Thin Air: Start of free agency

Free agency starts tomorrow, and I couldn’t be less prepared. It all seems so fast, like the dates get mashed together so quickly. Everyone is making announcements, teams are hiring and firing with wild abandon, and things seem to pile up. My news reader is stacked with articles left unread, and just not enough time to read them in. That’s what I get for doing this, I suppose.

Some quick hits before the news comes out fast and furious:

Avs- Thanks to big bonuses due to Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, there will be less salary to go around under the cap. Enough will be paid out that it basically nullifies the cap increase. These bonuses were agreed to before the new CBA and cap were put in place. Sure, they deserve the cash, it’s too bad about the cap impact though. I wonder if this is one of the reasons Sakic took a pay cut, because it really isn’t one.

Terry Frei writes this at Espn.com

Sakic’s $5.75 million salary for 2006-07 was moderate, but a bit misleading.
When he and Rob Blake
re-signed with Colorado in 2001, twin $3 million bonuses due five years later
were part of their deals. Those bonuses will be shaved to $2.3 million because
of the 24 percent rollbacks under the new collective-bargaining agreement but
will count against the Avalanche’s cap next season. It means Sakic will take up
a shade over $8 million under next season’s $44 million cap. Put another way,
the bonuses effectively will eat up the increase in cap space for the Avalanche
and definitely were an issue when Colorado, fearing a potential $5 million-plus
arbitration award to Alex
Tanguay
, shipped him to Calgary.

- There is going to be a lot more goalie movement out there. Which also means there will be a few older goalies who get pushed to the outside. There are still some holes to fill, but mostly in the backup position. Look for some serious money to be spent, as the position became a lot more valuable last year.

- Mark Denis goes to Tampa. Is this a solution? Is Tampa going to settle for more ineffective goaltending? Jeez, these guys just don’t learn, do they?

Avs – The Avs resigned Karlis Skrastins (3 year, $7.2 mil) land Brett Clark (2 year, $3 mil) today. Clark, I grudgingly say, is alright. I gave him a bad rap, because every time I turned on the TV, he seemed to be doing the wrong thing. But the Avs are big on him, so I’ll give him a chance. Skrastins is a good resigning. If you can call him one thing, it reliable. With the deals, that puts the Avs at 31.8 million in cap money spent, not including the 2.3 million bonus money owed to Sakic and Blake. I didn’t include it because I don’t know the terms. And that is without signing Blake yet (although it does include Leopold). If it’s 2.3 each against the cap, that puts us at 36.4 mil used up. No Svatos, no Liles, no Blake, no backup goalie, no secondary backup goalie. Oh, yeah, and no Hinote yet, either.

- Tonight is pickup hockey for me, and tomorrow, I will be staying in to watch the opening bell hijinx, and nurse the sore parts. The fun starts at 10am MST or 12pm EST. Get your vices early, it’s going to be fun.

AHL goes all visor, all the time

The AHL announced that next season, all players are required to wear visors. So, the AHL catches up with the ECHL, the CHL, and the UHL. Good for them. Here, I’ll repeat that.

GOOD FOR THEM.

I still don’t understand the position taken by so many around hockey. The argument is that since visors, the players sticks have been carried higher, players have been less responsible with the stick, and more injuries have occurred. Because of a piece of PLASTIC. That protects the eyes.

What? That makes no sense at all. Did players decide, now that things are safer, I can be more reckless? Is that a joke?

There are two types of visors: those worn properly, and those that won’t protect shit. All visors can help, if you wear it right, and tighten up your helmet’s chin strap. You can ask Dany Heatley about that. Remember what happened to him in Europe during the lockout? He was wearing a visor, and when he fell, his helmet lifted up, because he had a loose chin strap (which a lot of players do). He took a puck to the eye (area. Didn’t hit his eye directly).

And that’s the other thing. It isn’t just sticks that cause injury. Ask Stevie Y about that, or Don VanMassenhoven, or Mats Sundin. Take a puck in the face, and you’ll wish you had that visor. Shots are harder, from farther away, in traffic, and on and on. Take a puck in the face from a deflection, and it can hurt you pretty bad. Ask any number of fans who have taken a puck to the face in the crowd.

Reality is, it’s not a question of protection, it’s a question of ego. Visors are looked down on because they take away from the “manly” image of the player. Well, the same could be said for Jacques Plante. The taunting and ridicule he had to endure, so he could wear a mask, a piece of equipment we wouldn’t think twice of today, was utterly stupid. And the same stigma is given to visors today.

Here’s how I look at it. If it’s good enough for Joe Sakic, it should be good enough for everyone.

