. It's a tough spot for the players but a extremely smart move by Bettman.

Whether you want to believe it or not this latest proposal from the league a great turning point in these negotiations. Now that Bettman has "given in" and made the first significant proposal both sides can now freely make their points without the feeling of sabotaging the negotiations.

The reaction from players and Donald fehr is that this new proposal is a "good starting point" and they are expected to submit a counter proposal in the next 24 hours. Only problem, how much further is Bettman willing to bend?
At the end of the day Fehr's job is not to settle but rather to get the best possible deal for the players and they will not be satisfied with just 50% of the pie.

What do you think about the new proposal from the league; Is it fair? Should the players submit?

Monday, 15 October 2012

AHL Opening Weekend

The AHL didn't let the NHL's lockout rain on their party as they kicked off their regular season with a bang this weekend. The majority of teams played 2 games on the weekend and there was some phenomenal hockey played. For some fans it was a chance to see their first professional hockey of the season and for others it was an opportunity to see some of their favourite young players back in the AHL. Whatever your reason for watching, the young stars did not disappoint. So instead of talking about the depressing lockout, let's look at some of the players who have gotten off to hot starts and some other notable names. I know it's still early but who knows.

Top Scorer: Cory Conacher 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in 2 games.

Conacher was a member of the 2011-2012 champion Norfolk Admirals who defeated the Toronto Marlies to win their first ever Calder Cup. The 5 foot 8 native from Burlington Ontario was un-drafted in the NHL

but managed to catch the attention of the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed a 2 year 2 way deal with the club. Conacher had an impressive run with the Admirals last season racking up 80 points in 75 games and was named the MVP becoming only the 4th rookie to win the award. He wasted no time getting off to a quick start with the Syracuse Crunch recording 3 points in the season opener against the Rochester Americans and adding 2 more against the Hershey Bears. An interesting side note: Conacher also had 6 penalty minutes against the Bears. While it's still early look for Conacher to have another big season production wise and perhaps earn himself a

call up to the Lightning once the NHL season begins.

Sven Baertschi: 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points in 2 games.

The rookie made a solid first impression with his new team, helping the Abbotsford Heat go 2-0 on opening weekend. The 20 year-old from Sweeden was taken 13th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 draft and has spent the last 2 seasons playing in the WHL. Even though the Heat were able to score 6 goals it's still Baertschi's goal that stands out.
"Those types of goals, you kind of just go, 'wow'. It's a real pleasure to have that talent here in the American League" ~ Heat coach Troy Ward

The Flames rookie has started his AHL career on the right foot, scoring goals and impressing management. Baertschi will be an interesting player to keep an eye on to see his adjustment from the WHL to the AHL

Marcus Foligno: 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points in 2 games.

While he may not be off to as explosive a start as some of his competition, Foligno put up a solid 3 points on the weekend. Foligno is a Buffalo Sabres prospect who would almost certainly be suiting up for the Sabres if they were playing. Instead he's suiting up for the Rochester Americans and gets a further chance to hone his game. Foligno had a goal in each of the Amerks two games and the only goal in their loss to the Marlies. Despite not having the "C" on his chest, Foligno will be one of the veteran players called upon to lead the Amerks while he is a member of their team. So far he's gotten off on the right foot by leading the team in scoring after the first 2 games.

Highlight Reel Goal by Brayden Schenn

Like Foligno, Schenn racked up 3 points in his 2 games this season and both are amongst the top NHL players playing in the AHL during the lockout. In the Adirondack Phantoms 6-3 route over the Portland Pirates, Schenn netted 2 goals including this highlight reel goal, in which he danced around the defender and slipped a nice backhand behind the keeper.

Expect big things from the Phillidaphia Flyers young forward, during his time in the AHL.


Calvin Pickard: 2 games played, 1 win and a shootout loss.

Despite being 1 and 1 on the season Pickard turned some heads with his play on the weekend. The Lake Erie Monsters rookie goaltender stopped 69 out 72 shots on the weekend to lead the AHL in saves. He also posted a .958 save percentage, not bad for the rookie.

Eddie Lack: 2 games played, 2 wins.

If and when Roberto Luongo leaves the Canucks, Lack will become the new Cory Scnieder. Well maybe not to the same extent of having the fans chanting for him to go in instead of their starter, but my point is he'll

become the Canucks new backup goalie. Lack went 2-0 this weekend put up a shutout win against the Rockford IceHogs.

