Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

As you can see, it has been almost 3 weeks since I last posted on UHT. I apologize for that, and for writing few posts overall in the last several months.

In case you didn't know, I am also a regular writer for Faceoff-Factor.com. It has recently become clear to me that it is hard for me to maintain my blog and continue to write for FF, all while pursuing a career in 'real life'. Rather than to let my work here and at FF suffer, I have decided to focus my efforts in one place - at FF.

I wanted to thank all of my readers for stopping by, reading my rants, and offering their own two cents. You guys are what make bloggers relevant in hockey.

Thanks for everything!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

To Russia With Love

Bye Bye Ray Emery.

I defended you last summer when everyone said that you were a crummy goalie. I said that you weren't crap, that you'd be even better when your wrist got better.

Then you just had to come back and suck. You were pouting when you had to park yourself on the bench upon returning from wrist surgery because Gerber was unbelievable last fall. You were late for practice how many times?

You just weren't a good teammate off the ice, and you didn't do anything to make yourself a better teammate on the ice because practicing 'isn't fun'.

So now you find yourself out of Ottawa, and no other NHL team will take a chance on you.

Not even Los Angeles.

The only job you could get is with a Russian team. I hope you can get your act together and grow up. Maybe if you do, and maybe if you work on your game, you can come back to North America in a few years and someone will take a chance on you.

After all, you were in goal when Ottawa went to the SCF a year ago. You can't be total crap.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pittsburgh South

When Shero traded for Hossa at the deadline, Pierre McGuire said that he didn't care for the move because it made Pittsburgh "Tampa Bay North" - alluding to Tampa's disastrous situation of having three star players making a big pile of money.

Well, I believe we can now call Tampa "Pittsburgh South" considering how they have signed all kinds of former Penguins in the last few weeks.

There's the new scout, Greg Malone, who may have helped to lure his son Ryan to Tampa...Gary Roberts, Adam Hall, and now Mark Recchi also signed this off-season. These four players played in Pittsburgh at some point last season, and Michel Ouellet was a Penguin the season before.

If Tampa wanted a new start this season, it looks like they got it. I just hope they aren't hoping that these former Penguins will hand them another Stanley Cup, because it won't happen. Ryan Malone has the potential of making the biggest impact on the team, but nothing is for certain.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hossa heading West

If you can't beat them, join them.

That's what Marian Hossa must be thinking, considering he just signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings for $7.4M.

Hossa was the biggest name on the market. Pittsburgh wanted to re-sign him to a multi-year deal for a reported $7M/yr, Edmonton wanted to throw $9M/yr at his feet, and the Habs and Rangers were supposedly in the mix too. The Red Wings were mentioned a few times, but they didn't make much noise. Until now.

This signing shocked me, not because it's the Red Wings, but because of the terms of the deal. Considering this deal is for little more than what Shero was offering, I can only assume that Hossa wasn't really interested in being a long-term Penguin.

Maybe he thought that, should he sign with the Pens, the team would become strapped for cash and that there would be little chance of winning the Cup in coming years.

Maybe he just looked at the Detroit Red Wings and sees a very good chance of winning a Cup with them next season (and they have now just become my number 1 pick for winning it all next year).

Maybe we'll never know what happened.

What I do know is this: Ray Shero could not have done any more. Some fans are already calling for Shero's head over this, but what some people don't get is that Shero cannot afford to overpay any player on the team. With Crosby and soon-to-be Malkin locked in for about $8.7M/year each, and MAF needing a contract in the next month, there IS NO money to pay someone upwards of $9M/yr for umpteen seasons.

The teams that overspend this time of year will ultimately lose.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tampa's all about the offense....and nothing else

What is going on down in Tampa?

They finished in the basement of the conference last season, so they decided to pull a Philly and turn things around.

New ownership, new coach, number one draft pick, trades galore, signings left, right and centre - many of those players being former Penguins.

They are looking good up front. Really good. But what about the defensive part of the game?

Tampa's defensive corps has been a little, uh, leaky in recent times, yet they want Dan Boyle (number 1 d-man) to waive his no trade clause so that they can ship him out. Wow.

Now TSN and Sportsnet are reporting that Tampa is shopping goalie Mike Green. If Green was out of town, recently signed Olaf Kolzig would be their numero uno.

Umm...don't they know that you have to stop the other team from scoring, too?

Unless they are planning on shipping Boyle and Green to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo...Nah, that wouldn't happen.

It is still early in free agency, so who knows what Feaster and the crew will do in coming weeks. Hopefully they'll address the defensive holes in the team, but even if they don't, it will be interesting to see how this little experiment pans out.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Welcome to the pissing contest

A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired the rights to negotiate with Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts, with a 2009 draft pick going to Pittsburgh.

Then, we learned last night that Malone has signed a deal with the Lightning, a deal that will pay him $31.5M over 7 years. He will receive $7M and $8M in those first two years.

We all knew that Malone was likely searching for his big pay day, and his numbers from the second half of the season helped to launch him into that group of free agents that teams wanted to sign.

I don't want to disrespect Malone or anything, but I honestly don't like this deal.

I think that Tampa is overpaying Malone with this contract. Sure, his cap hit is $4.5M/year, but figures like $7-8M for a 51-point player (only one season, remember?) is a little ridiculous.

How is this going to impact on the rest of this year's free agent class? We saw Briere get an insane contract last year, so I imagine that THAT trend will continue. However, I have to believe that Malone's contract may make things a little worse.

Look at it this way - an impending free agent wants to know what kind of contract to demand from potential suitors. He looks at what other players are making and what other players are being awarded. A guy like Marian Hossa must look at Malone's contract and realize that he should get a bigger pay day because he's a better player. If that's the case, what are the chances that he'll resign with Pittsburgh?

