Puckmarks: What Is That?

This is Puckmarks, showing some of the interesting pucks I find around the rinks.  If you have an interesting puck you found, hit me up in the contact form, and / or put it on twitter with #puckmarks.

Odd pucks seem to find a way into my hockey bag..  I once marked my pucks with a silver sharpie when I saw someone else do it, but I quickly learned that a puck is a puck, and if you care too much about a certain puck, you will lose it to the hockey gods, or the puck bag of some coach.  To me, a puck is a puck when I’m practicing with it.  If it’s really special, I will save it, but a puck from the hockey shop is a puck.

I once saw someone at a stick and puck session with an NHL logo puck (and I’m being vague here for a reason) shooting it and retrieving it over and over.  If it flipped over so he couldn’t see the team logo and he lost track of it, he would start scouring the pucks on his hands and knees, flipping them over until he found his puck.  Even if he was in the middle of the net and other people were waiting for him to get out of the way.  One special puck.  Why not put it on your bookcase, then?

So I bring a bunch of pucks, and I try to leave with the same number I came with.  I sometimes come away with a puck that someone has marked up.  So this is a place to show you some of those.

I got this puck at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge, CO.  It’s one of my favorite places to skate, and they have outdoor stick and puck times.  When the snow is coming down lightly and there are only a few people out, it’s almost like hockey heaven.

Puckmarks001001

And it’s marked that way on both sides.

Puckmarks001002

 

Got an interesting puck?  Do you mark yours up?  Let me know.

Thin Air: Oh Captain, You’re Captain

Hockey thoughts. And yes, I did mean the ‘you’re” in the title.  Freaky, I know.

– Let’s say that Ryan O’Reilly really is butt hurt about not having the captaincy of the Avalanche.  Let’s just say that he really does factor that into his contract demands (negotiations is too nice a word for what he and the team have been engaged in).  If you are the Avalanche, do you want to sign a guy who is jealous of his line mate, and make for a bad situation?  For five years locked in?  Would you want to pay a guy that much money with a chip on his shoulder about not being captain?  Perhaps O’Reilly was looking for a way out of Denver before his UFA years came due.  Maybe not.  I doubt we will ever know the story.

– That said, if O’Reilly really was butt hurt about not being named captain, after hearing about it in the media, don’t you think he would find the whole thing silly?  It sounds silly.  You love this team so much, you’re mad you didn’t get the captain’s C, and now you don’t want to play there.  At some point, you listen to the words you are saying, you listen to what is being said about you, and you make a choice as to whether you want to stay on that path.  Guess he does.

– I feel really out of touch with the Eastern Conference.  Maybe there are too many hockey games in a day to keep track of, and this is my way of filtering.  I truly don’t know how people like the writers at Puck Daddy, NBC PHT, and some of the other  “cover the entire NHL” blogs do it.  It seems like a… what’s that word I’m looking for… job.  Yeah, a job.  …. Oh….

– But seriously, if you try to keep track of all 30 teams and all the games, how do you do it?  Do you have a pattern?  Do you mostly track highlights?  Bounce from game to game?  The comments are open, and your insights would be appreciated.

– I feel a little weird saying this, but the best thing that could happen to Vancouver and San Jose is to miss the playoffs completely.  San Jose especially.  They are both teams that have trudged on being almost good enough for a long time.  Vancouver is a strange one, considering how close they came to winning a Cup a few years back, but when the expectation is Cup or bust, there is a lot of room to be disappointed.  I feel like if there are two teams that could use a perspective slap to the face, it’s these two.

– I get to the rink a few times a week for some stick and puck time, just to work on skills, but mostly to fart around with a puck.  I work, but come on, I don’t do drills.  I sweat, I work, but I don’t kill myself.  I have a job, you know?  But there is this kid I see most times I go, mornings at nine AM.  So you know, home schooled, obviously.  And the other day, his dad is in there helping him get suited up, and they are running a little behind, and his dad is on him a bit about it.  Nothing bad, just your usual “come on, we have to hurry up, let’s go” kind of thing.  Normal parent stuff.  Then his day says something about how this isn’t how a first overall pick acts.  Whoa.  This kid is probably 11 or 12 years old, and that might be generous.  I’ve seen this kid and his dad plenty of times before, and I knew the pressure was on this kid, but I didn’t know it was that bad.