Benefit of the lockout

Not only does the AHL get to lay claim to some young NHL superstars while the big league continues their bickering, they also have a wonderful opportunity to reach more fans. During the first 27 games of the AHL season the average attendance was around 6,200 roughly 600 more people showing up to games than last season.

Stanley Cup rematch in the AHL

Both the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils farm teams squared off for a Stanley Cup rematch of sorts. Manchester Monarchs did not disappoint their parent club picking up a 2-1 victory over the Albany Devils, on way to their 2-0 season start.

There you have it folks the AHL opening weekend in a nutshell. There was some exciting hockey being played and many jaw dropping plays. Who are your early favourites?
Make sure you get out and check out at least 1 of your local AHL teams games this season, it's great hockey and these kids are leaving everything on the line night in and night out to earn that call to the NHL. Come be apart of a prospects journey.

Friday, 12 October 2012

NHL Opening Night That Wasn't

I'm sure you've by now you've figured out that Thursday October 11th was supposed to be opening night in the NHL, sadly October 11 has come and gone without any NHL hockey. By now we all now the reasoning behind missing opening night so I'm not going to elaborate on it; simple as millionaires vs. billionaires.

What was supposed to be a magical night for hockey fans, turned into any other ordinary Thursday evening. There were no sweaters donned, no huddles around the TV, no pre-game rituals for fans or players, no line ups at the arena, no fans in the stands and most importantly no players taking to the ice. On the sports networks one could find playoff baseball and Thursday night football, not a single mention of the NHL. CTV has even come out with Big Bang Marathon to help fill the "hockey void." (yes those are their exact marketing words)

It's a sad time. On the day the puck was supposed to drop on the 2012-2013 NHL season the arenas sat dark and empty. For Canadians there was no Don Cherry or double header on CBC. One thing a lot of people forget is the fact the NHL players actually agreed to and wanted to play through the CBA negotiations. The lockout came directly from the league itself, the players were willing to play and negotiate so us the fans could have hockey. But instead NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decided that playing hockey and negotiating a new CBA couldn't happen. Instead the two sides should meet a few times a month to discuss "non-important" economical things.

I must admit there's a weird feeling here in Canada. While fans are upset few are expressing their feelings. My school which is filled with hockey fans and players aren't talking about hockey. Even when walking around at coffee shops and grocery stores there is little to no hockey talk. Even though there is still junior hockey and the AHL season is about to kickoff tonight, there is almost no talk about hockey between people. It's almost as if the game we love has become an after thought. Canadians have realized they can survive without the NHL. 

Unlike 2004-2005 fans seem to have realized that despite their not being any NHL hockey life will still go on, a noble discovery. For example, tonight the Buffalo Sabres are unveiling their historic "French Connection" statue to commemorate the franchise most history line. There's not a lot of excitement on twitter between Sabres fans right now, heck I even forgot it was happening until I received an email about it Monday.

Please Bettman, reinstate the NHL and give Canadians a piece of their culture back. I miss talking and debating hockey with people at Tim Hortons!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Agenda During Latest CBA Talks

The good news right now for fans is the fact both the NHL and NHLPA are at least meeting and talking to each other. In 2004-2005 the two sides went for 3 months without speaking, the longest this time around has been roughly 2 weeks. The unfortunate news is the talks as of late have been focused on the "secondary issues" as neither side is willing to back down from their current proposal.

So what exactly is going on behind closed doors during these meetings? Thankfully my sources were able to pass on some important information from the last few meetings. Here's the just of how things went Monday when Bettman and Fehr got together with their posies.

9:00 a.m.- Let's be real they're not meeting as early as 9.

9:30 a.m.- Donald Fehr and 7 NHL players who have yet to leave for Europe arrive to the meeting a little early to discuss their strategy for today's meeting. Fehr opens with "Let me get this straight, if he's not willing to end the lockout and give the players more money by the end of today you'll be in Europe by tonight?" The Players respond will a resounding "Yes!" "Good what's Bettman going to do with no players?"

10:00 a.m.- Bill Daly shows up alone with a smug look on his face and a cup of coffee.

DF- "Where's Gary?!"
BD- "He's coming, had a rough sleep last night"
TP- "Is he finally feeling guilty about this whole lockout situation?"
BD- "No he couldn't figure out if he wants to cancel another 2 weeks or up it to 3 weeks." Followed by evil laughter.

