Avs Lines Coming Into Shape

Coach Q discussed the first two lines for the Avalanche with Adrian Dater of the Denver Post:

The final game was notable because of the new line combinations used by Quenneville. He had a first line of Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk – with Andrew Brunette dropped to a second line with Paul Stastny and Jaroslav Hlinka.

Brunette made the move look good, scoring the winning goal with 5:01 left in the game, a wrist shot that beat an old friend, Coyotes goalie David Aebischer, to the near post to break a 2-2 tie.

Quenneville hinted the lines would stay the same against the Stars.

“We’ll talk about it, but the likelihood of the lines being comparable, starting on Wednesday, is likely,” he said. “I think with the options and the versatility of our lineup, you’re not afraid to try different things in games.”

Coach Q try different things? How odd. Oh, wait no it isn’t. Q loves to mix up lines with little rhyme or reason, and even less patience. It’s enough to drive you mad.

And Mark Rycroft got sent down to Lake Erie. I’m sure that isn’t how he envisioned his contract last season. I was a little disappointed in his signing last season, mostly due to the lack of other free agent activity. We’ll see how long it takes for him to be called up.

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Avs Blogger Roundtable Tomorrow

RoundtablelogofullI haven’t really hyped this up properly, but tomorrow, at around noon eastern (10am Avalanche time), the various Avalanche bloggers will be having a huge roundtable. The panel will consist of ten Avs bloggers, with eight questions being answered, each question being hosted by a different blog. I’ll have chips, soda, and links to each blog doing the do.

It’s like a mini tour of the Avoshphere. You may find a few more blogs to read along the way.

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Downie’s Dastardly Deed

By now, we have all seen the hit that Steve Downie laid on Dean McAmmond, and heard about the 20 game suspension the NHL imposed on him. It’s the rare person that finds the suspension too heavy, most seeming to fell he got what was coming to him. I’m fine with the amount, and have no issue with it. I hope it sends a message to all players that such behaivor is intolerable (until it is tolerated, as the NHL selectively does), and that the example of Downie carries some weight throughout the league.

NHL vice-president Colin Campbell doesn’t think he’s sending a message, though, just doing what he said he would. From the Toronto Star:

But Campbell said he wasn’t delivering a message to players yesterday. That, he said, was clearly passed on already after the league’s summer meetings. Each team received the list of what types of head hits would get a player suspended, an edict backed up by an instructional videotape.

“(When) we sent that tape out, that was the message. This isn’t the message. That was the message. I didn’t think it was going to happen this soon and I didn’t think it would be this clear-cut,” Campbell said.

“The players are fully aware of what’s not acceptable now.”

Except they obviously aren’t. If they were fully aware, this wouldn’t have happened, right? If they were fully aware, a first round draft pick, even one with a reputation, wouldn’t be doing it. Sure, Downie is a rookie, and maybe trying a little too hard to land a spot on the team. But that isn’t any excuse for what he did, and ignorance is no excuse for breaking the rules.

So, what are the players supposed to be fully aware of? Again, from the Star:

That four factors that could lead to additional discipline for a headshot are:

When a player targets an opponent’s head.

When a player launches himself by leaving his feet to hit a player on or near the head.

When the hit to the head is delivered to an unsuspecting opponent.

The timing (lateness) of a hit.

And from the Downie hit, it’s a grand slam. Yep, yep, yep, and yep. All four are there, and that added up to 20 games. Of course, head hits still aren’t outlawed.

Campbell, though, made it clear that just because a check is delivered to the head, it doesn’t mean a suspension will be automatically forthcoming.

“Any of those criteria could get you suspended. At the same time, we wanted to keep hitting in the game,” Campbell said. “And legal checks to the head would be allowed if they were delivered in a legal fashion.”

Legal checks to the head. That phrase carries a lot of weight for the hockey fan. On the surface of it, the image of stretchers hauling players off the ice, or the news that a player may miss the rest of a season, or the rest of a career thanks to a legal check to the head. The feeling is that the NHL is not on board with fan sentiment on this one. If I were a player, I would want to feel that the league had my best interest in mind with head shots. Then again, the players may feel they don’t want a 20 game suspension, either. Catch-22.

