Hey Tom, Avs Won

Sure, it was in the shootout, but it was a win.

Sabres @ Avs: I’m There!

Whoo-hoo!!!

I’m at the game!

Frozen Fury 2008: Better Late Than Never (massive post with lots of photos)

People don’t usually care too much about hockey game after they happen, unless they are epic battles, classic wins, or moments of greatness for ones own team. Even less so for a preseason game with “no consequences.” But the Frozen Fury, held every year at the MGM Grand, is one of those hockey games that is more than just players on ice, it’s an experience for the fans that doesn’t really compare to the rest of the NHL world. Frozen Fury isn’t just a game, it’s an event. There aren’t many any venues in the NHL where you can step out of the game and start gambling. The Frozen Fury is a good litmus test for the NHL moving to Las Vegas, for many a forgone conclusion. While the league looks at Kansas City with scrutiny, Vegas looks like a lock.

It’s well past time I put up my photos and talked about my first time at Frozen Fury. It was my intention to post this right away, but Las Vegas hotels would rather that you were on the casino floor, instead of the internet.

There are going to be a lot of photos, and many of them are not going to be hockey related at first. But stay with me, there are some gems.

There are many types of travelers in the world, and all of them react differently to the various difficulties inherent to the industry. For instance, computer failures. Your boarding pass doesn’t get printed right away, but a bunch of people after you get theirs in a timely fashion. My own sense of traveler zen depends on the amount of time I have arrived at the airport before my flight, and the amount of distraction I have at hand. This was a good day for me.

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Not that I had where to really go, or anything to do in the Kansas City Airport. And calling this and international airport is a bit of a stretch. This is simply a bus depot for planes.
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Compare that to Denver International Airport, with good food, lots of space, and moving walkways from here to eternity.
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To see the rest of this, click the link below. I promise there will be hockey photos, and talk about the game. Really.
[Read more...]

I Don’t Miss Theo

The Washington Capitals started their season on the road in Atlanta last night, with Jose Theodore getting the start. And I have to say, Theo is proving right off the bat why I don’t miss him. This picture should tell you everything you need to know. That looks familiar. Or how about this stat: 4 goals on 17 shots. Yep, the Theodore era continues somewhere else.

Now, you may be saying that Peter Budaj didn’t do that much better, letting in five on 20 shots, and you may have a point.

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But I saw a lot of good from Budaj the other day, and several goals that were not his fault. There were defensive gaffs, along with the holes down low that go along with “fire wagon hockey,” which is what the Avs are subscribing to (until they get lit up one too many times and go into a defensive shell again).

I don’t miss Jose Theodore one bit. One playoff series is not enough to win me back from a season and a half of high priced mediocrity, which is what the Caps fans may be experiencing right off the bat.

I’m with Jibblescribbits on this one.
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The Rink Podcast is Live

This past week, Tom Luongo of NHL Fanhouse and I started a hockey podcast. We are calling it The Rink. Starting out as a once a week podcast, we are talking about the latest news from the NHL, as well as talking to a hockey blogger about their team, and what they think about the NHL and hockey in general. Tom has some interesting takes on the world of hockey.

So far, we have two episodes up, the first featuring Greg Wyshynski from Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy blog. The second one features Sherry from Scarlett Ice and the HLOG. Both were great to talk with, and we are looking forward to talking with more hockey bloggers as the season goes on.

You can find the Rink at:

www.rinkpodcast.com

and if you want to call in to the podcast, we have a phone number set up for you at:

845-704-RINK

845-704-7465

You can find it on iTunes here.

Hope you stop by to check it out.

I Guess Hockey Started

Today, someone at work told me, the hockey season began. Except:

It started before noon where I am.
It started in Europe.
No one really played a home game.
No teams play a home opener until Thursday. And…

They are still playing preseason games.

You know, when there is preseason hockey, that should mean the season hasn’t started yet. And yet, the season has started. This makes no sense. It’s pure logic.

Am I missing something here? Am I just not understanding what the NHL market is like? I realize that there are plenty of players from all over the world in the NHL, but in a gate receipt driven business, why would you drive your interest somewhere else? Shouldn’t you do everything in your power to make the NHL season opener special to the people who are buying the tickets, the jerseys, the television packages, the beer, and paying for the league to exist?

And hey, shouldn’t you broadcast it in America, where three of the four teams playing are located? Shouldn’t that be a priority?!?!?