10:30 a.m.- Gary Bettman finally arrives followed by 3 NHL owners with black eyes.

DF- "You're late Gary!"
GB- " Oh am I? I must have lost track of time. I was just discussing how the owners and I are unanimous about this lockout, isn't that right gentlemen?"
O- "Yes, we all agree."
DF- "Have you brought the files regarding how much revenue the league earned last season?"
GB- "You were serious about wanting to see that?"
GB- "I kid, I kid. I know I keep telling the public and the TV stations we made tons of money, but we actually lost money. Unless the players are willing to take a significant cut we refuse to continue CBA talks."
Sidney Crosby- "That's it Gary I've had enough of your crap, I'm heading to Europe. I hear the KHL is looking for superstars"
GB- "But Sid you can't go, you're my main money maker! Alright Fehr, have your side prepare a new proposal and submit it to the owners"
DF- "Sure thing, we'll have it to you in 2 weeks"
SC- "Make sure you include the clause that no one is aloud to hit me!"

11:30 a.m. After Bettman reiterates the fact the owners refuse to backdown from their current proposal and the NHLPA may submit another proposal as long as it is reasonable to what the NHL has submitted.

GB- "Well that's enough talking for the morning, why don't we break for an early lunch?"
DF- "But we haven't negotiated anything. We have a season to salvage Gary!"
GB- "Oh there's lots of time for negotiating. Besides no one really tunes into the NHL till late December anyways."
DF- "But Gary what about Canadian hockey...
GB- "Canadian hockey fans?"
BD- "Time to break for lunch"

Bettman jumps up from his seat and heads towards the door followed by the 3 owners and Daly, the quickly vanish out of the building. The players and Fehr remain in the boardroom as the players begin to call their agents to look for teams overseas.

DF- "So are you guys finally ready to accept a smaller piece of the pie?" "Or how about accepting the leagues last offer, it seemed pretty fair"
Dustin Byfuglien- "Did someone say pie?!"
TP- "Go away Byf. Remember Don, you work for us. Whatever we want you said you would be committed to getting. We want a bigger share of the pie and longer contracts.
DF- "Fine, fine I'll make up a new proposal. But this isn't going to get us back playing anytime soon."
TP- "There's the KHL and other markets in Europe, we're not worried."

1:00 p.m. Gary and Bill both return from lunch without the any owners.

DF- " Where's the owners Gary?"
GB- "The owners only need to be present if we're "negotiating" a new CBA. Since the players refuse to accept our offer we're not negotiating today. Now on to the topic for today: Player safety, NHL rules and players commitment to pre-season.
TP- "Wait what do you mean we're not negotiating today? We could sign deals in Europe tonight, how are you going to play without us?"
GB- "Oh I'm glad you brought that up. If the players refuse to come to terms with the fact we the owners will win these negotiations and are still holding out by the end of November, the NHL is fully committed to moving forward with replacement players."
TP- " You're going to attempt to replace us? With who?"
GB- "I don't have to attempt to replace you, I will. There are several AHL players who would love their shot to play in the NHL, and how about all the European players jobs you guys are taking? I'm sure they need a place to play.
TP- "Good luck getting the fans out!"
GB- "The fans are dumb enough to come out and support the AHL players as long as they're wearing NHL jersey's"

2:00 p.m. Gary swiftly changes the talks play safety

GB- "With the rise of concussions, we need to address player safety. Let's bring in Brendan Shanahan"
BS- "The game is so fast it's getting harder and harder to tell if a hit was clean or not"
GB- " If it's a big time player or a rich team's player, it's a clean hit. If it's someone no one has heard of before it's dirty"
SC- " Anyone who hit's me should get an automatic 20 games!"
GB- "Calm down Sid, just send Matt Cooke after them."
GB- "Any thoughts Don?"
DF- "Make the equipment smaller?"
GB- "Naw that won't fix anything, guess there really isn't an answer to this problem"

3:00 p.m. The two sides talk about more secondary issues like medical care, drug testing and player grievances.

GB- "Well that should do it for today's meeting, any last thoughts Don?"

The players quickly surround Fehr and discuss things in a little huddle. After 10 minutes they break the huddle.

TP- "Tell him Don!"
DF- "I suggest we get rid of the Salary cap..."
GB- " Hahahahahahahahahaha. Wait you were serious? You do realize we sacrificed the whole 2004-2005 season in order to get a salary cap right?"

