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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Griffey Jr. finally hits No. 600

Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run yesterday against the Florida Marlins. Good for him, he always seems like a nice guy, so he deserves this milestone.

Now, I don't watch baseball - I can't remember the last time I watched a whole game - but I've been watching the highlights on SportsCentre the last few weeks and something really struck me. I've watched Griffey get up to the plate and be walked time and time again. The same thing happened last year when Bonds was chasing the HR record.

What's up with that?

Why are so many pitchers dead-set against taking a chance and perhaps allowing a home run like this?

To all those pitchers who purposefully walked Ken Griffey Jr., I have this to say: you are all cowards and an embarrassment to sports. You should be ashamed of yourselves for such behaviour.

There is no shame in being the one who pitches such a record-setting/milestone pitch, but there is shame in taking the wimpy way out.

Grow a freakin' backbone...

Monday, June 9, 2008


I am stunned.

When CBC announced a few days ago that they were not able to renew their licensing agreement for 'The Hockey Theme,' I thought it was lost. I did not expect today's news, that's for sure.

Turns out we will be hearing the famous 'dum-da-dum-da-dum' next season.

But it won't be on CBC.

CTV has announced that they have acquired the rights to the theme, which they will play for NHL broadcasts on TSN and RDS. Furthermore, we will hear our second national anthem during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

I figure this CTV deal was the reason why CBC couldn't renew the license - CTV was offering more. In fact, CTV has been really kicking butt in terms of broadcasting sports...CBC will broadcast its last Olympics this summer before handing over the reigns to CTV...CTV has every CFL game plus the Grey Cup...all international hockey games, including the WJC and the WC, are broadcast on TSN...they have all four Grand Slam events, and then there's all 4 golf majors, the NBA finals, Series of Champions Curling, NASCAR, F1, NFL games (and the Super Bowl), EURO 2008...and the list goes on.


The Dominator is Done

According to several reports, future HOF goalie Dominik Hasek is retiring. He is currently the second oldest active player in the NHL, behind his Detroit teammate Chris Chelios.

Originally drafted in the 10th round (199th overall) by Chicago in 1983, he moved on to the Buffalo Sabres where he made his mark in the hockey world.

Hasek won 2 Stanley Cups, 6 Vézina trophies, and a couple of Hart trophies since entering the NHL in 1990 and is arguably one of the best goaltenders in history. He also won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. It is likely that his decision to retire was sparked when he lost his role as the starting goalie for Detroit in the first round of the playoffs this year.

"I'll be honest, I can't enjoy it as I did enjoy the Stanley Cup in 2002," Hasek said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Hasek is definitely one weird goalie - he doesn't adopt the butterfly or stand-up styles that most goalies use. I liken his style to a fish flopping around in the crease, and it has served him well.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Mourning of a Song

Canadians are stunned. Or at least the hockey-loving Canadians are stunned.

The Hockey Night in Canada theme song, considered to be our second national anthem, will not return.

CBC Sports tried to renew the licensing fee, but composer Dolores Claman and her reps refused the deal. Details are not available, but it seems as though CBC offered to continue to pay Claman the richest licensing fee in Canada for use of the song. They previously paid $500 per use, and that was going to go up 15% after 2 years. CBC also offered to buy the song for a 'high six-figure sum', but that offer was rejected.

If CBC was willing to continue to pay Claman the richest licensing in the nation, and if they were going to increase those fees to reflect 'industry standard', then what's the problem? Is it greed on Claman's part? That's what it seems like to me...

So now, CBC has launched (or will soon be launching) a contest to replace the theme song, with the winner receiving $100,000 and all royalties going to minor hockey.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Over for another year

(Photo from Pensblog - don't know where they got it)
The SCF are now over, and Detroit has won the whole shebang. Crosby came so close to scoring a tying goal, with 1 second left in the third, but it wasn't meant to be this year.

Congrats to the Wings, they deserved it. I couldn't help but smile when I saw Mike Babcock's boyish grin yesterday on OTR. He looked like it was the happiest day of his life, and I'm sure it was one of them.