Thin Air

I’m driving from Philly to Denver starting Tuesday, so I have no time to really look at who the Avs drafted. I think it’s amazing they didn’t trade the first round pick for two tickets for Larry the Cable Guy.

So some quick hits here.

- Todd McFarlane came out with pictures of the next line of hockey action figures. Do you think this will change jerseys before the line comes out?

- If the Chicago Blackhawks can say that Matthew Barnaby is “classy,” what’s the hold up with a toast to Alex Tanguay. What did Tang do? Kick Pierre Lacroix’s puppy?

-

(If you missed that link for the action figure, click this line)

Hockey Book #1

Final post tonight, I promise…

I just finished my reread of Open Net by George Plimpton.

Open Net

If you haven’t read it, you are missing out. The Canadians have Dryden’s The Game, but for my money, this is better. If you can find the hardcover, buy it, for all the typos, and the great black and white photos.

Why bother?

I suppose I should put a little thing up about why I want to have a hockey blog, what makes me “whatever” enough to do one.

Simply put, nothing makes me “whatever” enough (good, crazy, insightful, literary). I believe any idiot can have a blog (kind of the point of blogs), and I’m just that idiot.

First off, I am not a long time hockey fan. I remember watching the Oilers on television winning the Cup (that must have been 1988, as I remember the announcer saying it was the 4th cup in 5 years), and I remember skating in Minnesota before we moved away (at the age of 6). Where we moved to in Colorado didn’t have any rinks, except a roller rink. The Colorado Rockies had moved away when I was eleven.
My dad used to go to Blackhawks games when he was a kid, but somehow, sports skipped me over. I just didn’t care, so I paid no attention at all. The Oilers games were fascinating to me, but after it was over, hockey went away. I didn’t have any real means of following it, and didn’t pay much attention. Colorado was a Broncos town, and I could care less about football, so that was it for me.

When the Avalanche came to Denver, I was working in radio, and even though I didn’t get to see them live, they captured my attention. The night they won the cup in 1996 is a night I will never forget. I got to be in the press section for the parade (I was doing the tech side of things), and can even point myself out in the photo book they put out from that season(black dot, third from right).
My first jersey was an Avs jersey, just a simple blank one, red, rather than the maroon they have now. I wouldn’t have thought that would be the start of a large (for someone who wears them) jersey collection.

My first live game was in 2003, Buffalo vs. Atlanta, the two teams ranked 29th and 30th at the time. I believe Byron Dafoe was in net, and he was awful. The game went to OT, and just like that, I was hooked. Since then, we had the lockout to break my heart, but even then, I got to see a lot of live games.
Does that make me a Newbie? Sure, why not. I have never cared much for the elitist views taken by some old time hockey fans, as though if you weren’t there at the beginning, you don’t amount to a “true fan”. I’ve never seen that attitude very useful. It’s not much better than the attitude towards hockey in the south. Who cares where it is, for how long, or who you are. If you like hockey, kick ass.

The point. I only know a few hockey people. I travel around the country, and am an oddity for liking the game, much less wearing a hockey jersey. I only have one person who I can talk hockey with, and that’s not enough.

I’m just here to join in the discussion, and maybe learn to write a little better. I have my opinions (like everyone else), and sometimes I’m just plain wrong. I’m going to do my best to stick with this, even when I’m travellng, which also means I won’t be able to see every game. Still, I hope to have something interesting to say. And if not, you don’t have to read.

I’m also going to show off a few jerseys, because I like them. I really like them. A lot. And have too many not to.

My goodbye to Alex

If you look at the Colorado Avalanche web site, you will find the announcement of Alex Tanguay going to Calgary. Or, what you will really find is the announcement that Jordon Leopold is coming to Colorado. Basically, don’t let the door hit you, see you in eight games next season.
Here’s the first lines:

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Colorado Avalanche announced today that the club has
acquired defenseman Jordan Leopold and a second-round pick in this year’s NHL
Entry Draft from the Calgary Flames in exchange for left wing Alex
Tanguay.

Here’s what I don’t like. When David Aebischer was traded, he was persona non grata, thanks for playing, but who are you again? The programs sold at the Pepsi Center were quickly stripped of his info. The saves of the season shown on the scoreboard were suddenly all Budaj. Then at the last game of the season, fans got a team poster. With Jose Theodore in it. Who was part of the team, yes.

But…
I feel like I’m going to be saying that a lot this season.

I know the truth. You have to “move on”; love the team, but not the players; accept the way it is. I know, this is hockey, not a love-in. But it still sucks. This is the way the Avs are, devoid of personality, turning the other cheek to a fault, difficult to get information from, and trying to ignore the past. It’s enough to piss you off, but only if you look hard enough (which really isn’t hard at all).