When I was driving to Kansas City this past week, I stopped in Lake St. Louis, MO to see the old United Hockey League office, and what had become of it (stay with me here, there is a point). It’s now just some nondescript office, something a bean counter or small tech startup would call home. I knew where it was because I stopped by in 2005 when I took an extended road trip through the entire UHL (14 teams at the time). They treated me great, sat and talked with me for a while, and even gave me a little swag (totally unnecessary, but still). The last I knew, the PR guy I talked with is working with the Pittsburgh Penguins now.

The minors know about keeping fans happy. They know that loyalty is earned, that giving back something is important, and that keeping the attention of the local hockey fan is a full time job. They don’t let opportunities pass them by, and they don’t wait for those opportunities to present themselves, they create them. The minor leagues make mistakes, but they don’t repeat them too often, or else they will be gone.

Does it ever feel like the NHL just doesn’t care about keeping it’s fans happy?

Avalanche Roundtable 2008 Edition Day 3: Granato

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Roundtable time snuck up on me this year, much like the hockey season. Perhaps it was Joe Sakic taking his sweet time to tell us he would be back for the year, the lack of late offseason free agency signing, or just an incredible busy work life for the past several months (which is the default blogger excuse, I know, but I don’t think it has ever applied to my life like it has this summer). Still, it’s more than my pleasure to participate this year, since this is as fine a group of bloggers as I could hope to be a part of. When I started blogging, there was one other Avs blog, and it died around the same time (was it something I said?). Now the community is thriving, and I couldn’t be happier.
Each blogger is hosting a question for the roundtable. Mine has to deal with Tony Granato,

What will be the most identifiable difference between the Quenneville Era and the Granato Era v2.0?

Jay Vean – Avs Hockey Podcast:
What I’d hope Granato 2.0 emphasizes that Quenneville apparently never did is being more aggressive on the power play. Too many times last season there were zero and/or one shot power play opportunities. You would expect that eventually the coaching staff would take the “system”, throw it out the window and tell everyone to throw everything they could at the net during the PP when you’re dead last in the league for the majority of the season. If I have my facts straight, Granato has been in charge of the power play in the past as well. I’d assume he’s smart enough to know that what the team was trying to accomplish last season wasn’t working very well and obviously needs to be revamped.

Justin – Avalanche Guild:
The most obvious difference will be the consistent physical toughness to the Avs’ game. There are a few other obvious changes Granato is making to their style of play, including the grit and speed elements, but he’s also employing some other strategic moves on the power play with things like parking Ryan Smyth and Scott Parker right in front of the net and some new face-off techniques.

Granato is what you call a player’s coach, meaning he gets to know his players on a much more personal, friendly and compassionate level. He’s an older player with experience and wisdom and ‘one of the guys’ in the locker room. Granato is also a very demanding coach when it comes to effort, which is EXACTLY what the Avalanche need this year. They were far too complacent and inconsistent last season and far too often failed to put together 60 minutes of complete hockey.

Therefore, expect a major shift in the forechecking and back-checking efforts of the forwards, as the Avs will ultimately improve their team game. So the biggest difference in Granato’s tenure will not be a tangible aspect of play, but more of an improvement of the team’s collective mental focus.

Mike – Mile High Hockey:
A lack of facial hair? Better game-day ties? Ray Ferraro and sister Cammi on speed-dial? Most likely, but the biggest differences will be a willingness to let the players’ play determine whether or not they get to embrace the A. I don’t think he’ll show untoward leniency toward certain players (*cough* Arnason *cough*) while penalizing the younger players who may make mistakes. I believe he’ll show patience with Budaj, rather than a hair trigger. I believe he’ll let line combos stay together for more than half a shift. I also believe he’ll let the future stars of the team (Son of Stastny, Baron von Wolski, The Svats Machine, “Little Davey” Jones, Hensiiick, and Boots) start to carry the lion’s share of the load.

Joe – Mile High Hockey:
I think one thing Tony Granato brings to the Avalanche bench that Joel Quenneville never did is a fiery demeanor. Q is a technician, an autocrat. Granato is an “old-school” hockey player, the kind of guy that would slash somebody across the face for looking at him funny. When you consider the first two Avalanche coaches, Crawford and Hartley, the first thing that pops into your head is batshit craziness. Hair-trigger tempers. Quenneville could get mad from time to time, get fiery here and there, but nobody ever seemed to fear his temper. I’ve seen Granato explode behind the bench a couple of times, and I hope he is still willing to go nuts when necessary (or even when it would just be fun). I want the highlight reel of every third Avalanche game to include shots of Granato trying to climb over the glass at some other team’s arena. I want bottles and sticks to be thrown onto the ice once a month. I want the players to feel like every game is a war and I want Granato to be their Patton.