It was heartbreaking to see the pain on the faces of the Penguins after that game. It was their first trip to the big dance and they truly believed that they could win. They saluted the crowd before leaving the ice, but it should be us saluting them. They showed more heart and courage in the last two weeks than imaginable, and I am damn proud of that.

Some people are now looking back at what happened in the SCF and how the Penguins played, and criticism is being thrown around like free candy. I understand that the media has to talk about what went wrong, and what went right, but why do some 'fans' feel the need to tear this team apart??

It really gets on my nerves to hear fans criticize the Pens for not winning the Stanley Cup this year. They put the blame on the coaches, on Malkin, on Sykora, on Crosby, on Sydor, on [fill in the blank], but they are blind to the great things that came out of this series.

I believe wholeheartedly that this team did the best that it could. We must think about how young this team is - the top three centres are 21 and under. We need to think about how young Marc-Andre Fleury is, and how young other guys are. We need to consider the fact that most of these players have not been in the SCF before, and there is a huge learning curve there. I am willing to bet that this team was nervous and tried to do too much for a good chunk of the series. Nevermind the physical issues - it's the nerves that will get you because it makes it harder to make decisions under pressure.

I am also willing to bet my life that these players and these coaches have learned a great deal from this series. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I'm sure everyone now knows what they should have done in this situation or that. They did their best at the time, and now they know what they could change. This knowledge does not come from a teacher - it comes from experience.

It is, stupid..for fans to gripe about how Malkin didn't play well until the last game, or how MAF let in a couple of soft goals, or how MT was outcoached by Babcock. They managed to win a couple of games, didn't they? They were also playing a team that was much more experienced - a team that wasn't as 'old' as everyone thought.

I say give the kids a lot of credit for their season and for making it as far as they did - because no one really expected them to be in the SCF just yet. And no one expected a SCF berth given the poor start to the season, or the injuries.

Last year the Pens were ousted from the playoffs after just 5 games, and look how far they came this year after gaining that little bit of experience.

Imagine how much better they could be next year...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Random NHL news

The media asked Tiger Woods who he's rooting for in the SCF, the Wings or Pens. He had this to say:

"I don't really care. It's all about the Dodgers. I don't think anyone really watches hockey anymore."

Well, my respect for him just dropped a few notches...


Looks like the Maple Leafs are getting ready to hire a coach. Fletcher said that he offered a coach a job, and it is widely believed that Ron Wilson was that coach.

Imagine if hard-ass Wilson comes to Toronto? Maybe it's just what the team needs...


Other coaching news: John Tortorella was officially fired today. I'm glad they did it now instead of dragging it out until the new owners take over - this gives him a good shot at finding a job sooner rather than later.

Maybe Ottawa? Those guys could use a kick in the arse.


The NHL and TSN have announced a new 6-year deal that will put 70 games on TSN this year, not including the first three playoff rounds.

Those 70 games will feature at least 1 Canadian team, with 17 games going to the Leafs, 15 to the Habs, and 10 for each of the Flames, Sens, Oilers, and Canucks.

The Wednesday night game will be a feature in the schedule, as there will be no other NHL game broadcasted in Canada that evening.

So, now we have at least 3 NHL games a week: the Wednesday night TSN game, and the double header on CBC on Saturdays. That doesn't take other games played on TSN, or the ones on Sportsnet, or CBC...I say bring it on! The more hockey, the better.

I'm just wondering how many Pens games we'll get to see.

Against all odds

If you want to find a superstitious athlete, just look for a hockey player. They have been known to take certain routes to the arena (even if it’s out of their way), put their equipment on in a specific order, eat at the same restaurant before every game, or not step on the blue line when heading for the net (à la Patrick Roy). There is no sound reason for these behaviours, but it seems to make them believe that they will play better. Unfortunately, some fans have adopted superstitions of their own, believing that they can help their teams.