Sure, the salary cap just went up several million dollars, but I believe that more and more players are demanding (undeserved) higher salaries. It's almost like a pissing contest - let's see who can get more money and more years. I believe that there are very few players who should be able to make more than $6M/year, and this pissing contest of sorts is only making it harder for a team to sign an impact player.

Friday, June 27, 2008

In Shero I Trust

Free Agent Frenzy day is just around the corner, and I'm not quite sure what to think. Gary Roberts is leaving to play for another team. Ryan Malone looks to be out of town, on his way to making his fortune. Brooks Orpik is on the fence. Marian Hossa liked Shero's deal, but is looking to see what he can get elsewhere first.

Just what will this Penguins team look like next week?

As a fan, it is a little nerve-wracking to sit by and watch players leave town. After all, these guys were within two wins of the Stanley Cup and I figure that the experience would do this team a world of good in the near future. But can it happen when some of your top players leave?

I am confident that Shero will be able to replace all of the above players should none of them return, but there is always uncertainty. How will the newcomers mesh with the current crew? Can they come together for another magical run for the Cup?

Every team goes through this, especially when the GM has some cap issues. The Pens want to sign top-end players to compete with Crosby and Malkin, but with so many stars on one team, players have to sacrifice a few dollars for a shot at the Stanley Cup. Welcome to the salary cap era...

In the coming week(s) I would expect Shero to target wingers - especially a couple for Crosby. He may also need to address the grit factor. With Roberts and Malone leaving, and Orpik, Ruutu and BGL being UFAs, Shero definitely needs to bring in players who are not afraid to play a physical game.

Free Agent Frenzy Day is always a gamble, but you must gamble if you want to win big.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What should Malone do?

The rumours coming out of Pittsburgh lately are that Hossa is going to stay, Malkin's going to sign for less than he's worth, and MAF will sign an extension.

Oh, and there's the rumours about Ryan Malone. In fact, is it just me, or is he getting most of the headlines lately?

The guys over at Faceoff Factor are doing a great job at reporting all the news/rumours and giving all kinds of sources. One day it seems like Malone's rights will be traded, and now it looks like he will weigh his options at noon on July 1st.

I guess the rumour is that Shero ticked off Malone by low-balling him - maybe an offer of $3.5M a year? - and it seems like Malone may be able to sign a contract with another team worth upwards of $5M a year.

Now, everything is rumour at this point, but it seems like Malone wants a big paycheck. I guess you can't really blame him for going for the money if someone is willing to pay. If someone offered you a job that paid double your current salary, you'd consider it too.

But should Malone go for the money? If the GMs get into some kind of bidding war on Malone and drive the price up to $5M or more, should he take it?

There are plenty who would say, "Sure! If that poor schmuck is going to hand it out, grab the money and run!"

I, on the other hand, disagree.

I don't believe that Malone has proven himself worthy of that kind of paycheck. The second half of this past season was great, but before that...?

Malone played with one of the best centres in the world and he elevated his own game at the same time that Malkin stepped up. That line was incredible, but can we say that Malone will have the same success on another team? I really, truly don't know and that's not something you want to doubt if you are prepared to fork over $5M a year.

And besides, does a 50-point player even deserve that kind of big contract?

If Malone does decide to test the UFA waters on July 1st, I'd be willing to bet that the teams offering him that big contract are not Cup contenders. The big offers will come from desperate teams wanting to land a name in FA, and they will be willing to pay/drive up the price.

So, let's say that Malone does sign a big contract with another team. The GM of that team will surely come under fire if Malone doesn't pan out, but he won't be the only one. Once a player signs a contract, the expectations of that player reflect that contract. So, if Malone signs a $5M, long term contract, he will be expected to play and produce like one. If he doesn't, he will be criticized for his lack of production, even if it was the GM who made the offer in the first place. He will be much more likely to fall out of favour with his team and with other teams in the NHL because of not living up to expectations. Who knows, maybe he'd have his contract bought out and find himself without a team.

If I was in Malone's shoes, I would not go for the money. I would want to prove that this past year was not some kind of fluke. I'd take a smaller contract (say, $3.5M for 2 years) to stay with the Pens to try to win a Cup - after all, they are contenders now. Then I'd see what I could get in free agency.

Maybe I'm being unrealistic here, a bit naive in my thinking, and maybe I just believe that money isn't the most important thing in the world.

...and maybe I'm thinking too much of Alexei Yashin and how much of a disappointment he turned out to be for the NYI.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Linden makes it official

June 11, 1988 was the day that Trevor Linden was drafted second overall by the Vancouver Canucks.

June 11, 2008 was the day that Trevor Linden officially retired from the NHL.

A lot can happen in 20 years, and we have all come to love Linden for what he has done in that time.

He is one of the most well-liked guys in the league, and the most popular player to suit up for the Canucks.

More importantly, he is one heck of a guy off the ice, doing so much for children's charities. He was recognized for this work, winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1997) and the NHL Foundation Player Award (2008).

The league needs more guys like him.

Linden may not be completely done with hockey, as he is currently talking to the Canucks about remaining in the organization in some capacity.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WJC to come back to Maritimes?

I woke up this morning to the wonderful news that Halifax and Moncton have put in a bid to host the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Hockey Canada has three bids to consider: Halifax-Moncton, Winnipeg-Brandon, Regina-Saskatoon.

Halifax and Moncton are no strangers to hosting major sporting events. Halifax hosted the WJC with Sydney in 2003, the world women's hockey championships in 2004, and then there was a little thing called the WC that just wrapped up in May. Moncton has hosted quite a few events in the past (such as the Memorial Cup in 2006) and is preparing for the world men's curling championships in 2009, and the world junior track and field championships in 2010.

Hockey Canada will make its decision next month, and I'm hoping they show some more love for us Maritimers.