Shane – Avs Talk:
There will be no more random benchings, no more goalie carousels, no more cycle game, no more random line pairings and no more sitting on your ass while things go downhill. You know what, even if he does 3 of those 5, I’ll be happy.

However the biggest change will be the passion level. Sakic’s calm demeanor – while a great asset – needs to be backed up by the fire and brimstone Patrick Roy used to provide.

If the last couple seasons are any indicator, Granato has shown the ability to get pissed off and fire up the players while still maintaining their respect. Quenneville seemed to have trouble with both.

Jibblescribbits @ Jibblescribbits:
II think the most obvious answer is the best one here. The speed, and flow of the offense. No more putting 3 forwards behind the goal. Putting Smytty in front of the net. I am looking forward to all of those this season.

Oh and having a goalie start 2-3 games in a row will be a nice change of pace too.

I am worried about his organization. What I hope to not see is sloppy line changes and Avs players being goons in blowout losses and wins. For all the crap Q was (deservedly) given he ran a tight ship and his players played with class. I always thought Granato didn’t install the proper discipline needed from a head coach the first time around.

Jori – Avs Prospects:
Under Tony Granato, I expect the Avs to return to the up tempo pre-lockout form that made the team famous and exciting. I suspect Granato will have a better handle of his goaltenders then the Avs previous coach. I believe the Avs younger players, Wojtek Wolski in particular, will flourish under Granato (similar to what happened to Alex Tanguay after Granato replaced Hartley).

GEO – The Avslova Factor:
The major difference will be Granato’s ability to get the most out of his players. Upon getting hired, Granato said,
“I think that my energy and the passion that I bring to the game will be contagious. I’ve worked with most of these guys for a long time and I think I have a pretty good idea of how to set the expectations and how to get the most out of them.”
This means that if a guy like Arnason isn’t performing, there won’t be a “next time” simply because of his contract. With that, Wojtek Wolski will no longer be the whipping boy game-in and game-out and be demoted to the 4th line at random times.
Granato will make sure guys play for him.

Aaron – The Dog and Pony Show:
If you ask me the difference between Granato and Quenneville is the lack of unintentional comedic appeal.

With Coach Q we saw him in all of his beady-eyed glory sitting in the dark in some secret radio booth answering questions by somehow relating hockey to GMC Suburbans in commercials. With Granato I get the idea he’ll be feeling the pressure from Day 1, and may just end up being some kind of stressed out, half-depressed nutcase…which makes sense when you consider he is a few spectacular losses to the Wings away from pumping gas at the Circle K (especially when you think of how the Avs have to win most of their games to capture the attention of the average Bronco fan, despite the fact that they are the most successful Denver franchise since their inception)

In Coach Q we could count on him to be red-faced with veins bulging from his forehead every time Theo let in a soft goal. I kind of miss Coach Q and is Magic Fantastic Goalie Carousel of Doom. If Budaj craps the tub we’ll be left to watch what could be the end to Andrew Raycroft’s once promising career, and that won’t be at all funny, instead it will just be kind of sad.

DD – In the Cheap Seats:
You mean, besides the Magnum PI mustache?

Hopefully, the Avs will be a tad more creative under Granato. And by creative, I’ll take just about anything over 8,000 variations of the down-low cycle.

Most of all, I’m hoping for an end to the goaltending Q-arousel.

As for myself, I think Granato did the right thing by stepping to the side after his first reign of error, and probably learned a lot from the Quenneville era, including some things not to do. He was a good soldier in taking one for the team, and probably doesn’t deserve as much blame for the Avs performance during his first stint as head coach (has anyone seen the real Paul Kariya since he left Anaheim?). Everything rests on the coaches shoulders, and these are some big shoulders if they can carry the burden of what came before.

And what did come before? A second round playoff exit, which is the same thing that happened this year. Hell, Granato got the Avs into the playoffs, while Quenneville was part of the first ever playoff miss. And we beat up Granato for what, exactly?

I’ll be happy for the end of the Goalie-Go-Round. Not that there is much choice, but a little more stability and less coin flipping will be a welcome change. Also, Granato will bring some passion to a team that has had a brooding leader for too long. I can’t wait to see him get into another unwarranted screaming match with Mike Babcock. At least it will be entertaining.

I never did care for Quenneville, and never took on the same disdain for Granato as a lot of people. When his surprise hiring as head coach was announced, I didn’t feel this was a step back like many I heard from. I just figured that maybe it was time to give him another shot. Mind you, if it doesn’t work out, it will be his last.

Mile High Hockey is hosting the table of contents, and make sure you check out all the Avs blogs and bloggers linked here. You may find another daily read or two.