4:30- Bettman decides the meetings for the day are complete and leaves the room with Bill.

There you have it folks, an inside look at the NHL CBA talks. Will we see an end to this madness soon?


Monday, 8 October 2012

Hockey's Future Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon

It may be a little early but since there is no NHL hockey (yes I'm looking at you Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr) it's time to start looking at up coming prospects. More specifically players who have yet to be drafted (age) but are expected to be in the top 5 in their respective drafts. Both Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon are touted young hockey players who are well on their way to great careers. Might as well learn their names now, you'll be hearing a lot about both in the future.

What makes both these young players so unique, is the similarities between their junior careers and two former first overall draft picks; John Tavares and Sidney Crosby.

Connor McDavid- Erie Otters (OHL)

What's so special about McDavid? The fact that he is only the third player to be granted "exceptional status" by hockey Canada allowing him to play in the OHL at the age of 15. The Otters took him first overall in the OHL draft in April and are excited to see how his rookie season will unfold. It will be a bit of an adjustment for the 15 year-old who will now face opponents as much as 5 years older than him. It was a "no brainer" for hockey Canada to allow McDavid an early pass into the OHL after he racked up 72 points in just 33 games playing for the Toronto Marlboros in the GTHL and being named the GTHL player of the year, all while being a year younger than his teammates.

McDavid is a speedy 5 foot 11 centre who has amazing creativity with the puck and is fully committed to playing in both ends. 9 games into his rookie season he's racked up 9 points in just 7 games (4 goals and 5 assists) and is leading his team in points. Not bad for the 15 year-old phenom. The most remarkable thing is McDavid won't be draft eligible until 2015 a full 3 seasons away, which will give him enough time to make a name for himself with team Canada playing in the world juniors.

It will be interesting to watch McDavid grow and develop in the OHL the next 4 years. There's a lot of pressure riding on the 15 year-old it will interesting to see how he handles it all, especially being in Pennsylvania away from his family and friends in Toronto.

Nathan MacKinnon- Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

From a prospect who won't be draft eligible until 2015 to a player who has a strong possibility of going first overall in 2013, Nathan MacKinnon. By now most hockey fans have heard of MacKinnon, or at least his eerily similar path as Sidney Crosby. Both hail from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, both are elite centremen, both attended Shattuck-Saint Mary's hockey prep school, both were drafted 1st overall in the QMJHL and perhaps the strangest similarity of them all; The season before Crosby was drafted was lost because of an NHL lockout.

Much like Crosby if the NHL does indeed suffer a full season lockout, every NHL team will have shot at drafting MacKinnon. In his first season with the MooseHeads he racked up an outstanding 78 points in just 58 games and is off to a solid start again this season with 13 points in 7 games. Mackinnon's goal for this season is simple, win the Memorial Cup;
"We want to win the Memorial Cup next year, that's our goal!" ~ Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon has the ability to put an entire team on his back and skate them to victory. Even after getting cut from the U-18 junior team last season, he answered back on the ice with a 5 goal performance against the QMJHL's top team. MacKinnon will be on top of every teams wish list and is one of the tops prospects for next years draft. Even if there is no hockey this season, next years draft will be something to look forward too. Will the kid from Cole Harbour get drafted first overall like another Cole Harbour native?

Although the present seems bleak the future looks bright for the NHL and their prospects. The next wave of superstars is almost ready to make it's mark and it will likely be lead by the next, next one Nathan MacKinnon. Make sure you check out these two while they are still with their junior teams and watch them shine.

Friday, 5 October 2012

NHL Replacement Players


As we've learned from players Gary Bettman has a very strange and unordinary way of negotiating. Instead of actually negotiating he believes in threatening and imposing a lockout. Some players even went as far to say "It was like he was happy to cancel the first two weeks." Bettman's next threat to the NHLPA is the possibility of using "replacement players." Yes you read that correctly, just like the NFL used replacement officials, Bettman wants and is willing to do the same with players. An interesting concept; The NHL without NHL players...

After Bettman proved he was serious about cancelling games by knocking off the first 2 weeks of the season, totalling 82 games enough games for an entire regular season for a single team, on Thursday. It's time to start taking his threat of replacement players a little more seriously because he's crazy enough to try it. Bringing in the replacement players or "scabs" was a threat the league used back in 2004 but nothing serious came from it. This time around that possibility is back on the table and could gain some serious discussion if the NHL and NHLPA have still not completed a deal by mid November.