I can understand the league backing off from a no-head-hit policy. In the all or nothing world of the NHL (league, broadcasting, money), I wouldn’t want to rule out incidental and accidental contact.

What Colin Campbell has to establish now is consistency. The message wasn’t in the video tape that was sent around, and it certainly isn’t in the suspension of Downie. The message is yet to come. The message will be loud and clear the next time there is an incident of this type. It shouldn’t matter if the perpetrator is Sidney Crosby or the next Scott Stevens. The rulings have to be consistent, no matter what. Everyone has heard of the Campbell wheel of justice. The players will test the system, and that system has to be even. Anything less calls the standards the league sets into question.

So, what happens to Downie now? Does he sit on his butt for 20 games? Sure, if he were a Flyer. From the Globe and Mail:

The Philadelphia Flyers sent suspended forward Steve Downie down to the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

More from ESPN.com:

According to a report from TSN of Canada, Downie will be ineligible to play until his case is reviewed by AHL commissioner David Andrews. The AHL can uphold or alter the suspension or dismiss it. Regardless of the AHL’s call, Downie will still need to sit out 20 NHL games.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told reporters Friday that the team plans to have Downie serve the NHL suspension in blocks, calling him up from time to time to serve the 20 games

….

“He can go the American League and play,” Holmgren was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Daily News. “Our plan is to make this suspension go away as quickly as possible. And because of our cap situation, we’re probably going to have to get creative.”

Holmgren added that the 20-year-old forward would be recalled to the big club on days the AHL team is not playing.

“I’ve talked to the league about this,” Holmgren told local reporters. “When we carry him on our roster, we’re pushing the limit of the cap, so there is punishment to the Flyers, as well.”

Cry me a river. That is what happens when your players do stupid things. Respect the game, and it will respect you.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this one.

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The Season Begins

We got up this morning to watch as much of the first NHL game of the season as we could, before heading off to work an hour after the game started. Of course, the game didn’t start on time, and the NHL gets about 20 – 25 minutes for delay of game. Next time, either find some dowsers for the lights, or keep them on for the Anthems.

Is it fitting that the first penalty of the season goes to Bertuzzi?

Isn’t it great that the first hard check of the season was delivered to Mick MaGoo?

Unfortunately, thanks to the delayed start, and having to work within the grounds of the Texas State Fair (really, there is a rodeo right outside the theater), I missed the rest of the game. But those two items don’t really bode to well for the season. That is, if you believe in such things. Which I don’t.

On a personal note, it’s going to be an interesting season, and I go into blogging about with a little hesitation. Last season, I was able to be home in Denver, mere blocks away from Le Can, making it easy to keep up with Avalanche games. This season promises to keep me on the road quite a bit. Without being able to sign up for Center Ice Online (yet, but I have a few phone calls to make), I may be running a Slingbox out of Iowa, with the regular Center Ice Package. That will make life quite a bit easier, but isn’t the same as being home. You don’t get the same sense of the game, or the spirit of the city around the team.

Not that being on tour is all that bad. In fact, it has it’s benefits. For instance, I get to go to the October 21st Avalanche game in Minnesota with Roy from Wild Puck Banter. Roy started blogging around the same time I did, and we have talked online quite a bit. I’m really excited to meet him, and without touring, I wouldn’t have that chance. I’m also going to be in Detroit (oh, joy of joys) for the holidays, and will hopefully be able to hook up with some fellow bloggers for a game or two. Then we hit Pittsburgh for six weeks, where I get to see the Penguins take on the Capitals. After that, it’s on to Toledo, OH (because my life is a rich, full oyster), which is in reach of all sorts of hockey, NHL and otherwise.

Being on tour makes it harder to retain that contact with the Avalanche, and having to be a long distance fan. That’s just the way it goes, I guess, and while I’m not happy about it, there are worse things in life. With the advent of high-speed internet, life becomes much easier for the traveling hockey fan, and above all, I am a hockey fan. I love to go to games outside the mainstream, like the Ft. Wayne Comets, or the Cincinnati Cyclones (just saying that makes me excited), or even the Indianapolis Ice. It’s not like I’m all that interested in doing game recaps for every Avs game. There are plenty of Avs blogs around these days, and they do it just fine. I have other ideas in mind.