Without reason, I have become superstitious and it has become more serious in the last few months. Okay, in reality I only have one superstition, and it involves my black Crosby jersey. I noticed that every now and again when I wear my jersey, the Penguins lose (which is to be expected since the team will not win every game). However, for some strange reason, the irrational part of my brain began to believe that the Pens lost when I wore the jersey. The rational part – which I hope is the larger section of my brain – would often point out the stupidity of my beliefs and I would throw on my jersey in hopes of proving myself wrong.

This back and forth inner dialogue seems, well, stupid, but it didn’t stop me from taking off my jersey for games 3 and 4 since the Penguins were unable to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals when I wore my sweater for the first two games.

Then, as game 5 drew near, the debate started again and I wondered if my wearing of the jersey would somehow cause a cosmic force to swing the game in the Red Wings’ favour. It was a somewhat half-hearted debate, for I knew that in all probability, the Wings would win the game, but Miss Rational took over and ended the discussion in my head once and for all.

See, I came to realize last night that by wearing the jersey, I am not influencing the outcome of the game any more than beards help a player to become the playoff scoring leader.

No, wearing the sweater is all about showing support for my team. It’s about showing the world that I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With my oversized jersey (who would’ve thought that a medium would look more like a dress?) on my back, I settled in front of my television to watch the game at 9 PM.

I told myself that the Penguins were going to lose the game and therefore the Cup. It’s not that I believed that there was absolutely no hope of the Pens winning – I wholeheartedly believed that they could extend the series. It’s just that I recognized the fact that the Red Wings are a very good team and the Pens would seemingly have to climb Mount Everest to win game 5.

But more importantly, I didn’t want to hype myself up too much and risk the possibility of feeling disappointed if the Pens lost. I was so proud of this team for coming this far, and I didn’t want to feel the bitter taste of disappointment…at all. So here I sat, in my black Crosby jersey, my head held high as the guys went into battle. I knew that my feelings about this team would remain unchanged, no matter the outcome.

I cheered for Hossa’s goal, and for Hall (or Kronwall) too. I was happy, but I knew better than to get over-confident. They say that a 2-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey, and that cliché proved to be right last night.

The Stanley Cup was waiting in the hallway, polished and ready to be carried onto the ice. The champagne was cold, waiting to be sprayed around the dressing room. Detroit was nursing a one-goal lead. With less than a minute remaining in the game, and the fans on their feet, cheering and chanting, the seemingly impossible happened. Max Talbot was left alone beside the net and he banged away at the puck, sliding it behind Osgood for the tying goal.

Then, after almost 50 minutes of overtime hockey, Petr Sykora broke his scoring slump and netted the game-winner – a goal that he had predicted earlier in OT.

Back to Pittsburgh it is, Stanley Cup, champagne and all.

It was 2 AM, the game had just finished; I was shaking and I felt a tear slide down my cheek. I quickly realized that, no matter how this series ended, this game would be the highlight of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn’t matter if Detroit scores 9 goals and hoists the Cup tomorrow – what people will remember is how the Penguins managed to win game 5 when everything was going against them.

Few people truly believed that the Penguins would win game 5 in Detroit. The Pens showed up and got a few breaks – breaks they desperately needed – to put them up 2-0, but they saw that lead evaporate.

They battled and played with their hearts on their sleeves.

They did not give up, even when the entire building thought it was over.

Ryan Malone took a slap shot to the face and was back in the third period, blocking shots.

Sergei Gonchar hurt his back, but soldiered back in the third OT to set up the winning goal.

Marc-André Fleury channeled Patrick Roy, putting forth a truly inspiring performance when Detroit outworked and outskated the Penguins.

Petr Sykora called his own goal in OT, despite the fact that he hasn’t scored in the Finals.

Detroit may be outplaying the Penguins in this series, but the Pens showed unbelievable character and heart last night – something that the Red Wings have yet to match.

If the Penguins are unable to win the Cup this year, there will be no disappointment in my house. I will sit here, a thousand miles away, in my black Crosby sweater and with my head held high. I will salute them for their effort, their courage, and their heart.

I am proud of them, and I hope that they are proud of themselves.

And never again will I believe in that stupid superstition.

Go Pens.