I’ve been around plenty of stage parents.  I’ve seen the good and the bad, and I’ve seen how the well-adjusted kids line up with well-adjusted parents, and visa versa.  I’ve also met parents who expect their kids to have careers that sustain the parent’s lifestyle, and parents who have come out and said that the kids were their financial investments.  As in, the kids are working so mom and dad don’t have to.  And it made me sick.

So what happens when this kid isn’t a first overall pick?  What does his life look like?  What if he winds up hating hockey?  What if he already does?  And what do you say to one of those parents, who are setting their expectations so high, they are ruining things for their kid when they fail?  I don’t have any answers.  Perhaps that kid responds well to that sort of motivation.  But not from what I saw.

And maybe I’m wrong about it all.  I sure hope I am.

– Hey, lighter note.  I went back and watched the end of the 24/7 Rangers / Flyers series, because reasons.  So here it is for you as well, because hockey should be epic sometimes.

Thin Air: Short and Sweet

- I believe it won’t be too long until the Blue Jackets are no longer mired in the stink of the past.  I think they will turn it around in a few seasons.  Of course, I thought that a few years ago, when they had a decent roster of players and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  The problem was that the roster never gelled as a team.  They looked like a lot of names on the back, not logo on the front.  It’s cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason.

– How much longer will the Coyotes be owned by the league?  I remember doing a “special edition” of The Rink with the news that the team owner was going into bankruptcy court, and that was a long time ago (heh, remember The Rink? No? Damn).  The league may want to keep the team in Glendale, but I just can’t see it happening.  The great hockey fans in Arizona aren’t numerous enough to justify keeping the team there, and they are only part of the equation.  The biggest part is arena management.  That’s how Florida remains in business, and plenty of other teams that are hurting at the turnstiles.  Don’t be fooled: the prevailing attitude may be that the NHL is a gate receipt driven business, but that is only part of it.  The larger part is arena management and arena deals.  That Taylor Swift concert is as much a concern as the thousands of fans at the game.  The harder Glendale makes it for a prospective owner to get to those dollars, the harder it will be to find a new owner willing to keep the team in place.

– Or think of it this way: if the NHL were the owner of the team for the next five years and knew that were the case, would they keep the team in Arizona?  Would they subsidize the team with the money from 29 other owner’s pockets, or would they move the team to a place they didn’t have to dip into the coffers as often?  Business wise, what would you do? I’d send them packing.

– Fact: I could read Roy MacGregor writing about shopping for canned goods.  I swear, he could find a way to make it interesting.  If you don’t know his work, find it.

– A 7-0 curb stomping of the Islanders is not going to fix the Flyers, but it’s something to build on.

– I call them jerseys, not sweaters.  You can call them what you want, but for me, they haven’t been sweaters for a long time.  They certainly stopped being sweaters when Reebok came out with the EDGE jersey.  Before that, you could go either way and be fine.  Jerseys. Book it.

– No one cares about your flag football team.  Kickball?  Softball?  No one cares one damn bit.  Your rec league hockey team?  Hey, that’s hockey.  That’s different.  Tell me more.

– Matt Duchene was so far offside, you have to wonder if the ref knew whose team he was playing for.

Pure linesman fail.  But what I was more interested in was what Barry Trotz was upset about on the next goal.

 

Maybe it was the line change?  At the game, we couldn’t tell, but the coaching staff kept holding up three fingers on one hand and two on the other, and waiving them back and forth.  Oh well, but yeah, that Duchene goal should have never happened.  Mind you, Mason was letting everything in, so I’m sure Duchene would have gotten around to it.

Thin Air Sunday: Where’s Hejda?

Some Sunday morning hockey thoughts – 

- I got home from work last night in time to see the Colorado Avalanche melt down in the third period, to the fans in Edmonton’s delight.  The worst, for me, came from Jan Hejda on the Oilers game winning goal.  I would embed the video of it here form NHL.com, but I can’t find the embed code. Help here?