I haven’t found any mention of Tanguay’s departure, not even the obligatory “We wish him the best.” Nothing. It’s like that policy you always see in movies, the “We don’t negotiate with kidnapers” thing. Even his stats are no longer on the Avs website.

So here it is, my goodbye to Alex. Simple and honest.

Dear Alex,
I could imagine how you must feel right now, with so little time to reflect on what just happened. I’m sure it’s of no comfort that a similar thing just happened to Robert Luongo, but, as we all know, that is the business of hockey. Cold and simple, it was just business. If this were the pre lockout NHL, we’d be sitting down and talking turkey right now. But the salary cap giveth, and the salary cap taketh away, and lately, we’ve been on the losing side of that end.
So, let me just say, thanks for all you’ve given to the Avs over the years. Playing hurt at times, putting pucks in the net, you’ve done a lot for us. Your 400 points with us is nothing to sneeze at, and six years of service to the cause has been great.
The Avs may have been the only NHL team you played for, but you are going to have a great time in Calgary. And even though we don’t acknowledge it, we will miss you here.
See you for eight games next season,
US

Tan-Gone

I was somewhat shocked when I found out about the trade of Alex Tanguay for Jordan Leopold from the start of the draft. Somewhat, because I had heard he might be dealt, but he wasn’t a guy I thought would go.

When you start to think about it, it kind of makes sense. It seams like a win-win. Calgary was criticized for it’s lack of scoring, and the Avs could use the defense, whether or not Rob Blake gets resigned (Come on, he’ll sign).

I’m not sure what the stats say about the trade, but I’m more concerned about how
Leopold fits in the locker room, and that he’s had a few concussions (they don’t get any easier).

From the Globe and Mail Live Blog:

“On the surface, it looks like a steal for Calgary. Leopold did play on the
Flames’ No. shutdown pair alongside Robyn Regehr, but the team has long been
concerned about his fragility — and a long concussion history. Moreover,
Calgary’s defence is as deep as it gets in the NHL. Tanguay, meanwhile, was the
Avalanche’s leading scorer for much of the season until an injury knocked him
out of the line-up for 11 games.”

What this tells me is that the Avs will make a big effort to sign some of the younger scoring talent, like Svatos. We need someone to take over Tanguay’s slot, who else? Look for number 18 jerseys to go on a fire sale. I’m just glad I got my Alex Tanguay Nesting Doll. Come on, it was free.

Also, a bit off topic, but I’m making the case for keeping Dowd. He played well in the playoffs, with good choices and never dogging it.

I need to find an adjustable meter for the sidebar, so I can rate my confidence level. I think this coming season, it’s going to be moved around a lot.

A little love for being last

From the Toronto Star, This great article:

The tale of the last draft pick

For those of us just lucky enough to find hockey in the first place, and to lace up some skates, for those of us who play because we love it (even if we suck), it’s nice to hear about people who don’t take their shot for granted. Just being drafted is an accomplishment.

And, hey, no matter what, you always have a story to tell.

That Number 60 jersey will have to wait…

Just desserts for some people. I have no idea how Jose Theodore was going to justify this:

http://www.tmz.com/2006/06/19/paris-she-shoots-she-scores/

But now he doesn’t have to:

http://torontosun.com/Entertainment/2006/06/22/1647345-sun.html

I’m not giving up my Aebischer jersey anytime soon, and I’m certainly not going to be buying a number 60 either.

Note that in the picture, Paris is holding his glove hand, which is already weak enough.

Canes Rock

There are so many reasons for this to be a huge Stanley Cup. From the win over an established Canadian team with pedigree, to the first post lockout championship (who would have thought that the Canes would be the model for the “New NHL”), this is huge. Second year in a row for a “Southern” team, a “Small Market” getting some attention, there is every reason for this to be a great thing.

And yet…

Not me. I’m happy as hell. But I am on standby for the harbingers of doom. The ones who live in fear. Fear of the sport growing, fear of not having this be “their sport”, fear of being wrong. If the Canes don’t meet a criteria laid out by the naysayers, then it was all a bad thing. A low TV rating, a non sellout, a slow season, a key player gets traded. They will be out there, waiting down the dark alleyway, waiting for the canes to be alone, before dragging them back in the shadows and killing them slowly.

I have heard so many reasons why this is “bad for hockey.” Why “nobody cares.” That it isn’t what the “NHL wants.”

I have yet to hear one that rings true.

Great job, Canes.
Great season.