Toronto Maple Leafs former assistant GM Bill Watters is spreading word about the possibility of the league using scabs and how easy it would be;
"There are enough free agents around and players under contract in junior, on reserve lists and in the AHL to ice a team in every city. It is conceivable" ~ Bill Watters

Bettman's hope is that some players would cross the picket line and come back to play with the replacement players. This would mainly be free agents and or players who are in the last year of their contracts. Other players included in the replacement section are AHL players with NHL contracts and prospects from Europe who have ties to an NHL team. Virtually the scabs would be glorified AHL players and any players that aren't represented by the NHLPA.

Of course the league and Bettman would be betting or believing that the fans are so starved for hockey they'd pay money to come and see the scabs. I'm not going to lie I might be interested in seeing some of the players and the talent level for a couple of weeks, but after that I'm out. So the question remains would fans actually support the scabs? As of right I'd have to say no. The players are seen as the good guys in the eyes of the majority of fans, they were willing to play and still negotiate and are seen as victims of the money starved NHL owners. So why would the fans turn on the player if they don't believe they've done anything wrong?

Hockey fans are a different breed of sports fans. Sure we have our favourite players who we'll support till the day they hang up the skates, but we really fall in love with a team because of that team. Most Toronto Maple Leaf fans have stayed loyal although the team hasn't accomplished anything significant in years. Why do they still support the team? Because it's the Leafs, they have such a rich history and heritage that the fans just want to support the team. We cheer for the logo on the front of the jersey over the name on the back of the jersey. Which is why Bettman may give the scabs a try, because he thinks fans would be willing to pay to see their beloved teams back on the ice, no matter whose wearing the jersey.

Hoping that the scabs would help draw some of the players across the picket line and then in turn force the NHLPA to cave is a lofty wish for the league and highly unlikely to work. What do you think, would you pay to see scabs playing for your favourite team? Would you enjoy seeing scabs? Will the NHL actually go through with the threat of scabs?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

6 Players to Watch In the OHL


There may not be any NHL hockey but that doesn't mean there isn't hockey to cover. Since I'll be focusing more on junior hockey it's time to take a brief look at the OHL and some of the players to keep an eye out for. Some of these players may even be drafted by your favourite team in the next draft.

A big thanks to Margann who helped provide me information on who to watch in the OHL.

6. Trevor Petersen- Niagara IceDogs

[caption id="attachment_649" align="alignright" width="294"] Petersen fights off a check[/caption]

You may remember an interview I did with Trevor a few months back at the time of the interview he was just finishing up a fantastic first year with the IceDogs. Entering his second season in the OHL he is poised and ready for a huge year. He will be called on to be one of the  leaders on the team to put into practice what he learned from some of the veterans last season and put up big points. This is Petersen's draft year so he'll be looking to have a big season and hopefully lead the IceDogs back to the playoffs.

5. Tyler Biggs- Oshawa Generals

After being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2011 draft out of the US development program, Biggs will be entering his first full season in the OHL with the Oshawa generals and is poised for a big year. As a Leafs prospect he will be in the public eye and under a bit more scrutiny over his play. At 6 foot 3 and 224 pounds, Biggs is not afraid to mix things up and plays a very truculent style. Watching him play shows little wonder why Brian Burke drafted him, he's the Burke prototype and will put an end to the Leafs woes of small forwards.

4. Samuel Bennett- Kingston

Despite being a 16 year old rookie in the OHL, bennett has put in his time and after a full summer of working with Gary Roberts is ready for a big year in Kingston. The two-way forward is hoping to be more of a role player in his first year pro but is still determined to put up some major points.

3. Andrew Fritsch- sue st Marie greyhounds

Despite playing in just 33 games last season due to a wrist injury, Fritsch is healthy and ready to prove to everyone he can still be a key aspect to any team. After putting up 8 goals and 10 assists in the final 19 games of last season everyone is waiting to see what he can do when healthy and in top notch shape. Fritsch is determined to set new career highs in both goals and points to get attention from the Phoenix coyotes and garner himself a contract with the team who drafted him in the sixth round in 2011.

2. Max Domi- London Knights

The son of former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi, Max has a habit of making a splash just like his father. Despite him and his father demanding a trade to the Knights, Domi is able to put is talent where his mouth is, as he was one of the top '95s in the OHL last season. The majority of his offensive chances are generated from his quick speed as he is easily one of the fastest players in the OHL. His speed and agility open up ice for him and his teammates.  This year Domi has the chance to be a first line centre on the Knights and has the potential to have a fantastic season.