(stick tap to Jay Vean of The Avs Hockey Podcast for the embed location)

 

Oilers break out and it’s 3 on 3.  Ryan Smyth has the puck.  You know, old, slow, tired Ryan Smyth.  The one everyone seems to be beating up for having the audacity to age.  That guy.  And Jan Hejda has Smyth.  You know, free agent acquisition with three more years on his contract (including this one) Jan Hejda.  And as Smyth centers the puck, Hejda chases said puck.  That puts two guys on Eric Belanger in the center and no one on Smyth.  Belanger taps the puck back to Smyth, who puts it across the front of the crease to Magnus Paajarvi who taps it in.  Tap, tap, tap.  If Hejda had stayed on his man, the pass from Belanger to Smyth would never have been an option.  

It highlight’s an issue the Avalanche defense seem to have.  They have no chemistry, they have no trust, and they don’t know where each other are going to be.  When you watch Eric Johnson, who sometimes outthinks his own feet, he has a keen eye for the play.  He directs traffic well, he knows where he should be and where his teammates should be.  But he is out with an injury, and the rest of the Avalanche D needs that direction.  They don’t know where to go.  And it’s painful to watch.

- Homer announcers are one thing.  But right now, the corporate line from the Avalanche is way beyond homerism.  The message is that things are not the team’s fault, that it’s bad bounces and bad luck that lose the games for them.  Over the course of a game, or a period, that may be true.  Luck and bounces can factor in, but when you have control of a game, or a period, or even a shift, you have the opportunity to make or change your own luck.  You can move forward.  If the message is to be believed, the Oilers last night skated the puck so well, it wasn’t the Avalanche’s fault they lost, were out played in the third period, and gave up five straight goals (the last one being an empty netter).  The only one to actually call the Avs out so far has been studio analyst Mark Rycroft.  A former (and more recent than color commentator Peter McNab) player, Rycroft knows what he is talking about, and doesn’t mind saying what the thinks, which is a rarity in today’s controlled media world.  (with apologies to radio announcer Marc Moser, who I don’t hear often enough, so I can’t speak for his performance in this respect)

I think I may have more to say about this later.  But the fans aren’t fooled.  We know a bad team when we see one. 

- No coach firings yet.  Huh.  

- This was the first time I’ve had any time away from work for Hockey Day in America.  I didn’t do anything hockey related, unless you consider last night’s cringe-inducing third period of the Avs game.  Why?  Because I’m busy, damn it.  I had things to do.  I also didn’t know of anything going on in my neck of the woods.  And while this may not be Avalanche country as much as it used to be, we still have a ton of hockey, like Denver University, Colorado College, the Denver Cutthroats and Air Force, not to mention the USA Hockey headquarters in Colorado Springs, and plenty of great rinks all over the state.  Does it say how ignorable hockey can be when a hockey fan doesn’t know what’s going on in his neck of the woods?  

- I haven’t heard much about the Dallas Stars lately.  Other than Jagr and Kari Lehtonen, where’s the stories?  What is going on in Texas?

- We are only 15 games into the short season, but there is only one southern conference team in a playoff position, with Tampa knocking on the door.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  

- 33: Difference between the goal differentials of Chicago and Columbus.  15: Points difference between Chicago and Columbus.  6: Number of teams in the Western Conference with a positive goal differential (as of Sunday morning).  Where are those goals going? Chicago.  

- I read somewhere that New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano could be on the hot seat if the team doesn’t turn things around.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.  When you acquire a goalie exclusively for a free cap hit to get to the salary cap floor, rather than actually spending that cap money on an actual player that could help your team, where does winning factor into the plan?  The Islanders are in a holding pattern that makes the Phoenix Coyotes search for ownership look like a blitzkrieg.  They are just waiting to move to Brooklyn, and then we will see if anything happens.  And if reports that Charles Wang is looking to sell the team are correct, they can expect to hold for a while longer.  

Thin Air: Commitment to Winning-ish

- Interesting article from Mark Masters of TSN (which I found via Kukla’s Korner) about Alex Semin. The basics are that Semin isn’t acting like the stoic coach-killer enigma he was widely reported to be. He’s contributing and seems to be… happy. Is that possible? Sure it is. Could it be that, considering the steady decline of Alex Ovechkin, that the real problem wasn’t Semin at all? It could.

Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy wrote that he feels refs should be called publicly on the carpet for the mistakes they make in the game, that any discipline they receive should be made public. I couldn’t disagree more. I can’t see any good reason for this, other than for fans to feel some sort of retribution to a ref and to shame the ref into calling the game “better.” I have news for you, and this might not be news if you have been in a work situation where shame was used to try to motivate or change a person into working differently: it doesn’t work. Much like the way that discipline is already handed out, knowing the outcome won’t make the fans as a whole any happier. They will only complain that a certain punishment was too much or too little.