Basically, I don’t know what Jerseys and Hockey Love season two will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. As little as a month ago, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to dive into this season as a hockey blogger. I can certainly understand some of the bloggers who have put blogging on hold for now. It is a lot more commitment than I had originally anticipated. But some of the fun of this (and if it isn’t fun, why do it) is not knowing what the next thing will be. I can’t wait to live-blog from my seat at some minor league, or even kids game from some city I’ve never been to. I still have packages of Peeps left over, with a few plans for their use. It’s going to make going home for the occasional game that much more sweet. I’ve never completely taken to being just an Avs blogger, and being on the road can point me in other directions. I wish I had my blog going in the 2005-06 season, when I took a road trip through the entire UHL (a more impressive 14 teams then) and half the CHL. It would have been an entertaining read.

Anyways, the season, in such a strange fashion, has begun. The first two points are on the sheets, and the LA Kings lead the entire NHL with a perfect record. Heck of a start. I can’t wait to see how it ends.

This is going to be a good time.

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NW Goalie Preview: Comic Edition

Everyone is posting their previews, and I feel a little left out. Here is the JAHL Northwest Division Goalie Preview – Comic Edition.

Colorado Avalanche – Jose Theodore

Page 1-1

And…
Page 3-1

Peter Budaj:
Page 4
Page 4-1

Edmonton Oilers – Dwayne Roloson:
Page 2

Vancouver Canucks – Roberto Luongo
Page 3-2

Minnesota Wild – Josh Harding
Page 1-2

Calgary Flames – Mikka Kiprusoff
Page 4-2
Page 4-3

Come on, tell me I’m wrong.

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Perfect Job for NY Bloggers?

This just popped up on the NHL Job Board. Thought some of you might like to know.

Freelance Writer/Editor – New York Rangers (New York, NY)
From the job posting:

DESCRIPTION:
Assist the staff of newyorkrangers.com in posting coverage (game stories, key statistics, staff photos) of Rangers games on the site. The ideal candidate will be a self-starter with a superior knowledge of hockey and prior experience covering the sport for a professional media organization.

Any New York based bloggers looking to make the jump? It’s a pro writing gig, maybe not perfect, but it’s getting payed for words. Good luck.

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Hockey Coach Stops Horse in a Unique Way

This is ridiculous, but the AP says it’s true:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The coach of Oklahoma City’s minor-league hockey team helped prevent a possible stampede of Belgian horses at the Oklahoma State Fair by biting one of the animals on its ear.

Do what now?

Doug Sauter, who coaches the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League, was at the fair Saturday attending the Centennial Expo’s Draft Horse Show when he saw a Belgian horse break free from its reins. That caused a chain reaction that spooked other horses, he said Monday.

He bit the ear of one of the spooked horses to stop it from stampeding.

“That’s how you stymie a horse,” he said.

“You bite as hard as you can, and it won’t move.”

In a related, completely fabricated story, two-thirds of the Oklahoma City Blazers have suddenly quit the team.

Do you think he had a tough time getting to the horse’s ear through his mustache?

200709271710
(photo from the Central Hockey League website)

That’s small for his mustache. You should see (I kid you not) his bobble-head, on sale at the Blazers arena.

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AHL Jersey Update: Portland, Manitoba, and Rockford

Three new jerseys to show you from the AHL. First up, the Portland Pirates:

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Ec3D629Adaf509D38Adab5931D8C0Fe3.300

5F108F628465Bfc4Bb39Ad7E0E80C1Cd.300

I still don’t understand the amount of teams to put those white lines on the upper chest by the armpits. It must be some sort of seam, or was gently suggested by RBK or something. I think they look like a$$.

Next up, the Manitoba Moose:

D0D3A6057Fc22Fe7280Fe72A0C2D21A7.300

Not bad, especially if they leave that stupid logo off the shoulders from previous years. (Zing!)

Finally, a favorite of mine, the Rockford IceHogs:

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Up from the UHL, new to the AHL, they are certainly following the look of their new affiliate, the Chicago Blackhawks.
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Yeah, I like the old ones better.