1. Sean Monahan- Ottawa 67's

Monahan is a player who could easily go in the top 5 of the 2013 draft and is arguably one of the best '94s in playing in the OHL. In his first 5 games of the 2011-2012 season he notched 5 multipoint games including 2 games in which he recorded 3 points. The best/most unique part of Monahan's game is his rare ability to elevate the game of not only himself but also his teammates. Last season Monahan really turned heads after he racked up 78 points in just 62 games with the 67's. Topping last years points will be no easy task but he's off to a solid start with 7 points in just the first 4 games of the season.

There you have folks, the OHL is loaded with talent. Tons of young kids busting their butts to earn pro contracts who would love to see you out at some of their games. It's time junior hockey started to get the attention it deserved, so if you're missing the NHL make sure you check out one of the junior league (OHL, CHL, AHL QMJHL) as I will be following each of these leagues and players closely.

If you have any questions about any one of these players feel free to tweet myself or Margann.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Mysterious Case of Nazem Kadri


AHL training camps opened up last week and put an end to some of the misery around the lockout. Unfortunately for Toronto Maple Leaf fans the Toronto Marlies camp didn't exactly start off on a good note, when first round draft pick from 2009 Nazem Kadri showed up to camp slightly overweight and with low fitness.
“His body fat today is probably in the bottom three to five guys in our whole camp. That’s unacceptable." "That’s the easiest part coming into camp is eating correctly and training correctly" ~ Marlies Head Coach Dallas Eakins

Kadri's explanation to his low fitness:
"I’m still a young guy."

Newsflash Kadri, you'll be 22 by the end of the week that young guy excuse is getting pretty old.

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Kadri 7th overall in the 2009 draft. It was a bit of a controversial pick as he wasn't even ranked inside the 10 and there was a rumour that the Senators GM had baited the Leafs into drafting Kadri. Leafs fans were puzzled by the pick and immediately Kadri was dubbed as a super star  and a player that could save the franchise. It was expected he make the jump to the NHL after a single season in the AHL.

It's now 2012 and Kadri has still failed to make and stick with the Toronto Maple Leafs for an entire NHL season. The other problem with his development is if he is such a prized prospect he should be lighting it up in the AHL, but he's not. Last season he finished outside the top 100 scorers in the AHL not exactly what you expect from a first round draft pick 3 years ago.

Here's the really scary thing, this is now Kadri's third year as a "pro" and he still doesn't understand how to properly prepare his body and what foods to eat, will he ever get it? This year would have been his 4th training camp with the Leafs and judging by how poorly he showed at Marlies training camp he likely would have been sent packing. He's been told what to do, "get stronger so you're not as easy to push off the puck and get a little faster." It's been the same story for the last 4 years, yet he has failed to do it.

What puzzles fans and media is that Kadri reportedly worked out with fitness nut Gary Roberts this summer, yet still was not in the best shape he could have been. Did Kadri not dedicate himself to follow Roberts program? I mean Stamkos immediately saw improvement after working with him.

Kadri's major problem is his attitude. He's never had the right attitude since the day he got cut from his first Leafs training camp and "didn't understand". He's full of self-entitlement something very popular in this generation. Now I know it's easy to mistake confidence for self-entitlement but this kid unfortunately has the later. Just listen to him talk and do interviews, it's always about how great he is or how much he's improved if it's not that it's him telling the media they have the wrong idea. He needs to take the criticism and make an effort to turn himself into an elite hockey player that can make that next step to the NHL. The reason he hasn't cracked the Leafs roster is because he doesn't really believe he needs to make the changes they want him too in order to play, if he did those changes would have been made immediately when he was asked.

While many fans were upset with the way the Leafs organization has handled their top prospect by constantly calling him out and critiquing him, the truth is they have every right to do so. They're fed up with him not doing what he's been asked. I reiterate my point about he should be one of the top scorers in the AHL but he's not!

Time is quickly running out for the former first round pick. He's getting a bad reputation and is losing trade value. Many have pegged him as a career "minor leaguer". If he doesn't get his act together now he may go down as one of the biggest busts in Leafs history.

Kadri's reaction to all this?


What are your thoughts about Nazem Kadri; Have the Leafs been too harsh on him, does he have what it takes to make the NHL?