– I am an unapologetic ref apologist. Sue me, I don’t care. I have read the USA Hockey officiating guides, taken the course, gotten my officiating card (once), and learned a lot more about what refs do. Have you? I’ve put the challenge out there to read up on the subject, and I don’t know a single person to have taken it up. I can’t imagine what people are afraid of. They will read the worst online dreck day after day, but not something that would make them better and more educated hockey fans? Trust me, it will change how you see the game and how you see refs. There is nothing wrong with that.

– You know who I feel bad for? Matt Cooke. No, really. Anything the guy is near that turns out bad is suspect in the eyes of the fans. If he walked near a puppy, people would be surprised he didn’t kick it. If a man in Boca Raton falls off a boat, Matt Cooke must have, all the way from Pittsburgh, found a way to push him. So when Cooke’s skate comes down on the back of Erik Karlsson’s leg, the initial thought from Johnny Fan was he must have done it on purpose. I would guess Johnny Fan doesn’t skate. But it’s carried over to the owner of the Senators, who wants Cooke run out of the league. It’s probably emotions getting the best of him, but Eugene Melnyk will hopefully think better of what he said. He hasn’t exactly stopped the paychecks of some of the less savory players he has employed over the years. Chris Neil ring any bells? I’ve been working with a few performers lately who are trying to move on from the past they have been pigeon-holed in. Matt Cooke seems to be trying to do the same thing. No one else wants to let him.

– Speaking of refs and skates, how about the overtime loss for the Colorado Avalanche against the Phoenix Coyotes? What a loss that was. Greg Zanon tries to hard around the puck from behind his own net, the puck bounces off the skate of the ref in the corner straight to Kyle Chipchura who passes the puck to an uncovered Shane Doan, and the rest is history. The initial reaction from fans was to kill the ref, but not I. No, like I said, I’m a ref apologist. So I can see that he was in the right position, and as he doesn’t have the powers of levitation, he couldn’t raise both skates from the ice at the same time. The ref, it turns out, is part of the playing surface. So yes, these things happen, and the ref probably was embarrassed by the whole thing. But as skaters know, floating is never an option.

– Speaking of Greg Zanon, he should shave off that beard until he is useful again. I’m not impressed with his play. And speaking of unimpressive defensemen, he was paired with Matt Hunwick in the Avalanche’s 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild. Both were -2 on the game. I hope they have eyes in the backs of their heads, because that was the only way they could see the play at times (you see, they were facing the wrong way and… oh, nevermind). Think that pairing will happen again?

– Doesn’t it suck to be a first overall pick in the NHL? No, really. You are expected to turn around a franchise on your own (and that’s often the expectation of the fans), or you are going to be mired in suck for a long time. Rick Nash is out of that situation finally, and how long until we see John Tavares leave the Islanders for the same reason? Does he have a no-trade? Because I would be waiving that as soon as possible. When your team brings in a Stanley Cup winning goaltender with the hope that he never plays so they don’t have to pay him but get the cap hit, you should be questioning the team and management’s commitment to winning. Is this the kind of team you would ever want to trade Rick DiPietro from? I doubt it.

– It looks like I will be breaking my rule of not going to the Pepsi Center this Monday afternoon. I wouldn’t be going if the ticket weren’t free, and I wouldn’t be sitting with my podcast partner Jay Vean. I expect to hate every minute of it. :-)

What Bugs Me About the Ryan O’Reilly Situation: No One Is Spared Edition

The Ryan O’Reilly situation is coming to a head in Colorado. Reports, and I use that term as loosely as possible, are that the Avalanche are looking to get some value from him in a trade, and negotiations have broken off. One side wants one thing, and the other wants two different things, take your pick.

As a fan of the Avalanche, the entire situation is frustrating, but the frustration comes from every angle. So let us break this down in this week’s breakdown:

The Avalanche:

– The Avs have a draconian negotiating style, boiling down to “take it or leave it.” They don’t negotiate, and the process has been, at times, brutal. They ship off players who don’t dance to the dollars management wants them to. When you treat your players like terrorists (we don’t negotiate with terrorists, right?), you don’t get a favorable return.