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Hlinka Man of the Hour

Jaroslav Hlinka, brought over from the Czech Republic by Milan Hedjuk this summer, is turning out to be the find of the century. And in the very least, the press department. James Mirtle and Paul Kukla both point to a Denver Post article about him, and the vast majority of Avalanche fans who have asked me anything about the team have been curious about him. Aside from winning the Czech scoring title, he is a hell of a deal at $600,000 on a two way contract (can be moved down for less money to Cleveland Lake Erie if needed). So, how did he get here? From the Denver Post:

Jaroslav Hlinka kept waiting for someone connected to an NHL team to ask him if he wanted to try the North American pro game. He wasn’t claimed when he was draft-eligible. He played parts of 10 seasons in the Czech pro league, parts of three seasons in Switzerland, one year in Russia and has appeared in six World Championship tournaments with the Czech Republic’s national team.

And still, he waited.

See, maybe it’s just me, but with all the emphasis put on the North American player, and the ease at which they are scouted, it’s way too easy to overlook gems like this. I may be putting the horse before the cart (wait, isn’t that how it works?), since Hlinka hasn’t really proven himself in the regular NHL season, but in the ‘insignificant’ pre-sesason, he has 6 assists, which leads the Avalanche. Points wise, he is showing up on the top 20 leader board (along with three other Avalanche), so given the impact he is having, and the impact the pre-season is having on the regular season (can you say head injury, boys and girls? I knew you could), it’s likely he will either be on the opening night roster, or will be one of the first call-ups from the Monsters.

And frankly, how would you treat the Czech scoring leader? If you have an undrafted thirty year old player with ability on the cheap, are you going to send him down to the AHL, just to see him get fed up with the minor league lifestyle, and head back home? Or worse, take a contract with another team and light up your red light? These are some of the factors that have to be weighting on Coach Q and Francois Giguere right now, as they are making the final cuts to the Avs roster. There are no easy answers right now, but given his displayed ability and his low cost, Hlinka is making the decision easier / harder on the Avs. Again, from the Denver Post:

It can be tricky, so it all seems to indicate Hlinka and rookie center T.J. Hensick likely will be on the active roster for opening night. Hlinka’s six assists lead the team in the preseason, and he and Hensick are the only Avs to play in all five games so far. Hlinka said of the transition: “Of course, this is faster. There is more contact. But hockey is just one sport.”

Just one sport. Wow. I’m sure there are some parts of that sentence getting lost in translation, but what a bad-a$$ statement. And what did it take to get Hlinka to the Avalanche?

The Avs scouted Hlinka at the world championships, and also asked Colorado winger Milan Hejduk about him.

“I told them he was a great player, a great playmaker,” Hejduk said. “We played against each other in juniors. We played together a couple of times on the national team. He was always a really good player, so it’s kind of amazing that he wasn’t drafted. Sometimes, I guess, guys can be kind of hidden.”

Thank goodness the Avs found him.

The vitals:

Jaroslav Hlinka, No. 17

Position: Center.

Shoots: Left.

Height: 5-feet-10. Weight: 185 pounds.

Born: 1976, in Prague, Czech Republic.

Background: Hlinka has spent his entire career playing primarily in the Czech Republic league, in addition to stops in the Swiss and Russian leagues. He was a member of Czech Republic’s world championship teams in 2006 and 2007 and compiled six points in nine games and seven points in seven games, respectively.

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Luongo Stamps Feet, Makes Pouty Face

Roberto Luongo is putting his foot down. From ESPN.com:

In a conference call Tuesday, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo said he would retire if the league used bigger nets.

“If that day comes, I don’t think you guys will be seeing me in the NHL,” Luongo said.

Why is that, Roberto? Concerned for your stats?

Luongo said he would retire, even if the league made the nets bigger by just a few inches.

“I have no intentions of playing with bigger nets,” Luongo said.

Can we test that theory?

Frankly, anyone who walks away from the NHL and contracts like Luongo has is a fool. I don’t believe a word of it, nor do I think they will make the nets bigger. So, Luongo gets his little rant, we all stand up and pay attention, and nothing changes. There were goaltenders before Luongo, and there will be plenty after. If anything, he sure is good at getting a few headlines.

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