– Information about the situation is rare, and everything comes via leaks and reports. This wouldn’t be a big deal, as negotiations should be happening outside the scope of the public. But when it comes to the Avalanche, everything happens outside the scope of the public. There is a corporate message – that everything is going fine, we are fine, and hard work is all that’s needed – and we fans don’t get anything else. While we shouldn’t know much about what is going on in this situation, the fans never know what is happening in ANY situation. The frustration compounds, and the fans are left wondering if the team even cares about them. Pro Tip: They don’t.

– The team is spiraling, and with the mounting injuries, O’Reilly would be a big help. He won’t be the solution for everything, but he would be something. The problems with the Avalanche exist in just about every department other than goaltending – it’s been a while since I was able to say that – and the banged up defensive corp is probably the most glaring. This is simply weighing the sort term value of the player vs. the long term implications of the contract, and seeing if it’s worth it.

O’Reilly and his camp:

– O’Reilly might not want to play with the Avs. It could be that simple. If so, ask for a trade and move forward. Please.

– If O’Reilly wants to play for the Avs, take something short and work on the rest later. Get that trade in the next contract, or if things work out, hold out then. Coming straight off an entry level contact into a big payday is not something the Avalanche is keen on.

– Honestly, is he worth what he is asking for?  Probably not, but the scale salaries right now are so out of whack, there is very little to base this on.  You compare him to players of equal production and age, and the range is all over the place.  This is how a more open market works, but still, I don’t think he is worth everything he wants.

Media:

– There is no shortage of pot-stirring in the Denver hockey media. This is a provocative group, and they know how to push all the right buttons with the fans. The thinking seems to go, no matter how much anger there is from the fans, at least they are talking about the Avs, and therefore are looking to the media for information. The main beat writer, Adrian Dater, is pretty provocative in his tone (I’m being diplomatic here), and the rest of the group seems to follow suit. A few blog posts, a column or two, and the fans are sufficiently whipped up. Even though nothing has really changed, even though the process is moving along as expected, there is a sudden surge of angry fans NOW. I know where it comes from.

– The media here don’t care for the Avalanche and its management, and the feeling seems mutual. Again, toeing the corporate line is one thing the Avs do have some consistency with, so it makes it hard for the local newspaper reporters to get much to work with; the relationship is strained and possibly beyond repair (if that is even a consideration). That doesn’t serve the audience (if that is even a consideration).

Fans:

– The fans generally want O’Reilly to take the deal, to shut up and play. If they think that the players, after losing half a season to get the CBA they got, are going to just shut up and play, they have another thing coming. And if all they want is for O’Reilly to shut up and play, then they are more interested in the asset of O’Reilly than the person. They didn’t actually like him, they liked his skill. That’s fair, but you can bring in skill with a trade. Or development in the minors. Is this about O’Reilly, or a diminishing situation?

– It’s important to know the difference.  Because the fans loved Joe Sakic for his play and for who he was.  They loved Patrick Roy for his play more than for who he was as a person.  Do they care about Ryan O’Reilly enough to respect his decision to think about his career as opposed to the team?  You can’t sacrifice what you think is right for everyone else every time it comes to crunch time.  It rubs up against our ideas of the myth of the hockey player in uncomfortable.  We think it should be team first, but that doesn’t make sense in every situation.

– It took this situation for the fans to finally come to the conclusion that the Avalanche are a management nightmare?  It took O’Reilly to make them realize the team is this cheap or mismanaged or out of sync with the rest of the league or any number of negative attributes that make the fans want to turn their backs on the team?  It wasn’t the firesale from a few years ago that saw Craig Anderson, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out.  It wasn’t the other players that were ostracized for any number of offenses like wanting a raise.  It wasn’t the signing of Brad May (to me, the stupidest offense the Avs every committed).  Perhaps it’s the combination of the lockout and the O’Reilly situation that pushed people over the edge.  But the signs were there all along.  The issues have been with the team for years.  Fandom makes people blind to it.

 

So what now?  What happens next?  Who knows.  The ongoing drama doesn’t make things any better for anyone involved.  The team should move forward, in whatever way that means.  Trade, negotiate, whatever produces action.  This has been an organization driven by inaction and reaction for too long.  There is no initiative left.  We could be waiting a long time.